Updated: Aug 14
Madonna and José Angel Santana in a scene from the movie
Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985.
An interview with our Director of Mutual Understanding,
José Angel Santana by our collaborator, Europass Teacher Academy
in Florence, Italy.
José Angel Santana, PhD was an acclaimed young actor when he recognized pervasive media violence’s destructive influence on young people’s lives. Rather than continue making such programs, he set out to work full-time to help young people. Over the last 35 years working with young people, artists, military instructors, executives, school administrators and teachers of all subjects, he has developed his highly effective performance of mutual understanding approach to achieving success with family, teaching, socially, and in business. He believes the first step toward success in all endeavors is the validation of other people’s thoughts and feelings.
What should your students know about you?
They should know that my most important personal value is the practice of mutual understanding – striving to understand others, to understand myself and helping others to understand me. Not because I am a master at this, it takes much practice; but because I believe mutual understanding is the most important value anyone can have today, right after our need for food, shelter, and health. My students should know this about me because this value infuses everything I do and teach.
What brought you to Europass?
I am married to an amazing innovator in the field of professional development, Marisol Santana, who created TESOL Drama. We came together out of a mutual interest in each other’s work applying drama to education. In 2018, Marisol decided to teach her workshops in Florence, and with Europass. She invited me to add my mutual understanding approaches to TESOL Drama.
This combination, an A + B = C approach to collaboration with Marisol was very successful with our student-teachers and administrators. This lead to our creation of other courses that we teach with Europass as well.
What has been your experience teaching at Europass?
The staff has been extraordinarily responsive, creative, and collaborative. I’ve found that teaching my mutual understanding approaches to teacher-students here to be an unexpected great pleasure. I mean, who can make a bigger difference in the future of the world than teachers, who teach and model mutual understanding to their own students? There are two related principles that inform my practice, that I model, and try to pass on to teachers at all times.
The first is The Golden Rule, the principle of treating others no differently than you would like to be treated yourself. The following quote expresses the second principle: “This mutual understanding is a universal bond, which could not be removed without the community falling to pieces; it is a force of cohesion, permeating the structure of society so that if this force were to cease to act, the whole mass would crumble into dust. We, therefore, place this Need of Mutual Understanding among the principal springs of human action." – from The Elements of Morality, Including Polity, (1864) by William Whewell.
It’s a pleasure to pass these values on to teachers who if they infuse their own teaching with just a tiny drop of mutual understanding, like ripples in a pond, mutual understanding will spread throughout the world and we all can live a better life with each other. I believe this is something worthwhile to strive for and Europass has been an excellent place to teach mutual understanding in a way that will reach many others.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from teaching?
There are two. I’ll tell you one. As for the second, you’ll have to take my classes to learn it. Remember, I come from Show Business where it is imperative to, “Always leave them wanting more!”
All students, no matter what age, need encouragement. Over my years of working with hardened convicted criminals, dangerous teenagers, the sons and daughters of the extremely rich and famous, teachers, powerful media executives — the most important element of my teaching has been to always give students a pat-on-the-back of encouragement. I try to do this during or by the end of every class I teach.
Would you like to add anything else?
Take the path that leads to your dreams. Because even if you never reach your dreams, you will always be somewhere you want to be. Thank you, Enjoy!
Dr. José Angel Santana will be teaching the following courses in Florence, Italy this summer: The Art of Connecting: Communication Skills Training for Teachers, School Counselors and Education Administrators; Discussion Tools for Teaching and Learning ; American Acting Techniques for Teachers and Students; Making Theatre with Adolescents: Listening Deeply to Young People’s Lives; Two-Week Drama in Education + American Acting Technique Intensive for all Subject Teachers; and the Communication Skills Bootcamp for All Staff.