Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Edison: passport to the world
The world language faculty at Edison, New Jersey schools take their philosophy of language education very seriously! The department stresses communication, the understanding of other cultures, critical thinking skills and an interdisciplinary view of the curriculum.
I had the pleasure of visiting this school system today, with its 14, 395 students and corp of dedicated teachers. Meet Mrs. Eloisa Amananzar and Mrs. Esperanza Kays, both Spanish teachers.
Edison teaches French, Spanish, Hindi and Latin. They use what is called "performance assessment" which means that they really want to see what a student knows and is able to do in the target language. It really matters, in Edison, if a student can use the language to speak about products, practices and perspectives in our global society. When a person learns to speak by doing authentic tasks that relate to the real themes of our lives, learning language becomes easy.
Even the Latin students in Edison are speaking in class to make this language come alive again. In Edison, Latin is not just a language written in old documents or monuments, but it is spoken and practiced every day. It's fun to imagine what life must have been like in Ancient Rome when our historical figures - like Julius Caesar - were speaking Latin to talk about what they wanted for dinner. Real languages spoken by real people.
One thing that was totally new for me was a visit to a Hindi Class. The teacher I observed, Nita Yajnik, helped me understand what was happening because I don't understand Hindi at all. Here's Nita in front of a display of Indian kites that her students created.
In today's class, Nita was doing an experiment with her students to see which fruits would float and which would not. She had a giant bowl with water on her desk and several floating or sinking fruits. Students were busy observing the fruit in the water and taking careful data on their lab sheets - in Hindi! Here is a section of a worksheet with student script:
I was so impressed to see students, new to this language, writing and thinking about real-world problems in Hindi
On the wall above the window, I saw a beautifully-crafted drawing of a tree, which illustrated a student's family tree. It made me think about everything I had seen in Edison today - French, Spanish, Latin and Hindi - being used to connect students to the world outside of their school's doors. We all have deep roots and the more we dig, the more we see how much they are all intertwined!
Thank you Edison Schools for hosting my visit today! Special thanks go to the World Language Supervisors, Martin Smith and Bea Yetmam who were very welcoming and proud of their fine program!