For the last fourteen years, I have been teaching Spanish as a Second Language in two English speaking countries (Canada, and the USA). In this journey, four public and private institutions have welcomed me, and encouraged my great passion for teaching. I have encountered several devoted and selfless educators who have guided and supported my teaching career. Some of them have offered me good advice regarding the best techniques and activities to use inside the classroom; while others have pointed me to the most useful materials and resources to develop different competences. All of them, in different ways, have impacted my skills and abilities as an educator.
Without a doubt, one of the most important principles I have learned in these two host countries is the Dissolution of the Atlas Complex. Coming from a Latin American country, where innovation and critical thinking is not always encouraged inside or outside the classroom, learning about the endless possibilities that an educator can create just by changing his/her role in the classroom, has been a complete revelation to me. The idea of flipping the classroom and rely more on my student’s abilities and daily contributions was unknown territory to me. Fortunately, great Canadian and American institutions have allowed me to implement this teaching technique, and the results have been really fruitful. Instead of devoting fifty minutes to teaching grammar or vocabulary, my role as a teacher has become that of a discussion facilitator.
Contrary to the popular belief, flipping the classroom has not released me of my obligations as an educator. On the contrary, my responsibilities as the person in charge of guiding the learning process have increased. In order to have an enjoyable and fruitful discussion in the classroom, students have to be prepared to share their thoughts about materials and topics previously selected by me. In this sense, my role as a facilitator requires me to carefully plan every topic, activity, vocabulary, and material my students will need in order to be ready to ‘take the stand.’ Applying the communicative approach in the classroom has also impacted the role of every student. They are expected to be present. They have to be ready to participate and keep developing their critical thinking about topics that currently affect the lives of the Spanish speakers, including those who live in the USA.
Based on this principle, learning a language is not evaluated by the assessment of only two aspects -mastering vocabulary and grammar-; on the contrary, students’ ideas and conclusions play a crucial role in their language learning process and assessment. I truly believe that paying attention to each student’s comments as well as building on their ideas to continue the discussion for several weeks creates a very rewarding feeling in each student. This dynamic produces the notion that learners play a big role as the true builders of their own learning process.