Diane Ceo-DiFrancesco, Xavier University, OFLA Teacher Preparation Committee Chair
We are currently facing two important issues with regards to world language teacher preparation. We have noticed a precipitous drop in the number of students in our world language teacher licensure programs across the state. This certainly raises concerns regarding the source of the next generation of language teachers. In addition, some non-native speaking students enrolled in world language teacher preparation programs struggle to reach the ACTFL proficiency levels required by the state of Ohio and need consistent communication practice opportunities in speaking and writing.
We must promote our profession and nurture future language educators. Many of our potential future teachers are enrolled in well-articulated language programs across our state and attend K-12 world language classes every day. We need to recognize these potential future teachers and urge them to continue their language studies. It is also important that we inspire them with culturally authentic resources, support their conversations with native speaking peers, encourage them to enthusiastically embrace the goal of global competence and educate them about the many rewards of world language teaching and the pedagogical profession. Do you have current students who would make excellent teachers? Foster a mentor/mentee relationship with those students. Establish peer tutoring programs wherein advanced students can work with beginners who are struggling and need some extra help and advice. Offer an advanced class or a language club the opportunity to create and teach lessons to younger students in your district’s elementary or early childhood schools. The recruitment of world language teachers must be done as a unified effort.
The second issue, that of the struggle of some non-native speaking candidates to reach the ACTFL proficiency levels required by the state of Ohio, begs the attention of all of us, whether we are directly involved in teacher preparation, or creating and delivering K-16 world language courses. To be successful 21st Century communicators, all of our students need to learn in a linguistically and culturally rich immersion environment. ACTFL’s recent position statements on target language use in the classroom and global competence can assist us in staying pedagogically grounded in our commitment to delivering solid programs.
Many of us non-native speaking educators achieved our level of proficiency with the help of study abroad experiences, living with host families and making friends with native speakers of the host country. While some teacher candidates continue to study abroad, there are those who return from experiences without the necessary improvements in their proficiency. In addition, while many study abroad programs exist, the reality is that fewer and fewer students can enroll in long or short-term study abroad. Barriers such as financial issues, work responsibilities, and family commitments prevent students from participating. Creating and supporting additional scholarship opportunities for our world language teacher candidates would certainly help in this regard.
Recently some of my non-world language educator colleagues have impressed me with their goals to improve their proficiency in another language. In order to reach their goals, they have been involved in activities that are enriching, inexpensive and can be suggested to teacher candidates and those of us who want to maintain or improve our proficiency. They have started a book club at a local coffee shop or a conversation group in the target language with interested colleagues and friends new and old. They are watching television shows with closed captions in the target language in order to increase vocabulary acquisition. And finally, these colleagues have searched for and found a conversation partner or become involved in service opportunities while utilizing the target language.
My own students have found enormous successes with proficiency development by participating in virtual conversations through tele-collaboration. I have arranged tele-collaborative sessions via common and free technology tools for them as part of regular course assignments. My contacts are teacher educator colleagues in other countries with the same goals. The communication sessions are split in half, with equal time dedicated to English and the target language. Student communication is in the form of synchronous (video sessions via Skype) and asynchronous (discussion board or blog posts).
Many of the students continue to expand their virtual conversation sessions informally beyond course requirements. These sessions contribute to the development of intercultural communicative competence, a serious advantage for any world language educator.
World language non-native speaking teacher candidates need your encouragement in the form of personal stories of struggles and successes, shared goals and tips and techniques for enhancing proficiency levels. It will take all of us working together to identify potential teacher candidates and to support and encourage their efforts in order to offer future Ohio world language learners the best language learning experiences ever!