How Do I Align with District Expectations? Have You Got a Minute?

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25 thoughts on “How Do I Align with District Expectations? Have You Got a Minute?”

  1. I think you nail the “specific skills”–this is so ambiguous. I really like how you reference the silent period. My mentor assigned to me by the district did not understand why I wasn’t doing communicative activities that required output. My principal who recently observed me also suggested I find ways to practice speaking the language. We did do some choral and partner reading–but I know she meant she wanted to see them outputting. I feel like this forced output is a huge issue in our district and a lot of people in positions of power seem to be seriously confused about the appropriateness of output in a novice classroom.

    Thank you for taking this on! Let’s change some minds and policies!

  2. Tina this is a tour de force that I plan on printing and reading. And note taking on. I would add that “output” in a recent BVP program was defined as “making meaning in an orginal expression ot statements” something to that extent. This means that memorization, vocab lists, “repeat after me” are not output! So when a student says “its disgusting” or “I love it” spontaneously, it is output. Our approach does it best.

  3. Skills, to me, are not in line with the SLA research. If skills are learned, it is interpersonal skills that allow for the maximum flow of input which leads to micro fluency. these skills are carried with them into adulthood.

  4. And so one of the main focal points here over the past five or six years has been the development of jGR and its morphing via Mike Peto into mGR. We know what we are doing in terms of skills. You are so right when you say:

    …if skills are learned, it is interpersonal skills that allow for the maximum flow of input…

    The 20th c. kind of skill building in foreign language education has been a decades long embarrassment.

  5. By the way, I totally recommend BVP’s new book published by ACTFL. It’s great and even has a section on TPRS.

    He covers it all in there, anything that anti-CI colleagues could throw at you. It’s worth the 30 bucks for the book. And keep in mind that IT IS PUBLISHED BY ACTFL, so they can’t criticize!

    What I’ve learned from BVP is it is all about “How does language get into your head?” Also we are always on the defensive, but ask THEM (colleagues, etc) what is THEIR definition of language? What is THEIR definition of communication?

    1. I’m glad to see that BVP has a new book published by ACTFL. I found an article just last week written by him that was published by ACTFL a couple of years ago:

      I had to look for something to start a conversation with my instructional coach about the CI approach since he was asking me to have students practice more. Funny thing though. A day later, this instructional coach resigned. So, no more worries there.

      I don’t think admin will read a book, but they might read passages in it. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks Greg.

      1. The volleyball reading with a partner could be your CYA when it comes to “practice”. Also, I haven’t done them this year but those “Buscapersonas” activities where you get people’s signatures are not TOO bad. It gets the kids up and walking and it really impresses admins. I used to do it before I found out about CI. It’s not too bad if you limit the structures. It’s kind of a BVP-style interactive activity.

        1. Speaking of BVP-style interactive activities… Do you think he recommends doing these to so he doesn’t come across as totally off-the-wall to traditional teachers, or what?

          1. I’ve seen pair work that actually works in a colleagues class who followed his book “Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen”.

            It would be like finding out what time everyone in the class gets up and goes to bed and comparing that with the national average. He would focus on the structures “me levanto” “te levantas” “se levanta”. If after a ton of input you put kids in pairs and all they need to do is ask their partner what time they get up and what time they go to bed and they use “A que hora te levantas” and “Me levanto” and they get the info, this would not be considered forced output.

            I did do one BVP style activity last year with gathering info about who can dance and who will go to a dance at the school. I lined it up with Pobre Ana where she is in the discoteca with Ricardo.

            Some have said that in pair work the kids are hearing bad input, but BVP says that is not true because the peers are not seen as the language authority in the classroom.

            BVP apparently does demos of his pedagogy. I would like to see an actual class though. Keep in mind that he does teach UNIVERSITY, so he is dealing with students that are adults and doesn’t have the same kind of pressures (discipline, IEP, kids with ADD, etc) that we have to deal with.

            I think BVP tries to not get into methods and just focuses on broad principles of SLA. I think it’s a genius way to get the word out there. He has a different calling then Ben obviously. Ben is the “voice crying in the wilderness”, BVP is infiltrating from within. 🙂

          2. Thanks Greg. Yeah, I just don’t see how such an output, interactive, survey-like activity would be helpful except for giving students the chance for students to bop around the room and socialize with each other. Granted, there is a need for that, especially in our long block classes. I say if we want them to bop around and socialize, make the activity less limiting.

  6. I just got out my computer after literally closing it in Minneapolis on Wednesday and not having the heart to open it or do much of anything looking like thinking or writing till this morning.

    I had a very difficult day yesterday. One, inservice. And it sank in that I just worked all summer under some very grueling conditions and now I am going back to school what could hardly be described as the world’s most rested state. More like Recovery Mode. So I was in a very different headspace than I ever have been in my life, heading into school. It is always fun for, like, AN HOUR, hugging your colleagues that you like, avoiding the bitches, and just socializing. But then, reality sets in. They want us to work, and they want us to talk about what they want us to talk about, and move around and interact even though we really do not want to. It sure makes me sympathize with the kids. All they want is to be let to be themselves, and yet we herd them through all these different configurations, activities, discussions, and stuff that they just Would Rather Not.

    Anyways, the bad news was that after the meetings and such, I was in my room, making a video about how I do not have anything to prep, since I will organize class around whatever presents itself when the kids come next Thursday. I was just finishing when the principal walked in and told me to take a deep breath. Not a good start to the conversation.

    The parents of my former French 2 kids, who are going to matriculate on to Lincoln High School next Wednesday, just got an email from the principal down there who informed them that they would all be placed in French 1-2 to repeat it, and not into French 3-4 if they got credit from the middle school (me).

    My colleague and I reviewed board policy and it states that if middle school students gets a C or better from a teacher who is licensed for high school, taking a class that is approved as a high school class, then they get the credit. Period. NOT “if the high school approves of the middle school’s methods” or “if the high school likes the middle school teacher”. So, my principal is going to be working with her boss and the principal at Lincoln to try to get these kids placed properly.

    I made these poor students work through the vocab and grammar from the book last year, and only gave high school credit to those who showed an aptitude for grammar study. About 80% of them. This was sad for me, cause EVERYONE could have been totally successful if they were continuing on to a research- and standards-aligned course, even if it was aligned to the International Baccalaureate curriculum. (Bon Voyage is NOT an IB textbook. They are arranged by themes and have grammar in context of the readings/discussions…not exactly the MOST student-centered curriculum in the world but not just grammar point after grammar point)

    So, I just thought I would share that all is not roses and unicorns here in Tina Land. At least I have a massage and acupuncture today. And Ashwaganda.

    Let’s hope that the school district does right by these kids. The principal is using their portfolios as evidence, but that is a moot point really. As a licensed teacher, I have the right to assign whatever grade I deem appropriate which is what I did. The district needs to get the school leader to honor the kids’ placements.

    1. Tina, it sounds like, if I’m reading this correctly, that the high school principal is putting your students in French 1 or 2 instead of French 3 or 4 even though some of them were to be placed in French 3 or 4 as has been the standard practice in previous years.

      If so, that sounds really frustrating.

      You have your students, their parents, and it seems like your principal on your side. Now you all have to take your fight to the high school. Arg! That’s got to be exhausting.

      Is it motivating for you in knowing that you are shaking up the system?

      1. PPS uses 1-2 for first year and 3-4 is second year. So they’re making them repeat 1-2 which I already awarded them credit for. I need to do some serious PR when we go back. My kids and parents are pretty happy but I’m worried the principal and I will butt heads. The ones I feel fit are the kids going on to high school who have to repeat the class.

    2. Sounds like an attack, an insult on your professionalism. You have all the right according to the documentation. It make be that they want to shake you down. Hang in there! I dont know how my recent class is doing at the HS level but they all go to different places.

      1. Judging by my own experience, Steven, those kids who matriculated up to the high school are very likely not taking French. The ones with privilege stick in, some even accept the new programming from the traditional teacher. But the majority of non-college bound kids who just like to hang out in class quit. Anne Matava once had the ten highest scores in Maine on the NGE – lots of passing grades on the AP exam – and then followed up with those kids and most quit when they got to college. I remember Anne voicing her disappointment. I mean, what a shame to work our butts off and then have something like that happen? And it happens everywhere, all the time, because of college teachers who respect neither the research nor the standards, just themselves.

  7. Sorry to hear this Tina. You don’t need it. Nobody needs it. Could this be a springboard to exposing the high school teacher behind this move as guilty of malpractice in that his program aligns with neither the research nor the standards?

    1. Maybe, I am not at all sure how this will turn out. His program DOES align with the “adopted textbook” so there is that. But the fact is that Board policy says I am licensed and authorized to give grades. And he will be dealing with some bored-as-hell kids and angry families if this actually happens. I guess he is hoping that the families will start putting pressure on ME to teach a different way. But that will never happen. Like, never.

        1. Well those in West Sylvan are obnoxious and need to be schooled as well. Those parents who all got A’s in their language classes in high school and college by memorizing so they think your approach is off. Hard to deal with. BTW I sent you a note about the LA workshop just now – a guy wants to get in.

  8. Oh Tina, I’m so sorry! That is just brutal. I truly hope that they get placed where they should be. School politics suck, plain and simple.

    And I understand how you felt going in not rested. This year, I had about one week off between leaving Canada and moving here. I’d been going at full tilt for months with the move and then needed to start working. The difference is that you’ve been in full teaching mode with no break. Take care of yourself – do all the good stuff to support your system.

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