Last Friday I sat in on an advanced Spanish class with Dr. Megan Havard-Rockwell and a group of really talented students. It was espléndido!
This post is a little different because it’s also a quiz, since I shared it with Havard-Rockwell and invite her candor about what I understood about the class and what I completely missed. Her comments are at the end of the post.
But first, some observations.
● This entire class was in Spanish! There were only three times that an English word was used, seeking meaning. And I was greeted enthusiastically with, “Hola, Kent.” I probably blew it by not describing my role at the college in Spanish, but I was scared!
● Everyone spoke in the class. They spoke confidently and volunteered to answer questions. I noticed Havard-Rockwell’s skill in engaging the less confident speakers. Calling on one reluctant student, she asked him a question that allowed him to choose between two things and essentially use terms that had just been used. He answered boldly, and the question she asked was the right question to get a response. It was a neat technique.
● Havard-Rockwell also forced conversation between students at four different times. It was one of those turn-to-your-partner-to-discuss questions. What impressed me was the level of comfort these students had. It was really great to witness.The question was related to which type of architecture the students liked, and the choice was between Gothic and Renaissance.
● As this was a class about Spanish culture, not only were the students speaking Spanish, but they were conveying complicated themes and ideas. The topic today was the Renaissance in Spain. There was lots of discussion of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, which sounds much better in Spanish—“siglo”is the word for century.
At the end of the class, Havard-Rockwell asked me if I wanted to ask the class any questions? I asked a few, but two elicited great responses that reinforce the value of the liberal arts. I asked, “How many of you studied abroad?” 80% had already done so! I also asked why they were taking advanced Spanish. There were a couple of good answers, but one that stood out to me was, “This is a class in Spanish, but it’s really about learning about a different culture, and that’s what I like.” That’s a darn good answer in my book.
So, what follows are a few things I picked up in the class. .
A question asked by Havard-Rockwell: “Among the many things impacted by the Renaissance, what were some?” Students answered: art, cities, politics, knowledge and science. There was also a bit of discussion about how Spain was a bit different from the rest of Europe during this time because of the heavy influence of the Catholic Church.
Another question that was asked was, “What was the impact on society of the birth of the university?” This question came out of the acknowledgment that during this time books, and therefore knowledge, were more available because of mass production.
One student earned a lollipop because he knew the word for “compass” and shared that it was invented during this time period!
I also picked up on Havard-Rockwell’s affirming and encouraging phrases she used with her class throughout the discussion. In response to one student, she replied, “exacto.” Exactly!
To another, she said, “una buena pregunta.” What a great question!
And, during a discussion of architecture, she pushed the class, “es bonito, no?” It’s pretty, right?
But, my favorite exchange was when Havard-Rockwell asked the class to decide which sonnet they liked better: one about the death of the poet’s father or one about, as one student replied, YOLO (you only live once). By the way, this great class nearly universally preferred the YOLO sonnet!
Being back in Spanish class brought up many memories of my time studying Spanish in college and while living in Seville, Spain during the fall of my junior year of college. And, while it’s not a sonnet, I want to go back— because YOLO.
Dr. Havard-Rockwell’s response after reviewing my blogpost follows:
This is great, thanks for sharing! Your comprehension of the discussion was quite good! The only correction I would offer is in regards to the relationship between the establishment of universities and the advent of the printing press. While the latter does indeed provide some democratization of access to knowledge, as I mentioned in response to one student’s question, both of these late medieval advances continue to privilege certain groups along lines of gender, socioeconomic status, ability, and other factors. Also, the first universities worldwide were established a few centuries before the period that we were discussing (the late medieval into the Renaissance), but this period does see the establishment of some of Spain’s most prominent institutions that continue to thrive today.
I give myself a B!!!
Dr. Megan Havard is an Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. She hails from Texas, where she completed her B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin. She then moved to the Midwest to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on Medieval and Early Modern Iberian literary and cultural studies. She is also interested in Gender and Masculinities, as well as Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy.
Megan is an experienced traveler and has studied, lived, and worked abroad in a number of Spanish-speaking countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and Spain. She also speaks Portuguese and has spent time in Brazil and Portugal.
In 2014, she completed the Camino de Santiago, a 1,000-year old Christian pilgrimage across northern Spain to the tomb of the apostle St. James. She looks forward to walking the Camino again with students and faculty from the Augustana community in 2017.
- B.S., University of Texas
- M.A., Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis