It’s not good the way we collect papers from students. I don’t even collect free writes. They go in composition books kept in the room. If I have time, I look at them.
What teacher has time? I only read some of the free writes. I guess that makes me a bad teacher. They need feedback, Ben! Not in my world. The kids I teach don’t care about feedback. Only administrators and mistrustful colleagues (mistrustful about the change they can’t see but definitely can hear) care about the feedback scam.
Kids just want to know what happens in the story. They don’t want to think. They think all day!
So I ask, “Does planning and collecting papers and planning assessment and having vertical alignment meetings instruct students any better?” Uh…no, that stuff doesn’t do much of anything for their language learning.
Planning makes our classes boring. “Hey kids, today we’re going to do this and then that and then that and (I know it’s boring so to keep your interest up) there will be a test on it. Then next year you will be exactly where the other classes are.”
Me: Don’t plan. Just find out what they are interested in and develop that in class.
A colleague: But I need to plan, or I don’t know what I am going to do.
Me: It’s not about what you are going to do; it’s about what the kids are going to do.
A colleague: But I’m the teacher!
Me: Yes, but haven’t you noticed that teaching languages in the old way doesn’t work anymore? It never has. It favors the few, the very few actually. The rest of the kids grow up thinking that they are bad at languages. Teaching doesn’t work, at least in languages. We’ve tried it and proven that choosing content and teaching it doesn’t work. Why would we continue to do that?
Should we talk about the heroin epidemic among young kids in our country? No, probably leave that one alone. Let’s focus on spending tax dollars instead on teaching four white privileged kids about the pluperfect subjunctive so that they can get a 3 on the AP exam and feed yet another corporation some more dollars. That’s where we want to spend our money!
A colleague: Well that’s what they told me to do in graduate school – to plan and assess and give homework!
Me: Do you believe everything you hear? Stop all that lesson planning and assessment planning and cancel all the vertical alignment meetings and dump any forced homework before you embarrass yourself. Focus not on what you are doing and more on whom you are teaching.
A colleague: I don’t think I can do that.
Me: Then go do something else. Get out of the way. The only way we can teach a language is by getting their minds focused on the message and not on the vehicle used to deliver it. The unconscious mind is the player in the language acquisition game. Embrace that concept, make the changes, or eventually lose your job to all those who are brave enough to do the suffering necessary to embrace this very radical change, to make it happen. The tipping point has been reached. It’s time. Change.