This guest post comes from Luci Galvan, an elementary language teacher in California. You can find Luci on Twitter @lucijgalvan
I do my best to squeeze in as much professional development as I can on a regular basis. There are many excellent resources out there for us to continue our growth as educators, but it is impossible to fit them ALL in. With We Teach Languages I feel like I benefit from literature I have not yet read, from national conferences I have not yet attended, and from the experiences of expert practitioners all at the same time. Needless to say, I love this podcast!
A few of my favorite episodes refer to FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School) teaching as well as foundations for new teachers.
While this is one of the shorter episodes, it has been one of the most influential in my learning. Before listening to the episode I did not know that The National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL) existed. Finding NNELL and beginning to follow other FLES teachers online made me feel like I was not alone. As Dorie mentioned, we FLES teachers are not overly common and it can be a challenge to find others to collaborate with. I started learning from the NNELL webinars, #EarlyLang Twitter chats, and a wealth of resources shared out by this amazing community of educators referenced in the article Blogs to Watch.
Dorie’s commitment to teaching intercultural competence in the primary grades is inspiring, and I look forward to reading her book Teaching Intercultural Competence Across the Age Range.
Caleb Howard is another inspiring FLES teacher. After listening to this episode I had a deeper understanding of the resources provided by ACTFL. I had known of ACTFL and the 5 C’s, but I was not very familiar with foundational information including the proficiency levels, the standards, the Can Do statements, and other publications. This episode led me to read and research ACTFL resources at greater depth in order to build my foundation.
I also found Caleb’s episode liberating. Not only did he confirm that you cannot go it alone, he spoke to the value in each of our experiences, saying we need EVERY voice. We need to share not only success but also our struggles. Caleb shares so much with the community through his site Tuesdays Tips for Staying in the Target Language. In many ways his episode provided me with the roots I needed to help myself and my students to grow more organically.
I already knew Walter was wonderful from Tea with BVP but when he said, “no one is going to have a perfect lesson all of the time,” I realized just how wonderful he is! Perfectionism and I are well acquainted, but some imperfections are inescapable in teaching. Walter provided an antidote to my perfectionism: REFLECTION. After this episode, I started filming myself teaching. My husband, who also happens to be a language teacher, and I would watch back the video to find areas for growth. If watching yourself teach doesn’t make you reflect and improve your practice, I can’t imagine what would. Reflection has become integral in my teaching and I have grown exponentially as a result.
It can be easy to get sucked into the status quo, but Walter proposed that we should be principled instead. What is important for our students to learn and be able to do? What guides our choices as educators? The answers to these questions should become our guiding principles and receive our focus as we make instructional choices.
Walter finished the episode by explaining how his university used backward mapping and proficiency goals to develop their program and how they continue to evolve as they reflect on their students’ progress. I am now advocating for this model within my department.
Looking back at these episodes, as I write this, I realize how deeply the We Teach Languages podcast has impacted my professional growth and practice. These episodes have shown me where to look, what to research, who to contact, and what to reflect on.