Allison Litten

Hi Ben,
I’m not sure what you’re looking for in terms of a bio, but reading Erik Olsen’s helped me out a bit:
I have been teaching French for 11 years, 8 of which have been in my current school, the Marion Cross School in Norwich, VT, a public K-6 school in a small but well-connected community.  I always had a passion for French growing up and pursued it through high school and college, despite a series of lousy teachers.  One high school teacher and one college professor managed to help me continue to develop my love for the language and culture.  (I’m sure it didn’t help that my mother was an English-turned-French teacher during my childhood.)  I spent my first three years teaching in Mississippi while earning my MA through a teacher training program at Ole Miss.  I taught the way I was taught–study grammar and never learn how to implement the rules.  I had enough love for the language growing up that I managed to put 2 and 2 together to create intelligible sentences and make myself understood in France.  I know that my students who made it through French 3 during my first years of teaching didn’t learn much.  I tried, but I’m not sure what all they got out of class.  My first French 2 class had one student.  In my three years I managed to triple the size of the French program and I think by that point I kind of had an idea of how to actually teach the language.  A summer working with the Dartmouth intensive summer Rassias program helped me realize how important it was to actually speak the language to my students!  A no-brainer at this stage in the game, but I was only 24 at the time and was using how I learned as my starting point.
I then received notice that a job at the high school in the district where I currently teach as well as one at the elementary school opened up.  Coincidentally, this was also the high school where my mother was teaching.  I did not get the job at the high school, but apparently I had something the elementary school saw as promising.  This is a high-powered community with doctors, professors and other overly-educated parents who wanted the best education for their kids.  The first several years were quite trying.  New age group, new students, new curriculum.  I felt over my head, but managed to survive.  Every year I think it got better; parents came to tell me how happy they were with things, but how unhappy they were with what came after they left my school.  A persistant problem: students from the other elementary school in the district are not arriving at the middle school adequately prepared.  What’s interesting is that this teacher has gone through TPRS training and was singing its praises, for about a year.  She seems to have abandoned it as a method.  I hope that if we talk I can convince her to try it again.  Our district seems to have eliminated all opportunities for teachers to get together and talk across grade levels about curriculum, so finding the time to meet is difficult (she has two children and she cannot meet after school).  However, two teachers at the middle school, where my students go after they leave me, are now interested in TPRS.  These are teachers who have not done a lot to change their teaching in recent years, but one told me the other day that she feels that her teaching is “flat” this year.  I will do everything within my power to help them find the path that will liven up their teaching and make them excited again.
But I digress.  The most important thing is what TPRS has done for me, my students and my program.  I still have a lot to learn, but every day something happens that makes me so happy I have “made the switch” and “seen the light.”  (It’s funny, when I told my brother, who’s a venture capitalist, about TPRS, his response was, “Sounds like snake oil to me.”  Ah, the ignorance of the common man!)  I have students who are more engaged than ever.  I have parents who are thrilled with what their children can do at home.  I have a much easier time planning and preparing lessons.  At a district meeting this past week (our first one in over a year), I told the other FL teachers about my units and how I organize them with TPRS as my framework.  One of the French teachers at the high school said he could attest to its power: his son is one of my fifth graders.  I have received other positive feedback from parents.  I had a meeting with a student and a parent; I was worried about this boy, who has been diagnosed with ADHD.  Social distractions have made it difficult for him to really stay focused in class.  So we did a little test.  I found in his binder a story board for one of the stories we developed in class.  (I will often create story boards with pictures where students will take the paper home and tell the story to a member of their family.)  It had been perhaps 3 weeks since we had worked with this story in class.  He managed to tell 75-80% of the story in French with no review.  I have to present the French program to our school board in December (my position had 10% shaved off last year and I’m hoping to be restored to full time next year, so I’m being proactive) and I plan to ask parents to come and back me up with personal stories.  That way, I can also plant the seeds to receive a grant to attend the NTPRS and TPRS Publishing conferences in 2012.
I have a long way to go before I feel like things roll the way I want them to, but how can one determine that one has reached that point?  Teaching is never an end, it is always a means to an end.  I live for workshops and the chance to consult and brainstorm with others.  I’m chomping at the bit to meet people at NTPRS 2012 in Vegas!
Allison Litten
French Teacher
Marion Cross School
Norwich, VT



1 thought on “Allison Litten”

  1. Allison and Bob!
    Thanks for the bios. I notice that everyone mentions the art of teaching. Crafting our art. A means with no end…Yes! This thought is key to keeping our sanity amongst the many demands from above. It is sad that a first year teacher at my wife’s school is now quitting (two-week notice already given) because of numerous observations and other demands put upon her when there is virtually no mentor-type, positive support system in place to help her develop her craft. It takes time to get better! Perhaps that is our forever calling – to get better. How the system preys on weakness versus cultivating the potential that we ALL have with proper handling.
    Bios are motivating!

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