Inside the Classroom: World Languages at GPS

Dr. Erin Montero Rangno, World Languages Teacher
One of my favorite things to do when I’m at home is bake bread. During a recent session, while I calculated weights, times, and decided on the type of leavening I would use to make my bread, I took some time to reflect on what I was doing. The mystique of bread and the bread baking process has always intrigued me; bread is its own multidisciplinary course, it needs history, language, culture, and a healthy dose of math, chemistry, and physics to turn into something edible that we can not only enjoy, but we can also use to nourish ourselves. It struck me that as language teachers, we can learn so much about teaching our own classes from bread’s lessons for us; language serves as a vehicle, just like bread, to explore a variety of topics both in the classroom and outside of it. 

Without a doubt, the interdisciplinary nature of our language classes creates a content-rich curriculum. As world languages teachers at GPS, we strive to expose our students not only to an intricate system of communication but also everything else that gives communication its unique flavor. Our Upper School language students, for example, may be busy improving their Spanish through the film, literature, and history of Spain, Argentina, and Bolivia, or using their language skills to study the impact of non-sustainable farming on humans and the environment in Costa Rica. In our Upper School French program, our level II students may polish their French through discussions on mental health and wellness and sharing their own personal strategies for balance while studying how people of the Francophone world maintain balance in their busy lives. Our French IV girls might cultivate their inner art critic in order to write a critique of an immersive Cirque du Soleil performance that they watched using virtual reality. 

For our Middle School program, although our girls are earlier in their language journey, they work hard at using language to explore topics that are relatable. Spanish I students may learn about Mexican family structure, history, and foodways while relating these topics back to their own personal lives and identities. They watch movies such as Canela, a Mexican drama that portrays how a family fights to keep their restaurant relevant while not forgetting about traditional plates. Our French I students use French to learn more about the wonders of French shops, with projects like designing vintage French shop signs for their very own shop, to illustrate their understanding.     

In short, all of these ingredients, history, literature, culture, the arts, and science enrich the language classroom to lift it up and transform it into something that we can consume and use to nourish our compassion and intellect.