Warren Brown is going to be a “welcome new resource” for the teachers in DECROLY. The inclusion of an Assistant is not a new practice, but it plays a new role today in facilitating intercultural language learning in students and teachers.
Currently the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport is managing a language and Culture Assistants Program. So, last Thursday, we had the opportunity to meet Warren Brown, our FOREIGN LANGUAGE ASSISTANT or FLA, as they are called in England, who is going to support all the bilingual and English classes in DECROLY during this 2013-2014 course.
It was a pleasure for all of us to meet Warren last Thursday. The group of teachers who will be working with Warren directly, including myself, had been looking forward to meeting with him and I must say that we had a very productive meeting together.
At the beginning we spent a little time introducing ourselves to Warren and establishing the roles of each one of us in the classes and in what issues we would like him to assist us in. Pedro Cuesta, our Deputy Manager, with his recent B2 certification, explained to Warren the timetable and gave him his new email account.
Once we agreed on a working relationship with him, we started our “language workshop” as it is going to be fixed every Thursday. In this first contact we told Warren about our degrees and our English level.
Warren, a Californian man, who has been in our region since last year, seems to be a enthusiastic about Cantabria. He speaks with an American accent but very clear for all of us and for our students. He has got a degree in Business Management but he explained to us that he has no formal experience working with his degree, only an education in the field. He demonstrated a willingness to work collaboratively with us.
The next day, He came to my English class with ADIR and I must say that he was a great asset in my class. We agreed that his role will be facilitating language use so we need to do activities that encourage learners to activate the vocabulary and language recently studied. I explained that my English classes was focus more on speaking and listening work, with videos and lots of communication activities rather than grammar.
He was very motivating for all the students. The fact that they could talk with a native speaker was worth value for them. The class was amazing. Warren proposed a work in pairs activity. In pairs, everybody had to introduce to Warren his/her partner. First the students had to speak in English between themselves to exchange information with their partner and later, each one will told Warren what they had discovered. That was the way Warren knew a little bit more about them and asked them so many questions. The students were very interested to know about American culture. We are planning different activities for the rest of the groups depending on the area of studies but the activities are intended to be totally oral.
From my point of view, I think that it is going to be a very enjoyable year with Warren. Although my subject is English-only classroom and I never use the Spanish language and students know that from the beginning; to have a native speaker with us, contribute not only to motivate the students to learn a language and encourage communication but also inter-cultural understanding and improve the students´ confidence.
One of the most important things that Warren is going to provide, is to bring the language and culture of his country to the classroom and make the language learning relevant, fun and “real” for my students.
I would like to remark that the language assistant in DECROLY is not going to have benefits only for the students but also for the teachers. We are going to gain much from the presence of Warren. One of the most enriching experiences for the language learners (students and teachers) is to have the opportunity to engage in an authentic dialogue with a native speaker as it allows to have a first-hand encounter with the verbal and non-verbal features of the language and to come in contact with people who view the world differently than ourselves.
I am sure that this resource will be a contribution to the quality teaching and learning of languages that Decroly offers. So, I would like to congratulate the Director of DECROLY and the Regional Ministry of Education for considering the inclusion of a Native Speaker Assistant in our language program. We will have the potential to enhance greatly our students’ achievements and enjoyment in their language learning, and to extend our own professional development as an accomplished teacher of languages and cultures.
Welcome Warren and I hope that you feel great in DECROLY with us and we can share good experiences together! I am sure that you will be an enrichment of our students’ learning of language and culture, and you will be a big support for my own teaching.