Multilingual Essay Mills: Understanding Contract Cheating among Second Language Learners – Workshop

February 1, 2019

U of C logo - 2015As many of you know, I’ve been developing a research program on academic integrity over the past few years. Last year I began collaborating with my friend and colleague, Dr. Roswita Dressler, on a project that brings together our combined expertise in academic integrity and language learning.

It started when I noticed that almost all of the research that I’d seen about contract cheating was focused almost exclusively on services provided in English. That led us to ask ourselves what the market was students of second languages. We undertook a rapid review to help us get a general sense of the landscape. We wrote up the results and they have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. I’ll post about it when the publication comes out later this year.

We are also doing a workshop at the University of Calgary’s Language Research Centre  to help teachers of second languages build their understanding of what the contract cheating industry is and why they need to pay attention.

Workshop description

Contract Cheating_Poster - LRC WorkshopContract cheating happens when students have a third party complete academic work on their behalf. The term was coined by UK researchers Clarke and Lancaster (2006). It includes, but it not limited to essay mills and homework completion services. Suppliers of this form of “black market” academic work exist mainly online. Students can simply upload a digital copy of their assignment instructions to a website, insert a delivery date and pay for the work by credit card. Contract cheating is big business. Owings and Nelson (2014) found the essay mill industry in the United States alone to be valued at a minimum $100 million USD. Estimates show that over 71,000 post-secondary students in Canada buy academic work online (Eaton, 2018). There is growing evidence to suggest that contract cheating is not limited to academic work completed in English, but also in a variety of world languages.

In this workshop, you will learn more about what contract cheating is, how it happens, and how second language learners can order homework tasks, essays and even theses from online providers, customized to the exact instructions of an assignment. We will discuss strategies for prevention and detection, along with an examination of what to do if you suspect a case of contract cheating among your students.

Date and time: Friday, February 15, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Craigie Hall, 4th floor, Room D-420

This workshop is open to the public and is free to attend.

References:

Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism: Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. Paper presented at the Second International Plagiarism Conference, Gateshead, United Kingdom.

Eaton, S. E. (2018). Contract cheating: A Canadian perspective.  Retrieved from http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2018/07/24/contract-cheating-a-canadian-perspective/

Owings, S., & Nelson, J. (2014). The essay industry. Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics, 15, 1-21. http://www.mountainplains.org/articles/2014/General%20Research/Mountain_Plains_Journal_of_Business_and_Economics_Volume_15_2014_1-21_General_Research_Owings.pdf

______________________________________________________

Share or Tweet this:  Multilingual Essay Mills: Understanding Contract Cheating among Second Language Learners – Workshop https://wp.me/pNAh3-2mk

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 

Advertisements

Spanish for Dentists: 6 Great (and Free!) Resources

February 13, 2013

Teeth - smile - smallI unexpectedly had to go to the dentist this week when a filling broke in half and part of it fell out. During my visit, my dentist was telling me about her plans to take her entire team to Guatemala next year to do some pro bono work in poor communities there.

She asked me if I had any resources on Spanish for dentists. I set off on a bit of a quest. Here are six wonderful, free online resources that I found to help English-speaking dentists and dental hygienists learn the basics so they can communicate with Spanish-speaking patients:

  1. English to Spanish Phrase Guide for Dentists – http://www.deltadentalins.com/dentists/guidance/english-spanish-phrase-guide.html
  2. PracticingSpanish.Com – Spanish for Dentists – http://www.practicingspanish.com/dental-exam.html
  3. Spanish for the Dental Office  – https://www.aetnadental.com/AD/ihtAD/r.WSIHW000/st.35410/t.706081.html
  4.  Spanish Words and Phrases for Dentists – http://www.artofteeth.com/files/Spanish_for_Dentists.pdf
  5. Spanish Guide of Dental Terminology – http://lrc.wfu.edu/community_interpreting/extras/editeddental.pdf
  6. English-Spanish Dictionary of Health Related Terms – http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/spanish/engspdict.pdf

_________________

Share or Tweet this: Spanish for Dentists: 6 Great (and Free!) Resources http://wp.me/pNAh3-1yE

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Is being a language teacher dangerous to your health?

March 13, 2012

Do you work in poor, run-down conditions? Or an old building that’s falling apart?

Amelia’s story

Amelia Labbe Sarah Eaton University of CalgaryWhen I started my Master’s degree in Spanish at the University of Calgary, I heard staff and professors complaining about the air quality and run down conditions in Craigie Hall, the building where the modern language departments are housed. I never really thought about it much, since I head my head buried in my books and I was learning to live in a new city and adjust to the pressures of being a young graduate student.

One of the first people to welcome me into the department was Amelia Labbé. A native of Bolivia, Amelia ran the university’s Centro de Tertulia (Spanish Centre). Officially, Amelia’s job was to provide opportunities for conversation with a native speaker. Unofficially, the Centro de Tertulia became a place where students would gather, socialize in Spanish, help one another with their homework, listen to music in Spanish and sometimes even watch telenovelas.  There was only one rule: When you crossed the threshold in to the Centro, it was Spanish only. No English. No French. Solamente español. It was her one rule and she stuck to it.

Amelia also became a mentor and unofficial advisor to many students who sought her council and words of wisdom, even though it was not part of her job. Officially, the university has designated student advisors and anyone who is not a designated advisor is not supposed to offer guidance to students. But that didn’t stop students from asking her what she thought and seeking her advice. Students trusted her. They could tell that she cared deeply about them… In fact, she cared more about the students than she did about regulations or rules. Over the course of her career, she touched the lives of thousands of students who studied Spanish at the University of Calgary, including mine.

Last fall, Amelia fell ill. She blamed it on the building where she worked, which was known to have asbestos in it. On November 8, 2011, Amelia passed away from pulmonary fibrosis. Along with many of my friends and colleagues, I attended the celebration of her life on November 19.

Faculty and staff complaints about poor air quality are blown off

Since then, twenty years of complaints about the state of the building and questions about its air quality have erupted into a full-scale war. I have gone from being a Master’s student to working in the Language Research Centre, where I now have the privilege of being a Research Associate and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, after finishing my Ph.D.

An informal investigation was held a few years ago when it was determined that an extraordinarily high percentage of the faculty and staff had been diagnosed with cancer. Many of them pointed to their physical working conditions as a factor in their illness. Tests were done. Faculty and staff were told that everything was fine. Sadly, the incidence of cancer diagnosis among language faculty continued. Others were diagnosed with asthma and unknown allergies. No one could prove any correlation between the physical environment and the incidence of illness.

Following Amelia’s passing, some faculty members and staff insisted that a full investigation be conducted. Today, the CBC published, “Teacher’s lung disease death prompts U of C building worries: But officials say Craigie Hall air quality not compromised by asbestos“. The story documents reactions to Amelia’s health issues and subsequent passing, and speculations that her physical work environment were the root cause of her death. Amelia’s husband and my colleague and mentor, Dr. Rachel Schmidt, publicly offered commentary to reports.The university released a statement declaring that “air quality and environment are within the acceptable guidelines“.

Language programs: Between a rock and a hard place

In my Ph.D. research I found that it is not uncommon for language programs at large institutions to be marginalized both politically and in terms of their physical placement on a campus.

Here’s an excerpt from my Ph.D. thesis:

Language programs, because they are not necessarily seen as academic in nature, do not always have a prominent place on campus. While it would be logical for ESL programs to be physically positioned in places that are easily accessible by foreign students who struggle with the language, “many … programs are housed in temporary bungalows, in basements, or on the periphery of our campuses” (Stoller, 1997, p. 40).

This assertion is echoed more recently by Quay Connection (2000, p. 14) whose research shows that “Many providers say their facilities are too run down, too small, impermanent, unattractive.” This speaks to the question of the legitimacy of such programs, which is discussed later on. For now it is enough to note that the physical placement of such programs on a campus is one indicator of how they are viewed by administration (Stoller, 1997). Program managers must often advocate for improved space and facilities for their programs. (Eaton, 2009, pp. 66-67).

My thesis dealt specifically with ESL programs. In the case of one of the programs I studied, it had just recently been relocated to the main floor of the building. Previous to that, it was located on the 14th floor of the building. The very odd thing about that particular building was that the 14th floor was accessible only by taking the elevator to the 13th floor and then taking the stairs up one more floor. So, non-native speakers of English were required to navigate a complex procedure in order to get to the program offices. Even native speakers had trouble figuring out how to get to their offices.

Even though the Department of French, Italian and Spanish has been renovated now, the Department of Germanic, Slavic and East Asian languages is still in need of renovations. Both language departments remain in an unattractive and outdated building with an elevator that is often broken down. The building is known to have asbestos.

A jumping off point

It seems that there is some evidence that shows that language programs are located in physical spaces that are far from ideal. In the work I have done with language programs at high schools, colleges and universities, this seems to be a common complaint… but with little to no research to identify whether or not this is indeed a problem in the field of language teaching. My guess is that large scale studies about the physical marginalization of language programs at institutions have never been done. (If you know of any such studies, please leave a comment!)

Language programs should not be relegated to old, run down buildings or pushed into basements. Language program administration and management includes advocating for programs and courses. As faculty and staff, it is our responsibility to advocate for one another, too. Some recommendations to consider:

  1. Have conversations with colleagues about the physical conditions in which you work. Are they adequate? Does your physical space promote health and well-being?
  2. Advocate for an improved location on your campus. Particularly in the case of ESL programs, students need to be able to find your offices.
  3. Engage in conversations and dialogue with faculty committees and administrators.
  4. If you suspect health issues that are due to your physical environment, keep detailed records and write it all down. Without documentation, it is more difficult to make a case for further investigation.
  5. Draw on support from your faculty association or union, if you have one. These bodies exist to protect workers’ rights, including their health.
  6. Take care of yourself. If  you are suffering ill effects and you believe that your work environment may be a contributing factor, do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy. I have colleagues in Craigie Hall who work as much as possible from home, one now works in another building and another brought in her own air filtration machine for her office. None of these is a perfect solution, but they may help. If nothing else, they give the employees a sense of empowerment, which is essential when you’re fighting cancer, or another life-threatening illness.

I’ve now watched a friend and colleague die and an alarming number of other friends have been diagnosed with cancer or asthma. No one knows for sure what the cause is. They’re all pretty convinced that the building where they work is a factor.

How’s the physical space where your language program is located?

References:

Eaton, S.E. (2009). Marketing of Revenue-generating ESL Programs at the University of Calgary: A qualitative study. Thesis. University of Calgary, Canada.

Quay-Connection. (2000). Marketing ACE in Victoria. Annadale (Australia): Adult, Community and Further Education Board, Melbourne (Australia).

Stoller, F. L. (1997). The catalyst for change and innovation. In M. A. Christison & F. L. Stoller (Eds.), A handbook for language program administrators (pp. 33-48). Burlingame, CA: Alta Book Center Publishers.

Update on this story: On March 21, I was quoted in the Calgary Herald’s article, “Craigie Hall Asbestos Level Normal: Review“. The article was written after the university released a report stating that everything was fine with the air quality in the building. Still though… it is puzzling why so many staff complain of health concerns?

____________

Share or Tweet this post: Is being a language teacher dangerous to your health? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1iJ

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Would you care for an earthworm with your coffee?: Turning language blunders into powerful teaching stories

January 25, 2012

Let’s face it: Language lessons sometimes involve material that is dry or boring. The reality is, it can be hard to remember facts or information. The rules of grammar? Bo-ring! At least, that is what the average person might think. Adult education guru, Stephen Lieb, tells us that adult learners need content that is relevant and useful in their every day live. What can seem less relevant to every day life of working to paying the bills, raising the kids and trying to have some kind of life. Most people just do not see a connection.

Scenario #1: Teaching with examples

Examples provide a method to make the learning concrete and relevant.

Seasoned teachers will have an arsenal of examples of their own students’ grammar and language mistakes. Examples can also be found on Internet sites such as ESL Prof.

“When I was six, I went to primate school.”

Clearly the speaker intended to say “primary” instead of “primate”. This is a classic example of mixing up words with similar sounds that have completely different meanings.

If you were using this example with EAL adult learners, you might make the connection between  language errors and the real world by linking it to employment. You might say that the implication for an adult EAL learner might be that if he or she were to say this in a job interview, it might cost them the job. Though it is not ethical (or logical) some recruitment officers may make decisions about a prospective employee’s intelligence or competence based on their language skills.

That example would provide a real-world context for why it is important to learn vocabulary very well. You have developed a cogent and logical argument to support your point using an example.

Scenario #2: Teaching through stories

Imagine dipping into your own past, experience and heritage to create a story that illustrates the same point. When teaching native Spanish speakers English, I would tell them about my own struggles with language learning.

Setting the stage and the context

“I was so proud to have a native Spanish speaker visit my home,” I would tell them. “We had agreed to do a language exchange and help each other with our conversation skills.”

Providing key detail

“I prepared coffee and baked home-made oatmeal cookies, my mother’s recipe.”

Deliver the punch line

“I asked my new friend, “¿Desea guisano con su café?

The quick thinkers erupt in laughter. Others will puzzle over the meaning until it clicks that what I meant, instead of “guisano”, was “galleta”.

As a learner of Spanish as a second language, I spent years confusing those two words. The result was that instead of offering my guest a cookie (galleta), I had offered them an earthworm (guisano).

To a native speaker, the result is either a turned stomach or comedic effect, or a bit of both.

The moral of the story

I would follow the story by saying this to the students: “My point to you is that it is easy to confuse words in a new language. In fact, it is normal. But be aware that these kinds of mistakes can result in people laughing at you or, possibly even taking you as an imbecile. In my case, I was lucky. My friend, who was both quick witted and gracious simply said, ‘Por favor, una galleta. No me gustan los guisanos‘.” (Translation: “A cookie, please. I don’t really care for earthworms.”)

From a linguistic point of view, the two scenarios are similar. The language learner mistakenly uses one word for another. The two words sound similar to the ear of a non-native speaker. But to a native speaker, the difference in meaning between the two words is worlds apart. It would never even occur to them to mix those words up.

Examples provide logical reasons, whereas stories create memorable moments that connect with human experience and emotion.

I admit that this type of story worked only because I was working with Spanish speakers learning  English. It would not work with a linguistically diverse group.

The point here is to ask yourself, what stories or experiences do you have that can help you make a point and make a connection with your learners at the same time? We all have stories. What are  some of yours?

Related posts:

Share your story, share your wisdom: How to make learning memorable

Storytelling resources for teachers

_____________________

Share or Tweet this post: Would you care for an earthworm with your coffee?: Turning language blunders into powerful teaching stories http://wp.me/pNAh3-1bM

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


A year of inspired insights #2: Conversations change everything

January 13, 2012

So there I was, in Spain for the summer, about to take part in my first ever study abroad, language immersion experience. The Spanish embassy gave away a limited number of scholarships each year to different countries. There were a few hundred students in the program, from all over the world. I was one of two Canadians selected that year. I thought I was prepared for the immersion experience. I was wrong.

A lesson in humility

On the first day, all the students took a placement test. I had just graduated with an honours degree. I had good grades, despite having been hit by a car a few months before graduation. I was confident that I had done well on the placement test.

There were 18 different levels of classes. When I saw that my placement test determined that I would be in level 17, I thought, “It isn’t the highest level, but I guess I can live with the second highest level. Some of these Europeans seem to speak the language pretty well, so there are some people here who are better than me.”

As it turned out, level 17 was the second lowest level. Level 1 was the highest.

I was starting to realize that there were many things I did not know.

Living in an international student residence

Students were divided by nationality, gender and faith in the residences. While my classmates were from Europe and the Middle East, I was in an all-female residence with other young women from North America, Europe and Christian and Jewish areas of the Middle East.

The only language we had in common was Spanish. We found that if we wanted to make friends we had a choice: only associate with other people who spoke our first language (in my case, English) or try to make friends in Spanish.

The result was a linguistic hodgepodge – people ended up communicating however they could, in whatever language they could. We communicated what we could in Spanish and helped translate for each other in whatever language we could… English, Danish, French, Arabic or whatever we had to help each other understand and bridge our linguistic and cultural gaps.

Friendships with foreigners

I quickly developed friendships with English girl, a couple of Danish girls who lived in the same residence and two fellows from Jordan. Having grown up mostly in Canada, I had been immersed in multiculturalism since birth. I thought nothing of chatting with people from other cultures. I had an open mind.

Salim and Imad were the two Jordanians in our circle of friends. Salim was in my class and Imad was in the class of one of my Danish friends who was much more fluent in Spanish. We toured the city, went for coffee and helped one another with our studies and mostly, tried to practice our Spanish language skills together.

Struggling together, bridging the gulf

It was July of 1992. In the scope of world events, the Gulf War was still fresh in everyone’s mind. I remember the day earlier that year when they announced the war. As I watched TV, I thought, “But, there wasn’t supposed to be a war in my lifetime. World War II was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Isn’t that what our parents fought for?” But the Gulf War happened and I was pinned to CNN through most of it, just like everybody else.

In Spain that summer, I had developed friendships with people from “that part of the world”. These were good people. We had shared experiences. We struggled together to learn Spanish and cope in a culture we were not familiar with. The bond that develops when you struggle side-by-side with someone, through an experience that is both your own and shared is unlike any other bond. You can not explain it because to do so would mean explaining the depths of your vulnerability, your fears, your hopes, your dreams and the very process of living. It is hard to explain the process of living, which, if it is done right, includes some struggle.

Near the end of our program, after a few weeks of gaining language skills and solidifying friendships with the people who had come together in our social circle, I summoned the courage to ask Salim about the button he wore every day on his lapel. It was a photo button showing Saddam Hussein’s face.

I was curious about why anybody would wear a button of Saddam Hussein, especially someone who I’d come to call “amigo”. It was strange, really.

After all, Saddam Hussein was a maniac. But Salim wasn’t a maniac…. I just didn’t get it. When I asked him about it, he said, “Mi heroe. Ayuda a mi gente,” he said. We both had horrible Spanish. It took a few tries before I could wrap my head around what he was saying: “He’s my hero. He helped our people.”

From there, the conversation took off, in broken Spanish. We discovered each other’s point of view, the perceptions we had gained from the media, and our stereotypes about each other’s part of the world. It was an amazing conversation that I have never, ever forgotten. It shattered my stereotypes, challenged my world view and got me deeply engaged in a discussion I never dreamt I would ever have.

The conversation took place on the steps of the Muslim students’ residence. The Muslim students were segregated to accommodate their dietary needs and to provide for quiet at regulated prayer times. The males lived on one side and the females on the other.

Foreign students were not allowed in the residence, so if we wanted to visit, we did so on the steps of the building. Some nights there would be students out there with guitars, singing. Other times, there were groups of students chatting and studying. That night, a small group of us talked about war, terrorism, our heroes and our opinions, stereotypes and attitudes.

By the end of the night, none of us had actually changed our opinions, but we did learn a lot about each other and about ourselves, as we gained perspective, listened and shared.

Despicable me

Through the course of that conversation that night, I got another surprise. I had been puzzled about why none of the Jordanian girls would speak to me. They’d speak to my European friends, but not to me. When we went to visit with our friends on the steps of their residence and sit outside talking, the girls would move away from me. I had no idea why.

That night, armed with the courage fueled by an open conversation, I asked Salim and Imad what was going on. They looked away sheepishly.

In the same way I had stereotyped people from a certain part of the world, based on information that I had learned from other sources, so too, had my Jordanian female counterparts. But in their eyes, I was the reprehensible one. It finally came out that they thought I was promiscuous.

Me? Promiscuous? Excuse me?! Where in the heck did they get that idea? I was raised to be proper and respectful, not some tramp.

I was, however, a Canadian first. That summer there was a drought in Spain and the thermometer hit 40 degrees Centigrade. I was melting.

I wore Bermuda shorts and sleeveless T-shirts and sandals to class. My shirts did not have “skinny straps”, they were just sleeveless. My shorts were not “hot pants”, they came to just above the knee.

In the opinion of my Jordanian female classmates, I showed too much skin. I was shameless. They were comfortable in their head-to-toe covering and did not want to associate with someone who “dressed like a prostitute”.

Needless to say, none of them had experienced the harsh, cold climate I was used to. Nor did they seem to understand that I was struggling in the heat.

It was 40 degrees. That’s almost half way to boiling. Humans aren’t meant to be boiled. We are not even meant to be half boiled.

To be honest, I expect that most of those girls had never actually seen a prostitute, either.

The power of conversation

Unlike the boys, the girls we met were unwilling to engage in conversation. The question that started our dialogue about the Gulf War, our values and ultimately, our stereotypes of one another, was “Why?” I took a leap and asked “Why do you wear that button on your lapel?”

There was a willingness to ask, a willingness to answer and a willingness to listen. I learned a lot that night… about the Gulf War and what it meant to these people who had become my friends, about how other people perceived me and the culture that I come from and about what it means to be human.

The Jordanian girls were not willing to ask me why I wore shorts or had sleeveless shirts. I guess I can’t blame them, really. Who wants to have any kind of deep conversation with a prostitute?

As it turned out, I would end up doing just that a number of years later, but that is a story to be saved for another day.

A life transformed

After returning home, I decided to return to university to study Spanish, which my family didn’t really understand, to say the least. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. Graduating from university was an even bigger deal. That I had been accepted into a Master’s program in English was off the charts.

So when I came home from Spain and said, “Actually, I’m not going to grad school, at least not just yet. I’m going to spend a year doing nothing but learning more Spanish,” that did not go over very well.

Suddenly I went from being the big family success story to a “flop about” who had no proper job. A university graduate is someone to be proud of. A “professional student” is a drain on society. My family all but wrote me off that year.

What I couldn’t explain was… why. Like the Jordanian girls, members of my own family were not open to having a conversation.

Immersed in change

My life had changed. I had changed. The immersion language learning experience in Spain had changed me. My head had been blown open. I don’t mean that in the sense of someone whose head is literally blown open by a bomb or something, but intellectually, everything I thought I knew had been shattered.

I had not just been immersed in a new language. I had been immersed in change and in challenge.

That is what is hard to explain to people who have never immersed themselves in another culture or another language… That it isn’t really about the language at all. What changes us is not the verbs or vocabulary that we learn. It was not the grammar that we cram into our brains so we can pass a final exam.

It the connections we are able to make with other human beings because we can communicate with them. We reach out. They reach back. We meet somewhere in the middle. When we retreat back into ourselves again, we have seen a bit of the world differently. Then we re different. Forever. Changed.

Just like our communicative abilities when we are learning a new language, our thoughts and assumptions are jumbled and are not very fluent. As we understand the world more deeply, so we understand ourselves more deeply. We begin to know what we do not know.

Related posts:

A year of inspired insights #1: There’s a silver lining in every ambulance

My 2012 resolution project: A year of inspired insights

_____________

Share or Tweet this post: A year of inspired insights #2: Conversations change everything http://wp.me/pNAh3-19V

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Remember Days of the Week in Spanish with this song

January 12, 2012

Alphabet building blocksYour students may grown up singing the children’s nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques” (known in English as “Are you sleeping?”) or one of its translations Chinese and a number of other languages.

If students know the song, use the same tune to teach them days of the week en español:

Lunes, martes
lunes, martes
miércoles, miércoles
jueves, viernes, sábado
jueves, viernes, sábado
do-mingo
do-mingo

The song stresses “domingo” on the first syllable, rather than the second, but it’s still a great way to help beginners learn the days of the week, using a tune they already know.

_____________

Share or Tweet this post: Remember Days of the Week in Spanish with this song http://wp.me/pNAh3-Vp

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


A year of inspired insights #1: There’s a silver lining in every ambulance

January 5, 2012

Sarah Eaton - blog imageI was in the fourth and final year of my bachelor’s degree. I’d been accepted to several Master’s degree programs. I had a boyfriend. A job. Life was grand.

Then, the night before final semester classes were scheduled to start in January, I was hit by a car.

My boyfriend of a year-and-a-half was with me at the time of the accident. Actually, he had been holding my hand until seconds before the accident. We were in a cross-walk. He saw the car coming. I did not. He let go of my hand and stepped back to avoid the car, which ended up hitting me.

For a while, I didn’t move. An ambulance came. I remember looking around the inside of the ambulance and thinking, “It’s grey inside here. Or maybe it is silver. A silver lining to an ambulance, that’s good.”

My train of thought was broken by the paramedic asking, “Can you feel that?”

“Feel what?” I asked.

He was palpating my leg. I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel either leg, actually.

It turned out to be shock and nerve damage. By the time we got to the hospital, sensation in my legs had returned. They gave me the full work up anyway. No broken bones, but extensive soft tissue damage. Probably some nerve damage.

Sarah Eaton - blog image - www.drsaraheaton.wordpress.comBones: OK, but… Heart: broken

I was sent home, with instructions to rest, take Tylenol 3 and start moving again as soon as possible. There was no physical therapy, no follow up, no further instructions.

The next day, everything was swollen and bruised beyond recognition. Even lying in bed hurt. I took Tylenol 3’s like they were candy, but doing so with as little water as possible, since going to the bathroom meant getting out of bed. It took about 30 minutes to get from the bed to the bathroom, which was seven feet down the hall.

There was a niggle somewhere in the back of my mind. The accident did not make any sense to me. Why had my beloved let go of my hand and stepped back when he saw the car approaching? I mean, isn’t it more normal to try to get someone you love out of harm’s way?

Three weeks later I could walk well enough to make it to the university and start going to class. I had missed a quarter of the semester already. Some professors were compassionate, others ambivalent. My grades were sliding. Graduating that year was no longer a sure thing.

I was depressed. To make matters worse, I just couldn’t get that niggle out of the back of my mind. The whole sequence of events didn’t make any sense to me. I mean, you hear these stories about complete strangers running out into the road when there’s a car coming to whisk someone to safety. In my case, someone who supposedly loved me, made no attempt to even warn me of oncoming danger, let alone offer protection.

A week after I returned to classes, my boyfriend broke up with me. He said, “When I saw you get hit by that car, I really couldn’t have cared if you lived or died.”

He moved out the next day.

A life unwinding

The next day, I was fired from my job in a retail gift store. I had missed three weeks of work while the soft tissue injuries were healing. I went into the store to pick up the pay cheque from the last two weeks of December.

The boss said, “If you can’t stand on your own two feet, then you’re fired. You haven’t been in for three weeks.”

“I called you the day after it happened, to say I had been hit by a car,” I replied. “I couldn’t walk properly until all the swelling went down and some of the bruising healed.”

She replied, “I don’t see any crutches. Take your cheque and get out. You’re done.”

I wondered how I was going to pay the rent and buy food. Panic washed over me.

I felt like my life was unwinding before my eyes.

And now for something completely different

It had been a month since I had been hit by a car. My boyfriend had dumped me and my boss had fired me. All I had left was school. I buried my head in my books and tried to catch up on three weeks of missed classes.

My Spanish instructor had been supportive and encouraging through the ordeal. She said, “You will get through this. I’ll do what I can to help you. Don’t worry about the grades. Just work hard.”

Not long after that, she arrived to class one day with a sheaf of forms in her had. asked,  “Who would like a chance to study Spanish in Spain this summer?”

My ears perked up. A chance to get out of town for the summer? That sounded good to me. With her help, I filled out the form to apply for a beca or grant, compliments of the Spanish Embassy. It was a lottery, so the chances of actually getting the bursary were slim, but at that point, a chance was better than nothing. Really, what did I have to lose?

I spent the rest of the semester trying to put my life back together and at least pass my classes so that I could graduate.

It turns out that not having a job or a boyfriend can seriously help improve your grades. (Who knew?) I passed all my courses with straight A’s.

My future in an envelope

One day in May, just before graduation, I got a letter from the Spanish embassy. Of course, I couldn’t read very much of it, but I guessed that it wasn’t a rejection letter, because it wasn’t just one sheet of paper. (Ever notice how letters telling you that you didn’t get something are only ever one page long?) There was a whole bunch of stuff in the envelope. So, I took it to school the next day and asked my Spanish professor to tell me what it said. “You got it!” She said. “You’re going to Spain!”

The bursary covered tuition, books, residence and food. I didn’t have the money for the plane ticket, so I sold everything I had and gathered the money to go. A week after graduation, I was in Madrid.

I had lived in England as a child and had travelled through Europe, but I had never really travelled on my own before. It’s a life-changing experience, to travel alone to a country where you don’t speak the language or know any one. It is terrifying. I highly recommend it.

Being in the moment is over-rated

There were so many times that semester that I wanted to give up that I lost count. There were a few people who were sources of endless encouragement and support. I listened to them, mostly because I had no one else to listen to by then.

At the time I could not see that my life path was not to work in a shop. I only saw that I had been fired from a job – and I was humiliated. I could not see that a man whose break up line is “I could not have cared if you lived or died” was not worth my time. I only saw that I was rejected and alone. There are so many things that we can not see when we are living through them.

Spiritual gurus tell us to “be in the moment”. Sometimes, when that moment stinks you would really rather be anywhere else.

Forgive me if I sound sacrilegious, but I think sometimes that “being in the moment” is over-rated. Getting through the moment, is sometimes more important. “Keep on keeping on” is a better mantra, I think, for it is only when we look back at certain moments that we see the value in moving ahead even when you are not quite certain that there is any reason to do so.

Be demanding, gently

One of my anchors of sanity that semester was my Spanish teacher. I have never forgotten the support that she offered me. Other professors were skeptical. Some were even jaded. One even said, “If I had nickel for every time a student said they were hit by a car, I’d be rich by now. Teachers hear so many excuses, it is easy to become hardened and lack compassion when students face real crises.

My Spanish teacher said to me, “Don’t worry about the grades. Just work hard.” She helped me focus my attention back on my studies. That helped to keep my mind off the break up, the lost job and the pain from the contusions. Those words were enough to get me back on track and re-focus.

As a teacher, you may not know who is telling the truth and who is whining. It’s not our job to figure that out. I do believe that it is part of our job though, to ensure that they keep up with their studies to the best of their abilities. The point is not to let them off the hook, but to help them help themselves. As teachers, we can be compassionate and strict at the same time. Learning to do both at simultaneously is the mark of an exceptional teacher.

Gracias, Profesora Santos, for being exceptional. You were a beacon of hope, leading to a wonderful silver lining.

_____________

Share or Tweet this post: A year of inspired insights #1: There’s a silver lining in every ambulance http://wp.me/pNAh3-18C

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


%d bloggers like this: