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General Education Featured Faculty - September

Dr. José Juan Gómez-Becerra

Dr. José Juan Gómez-Becerra

Assistant Professor, Spanish 

"What General Education course(s) are you teaching? In what Element?"

I teach language and culture courses designed to meet element 6, diversity of perspectives and experiences. The Spanish program offers Spanish 101, 102, 201, 202, and 205, under this category. Faculty rotate these courses, but typically I teach Spanish 102 and 202 every semester.

"Why do you enjoy teaching in our General Education program?"

Teaching General Education brings me face to face with students I would most likely not meet and become acquainted with outside of my discipline. General Education courses are a great opportunity for faculty and students to start a relationship of mutual trust that can impact the future learning experiences of our students and enrich a professor’s understanding of our student population. Teaching General Education is also enjoyable because the curriculum is more fluid and adaptable since it is about the context more than the content. It is fun to show students how my discipline can connect, and, many times, is already interconnected to what they do in other courses. However, the most enjoyable component is meeting diverse cadres of students with whom I can create a relationship and expand my sense of community at EKU. 

"As a faculty member, what is your role in teaching students in General Education courses?"

I see my role in teaching GenEd as twofold. I teach students introductory and intermediate Spanish while motivating them to continue learning the language to enrich their cultural and professional capital. In addition to Spanish, perhaps most importantly, students learn that Spanish language and culture are very diverse, and that diversity is key for human interaction and growth. In this role, I provide opportunities for students to compare and relate their world views with those in the Spanish-speaking world. The goal is to guide students into being sustainable global citizens and versatile professionals; General Education is a great opportunity to connect the dots in the many things they do, to start to cultivate their symphonic self.

"How do you facilitate connections with students in your General Education courses?"

I am intentional about creating a connection between me and them, and them among themselves. We discuss what it means to be a learning community, and I constantly remind them that we are responsible to help one another because knowledge is a collective endeavor. To foster a collegial classroom, I spent time greeting them every morning, as I also ask them to greet each other occasionally and ask about their days and their performance in the semester. I talk about mental health and wellbeing as keys for productive and effective academic experiences, so I invite them to get to know and support one another. A communicative learning pedagogy in languages requires in-class speaking activities, so I ask them to introduce and greet each other in Spanish every time we work in groups; I am teaching Spanish, but I am also helping to bridge and build connections with students and within students. The most important aspect is to be attentive to students’ wellbeing and, whenever possible, to integrate their community cultural wealth to class. For example, I ask my students what music they listen to, and then I play it a bit in class, and I try to find similar artists in Spanish with the idea that I am helping them find music in Spanish so that they can listen to and learn Spanish. Some students are surprised to find very similar music in other languages, and even that some of their artists are translated or have a crossover. However, this activity mainly contributes to getting to know my students and for students to get to know each other. Building connections takes multiple activities, multiple contacts, and an intentional and attentive professor. In a metaphor, professors conduct orchestras where students need to harmonize together to the rhythm and sound offered through the curriculum; to do so, they must be a community, know each other in multiple ways (what they like, their majors, where they live, where are they from), and the professor must also value every opportunity to highlight what unique sounds students bring to the table. A language classroom is a privileged place for communicative teaching, but the right intentions, attentiveness, and creativity can make any classroom a prime space for community building and sustainable learning. General Education courses allow for this and much more.

Published on September 13, 2021

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