Dr. Jim McCutcheon, associate professor of Spanish, connects with his students in the new remote-learning environment with a little help from his son, Emmet.

Spanish poetry has been an unexpected source of comfort for students in Dr. Jim McCutcheon’s Civilization and Culture of Spain course. Analyzing themes related to appreciating the little things in life in three poems by Spanish poet Antonio Machado led to discussions that resonated with the students during this particularly difficult time.

“A fragment of one of the poems, ‘Caminante, son tus huellas / el camino y nada más; / caminante no hay camino / se hace camino al andar.’, translates very roughly to: ‘Wanderer, your footprints / are the path and nothing more / wanderer, there is no path / the path is made as you wander,’” Dr. McCutcheon explained. “The discussion began with the idea that there is no predetermined path in life and how there is no turning back, and ended up on the idea of mindfulness and the importance of living in the moment.

“As I thought about the discussion later, I was so impressed and gratified with this group of students,” Dr. McCutcheon continued. “Here, in this unprecedented time, was a group of students sitting on their beds, on their patios, or on their living room couches, analyzing and appreciating poems in Spanish over the internet. In the following class, inspired by the theme of living in the moment, I praised the students and let them know how impressed I was with their work.”

To help his students navigate the challenges of learning in a remote environment, Dr. McCutcheon has encouraged them to share the ways in which the pandemic is affecting them and facilitated group projects to help them maintain their connection with one another. Virtual “visits” to his classes by his three- and five-year-old sons have helped to contribute to a more relaxing environment that fosters more natural conversations, too.

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