A Great Response to a Complaint

Here’s a post written by Bob Patrick to a member of a Latin teacher listserv who complained about discussions on the list being taken over by the same five or six people and about being blasted with research that seemed in opposition to classroom experience.

I appreciate the response, and I think I appreciate your frustration. AS
I’ve said to someone off list about this thread (that never really made any
progress), if you will go back and look at my initial post to you, it was
not debate at all. It contained questions. I really was trying to
understand where you were coming from.

In a follow up post, you told me more, but you did imply that you were
expected me to blast you with research. You told me about your experience
as a teacher, and I appreciated that.

Here’s the irony, for me. I have for a number of years now been working
with teaching approaches that are different from the status quo. Early on,
when I began raising my concerns and questions, when I began to dabble in
approaches other than what most people on Latinteach were doing, I got
blasted with “where’s your research!”. I was told that anecdotal evidence
(read “your classroom experiences”) were unacceptable. Well, I continued to
rely on my classroom experiences because, quite frankly, they were what sent
me looking for something else in the first place. The status quo approaches
were simply not working for most of my students. But, I also began looking
for research to anchor my classroom experiences in. And, I found plenty of
it. I’ve tried to share it here and other places. This is the only list
where I get negative reactions and where the responses to what I’ve written
don’t seem to correspond to what I’ve actually said or asked.

So, I hope you can appreciate the irony for me, now, some years later, at
being scorned for bringing up research that is relevant to how we teach a
second language. Suffice it to say that I feel your pain. Being in the
minority position on this list is no picnic.

I appreciate teacher experience. I think it’s core to what we do. On that
level, all teacher experiences are valid because they are what we have.
What are not always equally valid are the conclusions we draw. If I have
drawn a conclusion too quickly and forgotten or omitted for consideration a
view point or piece of evidence or research, then it’s worth having that
brought to my attention. That’s tricky business for most of us, as most of
us don’t like having our conclusions challenged, myself included. They
still need to be gently challenged though, whether I like it or not.

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