ACTFL Core Practices – 2

I just had an insight into the reason these things are on the ACTFL pages. I once worked, an eternity ago, with Vicki Galloway, who was the South Carolina Foreign Language Consultant and later a big shot in the ACTFL hierarchy.
Every time I talked to Vicki I could not understand her words. She was using words to kind of establish her intellectual superiority to me as a boss and not a regular classroom teacher. It bothered me but not too much because I have always been able to smell bullshit a mile away.
(Yes, I am calling much of what is in the ACTFL pages bullshit in terms of its applicability to real classrooms and real children and real application of the research.)
Anyway, the wording of the core practices that Alisa has drawn our attention to is just like how Vicki talked. So my insight is this:
Those people who are “better” teachers because they are more highly educated and are whizzes with upper level whiz kids (who wouldn’t be?) have taken over ACTFL. It’s the principle where the “best ones” get knocked out of the classroom and upstairs.
There, in their ACTFL offices, these people come into their meetings with their business suits and scarves and briefcases and proceed to write lofty sounding stuff like those principles. After all, they are there at ACTFL to “help” all of us. But they don’t help anyone!
Then the little girl by the side of the road as they parade by in their fine raiments, Alisa, says, “Hey! These don’t make any sense! How do they connect to the research? They sound good, but when applied to a real classroom, they are simply not at all true!”
So that’s my insight. More on this as a developing story. I just can’t let this go. It’s too egregious. It smells so bad! Qu’est-ce que ça pue!

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12 thoughts on “ACTFL Core Practices – 2”

    1. Robert Harrell posted a point by point takedown of the whole book on https://theintuitivelanguageteacher.com/not too long ago. I, too, found some of the “Core Practices” questionable. I appreciate that they included comprehensibility skills as a core practice, but as part of that they included “don’t just use translation.” Uhh…so we’re only supposed to use English to drive home useless grammar knowledge? Bummerrrrrrrr
      But really, check out Robert’s posts. He lays the knowledge on ya, if you haven’t already read them.

  1. Ben each “core practice” is indeed riddled with holes. The last one is particularly bothersome to me. It says to provide oral feedback. Immediately that activates the conscious mind which is the enemy. These teachers don’t know it because all they want to do is explain explain explain tell the kids what they’re doing wrong my gosh nobody would speak a language if we did that. It makes me want to bang my head against a tree.
    Alisa shared with me me that the one she dislikes the most is the one about teaching grammar explicitly. She also shared with me, as we were deciding to move forward with this or just let it go since we would be up the Monolith with No Ears:
    “If we dive into the Core Practices fray again, this time we should go directly to Paul Sandrock, and ask him to square the ACTFL endorsement of Core Practices (CP) w/ the SLA research that seems to debunk it, and whether it (CP) includes Novice/Low through Intermediate/Low, and any student under age 14, before which Dr. K (who has a PhD in GRAMMAR) says it’s not developmentally appropriate to study explicitly…. Also, why didn’t BVP set Sarah straight? When he said it’s “up for discussion”, his comment cast doubt on all the research as we understand it!”

  2. Alisa maybe we should just let it go. I’m feeling that like Ben says if Robert can’t get their attention with his unparalleled erudition than maybe it’s not worth it. But how any organization can do things like present the Three Modes as intelligent supports for the main standard can at the same time offer these six pieces of garbage, on the same website, then there may not be hope. Jabba the Hut is in charge and we are probably a lot smaller relative to him than we think, as you told me privately. I’m feeling dropping it now. We found out in 2013 that it’s like peeing into the wind with these people.

    1. Paul Sandrock is actually speaking / presenting at the WAFLT-COFLT conference where Tina and I are presenting this weekend. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you want us to corner him and demand answers? 🙂
      PLOT TWIST I’m looking at the conference schedule right now and he’s presenting on “High Leverage Teaching Practices: Facilitating Target Language Comprehensibility.” T is presenting at the same time and I would normally sit in the front row and be her “woo girl,” but I may have to slink over to Sandrock’s presentation to see what he says. Let me know if there are specifics you want me to ask Sandrock…I’m not afraid to be a friendly, insistent, questioning face to him.
      Ben I’m excited to meet you one day! Two Bens, both alike in dignity, in the dumpster fire of 2018 America where we lay our scene…

  3. Ben the honest answer is about a 2. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking. I guess I need to learn the true extended meaning of “you can’t argue with a drunk”, esp. since we tried in this group once and it was for nought. Plus, I’m writing a new book that I’m really loving so who’s got the time? But thanks for the offer.
    Dumpster fire it is, my friend, and it’s the perfect image. The funny thing about a life/career in teaching is that it changes so much, it’s so up and down. The profession tears us down but then the kids buoy us up and we realize that we are in the right profession.
    Yes, it’s a dumpster fire but yes, we have every reason to hope that our work, our life’s work, is in some way helping some little kid somewhere believe in herself. That is why I tolerate the flames. Because the result of any scars we suffer will one day help others if we just keep the faith, and I have big faith.

    1. I share your faith. Every time I get down, I remind myself to focus on what I want for my kids. And poof…it appears. If I want, deep down, for students to be more generous, then I start to notice when they are being so, and that begets more generosity. If I seek for them to be thoughtful, they surprise me with little packets of love that boost my day and make me laugh. If I want for them to be proud acquirers of Spanish, to maintain a playfulness and curiosity in face of all the ridiculous testing they are subjected to, I find myself expressing my faith in them more, and accordingly, they step up and play. Using your systems has allowed me to slow down, savor conversation, and really “join up” with my kids. I had read a book (Conscious Discipline) about how to get students into calm, focused modes of being in school, and it emphasized that idea that we have to “join up” with our students right where they are. You have to lend young people our problem-solving brains until they can get out of their fearful programmed states and access their own inner problem-solver. The slowness, the loving nature of our work with the Invisibles – it’s working for this.
      So maybe I’ll glean something from Sandrock, or maybe it’ll be a rehash of the ACTFL works I’ve already read and digested. Who knows. But! I will keep on having more fun with my students, and being more of a human with them. IPAs, performance assessments, grammar in context, etc. be damned. 🙂

      1. Ben since this is a private space, I may as well just say it. Most ACTFL people are in a kind of drunken state and the alcohol they have been imbibing was made at the graduate levels in the 20th c. and consists of a highly intellectualized speech fabric which is made in part not so much to communicate ideas but to keep them above us. Like you say above:
        ….I will keep on having more fun with my students, and being more of a human with them. IPAs, performance assessments, grammar in context, etc. be damned….
        This is the way of the new teacher of the future who cares more about educating children than sounding and appearing wonderful, while being kind of fake and appealing only to students of like temperament. Those ACTFL honchos – how many have your passion? Very few if any, I would guess, because to survive the ACTFL world one must remain stuck in one’s mind.
        The changes in society are being reflected in our own struggles with ACTFL. There is a predominantly white power structure in ACTFL, it is stuck in the mind and feels dry, without much passion for this insanely wonderful profession and for life in general that we can see if we were to just open our eyes to what is possible*.
        If people like us (as we showed in 2013-2014 in The Big ACTFL Fight between us and the ACTFL Foreign Language Educators, spearheaded by Eric “The Jackal” Herman and Robert “Le Chevalier de l’Ouest” Harrell) keep doing what we are doing in working with images and eschewing the ACTFL power game, all that garbage they say we should but nobody does) then that is a good thing.
        ACTFL is really a very sad bunch of nowhere people like Jeremy**. They have countless teachers actually paying big dollars to go to walk around each year at the big conference with a sad briefcase chained to their wrists and yet who are dying inside because they know that they are not really reaching their kids. No blame of course, but where’s the passion? I say more wine in language teaching, Bacchus!
        *Soren Kierkegaard in Either/Or: A Fragment of Life:
        “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”
        **https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi2TIV3rYzc

  4. “If I want, deep down, for students to be more generous, then I start to notice when they are being so, and that begets more generosity.”
    This is beautiful, Benjamin. It’s amazing how much our seeing the best in students affects their behavior.

  5. Every since I was in France in 2006 and later as an organizer for students at my university, I have always thought that people should just drop reactionary/reactive energy and focus on their own organizations/institutions. This way it can undermine the bogus “official” organizations and their top-down mentalites. Creating solidarity can take time but if we continue to speak for CI instead of against ACTFL, then I think that there can be more gains. .. It’s happening already.

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