“Silencio!” calls Lenna Eivers.
She’s a teaching assistant in the Secondary Program, and she’s calling to order the weekly meeting of the Spanish Club at Perkins School for the Blind.
Twelve students settle down in the circle of sofas and chairs in the living room of Fisher Cottage. The teens – seven boys and five girls – are here to learn new Spanish words and phrases. And to energetically roll their r’s whenever possible, which is part of the fun of speaking Spanish.
“We have a special treat tonight,” Eivers announces with a big smile.
Ana Paola Rodea Saldivar, a teacher from Mexico who’s attending Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program, will lead a sing-along of Spanish songs.
Saldivar begins by saying one line of the Spanish lyrics, along with hand motions, which she describes aloud. The students repeat it. She adds a second line and they repeat that one, until they have all the words and movements for the song.
She encourages the students to stand, which they do in a rough circle in front of their seats. She hits a button on a laptop. Music pours out of the speakers and students and staff put their hands in the air and boisterously sing.
“Manos ariba! Manos abaho!” Hands go up! Hands go down!
What the students lack in perfect pronunciation and precisely synchronized movements, they more than make up for with enthusiasm.
The music ends and Eivers calls out, “Sientate!” Everyone sits.
It’s time to recite the alphabet and a corresponding word in Spanish, one for each letter.
There’s “la casa” for “c,” “el gato” for “g,” and so on. The students memorized words for the alphabet’s first 13 letters at last week’s meeting and this week they will memorize the remaining 13.
The last word is “el zorro,” the fox, and it requires a vigorous rrrrrrolling of the r’s in the middle.
Not everyone can accomplish this with the proper Latin flair, but they all give it a valiant try as they go around the room, one at a time. There’s laughter and applause after each attempt.
“This group gives a lot of encouragement,” says Eivers. “The students know at least seven different ways to say ‘well done!’ in Spanish – bien, muy bien, fabuloso, fantastico, super bien, magnifico, excelente!” They use them all during the course of the 30-minute meeting.
The group finishes up with a Spanish song that’s similar to “The Hokey Pokey.” Saldivar leads the gleeful group, and as the students sing, they each put a hand in the middle and shake it all about.
Even Natalie, who attends the club but refuses to speak Spanish, stands for this, giggling and dancing and garnering a high-five for joining in.
“Bam!” she shouts joyfully, clapping her hands together.
At the weekly meeting of the Spanish Club, that’s what it’s all about.