Reflecting on A Life Teaching Languages: A Memoir from Mississippi to the Bronx
Linda Watkins-Goffman, Professor
Language and Cognition Department
In A Life Teaching Languages: A Memoir from Mississippi to the Bronx (2015), I wrote about how stories help us organize and make sense of our experiences. We create our stories as we live, using narrative as a way of understanding ourselves (Polkinghorne, 1988). Writing about my life as a teacher, I had to re-examine which teachers had influenced my choice of a career in education and influenced my own view of epistimology and pedagogy.
I fondly remember by Spanish literature teacher at Mississippi University for women, Dr. Thelma Carrell. In her classes, no English was allowed, and I can still hear her lectures on Cervantes or Lope de Vega and see her edits in red ink. Without her vision, I doubt I would have ever gained the fluency I needed. After graduation, Dr. Carrell encouraged me to consider a career in bilingual education long before I knew Hostos Community College existed.
In doing research for my memoir, I conducted interviews with Hostos graduates, like Dr. Victor Vasquez, and Dr. Fenix Arias. In talking to them I discovered how important teachers in college had been. Yet rarely do we hear about success stories and the importance teachers have in organizing lives and shaping careers. I was glad to have the opportunity to emphasize the important role teachers play in my memoir.