Step a few steps away from the map and you can see that there are some concentrations of lights, usually in the larger metropolitan areas where world language coordinators more frequently interact to sharpen each other's iron, so they are building similar programs in their respective districts, but the dots struggle to connect and overlap on a larger scale. If you are in a state like mine the empty spaces are HUGE.
Before we despair, I have good news. We are not powerless.
We can do something about this isolation, but it takes some bravery, some transparency, and some effort.
We can blog.
And blog, and blog, and blog.
I know what you are thinking, "Me? Blog? What do I have to say?" My answer to you is this: blog to open a window to what proficiency based teaching looks like in your part of the world. Blog about your lesson plans, blog about your successes and failures, blog about your epiphanies, blog to vent, just blog. Become part of club of people who are just putting themselves out there and find out what comes of your willingness to share and be vulnerable as you learn to teach this way.
The group of world language teachers who blog that I know all blog about different things. Some, like the Creative Language Class girls Megan and Kara, blog very concrete, tangible ideas you can employ in your classroom right away. Thomas Sauer, Alyssa Villarreal and the Path to Proficiency crew are blogging about many things from teaching philosophies to paradigm changes. Laura Sexton blogs about what she is doing in her classes to push her kids with project based learning and shares her ideas and resources on her blog PBLintheTL. Sara-Elizabeth Cóttrell of Musicuentos often blogs about teaching practices and how they align with what second language acquisition research says. If I had to describe my blogging I would say that the majority of it is my attempt to reflect as a teacher and use that reflection (easy or not) to encourage other language teachers wherever they are. There is such a wide array of bloggers in our field, but that diversity is regarding focus, not numbers. What is important to know is that many of the teachers closest to us geographically DON'T read what we write. Remember the old saying, "No man is a prophet in his own country," and for that reason YOUR VOICE is so important!
No voice is too small, to new, too anything. We are all on this journey together, we just happen to be on different legs of that journey. Someone further down the road from me helps me all the time, mentoring from a distance. I would like to believe that those teachers who further behind me in the journey can look to me to give them a head's up for what lies ahead for them. My point is that we have to start working together to add more points of light to the coverage map. Teachers out there don't know there is another way, and the ones that do need more support. We can only draw others in if they know we are there in the first place. If it sounds like we are recruiting, well we are!
Also, no audience is too small. Some bloggers have vast audiences and they can steer traffic your way, but you gotta start blogging! Let's start closing the gaps between language teachers who are striving to build student proficiency. Methodology is secondary to the goal, and labels only narrow our own scope and the reach of our voices. No matter who we are, what language or how we teach, ultimately our goals as world language teachers should be the same. We are stronger if we are united, and this strength only benefits us. If we connect, we are stronger advocates for proficiency based programs. We are stronger advocates for building our own language program numbers. We are stronger advocates for languages in our state and across the nation, but we cannot do that alone, so the responsibility for outreach belongs to US. It is time to stop waiting for someone or something to appear on the scene to magically make us relevant.
The responsibility falls on us, the teachers.
If you are not blogging, start tomorrow. If you are, use your audience to build up someone else's.
Let's get to work!
Happy Coaching, friends and fellow (future) bloggers!