WHY HAVE SO MANY PEOPLE MISSED THE LEARNING CURVE?
I've heard many sayings about taking precautions when about to speak your mind, "Closed minds should come with closed mouths," "When in doubt, say nowt," and the infamous, "Think before you speak." Well, frankly, and I am going to be very frank in this post (be forewarned), Fran Lebowitz says it best with, "Think before you speak. Read before you think." I have become absolutely stupefied by the things some foreign language educators espouse in regards to the field of foreign language methodologies and approaches, as well as how second language acquisition occurs.
In my previous post, I reflected on the topic of text-based vs. task-based as presented by Martina Bex on her blog. Since writing this post, I have continued to reflect on my teaching practices. Why do I teach Spanish the way I do? Does CI really trump form altogether, or can there be a happy coupling of the two? How can I improve the efficacy of my lessons? The list can go on and on (and it does). Amid this thought stream I realized that I am always looking to improve my methods in order to serve my students better, and I know that I am not the only one that does this. There are many FL educators that are out there that do the same. However, what seriously pushes me to the edge is encountering FL educators who are absolutely unwilling to do this. And what has recently pushed me off the edge is when said educators preach"truths" at the top of their lungs about things that they have little or no knowledge about! This happens on both sides of the "us vs. them" saga, and it needs to END!
I know you are, but what am i?
Ok folks, it's about to get real! I'm going to share a few scenarios that I have personally experienced throughout this school year that simply frosted my cookies:
the easy fix
There is one, but, ironically, it is the most difficult one: Have a civil, meaningful, and educated conversation between both sides of the table. Why would this prove difficult? Because many (not all) who spout opinions about best practices or resist change haven't researched and/or done their due diligence in the area of second language acquisition in order for a productive dialogue to be had. Read before you think. In order to put a stop to this "us vs. them" dilemma we must learn how to have an intellectual conversation, while putting our egos aside. We need to be able to question theories and practices, but in a constructive way! We need to be open to change! However, if we choose to change our methods we must first understand the method itself and then implement it to the best of our ability. If we are unsure of the why's or how's, we need to feel comfortable in asking for advice without becoming defensive or being offensive to those who are trying to help.
Why does this conversation rarely happen, if ever? Because the big elephant in the room conveys fear, resistance, and lack of understanding that stems from lack of knowledge. If an educator, in any field, has stopped learning and growing professionally, they need to find another "job." It is my personal belief that you could be the most knowledgeable foreign language teacher in terms of knowing the language inside and out, but if you are missing the other crucial component of understanding how second language acquisition occurs, then your knowledge of the language, although valuable, will not (effectively) transfer to the students you teach. And yes, a portion of the research in our field is based on theories. As such, it is up to us to critically think about how we can exploit and/or quantify our methods responsibly by studying them, understanding them, and questioning them.
In the end, even if we agree to disagree, valid points from both sides can be shared and respected as food for thought, and an attitude adjustment could bring more happiness, professionalism, accountability, and value to our field.