Response To Grant

I have an AP teacher friend who may actually think that the Achievement Gap is all about lazy kids. She may actually think that only the kids who do their work and who get into college should be the ones who deserve to succeed. My friend may actually think that her job is not really about speaking the language in class, but to make learning selective to book intelligence, which favors the privileged. After all, that is how it has always been done. Now, my friend probably doesn’t go to the extreme of using the book to consciously separate the white wheat from the chaff, the AG kids, because it offers the latter, instructionally, stuff that they can’t nor want to understand. But that result may nonetheless be true in the instruction that she is providing for her students. The AG is real and it is real in her AP classroom. She teaches what Dakota Ridge High teachers in Jefferson County call “Academic Spanish”. Why should she go to the trouble to arrange things so that students actually hear the language in class when instruction can be made so very easy for her if she just presents the language as a bewildering set of rules and inaccessible cognitive activities that, somehow, all happen on paper? What does speaking the language in class have to do with learning a language? Some of the riff raff might even understand it, which would upset her base assumption that kids who are smart are real language students and those who are not so smart, the lazy ones, are not real language students. Obviously, those lazy ones who “don’t do their work” don’t deserve to hear the language – they must receive the book and learn some discipline! Those kids, as they entered their first year of study, came in with a lot of excitement and a lot of hope about learning a language, the language they chose, but now, because they don’t do their homework, they get lazy (reflecting their lack of a proper upbringing – shame on them!), they are made to think that they can’t learn. Every day, they sit there by the tens of thousands in schools throughout our country, continuously bombarded by the invisible world message that they suck. If you don’t believe that, make a side trip by the foreign language rooms in your building tomorrow morning and look into those kids’ faces.  We in America need to educate those teachers who turn AG kids away from AP classes. We need to teach them that all kids can learn a language and all kids can pass the AP exam if they could just : 
– hear the language enough (a lot!) in those crucial first two years
– be given a chance to succeed by a direct and simple and honest approach to assessment, one that makes sense to them
– follow a Krashen-based plan throughout (i.e. one that highlights output only at the right time and that properly incorporates the supreme role of reading in the game of language acquisition)
– be given the message that THEY ARE GOOD 
This entire AG issue as it relates to language learning is about the book and how it has hurt kids, and how it contributes, every day, to taking the natural joy and fun of learning a language away from kids. Let us strive to be teachers who don’t merely teach languages. Let us strive to learn how to teach kids first! Let’s all become Achievement Gap teachers, as well as AP teachers. Let’s show America what patriotism is all about.



3 thoughts on “Response To Grant”

  1. Pat Barrett, at blog “Pat’s Polemics,” blogged on this very same problem the same day. And I know you’re talking about different teachers. At least I THINK Pat doesn’t know your “Acacemic Spanish” colleague.

  2. Yes, Brian, my blog was describing a conglomerate teacher. It was set off by a comment by a colleague months ago that never left my mind. She was complaining about kids who “don’t do their work”. The fact that Pat wrote the same on the same day shows me that there is no shortage of such people in our nation’s schools.
    My own point is simple – kids don’t “do their work” because is is NOT REALLY THEIR WORK. It is the fantasy of such teachers that kids can learn if they do such work. 96% can’t.
    This teacher lives such an old century notion, especially in the light of the media impact discussed in that other blog here. It is off the mark in today’s world. Such teachers could get away with that kind of thinking years ago but they can’t anymore. The world has caught up with them. Now, as per Krashen, the new real work of kids is to unconsciously enjoy learning a language.
    Just this morning I told a determined Special Ed kid that I am proud of him (I didn’t say I was proud of his work, which is not perfect but gets his best efforts, I just said that I was proud of HIM). I told him that I expect him to go through all four levels of French with me, as per the blog about Luis here recently.
    This new wrinkle in what is possible reflects the new hope we now have with the proficiencey guidelines essentially becoming the new state standards (implying that kids can get to whatever level they can get to in four years, and don’t necessarily have to quit because they don’t get up to low intermediate, which would be the position of the conglomerate teacher we are talking about above). This kid looked at me in disbelief first, and I locked onto his eyes and made sure that he understood me. In my eyes was the message that, if he wants (his focus is very strong in class!) he can and will go on to French 4 as a senior. He got my message, his face softened and we, for an instant, “saw” each other in the Avatar sense. For us, in that moment, it wasn’t about whether he “did his work” – we had gone beyond whether he is a good or bad or lazy or whatever student, and he knew that he was just GOOD.
    Brian please send the address where we can read Pat’s Polemics, and anyone else with a blog please send the link to me so I can make a list of the five or so sister blogs to this one(Thomas, Bess, Laurie, etc.) for our ease of reference. Just put your blog address below as a comment, would be the easiest, and I’ll make a list of them and post it as a blog entry here, which can then be searced here if you want to read a certain blog. My idea is that we do a lot of our training through the internet on a daily basis. Our hearts are already linked, in the innernet, as per the synchronicity of Pat’s and my blogs about twentieth century style teachers. But we need to stay consciously attuned to each other to keep our vision clear, and that is what the internet is for.

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