I was just watching The Office and Phyllis said, “We all have the right to be with somebody who wants to be with us.” I love that. Applied to our classroom, it puts into perspective the incredible weeding out of students over the past decades by teachers who tell kids, at each successive level of study, that they have the right to not be with those kids, telling them that said students do not have the ability to learn a language beyond a certain point determined by them. Those teachers think that it is their right to tell those kids that. It ends up pretty white. White lies, we could call them.
The only problem with that, of course, is that those teachers are lying. They are lying to taxpayers and to parents and students, and most principals have been, until recently, hoodwinked about this. If principals and curriculum superintendents knew that millions of kids over the past decades have been lied to about what they are capable of in languages, heads would roll. Why lie to kids about what they are capable of?
The answer is that those teachers lie to protect their own pedagogical agendas. They want everything all nice and white and academic. They want to perpetuate the myth that languages are hard to learn.
But languages are not hard to learn, not with what we are finding out now. And they are not all nice and white and academic. In fact, if teachers are in public education, they categorically DO NOT have the right to exclude kids because they don’t measure up to some soon-to-be-outdated standards that have infected level 3, 4 and 5 language education for too long now.
The right to exclude kids from learning because of some “academic loophole” is a despicable distortion of the sacred trust that all teachers hold to. Teachers who break the trust don’t really give much thought to the fact that, with each passing year, they leave a trail of wrecked self-esteems in their wake.
Now, as those teachers retire or implode under the full weight of their sheer incompetence, wonder of wonders, we are finding out that kids, all kids, all people, regardless of how much their parents make or what part of town they live in, can learn a language. It just depends on how it’s presented.
[Note: I don’t think for one moment that the teachers described above lie consciously. Of course they don’t! But can we stop thinking about the teachers’ egos for just one minute and rather concentrate on the kids’ egos here? The Zen part of all of this is that great damage and mental suffering has been done and things needs to change. My purpose is not to insult my colleagues, or myself, such as I was for 24 years, for that matter – my purpose is to simply shine a light on Krashen’s work and what I have come to see is possible in a foreign language classroom, mainly thanks to Susan Gross. It is so easy to take things personally, especially in our profession where we invest so much into proving that we are good people by being teachers. And all that is fine. We are all learning. But, having seen what I have seen these past nine years, all I want to do is get some mojo going on this tsunami that, if you haven’t been down to the beach lately, is, by now, just over our heads and not slowing down.]
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could