25 April 2011

Myth #4: The Time Whine

If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say this post is about dismantling myths, go back and read this post.
photo by TonyVC

Only the very young or students who have high aptitude are going to succeed anyway (otherwise known as the 'time whine').

I don't know if you've heard or said this before, but I've heard it primarily as a cause of teachers not working with other teachers, or concerning students who won't elect levels of language beyond the 2 years required to get into most colleges. I call it the 'time whine' because that's where the complaint is rooted: "They can't gain any real level of proficiency in the time I have them, so why try?"

Another way this argument has been presented to me is that the primary responsibility of language teachers is to motivate students to continue past the 2 years required to enter most colleges.

Here's an idea - how about we forget about the time we have them or how smart we think they are and focus on what they should be able to do with the language after whatever time they're with us? Ask @tmsaue1 and his teachers at @JCPSWorldLang - ask anyone who teaches lower levels communicatively and stops teaching language the way only analytic learners can learn it. Ask anyone who focuses on standards and proficiency levels and real-life tasks instead of verb charts and vocabulary drills. We can give our students the tools to do something with the language no matter what amount of time we have them.

I've posted before about my preschoolers - I have them 10-15 minutes per week. Even then they can do something. They rarely ask me if I speak 'normal' anymore. They can answer questions like ¿de qué color? and ¿quién vive aquí? and ¿está triste o feliz? - not always in Spanish, but they can answer.

I went to the Central States conference last month and went to a session by John De Mado about unity within the language department. One of the points he made was that the entire department needs to agree that language is accessible to all students and to teach like they believe that.

How about we teach like we believe that anyone can learn to do something realistically practical in the amount of time we have them?

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