Q. I am accountable to parents, students and administration and I have to explanations for my classroom rules and grades.
A. This is such a good point and one that has occupied my mind on and off for years. There really is no solution. We are talking about a product, CI, that could be compared to eggs that need to packaged in an box (a curriculum) that is built for eggs and they are asking us, with no malice but from no small degree of ignorance about how people acquire languages, to package (write a curriculum and syllabus, etc.) the CI eggs in a box meant for cereal – a cereal box. They like cereal boxes better than egg crates. So there is a fundamental disconnect. I am going to plead weariness after years of years of trying to justify CI in cereal box terms, terms that are written to justify teaching from a textbook. I don’t want to try to do that anymore. If you think about it, do we write a curriculum to learn how to speak our first languages? Do we say that on Nov. 15 of any particular academic year we are going to learn relative pronouns? (This goes against all the research, specifically Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition hypothesis.) Do we watch and grade two year-olds on how they are listening when in fact they are acquiring the language at a very high rate of speed in those years of early childhood without putting their minds to it? Do we grade kids when they learn their first language.? Do we have classroom rules? The disconnect is so deep, the chasm so wide. So instead of leaping over the chasm, I am going to say that we cannot, and I for one will not, because I really know what I’m doing, cave to these people. The best they will get from me in the form of a syllabus or curriculum will be watered down to their understandings, bless their hearts, and those watered down docs will have to be enough. I will thus be free to pursue my craft of aligning with the research and building a program in which all children can learn and feel included and in which most, instead of just a few, go to the fourth year. I totally get that you are accountable, but I am suggesting to you and all the tens of thousands of teachers now making the switch to CI that you need not afford those requirements as much respect in your curriculum docs that they might demand. They are lucky to have a teacher who is aligning in the real way with the real standards and the real research. It’s something new and it works and they should be grateful and not ask you to put all your eggs in the cereal box. because they (the CI eggs) don’t transfer into cereal boxes very well. Eventually, maybe in twenty years, those admins will not be asking for such things. They won’t have to because the kids will clearly be learning so much! when that happens, we will be able to say that schools will have evolved to a place where the child is more important than what the child is supposed to do, where the happiness and feeling of confidence of the child are more important than how neatly the curriculum is built, where the outdated concept of what a syllabus is will no longer dominate the discussion. I respect what you say, but I will not allow CI to appear weak, or have people roll their eyes at it because they don’t get the proper docs from us and who do not understand the immense power of CI to bring good things, as opposed to things that turn kids off and defeat them, to our profession. So I suggest that you give them what they want, but don’t worry so much about those documents. And if you are in a department that is not transitioning to CI, which means that you will have opposition from your departmental colleagues in trying to bring CI in, why even change? Just do what you’ve been doing. It is far more difficult to deal with the professional and therefore personal upheaval that accompanies trying to introduce CI into a department that resists it than just doing what everybody else does. I know. This is not the right answer for you. But I have to state my truth. I’ve worked too hard to develop new ideas in favor of the kids to sacrifice any of that to please the admins with the “right” kind of curriculum docs. My goal is to help kids to believe in themselves as language learners, because if they have that experience they might believe more in their inherent value and abilities in life, and that is why I am a teacher. I know this rant has gotten to a point where it is far afield from your original point, but that is what we do here. We learn by talking, and sometimes by ranting. I’m just not going to put eggs in a cereal box. Not going to try. For twenty years I gave them one thing and did another in my classroom and nobody noticed. That’s my point in this rant.