After reading the TELL guidelines for effectiveness in language learning and teaching within a classroom, I can’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed with how much has gone on around me throughout my college career without my noticing it. For starters, the idea of having engaging discussions with students constantly interacting with one another (pg7, LE5, d) should come across as a given attribute within a classroom, but it had become so engrained within my daily interactions as a German language learner, that I had not fully considered it before. I can’t help but wonder what a language classroom would be like, if such an integral aspect were to be missing from the learning process. How would anyone be able to effectively learn and become engaged within a classroom without the use of speaking to one another in a foreign language? How would that classroom even look or function?
Although speaking to one another in German was a main-stay since my freshman year in GER101 through my capstone, that constant push to force us all to speak and interact was all the more necessary, especially in the early weeks of learning the language. Nobody would want to talk, for fear of making a horrible mistake, and of course, we were all embarrassed by our mispronunciations, fluffed speaking, and general lack of vocabulary. Interviews were a daily exercise and we slowly began to loosen up, and have different conversations ranging from comparing pictures of people to one another to discussing how much we hated reading Kant in English or German. Without this drive, what would be the point in learning any foreign language for that matter? TELL brings up an interesting point by even needing to state that teachers need to engage their classrooms. This alone proves how badly some teachers need to reevaluate their teaching methods, if all the students sit quietly, read, and repeat after the professor. It reminds me of the cheesy Rosetta Stone commercial, where the radio interviewer is trying to engage “Brad” who can only say (in the worst German pronunciation I have ever heard before) “Guten Morgen, mein Name ist Brad.” If audio tapes alone don’t work, sitting in a classroom without free-play/interaction time with the language won’t work either. Without real interaction, how can any student learn to adapt and change within the language?
For starters, it might be best to consider the average language classroom within a high school setting. There are generally charts, vocabulary posters, flags, conjugation tables, and so much more, which TELL outlines extensively throughout their informational packet. This sounds like a rather inviting classroom with many opportunities for student-growth and personal gain within the language. However, when contrasting that with the typical GVSU classroom, there are no such charts, and everything is based around Blackboard or handouts. There are no colorful flags or tables to remind students how to conjugate verbs to informal, all-inclusive “you” (ihr), students just have to remember it, and operate from what they had learned the previous day, and during the homework. This sink or swim approach to language learning can be daunting, and from my own personal experiences, I cannot help but remember the several occasions I nearly dropped German and changed my major for the umpteenth time. Perhaps this is why collegiate language learning is so different from primary or secondary language learning.
Which type of classroom would anyone choose to attend, when learning German? Classroom 1 has a computer, projector screen, no windows, desks, chairs and an inspirational poster on the wall in a randomly numbered room. Classroom 2 has German, Swiss and Austrian flags hanging from the walls, a white-board, desks and chairs, windows, colorful posters of castles and German landmarks, as well as conjugation tables and books readily available for student references. Perhaps our public education system is superior in a lot of ways, when one considers the classroom structure itself. Classroom 1 appears rather uninviting, and hardly any students would choose to visit or attend such a class as that, unless they truly had a burning desire to learn German.
No teacher of any foreign language should try to be a “Brad” and expect students to learn through rote memorization. Those days have come and gone, and in my opinion, short of being dumped in the middle of Berlin (preferably the West-side), the only true way to learn a language is to sit and attempt to use it with others. As my high school band director would tell us, “If you’re gonna make a mistake, make it a big, loud one, so you can fix it.” The same should apply to language learning. Students should be encouraged to make mistakes with the language when speaking with one another, so they can learn from them. Silence in any language room will only render the students mute and uneducated in the end. Noise and fun can only bring about learning and understanding, when done correctly.
So, in the end, I’d say that TELL had brought up to large points to me when considering a classroom and its layout/structure. A room full of “Brads” only leads to slower progress and a lack of interest in learning. The brighter and more inviting the room is, the more engaged students will be, and the less likely they are to not want to learn the material. And so, I say, “Cry havoc and let slip the hounds of war!” Viele Geräusche und Konversationen machen mehr Spaß als ein ruhiger Zimmer. (Many noises and conversations make things more fun than a quiet room.)
As far as the observation rubric is concerned, I’m rather excited to start pulling many ideas together into creating the best lesson plans that I can. Obviously, backwards design is always a plus, and I would rather never go without having the end-goal in sight. The idea of having a lesson without a clear goal makes no sense to me, and I would only be doing myself and my students a great disservice. I like the idea of bringing technology into the classroom, as well as working on putting my clear ideas into a structured setting. Even if I only use Youtube and PowerPoint for one day, then Weebly or other items another, I would consider that a plus. Without having guidelines, sometimes, especially when still learning and working on everything from a theoretical standpoint within the College of Education, I would feel lost. Knowing what my professors and coordinating teacher would be looking for helps me in setting the bar for creating quality lesson and unit plans.
However, I do find the idea a little daunting, that I need to follow specific guidelines and tasks with what I teach when. I’m a little concerned that I might be observed on a day where we HAVE to do review games and the like before a test, and my points will be marked down for that. Granted, the observations are formative assessments, but I would rather showcase my abilities as best as I can, with what I can do, when I am observed. Hopefully, everything will work out in the end, and I can relax and have a fun, yet informative semester. I truly would rather spend my time working on developing coherent lesson plans and making the most of my time teaching/learning in the classroom, rather than agonize over the little details.
It is nice to see that both TELL’s guidelines and the grading rubrics for my observations are linked together and complement one another. Clearly, I am not in control over how the room looks, but I can add to the atmosphere with my personality, professionalism and attitude. If I were forced to teach German in a cardboard box, I would need to rely heavily on my personality, rather than charts, tables, posters and colorful signs, and that might be the main reason behind TELL’s ideas on atmosphere creation. I can see how integrating student-student and student-teacher interaction is integral in not only proper language learning and acquisition, but also how I will look through my evaluation. Obviously, not every day is a discussion day, sometimes lecture is important, but keeping the idea of doing the majority of classes in such a way as to facilitate the maximum amount of interaction is paramount.
Because of all of these factors, my goals are to create an educational and fun environment for my students in which they can feel safe to ask questions and explore the German language, culture, history and so much more. I want to be a teacher, but I also want to be a student and learn alongside each and every child in the classroom. I may be the ship’s captain when teaching, but we are all in the same boat, and either reach our destination or flounder along the way. To me, if my students fail, I fail, and if they succeed, I will also succeed. Without co-dependence and co-operation, there can be no real learning within any classroom.