I wanted to add this comment from Robert to the “When Attacked” category. Below he gives practical ideas to younger colleagues for responding with facts to attacking colleagues. These points were posted here by Robert a few years ago but this seems like a good time to review them. New teachers need to know that just because a colleague may have been teaching longer it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing:
Here are a couple of ideas that may help as you prepare for the expected ambush.
If you think that your colleagues are perhaps a bit shaky on English grammar, you might try giving them a “modest grammar quiz”. Unfortunately, these are all probably so entrenched in grammar and grammar terminology that they will have no trouble with it – but have a look anyway.
Counter their college professor with the US Department of State. (I hope they will acknowledge in advance that the DoS represents the opinions of more than one expert The Department of State overseas American schools abroad and sets down criteria for them. On the State Department’s website, they discuss academic rigor and relevance, and even quote Alfie Kohn to warn that too much of what is called “rigorous” is simply onerous. According to the Department of State, the four elements of Rigor are
1. Sustained Focus
2. Depth and Integrity of Inquiry
3. Suspension of premature conclusions
4. Constant testing of hypotheses
How, then, is a TCI/TPRS class rigorous?
1. Students are required to sustain focus during class discussion and story creation, usually without the aid of distractors like worksheets, pens, pencils, etc. (Observe your professional meeting and note how often your colleagues are off task in the meeting; they can’t sustain focus either.)
2. Because the course is student centered, you stay on a topic/theme/subject for as long as students want to explore it rather than moving on to “cover” a certain amount of material.
3. Students use deductive reasoning to come to conclusions about how the language works, but they are encouraged to listen to and read copious amounts of language before beginning to (consciously) draw conclusion. It is precisely here that the traditional Grammar-Translation course is NOT rigorous because students are given the conclusions (i.e. rules of grammar) at the outset and merely asked to reproduce specific instances of those rules, often mechanically.
4. Students constantly test their hypotheses about how the language works by answer questions and creating their own sentences. The teacher’s response either confirms the hypothesis or provides more information about the language so that students can test their revised hypothesis. (In other words, when a student produces a grammatically wrong sentence with correct content, you repeat the sentence back with correct grammar so that the student is able to note the difference between the two. How’s that for an idealistic sounding scenario – but at the unconscious level it is actually happening if students are sustaining focus, investigating with integrity, and not drawing premature conclusions.)
Here’s the Department of State webpage with the relevant information:
The list of contributors to the document:
http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/45729.htm – certainly more experience than one professor will bring
As far as assessments are concerned, do not do as your big assessment something that you haven’t done before. Students need to spend time and effort on the task, not on figuring out the format. If you have had students find key sentences in a story and have had them draw pictures to illustrate understanding, you can do a final exam in which they choose a certain number of Essential Sentences from the story and copy them down (exactly as they appear in the story). Then they draw a picture that illustrates every facet of the sentence they have chosen to show that they understand it. This should be done with a story that the class has already worked through. I have done it with a chapter book reader and had it work well.