What Should We Say In Job Interviews?

What Should We Say In Job Interviews?
I got this excellent question from a young Denver area teacher – please answer below in the comment section if you have any ideas that might help.
Hi Ben!
A year or so ago, I was doing my student teaching and had heard a lot about TPRS and came to one of your presentations with your students at your school.  So cool!  I bought one of your books and I am reading it currently (PQA in a Wink!).  After my student teaching, I spent my last semester abroad in Brazil learning more Portuguese (I am licensed to teach Spanish, however). 
I am currently working in  a middle school as the Native Language Tutor (supporting ESL students in their core classes), but am applying for jobs as a Spanish teacher in Colorado (Boulder, Jeffco, Adams 12, St. Vrain, Denver, surrounding area). 
When I do get a job, I optimally would love to launch into TPRS teaching, but I wanted your recommendation on what you think for a first year teacher teaching TPRS. I know some schools are for it, some are vehemently against it. Do you have a recommendation for what a good way would be to ease into TPRS teaching methodology so as a first year teacher I can make some kind of transition?  What, in general, should I expect if I talk about it in interviews?  I want to make it accessible to people who might be hiring me, but not have it be threatening to their school’s expectations of a traditional language class. 
Thanks for your input and response, it is truly appreciated!
My response: I don’t know what to say about your question. Some of us just fly our freak flag and others are cautious. If I were you I would be cautious. There are a lot of people with experience in schools who, at the first whisper of the term, get really weird. The term TPRS has just been so misrepresented! So sad, and yet very very true. And it is getting worse as at least nine of ten teachers do the method without a clue of how far what they are doing is from Krashen and Blaine’s original vision. I don’t think that a day goes by that somebody is turned off to the term TPRS, and for no other reason than because somebody in their building is shredding it. Why is that? Who knows? But, pretty soon, within a year possibly, the term won’t mean anything. (I could be way off the mark on this – I hope I am – but all I ever see now is one person doing actual TPRS in their rooms and like fifty doing a truly mangled version of it. How can we blame our colleagues for putting up a red flag when they see this? I would! I know of one case where a teacher claimed to do TPRS but spoke the target language maybe 15% of the time. What are people to think when that happens? So I wouldn’t mention it. I would use the term “comprehension based methods”, or something like that. Tell them you teach for acquisition, that you want to communicate in the target language with your students. Give them a demo right there! Have them fill out a Circling with Balls card and do that (see this site/resources/workshop handouts). Stay in L2 and have fun with them and watch yourself get offered a contract. A few summers ago, I did that with the Adams 14 superintendent (wasn’t applying for a job, he was just curious) and it worked, but then the people working for him crushed it in that district). But show them, don’t just tell them, that you don’t SPEAK ABOUT the language in the classroom; you SPEAK the language. If you know that the department you are wanting to join is open and aware to the new Colorado standards (Dec. ’09), search a little on my blog and look for them and make sure you talk about them in the interview and how “comprehension based teaching” perfectly aligns with the standards. If the principal seems even half conscious of our new standards (some actually are!) then you definitely want to tell her that her department will be aligning more and more with them if you are hired. Feel lucky to be in Colorado, because most people doing comprehension based teaching can only say that they align with the national (ACTFL) standards, because most states are still driving covered wagons on that deal. I will put your question on the blog for the experts, but that is my general feeling on this topic.

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6 thoughts on “What Should We Say In Job Interviews?”

  1. I agree with Ben on the terms you may want to use, instead of an acronym like TPRS. If you breeze through the admin and get the job, the biggest resistance to what you do may come from the students and parents. If they had a traditional teacher preceding you, they will think they learn by sheltered themes and memorizing vocab lists. If that is the case, make them feel they are still getting that. However, just use those themes/units (e.g. things found in the kitchen) as make-up for the real stuff, the high-frequency words that should take priority via stories and reading. That is just my opinion, based on some recent experience.

  2. Yeah and Diana, what Jim says there is why I don’t stop the Thematic Unit CDs and classjump.com lists at East. I know they have no value, none at all, but the fact is that people still think the old way, so I give my level ones those lists, and everybody thinks que je suis un professeur sérieux. Boy, if parents and kids ever got through to the truth about language acquisition, would they be surprised!

  3. And to think that I just told all of the 8th graders who visited the campus this week, “In German there is no State test, no benchmark, and I am philosophically opposed to giving a lot of homework” – but then I am tenured and getting results. Unfortunately, the security of my job is probably dependent on those things in that order rather than the other way around.

  4. I have found that administrators really like it when their potential teachers sound like they know what they are talking about. I use terms like Dr. Stephen Krashen, i+1, and then I explain what that looks like in a classroom. I talk about positive classroom management, the affective filter… . Research by Alfie Kohn. Etc. When what I say is backed up by research, and I am up-to-date on current research, that’s most of the pitch I need. 🙂
    When I talk about my level of fluency, because I studied at university in Chile, well that just makes me look even more qualified.
    When I talk about my positive relationship with students, my ability and willingness to accommodate students with different needs, and my belief that every student can succeed and learn a second language… that seals the deal. The rest of it is up to my personality, the needs of the department, etc. I never mention TPRS, per se., but I spend a lot of time explaining my philosophy and approach, and that stuff sounds good to administrators.
    But please, PLEASE, don’t forget that you are also interviewing them. You will, after all, have to work in this environment for at least a year. Make sure it is an environment that will be conducive to your teaching. Otherwise, it is miserable. In other words, don’t hide your beliefs and philosophy in order to sound good. Sure, pitch it so it sounds inviting, but don’t try to swish it under the carpet. That makes for more difficulty.

  5. Jennifer said:
    “But please, PLEASE, don’t forget that you are also interviewing them.”
    That’s a big point. Why would someone moving towards L2 90% of the time want to work for people who don’t want that, who want to use L2 under 20% of the time?
    If such bosses have drunk the Kool Aid from their book-based teachers, and nothing is happening in that building in the way of aligning with Krashen, then why would someone want to work in that kind of environment?
    My current principal wants change to align with our new CO standards, he understands the deal (this is happening fast across the nation now), and I am confident that I can work towards that end, so we are both facing together in the same direction, even if our entire department is not. I would not want to be at odds with the person I work for about how to teach.

  6. That’s wild. Up here in Canada we also have to be very discreet during job interviews about whether on not we use AIM, depending on the school and school board. Most of the private schools, at least here in Toronto, have adopted it and it is deemed an asset if you have experience and training with AIM. But the Toronto District School Board (public), has vehemently prohibited its teachers from using AIM as a primary resource so you need to do it on-the-sly. An AIM colleague of mine quit her public school job to take a private school position so that she can use AIM freely.
    In contrast, the public school board in Ottawa (our national capital) has adopted AIM 100%. Go figure!

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