Monday, November 26, 2018

Kool-Aid Drinkers

Today I'm feeling deflated and defeated.

How is it that I can talk to my peers from across Canada and find absolute agreement with 95% of them when it comes to PBLA while those who are in a position to benefit from the government debacle continue to be utterly tone deaf, stubbornly obtuse?

It is beyond frustrating.

I have so many gifts to offer this field. I can illustrate. I can create materials. I can program in HTML and VB. I have designed, built, and implemented databases with idiot-proof GUIs. Of course I fantasize about being approached by a publisher or benefactor who understands what I could create if I had the funding.

Alas and alack! The only folks approaching me with proposals are the ones interested in exploiting the fact that IRCC / MCI and the CLBB THINK that PBLA just needs a little tweaking or a bank of resources (shoddy or not) to salvage it and save its reputation.


My Twitter feed is full of links and articles shared by ELT professionals who care whether their classroom practice is informed by solid theory. I long to live and work among such people.


  1. Like many talented and consciousness people, you are bound to despair now and then. But your tribe exists and supports you, even though we do not work and live in the same place. Monetizing your skills and funding your passion is a whole different story...

  2. Kelly, please don't despair! I look on you as a brave and fearless leader. We know PBLA is unsustainable, not based in any sort of robust research, not supported by resources (shoddy or not, as you say). The non-stop assessment is demoralizing for students and teachers alike. IRCC has been sold a bill of goods by the PBLA fanatics and now they don't know how to save face after wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers' money in this fiasco. (If anyone from IRCC is reading this, here's my advice: cut and run.)
    Kelly, hang in there! We're counting on you to keep the conversation going.

    1. Compatriot,
      Thank you. Your encouragement means a lot. --KM

  3. Everyone wants to get into the “create assessments” PBLA scam.

    IRCC officials scrambling to save the sinking ship will throw more good taxpayer money after bad. O

    School Boards, SPOs, writers will compete for your tax dollars - many hypocritically as they know the project is rotten and it hampers and hinders newcomers chances of learning English. They will excuse their greed by saying they are helping the teachers. No. Not only are they wasting dollars that we will need to repair the damage to the ESL sector but they are allowing IRCC to claim that all that is needed are “resources”. They must tell truth to power and tell the government that “PBLA” is unworkable because the premise is false. And the “implementation” impractical and ineffective. AND they are frauding teachers.
    At the recent TESLOntario conference IRCC officials and PBLA Lovers were hailing the arrival of the RWTAB (Real World Task Assessment Bank to support PBLA) as the lifeline. (Btw - it was created the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board NOT Carleton University as is being understood in some circles I understand)

    Here’s the problem. RWTAB is the product of inexpert assessment creators (I am in the process of looking at each “assessment”. Ouch. I have already compiled a list of mistakes, errors, improper use of English, mismatched questions, writing conventions, typos. This is not On Target or the Exit Tests. There is no uniformity, no standard, it is a disorganized mishmash.. Heck, not even a table of contents...

    I feel no responsibility to share my findings with RWTAB - I am angry at the hoodwinking and misuse of funds...I will find the right venue to share my findings. (btw - I check the “assessments” so carefully to protect my students and others from erroneous “washback”. And myself from embarrassment.)

    Although it bothers me that there is no validity to the “resources” I am happy for those instructors that can now (maybe) just lift and use them. Maybe I will too. Just to collect artefacts.

    I too am caught in the web of deception...until PBLA implodes.

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Aren't LINC teachers unionized? Can they take a stand through the union?

  5. Ellen! Good to hear from you. I think we were in Martine's class together.
    Unfortunately, we are not all unionized. Those who are in unions are not all in the same union. Of those in unions, some are finding that their union is responsive and is taking up their cause when it comes to the expectation of unpaid work. But the union really has no leverage that I can see when it comes to the fact that PBLA is based on bad research (see Dr. Norm Friesen's Vimeo talk "Claims and Controversies in PBLA). They can't do much about the fact that IRCC / MCI and the CLBB are not responding to Yuliya Desyatova's findings. They can't do much about the fact that we are accumulating more and more and more resources that are poorly vetted, full of mistakes, and contribute nothing to the (supposed) goal of consistency across the field. --KM

    1. Hi Kelly, I didn't recognize you!
      This is a great blog - very honest and perceptive. It's sad to see someone who cares so much about the profession get discouraged like this. And obviously you're not alone! I don't know what the solution to this will be, but it certainly starts with people like yourself who point out the problems and give others a forum to share their experiences.

    2. Thank you, Ellen. I hope the sharing of experiences and having an information hub here leads in some direct or indirect way to a willingness by the funders to re-evaluate the entire project. --KM

  6. Our union ensures that we get extra time to do prep and marking but can do absolutely nothing about the slow demise of ESL programs across the country as a result of PBLA. Students aren't learning anything but how to load up a binder and how to cheat /copy in order to pass a test - the magic key to getting out. THE TEST. Are we having a test tomorrow teacher? (otherwise many don't bother coming to class - wow great way to learn!) Well here's something interesting (and quite sad) which I've observed. Our students come from cultures where you do what you have to do to get by. They bribe the police, they pay people at border crossings to help them escape. They build rafts and paddle in the dark of night across dangerous rivers to freedom. Well here is what they've learned to do with PBLA. They come to class when there's a test because their only escape is passing 8 ridiculous tasks in all 4 skill areas. The only way to move on with their education (and therefore their lives) is to pass the stupid tests!!!! Well 'back home' they had to do tests all the time because in many of their cultures, learning was all about passing tests,rote learning / memorization. Isn't it kind of ironic that they left their school systems where teachers do things like rip up their papers and punish them by making them stand outside on one leg or hold their arms above their heads and force them to pass tests (or they feel ashamed) to come to this advanced country where they have to pass endless useless tests or be humiliated (FAIL) and held back for months or even years? What's wrong with this picture? Well the students can handle it even though they're not learning, because many come to class only to pass the tests and they're used to being held up by bureaucratic messes. They'll find a way to get out eventually. But I can't handle it. I pay lip service and try to teach the way I used to. It is the ONLY WAY I CAN HANDLE MY JOB ANYMORE. How sad is that? I stopped watching the news awhile ago when American politics became insufferable. I can't read magazine articles about climate change anymore because it's too distressing to me. I can't look at another binder, fill in another rubric, mark another task, or listen to another jargon filled conversation about PBLA. Today in class we were talking about adjectives and opposites, describing personalities and family relationships. I told the students we don't use the word 'stupid ' - that it's pretty harsh. I told them I sometimes call my own actions stupid or things - this stupid door isn't working, this stupid computer crashed again. One student piped up with an example. He said, "For example the binders are stupid! " It might be funny if it weren't so true and so sad. I've never worked in a factory before but I think I know what it feels like now. deliver test. mark. record. file. deliver test. mark. record. file. pass. fail.

    1. Perceptive, damning and chilling analysis. Right on the money.

      But I’m so goddamned Pollyannaish (positive thinker) that I say to you a good antidote IS quiet subversion.

      Now of course I do not mean down tools.
      First rule of union is comply and then grieve.
      Every post like yours pointing out the absurdity of this ill-begotten initiative IS A GRIEVANCE.
      Cumulatively impossible to ignore.
      Apart from the relief through venting it brings it tells others they aren’t alone, they ARE right to see this as a STUPID government (IRCC) blunder. We will be proven to have been on the right side of history.
      Log, collect evidence.
      It is not enough to say the resources are shoddy...we have to show how. My little sticky notes on the RWTAB are multiplying. Even I am shocked.
      It is not to say students only come on test days - you have to keep records. Some students DON’T come on test days because of stress. Write down what admin says to intimidate and humiliate teachers (“If you can’t do PBLA you should quit. IRCC pays your salary.”) Write down what “Trainers” say. Share observations with like minded people. (THE PBLA “enforcers”/elite DO THIS CONSTANTLY THROUGH THE OTTAWA FORUM)
      PBLA has divided us as a ESL Community. Typical tactic of repressive governments. Divide and rule.
      This will pass. But only if we stand up. Then afterwards we will have to start the healing.

    2. I am too broken. I don't know if I can ever heal from the humiliation that has happened.

    3. Anonymous November 28. “Broken, can’t heal.”

      I can only imagine what happened to make you post this remark and my heart, all our hearts go out to you. As it does to those whose shocking stories we have heard. Be strong. This will pass.
      I understand though because the humiliation I was subjected to will never leave me. I have lived a long time, have had many careers and NEVER have I been treated with such cruelty, disrespect, lack of courtesy, lack of consideration and compassion as under the PBLA approach to teacher teaching and learning Nowhere did I feel demeaned as I was/am under the PBLA sanctioned bullying approach. It hurt me terribly especially the feeling of betrayal after years of faithful service to ESL/LINC.

      But it did not break me. It made me realise how ghastly PBLA implementation is and how reprehensible the Change Cycle approach is.
      (WHO sanctioned that? I REALLY would like to know. They have a lot to answer for. They should be ashamed of the stupid “no feedback” approach. How out of touch with modern professional educational and training theories.)

      Ditto to whoever thought Train the Trainer was appropriate. It may have kept PBLA costs down (“we didn’t have to pay the Trainers”) but the cost in suffering is immense and unforgivable (What is wrong with our communuty that we stand by, commiserate, but do not take action when we see our colleagues being victimized?)

      TtT IS one of the reasons this experiment is doomed (TtT is neither effective nor sustainable). (If you have not encountered out of control, officious, occasionally loathsome Trainers who feel they are “in charge” of their colleagues/union brothers and sisters - and behave as if directed by handlers up the PBLA chain of command...lucky you. My estimation from speaking to people in the past four years - you are in the minority.

      The assumptions that teachers should have learned “how to” from the “training” are MISPLACED. ERRONEOUS. The “training materials”are poor quality, insulting to teachers’ intelligence. They are “thin” - teachers have to go looking for “more support” through workshops and in the Internet - where the resources are also very questionable ( including the recent RWTAB). I will say that Lisa Herrera’s wirkshop on. assessment WAS helpful in creating an assessment tool. But it cannit guarantee validity. Just a good format.

      The confusion that exists as to what are “negotiables”,what not; how many artefacts - 32? less? “My PBLA is not your PBLA.” Observation by the Trainer is MANDATORY. NO OPT OUT. Or not?(TDSB sensibly decided thst since Trainers are “mentors” they can go in to observe IF INVITED.

      Not surprising that amkng all this chaos and confusion individual teachers are criticised and humiliated for not doing PBLA “right”. But what IS”right”?

      An organized “binder”? Said before: A perfect organized PBLA binder does not guarantee good learning took place (a student’s remark)..

      Something is very very wrong with this picture.

      And the most wrong thing is the lack of concern when teachers post “I too am broken...”

      Sent from my iPad

    4. I apologise for the typing errors. No chance to edit. I’m sure those that did not say TLDR (too long, didn’t read!) got the gist.
      Thanks again Kelly.

    5. Yes, your students cheat and so do ours. You don't mention having leads count your tasks, assess your tasks, count the attending days or critiquing your work as part of your day. If you don't have explicit supervision by peers you are lucky. Tasks, and binders failed by peers here. People humiliated, wondering if their work will pass when the binders are inspected, and fearing that their jobs are at risk. PBLA has ruined workplaces, and work relationships. Stop the bus please. Will IRCC and CIC please talk to the classroom instructors to find out what is really going on.

  7. Very sad to read these comments.

    Kelly, if you find a way to monetize your skills and fund your passion, do let me know! :-)

  8. Anonymous because I need my job12/02/2018 5:39 PM

    Nancy, I agree, this is very sad. There is a PBLA Facebook page (which, by the way, lists the CCLB offices as its official address!!) Tutela webinars are posted on this page - but Yuliya's recent webinar was not. How terrible - beyond sad - that this is happening. The powers that be are trying to ignore the legitimate concerns of LINC teachers across Canada. CCLB, are you complicit in trying to silence the voices of teachers?

    1. It's frightening that the CCLB is actively repressing research. That is not what this country is about. What are they afraid of?

    2. The fact that people have pocketed a lot of taxpayers' money for nothing but creating problems.


    October 18, 2018
    Written by - Terry Vanderveen, Abbotsford, BC

    I wonder if people have been hiding and now, finally, they are tired of hiding. If the media can ban Baby It's Cold Outside because of suggestions of inappropriate behaviour toward women, then why oh why can't someone step up and help with the fight against labour law violations and exploitation of female workers in LINC.

    Let's start a ME TOO


    milestons tests

    resource banks

    What is happening with all the money that has been poured into PBLA?

    Why has 5 years passed and I still have to create resources?

    Can someone answer these questions?

  11. I am a teacher. I work for a school board. My professional judgement has been eroded to the point that I no longer think that I can do my job. I have been humiliated. Warned that my work does not come up to PBLA standards. I have been put on alert that my job is in jeopardy.

    Did IRCC and CIC expect this? Do they know that professionals are being caught up in "witch hunts"?

    I feel sick. I have been robbed of joy.

    What can we do about school boards who are using PBLA as a way to shame their employees? IS there really "a" PBLA "way"?

  12. How did they put you “on alert”? In writing? Verbally? If verbally did you make notes of the speaker(s) dates, times, circumstances? What they said EXACTLY.


    “PBLA” is an excuse...

    There is NO SUCH THING AS DOING “PBLA” RIGHT. PBLA is a fabrication...

    No timenow to respond further but I just want to say this.

    Stop obsessing about it.
    Clear your mind.
    Focus on what you CAN and Do Do well.

    And log, log, log.

    Please make sure you get the spelling of those persons correct.

    I know who some of the tormentors are.

    They can’t teach themselves. Shoukd never have been in the teaching profession.

    God and the Law will take care of them eventually.

    Enjoy each day. Each day is a gift. Find things that guve you pleasure.

    WHENEVER I am tested I turn tothe SerenityOrayer.

    God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
    Courage (there’s that word again) to change the things I can.
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Be of good cheer.
    This is a small hill of beans....
    And Truth will lrevail.
    Love to you.
    From all iof us (well, from those who feel as I do and who would wish me to speak for them, represent them).

    I’m trying to send love to those who have misused their power...well, end if year. So yes, love to ALL and we will sort iut this mess in 2019.


  13. Dear Anon Jan 31st,
    How did they put you “on alert”? In writing? Verbally? If verbally did you make notes of the speaker(s) names, dates, times, circumstances? What they said EXACTLY.

    There is NO SUCH THING AS DOING “PBLA” RIGHT. But you should ask for a written description of what the “right PBLA” is and what you are not doing.

    And log every interaction in full detail.

    Whenever I am tested I turn to the Serenity Prayer

    God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
    Courage (there’s that word again) to change the things I can.
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Then I let go, let God.

    One way or another this mess will have to come to a head and be resolved in the new year. The constant state of crisis is unhealthy for everyone.

    A Happy, Healthy, Joyous, Prosperous New Year to All - in which all you wish and dream for yourselves and your loved ones comes true.

  14. A Blunt Critique of PBLA from 1st cohort LINC Instructor:

    PBLA is unachievable. PBLA is exploitative. PBLA is still stressful for both instructors and learners.

    PBLA Binders:

    PBLA binders are not used by the learners, are not taken home and brought back the next day, are not taken when a learner transfers to another school or leaves school, are too heavy. Learners prefer portable, light dollar store folders to carry papers. Learners are too busy to read the contents of the binders.


    Assessments are viewed as tests by learners. Assessments and rubrics are extremely time consuming to create, administer, and mark. Four assessments per week for a 25 hour class is unachievable unless the instructor works unpaid 2-4 hours per day. Instructors teach to the test. LINC 5-8 Instructors work more unpaid overtime to create and mark assessments than LINC 1-4 Instructors.

    Unpaid Overtime:

    PBLA exploits ESL professionals by forcing us into 10-15 hours of unpaid work per week.

    1. A letter of support for the Blunt Cohort One Instructor.

      PBLA has destroyed a certain Southwestern Ontario SPO. And the SPO likes that they have a hard-nosed reputation. Exploiting employees and teaching other SPOs how to exploit is their aim.

      PBLA is bad. It all needs to be paused. It is a shit storm. The totally unfair workload has become normalised unfortunately and everyone is afraid to lose their jobs if they don't work the unpaid time.

      It is really a shame that "caring and sharing" is no longer the name of the game. Maybe things can change, get better with new management. We will see. It is hard to go to work everyday. Very hard. Blue Monday was especially bad. But the weekend is here. Atleast I don't have to make my way to work but can stay in my pajamas while I PBLA the weekend away. JUSTICE will come to those who have harmed the underpaid, female ghetto ESL/LINC employees. IRCC and CIC should be ashamed. Maybe the new Ontario government and the next federal government will help.

  15. Unfortunately, there are some administrators and lead teachers who are hardline pbla believers and accuse others of being unprofessional while treating teachers with disrespect. In one of our staff meetings, both leads and the coordinators attacked a sweet teacher who dared to question the orthodoxy. Having been attacked the week before, I had vowed to not say a word, but I was ready to walk out, though I knew that I would be done if I did (both she and I have left the worst school I have ever worked at because of pbla). I believe pbla is actually unethical in that plenty of money is wasted on achieving poor results (students don't learn very much compared to real teaching). I call it fake teaching.

  16. Silly, over the top emphasis on goals, needs assessments and self-reflections (we spend hours and hours on this crap-and though students always request more grammar, we are yelled at if we teach anything more than the grammar that fits the task). It is not a bad thing to help students make some goals, but I find it almost offensive to hit the students over the head with this, after all, anyone who has come halfway around the world, sometimes crawling in the dark through fields and over mountain passes, to a country where they cannot speak the language is not someone without goals!!


Thank you for participating in this forum. Anonymous commenting is available, but is not intended to shield those taking pot shots at those of us challenging PBLA. If you are here to do that, please use your name.