Lisa Sobb, OFLA Secondary Language Learning Committee Chair, Sylvania Southview High School
It seems like just yesterday that we were enjoying our well-deserved summer break, dipping our toes in the ocean or relaxing by the pool, but fall is here and a new school year has begun! Whether you’re already at the end of your first quarter because you began in the middle of August, or you were lucky enough to be able to extend summer by a few more precious weeks, Ohio’s schools are now full of energetic students and dedicated educators. As we all settle into the routines of school, I can’t help but feel that we have all settled into a new normal.
Just a few short years ago, world language educators across the state were reeling from a tidal wave of unparalleled education reforms. Ohio’s New Learning Standards (heavily influenced by the Common Core), Can-Do Statements, performance vs. proficiency, products, practices, and perspectives, 90% TL usage, AIR, PARCC, SLOs, IPAs, CI, TPRS, and OWL are all examples of new concepts that were thrown at us or older concepts that were getting some more time in the spotlight. Out with the grammar translation and in with communicative language instruction. It all seemed like so much so quickly that many of us felt like we were drowning. Was everything we had been doing in the past wrong? Where are all of these changes coming from anyway? How can I keep up when everything feels like it’s brand new?
This year, we feel like old pros. Acronyms easily roll off of our tongues, we assess both proficiency and performance, we embed interculturality flawlessly into our lessons, and we emphasize the importance of what students can do with the language rather than what they know about the language. In short, we’re all perfect world language educators.
Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch.
In truth, we’re only just settling into our sophomore act. This year, the swirling tides of education reform have calmed a bit. Rather than treading water just trying to keep up with the bombardment of new information and concepts, we must shift our focus this year to reflect on our teaching practices, preserve what is working, and let go of what is not. Concepts that were revolutionary (or new, at the very least) are no longer quite so shocking. Did you know that Ohio’s New Learning Standards were adopted almost 5 years ago and are due for revision this year? It is most likely that the revisions will be minor, and it’s clear that communicative competence is here to stay. We must take advantage of this lull in the storm to ensure that we are all implementing current best practices in our classrooms to the best of our abilities. We can focus less on trying to process new concepts and more on their implementation and their implications for our classroom. We must focus on ensuring that we are using research and evidence-based practices to best serve our students
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is with this mantra in mind that I take over as the chair of the Secondary Language Learning Committee. This year, I hope to work with other talented educators from across the state to create resources that secondary educators can use in their classrooms. These resources will be based on current best practices and will support OFLA’s mission and vision of articulated, standards-based world language study for all students. I hope that you will find the results of our work useful to you and to your students!
Here’s to a new school year, to new challenges, and to continuing to grow together as educators!