Monday, January 28, 2019

New Reader Has Lots to Contribute

I had a blog post up this morning, but I decided to hit 'revert to draft' and save it for next week. This week a new reader (or perhaps more than one?) left a comment on each of several posts, and I found the insights to be worthy of a blog post. Here is what this teacher, who recently quit due to a toxic PBLA training and enforcement environment, has to say:

Hi Kelly, thanks for your great work. You are brave in the toxic atmosphere created by PBLA. I am happily no longer teaching PBLA after many years of experience teaching English. The people in charge of this charade have not only caused untold amounts of stress for those remaining, but have chased many professionals out of the field. I decided that I would no longer tolerate being insulted and in essence told to shut up when I had even a minor criticism of PBLA. I don't need to work in a toxic workplace where I am disrespected every step of the way. Especially when I don't think those who made this monstrosity were teachers at all, or not good ones, that's for sure!

Hi Kelly, interesting that one of the notes on your blog by a former PBLA teacher said that she got out of pbla due to 'an integrity thing.' Wow, that is exactly what I have thought about it. It is actually unethical to waste huge amounts of taxpayer money to achieve poorer results now than we used to pre-PBLA. I was looking at some notes for an old class of mine and I realized that I am using a textbook for CLB6 that I used to use for CLB3!?! Shocking how poor PBLA is in teaching students to speak English! Many of my students in CLB6 still struggle with the basic verb tenses and yet, I've been yelled at by incompetent administrators for teaching grammar, even though my students beg me to teach grammar in every needs assessment. PBLA is a failure, pure and simple! on Where is Our Ally?

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.

The creators of PBLA should be held accountable and must account for the mess." Isn't that just Joanne Pettis? Hear, hear! Someone definitely should be held accountable for this disaster (Pettis, Holmes, etc.). If what was done before was 'loosey-goosey' then why were the results better then than now with PBLA? Pre-PBLA I was using materials with my CLB3 classes that I now use with my CLB6 classes! To me, the bottom line is that PBLA is a miserable failure on teaching students how to speak English!

When I complain about PBLA around PBLA true believers, they always say things like, "Well, it's better than what we had before. We need accountability." But the fact remains that PBLA is less effective than the old way. A study by a researcher named Watts from about 10 years ago, claimed that it typically took 250-300 hours to move from one benchmark to the next. Nowadays, it takes 400-500 hours or more for benchmarks to change, thus requiring students to remain in each level for 2 or 3 semesters. I also find that students now are much weaker in the levels they are in than before (my school used to do TOEFL readings in CLB5-absolutely impossible now). That sounds like failure to me. It cannot be 'fixed'. It needs to be scrapped and teachers need to be able to teach as they know how. I have never in my life learned anything 'the PBLA way'
I've talked to several teachers in the regular school system who were forced at one time to teach pbla. They all roll their eyes and say the workload was ridiculous and they are certainly happy that that failed experiment was finally ditched

I enjoyed the comments from the person who says they just teach the way they know how and hide that fact from the PBLA police. I've tried to do this, because I truly want to help the students improve their English, but unfortunately, my school monitors what we teach in the classroom and freak out if the students happily say they are learning grammar and love it! The lead teacher goes in and talks to the students behind our backs to find out what we are doing. Needless to say, the atmosphere at my school is toxic!

I have learned almost nothing from any of the pbla training events at my school because the leads don't understand it either. Even 5 years in, they stumble around like Keystone Kops, or at my other school, they are Nazis who follow what they claim are the rules, to a 't'

My school definitely weeds out those who are not perfectly pbla compliant (actually they weed out anyone who even questions it mildly). You are attacked in meetings and thus, most who undergo such treatment quit. Or you are undermined by the administration and leads who tell the students behind your back that you are not a good teacher (one of my favourite students warned me that the lead would speak to certain students when I was on break who would thereafter be hostile to whatever I tried to do in class). It is an effective way to get rid of people without having to fire them. I was furious, but I had no direct proof that she had undermined my teaching.
Whoever you are, I hope you'll leave a comment to give yourself a pseudonym. Otherwise, I'll refer to you as "Got Out."


  1. "Still here"1/28/2019 7:32 PM

    “Got out” is right. Students are not learning as much under PBLA. Indeed, this is what we have been told about PBLA: that we won’t be able to do as much. But this is not the same as your “back to the well” approach, Kelly. It’s not an approach that leads to ever deeper and richer language learning. PBLA is busywork with time wasted on non-stop assessment, organizing the binders, repetitive reflections, and endless administrative work for the teacher. It’s all shallow.
    So yes, I believe students are not learning as much as quickly as they did before. What a waste of taxpayers’ money, to keep students in LINC classes for months or years longer than necessary! How disrespectful to our students’ lives! There have been so many untruths told and perpetuated about PBLA. Fake news, anyone? Is anyone in government listening?

  2. Would the Ford government be at all interested in the absolute waste that is PBLA ? There are easily over 40 left behind binders in my class. I hate PBLA more than anything I've ever encountered in my teaching career. Loathe every aspect of it. I'm not a PC supporter but it might be worth looking into, unless he decided to just cancel all ESL in the process of investigating. I feel desperate and most of my co-workers do too. Can't quit. Need the money.
    respectfully - I preferred the other comment format (this is a pop up window - not as 'powerful' )

  3. Still here,
    I absolutely acknowledge that Back-to-the-Well is the polar opposite of the teaching that most of us have resorted to doing because of how the demands of PBLA paint us into that corner. My morning class is the rarest of beasts: a class that has been excused from doing full-blown PBLA. So I am still able to teach with joy, bringing all my skills and knowledge and ideas to the table. I am still able to have a truly student-centred classroom that follows the needs of these clients. In my afternoon class, I teach the way I always did and get the damned artifact collection over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. I am only able to do this because I am at a SPO with relatively reasonable admin that so far are demonstrating a great deal of common sense.

    I'm hesitant to sic the press or current provincial government on this lest we put the entire profession at risk. I'm not sure the majority of taxpayers can distinguish between well-used funding and poorly-used funding when it comes to what we spend on newcomers. We could end up with no baby or bathwater. --KM

  4. Grammar checker
    We learn to talk from our caregivers. If we are brought up with the help of a nanny, we will often grasp their way of speaking. This can include improper usage of grammar or even the utterance of the wrong words. No one actually pays heed to grammar once they get it done in the school.

  5. Indeed and that is why when our students learn no grammar (or spelling, or basic writing skills) due to the constraints of PBLA, they wind up in a higher level class such as mine, unable to: spell, write a complete sentence, use or recognize correct verb form or tense, speak in complete sentences, spell well enough to do listening exercises etc. Yet somehow they all dream of going to college or some form of higher education which will almost certainly require them to write in some manner. If they are only doing so called 'real world tasks', prepared by various teachers with no consistency whatsoever since we all have to make up our own 'tasks', with varying degrees of difficulty (things like financial literacy which surely they did not sign up to do when they registered for English language classes) because we have to create them all ourselves and all of us have a different idea of what constitutes a level 3, 4, 5 'task' , they may (or may not) learn how to write cheques (who does that anymore? I sure don't) but they won't have basic literacy skills. Sorry for the long sentence. Furthermore, if they are doing 'real world tasks' in the lower level classes, well how much financial literacy can a student really need? They don't need to do anymore 'talking to a landlord' or 'banking' or whatever the so-called modules (more jargon) are. They did not have the advantage of learning to talk from their caregivers or nannies, and so they have no foundation. It's all backwards. PBLA is creating a generation of borderline illiterate ESL students. Their benchmarks read level 6 but for those who did not already have the literacy skills in place, they cannot write a complete sentence. Furthermore, all the time wasted doing self reflection and preparing forms to tick off their needs and goals and write and re-write their autobiographies is wasted, not to mention actual sorting out binders time. As my colleagues and I discussed at a recent PD (on what else - PBLA? despite the desperate need to talk about something else anything else!!) when given a self reflection form, most of our students a) tick off yes for every box because they are unfamiliar with the jargon b) copy from their neighbours or c) randomly check off any box to please the powers that be (i.e. teachers). We also discovered at this PD that almost all of the teachers in our school(s) are suffering from extreme burnout from this, some to the point of tears. Nobody wants to do this anymore except the die-hards and my own personal feeling about that is that at this point they are merely trying to save face. I could be wrong but every teacher I talked to said they wished they could retire. Wouldn't it be great if there could be a room full of ESL teachers who were suddenly free to speak their minds in an open forum called: How do you really feel about PBLA? Is it working, or should we trash it and pick up the pieces and move on. ( make you cry... make you break down... shatter your illusions.... is it over now... do you know how...) couldn't resist

  6. Just checking out how this all works. Thanks for showing up people. We have to hang together.

  7. Anonymous Long Sentences...please keep writing your intelligent long sentences. You express very well the pbla reality (as opposed to the “wishful thinking”). Thank you. Stay strong.

  8. finally a Toronto Star article that highlights the challenges of pbla!

    Refugees hoping to become citizens face high bar to achieve language benchmarks | The Star

  9. Thank-you for this link, Anonymous. Interesting article!
    I'm no fan of PBLA but grammatical knowledge IS in the CLB 2012 document, along with textual knowledge, functional knowledge, sociolinguistic knowledge, and strategic competence. Why do PBLA leads seem to be relying only on the deeply flawed emerging guidelines for PBLA and not on the source document, the CLBs? (which I must hasten to add, is itself deeply flawed).
    And is anyone in government even listening?

  10. Anonymous “Toronto Star” poster. TY for the post. PBLA is an enormous cruel experiment. Truth will out. Whoever put it together should answer for the failed project. Those persons should not be given responsibility for any more language policy initiatives. They should apologise for the horrible mistake and the waste of tome, effort, money, and for the harm done.

  11. I have noticed that the majority of us are anonymous. This only fact makes the point: in a democratic society people suddenly feel intimidated to speak up freely not to lose their jobs. I will not repeat here what most of us feel - the lack of efficiency, effectiveness or mere logical results of PBLA. I'd like to share my thoughts on the grounds of this nonsense. This is the lack of trust and disrespect to both teachers and learners, this is the desire to control every minute of the learning process, this is, sorry to admit, the demonstration of dictatorship communist style, which, as far as we know has brought to the collapse of such systems around the world and is corrupting some of current societies. Furthermore, I believe that the approach of PBLA is to allow newcomers function like robots in only several given circumstances (Banking, Doctor's office etc.) and to prevent them from functioning as human beings able to analyze, process, synthesize and produce information on their own, thus preventing future citizens of Canada to think and properly merge in the social life. This is why we, as instructors, are not recommended, or actually forbidden to teach the language through its obvious elements such as grammar, morphology, syntax, spelling and so on, related to the topic, as it always used to be.

  12. Anonymous & Afraid2/04/2019 5:55 PM

    Kateryna, you are right. I admire you and Claudie and Kelly for being willing to sign your names to your posts but I am 100% sure that, if I signed my name to my posts, I would be disciplined in some way - maybe an unofficial reprimand, maybe official, maybe something else. I can't be 100% sure that I would not be fired.
    These are frightening times that we live in.

  13. Yes me too. I do wish I could post my name which is kind of stressful and weird. I do think to myself on many occasions that I am going to keep on teaching (because I care so much about whether or not my students learn) what I know they need and I dunno - I kind of feel like this is still Canada and we are still a democracy and they cannot , at least, throw us in jail for going against rules / programs we know to be ridiculous , unmanageable and a waste of time. I somehow still have hope that some intelligent program managers somewhere along the road will stop and listen to teachers who have been teaching a long time with success and happy students who are learning. I dream of the day they say, "Okay this is clearly not working. Let's call an all staff meeting and figure out what to do to make sure that our ultimate goal - students who learn to speak and write English - is being achieved!" Has anyone contacted the writer of the Toronto Star article to encourage her to dig deeper? It seems like a good start! Has anyone actually been fired for refusal to 'cooperate' ? It would be, although terrible and painful for the teacher, a huge story since the Star has sort of opened up this can of worms?

  14. As a new LINC Instructor, I am grateful for the structure PBLA provides in my classroom. I have created an atmosphere in which my students embrace their Learning Companion Binders, referring to them daily in class and taking them home regularly to practise and study their English skills. This past week (first week of Term 2) we completed three assessments / artefacts. Students were not stressed because they knew exactly what would be expected of them during these real world task assessments and had been skill building and skill using in a supportive, engaging and cooperative manner all week long.

  15. Hullo Linda. Welcome to the ESL profession. May you have the same joy from it I do. I'm curious where you teach, what level you teach, what background you come from, and how you are sure your assessments are "valid, reliable, consistent" as "tests" must be. (Now, no, I don't want you to answer publicly but I do want to make a point that I , a very experienced teacher, have no confidence in the validity, reliability, consistency of MY PBLA "assessments". Nor do I have confidence in the validity of the CLBs.)
    My criticism is of the "My Portfolio" approach for teaching and assessment. It is not AFL. Not task based learning.

    But I accept that the LINC suggested curriculum guidelines and the CLBs do contribute to a sort of structure within which to present material for ESL learners.
    And, of course, as a newbie it IS helpful to have the content of the other 5 parts of the LC to refer to. More than once it has been suggested that these were developed for teachers more than students, to follow. You do not need the Portfolio Based Language Assessment
    experiment for that.
    Good luck. I think your students are lucky to have you - you are proactive, trying to be as professional as you can.
    If you want to continue to chat with me privately follow me on Teitter @thespreadingoak and I will follow you back and we can DM each other. . (Goes for everyone. Confidentiality guaranteed)
    Warm hugs to all from freezing Toronto!

  16. I didn't need PBLA to have structure in my classroom. I created an atmosphere in which my students embraced their learning without a Language Companion, they referred to their DOLLARAMA binders daily in class and took them home regularly to practise and study their English skills. I don't see a mention of what level you instruct and this would say a lot. Stage 1 and Stage 2 learners have distinct needs, which time will show you. PBLA has a leveling effect, I will admit that PBLA has dumbed down what can be accomplished in a Term of 5 months. Learners leave the classroom with a book full of paper, and a void in grammar, vocabulary and transferable skills. Knowing how to "make a doctor appointment" is small potatoes. Too bad we can't teach anymore, but have to PBLA. Too bad that the new LINC instructor hasn't had the joy of teaching ESL, because that was more joyful than PBLAing. PBLA rips off the learner; slowing down real progress and leaving huge holes in learning. Sorry if this seems critical; yet, PBLA was created to "control" staff and not to benefit the learner. Bad policy. And bad on the government to allow a para government agency to exploit newcomers and their teachers.

    New PBLAer. Welcome to a joyless language learning environment. I truly hope that one day you experience the excitement of being a intuitive, flexible teacher who can respond to your student's acute language needs instead of worrying if you can make up something to fit a future assessment. Language teaching and learning are a lot like sailing on the Atlantic ocean: deep blue and dangerous, exciting and sobering. We must remember that we are helping people settle, not creating paper pushers. Let their experience be deep and dangerous; exciting and sobering-not PBLA. BLAH, blah, blah. PBLA has ruined ESL.

  17. Sorry. Typo: Twitter not Teiter! Twitter is a great way to get PD and develop a PLN. Follow SLA researchers and thinkers and expert teachers....

    The Canadian Government “My Portfolio” approach is sll about regimentstion (Thibk Colonial, think infantalising adult learners). There is no solid research, evidence thst proves this is a valid effective SLA methodology.

    Read Katherine Tereschenko’s comment above - and be warned.

    After I read your comment I thought how lucky I was to begin my ESL career before “PBLA” was thought up. The first two years WERE nerveracking - but full of real learning about teaching, experimenting, learning from the master teachers that were my colleagues, attending TESLOntario conferences and being exposed to different approaches, the latest research (before they became PBLA swamps.)
    It took time to develop my professionalism and teacher persona - all still a work in progress...

    Joanne Pettis explicitly stated that the LC content was not meant as a itext book. It is the sort of background information provided formerly at the airport to newcomers (and all content is available - updated- online).

    But I see “assessments” being created from it...ouch.

    Hopefully you have other Canadian resources to use with your students (Listen to the Loon is sill one of my favourites - also the Grab Bag series (depending on Level) And Irene McKay’s Communicative Grammar. For “testing”- “On Target”, Peel Practice Tests, occasionally the Exit Tests. I’m SO ANGRY THAT THE PROPOSED UPDATED VERSION OF “On Target” WAS CANCELLED (casuaty of PBLA) It was very reliable - and saved time!! Today I sometimes add a “purpose” question , an inference question, or an opinion question if there are too many T/F Q’s.

    WHatever happened to The Communucative Method? We used to teach “functions” (I guess roughly equivalent to “Real World Tasks” - without the dinky rubrics). (Professor David Mendelson’s “Functioning in English” is still usable)

    Every methodology has strengths and weaknesses. As we evolve we try to take the best from each and not become so invested an sny one that we lose balance. There is no one approach that is “the magic bullet”.

  18. Claudie ~ I think you may have misunderstood my previous comment.

    Do we refer to our Language Companion Binders regularly? Absolutely. Do I use it as a TEXT to follow for all of my lessons? Absolutely not.

    Example: In early January I brought in 2019 calendars. My CLB 2 students brainstormed Canadian Holidays and then using their LCB as a resource/reference (Family Day is the third Monday in February) were able to work together and use the calendars to tell me what day or what date certain holidays and celebrations fell on this year.

    My students are capable adults and independent thinkers and learners. Classroom instruction has taken off in many directions depending on the needs and interests of these learners. I use “worksheets” occasionally but develop most of my own materials or bring in real world materials. I pull ideas from all types of resources INCLUDING my colleagues and adapt them for my students, their ability and their needs. The flexibility of PBLA allows me to do this and it works wonderfully with excited and engaged learners.

    PBLA is here to stay. BUT it does not mean getting rid of all the wonderful things you are and have been doing in your classroom. It just takes a bit of tweaking and bringing it all together as best practice.

    I don’t know where this quote comes from but have it written down in my plan book and have shared it with my TESL June 2017 graduates:
    “The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company - it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.”

    Embrace PBLA. Add it to all the wonderful things you are already doing. Be an example of the good that can be achieved within this framework.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. PBLA is NOT here to stay, at least in the form it is imposed on the instructors. Once real politicians on Provincial and Federal Levels realize how much money is and has been wasted on the ambitions of some who believe they've created a new way of teaching the language. With their "innovation" the quality of instructions has decayed. Students learn less, while instructors sweat more. Efficiency - NO, Effectiveness - No, Excessive public funding - Yes. Look, even mere material part of PBLA - unnecessary heavy binders, the amount of paper wasted for assessments and modules, ink for printers - it all adds up. Prehistoric ways to support someone's printing business with the constant order of binders for learners? On public money? I don't think it will last when finally an official Audit steps in.

  19. Response to Linda

    "PBLA is here to stay." "tweaking" Interesting. Sounds like a troll I know.

    How did you manage to complete three artefacts in the first week of a new term? Can you share your condensed method as I find skill building and skill using take up the first week and a half of a term with testing on the last two days. You must be a "super hero". Please share your methods.

  20. I was reading along, taking in everything Linda had to say until I hit "PBLA is here to stay." This immediately informs me that one of the PBLA pushers has been right up in her ear with this mantra. Reminds me of "We are the Borg; you will be assimilated". Linda, you almost had me. --KM

  21. Anonymous ~ troll? I assure you I have only written twice as you can previously see and read my comments - I sign my name...
    No need for name calling when someone has a difference of opinion. Although you can continue to call me a superhero if you want to. I kinda like it. I have learned over the years to borrow, adapt and use the best of the best in all of my teaching. That’s all.

    Kelly ~ I only said that I believe PBLA is here to stay because I see it working in so many classrooms, mine included. I am a recent TESL graduate. We were introduced to PBLA in the TESL program and I embraced it in the classroom. I don’t know of the PBLA pushers you speak of. My background is not ESL / LINC but I have been an elementary school teacher (another province) for over 30 years. Again, I have learned over the years to borrow, adapt and use the best of the best in all of my teaching. That’s all.

    “It is now time for me to avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education.” Wishing you two all the best.

    ~ L.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Elementary school is nothing like ESL with all due respect. I have over 25 years of experience teaching ESL and find PBLA to be ineffective, onerous, gruelling, time wasting etc.. There is so much wrong with this binder program on so many levels. Over 700 teachers have signed a petition protesting PBLA. That is not an insignificant number. Claudie and Kelly aren't disgruntled and unhappy (they're strong and gutsy and fighting for our learners), but if they were, well I think they would have every right to be (and although I have to remain anonymous here I would love to hang around with them if I could! ) They are also intelligent, very 'together' and confident that they are doing the right thing, and trying hard in respectful ways to get someone to listen, and get back what we used to have. It's so comforting to be able to vent to people who love their jobs as much as they obviously do, to hear the reality of what is happening in so many teachers' classrooms and to feel like just maybe there is a ray of hope in this mess that has been imposed on us. Well I guess I am disgruntled and unhappy but I smile all day long with my lovely students and try to console them when they complain about the binders which none of them like although I did get a new young student last week who had fun decorating hers. She said it reminded her of when she was a small child in elementary school, having a binder again. I don't think being disgruntled and unhappy about being forced to take so many steps backwards in this 'transformation' of ESL as we knew it, is unreasonable.
    Finally, you say PBLA is here to stay. I say it can't possibly last much longer. ESL programs are broken across the country. You should read Yuliya's paper which was very well researched (I was one of the teachers she interviewed) I sometimes think that people who believe in PBLA are (no offence - it's just an analogy that springs to mind) a bit like climate change deniers who see a cold snap and say 'global warming? what global warming?" No, the world will not end as a result of PBLA, but if it continues as it is, I'm fairly certain our ESL students will suffer greatly.
    PS - when my students wanted to find out when Family Day was, they just googled it.

  24. here here Claudie
    thanks for keeping us all going
    disgruntled and unhappy - pfft.... I'd hang around with you and Kelly and even identify myself if I weren't so scared of losing my job 25 plus years of teaching for me. PBLA sucks

  25. Linda, if you’re still reading, I’m honestly interested in what you have to say.

    I was a strong advocate for PBLA—until I was introduced to the CCLB’s grossly inadequate and unprofessional training materials (I’m a PBLA Lead) and to add insult to injury, we were told that THERE ARE NO RESOURCES to implement this thing. This is contrary to what is explicitly stated in their own practice guidelines that “sufficient resources” will be provided.

    Due to the number of “artefacts” required, classes have become testing centres and stress has increased exponentially for both learners (especially refugees—unforgivable!) and instructors.

    PBLA implementation has been a negative experience for every teacher I’ve met. You are the first that I know of who has spoken so positively of it. That makes me curious.

    It is demanded of us that we be “Champions of PBLA”. If this methodology is so wonderful, why does it need championing? It should speak for itself! Why are those who raise valid concerns in an objective and professional manner labeled “laggards”? Why are there NEVER anonymous surveys of instructors and learners? What is the CCLB afraid of? That the emperor has no clothes is my bet.

    PBLA takes a heavy toll. I sincerely wish you good luck in keeping your head above water. How can it possibly help learners to have exhausted unhappy teachers? How can it help them to push through 32 assessments or they languish at the same benchmarks. Incredibly badly thought out flop of an experiment with disastrous consequences.

    Please tell me how you’re able to do three assessments a week? Is this a full-time class?


  26. Most of the time my comments are posted without prior approval—but sometimes not. Kelly, can you clarify? I wrote a huge long posting and I have no idea if you received or if it’s vanished into cyberspace!

  27. Hi, Norma,
    Sorry about that. I unfortunately have to keep comment moderation turned on for comments that come in on posts that are more than a few days old because this blog gets a HUGE amount of spam. I probably catch and delete three spam comments per day. I always approve real comments from real readers of this blog, but if they come in while I'm sleeping, they have to wait till morning. Thanks for your patience. --KM

  28. Hi, again, everyone.
    Oops. There was also a comment stuck in the "awaiting moderation" section. I've just published that one. Right now I have the filter set so that comments coming in on posts 13 days old and fresher do not have to be approved. All the spam comes in on older posts, so that's why I have the filter set so that I approve comments on posts older than 14 days. (Just changed it from 10 to 14 to give ya'll more time to keep dialoguing on a popular post.) I might set that to 21 days. I'm experimenting, so bear with me. --KM

  29. Thanks Norma. I just got home from another joy-filled PBLA-rich day in my LINC classroom.

    Some highlights include: five new students joining the class; the return of last week’s artefacts and students knowing, explaining, or learning the inventory sheet process; students being engaged in another task-centered morning covering all four skill areas with reference to a page in our LCB to jumpstart our lesson.
    *yes Anonymous - your students could have just googled it just like your Family Day comment but think of all the listening, speaking, reading, and writing practise including asking questions - grammar and ordinal numbers - pronunciation they would miss out on*

    Norma - I would love to share and when I came across this webpage and blog this past weekend I was very excited. Unfortunately, only three posts in, I was attacked and name called by those who do not share my opinion of PBLA.

    Anonymous called me a troll - we can all giggle about the irony there.
    Kelly tried to use a Star Trek quote to insult me - the exact quote should read “We are the Borg. You will be Assimilated. Resistance is Futile.”
    Another insult was flung by telling me that PBLA-pushers are in my ear because apparently I am unable to develop my own opinion with time and my own experience.
    Anonymous #2 or the same Anonymous - who knows? - stated “Elementary School is nothing like ESL with all due respect.”

    That last comment I will agree with but not in the way you might think. I believe good teachers are good teachers. Best practice is best practice. It does not matter the content/curriculum. I am grateful for my many years of teaching before switching gears, taking the TESL program two years ago, and becoming a LINC Instructor as I move into semi-retirement. But you are right Anonymous. Elementary School Teachers are nothing like LINC/ESL Instructors. I am used to supportive colleagues who see a problem and work together to solve it in a respectful manner. We help each other out, build each other up and respect those who have a differing opinion to our own. Unfortunately this is not the reality with ESL/LINC Instructors.

    Superhero* Linda

  30. I would imagine, super hero Linda, that having worked in an elementary school you probably had a pretty good salary (I have a friend recently retired from teaching 'regular' school who made close to 90 grand a year plus benefits). ESL teachers have never had job security, we mostly do not have pensions waiting for us. It's none of my business but if you are semi retired you likely have a pension? if not now then maybe you have one waiting for you. We lowly ESL teachers make hourly wages, work out of basements and old churches and closed down schools and have done so for years. We have to collect employment insurance in the summer. We are mostly working poor. Most of us chose to teach ESL for the simple love of the job. On top of being poor, we're being asked to do unreasonable amounts of work and there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for us. Where I work we used to at least have the luxury of doing what we liked and knew to be good for the students in our classrooms. We had multicultural days and parties, we had outings and took part in real life activities. It really was the best job in the world. I used to drive to work smiling thinking about how it didn't matter that I wasn't making much money. I was so happy to be doing a job that I loved. I no longer feel that way. My colleagues don't either. Many of us have lost the joy of teaching. PBLA has divided us. Content does matter. We were not consulted about PBLA. Please do some research about all that is wrong with it, (maybe read what Yuliya wrote) I don't hear any insults in the tones of people responding to you here. Your comments about joy-filled PBLA rich days seem strange.

  31. Another Anonymous

    And I love my job right now in 2019 - PBLA and all !!!
    Will not apologize for that or MY opinion of PBLA working in the classroom.

    Sending you happy vibes ~ Linda

  32. Norma, I salute you. You have my respect and affection. And admiration for clear writing.

    I deleted my last comment. I was appalled I had made so many typos! (Blame my little 4S).
    I will still speak truth to power, not "poser" as I had (mis)typed.

    Power is listening. It is hard to dismiss voices like yours.

  33. Linda,

    You said: “The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company - it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.”

    Yet, most teachers I know are open to and even excited about positive change —transformation that serves learners and teachers. PBLA does neither.

    If you are convinced that all ESL instructors are unsupportive and disrespectful (the irony here!), why are you entering the field? Your comments are neither supportive nor respectful. And I am incredulous at you calling yourself a superhero. Just wow. With that attitude, the community that you wish for will remain far far from your grasp.


  34. Norma

    I did not say that quote... it was a quote I had read and repeated because I agree with it. Can’t take credit for it.

    No, not all ESL teachers are as disgruntled as those who have posted here, thank goodness. Read back... the last Anonymous just talked about having lost the joy of teaching. Now imagine being a student in her class...

    *Superhero* comes from one of the many attempted insults by yet another Anonymous. I thought it was funny and not a very good insult at all just like Kelly’s mindless “borg” attempt. Read back to see... I won’t jokingly sign off with it again since it now offends you.

    My last post did not show up so I will repeat it...

    Dear Anonymous
    And I LOVE my job right now in 2019... PBLA and all !!!
    I will not apologize for that or for MY opinion of how PBLA can work in the classroom.
    Sending you good vibes ~ Enjoy your day!

    PS I am up with some ESL Instructor Colleagues this weekend to share ideas and resources. Looking forward to it. It has been so much fun in the past. Lots of great ideas and laughter.
    Take care.


  35. Claudie I liked your poser typo. Norma. I'm with you. I agree with everything you said.

  36. I liked your 'poser' typo Claudie. Norma I agree with everything you said. I am the anonymous with the long sentences in a previous post.

  37. I was a teacher on the faculty of one of the schools involved in Dr. Watt's study. He and his team assessed our students regularly for two years, if I remember correctly. The participants' CLBs were revealed to us after we had assigned a clb to our students, so we were able to compare and the teachers results were the same as Dr.Watts each time. This was particularly reassuring since we all know how ambiguous the descriptors and profile of abilities are. Fast forward to five years ago when this craziness started. Anytime we would recommend a student move to another level or that the student's placement benchmark was incorrect, newer additions to the faculty and later, lead teachers and coordinators would respond with a 'how do you know? What evidence do you have? Is it your gut feeling?' Just constant condescending comments....comments like , this is s great system, now, students can't be moved just because they argue with admin. They have to have the rwt assessments. I never understood that. Whatever happened to admin backing their teacher's professional assessment and decision? As others have stated earlier, the students have less and less knowledge and weaker language skills;yet, there are assessments, especially writing, that are not indicative of their abilities in class. I have had students come from clb 3 to clb 4 with a clear inability to infer, conclude or elaborate or defend/support an answer. They are not even expressing complete ideas in sentence form with proper punctuation or capitalization. You get it. Yet, their assessments indicate the opposite. I am perplexed as I cannot fathom how their teachers were even able to get the students to produce this work. I find it difficult to believe they are even able to memorize these emails or paragraphs with introduction, body and concluding paragraphs (I would say at a completing clb 5 level). Anyway, I just feel so offended and used with these people who feel they have license to speak their mind disregarding others' experience, knowledge and judgement just because we've been put into this cookie cutter factory assembly line mentality.An educator not only follows instructions and educational methodology, he or she is defined by her ability to recognize student needs and individual learning styles intuitively and adjust her approach and method accordingly, often contrary to original plan. We are being driven to leave the profession as we are constantly trying to fit a circle into a square.

    1. Dear Watts' Study,
      Thank you for this comment. I hope you'll come comment on the most recent post, as not many people are going to see a comment on such an old post. Just go to and it's right at the top. Yes, I agree that PBLA does not work and that we did better by our students when we took a holistic approach and didn't try to pass ourselves off as test-writers. For this reason, I continue to assess student progress the same way we always did it at my SPO. I ensure they have papers in the binder to please government inspectors, but I am still taking all factors into consideration, such as student confidence level, learning disabilities, etc. For example, I have a student who aces all assessments, but I know it's because the woman next to her is giving her the answers under her breath in their shared language. So instead of promoting the one who copies, I promoted her friend only. Then the one who was copying was able to become the strong student in my next cohort the following semester. Her skills got stronger over those five months without her buddy, and then her "passed" assessments were a true reflection of her ability. I chose not to do battle with them over the cheating, as they are not children and I am not a university test proctor or TOEFL invigilator. It's literacy class, for crying out loud. I allowed the not-so-secret scaffolding because it was a helpful crutch for a while. PBLA does not address any of these complexities of settlement language class life. --KM


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