Episode 85 – IAL at FLAVA: The Walk of Hope

Its About Language Episode 85 : IAL at FLAVA The Walk of Hope
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 85 - IAL at FLAVA: The Walk of Hope

Language is a window to the world. All our languages become a part of who we are. It’s not just about opening your eyes to the world, but also developing your own self. You don’t lose something, you gain something. You enrich yourself and your identity.” Rosaline Berger

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We look again at those whose lives are dedicated to sharing the joy of expanding others’ “language toolbox” as they gather for a professional conference. The conference of a language educator is more like a three-day party, with joyful networking interspersing the wonderful variety and number of sessions designed to feed those who feed others on the very essence of human skill: language.

As in the conference ensemble podcasts from the Northeast Conference (Episode 55, Episode 56), the Southern Conference (Episode 66, Episode 68), and the AATSP (Episode 75, Episode 76, Episode 77), I asked these Foreign Language Association of Virginia attendees and members four simple questions:

Who are you?

Why are you here?

Why are you in this profession?

What’s your superpower?

I’m inviting you, too, to see those questions for yourself through the lens of reflection and thanksgiving. The US holiday of Thanksgiving at the latter part of November is certainly one prompt for such a lens for you and me at this time. A second such prompt, however, is my own gratitude for over two years of a successful podcast which grew out of my simple desire to stay in contact with and share the stories and amazing skills of my large and deeply-appreciated professional colleagues and friends.

I’m a language-lover from childhood who got into the language profession by accident, and through classroom, supervisory, and educational publishing channels I have been able to see transformations and opportunities abound in the lives of young people and adults around the US and the world. Who are you, that you are grateful for your story, grateful for your experiences, grateful for your journey, grateful for your impact?

I’m writing you here tonight in my home, imagining you in your own place on the planet. I’m here because we know, together, that language is a miracle gift that we just have to admire and share with everyone. I’m here, walking that bridge between us through language. I am thankful we are on the bridge together. I am thankful we are connected. Why are you where you are, reading this, engaging with the idea of language?

I’m in the language profession as an educator, trainer, writer, and podcaster because from early on language has captured my mind and heart, and so far, I’ve never been able to deny its magic either in my life or in what I want to share with others. What is your profession, and what language do you use to think and talk about why it has been an important part of your life?

The word “superpower” is fun to use, and in the US, at least, it is a quick way of conjuring up fascinating fictional characters and of searching for that special spark in people. I enjoy using it in the podcast questions because it does challenge those speaking to imagine – and most importantly acknowledge – the power within themselves. So give yourself permission right now to identify and celebrate your superpower, because with it you bring hope to the world. In my own life, I have used the word “gift,” because thanksgiving and nurturing flow from acknowledging and using a gift. The gift I treasure is listening.

That’s why I do these podcasts and share wonderful people and possibilities with you by listening: there are so many challenges in this world that can create sorrow, anger, despair. Through our language, through our listening, through our respect for one another, we find the path that can open the windows and doors to hope.

Enjoy the podcast.

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Thank you for always focusing on the possibilities, opportunities and the power of language and what it can do for us individually - and collectively!

Elizabeth Mack

If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
Founder and CEO / Freestyle Languages


Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore


Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL


You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht


Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.

I provide workshops, presentations, and talks that inspire and engage through powerful language insights, and I pair those insights with practical applications for the lives of educators, learners, businesses, and faith-centered organizations. I’d love to share ideas with your organization or group, and develop an event tailored to your objectives.

Click here to start a conversation.


0:00:09.1 Annette Rosado-Figueroa: My name is Annette Rosado-Figueroa, and I live in Farmville, Virginia. I’m a senior lecturer at Longwood University. I teach Spanish, and I’m in this conference because these are my kind of people. People that are excited about languages, excited about learning and taking their time and well-deserved money that we receive in what we do to spend it and to be in a place that we are nurture in many, many areas. So I’m super excited to be here. I got into the language profession because I’m a career switcher. So I studied journalism in Puerto Rico, and that was my first job, in a radio station, and I absolutely loved it. But life changes, and I became a mother. We moved to the United States, and I said, “What am I going to do with my life?” After the girls went to school. I said, “I’m going to be a Spanish teacher.” And I started taking pedagogy classes, and here I am 25 years later. And my superpower is I think my sense of humor because you can forgive everything with a good sense of humor, even yourself. So yay for language teachers.

0:01:40.7 Norah Jones: This walk through the language corridor is an opportunity really for Thanksgiving. This podcast is not being recorded on Thanksgiving or being released on Thanksgiving, but I can’t help but think of it as a Thanksgiving podcast as we head to the end of the calendar year, as we stand on that doorway like Janus looking both backwards and forwards. So let’s walk together as we open some windows. You hear these participants at the Foreign Language Association of Virginia Conference from October of 2022. You’ll hear them like you’ve heard in my other ensemble recordings with the Northeast Conference, from episodes 55, 56, the SCOLT Conference, episode 66, 68, AATSP Conference, episodes 75, 76, and 77, you’ll hear the same four simple questions to which the participants respond. “Who are you? Why are you here? Why are you in this profession? What’s your superpower?” In this podcast today, along with experiencing and appreciating the energy of each person’s past that they bring, each person’s commitment to the present that they bring, and each person’s vision of the future of their impact, their positive impact on this world that brings so many challenges, especially to our youth, please think about those questions for yourself. Who are you? Why are you here? Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your superpower?

0:03:37.7 Norah Jones: For me, who I am has turned out to be a person who has brought language and language education and the nature of language as the hope that humans bring to themselves and to others. That’s been the destiny that unfolded for me. In second grade, Madame Slack on television, being rolled into my classroom for 20 minutes, of a little dialog, that I ended up memorizing and never hearing again until I used it in front of a professor in my freshman year at college in a bid to get into his French class late when I had started out in a language class where the professor didn’t actually get down to teaching me the language that I crave to know, but rather spent time talking about personal and political interests of her own. I come with a background of having experienced Mrs. Hoffman in the seventh and eighth grade Spanish 1 class, where I recognized through her energy and her joy that language was a play toy, language is something that I could be handed that I could turn around in various ways and create with, that I didn’t have to play with it a certain way.

0:05:07.3 Norah Jones: I open that window and door to you as you listen to these speakers and to the kinds of things that have been expressing through the other podcasts over these last two years, two and a half years, to say, “Has language been something that you have played with? Have you provided the option for others to play with it?” I used early in my life the Cyrillic alphabet that I taught myself so that I could write secret notes to myself. I recognized in that written formation of the Russian language that I would be able to write secret notes to myself so my identity, as I worked it out, I could contemplate it and hide it from others while revealing it to myself, yet there was language in the middle of it. How actually have you used language to both hide and work on your identity, as well as express your identity and your opportunities?

0:06:17.6 Norah Jones: I had never considered going into education. When I first began to wonder what I was going to do then once I became an adult and was casting around for something that was interesting that I could be engaged in, my languages were the only thing that opened a door that otherwise was closed to me because no one else had come across, in this case, the school system’s doorway for a French teacher. The ostensible reason for getting into the school system was to finish that French program out. But I found out that language, that place that I had gone for fun, that tool for creativity, that place where I had been for several languages simultaneously, just couldn’t get enough because they kept opening new doors to my identity, was the place that the door could open for me to a new profession. And the flexibility, the chance that that school system took on me to let me in and to require within a certain amount of time that I fulfill my educational preparation obligations, but that chance that they took on me was a chance on language.

0:07:38.9 Norah Jones: Look at your life as you listen to these wonderful speakers from the Foreign Language Association of Virginia speaking about their lives. Where have you come across where language has made the difference in how you spoke about yourself? In the groups, organizations, families, communities, and experiences in which you embedded yourself, in which you connected yourself, or where you drew boundaries around yourself? Where has language played a role? Identify it because it’s there in your impact on the world. And as we look forward, where is it, that the language you use about yourself, that the language that you use with others, that the language that you know is the unique human experience and talent, the one we are compelled by our very spirit and nature of our brains to use, where is it? How is it? When is it? That language will play a role in what you can do to learn, engage, and act with a view to hope in a challenging world in the future. Where do you bring that hope? Where do you bring that impact? Through language. Listen to these stories, but listen to your own. Where is language in the midst?

0:09:26.3 Danielle Muller: Hi, I’m Danielle. I live in Forest, Virginia, and I teach Spanish. I attended FLAVA this year after several years of not being able to attend because of the pandemic, and it’s been fun reconnecting with former colleagues and hanging out with current ones. I got into teaching Spanish because I just fell in love with the language and I enjoy being around the youth of today. And I believe my superpower is being able to make solid connections with my students and them knowing that I am there for them and that I can help them out in any way possible, whether it’s related to the language or not.

0:10:09.4 Dowler Wheat: Hi, everybody. My name is Dowler Wheat. I am the world language department chair at TAB High School in Yorktown, Virginia. I am also the conference chair for FLAVA, and I am super excited to be here. I have taught all levels of Spanish from one through AP. I’m at the conference because I am running it, and it has been an incredible whirlwind experience. I was tricked into teaching, by the way. I wanted to be an actress on Broadway, I was a double major in Musical Theater and Professional Acting in college. And I minored in Spanish because I loved it so much and I knew it would help me get a job while I was trying to audition in the great, big city.

0:10:49.5 Dowler Wheat: Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned. And a friend who was a Spanish teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina thought I would be a good teacher. And I always said, “No, no, no, my mom is a teacher. I’d never do it.” My mother taught second grade. So she brought me in one day and I got to watch her. It was really interesting. So I thought, “What a cool challenge.” So the next day, I went in and planned with her for the morning and then I taught her last two classes of the day. Cold turkey, had not even been out of college a full year. It was craziness. And everybody in the department and in the school stopped in while I was teaching because this was actually my old high school that I graduated from. I just thought they were there to like give me encouragement and say, “Hey, you go, you do this.” And it turns out she was moving, my friend that invited me and wanted me to be her replacement. And so I had two weeks of teacher bootcamp and was thrown immediately into teaching, and fell in love with it.

0:11:46.3 Dowler Wheat: My superpower is that I think every world language teacher needs to take theater classes, in improv and in acting, because that’s what we do every day. We get up in front of students and we perform, we perform using a language. And that’s what I feel is our gift because we have the ability to, I wouldn’t use the word “trick,” but we have the ability to persuade them in many different ways and make them fall in love with a world language. So if I ever go after my doctorate, that would be my dissertation, on why every world language teacher needs to experience theater.

0:12:26.9 Dowler Wheat: What it’s also given me the ability to do is that when I know a curriculum very well, very much like knowing lines, I can improv on the fly. If students don’t get a concept in the way that I thought they would and they need more time, I can improv on the fly with different activities and with my lesson planning. And I didn’t fine-tune that till I’d say about my sixth or seventh year teaching. I’ve been teaching 18 years. So that ability to improv with lines I think really translated to my ability to adapt to the way students understand language and how they perform at different proficiency levels. Because in a Spanish 2 class, for instance, you’ll have students that are retaking it because they took it in middle school and now they’re retaking it in high school because they want a higher grade, and you’ve got students who are taking it for the first time. So Spanish 2 or French 2, German 2, any of the languages that are that second level, they really have to be on their toes with the mixed abilities that they might face in a classroom setting.

0:13:34.9 Holly Fitterer: Hi, I’m Holly Fitterer. I live in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I am a middle school and high school Latin teacher. I am at the FLAVA conference because I won an award. I won the Novice Teaching Award for this year, and I am also presenting on low prep games in the classroom. I got into the language profession after I took a chance and I took Latin in high school. I thought it would be different and would be just something I might do for a year or two. And then I realized how much it clicked in my brain and how many new opportunities and new things it showed me that I wanted to share with other people. So I think my sophomore year of high school, I said, “You know what? I think I want to be a Latin teacher. And my superpower I think is comedy. I like bringing comedy into whatever I’m doing, whether it’s teaching or hanging out with friends or if I’m just out and about. I think making people laugh and making people smile can change the world in ways that we have no idea.

0:14:58.4 Holly Fitterer: Teaching a language right now or even teaching in general is a daunting thing, it’s not easy, and I think it’s very important for people to know that it’s not easy. But there are so many new things that you can bring into teaching as a new person. You are learning from those who came before you, you are learning while you get into the classroom, and most importantly, people can still learn from you even if you are new. So as difficult as it can be, you can provide that new breath of fresh air in teaching that people never expected to get from someone who is new. And you have that opportunity to do that no matter what you teach, no matter where you are, no matter how difficult it is, it still is worth it, it really is when you hear those students figure something out or you see your colleagues go, “Oh, I never thought of that before.” New teachers still belong here. And there are lots of things that you can do that are very powerful.

0:16:14.6 Jane Maloney: My name is Jane Maloney. I live in San Antonio, Texas. My title and role right now, I’m a world language content specialist for Carnegie Learning. Why I am at this conference? I think the most important thing in my role now is connecting with people. And so much of what we do is virtual, so it’s so huge to be physically in person and community with people and just connect and have conversations that spark, like you’re saying, into thoughts. And you just create relationships that just build for time and time from here on out. So I think that’s the number one thing. What got me into the language profession? Well, I come from an education family. My dad’s a superintendent, my mom’s finishing her 35th year of teaching. And I think that exact thing that I just said about why I’m here at this conference, that it’s all about connection. To me, teaching was always more about the relationships that I was building with students as opposed to the content I was teaching. So using the content as a means for expanding students’ worlds and expanding their horizons. And that’s specifically why I love language teaching, because it’s so much about… That’s the whole point. Right? To connect with more people.

0:17:32.8 Jane Maloney: And then my superpower. I would say my superpower is probably listening more than I speak. Jenny will tell you that I’m always listening and assume I’m always the one that’s going to be taking things in before I’m going to share a thought. But it’s because my wheels are turning and I’m always thinking really deeply about what I want to put out into the world. So it gives me perspective because it lets me hear different people’s thoughts more so than just what I’m putting out into the world.

0:18:05.2 Karla Cruz: I’m Karla Cruz, I live in Hillsville, Carroll County, and I am a Spanish teacher. I am attending this conference because I want to reconnect and update all my strategies in order to perform better in the classroom with my students, and my students become more competent in the language that I am teaching. I have the calling of being a teacher and I love what I do. Teaching is my passion and I want to make an impact on my students’ lives at least once. It doesn’t matter how many, of course, I would like everybody, I can make impact of them, but just one is going to be great. What is my superpower? I can say that being bilingual and being in this country teaching Spanish as a foreign language and being as my Spanish, my first language is my superpower.

0:19:17.0 Lidia Ester Machado Eye: Hi there, my name is Lidia Ester Machado Eye. I live in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and I am a teacher in high school. I teach Spanish in Turner Ashby High School, part of Rockingham County, and I also teach a college class in the evenings at Bridgewater College. I decided to come to this conference because I wanted to connect more with different teachers and learn about different strategies and techniques on how to keep teaching Spanish as a foreign language, as well as like get to know like the new materials that are out there that I’m not aware of yet.

0:20:00.5 Lidia Ester Machado Eye: What got me into the language profession? That’s actually a really good question because in undergrad I was International Business, actually double major in International Business and Peace-building and Development. And at the time, my idea was to go back to the country where I was born and raised, which is Honduras, and help over there. Life opened me the opportunity to teach in a high school for one year as a long-term sub, and I just loved teaching. It was amazing. And I just decided to go and do my Master’s in Teaching. And I’m so glad I did. And there is no job in the planet I think that can pay me enough money to stop teaching. Like I have had the opportunity to like leave the teaching world and do something else, but it will not be as rewarding as teaching is for me personally. I guess teaching is my superpower, especially because I teach high school and a lot of people don’t like teaching high school. For some reason, the energy of the high school age level helped me to keep going in life. It’s like all these new generations that are going to be making decisions, and like pretty soon in our communities. I’m able to teach them and be an influence in what they are going to be as adult.

0:21:37.5 Lidia Ester Machado Eye: To me, in my classroom before I even have any kind of like consequences, the consequences for them to fill out a reflection card, and they have to reflect, What were they doing, why it was wrong, was it like violating any of the class rules, how can they do better next time and how their teacher can help them to do better next time? And then they have to bring that form signed by the parents. And usually that’s all what I have to do for students that are not following the rules in the classroom. I actually have a project in each one of the levels I teach that they have to research on a specific area, either like Central America or Honduras. I actually ask them to research like, What is their economy, like how schools are over there? And a lot of students, or most of the comments that I usually get are like, “Oh, I didn’t know that you had universities over there or that you have electricity or running water or that your economy was based on tourism.” And I’m able to share with them that experience that otherwise they probably would not have as easy access to as like questions about how processes are.

0:23:07.7 Rosaline Berger: Hello, everyone. My name is Roseline Berger. I live in Arlington, Virginia, and I’m a French teacher in high school in Arlington, Virginia. I’m also president of AATF Northern Virginia, which is the American Association of Teachers of French. And I am at this conference for several reasons. First of all, I love the way language teachers share everything they have and they make and all their time with each other. So I’m very happy to be here and participate in this. I’m also presenting on standards-based assessment, which is something I really fight for and I hold dear to my heart. I think it’s important for teachers and students. And I’m also here to represent AATF. So I have three reasons to be here.

0:24:02.0 Rosaline Berger: What got me into the language profession? I’m an immigrant, I come from Switzerland. So as you know… As you may know, Switzerland has four languages. So we are taught two or three languages from birth, pretty much. And when I went to school, I fell in love with English and I always wanted to live in an English-speaking country. And I came here in 1993, and I’ve been here ever since. Language is part of my identity, it’s part of my life, it’s what makes me who I am, and so I love teaching languages. I think it’s a window to world. I think this also may be my superpower. I want my students to become global citizens and know what’s happening outside of the US. We can learn not just one, but two languages and maybe three. And all of those languages become part of who we are. And so it’s not just about opening your eyes to the world, but it’s developing your own self. You don’t lose something, you gain something with a new language and you enrich yourself and your identity.

0:25:15.4 Stephanie Buckler: I’m Stephanie Buckler, I live in Stafford, Virginia, and I am a Latin teacher, as well as the web editor for the Classical Association of Virginia. I’m at the conference I just presented on Thursday and today, one on a presentation that I did for SCOLT, and then a new one that I did that I got inspired by at SCOLT of purposeful speech in the language classroom through games that already exist. And so all you as a teacher have to create is the scaffolding for the student to stay in the target language. My Latin teacher was the one that got me into the profession. My mentor teacher for student teaching got me staying in the profession and finding a new passion for it, especially with Latin teaching, of stepping away from the grammar translation and towards the comprehensive input, which my students are totally for and love and enjoy. And it’s so great seeing them and hearing them talk to each other in Latin without me even being like near them and persuading them. They’re just instantly knowing that like our class, it’s a Latin class and Latin is the language that we speak.

0:26:16.9 Stephanie Buckler: My superpower, it’s still the same, of knowing my kids’ names when they enter the room. Mind-blowing, I have one student that when I called him by his name, he’s like, “Do you know someone in my family? How do you know my name?” And was just very much like, “I need to get to the bottom of this.” And still hasn’t figured out the piece of the puzzle. But it’s so great knowing the kids’ names, they’re instantly connected and being like, “Okay, this person knows me and sees me.” And it speaks volumes.

0:26:53.3 Glenda De Hoyos: Hi, my name is Glenda De Hoyos, I live in Fairfax, Virginia, but I am from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I moved to Virginia seven or eight years ago, and I am currently the Spanish teacher for preschool through second grade at the Langley School in McLean, Virginia. I am also the World Languages Department chair. And because I didn’t have anything else to do, I also work with NNELL as the Southeast Regional Rep. And I collaborate also with GWATFL as the early language leader. I am currently at FLAVA, enjoying an amazing time here because this conference has been on fire. And I am here because I love to collaborate and share the things that are working for me, and learn from others. I think that one of the amazing things of being a teacher is that you are a forever learner. So one of the things that we should be committed to do forever is learning. And for me, the conferences of language are so amazing because you get to connect with a lot of people, learn from them, listen to their stories, learn a lot, sometimes more than what you share.

0:28:21.8 Glenda De Hoyos: I am also here working to promote NNELL, that is the National Network organization for Early Language teachers, because I believe that it is very important to advocate and support teachers for early childhood that are teaching languages. I found at NNELL a great community that has been supporting me and that has been helping me to grow and learn. And I would love if more people like me get to know them and benefit from the amazing community they are.

0:29:03.7 Glenda De Hoyos: “What got you into the language profession?” It’s like an interesting story. I grew up in Puerto Rico until eight years ago, so I am a English learner. And my path to learning English was not easy, I think that I am still learning every day. My sons remind me that I am not pronouncing correctly very often, so I am humble and grounded, thanks to them. And in Puerto Rico, I come from a family of teachers. My mom is a teacher, my grandmother, my aunt, and I got to marry someone that’s mother is also a teacher, and the sister and everybody. So the result of that was that I always said I was not going to be a teacher. But I fell in love with languages very early in traveling. So when I had to decide what I was going to do at college, I decided I wanted to go and study modern languages. And I am very thankful that my parents just said, “Yes, do whatever you think.” And they were very supportive because, of course, everybody was asking, “What is your daughter going to do by learning French and Italian?” And I would say all the time, “I am going to travel, I am going to learn to talk, I am going to work in tourism and do a lot of things that are going to help me connect with people because that is what I love.”

0:30:42.7 Glenda De Hoyos: And that path led me to work as a tour guide and at National Park Service, where I always say that it was my first teaching experience because the students were the tourists, the subject was teaching whatever I was at that time teaching them about Puerto Rico, and the classroom was the place where I was taking the tourists. And from there, after I got married and I had a kid, I had to accept to my mom that, “Yes, I wanted to become a teacher.” And there was that moment where, “I told you that you were going to be a teacher, and I told you you were going to be great for this.”

0:31:27.7 Glenda De Hoyos: So I did my Master’s in Curriculum and Education, and I taught in Puerto Rico for almost 10 years. In second grade, I also worked teaching ironically in English in a school there. I also worked at the library and I fell in love with doing activities both in Spanish and English for my students and creating experiences for them where they love learning. And from there, it came to the point where my husband and I decided to move to Virginia for a job opportunity. So here I wanted to stay close to who I am and my roots, so instead of searching for a second grade teaching position or a librarian, I decided to teach Spanish. So I’ve been eight years teaching Spanish, and that’s what led me to this profession. And I love every single moment of it. And it is for me a joy every day to see, How can I spark joy by teaching the language that my heart speaks to my students?

0:32:51.1 Glenda De Hoyos: And I am really privileged because I am right now for many of my students the first opportunity they have to learn the language. And seeing them saying the first word, “en rojo” or “amarillo” or “mi nombre,” it’s very exciting. And for me, I am committed to giving them that with joy so they fall in love with learning the language and they can continue learning as they grow. I don’t know what is my superpower. I think that if you ask my sons, they will say “cooking” because they love to eat and I love to cook. But I think that my superpower, I don’t know if it’s me or it comes from connecting with people, I think that when I am with others, I feel happy and I learn and I feel joy. And maybe that’s why I love conferences, because I get to talk with a lot of people. But I think that my superpower comes from connecting with others, and that gives me energy to do what I do every day.

0:34:13.6 Chiara Monticelli: Hello, ciao, my name is Chiara Monticelli. I am an Italian teacher in DC, I teach for DC public schools, grades six, seventh and eighth. I’ve been teaching for DCPS since 2012. I am very happy to be an urban educator and to bring that perspective to FLAVA. I am at this conference because during the pandemic, I was very troubled by the changes that teachers had to go through and how we were poorly equipped to deal with all the demands that were thrown at us. And also, I was very troubled by my students that were showing up unmotivated, sad, cameras off. They were not engaged at all.

0:35:11.9 Chiara Monticelli: So for me, that time was a very difficult time. That summer, it was very difficult for me. I had some personal issues. And going through such hardship made me understand that I needed to shift something both in my life and in my teaching practice. So I seeked for help on a personal level. And on a professional level, I also seeked help. And I started getting trained in a methodology called OWL, Organic World Languages, that is a methodology that encourages real communication with… It’s communicative-based and it’s very interactive, preferably without desks and chairs. So right now, I am in a class without desks and chairs. We sit on the floor, we move around a lot. My students complain about how much we have to stand, but we have authentic conversations.

0:36:25.4 Chiara Monticelli: And so for me, what I did here at FLAVA was bringing that experience into a session called Bring the Fun Back into Your Teaching and in Your Life, because I felt that after the pandemic, I was very depleted, I thought, like many of us, leaving the profession, I was burned out. And so I had the opportunity… I’ve just finished my presentations, and I had the opportunity to interact with amazing educators in this conference. They were very open to discuss how they felt and what was very stressful. And we just created such a beautiful community in the short span of 45 minutes.

0:37:21.1 Chiara Monticelli: And it’s very nurturing for me doing this work, helping teachers and helping students, knowing that what we do has a rippling effect, and that if I’m able to share my experience, that that will help other teachers and consequently students as well. And because I think there’s a lot of emphasis about how teachers need to be perfect and always knowing what to do and how to do it, and we’re just humans. So I would say what my superpower is is to be human and to have the opportunity to connect with other people and with my students. That’s very important for me. Although it wasn’t easy. But I’m glad that I went through the hardship because it taught me so much. I was able to really make it come back to me in a way that was nurturing rather than destroying the love that I had for my profession. And that was instilled to me by my mother because she was a teacher herself.

0:38:38.0 Norah Jones: Do you think that the experience, the stress that you then have dealt with and meditated on is something that you have brought to your students?

0:38:53.7 Chiara Monticelli: Yes, and actually I remember having online conversations about it, where some days we would just put the content aside, put the language aside. As I said, I’m a teacher of Italian. And we would just talk about what was going on in our lives, how hard it was to be away from everyone else. And I remember very vividly the day after the attack on the Capitol, we live in DC, so that was very real for us. It felt like a threat. The students were really distressed, and I appreciated so much that they came back the next day, that they were… Some of them were in real distress. They were crying. And afterwards, they were so thankful about having the space to deal with this because not every teacher tackled the issue. While I told them from the very beginning, “Today, we’re not going to have lesson, we’re going to talk about how we feel.” And of course, some students are more open than others. But first, before we even start tackling the content is relate, create community, create relationships with our students. That’s more important than I feel teaching the language that will come or that can be used to build the relationship.

0:40:27.3 Chiara Monticelli: But the relationship I feel for me at least is the goal. It’s always been the goal. Even before I started applying OWL, OWL just was an extra tool in my toolkit to do things differently and also for me to stay in target lang… I think that there is a genuine desire to do things differently after the pandemic. Like I think teachers have realized that going back to business as usual, like the way we used to do before the pandemic, with the worksheets, that that doesn’t work anymore just to do just that. And it hasn’t worked before either, but now even more because also the students have found their voice and they will let you know. And I’m so glad for them, honestly, like my students are amazing.

0:41:37.9 Norah Jones: Thanks for listening. Again, take a look at, Why are you here? What got you where you are today? What’s your superpower? Let’s be thankful for those items. And as we look for the podcast to come as we end one calendar year and begin another, let’s take a look at where you have been and where you see your future taking you in the world of language and in using language to change the world. Thanks for listening.

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