We Are So Looked At!

We are so looked at! All those administrators, instructional coaches, etc. who have nothing better to do than look at us, weigh us, judge us, make us accountable, make us nervous, give us too many tasks, far too many to allow us to do what we went into the profession for, to do the best job we can teaching kids a language, and ultimately to uncover a great joy of life – sharing and tasting and discovering a language and culture with others for the great benefit of all concerned. Do not we have licences? If they permit those who have earned a license to practice medicine or law to operate without constant oversight, then why not show us the same respect? We have really worked hard to come to the understandings that we have in our field. We know so much about teaching, and yet we have to fear some parents’ wrath for not teaching their kids as they think they should be taught? We have to fear being evaluated by, in my case for the past two years, a person who has no idea about best practices and current research in language instruction and who has never even taught a high school class! This outburst was prompted by an email I got today from a colleague whose brand new interest in bringing comprehension based methods into his classroom is already being met with heat from a set of parents. What is the proper response? How can we learn new things about teaching languages when people step in and suggest that we teach like they did fifty years ago? What is prompting these parents to speak in that way to him? Oh well. I’ll get over it.



5 thoughts on “We Are So Looked At!”

  1. It is a touchy subject. Many parents think their kids should learn a language in the same way they learned, regardless of what that method was or whether it will work for their kid. If the parents are communicating directly with the teacher, I would suggest that that teacher point them to some basic summaries of the research, as well as the ACTFL/district standards. If these are aligned in that particular school, (and if the parents won’t hear the research) then the teacher can simply say: “I understand your complaint, and I wish I could help you, but my hands are tied. I will lose my job if I depart from this methodology.”

    1. But, dear John, in many schools the teacher risks losing his job precisely because of using a comprehensive-input approach, not because of departing from it. Perhaps a better reply would be “I would deserve to to lose my job if I departed from from this approach to teaching a language.”

      1. I repeat my above last sentence, adding an important inadvertently omitted word: Perhaps a better reply for such a situation is “I would deserve to LOSE my job if I departed from this approach to teaching a language.”

  2. At our open house last night, I had many parents talk about how they learned and how the conjugating was so hard. I basically told them that we’re trying to get away from that and explained ow I will be doing things and most of them seemed receptive and liked the idea. We’ll see if that changes after the kids aren’t coming home speaking little phrases in a few weeks, I’m sure that’s what the parents are hoping for. They want to be able to take their kids to Mexican restaurants and watch conversations unfold between their child and the servers

  3. I’ve been off the blog awhile trying to get adjusted to a new year at school. I am wondering if a response to parents asking how they taught their child English is not an appropriate response. I remember Krashen saying to listen, listen, listen to the language and then try to sustain 15 minutes of reading at home in a language unfamiliar to you so that you can hear in your head the sounds that your ears caught.
    I have faith that parents when given the opportunity to understand brain development from their experience as teachers of their child’s first language will go–Oh yeah–duh! Then they will be able to ask what they can do to help at home (like watch TV in Spanish or buy some CDs from the target language famous singers to play in the car).
    We have to see the best in parents and help educate them that children at any age learn language best by listening and build confidence towards speaking and reading. We have to congratulate them in their success as the child’s first language teacher and solicit their help in providing this wonderful opportunity to be a team teacher in their child’s second language acquistion and then remind them how long it took their child to acquire fluency in that first language.
    Parents are often dumbfounded when I give them the brain research on how our minds develop. They weren’t taught that when they were in school because the information wasn’t there. Now that we have it, we can help them be our advocates for doing things a different but more effective way.

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