Just recently, I attended the ACTFL National Language Convention & Expo in Boston, Massachusetts as both a presenter (representing Glencoe High School, Roll Tide!) and an Exhibitor (Organic World Language). I was one of seven thousand people at the convention. Each year, ACTFL has a theme. This year, the theme was: ImpACTFL.
I attended sessions of different kinds and spoke to many educators of all corners of the USA, including some from abroad. I also presented two sessions (one as a co-presenter to Annie Tyner of OWL and as the lead presenter of another). After taking in the conference from various perspectives, I have come up with a few takeaways:
- Language teachers across the country are hungry for student-centered, proficiency-based classrooms. I had conversations with around 100 different teachers or more and what I gathered from many of those conversations is that teachers, admin and those who make decisions on learning outcomes and environments of students are searching for answers to the questions surrounding acquisition. How do we create a space where students can USE the TL (target language) in and out of class? How can we EMPOWER students to take charge of their learning? How can we effectively evaluate and adjust instruction according to the outcomes that our students produce? I can tell you this: it will require a paradigm shift in how teachers view language teaching and how admin directs teachers to evaluate students. My honest opinion is that the first domino to drop, causing a shift ought to be that teachers are directed to use standards-based grading, devoid of points. Until this happens, you will have a “points” mindset with teachers who do not see motivation to change. Focusing on standards can help shape the focus of evaluating on looking at the data and what it means, instead of arbitrarily assigning points to students based on whatever influences those points designations.
- There are very talented teachers of all classroom deliveries. After seeing some of the sessions that I saw and hearing some of the exhibitors’ sales pitches, I have come away with an appreciation for all of the creative ideas that many teachers have. I observed a session on using apps in the classroom and I saw many different booths, one in particular that offers little mini cultural documentaries that are authentic to Spain. There is so much talent in our profession. How can we cultivate the talent we have as a language teacher community, in order to make positive changes across the country and raise our cultural awareness as Americans? The epicenter of this answer lies in the classroom, the structure and how we cultivate language learning and culture in our classrooms.
- I am making a difference and it feels great! My session on Picture Literacy went incredibly well! At session’s end, there were approximately 75 people participating! The focus of the session was how to use imagery to usurp (take the place of) native language use/translation in the language classroom. Translation, while temporarily relieving, is not the most efficient way to acquire a language of study. How can we develop tools, resources and a philosophy that supports using the target language as the exclusive language of the classroom? That was the essential question that supported the session. Participants, drew, took pictures, and used language based on pictures as well as seeing how pictures can be used to demonstrate comprehension of material at a lower level class. It was incredibly uplifting to see so many teachers interested in using tools to build use of the target language in the classroom. I have presented before, but this presentation really cemented for me that what I do contribute on this level is truly impACTFL. It has caused me to reflect and be appreciative for the journey that has led me to where I am and I have ACTFL, OWL, the Hillsboro School District, Glencoe High School and so many of those who have been and are mentors to me. I appreciate you all and I hold you in high regard.