Tough Question

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14 thoughts on “Tough Question”

  1. Let the teacher attack. Allow the attack to go right through you. Then go teach another great class. Slowly, this teacher will be seen by many for what she is – a fool in terms of how kids really learn languages.
    And talk to the A+ kids’ parents. Now as far as what to say to them, I defer to my colleagues in this group. How does Keri handle the kid part of this, who is feeling really stupid right about now? What to say to her and her parents? Is there a Primer article for this kind of situation? (Man that teacher must really be old school!)

    1. Keri I have a reverse story about your A+ kid going to high school and failing. A student of mine last year failed the level 1 class and was retained. I have him in a level 1 class of 18 this year. He is positively brilliant. Fun, great cute answers, a real pillar in the CI classroom. It can go both ways. The sad part is that kids in the middle school who fail there because they can’t conjugate verbs will never even try a language in high school and the myth that learning a language is really hard will just go on and on, and all that joy will be missed, has been missed for years and years in our nation, and those kids will think themselves incapable, but really it is the teachers who are incapable.

  2. I have this issue, too, of running a program that the other language teachers think is too easy. Exactly like you, it’s because I don’t give them tests that they will fail. Go figure. I don’t really know how to react to this. It’s a big chess match, and I don’t want to make the wrong move. Maybe one day we’ll figure out how to deal with this issue, but for now I just keep my door shut and let my huge number of happy students speak for itself. I assume I can get away with this because the administration likes me.
    The teachers who say our classes are easy, by the way, are speaking from a place of weakness: either they’re numbers are falling or they have a lot of students who talk about how much they love us or how much they would rather be in our class. The other teachers are being very defensive in calling our classes “too easy.” That’s why we have to be careful how we react. We don’t want to rush up to a terrified animal.

  3. Also we have many times here over the years agreed that it is not insane to teach some grammar perhaps at the end of the year (April and May) to protect our jobs. If there are enough fools walking around up and down the articulation path in that school district they can put your job into jeopardy. There is nothing worse than a fool than a group of fools. They haven’t yet had the Humpty Dumpty experience because right now there is only you in the school). If no one has yet smelled this teacher’s stink (except the kids – google terms like “mean French teachers”) then you probably do need to teach some grammar in the spring or even for one week every month or two throughout the year. That will be enough. They will get the lessons fast. And you will be protecting your job because you will be properly doing your job of “preparing the kids for high school”. Plus, in the spring, everyone gets bored of the same old same old. Another advantage Keri is that when the kids start howling over the grammar uselessness you will be alerting lots of kids/parents to the grammar stink. The worst thing to do is fight back. I’ve finally learned that. Let this teacher have her day. It’s about over anyway.

  4. Thank you for the replies. This makes me feel better. I am, however, extremely lucky to be supported by both my assistant principals. In fact, one of them has a wife that happens to be a Spanish teacher in another district. After he observed my classes last year, he actually told me that he wants his wife to come and observe my class because he loves how it is run. Also, the word has been going around the school that the kids love my class and, more importantly, THEY LEARN… and just the other day an English teacher came to observe me because of what she’s heard from other students. She had no prior Spanish experience and left the class that day being able to write an entire paragraph in Spanish. She loved the class and wants to try to implement some of what I do into her lessons as well!! So, the point is that luckily I’ve been observed and people at least know first hand that I actually do “teach” and students actually do “learn”. But, yes, unfortunately everyone in my department kind of stays away from me when it comes to talking about curriculum, methods of teaching, etc because they don’t understand and, frankly, I don’t think they want to.
    So, if anyone has any answers as to should I or should I not grade grammar, I would love to hear!!!!
    Thank you!!

  5. Ok. I won’t. And this will make you laugh…do you know what her biggest concern is?? It’s that when she tells the poor student “Write me a sentence in the preterit or past perfect tense”, the student doesn’t know what that means!!!

  6. That’s insane. This happens so often though. They know how to use it, how to understand it, how to read it in those tenses (unlike the stinky teacher’s students) but since she doesn’t know what the grammar terms mean, she’s all of a sudden stupid. That’s really stinky!

    1. You have admin support and you’re letting people observe the magic. Excellent!
      So our kids can’t do the grammar work as well. What they can do is communicate so much more. The problem is how the kids are being assessed. And the problem is that TCI/Natural Approach is the polar opposite of the synthetic (put the pieces together) approach. It’s NOT possible to align our approaches and programs, unless there are serious compromises.
      Is our job, our goal, to prepare kids for the next year’s teacher or is it to develop basic communication skills? Unfortunately, in your case, these are 2 different things. Goals SHOULD be phrased in terms of what we expect kids can do (comprehend & produce) at the end of a level. It would really help if your department agreed on some language-based goals, in which you push for a focus on proficiency and fluency. Then, everyone can teach how they want, but your kids will do much better on those assessments.
      Right now, it sounds like your teachers define communication as being able to use that unit’s grammar. Communication is about exchange of messages, not grammatical forms.
      There are teachers who just are not going to change. And our success is often not going to facilitate change in these teachers. So try to change the goals and assessments and you’ll get a lot of room to teach the what and how you want.

    2. I have found success in getting buy-in from my department head by explaining how I am setting them up for later grammar instruction. By exposing them to comprehensible in the past tense in my class, they are set up later for her to drill them on preterit vs. imperfect because it’s not the first time they’re seeing it. They have contrasted preterit & imperfect endings in the context of many texts since day 1 of my class, so when they get to the next level, they are putting the pieces together. Just like they have to in their native English classes. This, she understands and accepts, and she is impressed that my students are retaining “fue” and “estaba” eight months after they had my class.
      Now, in a perfect world, would my students go on to another CI teacher? Absolutely. But the second-best thing I’ve found is to do what you do in the classroom (CI!) and explain the grammar to your colleagues. My students don’t have to know the difference between indicative and subjunctive moods to correctly translate “quería que fuera al supermercado” correctly. But it impresses the hell out of other teachers.

  7. Same situation here and I don’t worry about it…although the grammar teacher is very nice and never, ever complains that I haven’t taught grammar methodically.
    I figure that the knife cuts both ways–when my 1st year students go to her, they can’t make conjugation charts for all the tenses and moods, but when her students come to me, they can’t figure out big chunks of language–either written or spoken. It’s true–there really isn’t a reconciliation possible. I make sure my students know WHY I teach this way–that meta-part!

  8. Thank you again for all the comments. I’m not going to worry about it either. I know that I am the one that is truly teaching them to actually speak the language and just because they can’t conjugate verbs doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate.
    On the flip side, this year I have a couple students in my level I class who have already failed the same class with another teacher. This year they have A+’s so far and are actually using the language and enjoying themselves.

    1. Turning the kids around is a great testimony to the power of what you are doing. And yes, conjugating is not communicating, but it is a great way to whittle down the numbers of our classes. Have you noted differences between the kids you have last year and the kids you did not have last year?

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