The mental health of many people in our profession is unraveling before our very eyes. Many are retiring early, quitting, etc. There is no small amount of suffering involved. You know what is happening because you are in the middle of it.
My prayer in this post is straight to our Creator who doesn’t want us to suffer like this, with all the electronic shit in our classrooms, the danger of infection, the messed up planning because we don’t know what to plan for, etc.
It’s a long post, but please read it anyway. Of all the 8,156 articles and all the 56,672 comments posted here over the past 15 years, I am asking you to read just this one post. Read it all the way through. Just this one.
In this way you may possibly protect your mental and physical health right now – right at the right time – in this time of trial and darkness.
Just read it and think about what you are doing:
You must accept that you are never going to come close to teaching your students anything more than a fraction of the language, in spite of what the College Board would have you believe to keep rapidly burning-out teachers all over the country contributing to their coffers in the form of the AP Exam and other standardized testing programs that drive the educational system in place in the U.S. today.
The College Board doesn’t mind if it drives us to our coffins, it only cares about its own coffers, and I don’t make this point in jest. Indeed, I would appreciate it if someone in language education could please tell us why we we are supposed to work ourselves to death for the system, when the system is driven by greed above everything else.
The testing industry will of course continue to grab the money even at the expense of the mental and physical well-being of the teachers and students who drive the massive corporate ruse forward. That’s what industry does. What do we get back? We do all this work in exchange for exactly what?
We teachers very often think that we need the approval of those whom we work for. We don’t. We are independent contractors who come and go to and from schools in order to do work for a certain time and then we move on. We owe nothing our schools. Now, with COVID, there is NO job security, so – in order to protect ourselves – we must think in a new way.
Back to the point of this article: we think quite wrongly – at the expense of our own well-being – that we can actually do what the AP exams want us to do, that the testing industry wants us to do, etc.
But we cannot do it. And it has absolutely nothing to do with our abilities and talents as teachers. We cannot do it because what we are being asked to do is impossible. We can never do what they require because of the research that says that we only have a fraction of the time we need. (See the numbers below for the specifics of this massive ripoff of our precious lives and the precious lives and hopes of our students.)
We scratch and claw and plan and fail, and no matter how much we plan we always fail because of the point that we will actually technically never be able to clarify things that we say in the TL too much; we can never speak slowly enough; we can never relax enough in the stress cauldrons that our buildings have always been, because our students will never hear enough language – not through any fault of your own – for them to be able to do well on those standardized exams. This is a game rigged for the few.
Look at the numbers below, meditate on them, internalize them, and then never forget for one moment as you work yourself to the bone that language teaching is a game that we cannot win, a financial game of “Gotcha!” controlled by the testing industry where we literally are incapable of even coming close to teaching the things they want us to teach.
The industry doesn’t care if our students learn that stuff – they could care less – their only goal is the $1.3 billion dollars (Krashen told me that figure) that they make each year when we literally buy into their devious and controlling game. The testing industry controls our lives.
Here are the numbers, first for modern languages:
10,000 hours of exposure are suggested by the research as necessary for mastery, whatever that term means, and so with only 20 hours in level one by October, for example, your students will have heard the language only 0.002 (two thousandths) of the time needed for mastery, literally a fraction of what the research suggests.
For those instructors of Mandarin Chinese and other non-Roman languages, the figure of 24,000 hours for mastery is more than double the 10,000 hours required for modern languages. From this we can correctly deduce that we and especially Mandarin teachers clearly can do little more in our programs than simply try to get our students to want to continue on in the future with the language. And from that statement we can further correctly deduce that if we buy into the stacked testing game, then we are either stupid or crazy or both.)
Most of right now are failing miserably to align our instruction with the research and now we are failing to align our testing with the research. Why in the hell are we allowing that to happen to us and our students at the money-grubbing hands of the ignorant testing industry?
Why, like the Tarot fool who strides with such confidence over dangerous cliffs, would we ever stress ourselves out to such an absurd degree, trying to do something that no human being could possibly do – achieve some kind of score on some kind of test that claims (quite falsely) to accurately measure what children have learned in your classroom?
Reset your mind. Protect yourself. Review the research. Help your students build confidence in themselves as language learners. Do what you can. Don’t try to do what you can’t.