Many of us pursued a career as a Spanish teacher because at some point we became connected to a Spanish speaking culture. Maybe we were born into one, maybe we traveled, maybe we studied abroad, maybe we met a cute guy at a salsa lesson and now we’re married and have a pile of salsa-dancing kids. Whatever the reason–when the countries that we have come to love and that have become part of us are suffering, we suffer with them–even gringas from Upstate NY like me!
Yesterday I shared a pile of resources related to the earthquakes in Mexico. Today, I am sharing a few things about Hurricane María. The devastation in Puerto Rico is unfathomable. Among many more things, the storm completely destroyed the electric infrastructure in the country and it is estimated that many areas will be without power for as long as six months. SIX MONTHS. Can you imagine?
I want to connect my students to this disaster for the purpose of empathy. If my students leave my class and don’t care any more for their fellow humans than they did when they first walked through the door, then what the heck am I doing. And maybe, just maybe, that empathy that students feel will inspire them to action. Stories trigger the production of oxytocin in our brains, and oxytocin creates the feeling of empathy. The more compelling a story, the more oxytocin our brains produce. The more oxytocin our brains produce, the more empathy we feel, and the stronger a call to action we feel. If we want our students to do something, we should tell them a compelling story.
Perhaps you, like me, have friends and colleagues that waited days to hear from family members in Puerto Rico. Maybe you were one of the ones waiting. Maybe you are still waiting. When I think about how I want to approach this disaster with my (imaginary) students, I think about that waiting.
Enid López Reed is a Spanish teacher that I have gotten to know virtually over the last few years, and she reached out to me to share a small piece of her experience. She spoke to her parents the night of September 19 as her parents anticipated the arrival of Hurricane María. She then waited four days to hear anything from them. She sent me the voicemail that her mom left her on the morning of September 24 saying that they are okay.
I wrote a quick article about María and then put together a slideshow loosely based on Maestra Reed’s experience. You can download them here. Please use these materials to connect your students to what is happening in Puerto Rico right now and what will be happening in the coming months.
- Read the article with your students. Just read it and talk about it as you do, don’t assign a task.
- Read the story slideshow.
- Show them these pictures of the devastation and talk about what they see in Spanish (you could use these pictures too).
- Talk about what they might want to do to help.
Kara Jacobs has put together much more extensive resources that you can access on her blog, here.
Please encourage students to reach out to puertorriqueños in your school and in your community. This is a difficult time to live so far from family and friends, even for those that have been able to contact their families. Encourage your students to let their classmates, community members, and fellow countrymen know that they are seen! We understand why they’re preoccupied, tired, and perhaps even on edge in these days. Please encourage any students that express a desire to help to do so! Puerto Rico’s first lady, Beatriz Rosselló, has an initiative called #UnidosPorPuertoRico. It is very easy for individuals or organizations to donate to the initiative online via PayPal or to bank account transfer.
I am donating all proceeds from my Hurricanes mini-unit this month to Hurricane María relief efforts. Beyond that, I am not sure yet what I will be doing. But I can do something, and you can too.