Time to Reflect – 4

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18 thoughts on “Time to Reflect – 4”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I have gone head to head here and there on different T/CI principles. It has always been stress inducing. Sometimes it seemed to plant the right kind of seeds, though it didn’t spread any love or acceptance with it.
    When our district migrated to T/CI it was because the vast majority of us were searching for a better way. One teacher didn’t fully embrace the shift but then retired. It’s important to report why she didn’t shift with us – as I thing her reasoning reflects a lot of teachers’ out there:

    1. Basic proficiency doesn’t cover what’s expected when our kids continue on to the (high stakes/high performing) high school;
    2. The T/CI approach doesn’t incorporate enough culture – holidays, history, foods, geography, songs, famous figures, etc.
    3. The silly stories feel like the whole curriculum has been ‘dumbed down.’
    4. Parents are suspicious of the lack of homework, tests and overall sense of rigor.
    5. Teachers feel the need for evidence that their kids can talk in the TL.

    We have discussed each of these points thoroughly here on the PLC. But until the goals/purpose of our classes and WL programs are clearly articulated, from teacher training programs on down the line, so as to shift away from all the extraneous ACTFL C’s to the priority of Communication, we’ll be stuck with this “US” vs “THEM.”
    Traditional/Legacy teachers are working hard and with passion. They believe in their own goals and strategies.
    I believe our opportunity is with new teachers, and teachers who are searching or skeptical….

    1. Those five points, Alisa, are well articulated and we all owe you a tip of the hat for saying it so clearly. As I read, I realized that the real pressure should be removed from us to show how we align with traditional teaching, which is impossible, but how we align with standards. Tina is writing that document now. Then what we do is, instead of locking horns on each of the above five points, which leads to nothing but enmity and confusion with our traditional colleagues, we just tell them how we align with the national standards, throwing that information in their laps, and walk away and do our thing in our classrooms and let the weight of our argument rest not on discussion with them but on the reports of our happy customers. There is something very distorted about this picture. WE are the ones aligning with the national standards and they are getting a pass on having to align with them. Shouldn’t the burden be on them? And since it gives us all headaches when we try to do it, shouldn’t we just let them stew in their fears that get generated when our kids leave class so excited and happy about class that day, day after day, and as we bring admins and parents on board more and more each year? It’s a tipping point thing, right, and they are now like those people on the Titanic trying to hang on but they can’t. Not any more. All we can do is teach well and let our teaching do the talking. I do fault the complexity of TPRS and how it is taught at the conferences as implicated here. It’s been made too complex and it seems that only the 4%er teachers can do it. Just my opinion, and I’m sure it works, but not for me. I like simple. Me like simple. J’aime la simplicite. I don’t know how else to say it. And for me simplicity means NT.

      1. Sean M Lawler

        TCI has not been a difficulty case to make in the multitude of inner-city Chicago classrooms I’ve taught in via interviews and job changes. The admin who’ve been around and have at least a drop of interest in student learning and not just in classroom management fall in love with the engagement CI brings in students.

        I kinda think that if our profession were more competitive we’d have more CI teachers. Right now, people don’t want to be foreign language teachers, especially in poor districts where pay is poor, and so teachers can do what they want. It’s like our CI movement is the Little Blue Engine That Could but rather than hauling a few train cars of toys representing all the little girls and boys it’s hauling a freight train of coal representing our dark political disinterest in public education.

        It makes me as sad as thinking about Trump and all the people that support him.

    2. Alisa, you are right about new teachers. I created a facebook group for my area and got 11 members. They are all new teachers. We will be meeting this friday and i will do an owi into a reading.

  2. Alisa said:

    …[they don’t] shift away from all the extraneous ACTFL C’s to the priority of Communication….

    Yes, because the traditional teachers are expert at finding loopholes in the standards. Writing means they get to teach grammar. Culture means they get to teach social studies classes in English. And the 90% position statement on use of the TL in the classroom – they just ignore that one. They bend the standard to fit their ideas of what teaching a language is.

    We had a discussion here years ago about how Communication should not be one of the five olympic rings but a central ring with the other four being around it like satellites. But that isn’t the way it is. And so, as long as Communication is just one of five standards, it isn’t that big a deal in learning a language; learning about French food is of equal importance. It’s a free ticket to doing whatever they like in the classroom and the heck with the research about how it’s all a totally unconscious process.

    1. OOOH! YES! the 5 Cs

      There is an ACTUAL ACTFL GRAPHIC that shows communication clearly as the overarching goal. Sabrina used it in a presetation, then I found it and put it in some document I was ranting about. I will find it.

  3. For those with extra time on their hands, I strongly recommend searching this term:

    communication standard

    in the search bar to the upper right of this page. There are many articles that are fully germane to this discussion. There may be ideas in the articles that have changed somewhat, but the discussion could be fruitful, esp. for new teachers.

  4. If it were all a simple matter of the old guard moving on so that all of the young CI enthusiasts could carry forward, it would be less complicated. I believe that Judy Dubois was one who pointed out that many CI teachers came to their points of view after they discovered the tools of their own experience were inadequate. My position is one in which the young guard have gained the upper hand and expect that grammar and vocab be parceled out in bundles the size of a textbook chapter. There is hope on the horizon. So I am hoping to be able, with help this summer, to hammer our “curriculum” into a CI machine. Possible? I don’t know. But I still have 7 years. It is way too soon to give up hope.

  5. Communication as the overarching goal.

    That is my position, too. I think that Story Listening allows us to use Culture as a a vehicle for Communication. Culture is both a means and a byproduct. Even using stories from outside our target culture are part of that process. They create more fodder for the cultural comparison bit which arises naturally from exposure to the variety of stories.

  6. Alisa Shapiro

    I’ve been purging my classroom cuz I have to move down the hall. You would not believe the amount of culture-related stuff I am un-earthing. But for a few years now, since migrating to T/CI and reading here and elsewhere, I have pretty much wholesale dumped my cultural content. I used to do holidays and celebrations (i.e., Day of the dead, Cinco de Mayo) some famous figures (Cesar Chavez comes to mind) plenty of crafts (incredible arpilleras and alfombras de aserrín) – children’s songs, poems, geography, literature…
    I know now that I can comprehens-ify most of that content if I so choose.
    My point is, back in the (legacy) day, I was teaching all that stuff in thematic units, and it was so vocab heavy. Nearly impossible to deliver in solid L2, and who knows what tiny percentage of kids was comprehending? I didn’t know abt the scaffolding skills to get me there…

    I find that for young beginners, I connect on such an intimate level by using their personal info, details and ideas. After getting to know them and establishing a more solid linguistic foundation, I could choose to ‘teach’ that cultural content, but I rarely do – though maybe some day I will! I find they are much more interested (at least during this early me-centered time) in their own experiences and ideas – and that ‘teaching culture’ will pull them right up and out of their unconscious minds and into the traditional ‘cover the material’ classroom…

    Another reason I feel ok about not explicitly teaching culture is that the Spanish speaking world is enormous and very diverse…and so easily lends itself to stereotyping…hot sauce, donkeys, tropical beaches…
    Instead I adhere to Sauvignon’s famous 1983 quote: “Language is far more than a system to be explained…. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people….”

    1. The best i could think of is to connect story telling to one cultural product. Say you story tell a day of the dead tale then use your cultural stuff after you draw up the story the first time. I did a story tellinh about French political parties and what a French lunch looks like.

  7. I dont think the old guard is doing the best they can if they refuse to grow. One of colleagues has a big binder with all his lesson plans in chronological order. So, its all cookie cutter from the book along with worksheets. He gets by with fulfilling his mandates of assessments and objectives. He is close tonretirwment and will probably never know the light of CI. However, the relationships are important as teachers and professionals. Only then can we actually have a conversation about what we do in the class.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    YEs that guy with the scripted roadmap curriculum and ditto binder is prolly proud that he’s created all that work! We might see it as musty and lifeless, but he may see ti as the aggregation of hours, years of toil. So he’s not available for considering that its obsolete or at best, need to be re-worked. The supervision that’s in place may not know enough about SLA to see the problem with such a canned approach…
    People are afraid of the workload and perception that letting go of the binder means they have to create! All the time!! They don’t consider that we are but conductors, and the kids do the creating a lot of the time! Or that once we ‘teach the kids the game,’ we can do Story listening!!
    Ole Fuddy Duddies are prolly not gonna admit that their career was for nought – unless they are searching or skeptical about their effectiveness…
    BTW it feels so great for me to purge all the relics of my old 5Cs thematic life from my classroom.

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