On Either Side of the Teacher’s Desk

Selma and I have always circled around the teacher’s desk, at times the teacher at others the student. We plan to continue that practice. Last month, we had the opportunity to talk to students in the Writing Center at San Jose State University. This is where nearly thirty years ago I graduated with a degree in Literature. At the same time, Selma continues taking Spanish classes, and I have chosen to study Art.

Here’s what we had to say:

Craft Talks with Anniqua and Selma

A teacher’s excitement motivates students

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is one of the many texts I chose for my ESL classes. With a poetic mix of Spanish and English, the story of Esperanza is the story of immigrants and home. Writing a found poem was one my favorite activities, and I think my students enjoyed it too. It is difficult to tell how students feel about activities. Having been a student for so many years, however, I have found it easier to be pulled into an activity, when the teacher is excited.

Found poems

If you are not familiar with found poems, here’s how it goes. You read a text. You look for themes. You find words and phrases that speak to you, and then you organize them into a poem of your own. Something like this:

A found poem from The House on Mango Street

faceless tattooed fortune teller reading tarot cards at home

Eyes Like Egypt

Like Cleopatra

She lets me read

Her poems

And I

Like a house on fire

cuando cuando cuando

We are home, this is home

One of the many highs in the life of a teacher – of a certain “Ms Selma”

Whenever I organize projects for my students, I am always aware that things might not go according to plan. I am especially prepared for hiccups during overseas educational trips with 19-year-olds. However, there was one of many trips to Spain when no one fell sick, no one fought, and nothing was lost or stolen. We returned to the United Arab Emirates on the same high as we left.

The joy and excitement in the eyes of my Emirati students at the sight of Arab and Moorish art and architecture in Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla, Toledo. The bond they formed with art history professors of the Universidad de Complutense in Madrid remains strong to this day. Perhaps this was because everyone was fascinated by the same thing – the beauty of the art and culture during the 800 years of Arab/Berber rule.

Zayed University students in Madrid, Spain

For my part, getting to know my students more profoundly in the two weeks we traveled together through Spain, was a treat. Also, creating deep ties with my fellow art professors on the Iberian peninsula and visiting world heritage sites I had previously only studied in textbooks, has been the highlight of my teaching career.

Let me share a little secret: I am still on this field trip, still exploring Spain. And I may never call it a day.

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art


  1. Selma, you know the art of motivating and encouraging people, and you bring out the best in everyone. ❤

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