Report from the Field – Steven Ordiano

Hi Ben,

I wanted to give a report about how yesterday’s Open House went. Overall, it was a time to show off my French 1s freewrites with some supportive parents. However, harsh opinions were not too far away. I had a one particular parent who was adamant about me having to teach students skills like greetings as well as having them write list of vocabulary words. This parent went so far as to say that she has been talking to other parents and saying that the majority of the students want “something like this.” While this knocked me down some, I kept my cool and blew them off by saying “yeah, I’ll add something.” Later however, I just showered other students with praise about their 20 minute freewrites and how these students are already demonstrating 2nd even 3/4th year writing skills. This makes it so worth it. My question to the PLC is: “How do you deal with disgruntled parents about their expectations of how you should teach your class?”

While the hurt is gone, I know that I must be prepared next time. My reaction is to give love to students with even more CI.



9 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Steven Ordiano”

  1. My first reaction is to ask them what they do for a living and then ask them if I can watch them do their job and then go and do it and then give them some tips.

    They are fools. Greetings are hard to learn. They can be taught over a two year period within story dialogues. Only then will they stick. Memorizing them doesn’t work. Asking a kid in front of the class raises their affective filters. It’s a mess.

    That said, they can’t be blamed for their ignorance because it was how they were taught. They can be blamed for questioning your professional knowledge.

    To throw them a bone, the only way I have found that works is Sabrina’s. I recommend it. I will post it as an article here.

  2. This parent kinda sounds like an adolescent. “I’ve talked to other parents and the majority of them want something like this.” Argh.

    I’d assume that what you’re doing is just very foreign to them and their student(s) feel like they are good memorizers so they want to show their skills on a memorization test.

    Yeah, I would throw them a bone but also message to the kids, probably daily, that acquisition doesn’t come with short term memorization but from long term input exposure.

  3. Coming from a Progressive Education school district, I’d say that parent education is key. Setting up expectations on go-to-school-night or parent night (do you have that?) can make a big diff. So at that point you could do your shpiel on CI, and then add that your class will likely look different from when mom & dad were in HS…You are incorporating the latest research, etc.
    Then go straight to a mini demo, and try to get a parent or 2 to be in the demo. I did this and got a new level of recognition -cuz they finally got a better idea of what happens in class. I’m glad to share my Go to school Night presentation w/you. (email me – it has like 8 slides). I did a modified version of Susie Gross’s cat and dog story (which has a moral -‘ it’s good to know another language’).
    I also did a lil parent talk and demo (total 10 min) at my Hebrew job on opening day, which set a new and optimistic tone. Whether parents “buy in” or not, it still sends the message that A) you are in charge and you have a plan; and B). you are following the research. I wonder if any of the greetings appear on the Davies hi freq list, or, if not the actual greetings, then some other sort of semantic set (Waring & Nation’s work) that is super low freq. that lil sound bite might get well intentioned but clueless parents to back off…, as in, “I use greetings and other familiar language regularly, but I don’t teach them in list form,nor do I demand they reproduce them to me at first, as the research shows they’er not retained that way…” or something like that…

    1. Alisa you wrote, “Then go straight to a mini demo, and try to get a parent or 2 to be in the demo.”

      What would be the most logical way to do this if 1) My back to school/Open house days are usually a 2-3 hour open range in which students and parents just drop in. 2) There is no set schedule 3) I also teach Heritage Speaker Spanish — so those parents/students need to be noticed as well.

      Maybe a solution would be a pamphlet?

      1. I would wait and chat with individual parents as they came in, explaining my approach, and yes handing them a pamphlet. There are some good sources for a pamphlet, as you know, in the Primers hard link at the top of this page. Many of the best articles are by Robert and Nathaniel, so look there first.

        Then, every fifteen minutes or so, demo a Questioning with Balls scene. Just ask those in the room if they would mind waiting a few minutes for the next “Instructional Demo”. It really makes the time go by quickly and cuts like a knife through the fear that we have and that they have (because their memories of language class are so bad). It is because laughter brings people together.

        Last year at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, I had the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the school surfing in a bath tub, arms flailing, amidst plenty of laughter. I kept building the image and then, when the end of the (10′) period happened (way too quickly!) all I had to say was, “That’s what we do!”

      2. Steven,

        Sounds like you handled things well. Experience is the best teacher!

        Say…..I might have some paid professional days coming my way….I’m wondering….
        Would you be ok if I visited your classroom? I know that it’s late in the year… ugh!

        Ok to e-mail me at:

  4. The greetings lesson. How many ways can we greet other people in another language? More than they will remember.

    Question: Who knows “What’s up?” from the book introductory lesson of Spanish 1?
    Answer: Those whose teacher used it with them every day.

    They will remember the greetings we use with them. I like to use the formal greetings so that they learn to properly greet their teacher.

    Key: we do not need to “teach” greetings. We make it a habit to greet each other in the language…at the door (individually), and in front of the class. We can also go a step further and say “See you tomorrow. Have a nice day/weekend.”

    1. Yes. Truly important point Nathaniel. The parent wanted isolated skills taught in an explicit manner. What’s lame is that this affects the student’s mindset in class as well. I started to notice that the student started to repeat words to herself “to practice” them.

  5. Greetings?
    That is a wonderful way to turn our students into Novice Lows.

    Vocabulary lists?
    That is a wonderful way to turn our students into Novice Mids…and keep them there.

    Last summer at a workshop, Thomas Sauer asked, Why do we work to get students to Intermediate level and then give them novice level language in the form of vocabulary lists? If we get them above novice we are doing them a disservice by reverting back to novice level lists with every lesson.

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