Sunday, June 18, 2017

End of Term Thoughts...and a New Book!

The 2016-2017 school year has ended on some very good notes for me, even though two of my colleagues won't be there when I return in September. Maria is off to get an advanced degree at McGill. She hopes that she will have more clout and ability to influence and shape policy after she gets her master's degree. My other departing coworker will return after maternity leave.

A few days ago my copy of Teaching Lexically arrived in the mail, and I am engrossed. This is going to be the most highlighted of all my TESL books. The glossy covered book will look like a flower, what with all the coloured sticky flags protruding from between the pages on two of the four sides.

What I'm reading accords nicely with other teaching approaches I believe in, such as Dogme and Back-to-the-Well. Just 35 pages in, I already know that my current projects, such as a webinar I'll be co-presenting this winter, readers I'm creating, and activity packs I'm readying for upload to the website, are going to undergo re-thinking and redesigning in light of my new understanding of lexical teaching.

The feedback my morning students gave me during their student-teacher conferences already has me excitedly imagining how I can better meet their needs next term. They unanimously and resoundingly voiced appreciation for the CCAC book I wrote. It helped them grasp the concepts and practice the language needed to understand eligibility criteria and use of the services of the Community Care Access Centre. Although the book was based on Erie-Saint Clair CCAC's website, teachers in other parts of Canada may find it useful--especially for a class of older learners--since there are equivalents to CCAC across the country. Query your favourite web search engine about home and community care in X community.

Almost all of my morning students requested that I bring the target level down and do more "everyday English" as well as more repeating and revisiting prior lexis. This latter request fits in perfectly with what I'm already reading in Teaching Lexically.

So, yeah! I'm excited.

I'm also happy that an open, honest dialogue about the flaws of the current PBLA roll-out is taking place in the comments of Sridatt Lakhan's recent blog post there.

Speaking of PBLA, there's a fact that has only just recently crystallized in my thinking. That is that there are two sub-camps into which the PBLA backlash can be divided. There are those, like Claudie Graner and Norm Friesen, who would challenge the quality of the research used to justify this enormous expenditure and retooling of our programs. They might suggest that the emperor has no clothes at all. Then there is another group: they are the teachers who would be willing to give PBLA a good old college try provided they were paid for their time to do so.  But they are being asked to do the impossible: create the content, create the assessments, and mark the assessments without watering their pay down to minimum wage or lower. They are angry at their employers for not pushing back on their behalf, for not advocating for their rights under labour laws, for not simply doing the right thing. Some are quitting or going to part-time while looking for a workplace that does not subscribe to PBLA.

Eternal optimist that I am, I expect something to give soon. The fact that public dialogue is starting to take place is a step in the right direction.

What's up for you this summer?


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    1. Toni: Seen on a restaurant billboard "Under new management, Great improvement" You think? CCLB has new online " PBLA resources" - Literacy Resource ( so maybe there will be some adjustments for lower levels) and a new, improved PBLA Guidelines -complete with the Change Cycle (the offensive"resisters may be fired" is edited out...) Watch that you I have heard about PBLA.2. If anyone knows what it is - please share.

      Kelly - I'm a handson practitioner, a classroom teacher. Like you an early adaptor. Like you over the past (for me 17) years I paid attention to LINC language delivery developments.- e.g. curriculum guidelines,CLBs, NAs, assessments, rubrics, student interviews, feedback (detailed encouraging report cards...) I have incorporated all those elements that you mentioned and that PBLA purloined. (But I don't teach to their "prescriptions" or formulae and especially not TEACHER CREATED ASSESSMENTS FOR HIGH STAKES PURPOSES). Like Stephanie I did not think I would have any particular problems with PBLA and almost relished showing off how well I understand the CLBs, the process ( I even did the Quartz training and although I had criticisms what I loved was the developers reaching out to everyone asking for feedback!) However, even during the early stages of PBLA "training" I was faced with more stress, anguish, humiliation, despair than in my whole working career. I don't know how I survived the past month. I don't know how I managed not to chuck my job ("If you don't think you can adjust to PBLA you can quit" - paraphrase). I focused on my class, gave them of my best - and am just waiting for next Saturday so I can stop hyperventilating, collapse and start breathing again. I will regroup and gird my loins ( figuratively) for whatever Come(s) September albeit with trepidation.. Something is wrong with this picture. Is it me?

    2. Claudie,
      Last night I was getting my mom up to speed on this mess. She taught in public schools in the U.S. for decades. I told her that I was already keeping portfolios, already creating my own magnificent CLB-aligned multilevel rubrics for end-of-term summative tests, already doing formative assessment on a daily basis by keeping tuned to every learner's pace and area of weakness and tweaking the next lesson (or the next 30 minutes of instruction) accordingly. My students were learning to read. My students were reaching their goals. My students were coming to class looking forward to each small triumph, a feeling good teachers know how to impart. And now here comes a set of hoops for me to jump through (God forbid I not use Roman numerals on my module plan) that I honestly believe was designed to catch out incompetent teachers. Well, guess what? The incompetent ones are still mucking along, but this heavy-handed imposition of a mandate that cannot be accomplished on paid time, that kills joy, is going to drive out, already has driven out, many of the exceptional teachers. I don't want to allow that to continue to happen. --K

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    4. Toni Lynn, thank you so much for posting this here. Let's spread Yuliya's email address far and wide. I think I need to create a special link to it in the sidebar where it can remain at the top for a while. Let's spread it on Twitter, too. --K

    5. "there is another group: they are the teachers who would be willing to give PBLA a good old college try provided they were paid for their time to do so. But they are being asked to do the impossible: create the content, create the assessments, and mark the assessments without watering their pay down to minimum wage or lower. " Yes, I agree

  2. Toni,
    Thanks for this encouraging note. You mean chime in over in Lakhan's blog post, right? I was impressed that we got a string of about 15 open, honest comments in a row before someone came along and added the weary mantra, "PBLA is here to stay."

  3. Hi Kelly, I am so thankful for your amazing work. As it seems I am going to start teaching ESL Literacy this summer, I will spend hours reading your posts and learning from you. I can't wait to put your ideas in practice. Thanks a million! :)

    1. Cintia,
      I am over the moon that you let me know this. I do my best blogging and some of my best lesson planning in response to direct request. So thank you for inspiring my last blog post with your questions. Let's collaborate in the future! --K