Advocating for Change

Advocating for Change

Excerpted from Foundations:  A Natural Approach to the (Transition) Year
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My sincere hope is that professional language educators across the nation will begin to feel emboldened and compelled to educate their administrators, communities, and districts about best practices in world language education.  In many programs, the students themselves see the results of a proficiency-based approach and begin advocating for change in their later language courses, where they see less-effective and less-engaging teaching methods being used.  It is my hope as well that teachers will begin harnessing the power of their students and their parents to advocate shoulder-to-shoulder with them in pressuring the districts and states to rewrite their documents to support and even encourage a completely proficiency-based approach.

This is a fight worth investing time, toil, and energy into.  It is a question of aligning our practices with the research on language acquisition. It is also a question of equity.  Many students, especially our most academically-vulnerable students, do not find success with traditional grammar-based approaches.  Who can blame them?  Filling out a worksheet to learn to manipulate a certain grammar rule is not inherently motivating to many people.  Several districts that have made the switch to proficiency-based instruction have found that students from historically-underserved backgrounds have begun making higher grades and are continuing on to higher levels of language study than they were with traditional grammar approaches. 

Until we change our district or state requirements, many teachers who are joining the growing ranks of proficiency-based instructors will need to pursue dual goals in their classroom - fostering language acquisition through devoting as much time as possible to exchanges of comprehensible messages at the students’ level while also preparing their students to succeed on grammar-based district assessments and align with their traditional colleagues.

We are in the midst of a historic time period in world language education.  Interest in proficiency-based teaching is at an all-time high, and .  There is currently a proliferation of ideas on using more of our languages in the classroom.  Even the most staunch traditionalists are becoming aware that they need to incorporate more language interaction in their instruction.

We teachers who already have made the commitment to providing our students with the ingredient for language acquisition - the actual language itself - are in the first wave of change.  This is a privileged position.  We owe it to tomorrow’s teachers, and especially to their future students, to advocate for, and strongly, a more equitable, joyful, heart-centered, and effective approach to equipping our youngsters for global human communication.  We have been given a gift.  It is the gift of awareness, of vision, of inspiration.  As John Dewey himself has said, “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

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