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by Erica Fischer on Jun 9, 2017

Fostering Collaboration as a World Language Teacher

collaborationThis #langchat discussion focused on the ways in which World Language teachers can collaborate and connect with one another. Despite differing opinions, limited time, and even hesitancies toward change, many #langchat teachers find that collaboration must be a priority.

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Finding Common Ground as a World Language Teacher

It is not always easy to find similarities or common ground among world language teachers. As evidenced through weekly #langchat discussions, teachers have their own ideas and styles of how to best teach languages, but the struggles and successes are often a good common ground. @MmeBlouwolff said, “We share common struggles, although we may look for solutions in different places and ways.”

At times, it is necessary and important to seek common ground because it helps colleagues collaborate more and better, as well as giving way to new perspectives and insights. “Regardless of the language we teach, we are all playing in the same natural language acquisition process,” said @magistertalley.  It seems as if  #langchat teachers all share a “common goal: to pique curiosity and instill the fire to be a lifelong language learner” (@MmeCarbonneau). @Marishawkins added, “we all want to help students grow and love language like we do.”

Coming together can start with content and personal interests. @SenoraHamilton suggested “find common ground on themes to start.” @SrtaOlson finds common ground through past experiences. “We all love CULTURE and have all had different travel experiences to speak on!” she said. Finally, @joyeuse212 said, “Agree that everyone’s goal is to provide [students] with the ability to USE the [target language] to communicate, not just talk about the [target language].”

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Starting Conversations with Colleagues who have Different Opinions

Often, though, colleagues within the same department can have very different opinions.  How then to start a conversation respectfully?  #Langchat participants shared their tips.

  • @MrM0REHEAD said, “We reach common ground by not judging one [another]. They don’t know what they don’t know. Be the light. Show them the path.”
  • According to @SrtaOlson, “Providing reasoning and clear logic on why you think what you do” is a healthy way to share a difference of opinion.
  • @angardner06 suggests “asking questions about their successes and listening to their responses. There’s reasons why teachers do what they do.”
  • @CoLeeSensei shared, “I think the most important thing is to realize that there shouldn’t be [an] ‘I’m right’ position – it’s an inquiry into practice.”
  • @profelopez716 said, “ALWAYS start with a positive. Approach issues with a “we” in mind. This creates a better team environment and focuses on [students].”
  • @MbiraAbby said, “ask questions first, get curious about why they hold a different belief. Don’t interrupt.”

Solutions to Address Reluctance about Changing Practices

It can be challenging and even scary for any teacher to change her personal teaching practices. It can also be difficult for teachers to inspire positive change in the practices of others. If colleagues resist necessary changes, “persist, be patient, wait. Change takes time. Also, remember you are changing and evolving too.” (@angardner06). @BThompsonEdu addresses this reluctance by “not focusing on [the teacher], but [students]. Sometimes it’s better if you say less and let [students] do the talking.” Also, it’simportant to remember that “part of the reluctance is often due to lack of time; however, change can happen gradually” (@SenoraHamilton).

Participants also cautioned against only looking to inspire change in others instead of walking a journey together. @SraA_CHHS shared, “Honestly, I just question the heck out of what I don’t understand, and that’s helped me move to better practices – ASK questions.”  @SECottrell said, “we need to be more cautious about saying ‘This is THE answer. THE research. THE truth.’” Clearly, growing teachers are always investigating where even better practices are to be learned.

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When Collaboration is an Option and not a Requirement

#Langchat participants shared a variety of routines for when collaboration is an option, but not a requirement. Many agree that collaboration with others is highly important and should be a priority, even when it is not required or expected. “Our best products are those that we do together – 2 heads (or 3 or 4) are better than 1 always!” (@SenoraHamilton). @madameparkinson said, “I make collaboration a priority! It’s a great way to build camaraderie with colleagues. As well as save time and stress.” @klasekastellano shared, “When collaboration is not a requirement, I still attempt the partnership because it brings me out of my comfort zone.” @profelopez716 “always makes the effort to initiate conversations even if not required because [he believes] it’s good to know what happens in other classes.”

Although collaboration is often time consuming, its benefits make it worth it. “Crazy schedules make collaboration time rare, but I have shared my entire Google Drive with colleague,” said @GrowingFrench. Of course, “Collaboration by choice with online #langchat friends is [everyone’s] favorite!” (@SraWienhold).

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Thank You

Many thanks to all who participated in the discussion on Fostering Collaboration as a World Language Teacher. Thank you to Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for leading this engaging chat. Don’t forget to check out our #langchat wiki to suggest a theme or topic for the weeks ahead!

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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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