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by Erica Fischer on Jan 27, 2016

Make Conflict Resolution a New Year’s Resolution: Reconcile Different Views and Methods in Your World Language Department!

Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, participants discussed conflict resolution and collaboration in world language departments. They reflected on what language instructors need and need not agree on, and also weighed in on how to meet common goals and collaborate when colleagues have different methods and philosophies. Langchatters considered how to influence fellow instructors to consider new methods and paradigms. Finally, they proposed ways to manage conflict when (or if) it arises! Participants arrived eager to contribute to a conversation about keeping the peace, and contribute they did! @SECottrell wrote, “I can’t even think fast enough for this #langchat much less type!”

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us last week! We would also like to thank our moderators for the Thursday chat, Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECotrrell), and Laura (@SraSpanglish), as well as our Saturday sequel moderators, John (@CadenaSensei) and Diego (@DiegoOjeda66).

Question 1: What must we agree on in our world language departments, and where do we need to allow for freedom?

Langchatters highlighted three necessary ingredients for a peaceful language department. They noted that instructors should agree on a common destination for students, a focus on language use, and a commitment to cultivate respectful relationships.

  • A common destination: @MlleSulewski wrote, “[Instructors need] to agree on the destination [for learners]. The route [to get there] should be up to the [teacher].” Similarly, @ksipes129 suggested, “Agree on what needs to be taught…[Give] freedom in how it is taught.”
  • A focus on USE: @SraSpanglish said, “I think we have to agree that the purpose of language class is to get kids to USE language,” adding, “I think disagreement is on what [students] need to be ABLE to use it.”
  • Respectful relationships: From the start of the hour, participants were acknowledging the importance of respect. As @ProfeCochran observed, “First and foremost we must agree to be respectful […] On the most basic level, we must agree that everyone (and I mean everyone) has an important skill to bring to the table.” @SraKennedy noted that criticizing colleagues is “counterproductive,” writing, “I’m a lot less likely to listen to [people who] I think are judging me harshly for what I do.”

Question 2: How do we meet common goals when our department doesn’t share common methods or philosophies?

Langchatters were all about acceptance of difference and finding common ground! As @kltharri pointed out, “[Nobody] should share common philosophies; there are too many. [The key] is connecting them somehow.” In the words of @KrisClimer, “Part of the answer is accepting differences; not all roads are the expressway, some HATE the expressway…” @MadameKurtz encouraged instructors to stop insisting that their way is the only right way: “[First] we have to stop saying ‘this is what I do’ or ‘this is how we’ve always done it.’” Similarly, @William_Caze suggested, “Leave ego at the door. These [conversations] are derailed immediately if someone thinks their way is the best [or] only way.” @CoLeeSensei added that peer observation can be a good way to get a conversation going: “It starts with a conversation, and it’s not a productive one if I’ve never seen you teach. In our [department], we observe each other.”

Question 3: How do we collaborate with teachers using other methods or philosophies?

Participants emphasized the role of kindness, respect, and a smile in fostering collaboration. They also observed that openly sharing with colleagues and inviting them to share their own lessons with you can help promote a supportive departmental atmosphere.

  • Kindness, respect, and a smile go a long way! @placido wrote, “Honestly, I’ve tried to focus on always being friendly rather than talking shop and it has improved collaboration from my view.” @ProfeCochran whole-heartedly agreed: “This is the only way to make ANY leeway when colleagues refuse to budge!” Others highlighted the need for respect. @silvius_toda said, “While you may disagree [with] colleagues, it’s imperative to realize they are professionals too [and] deserve respect.” @ShaneBraverman encouraged instructors to assume that their colleagues have the best of intentions: “If we assume positive intent (all [teachers] are here to help [students] learn and grow) maybe there will be fewer problems?” @MmeFarab added that a smile can always help.
  • Sharing is caring! Instructors recommended openly sharing resources and lessons as a way to begin a collaborative dialogue. @kltharri said, “I used to do mini [professional development exchanges] instead of [department] meetings and teachers presented their [favorite] activity. It opened doors to [conversations].” @alenord agreed that open exchanges can build positive relations: “Be willing to share freely and be unafraid to ask for [fellow instructors’] contributions. Sometimes our colleagues are intimidated by us.” @IndwellingLang added that colleagues can then choose to adapt shared activities to better fit their personal approach: “Share specific tasks [and] resources that colleagues might like to use [or] adapt in spite of general methodological differences.” In turn, @alenord encouraged participants to accept resources from others even if they could not envision using them: “Sometimes you have to be willing to take their sharing even if you don’t use it. At least accept the olive branch.”

Langchatters offered some final suggestions. @ProfeCochran noted, “Sometimes just focusing on the bigger picture can unite colleagues, [for example, by] promoting the program.” @placido added, “[Focus] on what you DO have in common and try to become friends if possible. [It’s hard] to be nasty to a friend.”

Question 4: How can we influence each other to consider new methods or paradigms?

Participants agreed that we shouldn’t push our own methods onto other instructors. Instead, they proposed ways to share approaches and encouraged inviting colleagues to come and see for themselves. Here are some of their tips to subtly influence:

  • Invite guests: @MlleSulewski wrote that we can influence others “[by] showing something that WORKS! – [especially] if it gets [students] excited.” She suggested, “Welcome other [teachers] into your classroom.” @axamcarnes does just that: “I invite [teachers to] see what my [students] are doing. I’ve won [two] over to push further into [proficiency. You can’t] argue [with] results when [your] see [students] speaking!”
  • Share, don’t tell: @placido wrote in favor of “[sharing] rather than telling :),” explaining, “[Sometimes] it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar :).” @CoLeeSensei added that instructors should share their challenges as well their successes: “Share! Share your good, your bad [and] your ugly! We all are learning to be better teachers.” @MmeFarab agreed with this suggestion: “Share successes and commiserate mistakes! [We can’t] expect [colleagues] to believe our way is better [because] it’s perfect. It’s hard.”
  • Celebrate colleagues’ successes: @CoLeeSensei wrote, “I listen to their successes [and] appear as ‘human’ as they are [and] share mine too.” @IndwellingLang also encouraged this behavior: “Celebrate colleagues’ students’ genuine successes, even if you think they happened in spite of colleagues’ methods!”
  • Show your own willingness to change: @KrisClimer wrote, “My most recent approach is MY own willingness to change.” @alenord replied, “This is a really important point. Don’t just share what you are doing, but what you are learning, too!”

Question 5: How do we manage conflict when or if it arises?

Should conflict arise, Langchatters offered some tips to keep things under control. They reminded one another to acknowledge everyone’s contributions to the department, seek common ground, and prioritize collaboration despite differences.

  • Acknowledge everyone’s contributions: @ADiazMora said, “I think this goes back to knowing that everyone brings something to the table.” @kltharri reminded instructors not to pit themselves against colleagues: “[Try] not to think of it as ‘me versus them.’ [Reflect] on where [others] are coming from.”
  • Seek common ground: @c2westy suggested, “[Always] look for common ground and do what you can to build on it.” @maezinha73 advised instructors to keep common ground in mind throughout the year: “If you decide at the beginning of the year what things you DO agree on, you can always go back to those as frame of reference.”
  • Be understanding and put collaboration first: @CoLeeSensei prompted fellow Langchatters to “[listen]…respect…and understand that conflict comes from ‘not knowing…’ or ‘[being] scared to…’” @CarolGaab encouraged prioritizing collaboration despite differences in philosophy: “Collaborate [and] connect [students and teachers] between [classrooms] regardless of [teaching] philosophies.” She suggested taking part in video exchanges or messaging back and forth, adding that this is one of her students’ favorite activities!


Langchatters (peacefully) discussed conflict resolution in collaboration in the world language department. Participants considered what language instructors need and need not agree on, and they suggested ways to meet common goals and collaborate despite differing philosophies. Instructors also shared ways to influence fellow instructors to consider new methods and paradigms and proposed how to manage conflict when (or if) it arises! Many left the conversation feeling humbled and eager to promote dialogue. In reflecting on the conversation, @SraShawSpanish wrote, “More is won by going slowly than pushing too hard, validate [and] give everyone a voice.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a peaceful and collaborative dialogue on conflict last week! In case last Thursday felt too fast, “[remember], if you want a more chill version of the [conversation] or came in late, we have Saturday Sequel [at 10 a.m. ET], too!” (@alenord).

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. “What do you want to #langchat about in 2016? (Perhaps to help with your EPIC plans?)” (@SraSpanglish). Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Elementary in Spanish
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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