My Bitchy Edge

 I don’t want to bear any  ill will against my colleagues who push back hard against narrative based methods, those who prefer an eclectic (read: ineffective) approach. They are doing what is natural for them.
They are making their best professional decision. I can accept that, except when it is done at the expense of children. That is when I get a bitchy edge.
So, I guess that, even though I don’t want to bear any ill will against my colleagues who won’t let go of their “eclectic” (read: ineffective) approach, I guess I do bear ill will against them. Putting mental suffering in the form of boring worksheets on children overides my desire to bear no ill will towards my colleagues, I guess.
 But the scope of this change from not using the language in the classroom to using it all time in the classroom is so big, so unavoidable, and makes so much sense, that the push back of my colleagues must eventually have to give way to an acceptance of the wisdom of speaking the language in meaningful and interesting ways in the classroom, and an acceptance of the fact that activities and exercises in books have shown us nothing.
Once they do that, they won’t push back anymore, because principals will eventually mandate that we all use the language in the classroom, for their own reasons:
– they will want their WL teachers to align with the new (CA, CO, OR) or soon to be new (in the other states) state standards.
– they will want increased student enrollments in world languages and they will see that happening in schools where narrative methods are mandated by principals, like Lincoln High School in Denver, where student enrollment in languages has spiked (Annick Chen is a French and Mandarin teacher at Lincoln who has completely exploded the enrollment in WL in her school in the past four years using TPRS).
– they are tired of stupid infighting in their WL departments and they simply want a unified department. The departments that get the results are the ones using TPRS, and the ones not getting the results are the traditional departments. Principals will see that and insist on the change. No bitchy edge needed.
– the principals will stop even listening to their teachers who do it the old way. There is no stopping the logic of speaking the language in the classroom all the time.
– they would not have become principals if they didn’t want to bring change to old ways of doing things. This is an era of rapid change, and things can’t stay the same, and we in WL education are no exception.
– most principals, at least those with whom I have spoken, agree with Krashen’s ideas. They don’t quite get the link between Krashen and their WL departments, but, slowly, this is happening.
– most principals took a language when in school, and admit to having taken little away from those classes relative to the time invested. They suspect the old ways as being ineffective, and they are suspicious of the bullshit they are hearing from their teachers who claim that the old ways work.
– they are tired of no results, and when they see the results that come from PROPERLY RUN TPRS classrooms – about one of ten can be said to be properly run – they begin mandating this change.
So the change will come from principals. It probably won’t come from district WL coordinators. Few are on board with Krashen, even though they claim that they are. Most support the old ways.
But the change will come from teachers like Jason Castellano, rocking the house with Spanish at Montbello High in Denver.
The change will come from Annick Chen at Lincoln, where there are currently 294 students signed up for French but not a single teacher for them because Annick’s Mandarin classes have also multipled and there is not enough money, nor are there available teachers (Lincoln’s principal won’t even hire non-TPRS teachers, as mentioned above).
The change will come from Norm Veilleux up in Toronto, whose remarkably smooth CI delivery can’t be ignored by conscious teachers around him.
The  change will come from so many others of us who quietly go to work every day trying to unlock the treasures of CI for ourselves in our worlds.
Yes, there is ill will on this blog. Yes, I am a gnarly and competitive person, but see beyond that. See into the future.



4 thoughts on “My Bitchy Edge”

  1. Ahem. I was an “eclectic” teacher for many many years. I did probably ZERO worksheets. So the boring worksheets statement was something of a straw man argument.
    The appealing thing about being “eclectic” was that I took what I saw as the best practices from every conference I attended and applied those practices. None of them full-time, but in a very energetic, creative, enthusiastic manner. My desire was to be a fabulous teacher.
    In hindsight I can see many errors in my thinking.
    1. Creativity. We had the “creativity award” in CCFLT. I thought that “creative teacher” meant “good teacher.” Little did I know that an effective teacher is one who promotes independent language usage (ie creativity) in students.
    2. Perfectionism. ‘Nuff said.
    3. High energy. This often translated into high-speed teaching where I was actually hyper.
    4. Work long hard hours or you are not really a professional. I invested so much time and energy and resources into my teaching (I had over 300 games) that I had little energy left for the kids! Oops!
    Well I am sure the list of my errors would reach the moon, but those are the ones that jumped out tonight.
    But back to my point. Many “eclectic” teachers are dedicated, hard-working, sincere teachers who do not appreciate being told that they are getting poor results. They wrestle with demons and try to improve their products every year. Once they give comprehensible input a really sincere chance, they will be surprised and pleased. (In fact I was downright flummoxed!!)

  2. This is a wonderful moment here at East because Thomas and Susan Gross just walked into my office. Just now. So, Susie just said that she wants to add/clarify to the above:
    Susie talking now:
    My really BIG ERROR (How did I forget to put it down as number one or two???) Output. I thought that practicing output would make my kids better at output. I did speaking activities (darling adorable cute creative ones) all year long. That was my biggest error. It was the hardest thing to fix!

  3. So what Susie is clarifying here is that most eclectic teachers aren’t at all about worksheets, something I suggested in that blog above, but are really very creative puveyors of cute, high energy, fun, activities, which, because they are cute, high energy, and fun, therefore must be leading to acquisition. But Susie’s point – and she is sitting here proofreading this – is that those activites, cute that they are, are not acquisition, but output. Input is the key, and the traditional exercises and activities – not necessarily worksheets but all that “stuff” – only SEEM valuable, but the listening and and reading that we might otherwise be doing in our classrooms can’t be done (the input can’t be done) because all of those paired activities and cooperative learning only lead, precisely, to learning.
    So Susie’s point, is that eclectic teachers are not textbook/workbook teachers.

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