Colleagues who are full of pride about their ability to teach in a way that we know is outdated, from another time, which favors the few, can be dangerous to us. They can even threaten us. Of course, such posturing and judging is always done out of sheer ignorance. If these relics from the past really put their minds to understanding how people actually acquire languages vs. what they think in their petty little grammar and output based worlds, they would shift quickly away from what they are currently doing, and hang their heads a bit in embarrassment while doing it.

This email is from a group member. It dramatizes my point above:

A colleague at the high school who has expressed to me his concern about what I am doing in the middle school recently said to me: “I was willing to give you a year before I started telling you what I would like to see.” You have a responsibility to send to us at the high school kids who can succeed in second year language.”

I told him that my responsibility is to my students and to our professional organization and that the students are already exceeding district expectation on the ACTFL standards (Novice High by the end of grade eight).

I told him that we obviously have a very different understanding of the standards and what they expect in terms of output accuracy and volume after one year of class.  (NH is LISTING.)  I read aloud to him some of my kids’ free writes from Monday morning.  He had not too much to say about them.

He said, “I think we need to sit down with our administrators since you are totally unwilling to focus on writing and speaking.”

I told him that I would never counsel that any member-to-member conflict go to admin but through the union, if it comes to the need for mediation.  I told him that writing and speaking are part of my program, in their proper place.

He said, “We have a limited amount of time to get them ready for the IB test and if we do not expect writing accuracy in the first years they will have nothing to build on.”

I told him that language acquisition is not a stepwise process, that it is exponential and takes off after months and months of input, after about March of year two.

At the end, he said it is unfortunate that I will not bend to his needs.

I told him that he can give up expecting me to change my program but that he will get students who are going to blow his mind and who love the language.







6 thoughts on “Colleagues”

  1. A group member wrote: He said, “We have a limited amount of time to get them ready for the IB test and if we do not expect writing accuracy in the first years they will have nothing to build on.”

    That is the core of this problem and disagreement. The colleague at the high school is concerned overwhelmingly, if not solely, with preparing students to pass a standardized test and not with helping students acquire the language.

    Without knowing the full situation, I cannot blame the high school teacher very strongly. He has probably received a mandate from his administrators to get a high pass rate for the IB test because it will make the school look good. Once again, our society opts for appearance over substance – we have to “make the school look good” rather than focusing on students and their needs. Students are encouraged to view learning in terms of passing a test rather than learning for its own sake. Once again, students are punished by rewards. (Thank you, Alfie Kohn)

  2. The thingy is that most of the IB test is CI friendly. There is something like a Free Write. There are “text-handling” exercises (like multiple choice questions) assessment comprehension of a reading passage. There’s a teacher-student interview and another oral interactive task that could be a discussion or debate that happens in the classroom.

    If a conversation needed to be had with this mud slinger then basing it on the IB exam could work in the CI teacher’s favor.

    1. Thanks, Sean. I do not work in an IB school, so I am not very familiar with its format or content. I agree with using the test to support our position whenever possible; we just need to be careful that we do not thereby unconsciously endorse part of the exam that are not CI friendly.

  3. He said, “We have a limited amount of time to get them ready for the IB test and if we do not expect writing accuracy in the first years they will have nothing to build on.”

    Is this focus on writing accuracy part of the rubric for IB, or is that in the mind of the colleague?
    The current focus with regard to accuracy is based on making oneself comprehensible. Verb accuracy in three time frames is Advanced Mid sublevel.

    Here are three relevant principles from John De Mado (from his website):

    “Language moves from ‘non-standard’ toward ‘standard’, with or without instructional intervention.
    Linguistic accuracy is a destination, not a point of departure.
    The conventions (rules) of a given language must not impede the invention of that language.”

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