Saturday, May 31, 2014

A little Peru in Boston

Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Peru, but just because I am home in Boston does not mean that the learning has stopped. It's a matter of paying attention to find the international in the local scene. This is what I found in my town that celebrates Peru.

1. Cooking class

It's not often that I see a cooking class offering Peruvian food even in such a international town such as Boston. Most of the time what's offered is a class on Mexican or Spanish cuisine so when I told about this class, I immediately signed up especially when I found out there were only 10 spots. It was a school night, but since it was so unique, I could justify it to myself. My husband and I got to the kitchen that Monday night, and there was chicha morada, a purple corn drink, already waiting for us. It was delicious. Then, we went into the kitchen with the rest of the group where we got down to business. The first job was to make the ají amarillo paste which was the base for the appetizer, papas a la huancaina. After, we helped cut up the beef and vegetables for the lomo saltado which was going to be our main course.

Our chef was a young man from Peru who had studied in culinary school, met an American girl, got married to her, and moved to the States. It made me smile to see how seamlessly they switched between English and Spanish. I definitely hope to keep in touch with him. I would love to find some way to have my students learn from him (if this isn't Community strand I don't know what is!). Not only did I learn about the dishes, but I also learned the right way to chop food thanks to him although I don't know if I will ever be as good as him.

Anyways, back to the food. I didn't eat my typical after-school snack because I did not want to spoil my dinner. By the time we were ready to eat, I was starving, but after taking the first bite, I realized it was totally worth the wait. My Peruvian friend said he wanted to cry because it reminded him of home - the food was that good. Our compliments to the chef!

Luckily, we didn't have to wait to long for dessert. The chef came up with the dessert on his own. It was grilled pineapple with chicha morada ice cream topped with chopped apples. It was simple and fabulous. A great end to the night.

I am so glad I went. It was a great night out, and I learned a lot in the meantime. I hope that there are more classes like this offered so I can learn to prepare them at home so Peruvian can be the norm and not the exception.

Peeling the skin off of the peppers

Telling us about the food

Papas a la huancaina

Lomo saltado

Grilled pineapple with chicha morada ice cream
2. Local companies

A few years ago, when Toms shoes were starting to grow in popularity, I told my students the story of Toms shoes and how the creator was influenced by a trip to rural Argentina where he saw children running around with no shoes. (Also reminds me of Shakira's Pies Descalzos foundation.) I told the students that it's not a coincidence that the label for Toms shoes looks like the Argentinean flag. The goal of Toms shoes is to donate a pair of shoes for every pair bought from them. It's an inspiring story of how Americans are trying to make a difference in Latin America.

Last weekend, I learned about a local Boston start-up that is selling apparel so that they can donate a portion of the proceeds to partner organizations who then help provide people access to clear water. Their mission has affected such countries as Bangladesh, Rwanda, Peru, Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, and even United States.

The company is called Janji ( They had a booth set up in the hall where I had to pick up my bib for the road race I was going to run the next day. I was excited to buy a shirt that says "Run for Peru" with a llama on it. I know that if I wore it to school the students would DEFINITELY ask me about it. It would start a conversation about how local people are making a difference in the world. My hope is that maybe they can be inspired to do the same.

Fun shirt! Definitely a conversation starter.

As the summer approaches, try to look for opportunities to keep learning right in your own backyard. It's easy to do! What are you waiting for?  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Speed Dating - Spanish Style!

It's Friday and the second to last period of the day when my Spanish 4 Honors class walks in. You would think that they would be out of energy and exhausted from the week they had. Despite these odds, I had just the right activity to get them engaged and prepared for the Interpersonal Common Assessment that awaits them next week. Once the activity began, the energy was so high and contagious that I ran to get my department head so she could see what was going on. It's one of those classes that makes all the struggles of being a teacher worthwhile.

Let me back track a little before I explain the activity itself. Next week, the students have their Interpersonal Common Assessment which the department will use to make sure that our students are meeting the targets we have set for them. This is the prompt for all Spanish 4 Honors classes. Of course, the students have been anxious about it all week.
  • In pairs, you will have a conversation for 2 to 3 minutes in which you discuss current environmental problems that concern you and your partner (endangered animals, climate change, energy, contamination, etc). Each   partner should speak for an equal amount of time. You will discuss the problem, your thoughts/impressions about it, and your recommendations for the future.
  • You might answer the following questions-but you are not limited to-: What problem are you the most concerned about? What happened and/or what is happening? What do you think should be done about it? What will the world be like in the future?
  • Speak slowly, clearly, and feel free to correct yourself. You must speak spontaneously, ask and answer questions. It is a conversation that will be filmed and you can’t use any notes.

As I thought about how I was going to prepare them, I came up with the idea of speed dating - Spanish style! First, we moved the chairs to face each other. Then, I told them that one student was to remain in his/her seat while the opposing student rotated. This allowed for maximum number of pairings because I want the students to be able to talk with anyone in their class and not just their best friend or the person closest to them. It forced them to use communicative strategies to get their point across. While they were talking, I was able to walk around to make sure they stayed on task. 

The unit we are on has covered a lot of themes. First, we started by learning animals. Then, we talked about how climate change and other environmental diasters are causing them to go extinct. The students each made a poster saying what needs to be done to prevent the extinction of an animal from Latin America since it's so sad for them to lose their wonderful biodiversity which is what makes them so special. Also, we talked about various environmental problems in Latin America in regards to climate change and energy and discussed the possible solutions to these issues. Finally, the students wrote a formal letter to the President in regards to the existence of zoos. The class was divided in two - half writing in support of zoos and the other half opposing them. I did that on purpose because it made for an easy debate since the topic is so controversial.

Their prompt reflects everything that we have covered in the unit and gives the students the liberty to discuss the topic they feel the strongest about. To practice, we started the "speed dating" with endangered animals. They talked with three different people for 2 minutes each. Then, they spoke about contamination. After, alternative energy. Finally, they discussed zoos.

Speed dating - Spanish style!
4 topics X 3 partners = 12 pairs 
12 pairs X 2 minutes each = 24 minutes of spontaneous Spanish at the intermediate level!!!!

I could tell by their faces and body language that it was a success, but I asked them anyways - Do you feel prepared for the Common Assessment? I got a resounding "Sí!!".

It is always a challenge stepping out of your comfort zone with something new, but the results will speak for themselves next week. 

Feliz viernes a todos!!