Saturday, September 20, 2008

Holland teachers' Mexico trip an eye-opening experience

These Michigan teachers spent two weeks in Mexico and learned what it is like to be a minority, not speaking the language and expected to learn in a classroom. DP

By STEPHEN KLOOSTERMAN, The Holland Sentinel HOLLAND MI - A two-week stay in Holland’s sister city of Queretaro, Mexico, put a group of Holland teachers in a tough situation this summer — they didn’t fit in and didn’t all speak the language well, but they were expected to learn.

The teachers’ troubles began to mirror the problems of some of their immigrant students in Holland.

Carol Smith, who had difficulty communicating with her host family, teaches English as a second language to non-native English speakers at Holland’s West Middle School.

“I spoke no Spanish and I was paired with a woman who spoke no English,” said Smith. “I now have empathy. I now have walked in the shoes of my ESL kids.”

The team of 14 teachers from Holland Public Schools and two from Holland Christian Schools traveled to Mexico in August to brush up on their Spanish, connect with the schools and swap teaching strategies.

Bob Zwiers, a Holland High School social studies teacher, had taught his students about how immigrants often feel isolated. Like an immigrant might, Zwiers started to feel as if everyone was talking about him as he walked around Queretaro.

“I’m walking through the airport, and I’m realizing that there are not many people in Mexico who are 6 foot 5 inches with red hair and blue eyes,” Zwiers said.

Holland High School English as a second language teacher Lynette Brander found herself exhausted after communicating all day — even though she spoke a good deal of Spanish. She says she’ll now try to find a variety of ways to teach her students so she doesn’t wear them out.
East K-8 Principal Nery Garcia lead the group of teachers.

Garcia spent her time establishing relationships with the schools in Queretaro. She and Queretaro administrators hope to eventually set up a blog and video conferences so that classes in Mexico and Holland can interact with each other.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

As far as learning another language, including English, is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto?

I know that Esperanto is a living language, but it has great propaedeutic values as well. It helps language learning!

You might like to see

Confirmation can be seen at