Monday, January 21, 2013

Explore but don't judge


Last Friday 9th grade period C had a guest speaker come in to answer some questions. His name is Adam and he is a travel blogger. His website is

Adam was born and raised in Cleveland. He graduated from Ohio State University and started working as an engineer. After awhile working in the "real world" he decided to quit his job and travel the world. He now spends his time volunteering and exploring different places around the world, while also growing crazy hair.

The conversation between Adam and students was respectful and engaging. Students asked some great questions and Adam gave great advice and told some pretty interesting stories.

As I read the post-video conference reflections, I was surprised at how many students focused on Adam's hair and the fact that instead of staying in hotels he has used Students were shocked at how abnormal these things were.

I admit, those are not things we hear or see everyday. I'm also not suggesting students follow in Adam's footsteps. But I do hope my students challenge themselves to be open-minded about new information.

The world is a big place. There are many different ways of looking and living. There are many different reasons people look and live the way they do. It's important for us to remember that just because something is not familiar or what we are used to, that doesn't make it bad. When we see something that is different, we must suspend our first judgement.

We must be open to exploring how and why things are different. We must seek to understand, not condemn or reject.

This is a skill that is developed over time. This is not just a skill for traveling, but a skill you will need in City High, in Pittsburgh, and any other place you come into contact with new or different people.

One of the things that Adam said is that when you travel you get to know yourself. When you come into contact with things that are different than what you are used to you ask yourself "Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I do things the way I do things?" When you seek to understand others, you learn about yourself in the process.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thoughts after reading your letters

I just finished reading all the letters of introductions from my new students. I love reading about students hobbies, what's important to them, and their experiences with other languages and cultures. I even learned about airsoft, though I don't know how it's different than paintball.

A lot of students mentioned that they have had Spanish before but they don't remember much. That is a pretty normal response. I bet many of you remember more than you realize, and things will come back to you as we review them.

We understand that for most of our students Spanish class is like a side salad. It's not the main course, but it's a good place for getting nutrients that make you healthier. That's why we've set up the class to focus more on participation and projects rather than exams. We don't expect you to remember everything forever, but we design the course to help you develop skills that you will use beyond this class, such as

  • growth and reflection - we want to help you find areas that you have improved in and identify what you did to help you grow
  • respectful, positive communication - how you do/say something often communicates more that what you actually say
  • keep an open mind - learning to be curious and non-judgmental about new and different things you encounter
Many of you mentioned that in order for you to be successful you need your teachers to be patient. That will be my goal for this trimester, to be patient and support my students as they learn about Spanish culture and language. What I want in return from my students is a positive effort and focus everyday in class. 

I'm really looking forward to this trimester.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Hola estudiantes!

This blog will be a place where I share my thoughts on how our class is going, highlight some great work, and share some resources/ support for you and your blogging.

To get things started my first blog post will be like your first blog post, a letter of introduction from me to you.

Dear students,

Hola! Como estas? (Hi! How are you?) I'm very well. I had a great break and I'm back ready to work to help you learn about Spanish language and culture and have fun while doing it!

There are a few things that are important in my life. My family is important, but I don't get to see them very much because my parents live in Missouri and my brother teaches English out in Los Angels. I also have a few close friends that have helped me though a lot, so I'm very grateful for them. Another thing that important to me is my health. Not too long ago, I realized if I got a good night's sleep and ate an apple instead of potato chips I felt much better.

I started taking Spanish classes like many of you, in high school. I wasn't that great at it and yea, I remember being really frustrated sometimes! It was hard and I thought my teachers were crazy. When I got to college I signed up for Spanish level 3 but didn't do too well and had to take it over again. Spanish was never easy, and I felt embarrassed every time I spoke to someone in Spanish. But I really wanted to travel and I loved learning about the history and culture of Spanish speaking countries so I stuck with it. In college I applied to travel just about every semester or summer, and I haven't stopped traveling since! And as I travel, my Spanish gets better and better. I keep practicing by listening to music in Spanish, and listening to radio shows/watching TV, and reading Harry Potter (or Twilight) in Spanish.

I've had many good experiences with other languages and cultures. When I was in college I studied abroad in Switzerland and Argentina. Then I got an internship in Mexico, then in Switzerland. Since college I've traveled to Costa Rica, Peru, Spain and Mexico. In each of these experiences I have learned so much, and I'm looking forward to my next trip!

During my travels I've had some negative experiences. I've been mugged, and I've also had some gnarly food poisoning. There have been times when people were offended because I did something they thought was inappropriate but I didn't know. These lessons have taught me to be humble and as kind as possible to anyone I meet.

For me to be a successful teacher I need you (my students) to try your best. We have tried to set up this class to allow students to be creative, passionate, reflective, and honest about their work. Reading directions carefully will also take you very far.

When I think of a vision for myself in the future, I think of myself as continuously learning. There is so much I still don't know about, so much my students will teach me, and so many adventures to be had. I hope one day to take you to Costa Rica.

I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I love music and I play the guitar and piano. I like all kinds of music, and before I was a teacher I wrote and took photos for music magazines in St. Louis and Chicago. I also love taking photos and I dabble in making videos of places I go and things I see/do. I also like long distance running and biking. I hope to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. in 2013. I like making jigsaw puzzles, coloring, reading books, and knitting.

I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all and helping you learn Spanish!

Ms. Bordner