Lunch and Learn Series adds to diversification of world language classroom conversations
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The world language department is making strides to effectively integrate race related conversations into their curricula. This is largely due to the new Identity Curriculum and the Lunch and Learn Series, which were held in every department last year; the mission was to provide students with the opportunity to share their thoughts with teachers.
According to World Language Curriculum Coordinator Agnès Albérola, the Lunch and Learn Series was not as effective as she hoped because of the low student to teacher ratio. Regardless, changes are still being enacted in the department surrounding the issue of race.
According to Dean of Students and French teacher Scott Butchart, although it can be hard to measure many of the changes, one area that they have made headway in is the issue of staff diversity.
“I think the most important actual step forward is in increasing staff diversity,” Butchart said. “Among the new teachers, there are two whom are people of color. So, that’s a goal that we did accomplish and that we did pay attention to.”
According to Albérola, many teachers are focused on having meaningful conversations around race while balancing the fact that students may be new to the language; one way teachers are working toward this is by introducing students to the vocabulary necessary to talk about issues of race, ethnicity and gender.
“We’ve tried to bring political and social issues to the curriculum while being a little more adept at running those discussions in class, given that we have the added challenge that it’s not in your first language,” Albérola said. “You can be misunderstood more easily, but we really try to stay in the language as much as possible, so it’s a tension.”
“Butchart said that despite the low student turnout at the lunches, the Lunch and Learn Series was still valuable to have in the midst of all the other changes.
I think a lot of the goals we had already thought of, but I think the value of having the Lunch and Learns was hearing loudly the student voices that supported our own, often preexisting, goals. It makes you pay more attention when the kids are talking about it too; it makes it seem more important,” Butchart said.
Albérola said there have also been conversations and changes surrounding the curriculum, particularly in the way they teach the history of Latin American countries, which was brought up during the Lunch and Learn Series.
“Culture is always very tricky to teach. Sometimes we find, especially with a lot of Latin American countries, that when we talk a lot about the issues, the drug cartel or problems with immigrants, it’s often the really difficult topics. We don’t necessarily spend as much time celebrating all the happy things,” Albérola said. “That can give people a distorted image of what these countries are like and what these people are like. So, we’ve tried to really find both interesting material, but also some that show the warmth of the community, what they have brought to the world and the contributions they have made.”