16 January 2018

Everybody On Board - Teacher Proficiency Paths

I asked Meredith Clark if her session was really for people like me. I'm not from a very large district, and I'm only an "LOTE leader" there because they're no longer paying anyone to fill any such role officially. But I really want to get my colleagues on board with proficiency-centered teaching. And I don't feel like anything I've tried in my unpaid capacity is changing anything. So I stayed.

It was the session that made my ACTFL, y'all.

I feel like I've spent the last several years spinning my wheels. When it looked like we were going to make some progress and actually overhaul our outdated district pacing guide for one brief shining moment, suddenly there was new management, and it was all out the window. The colleagues who helped out with the previously-authorized overhauling were discouraged from deviating. I mean, it probably wasn't "Square One," but it didn't feel like we would ever actually be allowed to get all the way to Square Two. And while my amigos agreed that proficiency-based instruction made a lot of sense, it was still pretty much out of reach.

The district let me put on some "Best Practices" PD and do some training with middle school Spanish teachers, and it felt like we might be making some inroads. But by November there were only about six people showing up, and by December, there were three of us.

But fortunately, I have the path from Dr. Clark and Dr. Anderton to get me back on track, moving--and pushing my friends--forward.

But before we get to the path, I'd like to take a look at what Drs. Clark and Anderton were pushing their teachers toward in the Dallas ISD, a set of goals they put together with the acronym "SPEAK UP":

Now these are some goals I can get behind! I might even be able to get my colleagues behind most of them, and from there maybe even administration. (I'm thinking we might have to start with simply "SPEAK," though.) Our fearless session leaders told us

In their roles as actual official district specialists, of course, Clark and Anderton were able to sort of...enforce this philosophy. But this revelation to start with getting everyone on the same page PHILOSOPHICALLY, with specific tenets that everyone could agree to (or, well, leave) gave me a new place to start, a new fulcrum for propelling the change that we could all agree was needed.

But then they laid the Path on me.

The "Educator Path to Proficiency-Centered Teaching" Dr. Clark put together based on the Shelby County Schools "Path to Proficiency":


In much the way I had started language teaching the way I learned it, I had been so wrapped up trying to replicate the conversion I'd experienced (minus the missteps) that I failed to see the logical progression needed for a more solid, collaborative evolution. I was treating transitioning from what we knew to what we wanted as an on-off switch, KNOWING full well it wasn't that easy for me either! I mean, I tried to skip all of the messy mess-ups I'd been blogging about for years and basically tried to get my amigos to just DO IT, just SWITCH. And then I got frustrated when it seemed like they just wouldn't.

Hm...this sounds like...another situation I've faced. Something where someone wouldn't just do what I said because I said to? Some time when I couldn't just take what I knew and transplant it into someone else's head....Oh when was that?


I know, I know, I know in my brain that teaching teachers is logically like teaching teenagers. If they don't have the background experience, the new thing is not going to make any more sense to them than that other new thing did to third period. Of COURSE teachers need models and context. Of COURSE there is a continuum to Getting It for a new method or paradigm.

And this path makes so much sense.

So for all of my andragogy training and techniques, I'm still not going to "succeed" until I provide something a profiency (or PBL) newbie can copy. I'm not going to have amigos on board the Good Ship Proficiency until I can offer them a template that they can actually use on a daily basis. They can't just skip to Intermediate Mid--any more than my students can or, to be perfectly honest, any more than I could.


  1. Love the SPEAK acronym! We only offer Spanish at my school which is definitely not what everyone is called to learn. Wish we had more variety so language learning could come from the heart for all!

  2. Merci for this! I have been really struggling with the proficiency thing on my own and trying to pull it all together.This helps me see better where I am and gives me a where I want to be. I knew mistakes would be part of the process but the successes were few and far between. I was trying to do things ahead of my level.

  3. Ohhhhh! Parfait! We have been taking similar journeys, and I have been banging my head trying to do what seems to be impossible. This is reassuring, and I love their SPEAK acronym.- Dawn Michael