It is too easy to forget about those teachers as we relish this connectedness that we share with each other and bask in how enlightened we are about all the standards, practices and strategies we discuss. We have to be careful not to enjoy this bubble too much.
The truth that we have to make ourselves look at frequently is that MOST language teachers are still using the textbook, worksheets, maybe even making Xerox copies of Amsco materials and holding on to teaching grammar explicitly in the classroom. They are doing this mostly because they have never learned another way. MOST language teachers still haven't heard about ACTFL and the levels of proficiency or what the heck performance based assessments are. Also, MOST language teachers are one of a very small group of language teachers on their campuses if not the only language teacher on their campus or in their district. When this is the case those teachers don't have a coordinator or administrator who is organizing professional development for the language department. These teachers are deserted islands in a sea of ignorance. They have no one advocating for them and they have no idea how negatively this affects their day to day in the classroom.
I am a hardcore believer that if I have, it is my duty to give. If I know something, it is my duty to share the message, so today's post is a challenge to you to find ways to reach out to the teachers near you who are disenfranchised from the stream of information, learning and support that we have in the bubble. Invite them in, but be advised that outreach and evangelism is more than just telling someone about the message. It is being a support system for them as they explore the new world you open their eyes to. Spreading the word may require more than one conversation or invitation and you may have to serve as that person's mentor as they work out what they are learning.
Sure, I know that mentoring and supporting someone else is time consuming and not always easy, but there are benefits for us as well. First, in our field the more voices we add to our cause the stronger the sound we make is when it is time to step up onto the soap box. Plus, the more teachers we can include in our network the broader our reach is. We need that broad reach for informing more language teachers about policy and legislation related to our teaching area. We need more like-mindedness in regards to instructional resources. If more language teachers demanded more authentic, proficiency based resources textbook companies would have to respond to our needs. If we educate those isolated teachers it will be more likely we can re-program our student and their parents expectations of what world language instruction should be in this day and age. In mentoring someone else, we have to take a look at ourselves and find out where it is we need further growth and development. Finally, keeping the uninformed in mind and remembering that they don't know because they have never heard forces us to be humble about our privileged situations.
I am regularly contacted by outlying teachers who stumble across my posts or handouts and they email me asking me to help them. They have so many questions and sometimes their resistance is only because no one has taken the time to really talk things over with them and be humble enough not to sound like a know-it-all. When evangelizing it is so important to avoid condescension.
I guess my point today is to say that we need to balance our forward movement and growth with an equal share of reaching behind us and clasping hands with someone who is not as far along in the journey. We have to keep bringing others along because a movement becomes just a fad when its group of believers crystallizes and no longer grows. There is an ocean of teachers out there who don't know what we know. It is just as much our job to share with them as it is to teach the students in front of us.
Who can you bring into the fold?
Happy Coaching, friends!