By James Archer
Last November, the Denver Post published an article (opinion, really) about Tom Boasberg (Denver Public Schools superintendent) taking a six month unpaid leave to live abroad with his family. Among other thing, the article said: “…it looks bad for the well-to-do superintendent of an urban district — who by the way lives with his family in Boulder — to jet off for six months when nearly 70 percent of Denver’s students are poor enough to qualify for federal meal subsidies. Those families could never dream of such a respite from the daily grind.” And Boasberg says years ago he promised his family they could live abroad. With his children getting older, “the time is now” he says.
Some people felt that, even though he is an excellent superintendent, he should have resigned instead of taking the time off.
Early this week, another article talks about his return after his time away. In this article, it quotes the superintendent as saying, “For the last six months, our family was in Mendoza, Argentina, which is a small city on the western side of Argentina. My wife Carin and I took intensive Spanish language and literature courses at a local language school … and our children went to the local schools in Mendoza.“ He goes on to discuss what he and his children experienced in such a vastly different school system.
When asked, in Spanish, if he spoke Spanish, he replied “Sí”. When asked What would you want to say to the Spanish-speaking families that DPS serves about what you learned? He replied “Tengo muchas ganas de hablar con ustedes directamente en español. Y es una oportunidad para hablar sin interpretación, sin traducción.” [ I’m lucky to speak with you directly in Spanish. It is an opportunity to speak without interpretation, without translation.”
I could not be more in support of this amazing man’s decision to achieve his goals. Not only did he honor his promise to spend time abroad with his children, he made the decision to really dedicate his own resources to doing something that will vastly help our community. Some Denver schools are not only 70% free lunch; they are well over 80% ELL (English Language Learners).
This blog post is not about immigration, it’s about goals. And I can appreciate those families and individuals who have sacrificed everything for their goals – sometime even travelling, or relocating, to a different country.
Would you do it? Would you risk the backlash, and your career, to follow your goals and do something you think is important?
by James Archer
Engineers love nothing more than solving difficult problems with simple solutions.
Cultural Divides – What’s the problem?
We’re hearing a lot about our many cultural divides.
There are many problems that contribute to this divide, and speaking different languages is certainly perceived as one contributing factor. How can people understand each other culturally, if they can’t speak to each other?
“You speak Spanish – I speak English – we’re different”
I believe we all know that, fundamentally, the problem is FEAR.
The thing is – immigrants, almost without exception, want to learn English.
And, I know tons of people that want to improve their Spanish.
As an engineer, it seemed to me that the simplest solution to this diversity problem might be to simply help people talk to each other.
So, I looked at what would be needed. I could go through all the notes and ideas that I evaluated, but it all boils down to this:
Create small groups of 5 to 7 English speakers with an equal number of Spanish speakers. Give them materials and a method to teach each other their languages. Provide a facilitator.
“You’re learning English? I’m learning Spanish. We’re the same!
Let me help you, and you can help me.”
What happens is simple, and amazing.
Instead of “language issues” keeping the participants apart, the very process of helping teach a language opens up new avenues for cultural exchange between the participants.
Here’s something interesting – “different culture” doesn’t just refer to people who speak different languages. Culture might be Police/Citizen, Nurse/Patient, Manager/Laborer. It can refer to race, gender, religion, etc.
At The ShareLingo Project, we have worked with hundreds of participants – from many different fields, and circumstances. Without exception, every participant has shown a willingness – even eagerness – to help and share. People come to learn Spanish, but LOVE helping someone else learn English. And vice versa. We’ve had Police becoming friends with Hispanic immigrants. We’ve had school teachers bond with immigrant parents. And we’ve had managers and workers laughing and getting to really know each other on a personal level.
And this is not just with the people that speak a different language, but also with the people who speak the same language. English speakers are not just bonding with the Spanish speakers that they are helping, but also with each other! People open up, because the learning/teaching process itself creates trust between the participants.
This communication helps eliminate the fear between the participants – and also their own internal fear of being inadequate. We are seeing the “cultural divides” being eliminated.
Benefits of this model help the individuals, their employers, and our society.
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a whiteboard or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at www.sharelingo.org.
It is time to travel. You may want to do it cheaply, but do it.
How many of your bucket lists include taking a trip to another city or even another country and you still haven’t done it?
I work on my bucket list every year so that I accomplish all my goals. I am very serious about them, because I respect my contracts with myself the same way I respect the ones with others.
I am going to give you 5 tips about how to travel really cheaply, and get it DONE.
Now get ready and go, the world is ready to be conquered.