We need to learn to teach our students with love. We also need to assess them in terms that convey approval and love. In the past, we assigned value to them for how many words/verbs they “knew”. The kids who “knew” more were sent the message that they were somehow better and more deserving of our love and approval than those who didn’t.
This rather cruel way of assigning value to our children never worked. Neither was it accurate in terms of how the human brain acquires languages. It was extremely out of touch with the research. As I look back now on a lifetime of studying this topic, I see how hurtful it was. Are all of our students not capable of learning a language? Many language teachers still think so but they are so egregiously WRONG.
Many language teachers still think that only certain “smart” kids can learn a language and yet the world is full of low IQ folks who are FLUENT in their nation’s language, who couldn’t tell the difference between the pluperfect and the preterite and yet know exactly what they mean when they hear them used.
I wish there was a way to convey in this post the sense of despondency I feel now, as I realize how deep is the damage that we have done and are are still doing to the confidence of American kids as life-long language learners.
We just don’t seem to be able to stop and yet we keep parading the term “life long learners” in our curriculums and communications with parents and it’s so hypocritical. We can’t seem to be able to pull our heads out of the sand on the research – while making the textbook industry billions and billions of dollars over the decades.
We’ve missed the point: all our students need is love and acceptance. That’s all they need. They don’t need to be rejected for not being great memorizers or for not expressing in class with bright and shiny faces how happy they are with our boring instruction.
What does this mean for us? It means that we need to get on our fast ponies and go find a way to teach and assess our students in ways that convey to them our love and acceptance and approval, because that is the future of our work at this time in the history of our profession, yet few among us remember.
If you’re not up for that, then get out of the profession and make room for teachers who are. Maybe it’s a bit early to say that, because the language teachers of the future are none other than those sitting in our communicative classrooms as children right now.
I know that you aren’t doing this teaching grading cruelty on purpose. I know it’s the way you were taught. But it just isn’t working. It never did. And I defend your right to teach as you see fit, but not at the expense of children.