Teacher Shaming

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34 thoughts on “Teacher Shaming”

  1. I wanted to move Greg’s comment to be a post in case anyone needs to find it later (easier). So I also moved comments from jen and Alisa:


    I think the anonymous teacher voting is sickening.

    It’s a way for students to anonymously project their own negative emotions – anxiety, blame, stress – on us. I wonder what kind of a score their own parents would (anonymously) get?

    We have SOOOOOOO lost our way…

  2. jen:

    Oh dear Greg, it hurts to read this. I also feel this discouraging heaviness, even without the surveys, but having to read something like that must be so painful. I’m sorry. Thank you for sharing here, to shed some light into that darkness.

    I drove home in tears myself tonight, so you are not alone. This is freaking hard!

  3. Greg’s professional reaction is typical of how he carries himself as a leader and far more than I would have been capable of, because many of us have been there on this one. This kind of stuff has been going on for a long time and it has not served anything except to bolster the positions of bullies and narcissists and trust me I know about narcissists.

    If we in our profession do not become aware of exactly what kind of evil this really is, we will continue to invite it. So in the book I’ll write after the one I’m working on now, I’m going to try to address this more. Why? Because it’s inexcusable. And that is only a starting thought.

    We have to change how to react as Greg did and never let the dark ones cause us to us lose a single wink of sleep. How many people who don’t have Greg’s strength of character have already quit and never looked back? It would be a long list. But we can react without quitting. We can defeat perfidy and we will. And it won’t be easy for us. But we will do it.

    This growth in us will be part of the current redefining of our profession, which is not just happening on the level of pedagogy but also on the level of real sinew-building emotional strength born of real understanding of what we are up against.

    The change will not be brought about by the people with the ready smiles in our buildings. It will be done by the teachers with the tears in their eyes. The strong ones.

  4. Why would the survey include such a question. If such questions are to be included I hope that they will change the scope of our teaching handbooks and contracts to include things such as providing emotional support. I recognize that the public schooling system will need to fill the gap in society left by weakening families and provide instruction of a moral and ethical nature, but why begin evaluating a skill that is not even remotely connected in an official way to our job description? We need clear expectations of what we are to provide our students during “instructional time”. Have you guys seen a great Bill Murray movie called “The Man Who Knew too Little” in that film he says “Nobody asked me to be a human being!”

    1. Totally agree Craig. Actually that particular question about if “your teacher would care if you walked into the class upset” is a time bomb. All we need to do is ask what’s wrong in front of 30 other people and we are setting ourself up for legal issues.

      I can say that my entire career was spent year by year inching closer to handling things like that by totally having the kid go immediately to counseling and staying out of their emotional lives. I think it’s a mark of inexperience to try to be both counselor and teacher. We want to help kids yes, but when the objective of the day is teaching them Spanish that’s what I do.

      Even the smallest expression of compassion to kids these days can be misinterpreted and more than one teacher each year loses their jobs over some kids’ lack of emotional balance. Just my opinion based on my own experience about what is best in this lawsuit-riddled profession.

  5. At this point in my school this kind of data is not evaluative but what scares me is that it is recorded somewhere and future admin will have access to it. (What if admin would change to someone who is anti-CI eventually? It could happen.) I sent a long email to my admin about how this survey can work against our interests (they want to see more CI) even if it is not evaluative. I have hopes that they will listen.

    By the way, over Winter Break I went on my honeymoon to Sedona, Arizona (an amazing place by the way I am jealous of all of you that live in mountainous states!) There were a lot of country radio stations and so we listened to country while driving.

    I heard this country song on the radio and it definitely applies. Listen to the words!


    1. Greg, omg, I am thinking of Sedona for my honeymoon!!! I am so sorry about this survey and it is entirely bogus. Please keep your head up. Our kids are practically trained in internet anonymous bullying. I know they love your class as I’ve seen the joy on your face when you’ve shared your hard work with us.

      I imagine these kids have felt some itsy bitsy slight and could say ANYTHING. CI classrooms care more than leaps and bounds about kids than others in general especially when doing Invisibles like you—so much student voice. I hope your admin realizes how hurtful the anonymous survey is and gets rid of it! Email me if you ever need a sympathetic ear.

  6. Well most of us are going through hell certainly. Why can’t we just say it? After all, how many language teachers do you know who are happy in this work? But the subject of teacher depression as a national emergency is rarely brought up. Teachers just quit and aren’t heard from again.

    Most of us here have agreed that we can pin a lot of hopes on the new Invisibles OWI approach that really takes a hammer to teacher depression because it naturally and effortlessly really involves the kids, just bc it is such a well designed set of strategies.

    So we all know that we have a great way to teach, so where could the devil referred to in the song be, the one we don’t want to reveal our depression to? The real devils in our buildings are the administrators who are using outdated instruments to evaluate our work, and who don’t understand it.

    What I hear Greg saying is that he is not going to believe evaluations given by idiots. Here is a related post from 2013 on this topic:


  7. It’s great that your wrote to your admin, Greg. We have to speak up about these things and you are in a great position to do so at your school. I wonder if your old, retired, interim principal from Stevenson HS would have implemented such a student survey. Probably not.

    I can’t imagine a survey like that springing up at my school without serious unrest among staff. Especially coming off a strike where, by fighting, we won. Luckily, we have admin here that have experience with other marginalized school communities in Chicago who know about the stresses that students bring and how, in all practicality, to handle them.

    You should let your colleagues at your school know that you wrote your admin a letter. Get mobilized! Sucks we can’t just, you know, teach during the day, connect with kids, and then live our lives afterward.

    I’m so glad you shared this, Greg. This kind of humility you exhibit in reaching out to us on matters that run deep are exactly why this PLC is so great.

    1. Sean said to Greg:

      …this kind of humility you exhibit in reaching out to us on matters that run deep are exactly why this PLC is so great….

      My prayer for 2019 is more discussion of that kind of transparency in what we are experiencing. The whole idea of having about 300 people in a small group is to allow transparent discussion. Let this group be a place where we can go to complain and get a few virtual hugs. This work is so challenging anyway, not to have a place to kvetch.

      Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-1OgNqBkVE

      1. Perhaps you could help me to better understand your plight. What exactly are those admins who seem to be your bosses? Is one requirement that they have been teaching some years before becoming admins at schools or not at all?

        1. Udo let’s take the superintendent of the Los Angeles school system. He is an investment banker. The U.S. Secretary of Education, also, has no experience in education. A recent superintendent of Denver Public Schools was a politician and used the office as a stepping stone to become a senator. The one who followed him was a person who had lived in China and called himself a language expert, but had no idea about how people acquire languages. I know that because I talked to him about it. Our country has gone to monied interests and the stuff is now just hitting the fan. The fallout will cause huge changes in favor of the oppressed and make no mistake teachers are oppressed here. Many will leave the profession, some really tough ones will stand their ground and fight, they will eventually win, but it will be a long and ugly series of fires over many long years. According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, the richest 10 percent of Americans control 75 percent of the wealth, and education is to them a matter of profit, since everything to them is for profit. We have lost our dream in America. To answer your question – no, too many administrators have no idea what they are doing and therefore are not fit to lead the real educators on the streets of L.A. and last month Sean’s colleagues in Chicago and even here in Denver a teacher strike is looming in the next week. Of course, the real losers are the kids. Follow the thing in L.A. carefully. It is big. The entire system must now be dismantled and it will eventually be. Our fight in languages – to give all the kids a chance by changing the way languages are taught, is one small part of the overall massive forest fire. Why isn’t this happening more in Europe?

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    The other thing is it was prolly some yahoo who came up with the question about whether a teacher would show concern about a student’s upset – to try to check some box about “school climate” or “visible empathy” or some other dumb inane superficial “measurable data.”

    “Yes – my teacher immediately sent me to the social worker/counselor.”

  9. I do believe my admin was well-intentioned at administering this survey. I myself have given student surveys to my students over the years. My surveys have always been the following: “What did the teacher do well?” “What did the students do well?” “What could the teacher do better?” “What could the students have done better?” “What was my favorite activity?” “What was the most beneficial activity- not necessarily my favorite?” “What was my favorite FCR book?”

    As a department chair I have advocated for peer feedback and also student feedback but more of the type I describe above. I think Panorama offered a paid service that did all the work for the school (instead of us creating our own feedback tool) and that is why they went with it.

  10. I agree with Greg here:

    …I do believe my admin was well-intentioned at administering this survey….

    HOWEVER, and it is a however the size of Kansas, if they are going to collect such information on our job performance, they better be ready to give us the training we need to improve our numbers (as inaccurate as they are in the first place). Fair is fair.

    Lacking giving us that training, they can pay us more to cover training we get on our own, while also giving us the time we require to apply the training effectively in our classrooms.

  11. One thing that I am going to do this semester is teach 15 to 20 minutes a week of grammar. We will be going through one of the Sweet 16 verbs a week. I am going to put up the verb chart, explain it in English, and then show a Señor Jordan video to the class. I will then put that video on Google Classroom.

    I got a bunch of comments that I did not teach verb conjugations, so let´s see if with this 15 to 20 minutes a week I can get that box checked and say “Yeah, I do that.”

    Here is the video I used:

  12. This is the right decision, Greg, to teach the verbs. I have done it. The only problem is that you have to convince the kids that they “need” it for future classes. Once I made the mistake of stopping class 10′ before the bell to teach a verb. They of course revolted so I gave up. But yeah, half of a day each week starting in August and making it a required ritual is a superior plan.

    I had the oddest thought this morning upon awakening. I was explaining in a kind of dream state the beauty of the subjunctive mood to a class, how it is a mood and not a verb tense, how is a cherished part of the French grammar system and not dead like it is here, getting into all sorts of details, and then when I was awake I realized how much I love grammar and how totally easy it is to teach. Can’t blame traditional teachers as I was one for a quarter of a century before hearing about CI.

    We’ll all transition when it’s time, when we are ready, or maybe only when we are told we will probably lose our jobs unless we align with the research. But for some mechanically minded teachers being asked to teach in the new way is akin to asking a differential calculus teacher to teach biology – the shift is that enormous. What percentage of language teachers are still teaching verbs, do you think? I think it is still very high. I hope they retire soon so we can give more hope to American kids, who need help in believing in themselves now more than ever.

  13. I did have a student come back this year who was in one of Spanish 2 Invisibles classes last year. He says that as a freshman in college (He’s at St. Olaf) the Spanish teacher is 100% grammar based and won’t answer any question in English. He uses Google Translate to decipher her emails.

    I believe almost all teachers teach verb charts, unless they teach with TPRS/CI or other kind of “alternative” methods like OWL or AIM.

    I find out from students ALL the time that so and so teacher is grammar based when they present themselves more as the ACTFL model teacher. It’s like BVP always says, they take the latest trend of the day and dress up the grammar syllabus in that clothing.

  14. Oh and I told the students “I am teaching grammar because a number of you requested it”.
    Half the class was like NOOOO!!!! It was funny.

    Maybe it will make them appreciate the Invisibles more.

      1. Greg said:

        …I find out from students ALL the time that so and so teacher is grammar based when they present themselves more as the ACTFL model teacher….

        Yes and ACTFL doesn’t stop it, doesn’t issue any warnings. ACTFL enables bad teaching by leaving the discussion of vague. We know this bc of the big online fight this group had w the ACTFL teachers online group. Director Sandrock revealed himself as ignorant of best practices which at that time in our group’s history confirmed that he is merely a puppet for teachers who don’t want to change. I hope I can find what he said to us online about CI. I’ll look for it. A coward and not fit to lead our nation’s langauge teachers into the 21st century. although I have been told he’s a “nice guy”. We don’t need a nice guy as our leader, we need a leader who doesn’t allow us to keep one foot in the last century in terms of best practices in language teaching.

        1. And it’s always fun to stand in front of the room when you offer to teach more grammar and see those few righteous grammar geeks look around the room wanting support while being met with jeers. In my experience, Greg, it was more like 80% who wanted to keep the Invisibles going. I smiled inwardly while saying, “Well, we need to learn this for your teacher next year/college, etc.”… It’s kind of a fun position to be in. I remember vividly doing this in a class of 35 kids from the “hood” in Denver and the one little privileged girl whose family owned horses with all the nice expensive clothes – on the girl not the horses – sitting in the front row enthusiastically put her hand up when I made the grammar offer and I whispered to her, “Look around you…” and not one single other kid had their hand up. The class had spoken and I had no choice but to do a wonderful story that day. Eventually the girl came around and made a nice adjustment so good on her, bc as we know quite well that that doesn’t always happen….

          1. Both that girl’s parents were lawyers and they got me in a conference room and tried to break me on the grammar thing. Their claim, esp. the mom, was that SHE was a straight A French student in college and SHE minored in French and so SHE did quite well and now SHE wanted that for her (struggling at the time to find the CI part of her brain) daughter. It was one of my shining moments as a teacher of French. I asked her a few simple questions in French. I mean really easy. She had no idea what I was saying. Then I said, “Well I have a class to go teach (I didn’t) and I would love to discuss this more but I won’t change what I am doing bc it has taken me (at that point) 35 years to learn how to teach to align w the research and standards and so any other points you would have to take up with my superiors bc they hired me when they saw the books I had written on teaching languages.” I did it w/o snark but from a serious place of anger (hidden) bc I WILL NOT allow people to tell me how to do my job any more than I would tell those two lawyers how to do their job. I still get pissed thinking about that meeting, of which there were TOO MANY in my career, bc my ignorant admins wouldn’t try enough to understand this new work, and whose only concern was to not lose the support of the parents with the money!

          2. We don’t think about it or talk about it often, but we are doing A LOT to push the equity piece forward in education. This is a high calling. We are teachers who stand up for the downtrodden kids and march in the streets if need be (can anyone say Sean Lawler?) and we do so to break the grip of the monied interests in education. Betsy won’t be around too much longer, and we can fire up the equity jets. The wind and heat from those jets will blow Betsy back to the hole she crawled out of on one of her yachts two years ago.

            Know this: we address equity in education bc we are patriots and we defend the educational vision of America in a way that the monied interests, the few, cannot. A new America is coming. I am so excited to be a part of it. We can never give up. We are fighting for the very lives of children, bc if they think they suck at life bc they can’t conjugate a damn verb, it hurts them. We are not in it for that. We can offer something better. We DO offer something better. OK I’m going to go eat a taco and calm down.

      2. Sean it looks like you guys in Chicago have a little competition out in L.A. I love what they are doing. The entire lot of them – all 33,000 – on strike today and not so much for salary increases but on behalf of the kids, so that they are not underserved, in the face of their superintendent who has no background in education but in investment banking who refuses to help the kids even w a 1.8 billion dollar surplus he could be using. Bam!

  15. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Um my (biological) kids have a mother obsessed w all things language and my son’s college choice was based in no small part in avoiding a language requirement beyond 2yrs in high school. He tried 2 different languages and said the Ts butchered the experience in both instances. He says he loves to hear those languages in the wild, though.

  16. Hey Ben, I have an interesting development with regards to the Invisibles. So after those student reviews and getting back from break we had a teacher resign and I am in the process of finding a replacement.

    Anyway, I decided to give myself a break and read some class novels just for MY mental health and to do something “boring” so the kids will appreciate the Invisibles more when I go back to them. In Spanish 1 I am reading ¨Berto y sus buenas ideas¨and in the Spanish 2 “college prep” (aka remedial) class we are reading Brandon Brown wants a Dog.

    So I thought reading the class novels would be boring but what I am finding is that reading these class novels is BREEEZE. The kids are understanding A LOT after one semester of NT via the Invisibles and FCR Reading.

    Before I met you and I was doing more traditional TPRS stuff I would jump into these novels during semester 1 as a way to TEACH the language. Now it’s as if we are just reading a book which they already understand.

    So my theory is that starting off with NT/Invisibles/FCR (more “Whole Language” things) helps kids to be able to read novels later on. They’ve already acquired enough language and have a enough reading strategies to be able to handle a class novel without it seeming like work.

    1. Yes I very much appreciate the validation because I had the same experience with those novels. You are so right that using them to TEACH the language is a bust. And I know that Carol and Blaine know my position that we should read the easier ones much later. They don’t like it bc of the money thing – they both make millions of dollars from those things, but is it best for the kids? I use the term “reading down” to describe this idea from 2016 when I created the Invisibles – how they shouldn’t start reading the level 1 novels into well into level 2 and how they should only read – and deeply, using the 20 Reading Options – their own created stories from the beginning of level 1 to half way through level 2.

  17. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I spend a lot of my time with my Hebrew gig trying to pry texts out of Ts hands, so that they’ll do oral front-loading first.
    Of course we know that it’s all the oral work, punctuated by a written word or phrase (to estab meaning) and the write-up at the end of the cycle – whether that becomes Readers’ Theatre or Sacred Reading, back of the room – whatever! that builds toward that capacity to read the easy leveled readers. It’s so painful to try to do a reading when the Ss don’t know how the words are supposed to sound…

    1. This is so profound and a scathing indictment of the complete lack of professional knowledge/knowing the research that most language teachers exhibit. They should know that students can’t be expected to read without first being exposed to an avalanche of auditory input.

      And of course that kind of teaching, where the teacher doesn’t bring the sound/meaning input through the kids’ ears and drawings first, favors the few mechanical readers in the room who can read like google translator but not in the real way – where the text is like a “movie in their mind” (Susan Gross).

      We’ll never level the playing field in our classrooms until we put off reading those novels until like Greg says.

      1. You wouldn’t believe how many resumes that I receive where when asked about pedagogy teachers are still mentioning skits, language practice, vocab games, and the grammar syllabus.

        Oh and I had contact the other day with the student teaching coordinator at Northeastern Illinois University (a big teacher college in Chicago) who said that they now only offer student teaching for Spanish second semester AND that there are only two student teachers. When I graduated from there, there were 6-10 student teachers per semester.

        As department chair I’m frequently in the situation where we have to hire people that are grammarians, simply because there is no one else.

        That being said, there are a number of teachers who are discovering CI. I know it because there’s always new people in the Chicagoland TCI group. The problem is always that we are all sprinkled in different schools.

        1. Greg said:

          …you wouldn’t believe how many resumes that I receive where when asked about pedagogy teachers are still mentioning skits, language practice, vocab games, and the grammar syllabus….

          Good to read this. Not bc of what you said, but to remind me to continue writing the books I’m working on now. To us, it’s a no brainer, but not to many teachers. You should write back and say what your hiring criteria are. Take the cotton from their eyes and ears.

  18. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    And Greg if it’s a break that you need then I highly recommend your Ss do work in the BBQUP Teacher’s Guide – (extremely thorough!) and there’s a Simpli-guide that accompanies Berto…Gato – it has some decent PQA and stuff. Just to pave the way…

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