So, I created this blog several months ago and have admittedly been stalling about writing my first post. I have had multiple topics run through my mind, but I was unsure about really writing about them. Would it be interesting? Would anyone like to read it? Would anyone comment on it? All great questions, right? I decided this morning, however, that none of them really matter. I am starting this blog for myself, and if anyone decides to follow or comment, then that will be icing on the cake.
I originally planned to begin blogging about new classroom ideas and cool things I have found to add to my curriculum. I have been on Twitter now for a couple of years and have found lots of interesting ideas and educational trends to ponder. However, the time has come for me to speak up regarding what I have seen in some U.S. Twitter chats and Facebook groups for World Language teachers. I keep seeing the term “legacy” used in contexts such as “legacy methods” or “legacy teachers.” This term seems to be synonymous with “teaching grammar” and “anti-proficiency” or even (dare I say) “ignorant old teachers who don’t know about all of the new methods that are so much better than what they are currently doing.”
Yes, this has really gotten me going. I really bristle when I see the term “legacy teacher” or “legacy methods” being used in forums where teachers are seeking to share and look for new ideas and advice. Yes, I teach grammar and no, I will not apologize for it. I have been in the classroom for almost 20 years and I do not teach in the same way that I was taught, and I do not shy away from changing my approach and adding new things every semester. However, I do take offense at what sometimes comes across as criticism of those teachers who are not doing everything according to one certain method.
You see, I don’t ONLY teach grammar. I teach students. And I teach a certain group of students. They are generally in 10th grade and above and just beginning to study a language. I genuinely like them and I like getting to know them. I don’t feel bad speaking to them in English to ask how their day is going or how the band concert went or where they work. Do I use only English? No, of course not. I use as much French as possible in and out of the classroom, and hope they will too. But, I don’t avoid speaking to them because I haven’t hit my 90% for the day. It is my opinion that we are providing them with the groundwork to continue their language study in the future. We are not the end, but the means to an end.
Nobody who is critical of other teachers got to where they are right now in their linguistic journey solely through high school courses. All of us continued to study in college. Many of us studied abroad. Some of us worked abroad and continue to seek opportunities to gain fluency in our chosen language. Some students will continue in the language and for many others, our courses will be the only exposure they get in their lifetime. What will they remember? I have had former students tell me they remember the songs, the activities, the holiday celebrations, the phrases we repeated every day, etc. They remember how they felt. Mostly, I want them to remember that I was interested in them as a person (and not just as a student of French) and hopefully showed them kindness in an ever-increasing complex world.
Although I am apparently a “legacy” teacher, I have had students place in Language competitions. I have increased enrollment every time I have entered a new school. I have taken students to France and some of them returned on their own or had French students visit them here. I have had students excitedly come in to tell me they used French in their after-school jobs with Canadian tourists coming through on their way to Florida. I have had students continue their French studies in college after placing out of one, two, or even three college courses. Others have gone back to France to live or travel. A few have even become French teachers.
Despite the fact that I am a “legacy” teacher, I was one of the first in my school to use Edmodo, then Schoology, and now Google Classroom. I am the only one who is a Google Certified Educator. I am one of the few regularly using Twitter. I have a Chromebook cart at least once a week and have my students connected with Remind, working on Quizlet, playing in Duolingo, and creating collaborative documents in Google Slides. I help them install apps and maintain a digital portfolio in Google Drive. They laugh because every semester I tell them they are my “guinea pigs” because I am constantly changing what I do. But, yes, I still teach grammar.
I will not forget a conversation with a former student who came by to see me last year after her first year of college coursework. I told her I was considering a radical reworking of my curriculum and she advised me not to do that. She said what we had done was great preparation for her college courses and she had some classmates who were very confused because their teachers never explained any grammar or had them memorize vocabulary. Is this true for all students? No, certainly not. But her words stick with me when I become obsessed with all of the information I find on the Internet and begin doubting myself.
So, there is the key word…doubt…..young teacher, old teacher, in-between teacher…. use what works for you and your students. Add in some new ideas each semester but don’t kill yourself in the process. Ignore the naysayers who think there is only “one” right way and create your own method by mixing all of the great ideas you get from the millions of resources out in the world, but don’t forget to remain realistic. I have actually begun to gravitate towards resources from the U.K. (especially Gianfranco Conti’s blog/TES resources and Steve Smith’s blog and his awesome website) because of the apparent criticism in some U.S. Twitter chats and Facebook pages. We have enough going on in the world of public education to have “colleagues” telling us we are “doing it wrong.”
It all comes down to this: we are teaching students not content. Ten years from now they will remember how they felt coming to our classes and the grace and humanity we showed them on a daily basis more than they will remember whether we taught grammar, used TPRS, gave IPAs, used PBL and/or spent 90% of our time in the TL.
So to all of you “legacy” teachers out there, keep on keepin’ on and I would love to hear from you in the comments section!
(Whew, that was so long!)