“Language opens doorways in our lives.“
As you listen to Episode 18, reflect on how your own life experiences, opportunities, and outreach compare to Lisa’s. In what way do your family origin and early environments play a role in the directions you have traveled and decisions you have made? In what ways were opportunities offered or withheld from you, and what did you do about that? Who mentored you, and what did they bring to your life and work that you had not yet brought yourself? Whom do you mentor?
At the end of all episodes, I ask the guest, “Turning now to those listening, what is the last thing you want to be sure they hear and walk away with?” What would that be for you?
Lisa Fore’s bio and resources:
Professionally, I have taught Spanish (and occasionally math) for 28 years, and I currently serve as World Language Department Chair in Washington County, Virginia. I teach Spanish IV and Dual Enrollment Spanish at Abingdon High School (and am proud to have been involved in bringing the program to the High School) and I have also been an adjunct Spanish professor at King University in Bristol, Tennessee. Previously I have served as Interim President Elect and Conference Chair for FLAVA and seven years as Chair of the Holston Language Association. Currently I serve on the FLAVA Scholarship committee. Currently, I serve as Vice President of VOWLS, and I am honored and extremely grateful to have been able to serve these past three years. Although I had never considered running for office, I am appreciative of the opportunity to serve and to represent Southwest Virginia and Region 7 in VOWLS. I consider it a privilege to have served and learned from such an outstanding, supportive group of colleagues. I chose to run to serve a second term as Vice President because, this organization has given so much to me personally and professionally, and I feel it is my duty to give back through service.
In 2001, I was chosen to be a member of a Rotary Group Study Exchange–a life-changing experience that taught me the focus of the language classroom should be communication and bridging cultures. This opportunity allowed me to spend five weeks in Germany in which I lived with multiple host families, had the opportunity to visit schools and businesses, and to immerse myself in a culture and language I knew very little about. For me it was important to be more than an ambassador for our Rotary group and to be a tourist visiting all the “famous sites.” For me in was important to be an active participant and engage in every conversation (even those that required an interpreter/ dictionaries/ charades to communicate), every meal, and every activity of this experience. Having gone to a tiny school the majority of my elementary and high school experience and never having experienced other cultures or people of color and having never dreamed I would have the opportunity to travel outside of a five-state area, I wanted to learn and to make the most of the experience.
Living in a more isolated region of the state, it is important to me that all students have the opportunity to study languages and to travel; therefore, I have created ten travel tours for students and have assisted colleagues in Southwest Virginia to develop travel programs in their schools as well. To ensure our students in Washington County continue to have the opportunity to study multiple languages, I have worked with the Assistant Superintendent to create a mentor program for new language teachers to pair them with veteran language teachers who support them in their first three years of teaching. It is important to me to reach out to all regions of the state to assure all language teachers feel included and informed. Finally, I have grown passionate about advocating for world language programs, and educating students, parents, and the community of the importance that language and cultures play in our lives daily and on a global level.
I did not become a Spanish teacher to teach the language, in fact, I didn’t want to teach Spanish. I wanted to teach World History, Civics, and Geography. As my 8th grade Civics teacher could tell you, I have always been interested in the “why” people do what they do, “why” people live where they live, “why” we believe what we believe. And when unpacking everything, I have come to the conclusion that we as humans have more similarities than differences. We are afraid of what we don’t know and what we don’t understand, but if we will take the time to ask “why” and to genuinely listen to others and to hear their stories we will find that we have more commonalities than not. On a side note, I eventually fell in love with the language as well.
In my experience, “education” and degrees are not equivalent to intelligence. Intelligence and education come with life experiences therefore we can never afford to stop learning. Every conversation, every experience is a learning opportunity. Sometimes we learn “how to/not to”, sometimes we learn information and facts, sometimes we learn something about ourselves—but, everything is a learning opportunity if we will take to receive the message. Regardless of your formal education or simplicity of your vocabulary, everyone has something of value to offer: an opinion, a skill, support, etc.
I feel one should always accept the opportunities that arrive–when they arrive. All the best things in my life have literally fallen into my lap or I was led to them. We may not feel it is the best time to accept the opportunity, we may not feel we are equipped to handle what comes with the opportunity, we may feel there are others who may be a better candidate for an opportunity, we may be afraid of the unknowns that come with the opportunity, but the opportunity has been given to YOU. Seize it! And make the most of it, learn from it, grow from it and then find a way to pay it forward to create opportunities for others.
Try to find in every person you interact with one thing that you like, that you appreciate, or that you can respect. Never view others as lesser or forget your roots. (“We all crawled from under the same rock.”) Never be embarrassed of where you came from. Don’t conform. Be willing to forgive. Always say thank you and better yet, take time to put it in a letter or a card. Do what is right even if you will not directly benefit.
Contact Lisa on Twitter @micofore
Mentoring: Leslie Grahn, NADSFL, VOWLS, ACTFL, FLAVA, among others. Individuals like Leslie, and specialized organizations all offer some form of mentoring program for new teachers or for colleagues in various roles. Leslie Grahn gave me the idea (at a NADSFL Summer Academy) to begin a mentor program for new WL teachers in my district then coached me through the process of development.
Advocacy: JNCL-NCLIS, VOWLS, ACTFL, FLAVA, any individual. In the words of Jen Hoban (Twitter @GrowingFrench) correctly stated: Never forgot the power you have to advocate for world language education within your own classroom! Every kid who loves your class, who continues learning language, who is inspired to study or travel internationally is a world language advocate! #langchat #LAD21
Travel: EF, World Strides, others. But there are many companies to choose from. I suggest people find a representative that listens well and tries to accommodate the lead teacher and the program’s needs and the company provides various levels of support based on experience and needs of the lead teacher.
So, start in your classroom, your school, your principal and guidance counselors and parents, your district and superintendent. Join WL chats or organizations. Reach out to local delegates. Do as little or as much as you are comfortable–but, do/say something.
To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.