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The President's Corner

Jean Carolyn Williams

     As I prepare for the new year, I reflect on the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. I recall the new friends I have met and the friends from the past with whom I again have had the opportunity to parley, share ideas, and catch up on their latest adventures, experiences and/or achievements. I also have had the opportunity to remember some of the new ideas, strategies, activities, and materials that I promised myself to add to my teaching repertoire. As I find myself trying to remember all the great presenters, speakers, and ideas, I can honestly say that I find myself enthusiastically anticipating the moment when I can appropriately spring my new-found skill, knowledge, and/or materials on my students.

     This year I find myself trying to recapture even more than I ever had, knowing that I will forever savor each memory. It isn't every day that someone from Roxbury (a ghetto in Boston), Massachusetts beats the odds and overcomes the many obstacles that seem to be on every corner and in every hallway. Not many of these at-risk children rise to succeed. I am blessed, I have had many successful moments, many blessings, many miracles. I have been lucky to be supported by my family, friends, and educators. I have learned that obstacles do not have to be permanent, that �it is your attitude, not your aptitude that ultimately determines your altitude�. I have learned the meaning of hard work and perseverance. I too understand the importance of setting goals, developing action plans, working diligently, and getting an education. As I stated earlier in this paragraph, it isn't every day that someone from an area where very few if any succeed has a chance to becoming president of anything and I have had the opportunity to be elected to the office of president of this great Association. Each moment from the conference is a moment that I will remember. Each event each person with whom I have had the opportunity to meet will forever be etched into my memory bank.

     I am truly grateful that my year as president coincided with the celebration of the �P� in AATSP. It is an honor to know that the inclusion of Portuguese in the association and the consequent change of name took place in December 1944. I am inspired by the many contributions to the organization in the past 50 years. It is with great respect that I symbolically toast each person who helped celebrate this noteworthy event. I challenge each member to continue celebrating the accomplishments of the AATSP by utilizing the services and benefits it offers. I also thank each of you for the memories of Philadelphia 1994.

     Every summer I find myself again full of anticipation and hope. I feel inspired by all that I have learned from courses taken over the summer, staff development workshops, and travel experiences. I, like many teachers around the world, also find myself pondering on what it means to be an educator in today's world.

     It is clear that the role of an educator has changed to encompass more responsibilities then it probably did at 10:00 a m., 29 December 1917 when the 130 teachers from secondary schools, colleges, and universities assembled at the First Annual Meeting of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish, in the Great Hall of the College of the City of New York (known today as CCNY).

     We wear many hats, including but not limited to that of teacher, friend, parent, administrator, custodian, clerk, secretary, receptionist, chaperons, sponsor, chauffeur, physician, psychiatrist, monitor, nutritionist, technician, researcher, referee, spy, disciplinarian, entertainer, performer, mentor, grant writer, lobbyist, baby-sitter, fundraiser, collaborator, facilitator, resource person, coordinator, motivator, supervising teacher, supervisor, public relations person, manager, advocate, assessor, evaluator, trainer, and committee member.

     These roles, of course, only pertain to the hats we wear with students. We have some of these plus others that we wear when we are with our colleagues, administrators, parents, and communities. In addition we also have those that we wear when with our families or when we ourselves are moonlighting as students. It is no wonder we sometimes feel overloaded and as if we are just as anxious for the holidays, work days, breaks, and vacations as the children.

     We are truly multi-dimensional in our roles; therefore our classrooms are also having to become multi-dimensional classrooms. As I have said in several of my messages, times are changing and so must we. In some cases it is changing so rapidly that keeping up is not the issue -catching up is. Textbooks are already outdated as they come off the press. Sometimes we are just understanding and becoming adjusted to [569] materials when all of a sudden a change is mandated. Computers are being upgraded almost as soon as we walk out of the store with a newly purchased one. Sometimes it feels as if what is new is really old and what is in is really out.

     Each time I address a group of students I find myself focusing on the importance of broadening oneself through reading, travel, multilingualism, community and service involvement. In the last few years I also find myself addressing the importance of education and communication as weapons against violence, poverty, and despair. Our young people all too often are caught up in the obstacles that keep them from succeeding. It too, has become part of our responsibilities as educators to open the doors and windows for these students, to help broaden the sometimes narrow outlooks that can be self-limiting. In many cases this is easier said than done.

     One of our former presidents, Richard Klein (Hispania, 1989) once asked us to seriously reflect on our role as an advocate for language learning. I agree with him wholeheartedly when he wrote, �Those of us who are privileged to teach Spanish and Portuguese are the conveyors of languages and cultures which have had profound influence on the world and we should not shirk the task of extending and expanding this 'birthright' to influence the world around us�. Does he not get right to the responsibility of educators when he states �to influence the world?� I understand it to mean educate the world. He goes on to say that too often, we have �sought goals that are much too small and much too limited in scope�. I am finding more and more that many of our young people don't set goals. And if they do, they are too small or are unattainable and unrealistic. Some set attainable goals; however they either don't develop action plans, develop poor action plans, or proceed to reach the goals in ways that are not wise.

     Richard Klein concluded his message by saving that we must show others that �our beloved disciplines are not mere appendages to the progress of humanity, but that they are live entities which can lead us to a more meaningful and more satisfying existence. We must remember that no matter how corny it may sound, the children are our future�.

     When my views and concerns about FL teaching were published in Hispania (September 1992), I started with a quote from (American Memory: a report on the Humanities in the Nation's Public School 1987) by Lynne V. Cheney, Chairperson, National Endowment for the Humanities. She stated, �Nothing has greater potential for giving young people the expanded awareness they need than foreign language study�. I then went on to say that we, as language educators, are dedicated to the development of the potential of these young people. I still believe that we, by sharing our insights, experiences. and feelings, are giving them an opportunity to be skillful in an essential element of human interaction and communication. I believe they need even more in 1994 than they did in 1992 when I wrote those words.

     AATSP continues to be an effective, successful, and powerful partner in the endeavor. It continues to grow as membership grows. It proceeds to change as the world changes. AATSP is a vehicle that allows us to keep abreast of current trends, ideas, issues, and pedagogy. It offers us understanding and support. It also continues to expose us to new ideas, experiences, culture, and friends.

     The organization has increased in the number of benefits to members, is offering new services, has changed some of its practices, and is undertaking some of the major concerns of its members. AATSP is working hard to help you become equipped not only with what you need in today's society, but also with what you will need to persevere in the future. Learning styles, pedagogy, practical and relevant instruction, evaluation and assessment, violence, and apathy are only a few of the concerns that we are facing as we try to contribute to an interdependent society by developing a society that is multilingual.

     Although my memories are full of accomplishments and successes, I know that we must do a better job educating not only our youth, but their parents, our legislators, our communities, and of course ourselves. We must begin to maximize the use of our resources and action research to broaden our horizons. Our efforts to open the door to opportunities and window to the world via Spanish and Portuguese must not slacken. Taking advantage of what the AATSP has to offer and taking an active part in the changes can only strengthen our efforts.

     In conclusion, I would again like to quote James J. McCann (Massachussetts Foreign Language Bulletin, 1982). Thanks to foreign language study, �the student of language does have an education which is intellectual food in his youth, which will be a diversion in his old age, which will be a comfort in difficult times, which will not hinder him when he goes outdoors, which will travel with him overnight, and which will go with him on trips. It will be a delight when [570] he is at home. Truly does the linguist belong to all ages, to all times, and to all places�. I also add to all humanity.