Sally Brownfield

I am behind on keeping up with all the bios that are still outstanding. I’ll get to it. In the meantime, we have a cool bio to read from Sally, whose background spans the globe! Great job on the Ohio thing by the way, everybody. I will unsticky that post.

Hi Ben,

This is Sally Brownfield, and I work at Foss High School in Tacoma, Washington.  They wanted to close our school last year, but decided not to after a big community outcry against it.  We have a new administration and the whole school, as well as the district, is being scrutinized closely. You may have heard in September that we had a big strike (for eight days) during our contract negotiations.
 
I use TPRS to enhance my teaching but I am not a 100%er.  I use the questionnaire from Anne and bring in the various answers the students have put on there and circle when it fits into my curriculum.  I am using Carol Gaab’s book and also thematic-based units as per my school. 

TPRS works better for me with average and above average students.  I have four classes of freshman this year in a school with a 67% poverty rate.  I also have one IB class (in theory levels 4 & 5).  There is one other French teacher at my school who does not use TPRS.  I circle with all my classes, but cooperation and buy-in are especially hard in one of my classes – this is a class where many of the students are just not into school or language and have issues. 

The challenge is to really stay in the target language with them and have it be “real” TPRS.  Sometimes it’s just necessary to use English.  I also feel my system to keep kids in French has been weakened because of my school’s insistence to switch to a “standards-based grading” which kind of makes a “paye-moi” system not “legal” and I haven’t fully figured out a replacement.  Just being assertive isn’t quite enough to keep them in the language 100%.
 
I get great ideas from the blog and am often inspired. I constantly try to improve moving closer and closer to a “pure” TPRS class with greater CI in the target language.
 
Well, I guess this is almost a biography so I guess I should summarize my background.  I first started teaching in the Peace Corps quite a while back.  I taught English as a Second Language in a Moroccan high school.  When I think back, it’s amazing how much the method we used there resembled TPRS.  We were trained by the Brits with a book called FIRST THINGS FIRST (Longman) and we taught English by asking questions (related to the text, but often personalized to the students) in a very structured way.  We also presented vocabulary in advance (like “backward planning”) and then presented texts.  All work was done orally first, before we ever showed them the written word.  Also, we all knew that we were eventually preparing them for the bac.  In Morocco at the time, students would have had three years of English by the time they took their test.  I always stayed in the target language (English). It was so easy to do there because the students assumed I didn’t know Arabic (even though Peace Corps trained us in a crash immersion program) and I didn’t let on I knew French.  Most importantly, they all really wanted to learn English and thought English was really cool. (Not sure if that is still true in Morocco).
 
Anyway, I loved teaching there and later worked one year in Algeria, returned to the U.S. to do a masters in linguistics and be an ESL TA, then worked in an ESL program in Arkansas, spent 7 years teaching English for Special Purposes (with a technical bent) at Kuwait University, and finally returned to the U.S., taught in a program especially for Japanese students, and finally, was shocked into reality upon getting a job teaching French in the public schools in the U.S.  I have been teaching in Tacoma Public Schools ever since.
 
On a personal note, I have a multicultural family. My husband was born in Algeria and we have two kids – my son is already graduated from college and is a jazz musician and my daughter is in her first year of college.
 
Hopefully this qualifies as a bio.  Take care and hope you have a great 2012!
 
Sally

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