Reflecting on My Practice



I’ve been looking forward to participating in the TELL Collab for months.  This opportunity to meet and work with some of the #langchat colleagues I admire most — Paulo Jennemann, Nicole Naditz, Thomas Sauer, and my co-moderator Amy Lenord, among others — will no doubt end up being one of the highlights of my summer.  In preparation for the TELL Collab, participants have been asked to complete the Foundational Criteria Self-Assessment and use it to create a Personal Growth Plan.  As I read over the Foundational Criteria, one thing immediately becomes apparent: many of the key criteria for effective World Language teachers aren’t specific to World Language instruction at all.

I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to most people; it only makes sense that talented World Language teachers are going to exhibit at least some characteristics in common with effective instructors of other content areas.  The thing is, I have been hyper-focused this past year on improving my efficacy as a World Language instructor, and perhaps that means I’ve been missing out on some more general things I could be doing to become a better teacher.  In looking at the list of criteria I scored weakest on in the Self-Assessment, a pattern definitely emerges:

  •  FC3: I set daily performance objectives focused on proficiency targets and based on meaningful contexts and share them with my students.
  • FC6: I use and share daily performance objectives to capture my students’ energy and commitment.
  • FC14: My students and I use materials in a manner respectful of authorship and ownership.
  • FC1: I build appropriate relationships with my students to promote a safe and positive learning environment.
  • FC13: My students and I use a variety of learning tools to help learners meet performance objectives.
  • FC15: I involve all stakeholders by engaging them in discussions of the goals of the program.

Remove the words “performance” and “proficiency”, and you’ve got qualities that would describe an effective educator in any content area.  I have to admit that it’s a little scary to publicly acknowledge these “universal” qualities of good teachers as areas of weakness for me; it almost makes me wonder if I might be lacking some of the inherent characteristics of naturally good teachers.  But these fears are born out of being reflective about my practice, and I know that a teacher who reflects deeply is on his way to improving his craft.  Besides, there are several areas I scored myself well on in the Self-Assessment, and interestingly, some of those criteria seem to be more focused on World Language instruction specifically:

  • FC8: I provide opportunities for my students to acquire language in meaningful contexts.
  • FC9: My students demonstrate growth through performances that are reflective of their learning experiences.
  • FC10: My students demonstrate growth relative to the performance objectives.
  • FC12: My grading system weighs performance more heavily than language knowledge.
  • FC16: I maintain the highest standards of professional conduct in my community, classroom and professional affiliations.
  • FC18: I participate in professional development opportunities both in-district and beyond throughout the school year and in the summer.

So, now I have my sights set on some areas for growth, and it looks like using daily performance objectives is going to be a goal for me this coming school year.  In the meantime, I can’t wait to get great ideas from my colleagues at TELL Collab.  I’ll definitely be live Tweeting over the course of the two days, and I’m sure the event will end up inspiring a future blog post or two.  (Or ten!)

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