Look to your left. Look to your right.
Are there familiar faces in your life whose stories you’ve never heard? Coworkers, neighbors, fellow students who are little more than the one who always forgets her pencil, or the one who always wears blue?
We all have familiar strangers in our lives, but for this teacher, that’s where learning starts. He receives sixth graders who’ve shuffled together to the same classes for years, but have never really met. The subject is English, but that’s not what matters most. What matters most is forming a team.
He sees 240 students a week. He works to learn their names and lives, but know it’s more important that they learn each others’. That the lesson plan, with its objectives and activities, leaves room for community—even when that means that games or conversation takes place in Spanish. Only when they’re comfortable can they really get curious. Only when they’re relaxed can they try a new language, with all its awkwardness.
How might the world change if those kids bring this spirit to their families, their jobs, their adult lives?
How might ours, if we did the same?
Would we be better if we learned to speak—not only other languages, but to each other, to the people we have never truly known?
Inspired by the story of Jonnathan Elizondo, a graduate of the Institute for Collaborative Learning (I4CL) / Centro Espiral Maná in northern Costa Rica. Jonnathan teaches English at the Escuela Central San Sebastián and the State Distance University (UNED). The I4CL offers training and consulting in communication, teaching, learning, and leadership, and has worked with clients including Google Education Summits, ministries of education, the U.S. Peace Corps, binational centers, and universities across Latin America, North America, the Middle East, and North Africa. I4CL is a sponsor of the July edition of El Colectivo 506, “Bilingual by 2040,” and we are proud to dedicate our weekly Media Naranja column to the stories of I4CL alumni/ae this month.