What 21st-century skills do your native and heritage Spanish speakers need?
As a Spanish for Spanish speakers teacher, you’re always preparing students for their futures. But the future can be uncertain. There are jobs that don’t exist yet, technologies that haven’t been invented, and problems that can’t be anticipated.
Take heart. There are some skills that experts agree aren’t going away anytime soon.
21st-Century Skills for Native and Heritage Spanish Speakers
Since you're teaching Spanish, you’re already helping students gain a huge leg up in the job market. Being bilingual or multilingual will likely mean that your students have more job prospects than their peers who speak only one language fluently.
Native and heritage Spanish speakers will be in even higher demand, given the shifting demographics of the United States and the prevalence of Spanish-speaking communities worldwide.
Alongside language proficiency, your students need skills that will be in demand in the 21st century. These skills are highly transferable from one job to the next, which will prove invaluable with Americans currently switching jobs an average of 12 times.
Here are three 21st-century skills you should continue teaching in your Spanish for Spanish speakers classroom.
Working well on a team is often referred to as a "soft skill," but this term does a disservice to just how vital communication and collaboration are, both inside and outside the Spanish for Spanish speakers classroom.
When students work together, they become better active listeners, practice empathy, and come to recognize the importance of negotiation and compromise.
When students unify to reach a common goal, they’re more likely to engage in unconventional problem-solving and utilize their creativity. They’ll learn to value multiple perspectives in the process, a skill that grows increasingly important as our world grows smaller and more connected.
As a teacher to native and heritage Spanish speakers, you’re in a unique position to help your students leverage their multiculturality towards their capacity to collaborate.
When students gain cultural awareness, they start to realize that their prior knowledge and experiences have tremendous value both in school and beyond. As they develop a sense of global awareness, students will begin to see our vast interconnectedness and gain a sense of how history, politics, economics, and art have made the world the place it is today.
For instance, Spanish-speaking students may know firsthand–and uniquely from their peers–the pride of representation and the harm of cultural appropriation.
In a world of viral social media posts of curly-haired little girls recognizing themselves as Mirabel from Disney’s Encanto and where Ariana Grande has repeatedly been accused of black/brown-fishing, your students have plenty of cultural experiences to unpack.
But they don’t necessarily have the linguistic or critical thinking skills to turn them into deep cultural and global awareness. Helping them build this critical consciousness will connect them to the dynamics of their own community and help them understand both themselves and others more deeply.
When students learn about the current and past historical factors that shape Spanish-speaking communities worldwide, they can be more intentional about choosing how they would like to contribute to both their local and global networks.
Maybe they’ll decide to start a Spanish language storytime at the local library. Maybe they’ll tutor immigrants who are learning English. Maybe they’ll decide to become involved in environmental justice, Indigenous rights, or education advocacy, at home or abroad.
The possibilities are limitless once you and your students lay the groundwork together.
A 21st-century classroom should, of course, still focus on the joyful aspects of Spanish-speaking communities (did someone say bachata lessons?), but it should also not shy away from more challenging topics like racism, colonialism, and economic inequality. What better, safer place to learn how to discuss the complexities around DACA, for example, than in a Spanish class for Spanish speakers? By devoting time to these topics and perhaps even assigning activist-oriented activities and assessments, you can help your students start to understand the responsibility they have to themselves, their families, their peers, and their communities.
Need Materials for Your Spanish for Spanish Speakers Class?
These 21st-century skills are essential to teach, but how can you help your native and heritage Spanish speakers build them in your classroom?
Our newest offering, En voz alta: Español para hispanohablantes, is a 3-level Spanish for Spanish speakers program that encourages students to make meaningful connections in order to embrace their unique heritages. Check it out!
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