We have never in all these years here discussed the deleterious nature of grading on our work. We just accepted it. I suggest that we rethink that position of acceptance.
Knowing the nature of how people acquire languages – because we have actually studied the research – we should have fought for its implementation in our classrooms better.
We didn’t, we just accepted the fact that we need to grade our students like in other classes. Again, if we are to believe the research, then that was a mistake.
The result is a decades-old cacophony of illusion in language teaching. It’s just year after year of hot air. Grading and SLA research are mortal enemies and we don’t say that because we don’t believe it and so we and our students suffer, under the whip of Assessment, in direct disagreement with the research.
We know that to be true. In the following article, which I try to republish here every few months because of its importance, the point is made that conversation is communication is the standard and they all naturally exhibit an unhurried, free nature. The brain can’t produce or process or acquire language under any kind of force. So read this article again:
And yet in spite of the gold in the article, in spite of the gold in the research, in spite of the knowledge that is buried under the assessment sidewalk just under our feet, where we can’t get to it, we go on, day after day, month after month, year after year, crafting new and cuter and more confusing rubrics which in the end we justify as better than the 100-point scale but are really just further manifestations of our ongoing human need to judge children.
Judging children is not why I got into teaching. Ultimately, I wanted to share beauty with them. I wanted my students to know that there is beauty in this world and to see it. I didn’t want my own professional life, which impacts so heavily on my personal life, to be devoid of beauty, and so I chose a profession that would allow me to share something that I saw as really beautiful with people who still believe in beauty – children.
The beauty in my case, the talent that I was given this time around, was a deep knowledge, appreciation and love of France, of its culture, its language sounds, its beauteous structure, its unstoppable poetry, and the overall lively and joyous thing that is the French culture in all of its 29 French-speaking locations on the planet. France is worth a career, right?
But now, looking back on more than 40 years of trying, I realize that I have failed in my desire to become an effective sharer of things French and I’m pissed off about that. I want to blame somebody. I want to blame schools. Why?
It is because the nature of language as a school subject is that language instruction cannot be codified, predicted, planned, controlled or made to fit into our current concept of school in a way that reaches the hearts of children. The school is set up that way, unless we can break it and convince the authorities that grading is killing CI.
What is the real cause of our failure to reach children with the good stuff in our field? It is not the schools. It is our own inability to stand up to the grading monster, because we don’t even know that it’s a monster, that it is a primary player in why we can’t get these damn handcuffs off in our classrooms.
And yet we as the adults in the room amidst a sea of child administrators bow to their incapacity and sheer ignorance to help us implement the research in our classroom in the needed way. That’s not too strong a statement. Anyone who allows children who are already fluent in a language to be placed in a classroom with beginning language students doesn’t know what they are doing, and that is only one example.
A revolution is needed and child administrators must have their feet held to the fire of the truth of the research before we turn another entire generation off to the beauty of what we are stewards of.
But in the end it is our constant need to control and judge and evaluate defenseless children that is the real culprit here, and the grading piece – along with the dramatic need these days to figure out how to implement CI in our classrooms – is the darkest piece and where we must truly look before we can get this century-old language debacle turned around.
Don’t look now but we’re losing them. We’re losing our kids. We’ve already lost three or four generations of them, including the ones who come from privilege, because all those kids know is the grammar; they don’t know the language. Then CI comes along and we screw that up too. Why?
It’s because we botch the implementation of the CI and continue to give our students little to look forward to during their hard and lonely days, while touting how great CI is, as we stroll along with obvious pride next to some kind of weird instructional cliff like the Tarot fool. That was not Blaine’s vision.
Our students stroll into even our CI classrooms and immediately hunker down to protect their minds from the forced learning, the forced grading, the farce we put on them, in spite of having been given golden rifles that can blow away in one moment shitty and ineffective instruction.
We are not currently in alignment (Jenna this makes me think of the yoga piece and I’m still working on a response) – we are not in alignment with how languages work. We’re in alignment with how math works, and also how science works. But gaining knowledge about how math and science work can never apply to how languages work, so we can’t use the pedagogical principles used to teach math and science in what we teach.
Why don’t language teachers read and embrace the research more? It is because they don’t have the time so there is no blame. But why don’t they stand up to their child administrators and yell loud enough to get their attention and finally make them get truth out about the research? Is it that the administrators can’t hear us because they’re deaf, or is it that they aren’t hearing us because we aren’t yelling loud enough?
Bless their hearts. Bless our hearts. Bless our students’ hearts. Bless everybody’s hearts. Some day someone will forgive us for making language instruction in schools so unpleasant for so long. Someday we will forgive ourselves for judging our students with such venom. It will all be new.