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Did September even happen? I mean, did we experience all thirty days? I don’t know about anyone else, but September is always a whirlwind. And by the time I realize that, as a Spanish teacher, I should be doing more to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, October is about to start, and with that there are only two weeks left to celebrate the aforementioned heritage month.
Same happens in October as I want to highlight Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but that day, too, comes and goes, and I’m left saying to myself, “Next year. Next year, I’ll get it together.”
I’ve been saying this for the last twenty-plus years. 🙄
And imagine, Hispanic Heritage Month and Indigenous Peoples’ Day are things on the calendar to which I actually want to bring attention, as I think my students should be aware of both (especially college students).
In my later life, I’ve become less and less of a holiday/celebrations gal, which probably explains my inertia when it comes to Hispanic Heritage Month and Indigenous People’s Day. I’ve chosen to forego the pomp and circumstance of the celebrations simply because, well…the stress of it all. 😩Fortunately for me, my student population doesn’t demand (in any way) mention of or participation in any of the more commercial holidays, namely, Hallowe’en.
I never really understood the allure; the whole costume->trick or treat->”asking” for candy-thing” of present day. However, I did do some research in preparation to write this blog, so I can now better appreciate where the custom comes from and maybe a little more as to why.
So what does this have to do with teaching language? A lot, actually.
Sometimes, I think teachers have in their minds that they have to be experts (or some semblance of) on the content that they deliver to their students, and as a result, they shy away from topics of which they are not well-versed or even familiar. Like me and Hallowe’en.
Newsflash: YOU. DO. NOT. HAVE. TO. KNOW. EVERYTHING.
Do the “top-few-hits-on-Google” research that I do (and that I did for this post) so you can provide SOME information to your students. You never know what will spark their interest or what they will remember. As an example in my classes: Just today we were talking about the indigenous languages in Guatemala, and one student, who is studying something about languages, brought to the conversation his recollection of kaqchikel (a Mayan indigenous language) which we mentioned last semester. Of all the vocabulary I thought students might forget… 🤯
Our charge is to get our students interested in and using language. And I would argue that the second most important task we have is to encourage thinking. (As a college-level teacher, believe me, thinking is at a premium these days.) This thinking can be as simple as making connections. That can happen EVEN with “top-few-hits-on-Google” research.
So, what did this non-holiday gal learn about Hallowe’en? In the Origins of Trick-or-Treating article, I found the following information interesting and relatable to the essence (not commercialization) of El día de los muertos (Day of the Dead).
Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. Known as "souling," the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale.
In Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called guising, dressing up in costume and accepting offerings from various households. Rather than pledging to pray for the dead, they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which typically consisted of fruit, nuts or coins.
For me, a hostile holiday harpy, I only needed to do some cursory research to find a relatable and interesting connection that I could present to my students, if I so chose. I invite you to do the same. No need to make it so complicated. Sometimes even asking WHY? can ignite some creative conversation.