One thing I am stunned by, is the fact that there are multiple organizations for German educators within the United States. I've spent the past few hours looking through the memberships of American Council on Teaching Foreign Language (ACTFL), American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), and Michigan World Language Association (MIWLA). All of these programs offer a wide variety of perks and bonuses for becoming a member, and they all have many different focuses in their outreach goals. With that in mind, I have a lot more deeper thinking to work through before I simply write a check, fill out paperwork, and send in any membership request. Of course, I can join any and all of these organizations, but my bank account is draining through my gas tank faster than I'd like this semester, and I need to be more careful in my final decision.
I think it would be only logical to work through these organizations in order of how I first mentioned them. ACTFL is of course the most prominent of all of these. No foreign language teacher would be able to teach without being aware of this organization. Generally revered as the most widely known contribution to regulating and standardizing foreign language education, they provide one of the most comprehensive learning tools: the dreaded and revered ACTFL scale. As many of us know, this scale ranks any language learner/speaker based upon his or her skill level, and helps guide language learners to higher levels of proficiency. However, membership through ACTFL's website offers more than just a language guide, but an entire network of learning and teaching resources, podcasts discussing everything from differentiated lesson planning to how to set up a study abroad program/facilitate interest in students studying abroad, and any other number of teaching and learning tools. Regular publications become available to members, and discounts to professional development conferences all work to help motivate and inspire language teachers of all levels.
What struck me as the most impressive about ACTFL's membership bonuses, was that they have such a wide variety of things to offer members. Simply having a job-posting database makes any future language teacher or learner's job all the easier. No longer would I be restricted to rescheduling my life around GVSU's job fairs, nor would I spend days slogging through google searches for local and national jobs, and mind numbingly pounding my head against a desk while sifting through outdated listings on Monster.com. Suddenly, through ACTFL, I would have the opportunity to gain unlimited access to professional information, developmental tools and job hunting tools all in the same location. To me, this speaks volumes for what any professional organization's website should be, and the benefits of becoming a member definitely outweigh the costs.
However, what was interesting about AATG's registration process was that I could sign up for a membership through ACTFL as well, when I was looking to potentially check out with my order. This alone shows networking between ACTFL and AATG, and it makes both options together appear to be rather strong candidates for my professional membership. That being said, AATG does offer some interesting benefits which ACTFL does not so readily offer me.
As a German education major, AATG would be the best supplement to an ACTFL membership, or it would even function as a good starting point for any professional organization portfolio in my resume. The first thing that I noticed, when looking through the website, was how every educational resource was related to German culture, history and language learning in some way. Even if the main body of the text was in English, the topics and content were completely devoted to teaching and learning German. Whereas ACTFL has specific documents and articles pertaining to German, the entire AATG website is devoted to preserving and maintaining German programs across the country. In a time where Spanish is on the rise, and short-sighted school districts are switching to Spanish-only programs, organizations like this are all the more important.
AATG's website offers something unique aside from the general teaching resources. It also offers scholarships and grants to members for their study abroad needs, or for helping in maintaining a German program where they work/teach. To me, this was a major selling point, not just for my own potential benefit, but for the benefit of all members who need assistance in furthering the goals of the organization: to educate as many people in German as possible. If I needed money to start up an iPad program for my German classroom, this would be an excellent place to go and seek out potential grants to off-set start-up costs. If I joined and had time, I could even submit paperwork for scholarship grants for me to study abroad this summer. The educational resources are important, but having the financial opportunity to help fund my language goals to the benefit of future students only makes this a highly viable option.
What is sad, is how poorly constructed MIWLA's website is. To me, there is no way I would ever sign up to become a member of this organization simply because its website is poorly maintained. The job-postings board is greatly out of date, and the resources offered for teaching foreign languages seem to be much lack-luster in comparison to ACTFL or AATG. Offering discounts on educational resources to members is fine, but when ACTFL and AATG are offering far more in greater variety, I can't help but pass this offer by without much deep contemplation.
In the end, I need to truly decide between ACTFL, AATG or whether or not to purchase memberships to both organizations. Both of these programs offer a wide variety of help in becoming a more effective language teacher, and both are highly reputable. Although I haven't signed up for membership as of this post, I am heavily considering it, and I am looking to research more through forums, general discussion with professors, and even try and find time for my CT and I to get together to discuss whether it is worth spending the money or not.
I have by no means made a final decision, but doing comparisons of my two main choices has helped me in developing a better understanding as to what it is that I am looking for in a professional organization. I'm already a member of Phi Kappa Phi honors fraternity, and I have gone to numerous professional development meetings already. For me, this is a slower process, but worthwhile. I want to be sure before shelling out money for something like this, and I want to make the most of the resources either option would make available to me.
I'll probably update this with more information in a "Part 2" post later. I want to talk with some professors and teachers first, and see what it is that they feel is the best option.
Mit herzlichen Grüßen,