We try to keep our discussion here mainly about strategies/best practices, but a lot of talk gets in about how to deal with opposition within our buildings*. That’s fine. We need to be reminded often that there are a whole lot of people who are upset about the new trails we are blazing in what they think of as their forests, and that that’s o.k. but that also we are not going to back down to anyone.
It doesn’t seem to occur to them that most kids get lost in their forests because they have made those forests so thick. They are impenetrable for most students, with lots of big spiders in some parts. The kids can’t even see the forest (the language) for all the trees (grammar rules). The fact is that in nature there is nothing like a good forest fire once in a while to reset the ecology, and Dr. Krashen and Blaine and Susie had the matches this time.
Those people want the forest left alone, not too overgrown for them, who are masters of grammar and obfuscation, and they are o.k. that it is too thick and brambly for kids who just want to get out of the greater Arne Duncan type of school forest. Forest fires around the idea of comprehensible input have erupted, it seems, all over the place, and there are more and more of them, and the old-style teachers have come in hard with planes filled with fire retardant chemicals (those are the planes with ACTFL written on the side).
But it’s not working. Too many fires in too many forests are out of control. How do I know this? I just spent a week with people from all over the world whom I saw running around Tartan High School in St. Paul, MB (Grant Boulanger in particular) with boxes and boxes of those big kinds of matches. Actually Grant had a blow torch, which I thought was neat, and a huge number of Minnesotans were there cheering him on with that blow torch. I don’t think ACTFL’s planes** can put out those fires.
Yes, ACTFL does have some good planes up there, but they also have a lot of learning retardant planes in the air as well. This is part of a comment made recently here by Skip Crosby and if you haven’t started to make your plans for the Maine October CI conference***, one of the best out there and the only one not in the summer and the only one that lasts only 2 days (a third is available for coaching), then do so.
*Just one example of what seem like hundreds of instances of teacher travail that we have discussed here over the years:
**Skip Crosby on the ACTFL planes:
1. ACTFL puts too much pressure on early output.
2. The Standards like Communities, Connections and Culture seem to be in stark contrast to Susie’s insistence that we just “TALK (CI) to the kids”.
3. The insistence on IPA also seems to be in contrast to “just talking to the kids”.
4. The project based assessments seem unnecessary and take tons of time away from CI.
Overall, I think my (Skip’s) issue with ACTFL is that though they claim to espouse 90% CI – it seems that MOST everything else they espouse seems to detract from true TCI. I also secretly wonder if our definition of keeping the class 90% CI and ACTFL’s definition of keeping the class 90% CI differ.