Monday, June 26, 2017

Camps

At the end of this week is the American Classical League Summer Institute (ACL), the national conference for Latin (and some classical Greek) teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Annually, around 300 Latin teachers from all over the country convene at this institute for three days. This will be my 10th ACL, and I enjoy attending due to the camaraderie. It is a time of seeing old friends from around the nation, of meeting new ones, of attending great sessions, and of some great receptions with food and drink (a few years ago, there were some SCREAMING good bacon bites at the ACL Institute in Memphis, which I now anticipate in vain at each year's receptions).

However, I will say that over the past few years I feel like there has been a cooling among some folks at ACL in how they interact with me now that I am a CI teacher, have published this blog, and have given many CI-related presentations. Maybe it is just me reading something which is not there, but still it is something which I need to consider:
  • Have I unknowingly separated and distanced myself from others who do not implement CI?
  • Do non-CI teachers think that I am secretly judging them, because I am now implementing CI in my classrooms and they are not? In reality, am I indeed secretly (or even worse, outwardly) judging them?
  • In promoting an inclusive approach to teaching Latin, am I actually exhibiting an exclusive outward behavior of "it's my way or the highway"?
  • Do I only keep company with CI teachers and have unknowing created a clique? Are these teachers exhibiting exclusivity so by association, folks think that i am too?
I would like to think that the answer is a big NO for each of those questions, but those questions do make me think. 

This world in which we live has become so polarized culturally and politically. At an ACL years ago, I recall a friend saying to me, "Where are centrists like us supposed to fit? No one will let us anymore. There is really no longer a place for us any more on the spectrum." Unfortunately, this polarization is bleeding into the world of pedagogy, and it is almost like we teachers are forced to declare a camp. If one does not align with a camp, then that person is seen as apathetic or uninspired.

I know that many teachers will put up walls against CI, because it threatens their current view of pedagogy, but I wonder how many times those walls are erected not due to CI per se but rather due to those who promote CI in an overbearing manner (do I fall into that category?). That person's behavior ends up representing CI, not CI representing itself, and as a result, no one wins.

I like to think that I am promoting inclusivity for newcomers to CI in allowing them to incorporate CI slowly into their curriculum (even if it is grammar-translation!) and in encouraging them to become comfortable enough with a strategy or two until they feel like they are ready to do more. I know that there are a number of CI teachers who disagree with me on this, saying that one needs to "jump all-in" with CI and "how dare that one still use the textbook if that person is going to implement CI?" Personally, I have to disagree with that view, because when I first tried out TPRS years ago, I went all-in and lasted six weeks, burned out, and vowed never to return again to it. Over the years, I have seen too many teachers new to CI do the same thing: start out all gung-ho, become discouraged due to a lack of foundation or when things do not go like they have before, and then disavow CI as a result. Recently, Rachel Ash wrote about this on her blog with a post titled The Inclusive Teacher Workshop

I like to think that I am also promoting inclusivity for those teachers who do not adhere to CI. From a post two years ago, I wrote the following:
This confirms my view that we CI teachers cannot beat CI into folks who do not want it to use it. All I can do is use CI in my classroom, share ideas with folks (whether they accept it or not), let my results speak for me, and simply leave it at that. Now that does not mean that I should not be prepared to defend my usage of CI if people ask - much like the apostle Paul says, "(I need to) be prepared in season and out of season" (I am VERY CERTAIN that Paul was not referring to CI when he wrote that!) - but I need to give permission for my non-CI colleagues to be the teachers they are at this moment. I need to follow the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach [CI], and if necessary, use words" (Again, I know that he was NOT referring to CI), and to let them come to the decision on their own, if they choose.
I hope that this still rings true for me. One's decision to implement CI rests with that individual. It is not my problem. All I can do is cast out the net, see who responds, and hopefully serve as a support for that person.

This week, I will giving my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook" at ACL. It will be my 6th time delivering this topic, but I have changed it to be Latin-specific, as before it addressed modern languages. If you are going to be at ACL later this week and are curious about CI, I encourage you to come check out my presentation. Throughout the institute, please feel free to introduce yourself to me, to join me for a meal, to play a game of I Piscatum, etc. I would love to meet my blog readers in person!

2 comments:

  1. Brave post, Silvi! Thank you for putting yourself out there.

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  2. Your blog definitely encourages people to incorporate CI into their teaching, even if it's slow and even "with" Grammar Translation .
    When I first met you, and Rachel (Although not Miriam or Bob yet) it was at the GCA conference. I had never heard of CI, and a friend from college described it in not very flattering terms.
    Nevertheless, I wanted to be a "fun" teacher, and have fun activities. I was always looking for activities, so I scoured your blog for some new activities to try. I read your bio and, frankly, was a bit put off by it. I was very attached to grammar then.
    I still used your activities. My students liked them, and I could see them improve. I kept using your activities until one day I found that going over the first declension wasn't "working" as well as just doing the activities - it just didn't seem to fit. Shortly after that I visited Parkview, and I firmly believe that people can talk about CI all they want, but nothing short of seeing someone like you, Bob, Rachel, or Miriam in action will really change minds.
    I wound up untextbooking last year - haphazardly. I did not follow any of the advice I have read on implementing CI slowly and in stages - I went whole-hog. It wasn't horrible. My classes were much better, but I was definitely overworked. This summer I'm hoping to get some good planning done before August.
    Now when I read your bio I am not at all put-off. I'm not sure what exactly it is, but it is definitely hard to talk about different pedagogies without making someone with an differing view feel excluded or looked down on. I noticed it this past GJCL from the other side - I was talking with another teacher about using novellas and felt very condescended to about what I had been doing (Oddly, she focused on vocab retention as the deficiency with CI, as opposed to forms).
    Long-story-short,incorporating your activities led to me switching how I looked at teaching without ever being "convinced" by any promotion of or argument for CI.
    So thanks! this blog is an incredible resource! It's led me down such an interesting road, and to so many new resources! I'm looking forward to trying to incorporate more new and interesting things, like Tasks. So thank you so much for this!

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