Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

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Expecting the Unexpected in a Culture of Protest and (Almost always) Civil Disobedience in Oaxaca, Mexico

Expecting the Unexpected in a Culture of Protest and (Almost always) Civil Disobedience in Oaxaca, Mexico

JOLLE did such a lovely job publishing this recent think piece/blog post–so rather than duplicate, I add the link here.  Check it out and submit your own thoughts, art, poetry, to the next issue!


Expecting the Unexpected in a Culture of Protest and (Almost always) Civil Disobedience in Oaxaca, Mexico

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor



Where o Where do the Posts Go?

Was the blog just a fad that I happened to hit? If only I had a twitter word limit or some kind of “get fit; go blog” challenge.  When writing gets in the way of writing, that’s a good thing I suppose.

The update is that this week I’m in the zone–working with the most fabulous, complicated, extraordinary group of students, creating a community of deep learning through poetry.  I ask myself, how did I get so lucky to be able to write, read, and teach poetry? How did I find the most generous and talented community of poets to call upon who graciously come to Athens every night to perform their poetry for a local audience.

This week feels so vital and special and I ask myself: self, how can you live more fully in this poetry spirit as often as possible? What is required to be present to art, to students, to personal growth, to community?

We write poems daily and I treat myself like a student in the course, giving myself the assignments I have written for them.  We come to class to delight one another with what poetry teaches us about what it means to be human, to say what hasn’t been said before.

I’m sure this poem will go through many more revisions, but I am so happy to play with language and see what it can teach me about an open heart.  In the spirit of sharing here and reigniting the blog, here’s a new draft (I’m having trouble maintaining the formatting, bear with me–using  * to figure out how to create stanza breaks)!

Don’t End A Sentence With A Preposition If You Don’t Need To

“Well, do you want anyone to come with?”

You, I mutter under breath

to my mother,


just like my fancy college roommate

who schooled me with

grammar and publishing houses

               that bore her family name.


But I knew Mom meant did I want her

to come with me–those pronouns

and their needy relationships while Mom taught


the importance of indirectness

like, “Whaddya wanna eat?” meant “I want Chinese”

or “Just lemme know in the morning” meant “I don’t

really care what time, I won’t be there.”


When I told her no, I didn’t need her to come with me,

she added, “Well, tell me where you’ll be at.”

Be, I muttered.  I’ll tell you where I’ll be, which meant


                 Don’t drive so fast.

                Don’t ask for more pain meds.

                Don’t take Grandma’s checks.

                Don’t say you’re taking food to Jenny

                when it’s for you, don’t


talk that way, don’t make mistakes

with grammar, don’t leave “me” out, don’t

come with me


which meant “do” but she didn’t get that, not really.

Spanish for Non-Spanish Speakers Workshop–A Success!

When I decided to teach a one day “Spanish for Non-Spanish Speakers Workshop: What Every Georgia Educator Should Know” I worried  that it might be a bait and switch: would those in attendance think they could learn Spanish in one day? Would the workshop title be misleading and encourage what I now refer to as “The Dorification of Spanish Language Learning in the U.S.”?  Spanish language learning isn’t what the Nick Jr. program, “Dora the Explorer” makes it out to be –to (re)learn a second language one needs much more than a few token words that are repeated and translated regularly.  We English speakers in the US have many advantages  for becoming proficient in Spanish (including cognates, Roman alphabet, similar word order structure, many opportunities for authentic exposure to Spanish) vs. other languages that share much less in terms of scripts and structures such as Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Polish, Arabic.   But I never want to deceive eager Spanish learners that the process will be easy, fast, or straightforward.  What on earth could I teach about the Spanish language in a day that would feel satisfying and meaningful?

My students and co-planners spent many weeks considering the possibilities for the workshop with an emphasis on including lessons on language learning processes–how does an adult English speaking American begin to tackle meaningful, communicative Spanish language acquisition without becoming quickly overwhelmed? What about learning a second language also includes learning a second culture and a second/third/fourth perspective on what constitutes “normal” in every context–from dining to primary school learning to driving a vehicle, child rearing, or deciding upon a time to meet for lunch.  Normal is in the eye of the cultural beholder.

The day we spent together was exhiliarating–filled with many more than the “7 words a day” that one typically can acquire! We immersed, we greeted, we dined, we danced, we cut and strung [papel picado], we played [lóteria, trivia] and won–it was a full, busy day that enriched workshop attendees and facilitators alike.  Thank you to all who came–especially those in attendance from the far corners of our state!  We will announce the spring workshop date shortly and look forward to what happens next.  There is a common toast in Mexico: Pa[ra] arriba, Pa’bajo, Pa’centro, Pa’ dentro–raising a glass of “agua de Jamaica” to the group–up, down, to the middle, to the inside!  The day, like the delicious hibiscus drink, has gone inside to stay and percolate many ideas for more Spanish to come!


Spanish in a day–no way.  Spanish for every Georgia educator–absolutely!

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