Group Feedback Invited

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51 thoughts on “Group Feedback Invited”

  1. The fact that the evals were identical for you and Scott is a scathing indictment of their content. I suggest taking this to anyone ABOVE this person. I would not stand for it. This administrator needs to be outed for not knowing how people acquire languages, for being ignorant.

  2. Note: the evaluator sat behind the students and so was unaware of eye contact or lip movement.
    Wow. Bullseye. I didn’t really think about this before, but our evaluators should probably be sitting in the front facing the students, or on the side-front to see both teachers and students faces.

  3. Nathaniel,
    Heart beating fast and blood rushing past jugular. Clenching fists.
    She made up a buncha crap and peppered it w/some languagey vocab to sound like she knows what she’s talking about.
    As you said, it was not a TPRS lesson. Clear to anyone here or any T/CI teacher, you crafted a lesson based on your school constraints. Classic communicative/memorized chunks w/content-related theme. Though you insured it was comprehensible, she CAME IN with the gun pre-loaded and the eval content already written….
    What grade were you teaching that she is concerned w/AP scores?
    AND this gives particular pause:
    “Other research states that students constantly exposed to this type of language do not typically understand authentic language used in day-to-day communication.” WTF does that mean? Is she suggesting that more metalinguistic grammar chat helps people become better communicators?
    My gut says you cannot take it on the chin. This is administrative malpractice in every sense. But you must proceed cautiously. Is this a public school? Do you have a union rep? Can you and Scott join forces? We need to think through a strategy and coordinate the steps. Is the evaluator a WL teacher? (I pity the poor students if she is!!)
    Are other Ts from other depts held to this robotic “1984”-esque standard: “…the department will need to spend time insuring that students have the same basic class regardless of the instructor.” Who teaches the same classes the same way? Do you all flip your teacher’s guide to page 24 at 10:27am?
    I am so sorry you had to be on the receiving end of that. What a waste of your time and energy, which you so competently share with your students, colleagues and the wider WL community on a regular basis.
    It is a terrible and infuriating blow, based on ignorance and as Ben would say, ego.
    That she’s memorialized it in writing is a clue to the ignorance…you can and will diplomatically yet forcefully have to refute the nonsense….What is the protocol for responding? do you meet to discuss? To you tender a written response? Are you asked to sign this?
    Growling and ready to help your cause,

    1. However I can help, I will! It is clear, as Alisa noted, that the evaluator had her mind made up before your observation.
      I’d eat this admin up if she questioned the research behind my approach. As if she is going to be able to handle herself in a conversation about language acquisition! I’d do 2 things, both done calmly:
      1) Send her the link to VP’s 6 videos, as well as get yourself a copy of “Foreign Language Education: The Easy Way” (Krashen) and “From Input to Output” (VP) and share relevant sections with her. Send her your favorite quotes. Both books were written for teachers and admin and are relatively short. Regularly check in with her to ask about “her thoughts” on these videos and books. She likely won’t read them.
      2) Ask her to support ALL of her claims with research specific to foreign/second language acquisition. That is the definition of “best practice” – what is research-based. These were among her claims, all of which for she’s going to struggle to find any research support:
      – lessons with all 4 skills are better for language acquisition
      – output should be a part of every lesson
      – language acquisition does not happen via the same processes as the first
      – essential questions improve acquisition outcomes
      – TPRS students don’t understand authentic communication or have poorer comprehension than non-TPRS students
      – TPRS leads to large proficiency gaps
      – TPRS leads to poorer AP scores
      It may require you to explain that an implicit (unconscious) linguistic system is at the core of any real free and spontaneous speech and that the only way to develop that system is with the acquisition process (focus on processing for meaning). That is your goal and your means.
      When colleagues speak of your students having gaps, they are referring to gaps in explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge does NOT become implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is NOT acquisition. It is speculated as to whether explicit knowledge plays any role at all in the development of an implicit linguistic system. The students not taught with much communicative and comprehensible input will also have plenty of gaps – underdeveloped linguistic systems.
      Once again, it sounds like she wants test data to prove your students are developing. So, you best make sure that test actually measures implicit knowledge (a monitor-free test). That test has to be unrehearsed and spontaneous, it has to focus attention on meaning, and it has to be time pressured. Those are, after all, real-life conditions for language use, so no one should argue with that.
      I don’t even know what she means by “ACTFL’s Proficiency Standards.” Does she mean the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines? Here is a quote from the preface:
      “The Guidelines are not based on any particular theory, pedagogical method, or educational curriculum. They neither describe how an individual learns a language nor prescribe how an individual should learn a language, and they should not be used for such purposes. They are an instrument for the evaluation of functional language ability.”
      That statement alone about not being based on any theory makes you wonder WHY THE F*** do we give so much credence to these guidelines?!

  4. I have to say reading the post by Nathaniel seems like he is living the same life that I have been for the last couple of years.
    This is an example of dealing with people that have inflated egos or preconceived notions about language learning. I have come to understand that this type of person is in educational management which happens to be the trend in most school settings nowadays. it is disgusting to say the least.This type of person is not willing to take the time to read the research or teacher reflections in order to gain a better understanding of language acquisition or proficiency or acquired competence or whatever we want to call it.
    Much like when I am be observed by admin, it’s as if they are trying to catch me. I’m not really sure how one can handle this. I think it requires a ton of patience, lots of transparency, and the ability to not choke someone to death. This goes back to what Ben was talking about in the post “arguing with drunks.” challenging a person like this can get pretty ugly. Winning someone over in this scenario takes a long long time.
    Nathaniel I wish you the best and I’m sure you realize you’re not alone in this type of struggle.

  5. Nathaniel here are some points you may wish to make with your administrator, whom I personally think of as a genuine clown – the scary kind – and certainly not your colleague who in a collegial way is in your classroom to help you become a better teacher. (In fairness to her, she has clearly been influenced in her thinking by your clown colleagues.)
    1. The standard of Communication defines the ACTFL Standards. We don’t need to go into that. The four other C’s in the standards mean nothing. Most admins and teachers don’t even know what they are except for the Culture standard, and since we are not Social Studies teachers using English to teach the language – we are here to teach the language – it (the Culture standard) cannot even be addressed without deep knowledge and application of the key Communications standard. Your administrator gets to take off her clown nose when she understands this point.
    2. The nature of human communication is to share original thoughts via language (Krashen, VanPatten, Vygotsky). ACTFL had that in mind when they wrote the standard. However, your clown administrator and clown colleagues believe that when they ask their students to parrot and memorize (something robots do) without sharing original ideas, that they are then meeting the Communications standard. They are not. Your administrator gets to take off her clown ears when she understands this point.
    3. Sharing original thoughts in the target language has three defining characteristics. First, humans listen to input coming into their minds through their ears and interpret it. This is called the Interpretive Mode of the Three Modes of Communication of ACTFL. As input, language that is being listened to and interpreted comes first in the communication game, and certainly precedes speech output. Interpreted input must precede speech output by thousands of hours for true speech production to occur. Your administrator gets to take off her clown shoes when she understands this point.
    4. Human communication must be reciprocal and back and forth and participatory. This is called the Interpersonal Mode of the Three Modes of Communication of ACTFL. This is where we share original human thoughts. We listen to original incoming information and share outgoing information via speech that is from ourselves, from deep within us, that only we could say. We do not parrot or memorize language when we do this, as your clown colleagues teach their students to do, which activities have no basis in research. Your administrator gets to take off her clown hat when she understands this point.
    5. Since we are the only ones in the classroom who speak the language, we are the only ones who should speak most of the time in our classrooms in any secondary language program. Your administrator gets to take off her clown gloves when she understands this point.
    6. That your clown visitor was upset to find no objectives up when she visited speaks to her absolute ignorance and calls into question what she is doing being allowed to even walk around in a school, let alone evaluate teachers. Any fool could walk into a language classroom and see if language learning is going on. Are the students understanding speech or reading input from the teacher or a book? Then language learning is going on. Their speaking, if the thoughts are not original and from them, means nothing. As Krashen has said, robots don’t converse. Your administrator gets to take off her clown hair when she understands this point.
    To conclude, robotic parroting of memorized speech patterns does not constitute language learning. Your instruction was just fine. You were doing an admirable job of actually teaching culture via the TL, which anyone who has tried it knows is not easy because it so constantly pulls us out of bounds. Alisa addressed that point above in a clear way.
    This is a good time for all of us to read what Robert Harrell and others including you have written about language education in the Primers. We should read all of those primer articles at some point. Your administrator should read them.
    Of course, Nathaniel, you already deeply get everything I said above and could put it in much more eloquent fashion than I have. But I was trying to sleep and this malefic clown image kept creeping into my consciousness, so I had to get up and write this comment.
    The fact is that this situation is a truly ridiculous reversal of correctness in schools. It should be written up in the New York Times. The title of the article would have to be, “Clown Schooled”.
    Best to Scott as well. It can’t be a pleasant thing to receive carbon copies of evaluations from a clown. It just sounds like a crappy thing to happen when you and Scott are clearly paving in expert fashion the way for future students in your school and in the nation.
    Once the clowns have been unmasked and kicked out of the circus along with, finally those suffering animals, maybe the entire concept of circuses and schools as circuses (yours certainly sounds like one) will finally give way to better options in education that don’t piss away taxpayer money quite so badly as to where they hire clowns to run them. Maybe it is time for rationale, research based thought to come into education. Perhaps, right?
    I’ll close by quoting Mad Dog from above, and this is a very true statement that your administrator should respect. In fact, I would actually consider flying up there to your area, since Mad Dog is right there on Martha’s Vineyard, for a front row seat to see this happen:
    …I’d eat this admin up if she questioned the research behind my approach….

  6. Nathaniel,
    I read your description last night and had the overwhelming feeling of familiarity because you described what I deal with. I woke up a little more fired up because this woman came to your class looking to find holes in your teaching. She conveniently thinks she has identified some issues with TPRS and is focusing in on them. I love that as you noted, she did not really see a TPRS lesson. This, I think, will be what you repeat over and over as she tries to pick apart TPRS. It is actually a brilliant strategy for observations. Show a lesson that is not TPRS and they can point out everything that is wrong since they are so eager.
    The wolves are smelling blood in the air. They think they have you cornered but your pack of wolves is much fiercer than theirs!
    I love some of things that Ben and Eric have said. I will piggy-back on their comments. I think you should ask to have this woman support her claims. It is very easy for them to make accusations and claim that students are not engaged or learning. The fact of the matter is these are blanketed statements and unless they put it on paper and discuss specifically they mean very little. Also putting everything in writing creates a record. I have gotten away from discussion with these types because they don’t actually listen and the conversations just spin in circles. In writing means we can address them specifically and concisely. At the same time they have to address us specifically and concisely as well.
    These people are entitled to their own opinions –just not their own facts.
    A record on paper keeps them honest to their points of contention because as soon as you support your work they will move on to something else. As a result you will be forever trying to justify everything. They will never be satisfied and neither will you. In my experience, I have proven any critics of a CI-based classroom wrong but they keep coming up with something new to pick at.
    As a final piece of advice, I think the conversations should always be on the results of student learning and not teaching methods. Keep them focused on the students not YOU!
    Mike Peto said it best, “If you want to criticize me, look at my results, not my methods. If you want to know how I got those results, look at my methods.”

  7. As an added note…Nathaniel, I think you should have as much of this recorded as possible and you should use this anecdote for the benefit of others.
    I think we need to find a way to make the lives of aspiring CI teachers easier by having fool proof strategies for dealing with this type of opposition. A manual or guide book if you will…
    Too many of us this have this same story and we need to help future confrontations for all of our colleagues. Hang in there!

    1. Michael the closest thing we have to a manual is the Primers section. It is intended to give us something to grab hold of in this kind of situation. It’s all we have so far but it has some great stuff on there.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    …And when she understands that you are the SLA expert and authority to be trusted and deferred to, because you did the degree, the practicums, the student teaching and everything else in your teacher-formation program, PLUS all the workshops, conferences, coaching, reading and reflection on Second Language Acquisition research and strategies, then she can wipe off that Gd-awful clown lipstick.

  9. Nice Alisa. Very nice. I forgot about the lipstick. Your point above just really frickin’ needs to be made. If Nathaniel is not the real deal for WL language instruction in the coming decades of change, then there is no real deal. I thought about how pathetic that school must be to actually hire someone like that evaluator, who knows so little and seems incapable of doing any serious evaluation. In that sense, perhaps it is best for Nathaniel and Scott to let the whole thing go, because if this person comes off this incapable in this situation, she could be doing that all over the building and sending the message to her bosses that she is not really capable of handling the job, in which case Nathaniel and Scott should just blow the whole eval off as a waste or their time, which it certainly is. Many of us have been in exactly in this same situation, you guys, by the way, and we have learned that the best response is to avoid giving it too much emotional energy. John Piazza is the expert at this because he has really had to be. I think of Jeffery Brickler here as well, and many others over the years. We all learn to ignore stupid people eventually. And that includes your clown colleagues, who may never take off those big red noses they sport, fools that they are, with their smeared drunken grotesque grammar lips.

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I guess taking the high road and not getting into it would be admirable and prudent, but what is riding on the eval? Is it your /N’s employment status/future/security, your salary, your reputation, your pride (I doubt it!)…If it’s just a dumb ole document in a folder, then maybe OK….

  11. What I’m pasting below from Eric is I think the best immediate follow-up course of action. There are some real good thoughts on this thread (minus the clown thoughts), and to channel Mike, they got me all fired up. Let us know what we can do Nathaniel.
    2) Ask her to support ALL of her claims with research specific to foreign/second language acquisition. That is the definition of “best practice” – what is research-based. These were among her claims, all of which for she’s going to struggle to find any research support:
    – lessons with all 4 skills are better for language acquisition
    – output should be a part of every lesson
    – language acquisition does not happen via the same processes as the first
    – essential questions improve acquisition outcomes
    – TPRS students don’t understand authentic communication or have poorer comprehension than non-TPRS students
    – TPRS leads to large proficiency gaps
    – TPRS leads to poorer AP scores

    1. Yeah those false claims were probably fed to her by a few forty year veterans who still trot out the four skills, etc. to justify not aligning with the research. As far as lower AP scores and proficiency gaps, I would like to see that one proven. We have just the opposite results here in Denver. And the idea of essential questions improving outcomes is totally false for us. I don’t know how Nathaniel and Scott have put up with this crap, honestly.

  12. You all are the best! I want to thank you because what you have written will support everyone who has been/is in this situation.
    My concern is that this may not be a situation in which a “lowly teacher” can win over an administrator. It’s clear, as you have all said, that she has an agenda. What I have seen in the past is that this is often about egos and personal issues than about anything academic. Therefore, there is not a single, rational, educated statement that will win her over.
    She mentions that your classroom looks nothing like the other classrooms and criticizes TPRS repeatedly. This is not an observation, it’s a declaration. She has drawn a line: Teach my way or I will attack your professionalism and knowledge. She has fired a warning short: I’m going to change all of the testing in order to make my way look the most successful, so get ready. She has also issued a deadline: Get yourself in order because before this year ends we are going to make this happen via “professional development.”
    Trying to argue research in these situations is akin to proving to an atheist that God exists…and vice versa. The person who needs to be convinced is someone with power OVER the administrator, or the others in the department. Doing either of these will make this person your lifelong enemy, personally and professionally. She knows this and is willing to take the chance…..partly because she knows that you and Scott are gentlemen…kind, considerate and under most circumstances not out for blood like she is.
    I am so sick over this. You and Scott are incredible teachers and passionate professionals.
    This admin is a very empty and angry person to feel that she has to push you this far. I wish that I could have done more when I was there. I had no idea that the feelings and motives were this vicious.
    Question #1: Can you outlast her? Is this a person who may be looking to move to another district administratively in the near future? Or is this someone who is looking to establish a lifelong dictatorship in your district?
    Question #2: Are the other teachers truly against you? Is it possible that they want her to think so because that is the path of less resistance? Is it possible that she has a handful of minions and the rest are either on your side or without one?
    Question #3: To whom would you go with this in district? It is clearly a declaration of pedagogical war. When that happens, what does the district do? What is the past practice? I know we discussed this briefly when I was there, but do you have any kind of union/membership representation?
    (Something to consider……this intense pushback may have come because teachers other than you and Scott have expressed that they do not want to be dragged in the direction of direct textbook instruction…and frankly it is pissing her off.)
    Both you and Scott have put years of time into what you do. I cannot imagine you teaching from a textbook. I don’t wish harm on anyone, but these power-hungry administrators are dangerous to teachers and to students. I wish I knew how to tranquilize them, tie them up and drop them off somewhere where they can live alone in a blackboard jungle surrounded only by objectives and essential questions being read out loud by a computer-generated voice at full volume…..
    Email me personally if I can help in ANY way.
    with love,

    1. If Nathaniel’s and Scott’s students and parents are not complaining, then it has to be about this admin’s ego, right?
      I’ve seen that to get a job in some of the most prestigious private schools in the city of Chicago, a great way to win over admin is by having a big-shot parent (lawyer, doctor, CEO type) write letters of recommendation for what they saw their child learned in your class. Just thinking out loud here.

      1. meaning, Nathaniel, if you have parents on your side that might be all the armor you need to protect you from these attacks… or should I say, parents can be like a shower to wash away all that clown make-up.

  13. Robert Harrell

    I’ve read through the whole thread and found a lot of good advice. However, I would like to look at things with a little bit different perspective along with a question or two.
    While I agree that the Peter Principle is probably in full force at this time, that in and of itself does not make this administrator the enemy. She may be feeling entirely inadequate to do these evaluations and therefore grasping at straws. Furthermore, if she is unable to compete intellectually, philosophically, theoretically, and globally in the discussion or debate, then she will nitpick in order not to admit being at sea or having lost the debate. (I’ve seen this on multiple occasions in various settings, so I know it is a common human reaction.) Her reactions to criticism may also be part of a feeling of utter inadequacy.
    If that is the case, then a confrontational approach will be entirely counterproductive: she is operating emotionally rather than rationally. You can’t win an emotional argument, especially with a woman. (Sorry about sounding misogynistic here, but the vast majority of women have greater emotional intelligence than the majority of men. In and of itself it is neither good nor bad, it just is.)
    A key question is: How much power/influence does this administrator have over employment, building operation, job assignment, etc.? If her influence or power is minimal, then she can probably be safely ignored. If her power is considerable, she must be dealt with but in a way that does not make her even more antagonistic; she may have the power to make your professional life a living hell. From the outside those of us on the PLC cannot know the answer to this.
    Eric and others have given some very good ideas about issues to be addressed. I would like to further consider how they are to be addressed. Rather than going into a meeting or sending an e-mail and demanding to know what research she has to support her position, approach it more irenically rather than polemically. Yes, ask about the research that supports her statements, but do it more along the lines of:
    “Thank you for observing me, providing me with some things to think about, and mentioning other research. You know* that I am very interested in pursuing research that will make my teaching more effective, so could you provide me with the sources you referred to? I’d really like to take a look at them so I have a fuller and clearer understanding of what you are saying. Or perhaps you would like to sit down with me and show me the research yourself?”
    This has to be done with absolute sincerity. As Blaine has always maintained, if you can show me a method that works better than what I am using, I will adopt it. We may be certain that the administrator can’t back up the statements she made, and all the research we know about supports TCI/TPRS, but it would be arrogant of us, as well as a bit hypocritical, to dismiss this out of hand. By doing it this way, you may actually persuade the administrator that she has agreed with you all along (though it will take a long time for that to happen). Coming in with both barrels blazing will tend to make her harden her position, dig her trench, and return fire – and she may have the heavier artillery in the sense of simply having more power or influence in the school setting.
    *Using “You know” will encourage her to agree with you here. She won’t want to admit that she is clueless about how seriously you take the research. Once you get her to agree with you on one thing, it will be easier for her to agree with you on other things.

    1. Robert Harrell

      I had not ready Laurie’s response because it came while I was writing mine. Laurie obviously knows more about the situation than I. This may indeed already be full-on war where I was thinking it was opening skirmishes. The same caveats still apply in relation to the power and influence this person wields. Your strategy may need to be to speak with other colleagues and bring them along on the Comprehensible Input journey.
      Some other considerations include the actual flow chart of responsibility (Is this administrator a department chair and therefor also a teacher or a principal/assistant principal and therefor not in the classroom at all? To whom is she responsible?), the precise scope of this administrator’s responsibility (Does she truly have the power to tell you how to teache? Most state education codes, union contracts, etc. specifically state that the teacher has the sole right to determine how material is to be taught), the amount of support to be expected from other department members for one position or the other, precedents from similar situations, and just how collaborative the development of common assessments is likely to be.
      It wouldn’t hurt for you to go into any meetings armed with some understanding of assessment development and technical terminology. I am currently reading a book on assessment development and will be glad to share a bit – even though I am not all that far along in it. At least talk about content validity when developing assessments. I’ll send Ben some notes to post on this when I get a chance.

      1. Send me what you can when you can, Robert. I think that any points we can get into a concise article on assessment development would be a good addition to the Primers. We probably really need such a thing, these days.

  14. And I just finished reading Robert’s response and thought, “Thank you Robert for putting a human spin on this administrator!” You are so right in that going in with guns blazing (whether or not war has actually been declared) is not going to get the desired response. However you are also right in that there are many ways to lock and load and let the folks in the vicinity be fully aware that that you are up to the task.
    Hugs and thank you sir!!!

  15. I am going to have to read these through a few more times. But feel free to keep sharing your thoughts, I will read them, too…and share them with virtual member, Scott.

    1. Are we talking about Scott Grapin here? I’ve seen Scott teach and he certainly gets how to engage students in Spanish. If he were teaching in my district, he’d be surely getting opposite remarks.
      As Laurie and Robert pointed out, only you (and Scott) can know how to proceed effectively. I appreciate Robert’s comments on how to engage with opposition. I personally wouldn’t sign the thing until she gets you the research on those seemingly bogus claims she’s made about SLA.
      I have no experience with AP. But it sounds like you may have your first bit of ammo should you need to use it.

      1. No, we are talking about Scott Provost, who has been into TPRS since the fall of 2004. He was my coordinator at the time, and approved for me to go to a 1-day workshop with Blaine. (That was my second. I had gone to an all-day workshop with Shirley Ogle 5 years previously but that is another story.)
        I just tried it out in the classroom without saying anything to anybody and followed the MORE list and went to Suzie’s website and Blaine’s, ordered some things from Blaine, including “Fluency through TPR Storytelling.”
        One day, I met Scott out in the hallway between classes. He told me, “I am so tired of kids not being able to do anything except fill in blanks.” I replied, “Remember, that workshop I went to last month?” We talked about it. He borrowed Blaine (and Contee’s) book and started trying it out. That summer we did a one week workshop with 20 hours of a fluency fast in French (Donna Tatum) in the morning and 16 hours of TPRS (Blaine) in the afternoon. If Scott was not convinced by student progress in the winter and spring, he was definitely convinced by gaining fluency in French (his minor in college, I believe).
        Another Scott, to be sure, but another Great Scott.

  16. How many of us have experience with AP and TPRS?
    I know that Joe Neilson does. I remember it being said that of 3 AP teachers in his school, he had the highest rate of non-native speaker passes. Michael, could you check with him about that, since you have already made that connection.
    I am not sure about this, but I think it was Chris who mentioned that Blaine started attracting attention due to the results he was getting on the AP.
    I have a brochure from 1999 that says, “Blaine Ray teaches AP Spanish at Stockdale High School, in Bakersfield, California, where 100 students have passed the AP Spanish test in the last three years. Seventeen of them were true beginners who passed in their third year of Spanish. Four other true beginners passed in the second year of high school Spanish.

  17. Hi Nathaniel,
    We do not teach for the AP but I did have two students take the AP last year. They had had only TPRS/CI teachers grades 8-11. (Actually skipping a level of Spanish in grade 9 to be in the grade 10 class) Then their senior year they enrolled in an online AP class, which was completely independent study. I was not there for over half of the year and they did not consult with me at all.
    This year I have a student who is taking the same course after taking Spanish in grades 9-11. (He actually skipped the 1st and 3rd years) He is in Spanish 5 w/ me now and taking the online class. I have not worked with him at all on the AP material. I’m curious to see how the test goes for him.
    Last year’s students both earned a 5. :o)
    with love,

  18. Shit like this makes me furious. Show the stupid b**ch my blog– recent entries include RESULTS WITH BEGINNERS who never ever do ANY of the following:
    — grammar practice or note-taking
    — self reflection
    — goal setting
    — correcting their writing
    — any output other than what they want to do (literally all they have to do is LISTEN and indicate comprehension, though they can talk if they want to)
    — worksheets
    I also have no goals, ever, other than to deliver compelling c.i. I have no idea what an “essential question” or whatever other current edubabble horseshit jargon is, and…yet…my kids CRUSH. Evidence on blog.
    Send me her email address and I’ll show her how absolutely wrong she is especially about the copy-and-pasted idiocy about “TPRS research”
    Ok now I am going outside with a two by four to smash things.

      1. Hi Craig,
        This is not Chris, but here is the answer.
        It is definitely worth the time. One thing that I admire about Chris is that, like Suzie Gross, he invested all of that time into communicative exercises, only to discover that TPRS style CI accomplished what Communicative activities only promised…just a lot of “clouds and wind without rain.”
        If anyone wants someone to pull punches this is not the blog to go to.
        T. P. R. S. Q & A

        1. LOL I am trying to tone it down. I have managed to annoy a few people with it (success!) but flies and sugar and all.
          I won’t back away from contentions supported by evidence, though. There should be *no* arguments at this point about the proven fact that c.i. WORKS. If ppl don’t wanna read research (understandable) then possibly evidence will convince.
          We’re doing a demo next Fri. In 75 min, participants go from knowing ZERO German to reading a 400-word story in all verb tenses EASILY and then we bring in students who have been taught with c.i. and their output blows participants away. Other than that no sé que haría.

  19. Skip Crosby had the same reaction Chris. He sent it to me. Here it is, and I know he would approve of me publishing it here, so you know that you are not alone on this thing with N and S:
    Hi Ben,
    I am so angry right now! As soon as I read the post about Nathaniel I wrote this:
    I am SO angry right now that I cannot even respond. Nathaniel, I am SO sorry. You MUST not take this personally. You are a phenomenal teacher, committed to professional development and becoming as effective as you possibly can! The more I think of all of the time, money and energy (personal time and expense at that) you have invested to become a highly effective teacher for your students the more infuriated I feel towards this insensitive and ignorant administrator. Has she read Van Patten? What research is she referring to? Is she making it up? ARRGGHH! You should ask her to explain ACTFL’s stance on the use of CI (she probably doesn’t even know what ACTFL is). While you are at it, ask her to explain the difference between TPRS, TCI, AIM and OWL and what they have in common… ….so frustrating. It makes me appreciate my current situation very much.
    Honestly, would relocating to a more TCI friendly school be an option?
    Sorry Nathaniel,

  20. Nathaniel – You are so NOT deserving of being treated this way!!! I am so sorry! My jaw dropped reading this. What an arrogant individual! What are her credentials in? Has she EVER taught?
    A few things that stood out to me:
    #1. Is she aware that the school is doing the school-wide STEAM? (that’s partially a joke, but seriously? is she aware? you need to meet the kids WHERE THEY ARE!!! and it sounds like for this particular interdisciplinary unit, you DID!!!! ) BRAVO!
    #2. The shy, quiet student: I don’t know about your school, but mine requires presentations — practice in public speaking. By the end of April, a student should be JUST FINE getting up in front of a class!
    #3. ALL students need to speak? HOGWASH. Look at #2.^^ So, in one breath, she’s saying to be “more cognizant of a student’s needs, so they don’t feel uncomfortable,” but then in another she is telling you to FORCE OUTPUT in all students! ????? Is she bi=polar? off her meds today?
    #4. Tell her YOU are concerned with the gaps that the students from other teachers have when they arrive to YOU! 🙂
    #5. ACTFL: requires that 90% of instruction is to be in L2. This is Spanish ONE!!!!!!! They do not yet have enough of the language to have conversations or to create with the language! They need YOU, the TEACHER (um, the guy who was hired and is being paid to provide instruction in a second language so they can acquire it??????) to provide them with the input. They are getting the authentic resources by listening to the song on YOUTUBE!!!
    #6. Did she take the time to read your unit plan, and lesson plan prior to coming in to your room?
    AND……how DARE her for coming in late and interrupting that student, which is probably what made the poor girl feel a little nervous! That is very unprofessional!
    #7. How can she tell on a special interdisciplinary unit that you are not using the textbook on a regular basis?
    #8. Now for my favorite: common assessments? Tell her to BRING IT ON!!!! Your students will probably SMOKE the other kids!!! (even if you have to teach to the test for a couple of days! Heck, all the other teachers will!!!!! Since they will be taken right out of the text book anyway, and not be true proficiency-based exams!)
    #9. Why did she think you were using TPRS? I did not hear a story going on or being developed? You were using many different activities to meet the needs of ALL learners, while incorporating culture. and WHY do you have to do all 4 skills in ONE class period?
    #10. She needs to realize that a curriculum map is just that — a road map to a final destination. How people get there is what makes it relevant for the kids. You have different kids in your classes than the other teachers, so you have to accommodate your teaching activities to what you know will engage YOUR students in the target language. How much time has SHE spent getting to know YOUR kids?
    Again, I am so sorry for you Nathaniel! Skip is right — polish up that resume and keep your eyes open for a new gig. She is an ignorant woman who will never open up to learning something new — she sounds very misinformed, and frankly, I am embarrassed for her.
    SOLUTION: You have a right to write an appeal to an observation. Her write up is going to go into your personal folder, so you need to CYA and explain the lesson from YOUR point of view. You can do it very respectfully (because that’s the kind of guy you are!) Kindly saying, “Since you arrived late, and missed the earlier activities, let me fill you in……..(again, I know you will be able to word it differently) But, address each one of her points about the day’s lesson. THEN…..we will all work together here on the blog to write a well-researched, thought-out, respectful response (I’m thinking ERIC, Herr Harrell, and some of their primers) Carol Gaab has excellent write ups in ACTFL’s magazine The Language Educator that explains CI….there was a great one last summer — anyone still have it? That magazine’s focus was on CI. And then, invite her to the Maine Conference — Skip….Admins still free? Once she meets, hears and talks with Sabrina and Laurie, she will melt! 🙂 haha!!!!
    She is just uneducated. Is there anyone above her that you can talk to?
    ¡Buena suerte mi amigo!

    1. I like your spark, mb. We need to stand up for ourselves, for sure.
      I wouldn’t be so concerned about the poor evaluation, though. I’ve had poor evaluations and yet I’ve never had an interviewer ask to see one of my evaluations. Never. And I have a long history of going on interviews in my 12 year career as a teacher, with school closings, turn-arounds, and all the other fragmentation of school communities happening in Chicago.
      One good evaluation is all you have to carry with you.

    2. Thanks for the comments and support.
      I followed your lead with the Carol Ga’ab article. It appears not be available at that link any more. I got it at:
      I was reminded about Carol being the MLB language teacher. It does not explain why they did not choose a grammar teacher instead of a language teacher. I guess we have to read between the lines.
      But MLB…I forgot about that. That is almost as big a deal as Katya Paukova teaching Russian for the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. And certainly MLB/SF Giants has greater name recognition than DLI. Although, would a former grammar teacher recognize DLI. I would hope so. At any rate, I should probably spell it out.
      Just one good eval? I believe I can manage that. This has been my only teacher employment. It sounds like I have only one more year to endure. But it has occurred to me to keep my eyes and ears open for a more friendly atmosphere.

      1. Or not even a good eval but a letter of recommendation. I think all kinds of educators, admin especially, know how evaluations reflect other things besides individual teacher qualities, like school culture, school politics, and things.
        I’m going through some funky things at my school misguided feedback from admin, but I don’t blame them fully. Not fully. Nonetheless, it’s very helpful for me to see how members of the tribe would respond to your admin.
        Thanks Nathaniel!

      2. Nathaniel –
        Thanks for your mention of Carol Gaab for MLB and the other (who I had not heard of) working at the DLI.
        I think this is a big affirmation for our teaching that should be publicized when possible!
        I don´t have much advice for you, except that I can relate with my evaluation experience this year. I tried to educate the observer, and rebut the lack of knowledge, but in the end I just have/am trying to accept it and move on. Like, Sean said, I don´t know how much the observation matters, and I don´t think I can educate someone who isn´t interested in being educated. To be honest, the whole thing makes me also want to look into career opportunities elsewhere.

        1. Maybe someone in the PLC could write an article that once and for all schools administrators on this point of evaluators who are simply wrong in every aspect of their evaluation process. Nathaniel and you and Scott are certainly not alone. I know we have quite a few docs on this in the Administrator/Parent/Teacher re-education category and also in the Primers, but do we have one short pithy article to just download and print and hand to these fools that would bring them up to speed instantly? Any takers? You would have to cull information from all the articles in the two aforementioned places and synthesize them. I think we need one such document. This really is ridiculous when people consider changing professions over this.

  21. Robert,
    Your post about what to consider in your interactions with the evaluator really spoke to me. I have witnessed and heard about so much ignorance regarding SLA and WL classes – they are a mystery to most, especially when we share that we don’t do it the Old School way.
    But Administrators get the big bucks to make balanced, informed decisions. Either that, or by proxy, to trust their excellent & professional faculty to know their stuff, teach it, articulate it to parents and other community members when asked.
    There is a sticky issue of authority here: People who are not familiar, do not understand, aren’t interested, haven’t ‘fully’ observed in a workshop, don’t know abt ACTFL’s most recent work, (i.e. 3 modes), and generally don’t know what to make of what they’re looking at, ought not have the right to comment on it, and certainly not to pass judgement on those who do.
    So rather than a cat fight with Mrs. Naysayer, I really want to challenge her credentials to evaluate you – not to her face, but further up the food chain.
    “I’d really like some supportive feedback in order to optimize my teaching. I’d really love if XYZ could evaluate me – since he’s so knowledgable abt SLA, and my strategies derive from all the best-practice SLA research….Since I teach using the target language, many observers may not comprehend what I’m saying. So it’s crucial that I have someone who knows what to look for in terms of student comprehension and engagement…”
    A short anecdote: Immediately after we transitioned to T/CI, there was a new principal in one of the buildings. I was department chair at the time. One of my colleagues at that building was evaluated by the new principal, and my pal ended up near tears. She was told that she was too teacher centered; that the Ss weren’t talking enough, that they were ‘just reading’ during part of her class, etc.
    I was PISSED. I actually told the then Curriculum Person, who later became Superintendent, that the right hand and the left hand were outta sync; the district supported and sponsored our training and materials for the transition to T/CI, but then our Ts were getting dinged by a clueless principal for carrying it out! She tried to put me off, claiming that evaluations would be discussed next month at an Evaluation Committee Meeting…but I said that next month was too late; it needed to be addressed NOW, while T’s were still trying to transition to T/CI, lest they abandon it for fear of bad evaluations. Dunno how directly the dots connect, cuz there were other complaints outside of WL about said New Principal, but her contract was not renewed. Gone after 1 year.
    Are there any admin allies/potential alternative evaluators in N’s department?? Just like we must be considered differently than, say, Math, so must our evaluations be conducted w/a particular lens…

    1. …our evaluations [must] be conducted with a particular lens….
      I suggest that we all memorize this expression and play this card next time this topic comes up with an administrator. It has power. It does not directly attack an administrator who does not yet understand how to evaluate a CI class, and it has the effect of making the administrator curious.
      Excellent expression. I hope I can remember it next time I need it!
      To repeat it, so I can remember:
      …our evaluations [must] be conducted with a particular lens….

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