Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Camps, Part 2

(The following is part 2 in a post series called "Camps")

I am fascinated by the friendship of George W. Bush and Michelle Obama. Here are two people from completely polar-opposite political leanings, different generations, different races, and different genders, but yet they are friends. In every picture I have seen of them together, you can tell that they truly enjoy each other's company. Were you as tickled as I was when George W. Bush slyly passed Michelle Obama a cough drop during John McCain's funeral?  In a recent interview with Jenna Bush Hager (daughter of George W. Bush), Michelle Obama remarked:
I would love if we as a country could get back to the place where we didn't demonize people who disagreed with us. Because that is essentially the difference between Republicans and Democrats - we're all Americans, we all care about our families and our kids, and we're trying to get ahead. We have different ideas about the best way to get there. But that doesn't make me evil, and that doesn't make [Bush] stupid. It is just a disagreement.
As I think about the many "camps" which have been set up among language teachers regarding the best methodology for teaching students, I cannot help but think that despite our pedagogical differences, essentially, we all have the same goal for our students: we wish for our students to learn/acquire another language, and we wish for them to be successful. Where we disagree, though, is what we think is the best way to get students there. The problem lies in the villainization and demonization of those with whom we disagree. 

I do not think that any teacher ever sets out intentionally for students to fail. We are all professionals who essentially want what we think is best for students. At the ACTFL general assembly, I cannot help but feel a sense of camaraderie with the thousands of world language teachers who are there in the assembly hall, even though we probably all have our own ideas about pedagogy. I also know that there is a definite boundary where I "end" and you "begin". You are the one who is front of your students, not I, so I have to let you do what you feel is best in the classroom. There comes a point where I have to accept that there is a disagreement, but that does not mean that we have to be enemies.

I have said this before, but do grammar-translation teachers think that I as a CI teacher am both openly and secretly judging them, because there are those in the CI camp who openly do? As I have said before, do not lump me in that group at all, as I stay FAR AWAY from those people! While I may disagree with the grammar-translation method, that is all it is: a disagreement. Let's still go out, and grab a drink! Please don't ever think that I consider myself "enlightened" and that I think that you are "ignorant," because we have differing views on language pedagogy.

We teachers are a passionate group, who are primarily composed of 4%ers who are very zealous about what we believe to be the "best/correct" methods for everything - fill in the blank with whatever the problem/cause is. Yes, I consider myself to be a CI-implementing teacher, because I feel like from my own past experiences as both a grammar-translation and a reading methodology teacher, CI is the method where I have seen all students of varying abilities acquire language the most quickly and the most deeply. In addition, there are inner motivations regarding CI which line up with my personal beliefs. There are TONS of teachers out there who disagree with my stand on CI, and I am perfectly fine with that, as long as they disagree with CI and not with me as a person - those are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS! If someone disagrees with me on CI, let the disagreement be over that and not an ad hominem attack. As I have said before, teaching CI is WHAT I DO, but it is NOT WHO I AM. 

So when it comes to our teaching pedagogy, I have my story why I have arrived at the place where I am, and I am sure that you do too. Each of our stories have shaped us and our views. Let's share those with each other and understand each other first, before we start painting and labeling each other as the "enemy."

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