Don’t Worry So Much About the Quality of Your Teaching

Al Franken as Stuart Smalley famously said this memorable line on SNL years ago:

“I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!”

Why did this particular line reverberate with so many people? What in it spoke to us as a truth? In my own situation, in spite of the way my (not just physically toxic) school buildings were making me feel then (in South Carolina in those dark traditional teaching years), somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that I could be a good French teacher and enjoy my job despite the traditional instruction happening like a dark storm all around me and – way back then – in my own classroom as well.

I was, perhaps overly optimistic in the way Candide was. I perhaps should have taken a realistic view of what was going on around me in the three high schools I was in in SC for those 24 years of textbook hell that I lived through before meeting Susan Gross and Blaine Ray in 2001, which saved my career. 

What dark factors were keeping me from growing into the teacher I wanted to be! – 

– the rude kids.
– the huge classes.
– the textbook.
– the lack of appreciation for the role of languages in a monolingual society.
– the ignorant, pig-headed teachers (no blame bc that is the state of our profession now but so many are still truly ignorant in terms of language acquisition because so few of them don’t really grasp how true acquisition happens).
– weird-ass colleagues who resembled prison guards more than teachers.
– administrators who assessed us with “one size fits all” instruments designed in the last century.

And now, all these years later, I appreciate Smalley’s words even more, because I never quit. I had faith that I could do it. I worked hard at it, harder than I should have. 

But with comprehension based methods, we, with Stuart, can now say about our teaching:

“…we’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, our students like us….!”

I would just add also that our students don’t have to like us. We’re good enough and smart enough and just the fact that we are even trying to make communicative methods work in our classrooms is sufficient. 

They don’t have to like us. They have to take the four quizzes and receive a class communication grade and that is enough. Whether you get a good story or not depends 90% on the kids in that class and very little on you. 



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