Big Rant

In a recent comment here Robert wrote:
…while I find the changes to the AP test for German and French very positive, we still need to remember that AP is intended for a level of language acquisition that most of our students cannot reach in four years. (According to the State of California, students who have been in language classes for 13 years should be ready for AP.) I’ll send Ben a comparison I did of the CEFR, ACTFL and ILR levels, plus AP. Maybe he can post it somewhere….
As a former AP language and literature teacher, I went through a lot trying to get my students to a 65% pass rate on those exams, which percentage our district communicated to us as an expectation. I did that for 24 years. It’s hard not to be resentful about the stress I went through trying to get my kids to a level that we are now becoming aware of through research can’t be done. When data and it’s misuse by people who don’t know what they are talking about affects our daily stress levels, then we all need to take a giant step away from the AP and other standardized data collecting devices and take a long and hard look at what our principals and district administrators are asking us to do so that they can look better. We need to regroup in the light of what Robert is pointing at right now before we stress ourselves out of the profession. The only thing good happening in our own district is that Diana Noonan has this game all figured out and has chosen to just goes around to her 93 teachers saying, “Don’t worry about anything but getting better at using comprehensible input in your classrooms. And there is a training next week, by the way, if your are interested.” She spends her resources on training us and not judging us. That is a refreshing and cutting edge thing to do by a district level administrator. The problem, as I perceive it, is that the superintendents and the other higher echelon people in most if not all school districts in our nation – and certainly the principals – are so starry eyed with the data piece that they can’t understand real leaders like Diana. There is scuh massive ignorance going on. Therefore, we have to protect our levels of stress consciously in the light of this ignorance, because most of us naturally tend to want that approval of being a good teacher and to be in right relationship with our employers, but how on earth can we put ourselves in the position of wanting the approval of someone who has no idea what they are talking about? I think that is true for most of us in this blog community – we are doing cutting edge research in our classrooms, we are unsure of ourselves in that endeavor because literally nobody is out there doing this kind of work, we feel the hard clash between what we know is best and what we are told to do in the system re: data collection, we see our ideas of best practices battered and stifled by all the data collection and reporting type of work required of us in our buildings, and now, a few weeks into the year, many of us are already feeling worn out. This is not a good thing. We need to keep our focus on what Diana is telling us in DPS to focus on – enjoying using CI and give the dogs what they want without stressing about it, since they don’t really get it anyway. That was kind of a ramble but I am very concerned about all of our mental health these days. I have gotten a few private emails indicating that a lot of us are going through more stuff with all of this than is good for us. I just woke up in one of those half awake states and for the last hour all I was thinking about was if I want to change my gradebook set up to reflect the three modes/standards or keep the old way, and I was also thinking about a new weekly schedule to align more with the data collection being asked of me in my new school. That is not good mental health. I should have been waking up with gratitude for another day on this best of all possible planets, especially on this day when so many had their lives ripped away from their loved ones ten years ago in New York. After all, what is the purpose of this blog community? To find ways together to have easier and happier and more productive careers, right? But to pull my rant back to the specific thought that started it, I would like to quote from something Robert wrote in a private email to me that I just got this morning. It really supports my point above about just enjoying the CI we do with the kids and quit being obsessed and stressed about tests and impressing people:
…one of the things that really stuck out to me was the gap between what the Department of Ed and ACTFL say is “doable” in a four-year program and where the College Board puts the AP Exam. That’s why I said that even with the new emphasis on communication, the AP Exam is beyond what most of our students can acquire in four years….



2 thoughts on “Big Rant”

  1. In your last post you mentioned that you will be adding voicever commentary to a video of yourself at work in the classroom. I hope you make that commentary-enhanced video available to us.

  2. Yes Frank, in fact I am about to jump on my bike and head across town over to Diana’s right now and spend the day doing that voice over work. We have 24 clips of four days of instruction from Step 1 to Step 3 of a single story. Each clip is from 5:00 to 8:00 long. It is a level 2 class of brilliant kids, and so doesn’t give the kind of balance and clarity that we see in Drew’s clips – it gets a bit crazy as the kids keep trying to shove the story around where they want it to go, but for the most part I am in control. I think that if you really study them you can see most of the stuff we have been talking about here and that is described in my two methods books. The script we use is Anne Matava’s “Lazy”. So, by the end of the day, we should have that work done, and I will get those 24 clips here as soon as I can.

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