Be The Change

I love this comment from Greg. It has a very in-your-face quality to it:

In the USA most people have taken 2-4 years of a language in their lifetime, yet they show little proficiency and interest in other languages.

Unfortunately, with the exception of teachers on this blog and those that actively go to conferences like Edcamp, IFLT, NTPRS, I just encounter a lot of teachers who don’t really care. The admin at schools usually doesn’t know SLA, so teachers just keep with the textbook, the kids who “can’t hack it” drop out, the rich kids make it to AP level, those same AP kids are never fluent in the language and life goes on.

Some teachers try to change the system from within; others speak out against the system. What we all agree on is something is very wrong. The challenge is staying positive when you realize that it’s the system that’s messed up.

Our own classrooms are the only thing we can really change. That’s where the change happens.

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18 thoughts on “Be The Change”

  1. “Kids are never fluent and life goes on.”

    Isn’t that a shame and a waste of time? I suppose it isn’t as bad as that in German schools but still a lot of time is wasted on grammar exercises and other useless stuff. Eg at German high schools in year 5, which is the first year in high school, kids are confronted intellectually with the gerund which none of them can really grasp, but they can go through the motions!

    I watched a video with BVP where he states that the research isn’t trickling down to teacher training and I think this video is from 2013 and to me it seems it’s still going on, I mean this not trickling down. In my experience (most?) teachers are not interested in the research, maybe bc the job is so demanding anyway that they have the feeling they have no energy left to fight the system which is upheld by the ministry of education.

    1. Same with me! I read an article from one of those high-and-mighties who had an A-level end result of 1.5 in all subjects together and he said how good the system in Bavaria was (Parents have to decide after year 4 when their kids are just 10 years old which secondary education their kid shall have – justcrazy!) and that it made kids work hard to accomplish sth and so on , and I thought “of course, if you are happy with your fantastic grades and you believe that intellectual learning is the most important thing.”

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    When I started my Comprehensible Hebrew project I did have native speakers claiming that ‘HEBREW IS DIFFERENT – it’s based on verb roots – we need to teach those – when they (Ss) see them we can break into a discussion of how that same root looks in the active, reflexive, causative, intensive, simple, passive…,show the patterns – memorize them! that way we can got tons of bang out of that one occurrence…’

    I must intentionally watch my tone so as not to seem dismissive or arrogant…

    Finally I said to one T, ‘I’m quoting the 40+ year-old research about the futility of grammar-centered instruction. When you show me your research on the efficacy of grammar-centered instruction, then we can talk…indeed your institution brought me in exactly because the stakeholders are completely dissatisfied with the results of an explicit grammar-centered approach…’

    It has taken months to have some of them see that explicit grammar plus semantic vocab sets/lists is not the way, and still an uphill battle for the high school, who is hoping that I will just go away….

    A complete paradigm shift ain’t easy unless teachers ARE LOOKING for one – unless we practitioners are reflective and dissatisfied with the status quo. Everything must be turned over and questioned: The very mission of the language program -Is it to score high on a legacy exam to make the school or one’s college application look good? Is it to be able to wrestle with ancient /arcane texts? Is it for communicative proficiency/engagement with other L2 speakers & texts?

    Many of us Ts here on Ben’s PLC care so passionately about this, but alas, as Greg pointed out, many others out there do not. They are wowed, wigged out, threatened, annoyed by our enthusiasm around the topic! But it stops there.:{

    I think the CI movement has made great strides to educate many on how human acquire and how they don’t, causing many willing souls to question their practices…and even dump ineffective ‘strategies’ and/or challenge the status quo.

    I cannot believe I am in this ‘unique’ position of challenging the modern Hebrew status quo – it is so fascinating and at times exasperating! But I will continue on my mission – I see it up close and personal and will try my best to inform and re-train…

    1. This is awesome Alisa. Your fire is contagious. I am remembering Krashen’s notes from an SL workshop in which he cites a case study of a Spanish speaking heritage speaker learning Hebrew from his bosses at his work place. He was indeed very welcomed. He was then recorded and many linguists confused him as a native speaker even citing where his regional accent/dialect came from. If you are interested, I will dig up those notes/references.

  3. Yes I plan to go back again later in the month. Private schools are a whole different ball of wax…I thought I’d be in n’ out – everyone is so smart – but old habits are so hard to break! Patterns of teaching and learning are so entrenched. Creative and improvisational interactions are all but absent! Tests rule the day.
    And yet some are interested in what I have to say. Of course, like anywhere, others are anxious that dumping the Legacy Practices means lots of new work, so they stay away…others are trying to tell stories using weather conditions or a list of foods, etc…
    But it’s the trying I’m encouraged by…
    The admin is supportive, the community is intelligent, has a strong and willing work ethic, sense of community, parental support, open mind – it’s all there.
    I have been surprised by the slow uptake, but Hebrew has been ‘taught’ using legacy methods for generations…
    Look out. It’s about to change. I really think that as soon as the word gets out broadly enough, we’ll be able to put some wider trainings together and really gain some serious traction. It has been a fascinating journey – the skill set for this kind of consulting is different than say presenting at the big conferences, or mentoring area teachers, hosting outside observers, etc.
    Many private school Ts aren’t necessarily trained language teachers; don’t necessarily have good enough English to comprehend the research; don’t have oversight/accountability…the list goes on.
    But even with all the challenges, I’m optimistic. I feel the wave coming!

    1. Ten years ago traditional model resistance was very strong. Now they get that the ground is shifting under them. But I don’t think the real change will come until kids trained w CI become language teachers. We can’t blame teachers who excelled at grammar for wanting to do the same. Bless their hearts. It’s like people who sold CDs ten years ago could never find a job in today’s electronics market. But, unlike them, many traditional teachers just go on teaching and using outdated instruction. No blame. We all need jobs. But NOW they can’t dismiss us. Our work over the past ten years has been very thorough and very effective.

      1. My concern though is that many kids that are in CI classes don’t have CI consistently throughout their middle and high school career and…. how do we follow up with them?

        One thing I have been doing pretty consistently is sharing pop-up theory with my students and even quoting Krashen and BVP. Who knows? Maybe some student down the line will be in a Spanish class in college and remember their names.

        I was following the ACTFL conference from Twitter. There was a ton of TPRS/CI stuff going on there. Two of my colleagues in my department went. One is now interested in teaching novels. It’s a first step I guess. Personally I think it’s a more solid foundation when people are first convinced of the research and the theories and then based on that they get into TPRS/CI, rather than just approaching it as another activitiy, but I guess I will take whatever I can get.

        People are also trolling ACTFL on Twitter asking them why they don’t align to SLA research. (Guilty! LOL) Let’s see if they start listening.

        All this talk of authentic resources and IPAs. BVP called these things out on his show- they are not based on any research. As for me, the only IPA I want to do is the beer.

          1. Udo, IPA is “Integrated Performance Assessment” which is an assessment with multiple layers and complicated rubrics. I am not really defining that very specifically, but that is because I felt dizzy when I read the rubrics. But yeah, it’s an assessment!

        1. Greg asked:

          …how do we follow up with [kids who don’t have CI all the way through their secondary school experience]?…

          We don’t need to. The drag of the traditional classes makes them think that they cannot learn a language so they quit. Sorry, but that is pretty much true. Traditional teachers break kids’ spirits, except for the few. End of discussion.

          1. I have a colleague who is willing to go CI with me in our shared grade six but she still is struggling with her love of grammar and she thinks it has helped her a lot, maybe bc she is a 4-percenter (Susan Gross’s term).

        2. Greg you had a few questions:

          How do we follow up with students? I teach middle school and students finish their language requirements in Sophomore year. They take French 3 or Spanish 3 in their freshman year then French 4/AP or Spanish 4/AP. The classes are task/theme based with a big load of grammar and vocab lists. I was asked to volunteer for French Camp and see my former students who may (or may not) be struggling in French 3. I really am just going to chat the whole time making myself comprehensible with my former students.

          I have a small concern that some of them feel that I have not prepared them. However, all I can say is too bad because I am trying to reach all students and allowing them to enjoy the class in case they really want to become fluent. I wonder what is the percentage of CI students who want to continue acquiring the language… I wonder how many want to put up with traditional classes in order to continue on their path to fluency–That’s another discussion.

          “One thing I have been doing pretty consistently is sharing pop-up theory with my students and even quoting Krashen and BVP. Who knows? Maybe some student down the line will be in a Spanish class in college and remember their names.”

          I have started a series of mini-lectures entitled “How to Hack any Language” and it starts with fundamentals. I may even test my 8th graders. I feel like it is important not only to instill the love of the language but also to how students understand the HOW in order to continue. Keep up the awesome growth Greg.

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