Reflective Teacher Day 7

Day 7: What new learning has inspired you in your career?

Over the almost-year, I’ve started learning about teaching foreign language through Comprehensible Input. That’s it. It has completely changed the way I teach, how I plan lessons, what I expect out of my students, and how I assess them. After spending 10 years as either a student or a teacher in traditional, grammar-based language classrooms, I have totally changed my thinking on how we should be teaching language.

Contrary to popular belief, starting in elementary school is not the only path to creating proficient language learners. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an excellent idea to start language teaching at a younger age, but I can no longer allow myself or my students the cop-out that that really is. “I can’t really teach most of these kids, because they’re too old for language. Only the brightest students can pick up a language at this age.” What a load of you-know-what! And I’ve heard it so many times from students and parents, too, “We really should start younger if we are going to expect these kids to really learn the language.”

So just from that perspective alone, the idea of CI and teaching kids language in a more natural (but still very intentional) way is an inspiration to me. It means that I can teach all my students, not just the brightest. It means that I can expect them to be able to have a conversation in a real context. It means that my job, as a high school foreign language teacher to students who have essentially zero exposure to Spanish, is not done in vain. I can’t just write it off as a flawed system anymore.
So far, after about 12 weeks of school, I can see the difference already. I’m far from perfect and I know it’s going to take a long time for me to really get good and comfortable with the whole CI approach, but seriously, even if I do CI poorly this year, they’re still getting more long-term learning out of it than what they were under the textbook-driven, grammar-based system I was using before. And next year will be better. And the next, and the next. Eventually, I will be good at this!

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