It can sometimes be difficult to motivate students to learn about culture in a world language classroom. It is especially difficult to motivate 9th graders to learn about other cultures and societies. I have found students asking, why are we learning this? This is a Spanish class! My hope is that this unit will provide a variety of cultural lessons, and pique interest in those students specifically interested in science, since Scholars is such a science focused school.
My students are already interested in HIV and AIDS, because it is especially pertinent to them due to the demographic makeup of my school. Relating the science vocabulary to the scientific cultural lessons will reinforce the vocabulary and structures that my students will be working on mastering. This will also motivate them more to master the vocabulary and structures, as it will make it more pertinent to them. This unit will be most relevant in urban classrooms with a similar makeup to my school. It is so pertinent because my students, all of them, fall into high-risk categories when it comes to HIV and AIDS. Our studies, although dealing with HIV and AIDS in the Spanish-speaking community and world, will always relate to other groups and locations in the world, including of course New Haven and Africa. This unit is relevant to each and every single one of my students in at least one way or another.
Aside from the already tricky charge of motivating students to learn a world language is the difficulty of changing and molding students¥ strongly US-focused mindset. Students frequently try to compare and evaluate Spanish, as well as other languages, based on a language they already know, English. The same goes for other cultures. Comparing cultures to their own can be beneficial, but at the same time it can create the negative result of establishing a mindset of how we are and what we do is right, and how they are and what they do is wrong. It is important in a world language classroom to teach students that it is not what is right and what is wrong, but rather that all people and cultures are different. A major task of the world language teacher is to teach students to value these differences. A goal of this unit is to teach students not only cultural differences, but also systemic differences, including healthcare and access to medications. Cultural differences really focus on differences among the traditions of other people, while systemic differences include differences in governments and systems in other countries. Most of my students have never been outside of New Haven, Connecticut, let alone to another country, aside from Puerto Rico.
I am passionate about the complex issues related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Thus, I chose to create a unit to share such material with my students. It is my hope that by sharing the complexities of the global pandemic will help to get my students to start thinking globally. I want them to know and think about the problems that affect other nations and other people, specifically the idea that the same problems manifest differently in different parts of the world. I hope that they will start to think about such topics as systemic segregation, as well as socioeconomic segregation. I try to teach a variety of culture in my classroom, so as not to teach a (R) heroes and holidays(R) curriculum. By venturing outside of the typical cultural lessons of the world language classroom, I am seeking to teach a more multicultural curriculum in my classroom. I am hoping to stress to my students the importance of learning about HIV and AIDS by sort of hitting them from two angles, from the science classroom and the world language classroom. With this unit I am also hoping to teach social development, specifically empathy towards those living with HIV and AIDS and those that do not have access to the proper medical treatment.