The Port Aransas ISD is constantly trying to choose the most appropriate scope and sequence for curriculum. As a teacher, I also have to continually reevaluate my weekly and daily learning objectives. It’s one of the most important and most challenging parts of teaching.
Many factors come into play in my decision-making, such as students’ previous knowledge and readiness to learn. But foremost in my mind is always the question: What is the best thing to be doing at any given moment?
Teachers have to stay focused on the day-to-day steps in learning, but we also have to remember to step back and see the bigger picture.
For Spanish class, I design lessons to focus on specific linguistic or communicative skills. But sometimes I have to ask myself what the most valuable lesson to be learned is. You may learn the mechanics of a second language, but if you don’t have a good reason or desire to use it, then it might seem meaningless and very boring.
To me, the greatest lesson to be learned in a foreign language class is an appreciation of the foreign culture. I try to show my students how the Hispanic cultures may seem very strange but are actually cool in their own way.
It all comes down to celebrating our differences. If students begin to get curious about customs and cultures, then language study will begin to take on new meaning and relevance. Parents of students in Spanish classes could help in reaching this broader goal by promoting an awareness of international events in conversations.
Also, a family outing to the ‘Mercado’ in San Antonio or even the Corpus Christi trade center might give students a peek into life ‘south of the border’.
Recently, stu-dents have been learning about Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). After Christmas this is the most important holiday in Mexico. Families get together and honor their deceased relatives by making a little altar in the home and decorating the gravesites with flowers and candles.
Students often equate the Mexican holiday with Halloween, but the two are very different in spirit. At the high school, students have worked together to create a Mexican style ‘ofrenda,’ including miniature headstones to honor famous celebrities who have passed away. One of the more interesting members of the graveyard this year is Paul, the psychic octopus of World Cup fame.
In my capacity as art teacher, I also find it just as important to work on broader goals, such as appreciation for art and understanding what entails serious art work. I try to nurture creative problem-solving, which will serve students in whatever future field of work they find themselves.
Parents who want their children to become more sensitive to the arts can get active with visits to local galleries, museums or even art websites. If you have a computer and time, you can tour any museum in the world.
A good way to get creativity flowing at home is to experiment with a new material. A family shopping trip can be a good starter. Just tell your kids you’re going to Best Buy to check out some new electronics. Once they agree to go along, tell them you have to swing by Hobby Lobby to pick up something.
Let them browse. Kids have a lot of creative fun with ‘Sculpey’ clay, sculpture wire, scratchboards and ‘Prismacolor’ pencils. These can make unique Christmas gifts, too.
On the other hand, nature is the greatest art supply store. Just try a scavenging hike along the beach, then come back and build something with your findings. Look up Andy Goldsworthy online to see what is possible without any traditional art materials at all.
Look for these upcoming events:
Dec. 3: First Friday reception, Art Center for the Islands student competition
Jan. 10: Visionarios Coastal Bend student art contest
March 10: Rockport Art Center student competition
March 15 to May 15: Coffee Waves student art show and sale.
Thomas McHenry teaches Spanish and art at Brundrett Middle School and Port Aransas High School.