How Do You Spend Your Time?

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4 thoughts on “How Do You Spend Your Time?”

  1. Yes, and you might be interested to know that this little post of mine caused quite the stir on the LBP list such that the moderators spent three days creating a response to it after putting the conversation in moderation.

    The furor is an example of the starkly different worlds of experience we live in when we do CI. Some of the worse cases may be teachers who have tasted a little CI or a little TPRS and think they know what CI is (while doing everything but CI). CI requires such a paradigm shift that even imagining it is too disturbing for some folks. Still, I scratch my head and wonder.

    Why would you want students to only have an external view of the language you teach? Why in the world would you waste their time talking about 3rd person singular of a French verb tense when you could just be talking with them in French?

    Why would you not want all kinds of learners in your Latin or German classroom? If we insist on screening (formally or informally) certain kinds of students from our classroom, can we talk about any sort of success except success in screening?

    It’s becoming my singular self-check in: Bob, how did you spend your time today: speaking Latin or speaking to your students about Latin?

  2. Ben, I think I cc’d you in a bit of that discussion, but I can send along our moderator statement as well. Bob’s statement about screening is the elephant in the Latin classroom, as far as I’m concerned. On Latin Best Practices, we have teachers who often speak about the “success” they have with their students using an “eclectic” approach, which really means that they occasionally speak Latin and often force production. And then they claim that what they do will work for any Latin classroom. They still don’t understand that their Latin classroom, no matter how diverse they think it is, is still very self-selecting, and consciously or unconsciously screened by the teacher, the program’s reputation, the school’s expectations, etc. There are many kids who do not, and will not feel welcome in Latin classrooms (and Robert I’m sure you experienced this with German), and change will require a major shift on all of those levels, not to mention a lot of soul searching on the part of the teacher. It’s not easy to be critical with regard to one’s prejudices, but that’s what CI is all about.

  3. “When we spend our class time talking about Latin, in English with an external view to Latin, students learn about Latin from an outsider’s viewpoint. ”

    Bob, what perspicuity: Talking in English about L2 is keeping our kids on the outside looking in.

    They can get that external view anywhere. The unique opportunity that we have to offer is that we can lead them into the Narnia land of L2. They need an insider’s point of view.

    I think that the whole point of signing up for our course is that students think that they are going to get into Narnia. So many times we find that we have not been to Narnia ourselves. So we do what our teachers often did–talk about Narnia. So it is exciting and/or intimidating when you hear that people (the Lucy s) have been there. And they have taken there students there. And, to top it off, their students are discovered to know more about Narnia than the students who stayed “home” and talked about it.

    But as difficult a position as we find our selves with modern languages, it must be even more difficult for the Latinists. The Massachusetts FL Curriculum Framework repeatedly makes this statement: “In classical language study, discus­sion and writing will be in English.” This quote, or one identical in intent, is used for 7 of the 8 standards.

    Of course, the implication for modern languages is all 5 strands (i.e., the 5 C’s) will be accomplished through medium of L2. So if we do not give them an insider’s viewpoint we will not be fulfilling any of the 5 C’s.

  4. Nathaniel, you are right. I like the metaphor of Narnia. Perhaps what we do is invite students to step into (through, really) the wardrobe with us. In this Lewis stories, the children always found that the world beyond the wardrobe was more real than the one in front of the wardrobe.

    I did not know about the Mass. Latin standards being written that way with an insistence on English, but I am not surprised, either. Even ACTFL, for years, has capitulated to those Latinist among them who have never visited the other side of the wardrobe and placed an asterisk* by the communication standard allow that teachers of classical languages would do this primarily through reading texts aloud. Sure, you can do that, and so can modern languages. It fails to understand that there are multiple ways to deliver understandable messages, and that while reading is one of them, it’s not the primary one. SPEAKING in understandable messages is.

    That’s what the ACTFL interview committee will hear me say when I am interviewed for TOTY in two weeks. I hope my doing so is a way forward for all of us, but I also understand that it may not be a welcome message. We shall see.

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