Are you a language teacher bully? (A self assessment)

No matter the forum, lately I have been seeing a lot of language teacher shaming and bullying and I just don’t like it.  We are a team.  We should help and support teachers taking risks and even those afraid to take risks without judgement! How do you rate in the bullying department?

But the research says: have you found yourself shaming another teacher’s practice based on the current research in the field?  Remember that just as many of our language students bring different experiences to the table, so do our teachers!  This is my language teacher iceberg… What we know on the surface is small compared with what teachers have going on below the surface!

And thanks to Thomas Sauer for making my paper iceberg real! 

Not all teachers know where to find the research… Many feel overwhelmed by preps and expectations from admin and don’t feel like they have time to read and research! For me, the hardest change was that I LOVED some of my language teachers and felt strongly devoted to how they taught me.  Shifting paradigm felt a little like a betrayal!

You’re not doing it right! Change it all now! We are guilty of finding something that works for us and wanting to share it with the world!  It isn’t a bad thing at all but give people time to wade in slowly.  The only way to make a change and make it stick is to go at your own pace.  As teachers see student success and increased proficiency,they will be encouraged to take greater risks!  Being supportive of the journey is an important key to shifting classroom paradigms!

I am the expert in the field… We are all just teachers doing what we believe will engage our students in language learning!  Share your successes but share failures too! Let new and seeking teachers see that proficiency is a journey for students and proficient teaching is a journey for us!!

It’s us versus them! We learn best when we work together rather than confront.  If we are constantly on the attack against teachers using methods we don’t believe in (legacy methods) we lose their trust.  How could someone want to know more about a method when its practitioners are not welcoming?  Try to remember Maya Angelou’s words “I did what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.” We all find that “better” in our own time.

I am isolated from other teachers in my school. The only full time language teacher, I depend on my PLN for support and growth.  Please be supportive of me and of each other as we learn to embrace real language proficiency in the classroom!



  1. Thank you Carrie! It’s so easy to forget that there is more than one way to eat the pie that is second language education. I jumped on the TPRS band wagon back in 2000 because I was desperate to reach my students. At the time I was the only teacher at the school so I had no one to convince or argue with. My students, whom earlier were hating Spanish, now enjoyed it because they were successful. Like Susan Gross says, “Nothing motivates like success.” Sometimes I used to threaten my students with bringing out the textbooks when they didn’t behave in class.

    However, I admit that as I gained confidence and experience with TPRS/CI I have not been very empathetic of others who are teaching with traditional methods. Thank you for reminding me not to become a language teacher bully.

  2. Carrie, I agree with the sentiment, but have to say that this is hard for many of us because we are not in positions of power. It is hard for me to be sympathetic to opposing view points when in my daily teaching life I am getting railroaded by those in power. When my school does not allow me to use methods that I know align with best practices, what can I do? When national organizations push methods which I, and others, do not think reflect a knowledge of current SLA research, should I simply keep quiet? I think that a lot of us use twitter, facebook, and other groups as a place to vent. A lot of the this is pushing back because we are constantly being told that we are wrong or too far out there in our departments or districts. It is difficult to conceive of oneself as a bully when one is generally on the receiving end of it.

    That said, I agree that taking the supportive route is the way to go because at the end of the day our differences are minute compared to the admirable goals that we have in common. And we are more likely to turn people away with a superior attitude or shaming.

    • I don’t mean we shouldn’t push for others to try our methods. I simply want people to try catching flies with honey.

      National organizations? ACTFL? They are all about proficiency. They serve all teachers so they have to also make room for this use of TL to fall into a traditional classroom, but they want us providing tons of input so we end up with proficient kids!!

      I think I’m just frustrated that teachers who honestly don’t understand the magnitude of this shift to CI ask questions and are met with criticism wrapped in a lecture. 🙂 or maybe I was just over sensitive this morning?

      • I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate your post. I am one of those teachers not doing it “the new way”. I tried at the start of the year, and I find the approach so challenging and amorphous. Then I end up asking myself, “How does this get put into grades?” It stresses me out a lot, actually. Especially now that I’ve tried and failed (in my eyes) trying it out.

      • I give short interpretive readings through novels, articles, class stories… Interpersonal chats about our current unit, presentations reading and speaking of all types… We change the endings to stories, predict what characters might do, watch videos and identify what is happening in screenshots from the film! I still have lots of grades I can give, they just look different! It doesn’t look like language separated into vocab and grammar… It’s all whole language!

  3. Truth.

    Changing to CI has been one of the hardest but also the most rewarding things I have done in my career. I kept wanting SOMEBODY to tell me exactly what to do, because changing everything and having 4 Spanish classes to prep is no easy job. I kind of still want someone to tell me what to do, but I’m getting it. 🙂

    I cringe at what I’ve put some of my students through in the past.

  4. Yes! I grew and changed because someone helped me learn about CI with kindness and respect. (Thank you, Grant Boulanger and Melanie Bruyers.) Maybe others will too if we are kind and respectful. But I’ll just keep working on my own dang self for a while.

  5. Bless you, Carrie. (And what a great graphic)
    You are a fantastic teacher and human being, too.

  6. I’m really happy to see this. I’m a late bloomer teacher, age 51, now in my fourth year, and learned languages (back in the day) using those old grammar/translation methods. I love the idea of CI and am interested in incorporating it, but have no mentors to help. I’m not quite sure how to start, but I try to read as much as I can. It’s hard without someone more experienced to guide me! But what really DOESN’T help is the outright hostility I see on CI/TPRS pages/sites to those who are older and new to the game. The other day someone posted on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook Group page a post literally ridiculing some teacher they work with as being double his age and teaching for 20 years, still stuck in the old methods. This was fairly mild compared to some comments I’ve seen on this and other pages. It’s ageism pure and simple, and it tends to give those of us old folks who are open to new methods a sour taste about CI. I’m very glad to see folks like yourselves who are more experienced and understand the challenges those of us who haven’t been able to use CI face.

    • The more I read the comments with this awesome post, the more it’s starting to feel like professional therapy. I agree with everything you wrote. I’m actually TRYING and I just can’t seem to pull it together. It’s not easy.

  7. I have a one hash tag answer #langchat YEAH LANGCHAT! With the beautiful, people of this powerful Twitter PLT, I’m a born-again, language teacher.
    I’m not going to say it’s easy but I’m growing the kids are growing and they love it! The only challenge now is how do you grade certain things in a communicative class. Sigh. But latest issue of Language Educator addresses this. It’s okay. We are pioneers. Well, Thomas Sauer, Greg Duncan are chartering new territory for us. We got to have faith! Adam

  8. There’s a reason you were TOY, Carrie. 🙂 You are one of a short list of language teachers active in the virtual PLN that I can’t ever see being a language bully, and that’s one of the reasons why every single teacher I know respects you immensely. I know I have been one myself, whether from frustration or just pushing curious questions too hard, the reason doesn’t matter, it’s unacceptable. Thanks for calling us on it. I request to be allowed to give you a hug for this post at ACTFL!

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