"Aun aprendiendo" is what Goya answered to one of his critics, who did not understand why he would paint the walls of his house with the paintings we now know as "pinturas negras." Today we think of these murals as his most authentic paintings. This could be the motto of my repeated trips to Spain.
This past summer, I traveled to Granada, Spain. For two weeks I attended classes at Carmen de las Cuevas, a language and professional flamenco school, located in the Arab quarter of Granada. In the "Subjunctive Torture" class, we discussed the exceptions to the rules of when and when not to use the subjunctive mood. We explored how the meaning changes whether you use indicative or subjunctive mood. As my philosophy professor in Germany used to say after a two hour lecture on the dialectics of enlightenment, "If you are not confused at this point, you did not pay attention."
In other words, the purpose of continuing education is an effort to clear up confusion, with the intent to get confused on a higher level.
The more excited and knowledgeable we are as teachers, the more we live the ideal of the lifelong learner, the more authentic the learning experience will be for our students. I am confident that my summer travel experiences will translate into more exciting and authentic learning experiences for the young men in my classroom and encourage them to go and explore the world outside their computer games and become citizens of the world.
Besides pondering over the hairsplitting differences in grammatical use of indicative and subjunctive moods, we discussed the political landscape of the Spanish multi party system. The Spanish party system is in the process of a radical change with two new parties emerging and challenging the political status quo. As of today, Rajoy, the prime minister, is unable to form a functional coalition and therefore cannot form a working government. He has called for new elections on Christmas day, which means that nobody is excited to vote again.
Later in the day, a group of musicians from around the world, myself included, met in a nearby cave for the flamenco guitar class. We learned one palo a week. A palo is a dance with a specific rhythm. The first week we worked on Solea and the second week on Fandango.
This class was very challenging for me, since flamenco is an oral tradition, passed down for generations from father to son. Being used to reading music and interpreting it from the musical score, it is quite a new style of learning to listen carefully and then repeat what you have heard. At the end of each lesson, Jorge, the teacher, let us videotape the day's lesson. With that tape we go home and practice for hours in order to keep up with the lessons.
Dr. Reich playing the guitar in his classroom:
How will I incorporate what I learned in my teaching at Haverford?
Together with Music Department Chair John Stroud, I run the Guitar Club in Middle School. John takes the electric instruments in his studio while I work with the acoustic guitars in the Amphitheatre in nice weather or another music room. The boys are fascinated by the rhythms and techniques of the flamenco guitar. We usually perform as a group or individually at the annual talent show in February.
On the Middle School level we do not discuss all the grammatical subtleties that I studied this summer. However, every classroom lives off of the enthusiasm and knowledge of the teacher. The more excited and knowledgeable we are as teachers, the more we live the ideal of the lifelong learner, the more authentic the learning experience will be for our students. The more immersion I get as a language teacher in the life of Spain or any other Spanish speaking countries, the better will I be able to convey that fascination to my students.
I am confident that my summer travel experiences will translate into more exciting and authentic learning experiences for the young men in my classroom and encourage them to go and explore the world outside their computer games and become citizens of the world. To paraphrase the great naturalist Alexander von Humboldt: "There is nothing as dangerous as the worldview of the one who has not viewed the world."
Pictured: the Alhambra Castle in Granada, Spain, the last Moorish stronghold of the Arab region and "one of the jewels of Moorish architecture," says Dr. Reich. "The inside is breathtakingly beautiful."
- The Big Room Blog