Hi Ben!

Today is the last day of my 2 week Spring Break and I dread going back. The Thursday before I left I discovered the promise the principal had made to me about being able to grow my program was a complete lie. I had a student come to me upset because the counselor (who does the schedules) told her she couldn’t sign up for Spanish 3 next year. When confronted the counselor told me it was a decision straight from the principal. He had told me there wasn’t enough interest but yet students had been told in a meeting they couldn’t sign up for it. Anyways…I want out of there. NO WHERE in the county do they teach or obviously support upper level foreign language classes. .

So my question is, would it be wise to go ahead and reach out to principals about positions for next year? And if yes, how would be the best way to market myself? Letter? Video examples? Should I create an E-portfolio? I don’t want to appear desperate. So what, in your opinion, would be the best option?

Thank you so much!




9 thoughts on “Question”

  1. My advice Erica is to stay put and deal with it. Sorry but the chances that you would go to a worse situation are high. WL is like Art now – unimportant to the Math and English combine. Few principals consider what we do as any more than a minor annoyance in their master schedules and budgets. Plus, and I probably shouldn’t say this, teaching upper level CI is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax and not something that I would not want to add to my mental stress on top of lower level CI. Ideally, I would want a CI specialist to send my ones and twos to each year who really got into getting the kids up to Intermediate Low* in reading and listening, especially reading authentic texts and discussing authentic visual art in the TL. Doing both, teaching three or four levels of CI, is a ton of work, and until they start paying teachers six figures like I hear they do in Europe, I would make my priority one or the other (lower level CI up to Novice High or upper level to Intermediate Low) but not both. It’s a mental health thing.

    *Intermediate Mid is out of the question in a high school program.

  2. Erica, it speaks to your passion for teaching that you want to continue working with those students who express an interest in furthering their Spanish. I agree with Ben in his response. You know, the work we do as teachers in public schools is, in large part, work whose reach extends well beyond the subject matter we teach. I would consider how many years you’ve taught in this school and how much you’ve helped build a program there before you consider moving. Have you put in a few years now before feeling like the admin won’t support upper level classes? Just for a little perspective, it’s a blessing for many of us in Chicago to be able to stay put in one school for more than a couple of years. There’s so much going on with school closings and charter schools popping up.

  3. As someone who does it all, from first year through AP, I can tell you that it is extremely rewarding to see your students blossom in their fourth year of language and it is extremely hard work to maintain a program. If your administration supports four-year language sequences, then you can build and maintain your program; if the administration does not, then you will never be “successful”.

    So, leave or stay? Only you can weigh all the factors and reach the decision. As Sean and Ben mentioned, think about the overall situation and what you might be getting yourself into. You stated that NO WHERE in the county do they teach or obviously support upper level foreign language classes. That means that you would have to look further abroad for a position. Is this desirable or even feasible? Would you simply be placing yourself in a similar situation without the network of friends, colleagues, students and parents that now provide you with at least some measure of support?

    I know that we want to be there for our students who want to continue, and there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained when we see them pursuing something that we love. However, remember that they can continue with the language without ever setting foot in another language classroom. Through two years of CI you have given them the basis and an understanding of how languages are learned to continue acquisition outside the classroom. Continue to greet them and speak to them in Spanish on campus and in the community. At the end of their second year, emphasize ways in which they can continue with the language on their own. I put together a one-page handout about Autodidacticism; I’ll look for it and send a copy to Ben.

    Be professional enough not to communicate to students what you think of the principal. At the same time, let him know that he has lost all credibility with you. There are consequences to dishonesty, and one of them is the destruction of trust. You can no longer believe anything he tells you. Don’t make this a vendetta, but take anything he tells you – especially about the future – with a very large grain of salt. How much of a deal breaker is this? Your initial reaction indicates that you cannot work under someone who both lies and undercuts your program, but you might find your next principal as bad or worse. Do you then find yourself in a position of moving districts every year or two?

    If you decide to start looking for a new position, be extremely discrete. How much do administrators from different districts interact? Will you run into a friend of someone at your current school? If your administration or school board knows you are looking, they can make life very difficult you while you are still there. Without knowing all of the situation, I think my tendency would be to remain and be subversive, i.e. continue promoting the acquisition of Spanish outside the classroom. Can you start a Spanish club that just hangs out and speaks Spanish? That might actually be better, because then you will get students who really want to be there.

    Also, if you decide to leave, you need to check openings rather than just send off a “cold call” letter, e-mail or other contact. Do you have colleagues, friends, or acquaintances in other districts? Be prepared to give a reason for leaving, but be sure it doesn’t sound like you are bad-mouthing your previous employer; that could get you labeled as disgruntled or raise a warning flag about what kind of employee you will be in he new situation.

    Just some ideas and questions for you.

    1. I put together a one-page handout about Autodidacticism; I’ll look for it and send a copy to Ben.

      I look forward to seeing this handout. I am thinking now about what I can do to encourage my seniors to maintain what they have gained without taking university classes.

  4. Erica, I am so sorry that you’re in that frustrating situation. I used to be at a school where I was the only foreign language teacher, and they initially offered only Spanish I & II. When I went to admin about adding a Spanish III due to student demand, they were thrilled! It was another humanities elective students could take, and it would look better on college applications. Can you try pitching it that way? I just cannot fathom an administration that would shut me down like that.

    When I was interviewing for my current school, one thing I think impressed the admins here was how I linked foreign language standards to the Common Core. It is never a bad thing to give students practice with decoding text in any language. CI methods also give you more opportunities to integrate non-fiction texts in ways that students can really understand. I would hammer this point if I were interviewing again at any public school right now.

    You might want to take time to brush up your resume and get a portfolio together. I’ve never bothered with video/e-portfolios. Just some paper copies were fine a couple of years ago. It was nice to have something physical to reference in the interview. Make sure your resume focuses on accomplishment: you created a demand for a higher level class! That is hard evidence that you are doing something right. Things I included in my portfolio were classroom pictures, CI-based tests I’ve given, and student writing samples with the names blacked out. If I were interviewing now, having been a part of Ben’s blog for over a year, I would include a rubric for jGR and explain how it correlates to national standards as well.

  5. I think I made it more complicated sounding than it actually is.

    A little more of a background…I moved to the Nashville area about 2 years, accepted the first position that was offered to me before researching all the other districts in this area. A couple of months later I discovered there are two other better (academically and financially-speaking) districts in this area. One which is the top district in TN and has great FL programs. Now that my husband, daughter and I have lived here for 2 years we have decided we want to move to Murfreesboro which has the 2nd best district in this area. My drive would be 35 miles but I wasn’t going to change teaching positions because I am the type of person that I plant myself (when we moved I had still been teaching in the first place I started teaching after I graduated). I wanted to stay because I felt I had the ok to grow a program but now that I know that isn’t going to happen, I don’t want to stay. I want to be closer to home and closer to my daughter.

    I was going to respond to Robert’s questions but I’ll have to wait until this afternoon. =( I do want to go ahead and say thank you everyone for the advice!!

    1. I’m from middle Tennessee originally (now in Chattanooga), and still have lots of family & friends there, including one French teacher friend who moved from a Nashville school to a Murfreesboro school and is much happier for it. Others have given perfectly good reasons to stay, but I would definitely be looking to move if I were in your shoes.

  6. As usual, what Harrell said, and

    — the best thing is to grow the program with success. If more kids take it cos it works you’ll eventually have enough level 2s that level 3 will happen (i.e. there will be 60 kids in level 2 which means you should get 45-50 signed up for level 3). But that could take awhile.

    — you MUST self-advocate. Tell the kids ” if you liked SPanish, please get your friends to take it.”

    — I would go and ask the principal why he said A and then did B, and ask him what his plans are for your WL program.

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