What do teachers have to do (or not do)?

This thread fascinates me (a thread on a Latin listserv). I think back on my 20 years of keeping both a Latin and a Russian program going when all the Russian and most of the Latin programs went away. I even lost Russian for 4 years but brought it back.

Since I was also teaching Spanish all that time, it is obvious that I am not dedicated to one language. What I am dedicated to is providing students with some diversity in languages, even if they are all Indo-European.

To offer something, you have to convince people in a position to influence and make decisions. As Karen says, you don’t miss your water until the well runs dry. While I see nothing in the posts I’ve read so far to object to – the need to do what is required to keep programs going, the need to cultivate parents, administrators, students, colleagues…. I don’t want to leave out the teacher’s personality; it doesn’t necessarily have to be sparkling, but he should have one.

Some people have taken offense at the proselytizing for oral Latin or communicative teaching techniques incl tprs. In no way would I say it is the method that does the trick; it is the teacher’s connection to his students and the faculty and community. To say that takes nothing away from my sense that the methods mentioned are more powerful as teaching tools than translation and grammar-based teaching; what I am saying is that a grammar-based teacher can be just as powerful in reaching kids and keeping a program. As department chair, I did not hire fl teachers on the basis of their methodology but on the connectedness to kids and their collegiality. People who refuse to work with others short-change themselves and others.

Which brings me to the controversial part of my post: the things teachers do to alienate and frustrate. On my blog, I’ve remarked on these things but here I’ll just make a short list: thinking “kids these days” or anyone else “these days” just don’t have the moxie people used to have (this applies to young people who think there once existed some golden age we’ve fallen from); refusing to work in a cooperative and helpful way with colleagues from all departments and areas of the instituion (e.g. don’t go slamming into AV waving your “botched” copy job and demand the AV crew make it right. My experience is your submission will be put on the bottom of the pile where it deserves to be); engaging in destructive, acidic, idle gossip and forming cliques (the latter is hard not to do…. birds of a feather, etc., but force yourself to interact with people you might not otherwise); setting the bar and demanding that students jump over it (if students haven’t been taught to your level, you’re going to have to get them there or look reality in the face like I did when I realized some of my kids came from schools where 90% of the students spoke Spanish at home and in school* see below)); interpreting rigidity as maintaining standards; ignoring professional development (as in “OMG, I’ve heard everything they talked about a million times over”… yes, but do you either put it into practice or can you tell us why you don’t?); demanding that administrators attend to your issue as if it is THE issue of the month (I had a principal who stood up teachers who had an appt. and was puzzled b/c he always talked to me – then I realized that the people complaining were yappers, people who just talk and talk with no attention paid to their interlocutor, taking an administrator’s time to just vent)…….. lord, and so on and on.

*To explicate this further, it is that kids from such schools do not get the same education, particularly in language, that kids who go to schools where English is the dominant and/or only language among the students.
Subsumed in my assumption is that these are also poverty schools. Therefore, the language level in English I can expect from other students is not going to be found among these students. That’s the reality, and to say, “Here’s the bar, now jump over it” isn’t going to accomplish much.

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