Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Confession Time…(Or Don’t Think You’re The Only Teacher Who…)


We were in the middle of a #langchat last week and I found myself responding to a colleague:confession

Sometimes Twitter is not the easiest place to learn from others. When you are limited to 140 characters there’s a tendancy to be so to the point that subtleties and ‘explanations’ are lost. So I wanted to reach out to all of those teachers out there who think that they are the only one on #langchat NOT doing/being/teaching like some of the more awesome members of our PLN.

Don’t think you’re that you’re the only teacher who…

Still gives ‘vocabulary quizzes’: I do. I want them to know vocabulary to interact with their peers. BUT I am trying to vary it up. Sometimes I do pop-quizzes that are like the kind that Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell espouses. Quizzes that are designed to see what resonates, what is sticking, with a student. I don’t ‘mark’ them for points – but I do to assist a student to see what they have and where they are ‘lacking’. I’ve taken a vow to take two vocabulary quizzes a unit and turn them from ‘written’ to ‘listen’. I want them to be able to recognize as much as produce – and matching what they hear to a picture is a good way to know if they know it.

Doesn’t do 90% TL all the time: I don’t. What the 90% discussion has done is make me more aware of what language I am communicating in and how much I am doing it. I am finding that, as I move towards more ‘comprehensible input’ in what my students get I am able to stay more in the target language. The unit slide shows I am making for each unit are also a way to allow more target language use – as we use, and reuse language to discuss the pictures. But I still use English – perhaps more than other colleagues do. What I have with this target is the realization that 90% is possible – and the goal of that down the road.

Doesn’t use Authentic Resources for everything: I don’t. I have issues with authentic resources in my Asian language classroom – mostly due to the composition of my student group and a concern for equality of access. But I am working to use more and more ‘authentic based’ documents in my classes.This past week I chose to use an authentic resource for a unit project. It required a lot of ‘character support’ for my non-Chinese character readers. Afterwards we debriefed what it felt like to use the piece. I was thrilled to hear the strategies that they employed to attack the reading – and know that the judicious use of authentic documents will continue.

Still uses a textbook and/or a workbook: I do. I used to do a textbook/workbook ‘march through the chapters’ type of course. It was a real help when I started teaching to figure out what/how to teach (I’m usually a department of 1 as a Japanese teacher). It was great – until it wasn’t. These days I still use my old textbook units – but use the textbook readings (they are adapted for limited character use) if they work (and increasingly I am writing my own stories instead). I also continue to use some workbook exercises to reinforce learning – even (gasp) as assigned homework. But my use of the workbook is much more controlled and specific – and way less ‘I’ll use it because it’s there’.  As for what units I teach, I see that some units I did ‘because they were in the book’ no longer work and I’m dumping them…..but some do and I will continue to use them!

Assigns Homework: I do. I don’t do it everyday and I’ve found that, since I stopped handing out a workbook I am not inclined to assign something just because they have a workbook in hand. I have also moved to more ‘show me what you know’ homework, more reading comprehension and no more ‘translation’. Homework for me is more purposeful, more ‘real’. For example when we were working on ‘opinions’ this year my students had to construct “3 Truths and 1 Lie” about themselves as homework – and used them in class to see if others could guess correctly. Homework for me is now more about setting up an activity for the next day rather than trying to ‘reinforce’ learning at home.

Hasn’t totally 180-ed their teaching: I haven’t. I realized that, for me, a total 180 for every class I’m teaching would quickly lead to burn-out not to mention a breakdown of my marriage due to neglect! So I try to allow myself to move slowly, and forgive myself for doing so. What I like is that I am not satisfied with how certain things go – it makes me realize that I am moving. And, like a glacier’s slow pace, I might not notice it at first but I will over time – and so will my students.

Is not like “those” teachers on Twitter: I’m not. I am trying, I am pushing forward but sometimes I feel so inadequate compared to the amazing people I share and learn from in the #langchat PLN.

Whew – they say that confession is good for the soul. It is. I hope that you, if you sometimes feel like me, will allow yourself to be content with where you are now. And if,  like me, you are changing up the when/where/why of how you do things in your classroom – you give yourself permission to move at a pace that works for you…and realize that you don’t have to get to where you want to be tomorrow.





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  1. WOW! I feel like I could have read this! While I have gotten pretty close to 90% TL in Spanish 3 pre-AP, I’m no where near it in Spanish 2. But, like you, I’m so much more aware of how much English I use, and I therefore constantly remind myself that they can handle more TL. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Sorry, I meant I feel like I could have written this:) Always pays to proof-read!

  3. Thanks so much for this! So reassuring to hear that I’m not the only teacher struggling with how to move towards a CI, 90% TL, authentic learning experience. We’ll all get there, sooner or later, in our own ways. I appreciate the resources you post as well! You are one of “those teachers” in my book 🙂

  4. Oh, Colleen, thank you. Your words have helped me so very much tonight.

  5. Wow, thank you for sharing this! It’s very encouraging to know I’m not a failure as a teacher for still using some of the “old ways.” After attending TPRS and other workshops, I leave determined to go straight into 90%. But the reality is that it will take me some time to get there, but I know we’re making progress by setting realistic goals. I also give vocab quizzes and some translation assignments. Still looking for other assessment ideas. It’s nice to hear stories of how no one started where they are, and we’ve all had to fail before getting better. Thanks for sharing!

  6. THANK YOU. Oh, thank you for writing this. Lately I’ve been feeling down on myself because I’m still doing some of those “bad” things that “those” teachers decry each week on #langchat. There are days when the path seems so long and the task of accomplishing CI and #authres and context and real world application just seems really impossible. I know I’ll get there someday, but the process is slooooooow.

  7. Thanks Megan – as I tell my students – there are multiple ways to success and so I must believe there are multiple ways to help students learn. Wrote this one mostly for me so that I could remind myself that we are ALL on a journey and we ALL struggle and try to keep ourselves up to date and relevant. Slow and steady will win this race! Colleen

  8. I’m reading this in 2016, and it still resonates with me! It’s prompting me to do a confessions post soon. We all want to be the “perfect” CI teacher—at least I do, but that’s not realistic because perfection can be seen as the enemy of progress (Churchill). I have recently joined the #langchat PLN and am learning so much from my interactions with my peers. Posts like this help me to reflect what is really important and how I am positively making an impact in my field (albeit at times at a snails pace).

  9. Thanks Arelle – Its knowing that we (a) might not get there and (b) that’s okay if we don’t that is comforting as we strive to improve what we do. We are making an impact with each thing we try to implement. Sometimes I think we need to give ourselves a pat on the back – and a break – for what we are doing and not what we aren’t!

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