Sean Lawler wrote recently that we all have our moments where we speak in English at length about whatever comes up that is just too interesting to not talk about in English. I think this helps with the long block, especially for the older kids.
Here’s an example English tirade we went on: We had included Serena Williams as a character in a mini-story. A student, Chelsea, who was putting her head down in class a lot that day, starting talking, in English, about how Serena married a white man and recently had a baby. She just started talking. And like a river running around the rocks, I flowed right into the conversation. We talked about Serena, her image as a black woman, etc., for over 5 minutes. Then I remember looking at the clock and thinking, “Could I finish this story and do a little fill-in-the-blank with sentences about the story before the bell rings?” I had to move quick, so I jumped us back into Spanish. I know Chelsea struggles with her own feelings of self-worth. I’m sure she feels more valued when we entertain conversations in English like this.
I am happy if, at the end of the year, I have used “only” 50% of my available instructional minutes in the TL that year. It means I was building community. ACTFL is all stuck in their theoretical heads on their 90% position statement. That puts the language in a position of greater importance than the kids and distances them from us. The Chelseas are why we are in the classroom, not the language. I applaud you, Sean. The discussion about Serena was important to her development as a person.
*Because I need 10,000 hours to get a kid to mastery, whereas even in a four year program, given 125 available instructional hours each year X 4 years gives me 500 hours or 1/20th of the time I need to get them where I want them. So by doing 50% of the time in the TL that year, only giving them 1/40th of the time needed, or in a good class in a good year, 1/30th (factoring in all the time for announcements and calling role, etc.), how big a deal is that? 1/20th of the time needed to get my students to mastery is what I have, so what difference does it make if I only have 1/30th or even 1/40th (50% of time in the TL). Our job is to make them want to learn more and feel good about themselves as language learners, not to get them to fluency. The 90% position statement is bogus. And they put on boring conferences. Back to the point – teachers who try to cram all the CI they can into a class are hurting themselves and their students. It’s not about teaching the language, it’s about being in community and preserving our mental health and, less importantly bc all we can really do is take care of ourselves first if we are to help others, that of our young charges.