OPI Discussion Continues

Michele send me this as an email. My responses are in italics:
M – Kids don’t usually get the OPI interviews. But the interviews themselves really can tell people about how they are progressing. My problem situation wasn’t about a hole in my sleeve (why would you need language to solve that?! I think they have the complicated situations better than that now – you’re not supposed to be defeated by not knowing a particular word); it was my having locked myself out of an office of a school where I was working, leaving my documents there so I couldn’t prove who I was. It was actually kind of fun to deal with that situation. One thing I liked about the workshop was learning that people leaving an OPI should feel happy about their level of language. The interviewer is supposed to check levels, but then return them to a place they feel successful.
B – But to me it’s still about control and measuring one human being by another. It’s not about joy, which I find in what we do. I know it’s a weird thought, but I don’t like being surrounded by all this analysis. I just want to teach my kids and get the class on the fun ray, where smiles are the barometers for success. I don’t apologize for that statement and I defend my right to teach with that as my main way of measuring my success in the classroom (said with thumbs in ears and wiggling fingers).
M – I think that these interviews may have changed since you and I had our original assessments. You should have seen the fourth- and sixth-graders who were assessed, for program reasons. They were very happy to have had such a nice long conversation with an adult who seemed so very interested in them! It felt very much like our personalization focus in what we do when we teach using CI. Kids love it when we zoom in on them.
B – OK now this I can buy. But those are fourth graders who have been trained by someone – you – who is only working for their success. I think that Jody’s pre-middle school kids would also welcome such an experience. But kids trained by conventional methods, who feel no such joy, would see something like this as an invasive kind of way of measuring what they don’t know. Because there is a lot that conventionally trained kids cannot do with language, as well as kids trained improperly with narrative methods – said improper training and implementation being the biggest strike against what we are trying to bring to education.
M – Here’s the crux of the whole OPI learning for me: the old eclectic way (not to mention the grammar-oriented method) is NOT going to result in kids who do well on the OPI. And I do believe that the OPI is a valid way of finding out levels, whether we need to do it or not.
B – Yes I do agree with that, I just don’t like the FEEL of the process, no matter how touchy feely they’ve gotten lately.



5 thoughts on “OPI Discussion Continues”

  1. I love the fact that TPRS aligns so well with the OPI, because the OPI is as close to an industry standard for proficiency as we get. When I used to work as a graduate assistant in a Teacher Education World Language department, the OPI was the standard by which we verified the linguistic level of incoming pre-service teachers. By the way, Intermediate High is the minimum standard for people to be able to be allowed to teach a language; if incoming teachers tested lower they needed to go abroad for a semester or find some other means to compensate.
    One of the things I’m seeing out of some of my students–especially at the higher levels–is they want to know how they are doing. One of the wonderful problems of TPRS is that the students learn so naturally that they often don’t feel they are doing as well as they really are. “If it isn’t hard work, I’m not really doing anything.” Sometimes when I point out that they are doing well in reading and speaking, they think it’s just because I’m rigging the tests in their favor (which to be honest, sometimes I am).
    So if OPI aligns with what I am doing anyways, I really love the idea of letting people know where they stand using a professional benchmark that can legitimize the effectiveness of how they are learning to themselves, parents, administrators, etc. If the basic strategy of defending TPRS falls upon letting the results speak for themselves–as I believe they should–then it would be nice to have a professional standard to point to. I see the OPI as being a legitimate addition to the portfolios I keep for my students to chart year to year progress, but probably wouldn’t start them until the third year and would administer them in conjunction with the NY Regent’s exams.
    I personally didn’t particularly care for my own OPI interview either. The interviewer asked me about what was a hot topic politically and when I mentioned a smoking ban being enforced in bars, off we went to the races despite the fact that I don’t drink and have only been in a bar once in my life. Yes, I teach German and didn’t know the word for “Barkeeper” or any other pub vocab (or didn’t at the time). While I see that as a legitimate cultural strike against me, it also ended up handicapping me during the interview as I was pretty far out of my. So, sign me up for Michele’s idea of turning these into personalized one on one times that can develop student interest.

  2. One little twist is that generally an OPI interviewer can’t rate his or her own students. But if several of us got our credentials, we could assess each other’s kids. The next twist there for me is that I’m not a Superior-level speaker, and one must be, in order to get the credential. (But I know that I wasn’t an Advanced High, either, until I’d taught using CI methodology for two years…so maybe there’s hope!)

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