World Language Week Proclamation
GLOBAL OUTREACH VIDEO – A MUST SEE!
Don’t miss this video
After a year of intensive efforts, The Global Outreach Workgroup for Better Language Education of the Massachusetts State Student Advisory Council presents in this video their recommendations as Massachusetts high school students for how to improve world language and English Learner education throughout the Commonwealth. The group worked in 2019-2020 for our second year as a work group under the auspices of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s State Student Advisory Council and were led by Chair Katherine Nessel. Thanks to the Global Outreach Workgroup for the excellent and relevant work.
MaFLA Interviews 2020 ACTFL TOY Rebecca Blouwolff
Wellesley, MA, Middle School Teacher Rebecca Blouwolff Selected as 2020 ACTFL TOY!
Many of us have been following Rebecca Blouwolff’s process of embracing the proficiency movement and shift to a proficiency-oriented curriculum. Now she is representing our profession through the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) as their Teacher of the Year (TOY). She is widely known on Twitter (@MmeBlouwolff), her blog (www.mmeblouwolff.weebly.com), through various articles in ACTFL’s The Language Educator (TLE) as well as various posts on the Path2Proficiency website. She generously shares her curriculum, resources, rubrics and classroom ideas on these platforms.
MaFLA is so proud that our 2019 MaFLA TOY Rebecca Blouwolff (say ‘blue wolf’) was selected as the 2019 NECTFL TOY and then as the 2020 ACTFL TOY! We are so pleased that Rebecca has agreed to share some of her journey with us in this interview.
MaFLA: In your TLE article “Focusing on Performance: Reinvigorating Teaching Toward a Student-Centered Classroom,” you outline your shift to teaching for proficiency. What are some of the most exciting benefits for you, for your department and for your students in embracing this shift?
Rebecca Blouwolff: I’m going to start with my students, because they come first. Today my students show what they can do with the language via performance-based assessments. These assessments by mode allow many more to experience success in French, because students may be skilled interpreters of YouTube videos, fearless question-askers during interpersonal speaking tasks, or detailed writers able to create with language and communicate in strings of sentences. Previously, my grammar-driven assessments penalized students for taking risks and thereby rendered these talents invisible.
My department members share pride in what we’ve accomplished, and feel energized by how far we’ve come in the past years. We know that we have a lot of ideas and effective practices to share with our building colleagues in other disciplines, as well as world language teachers outside our district. Now that our department has written a language-neutral Grade 6 curriculum, we can compare notes day-by-day and share our lesson ideas across languages. This allows us to expand our repertoire of teaching techniques and collaborate deeply.
Moving to proficiency has given me a new lease on my teaching life. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to share my developing expertise with colleagues outside my district, and I have discovered that I love providing professional development to adults. These days I view my classroom as my test kitchen: I can test out new ideas, tinker with my recipes, and then share them with other teachers near and far.
MaFLA: What advice do you have for the teacher and/or department starting out on the shift to proficiency?
Rebecca Blouwolff: Stay humble and curious! Never be afraid to say that you don’t know, don’t understand yet, or need more help. Teachers are helpers, so seek out folks who are a bit ahead of you on the path to proficiency. In most cases, they’ll be thrilled to pay it forward by telling you their battle stories and sharing resources. Unlike Hollywood celebrities, ACTFL rock stars like Laura Terrill and Greg Duncan answer their own emails and may even be willing to point you in the right direction if you are feeling stuck. Once you start to get the hang of things, keep asking for feedback on your teaching materials and lessons so that you can refine your practice further and continue to grow.
MaFLA: The language teacher shortage is well documented and we are now only beginning to make recruitment and retention of high quality teachers a fundamental part of our leadership practice. What advice would you have for teacher leaders to help address these issues? And what advice would you have for teachers who are new to the profession?
Rebecca Blouwolff: I’d love to see a pathway for more multilinguals to enter our schools, particularly as world language teachers. This can increase teacher supply, expose more young people to multilingualism, and deepen the cultural competency of our school communities. Everywhere I go around Boston, I run into native French speakers such as a Cameroonian asylum-seeker who taught math for several years in her home country but is now working at Target, a member of the Paris Jewish community who survived anti-Semitic attacks there before deciding to move the whole family here, a Haitian cab driver who was a French teachers in his home country. How might we provide a fast track program for these people to join our profession? Expecting native speaker adults born abroad to redo their entire undergraduate education and eventually earn a master degree here is not realistic. They don’t need five or six years of study in order to be ready to do this work.
If every school could find the language teachers it needs, then there’d be more programs in more schools – not just those that can woo teachers with better conditions and salaries. This is critical equity work for all students.
For new teachers, I’ll quote Jennifer Gonzalez from Cult of Pedagogy and say, find your marigolds – those people who nurture your practice and your educator soul. Take any help you can get. Borrow liberally from others’ ideas. Fake it until you make it. Be selfish about your self-care so that you can nurture yourself for the long term. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint, and you can’t be a good teacher for your students if you’re overtired, under-exercised, and missing out on fun with friends and family.
MaFLA: So much of the TOY program is about advocating for languages. You’ll have the opportunity to talk with language leaders and professionals across the country as well as legislators. What is your advocacy message?
Rebecca Blouwolff: In America, every person should be free to express themselves in the language of their choice, where they wish. Those of us who make language learning our life’s work must stand up for multilinguals in our own communities. We can do this by not allowing prejudiced remarks to go unchallenged, by consciously fighting bias against non-native speakers of English, and by changing our schools’ hiring practices to bring more multilingual teachers into our classrooms.
As I’ve said before, it is not the job of multilingual people to make monolinguals feel comfortable in their ignorance. Rather, it is the job of Americans to break through our monolingual mindset and join the rest of the world by learning other languages. What our world needs now is humble, curious people who seek friendship with others through mutual understanding. Multilinguals are uniquely positioned to show us how. Our future requires that we work together to accept non-native English speakers without prejudice, and broaden our idea of who is qualified to teach in our schools.
MaFLA: What are some recommendations that you have for people who want to begin to become advocates within their classes, departments and communities?
Rebecca Blouwolff: Too often teachers’ work is invisible. It’s time to show off, people! Instead of worrying that you’ll come off as boasting about your great work, think about the pride your students will feel when you showcase their achievements to a larger audience. Parents, non-language teachers, and administrators in our communities are often very curious about proficiency-based instruction, because they did not benefit from this type of world language program when they were young. Show what you do – in person, in the press, via social media — and explain why it will help your students and our nation’s future.
MaFLA: What are you most excited about your TOY responsibilities in the upcoming year?
Rebecca Blouwolff: To pick the brains of language teacher nerds across the U.S. as I attend regional conferences, and expand the depth of my own practice as both a classroom teacher and presenter.
JNCL-NCLIS ATTRACTS RECORD ADVOCATES
MaFLA was Well Represented at Conference in DC
The mission of JNCL-NCLIS is to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to learn English and at least one other language, to advance the language profession in the US, and to raise awareness about the importance of language and international education to the national interest. Read a great overview of the Language Advocacy Day.
Join the JNCL-NCLIS mailing lists to receive: Language News, Language Policy Updates and Language Advocacy Alerts.
You need to know: The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAA&S) announced its Commission on Language Learning, the first national study on language in over 30 years. See the full report! The Commission was formed in response to requests from Congress to examine the importance of language to the United States.
Seal Update: MA Has Gone Blue!
On November 22, 2017, Governor Baker signed a comprehensive legislation called Language Opportunity for our Kids (LOOK) which opens up the restrictive one-size-fits-all SEI mandate for districts and includes a Seal provision to reward students for functional biliteracy through the Seal. This is a monumental piece of legislation for the foreign language, dual language and English language learner (ELL) teacher groups who sponsored it.
2016 ACTFL in Boston a Great Success!
MaFLA was very involved in the ACTFL Convention in Boston, facilitating workshops, running our Awards and Business Luncheon and our Non-Foreign Language Administrator Workshop as well as running the MaFLA Booth in the Exhibit Hall. The MaFLA Booth in the Exhibit Hall of the ACTFL Annual Convention was bustling with activity throughout the convention. MaFLA members, MaFLA friends and curious attendees all stopped by to visit, see what we had to offer and pick up one of the various fun MaFLA gifties that we were giving away!
JNCL-NCLIS Legislative Day and Delegate Assembly 2016
Every year, the Joint National Conference on Languages and the National Committee on Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) has a Legislative Day and Delegate Assembly to orient language organization and industry leaders on national foreign language legislation and funding priorities for legislative visits to support and strengthen foreign language teaching and programming nationally. Under the leadership of Executive Director William Rivers, the organization has been revitalized with the inclusion in the organizational membership of leaders of the language industry. Find the complete list of the 111 organizational and business members of JNCL-NCLIS, representing hundreds of thousands of language professionals across the nation. This gives foreign language teaching and programming a powerful voice in Washington. Bill Rivers provided testimony at the May 12, 2016, Hearing at the MA State House of the Joint Education Committee for the H422/S336 Seal of Biliteracy legislation.
ACTFL TOY Dr. Ted Zarrow (Latin teacher from Westwood, MA), MaFLA’s Advocacy Coordinator Nicole Sherf and longtime foreign language advocate Phyllis Dragonas participated in successful legislative visits with Senators Warren and Markey and Representatives Moulton, Clark and Lynch. They also had the honor of discussing the importance of long sequences to develop functional biliteracy with Secretary of Education Dr. John King with ACTFL Executive Director Marty Abbott and President Peter Swanson (pictured below).
You will be interested in some of the great resources available through JNCL-NCLIS including research on how foreign languages relate to national security, technology, innovation and STEM among other pertinent topics. You will also want to read more about the exciting report to be released this fall by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A Commission on Language Learning was requested by a bipartisan group in Congress in 2014 to examine the state of language learning in the United States. Concurrent with the release of the report, ACTFL will be releasing a national campaign called Lead with Languages. See the video for which legislative support was sought at the recent JNCL-NCLIS legislative visits.
The ACTFL Annual Conferences
Check out these great resources available through ACTFL:
- NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements: Progress Indicators for Language Learners were published in 2013 and are a wonderful model to help learners identify what they can do and then what they need to do to function at a targeted language proficiency. They can be downloaded from the ACTFL Website under ‘Publications.’
- Check out the summary of our newly updated or refreshed National Standards: the World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. It can be downloaded from the ACTFL Website under ‘Publications.’ The new 4th Edition of the National Standards will be released shortly and available for purchase at the ACTFL Website!
- The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit and Lesson Design is a great new resource to guide educators in designing Standards and performance-based curricula. Authors Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill are engaging and clear and provide valuable tips, templates and advice. This can be purchased from the ACTFL Website along with the other two Keys books: The Keys to the Classroom for new teachers and The Keys to Assessing Language.