How I Really Feel About Language Competitions

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10 thoughts on “How I Really Feel About Language Competitions”

  1. Thank you for this. I needed to hear it. The only reason I was making myself seem interested in this was to create data for my dept. head. But I need to dig deeper under that statement and oh yeah, what is buried in that muck is of course the need for external approval. So yeah. Not gonna do that. Unless they make me, but I am not going to be the one with the “idea.” Letting this go! Yay!

  2. But doesn’t this comparison have a place in the “The best defense is a good offense” category? Just thinking some of those numbers make for killer arguments. I mean I like the numbers even if they’re not mine, so I am not getting the approval. I like it when someone does something in their classroom that is great and it can even be measured to be great. Of course, the students come first and no measuring system is perfect, but I’m German and as Chris put it “Ve like ourr numberrs”…

  3. Yeah it’s a push me pull you. Both are true.

    For me, this means that I have to go deep enough into myself to know why I have chosen all these years to be schools. Why did I choose to be there in the first place? Why have I even chosen to spend my professional life in a school?

    Is it for approval? This is such a complex topic. But I know the answer. The answer is no. I have chosen to be in schools bc I know that for me it is my best opportunity to serve others.

    I know that. It’s taken 36 years, but I can say that it is true. Teachers serve. Or they don’t survive in the profession.

    So, what about the approval thing? The extrinsic programming that the top down system puts on us, the way they judge and look at us, analyzing us, ever ready to raise an eyebrow of disapproval, we all have to deal with that. So when our kids do well, we make sure that our employers know. The best defense is a good offense.

    But intrinsically, I have cast that off. And I tell Chris to do the same and he heard me. I am so happy about that. He made a good decision. Because in this system no scores can ever make our bosses happy.

    That is bc it is their nature to continuously judge. They cannot stop judging. They judge us bc the world judges, and it is as if the very way schools are set up is to judge.

    The community judges the superintendant, the supe judges the area supes, they judge the principals, the principals judge the APs, they both judge us, we judge the students, the students judge us, their parents judge us locally and judge the superintendent at the district level, and society goes on and on full circle in a judgement dance. It’s a hoedown.

    None of this is good for us. Which is why I wondered aloud here yesterday if we can actually survive in good mental health in schools or if all of us who stay in on some level are making a deep mistake.

    So that leads back to the question you raise, Charlotte. If we are in schools just to serve, bc we have been placed there (which is what Laurie said once here a few years ago and I really resonated with that reasoning), then that is one thing. But if we have gone into teaching for approval, then perhaps we need to get out and re-evaluate.

    So my response to your excellent point is that in the extrinsic surface game we should indeed use test scores as an offensive move against the judgement machine, but caring little about it, not investing our emotions into it to the point where we enter national contests to see if we can get our kids to win, and instead know with a deep calm that each day we go in to work, we are serving in a deeply instrinsic manner our fellow beings in a dynamic and really quite spiritual way, because we have been placed there.

    By the way, I looked at the National French Exam that one kid took this year after her test was returned for grading. Guess what? It had 20 grammar questions on it. It was a reading where they had to provide correct spelling and grammar usage items by filling in the blank much like the old AP exams. It looked like a reading passage, but it was a grammar section.

    These people still do not get it. And to think I used to play their game, for decades. Not any more. Now that I know how people acquire langauges. And I know why I am in teaching, and it’s not for me. It is my privilege to serve others. I am blessed. Like our brother Francis says:

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

  4. We need to remember that in the long run the only judges who count are our students. I’ve been teaching long enough in the same place to have the opportunity to run into former students, not counting the ones who keep in touch with me on Facebook. Their approval validates our efforts more than anything else can. They are the ones we serve.

  5. Because we are optimists, and carry hope in our hearts, we choose to see the numbers as a force for good. Yet, it has been my experience, that those who want to use numbers in other ways will do so, regardless of how good those numbers look. A case in point: over half of our students scored 80% or better on the regional language pretests. The district has used that information (which should say wonderful things about our program) to now say that in order for us to be rated as “distinguished” rather than as “proficient”, that 85% of our students must score 85% or higher on the post-test. That would include a significant number of our freshmen and sophomores who are in resource room, on 504’s and even those who have opted to stay in the program although they are language exempt.
    We can, and we will, impress those willing to be impressed. Those who are determined not to be swayed, will not be swayed. We may be optimistic, but we must be realistic as well.

    with love,

    1. Robert Harrell

      Laurie wrote: Those who are determined not to be swayed, will not be swayed.

      This is so true; it’s all about a mindset. We can see it at work in many areas of life. Show someone committed to a position that one of the arguments is false, and the person will simply find a different argument. This will go on and on, and often the person will use mutually contradictory arguments to bolster the position. Politically, it occurs on both sides of the aisle.

      In The Last Battle, CS Lewis depicts a group of dwarfs who refuse to be “taken in” by talk of Aslan, so they are committed to believing that they are sitting in a cold, dank stable. Everyone else sees a beautiful, green, open countryside, but the dwarfs will have none of it; they are too committed to their position to allow their eyes to be opened. It’s a great description of this kind of thinking.

      We must, however, realize that this dogmatic position in no way changes the truth, nor should it change our commitment to the truth. Otherwise Belbury and the N.I.C.E. people win. (Reference is to another Lewis work: That Hideous Strength)

  6. Yes Mark thank you for tying this entire thing into what language really is, in my view, meant to be, a device for communicating joy. Your point ties so much into the SBG thread here. If we can bend SGB into a form such that it is devoid of the kind of judgement that percentages bring, and I believe we can, then we can do this thing – we can teach for joyful communication with others.

    That is why this SBG thread may at some point mature in the way jGR matured into a real tool for classroom movement in the direction of joy, bc as the kids realize that it is no longer a competition, they can proceed at whatever pace they like, and lose that horrible message that they get from most of their teachers that they can be wrong.

    jGR was a first step in the freeing of kids from being made to feel that they can be wrong, which in the mind of a teenager means that they ARE wrong, because with jGR we at least direct our students’ gazes in the direction of the rich soil that is necessary for communicative joy to grow in. SGB can perhaps become a second step in that process.

    Mark perhaps the question is not when this shift will happen but what can we do to make it happen. Both questions are wonderful and ones to dream about.

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