Marlene Bassil
Spanish Teacher, Cardinal Mooney High School & Kent State University Adjunct Faculty

As a language teacher I believe the awareness of inclusion and diversity is a vital part of a learning curriculum and should be implemented throughout the classroom. Students at Cardinal Mooney High School have been carrying out these practices for many years. Especially in the Foreign Language Department, students have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel abroad to countries such as Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, and France.  While traveling, they were able to get a first-hand experience of the cultural shifts among these diverse countries. Students also went to cities such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh to attend Latin-American Cultural Folkloric performances from 22 countries. As they continue experiencing more diverse cultures and getting more involved, students become more aware of the traditions, celebrations, and holidays from other Hispanic cultures. By embracing diversity within the classroom environment, students feel inspired to continue learning a language and will be more prepared for the exciting challenges of today’s diverse society.

I also like to celebrate Hispanic holidays and traditions inside the classroom and try to engage and encourage students to want to be more culturally competent and to express diversity. On November 2nd, in Mexican culture, we celebrate El Día de Los Muertos. I ask my students to bring a candle and a picture of a passed loved one to make an ofrenda, or offering, to those who are no longer with us. This is a very important holiday tradition that students like to participate in. They love to watch the Disney movie Coco, which is a wholesome way to implement these traditions. Being able to include Latin American culture in the curriculum has made a huge difference with motivating students to want to learn Spanish. Students become more engaged when they get hands-on experience exploring various Hispanic traditions. 

As a Spanish (I, II, III and IV-AP) teacher, I provide students with the exciting challenge of learning a language other than English. For example, our Italian, Korean, and Indian exchange students have had the experience of exploring Hispanic culture here in the United States and of continuing their Spanish language acquisition as they further their education. At one point during learning time, I asked my students why they made the choice to learn the Spanish language.  Some of them responded, “It’s good for your brain. It can help you get into your dream college. It can help you get an awesome job where you can travel a lot.  It can help you make more friends from other countries.” As they mentioned different great reasons, I reminded them that learning another language opens doors for their future in many ways. It gives them the opportunity to strengthen their cognitive skills and have higher literacy skills.  Learning another language also gives one greater cultural awareness which is important in today’s diverse world.  

Society is progressing to become more inclusive and diverse as the population expands. The United States has become a pool for all different races, religions, and cultures. It is important for students to broaden their ability to be culturally competent and to communicate with those of various cultures. That is why it is critical  to include learning various languages in a student’s daily life. Students should be taught a foreign language at a young age when the mind is more malleable. This improves the chances of a more diverse society where one can communicate in more than just their native language. 

Oftentimes, students become more engaged when they have first-hand experience within the diverse environment. For example, I take my high school students to authentic Mexican restaurants in the area so they feel more inclined to order in Spanish and to practice their speaking skills. Students will use phrases taught in class such as “¿Dónde está el baño?” or “¿Puedo beber una soda?” to communicate with their waiters and classmates. By putting students in a diverse environment, they are more inclined to want to speak and to practice their Spanish out of the classroom. Using these skills in the classroom and applying it to the outside world gives students the motivation to want to learn how to communicate in Spanish.

In conclusion, exposing students to hands-on authentic learning in our diverse world will allow them to display  more inclusive behavior within our society. Therefore, they will be able to understand how to accept and respect one another’s cross cultural differences. The values of inclusion and diversity are taught within the classroom curriculum to provide students with a better understanding of how to apply these principles in the real world.