This is from John:
I just spoke with our principal in the hall, and I used that opportunity to reiterate the value of WL teachers in helping schools meet their goals of becoming less segregated. After I spoke with him, I sent him a quick email (below) reiterating what we spoke about. With Silicon Valley “disruptive” educational gurus proclaiming that Google translate will make FL study obsolete, and arguing for replacing FL with coding classes, we need to defend our craft against the tech-money voices which call for our demise.
Please share with the PLC. For context, at my school, Spanish 1-2 are the only classes which do not participate in the tracking on our campus which places students in small schools within our school. All kinds of kids can be found in Spanish classes (except the ones who take Latin, of course!)
Just to reiterate a few bullet points for future reference –
WL (esp. Spanish 1-2, 3-4) is in a particular position of insight when it comes to school diversity, because of the diverse nature of the classes.
WL teachers, because they have diverse classes, know well the benefits and challenges of dealing with such diversity. This will help other teachers as (hopefully) their classes come to resemble the diversity of Spanish classes.
Good foreign language pedagogy by nature is differentiated and personalized. The “subject” of these classes is communicating something of oneself, listening and being heard. Sharing stories. This is even more so because learning about the language (grammar study) has been shown to be ineffective for promoting communication skills and acquisition of language. Sharing stories is what promotes language acquisition and proficiency.
While it doesn’t always directly apply to the other subjects, WL best practices do or can put all students on a level playing field, or can even put traditionally marginalized kids in leadership roles (e.g. because they are already bi or trilingual, or have direct experience of a foreign culture).
Then it is no longer about bringing disadvantaged students “up” to a standard determined as best from a position of privilege. WL pedagogy offers one of the few models of an inversion, or antidote, to the cycle of academically rewarding privilege, which exists on this and many campuses. As a Latin teacher, I am all too aware of this destructive cycle, but I have seen a way out, and it is rooted in the interpersonal skills and story sharing that is taught in effective language classes.
Berkeley High School
The Essential Marcus Aurelius