A draft missive

This has to be shortened and made less challenging, as it will be an e-mail. I seek editing suggestions.

Cher J, et cher R,

When we chose V as a textbook, one reason was that it was the abbreviated version of another textbook we liked (SQ). We had decided that to work toward consistency without sacrificing individuality, we should have a brief textbook that could then be supplemented with readings. We considered several textbooks in their brief versions.

If we had been given the chance to discuss the choice of P, I would have raised the question of its length. It is long enough and ponderous enough that we are unlikely all to cover the same parts of each chapter, unless a decision is made as to what should be emphasized, and which activities should be completed without fail. I strongly recommend that we in fact make such a decision.

The instructor’s edition of P has an introduction but the remarks in it do not necessarily amount to the presentation of a method. (The adoption of V was the adoption of a method, but it was a method with which half the faculty disagreed and was not willing to adopt.) Every other FL department I have worked in had a sheet of paper that was handed to new faculty. It explained what the department’s approach to FL teaching was, what skills and what kinds of activities they considered important, how the textbook addressed or supported these emphases, and how this book was used to the ends of that institution’s program.

Our consistency problem stems from the fact that we have never articulated our intentions in so precise a way. We have bowed to ACTFL and CEFR standards, and we say we are interested in developing all four skills. We have made goals lists pegged to particular textbooks, and decided how many exams we will have and how they will be weighted to the final grade. We have, however, never made a fundamental decision on methodology and approach, and then followed through by considering its practical manifestations in a concrete way. It is thus to be expected that each person teaches their classes in the way that makes the most sense to them.

I suggest we receive, at the very least, direction on which portions of the P text we should emphasize, and ideally, clear information as to the approach and methods the department would like us to use. (The current move to consistency in testing strategies is a good step, but it is a first step).

As ever,
Z

#OccupyHE.

Axé.

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4 Comments

Filed under Movement

4 responses to “A draft missive

  1. Z

    Original draft:

    Cher Jean, et cher Richard,

    When we chose Vistazos as a textbook, one of the reasons was that it was the abbreviated version of another textbook (Sabías qué); we had decided that for reasons having to do with consistency we should have a brief textbook. We considered several textbooks in their brief versions.

    If we had been given the chance to discuss the choice of Plazas (we were not: a committee was convened with a majority already prepared to insist on this book, so it was a foregone conclusion), I would have raised the question of its length. It is long enough and ponderous enough that we are unlikely all to cover the same parts of each chapter, unless a decision is made as to what should be emphasized, and which activities should be completed without fail. I strongly recommend that such a decision be made.

    Also, in the edition of Plazas I have there is no discussion of methodology or approach, or what the authors’ vision was in creating the book, what gap they intended it to fill. One can look up reviews, of course, and contact the authors, but every other FL department I have worked in except for this one had a sheet of paper that was handed to new facullty. It explained what the department’s approach to teaching was, what skills and what kinds of activities they considered important, how the textbook addressed or supported these emphases, and how this book was used to the ends of that institution’s program.

    It really seems to me that our consistency problem stems from the fact that we have never articulated our intentions in so precise a way. We have bowed to ACTFL and CEFR standards, and we say we are interested in developing all four skills, but beyond that we say nothing. It is thus to be expected that each person will do what makes the most sense to them.

    I suggest we receive, at the very least, direction on which portions of the Plazas text we should emphasize, and ideally, clear information as to the approach and methods the department would like us to use.

    As ever,
    lb

  2. Z

    I do not want anyone to repeat this in my town but if any department chair, professor or admistrator at my university comes here and sees what I am about to say, let them believe it and take it seriously: the colleague they most love is also the person with the least training and experience, and this is the person who has been undermining the integrity of the lower division program for well over a decade. Limit the power of that person and the problem will be solved. Anyone can see it if they notice that this is the person who has attacked every single new hire and then fought with them when they could not get them fired immediately. Just to give one example.

  3. Z

    My off site readers like the original post but do not realize that:

    It is snarky because of context. The book was forced in by X because he used it in graduate school, and Y because she likes the vendor of that publisher. Really they both teach from their own handouts and power points, regardless of book. This is the elephant in the room that the missive would force us to out. Worse yet, many faculty would not be capable of articulating what I am asking to have articulated, because they are not entirely self-aware about their teaching — they keep insisting they are not TAs and do not need direction, but in fact they are just doing what they did as TAs, whenever that was. Since each one is defaulting to their own TA style and is not able to or not interested in doing anything else, we obviously have no consistency. We can’t have a program and not become slightly more self-reflective on what we are doing, but such self-reflection is exactly what many do not want and find it outright painful to be asked to contemplate.

  4. Z

    Other things to say in the missive: we need audio input.

    Other things to know: people teaching these kinds of classes need support and must present a united front. We have not only not had these things, but have also had faculty undermining each other. We also have faculty complicit with students in undermining other faculty and to some extent, the major. This is certain death.

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