Advice to the New Teacher

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
A. This Is What I Do -- See If It Won’t Work For You
B. Sage Advice From the Experienced
C. Commiserations; But We’ve Been There and You Can Survive, Too.
D. Instructive Reminiscences
E. Insights About School Conditions
F. Some Suggested Resources
G. Yesteryear and This Year: Kids, Books and School

A. This Is What I Do -- See If It Won’t Work For You

96/04 From-> Richard Boswell <>
Subject: Advice to the New Teacher

Dear Colleagues,

Here are some of my teaching practices, rewritten from a personal
communique on error correction and presented as a body of advice for new
teachers. I would enjoy hearing what others find compatible or
incompatible with their own teaching philosophy.

Use videos, short newspaper articles, cartoons, student compositions,
whatever, as a point of departure for discussing topics like the
following: sports, shopping, travel, vacations, movies, cafe life,
schools, restaurants, current news, historical items, justice, AIDs,
minority rights, raising children, choosing a healthy diet, careers, and
so on. The topics should be motivated by something, not dragged in cold.
Either there has been a news event or an interesting scientific report
or a student has written an interesting piece on his life or views, or
you have come up with an interesting anecdote from your life. You pursue
a topic to the extent that it continues to arouse interest.

Sports were invoked recently by a t.v. report on France's impending
rugby game with Ireland and by a spectacular win by a French judo star
in competition in Japan, shopping by the closing of le Travelstore in
Paris and the opening of a new store by Air France on the
Champs-Elysees, movies by the Cesars ceremony and the impending showing
of La Haine in the US, cafe life by reports that cafes are disappearing
in droves and being replaced by fast foods, justice by the OJ Simpson
case, careers by a recent article telling us that large numbers of young
French persons say 'teaching' when asked what career they are thinking
of pursuing, etc. After vocabulary has been acquired and info has been
assimilated from the articles, videos, etc. the students can talk &
write about the topic from their point of view, perhaps talking about
the sports they participate in, the movies they like, where they go on
vacation, their ideas about violence & drugs in the schools, etc. In
conversation, allow students to express themselves in sentence fragments
as long as you comprehend their meaning. If there is some doubt about
the meaning, paraphrase their statements yourself and see if the
speakers accept your interpretation as meaning the same thing. We don't
speak in complete sentences in our native language, so why throw this
useless obstacle in the way of our students when they are trying to
speak a FL? Keep the focus on the topic of conv. and provide vocabulary
when useful, writing much of it on the board. Do not correct student
speech. When talking about real world issues (or personal lives) focus
on the content and don't allow the form to get in the way any more than
it has to. If you understand a student but his peers don't (because they
are behind him or on the other side of the room or simply have less
imagination than you), you serve as interpreter. "John said that... . Do
you agree?"

Don't play a lot of games. Students tend to get very involved in the
competition but don't learn a heck of a lot of the FL. However, Trivia
Questions can be adapted well for the classroom: at least the students
are hearing a lot of the FL and presumably you are using items that
relate to the topic about under discussion. If you were going to deal
with education, you could write items like: - a public secondary school
in France, - the exam you take at the end of secondary school in France,
- what you call the state-run cafeteria where the students get a cheap
meal, etc. Of course, the items are in the FL.

Have the students do lots of writing. Read as much as possible of what
they write, putting in improvements where you think the particular
student would be able to benefit from them, underlining the gross errors
of gender & number with a symbol like SG or PL or M or F. Have students
rewrite assignments where the content is a lot better than the form,
giving the student a higher grade for the assignment when the quality of
the form has attained that of the content.

Instead of limiting yourself to teaching grammar items, help the
students to write more comprehensible and more elegant prose. For
example: - instead of expressing themselves in absolute terms they
should modify their statements, using 'several' instead of 'many',
modifying simplistic descriptions with 'often', 'perhaps', 'reportedly',
etc. For example, instead of saying that you don't get a welcoming smile
when you go into a French bistrot, they could say you OFTEN don't get
one. Understatement is great for avoiding confrontation. - instead of
stringing bare sentences along and leaving the reader to guess how they
relate to each other, they should use connectives like 'on the other
hand', 'however', 'in addition'. - <<succes>> means a box office hit
while <<reussite>> means an artistic success, among other

If you have read this far, which of these practices do you support?
Which do you object to, and why?

RBoswell Vestal NY


96/06 From-> "Helen V. Jones" <>
Subject: Re: Advice to new teachers

According to Ilona M. Fox:

>I'd like to add only one more idea: create a wonderful ambiance in your classroom
>so that the moment students arrive, they are in a little corner of the world and language
>they are studying. Over the summer gather posters, post cards, and other materials
>which will decorate the walls. Plants are nice too. Ilona M. Fox

Ilona is right...Nelson Brooks used to say the FL classroom should be a
"cultural island". When you enter a FL classroom you should feel as
though you have entered another country.

Unfortunately, for those of us who travel and teach in several rooms
(where other subjects are taught) that is difficult. Wish administrators
would understand how important it is for the FL teacher to create an
atmosphere of the culture where the languages are spoken.

Helen V. Jones


96/06 From-> Cynthia Johnson <>
Subject: Advice to new teachers

I would add just one more thing: Make friends with the custodians !!!!

Cynthia Johnson


96/07 From-> Marcella Pasetto <72713.414@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: First Year Teachers

Although I've been teaching about 18 years, each summer I search around
for something new to catch the attention of my Spanish students when
they come into my class on that first day in Sept. Last year I found a
BIENVENIDOS (WELCOME) mat and put it by my door the first week. The kids
thought it was weird but everyone loved it. This year I intend to have
LA MACARENA playing as the kids walk in. On my walls, I have the best of
last year's projects in order to show the students what they will be
doing and what an A project looks like. You don't have to spend a lot of
money; just keep your eyes open for ideas!!!

Buena Suerte,
Marcella Pasetto


96/09 From-> Bob Hall <>
Subject: Re: FL situations in class

>I'm a first-year middle school teacher using VyV. I'd very much appreciate the
>situations you have developed.

Puedes hacer estos?
Working with a partner practice / prepare the following situations; some of
which you will have to perform for the class.

1. You meet someone you know by first name. Greet him/her / find out how
he/she is / say good-bye.

2. You meet someone for the first time. Greet him/her / find out his
name / find out where he is from / express pleasure at meeting him/her /
say good-bye.

3. You and a friend meet at the mall. Greet each other / find out how
each other is. In the process of 'cruising' the mall your friend sees a
boy/girl and asks you where he/she is from.

4. You arrive in Guatemala and must go through customs. The customs
officer, after greeting you, wants to know the following about you: your
name / where you are from / how you are. You both end the conversation
by saying good-bye to each other.

5. You are calling a company about a job advertised in the newspaper.
You can only reach their answering service operator. The operator needs
your name / the day and date of the call / the time of the call . End
the conversation with the operator with a thank-you and a good-bye.

6. Your sister, Marca, is going to begin a Spanish class ; but she
doesn't know the details of the class. The teacher calls for her when
she's not at home. You take a message for her in which you find out the
following information: Who called / what the person does / the time of
the call / when the class is / the teacher's phone number.

7. In a conversation with a friend you must greet / find out how he/she
is / find out what he means by a word you don't understand. End the
conversation with a thank-you and a good-bye.

8. Your Spanish teacher is asking questions of the class. He come to you
and sakes how to say 'good afternoon'. You don't know and respond

9. Your Spanish teacher is 'firing' question after question at you. One
of them you don't understand. Say that you don't understand.

10. As a special treat your Spanish teacher sings happy birthday to each
student on his/her birthday; but before he can do it, he must know the
students' names and when their birthday is.

11. You are a newspaper reporter interviewing a famous Hispanic person.
You need to: Greet the person / find out the person's name / where he/she
is from / birthday / saint's day / his/her favorite day and month / his/her
favorite holiday. End the conversation with a good-bye

12. You, a Spanish teacher, are giving one of your students an oral
exam. You must greet him/her / ask how he is / find out about his/her
birthday / ask how many months are in a year / how many days in 3
months / how many weeks in a year . End the conversation with a
thank-you and a good-bye.

13. You are doing an assignment in Spanish class. You don't have a
calendar and can't remember what the day and date are. Find out.

14. Your friend calls you to tell you that there is a concert
(concierto) by the 'Smashing Pumpkins' which takes place tomorrow at
8:00 p.m. You always have a busy calendar; so you have to make sure you
can go. Ask your friend tomorrow's day and date and confirm the time of
the concert

Bob Hall


97/01 From-> roland a levy phys fac/staff <levyr@MEGAHERTZ.NJIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Thank you/Advice

>I have just begun to student teach. Next week I will be teaching my first lessons.
>I have teach a unit on food to an eighth-grade, Spanish I class and a lesson on the
>future tense to a high-school, Spanish III class. Any suggestions that can be offered
>by Monday night would be greatly appreciated.

I know you must be nervous, but we all will come up with our bag of
tricks and help you out.

First of all, you should always start or enter the classroom with
something that will spark the students' interest - You could wear a
chef's hat, or a waiter's apron - if dressing up is not your bag, try to
bring menus from hispanic restaurants and have students flip through
them to spark their interest ( I often bring menus from the former boat
"France"); or if you want to teach them how to set the table first, then
bring a tablecloth, and the rest of the table setting - Then, of course,
you should have visuals - either flash cards showing the food items, or
the real foods, or transparencies with foods - you could make
transparencies from any photocopy (so you could make photocopies of food
pages from any textbook) - then, put a second layer on top of the
transparency, and have all of the items labeled - have them repeat those
words, and you could pass a copy of those words to the students
(instead of having them copy - for expediency) - By the way, normally,
textbooks come with transparencies of pictures from the textbook (we use
the Scott Foresman series, so you could find good pages there).

As far as the future, you could bring a see-thru round container, and
pretend that this your "crystal ball" and you are looking into the
future and predicting people's future - or ask students what are they
planning to do during their summer vacation, or where are they going to
be in year 2020? this way your are setting the mood for the "future" -
then you will rephrase the students' English answers into the F.L., and
introduce the forms, etc..
Buena suerta.
Viviane Levy


97/08 From-> Dana Thacker <>
Subject: Re: Advice for new teachers: causes of disruptions

Keep 'em busy! Don't stop… just keep on going.......have lots of props,
or game items, magazine pictures, playing cards, puppets, plastic
fruit, markers & index cards, name it......have at least 1 extra
activity planned each class....

If an activity isn't going well, ditch it-go on to the next one...

Also, try to befriend at least one student who can offer constructive
feedback on activities...i.e. "I liked the game, but the prize should be
bonus points instead of this dumb sticker.", or "Next time, let's make
our own drawings and guess the vocabulary words...."

Dana Thacker

97/08 From-> Lana Malone <>
Subject: Re: New Teacher Help!!!

I have taught 8th graders for 19 years and they are the best!! They will
buy into anything you want them to do. They are too young to have
learned to whine or to say "That's too hard," like some of my
high-schoolers do. What works the best for me the first few days of
class is to get them speaking the language immediately. My students tell
me that they hate it when teachers spend the first day on rules. They
want to learn something that they can go home and show their parents.

Begin the first day with introductions. Hello, how are you?, my name
is___, what's your name, etc. Gradually, each day you can add more,
while reviewing what you've done previous days. Before they get into the
book at all, they can have learned the days, months, dates, numbers,
introductions, items in the classroom. Keep the class fast paced. Don't
spend too much time on any one thing during the class period. You'll
have fun and they'll love it.

Lana Malone


97/09 From-> George Beyer <>
Subject: Re: Survival Of New Teachers

Read this on another listserv, and while I know nothing will work for
all teachers, thought this was worthwhile and wanted to share it.

Subject: New Teachers' Survival Guide
97/09 From-> Barbara <>

Partly as a result of the discussion on the listserv about why we lose
good teachers in the first 3 years on the job and partly because my
school has so many brand new teachers this year, I offered to do a 5
minute mini-inservice at each faculty meeting for the first few weeks of
school to share something called the Seven Gems. I learned them from
Michael Grinder, an educational consultant in Vancouver, WA, who focuses
on learning styles and how we can effectively increase the non-verbal
management of our classrooms, saving our voices for content and

They've had a powerful effect on my classes in the last 5 years.
Effective teachers often do these intuitively as needed, but
inexperienced teachers can become more effective with just a little bit
of practice. I'll give you the first 2 now because they're fresh in my
mind and I'll get the rest out as soon as I can get them summarized.

#1 Freeze Body - When you're ready to begin a lesson or need to give
additional instructions during a lesson, go to a specifically chosen
place in the room, take the stance of a traffic cop, with your weight
equally on both feet and your hands comfortably in front at around waist
level. Then freeze in that position while you do #2. Do not try to get
the students' attention while you are moving toward the front of the
room, looking for things at your desk, etc., because what you're saying
(Stop and pay attention) and what you're modeling (keep moving) don't
match. Wait in that position till you're satisfied you have their

#2 "Class" (Pause) Drop voice to a whisper - Using whatever phrase is
most comfortable to you, call to the group at a volume just above the
noise level of the class, then WAIT. When they're with you, start the
directions, instructions, etc. in close to a whisper and shift your body
out of the traffic cop stance. On worst case days, like Halloween, you
may have to drag out the phrase slowly and bring your voice down to a
whisper one step at a time.

Since I'm a very verbal person, I had noticed over the years that the
students had begun to ignore a lot of what I was saying and I was
repeating the same things over and over. When I started with just these
first 2 steps, I could see a difference right away--everything about me
was communicating the same idea--"This is important, pay attention."
I hope this is the kind of suggestion you're looking for!

Barb Mitchell

B. Sage Advice From the Experienced

This is the latest version of Marilyn Barrueta’s famous and much
appreciated advice to new teachers. It has grown in length as she has
pondered the situation.
97/08 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Advice to (New?) Teachers -- long, sorry


1. Familiarize yourself with the school layout before classes start.
You'll feel a lot more confident if you can answer questions the first
week as to "Where is...?" and students will view you as more

2. If you get your class lists before first meeting of classes, make a
seating chart, and ask them to take those seats as soon as class starts.
This often prevents clusters of friends sitting together and chatting,
and puts you in control from the beginning. You can always let them
change later.

3. Familiarize yourself in advance with the text materials being used
and where your particular levels are supposed to start.

4. On the other hand, I personally don't like to have any input about
individual students (except for something really important, like
deafness or carries a gun!) from previous teachers. Students react
differently to different people, and prophecies all too often become

5. If you really need to "call roll" make it an active, productive thing
-- students must respond promptly with something in the L2. This can be
around a particular topic to review vocabulary, such as items of
clothing or food; making it a rule that none can be repeated forces them
to listen to those going before; requiring the article and giving an
extra check/point to anyone who corrects a previous error also makes
them listen.

6. OVERPLAN! Plan for a number of different activities per period, and
for two or three times as much as you think you can do, until you get a
real feel for timing in each class. There is nothing worse than finishing
what you have planned with a fair amount of time still left -- when
you're more experienced, you can punt, but at the beginning it's
important to have backup. Students who are busy doing productive work
don't have the inclination (or at least the time) to act out.

7. At least the first time, make clear what the purpose of each activity
is, so that they know how it will benefit them and support their
learning. Otherwise they see some activities as just "busy work" and
don't take them seriously.

8. Have an immediate activity ready to start class. If it's a
particularly rambunctious class, make it a written activity for a
clearly limited time, so that they have to get to it and get it done.
Each class has its own personality -- some need calming down at the
beginning, some toward the end as they get tired. (And some, always!)

9. Always have on hand some kind of extra quiet activity that you can
turn to in an emergency -- when you have to take some student out in the
hall to talk to them, or when your head is exploding and you just can't
take any more!

10. If you have planned an activity that requires something in the way
of technology -- even as simple as the overhead projector -- try to have
on hand a backup in case of tech failure: an extra bulb; the same
material on the board or on a poster, etc. If that's not possible, see

11. Do everything you can to memorize your students' names and faces
just as soon as possible. My goal has always been to know everyone by
the end of the 4th day (that's the first week for us). Being able to
call someone by name goes a long way to avoiding problems.

12. Give homework the first day if possible. It doesn't have to be long
or profound -- can be a culture question to find out (Where does L2 rank
among world languages in terms of numbers of speakers?), but it sets a
tone right at the beginning that this is a serious class which has
out-of-class responsibilities.

13. If possible, have ready the first day a "policy sheet" -- or
whatever you or your school call it -- stating your expectations for the
class: attendance, materials required, course coverage, text, how to
contact for help, consequences of cheating, grading scale, and general
class behavior rules. Keep the latter short and FEW -- but make it clear
that you intend to enforce them.

14. Keep your word. I state my rules and assume from the beginning they
will be followed, without my delineating specific consequences. Most of the
time they are. If they are not, I inform the class that I am forced to
assign consequences -- detention, whatever -- and the next time there is
an infraction, I do exactly that. Assume that your students want to
learn and that they will behave. (It may sound strange to state that,
but I've known teachers to go into new classes with the opposite
attitude and invite misbehavior.) Have few rules, state them clearly,
and enforce them kindly but firmly. NEVER threaten, and even more so,
not with threats you probably can't enforce. Positive reinforcement is
the key.

15. Move around the room -- don't teach sitting behind your desk, or
always standing in front. This not only changes the focal point, but
allows students to continually move around a bit in their chairs even
when the activity isn't physical -- and that releases some extra energy.
It also allows you to see better who's trying to do their homework in
class, etc.!

16. Physical proximity to a student is also a controlling factor. I'm
not talking about a threatening type posture -- just that it's generally
easier for someone to act out from a distance. (This is often referred
to as the "sphere of influence.")

17. There used to be a saying "Don't smile until Thanksgiving." That's
obviously an exaggeration -- but it is true that it is better to start
out somewhat strict -- you can always loosen up, whereas it's often very
hard to tighten up. All of us often have our "favorite" classes -- but
I've found in the past that my favorites at the end of the year are
often not the same ones, and sometimes I've been the cause of the change
by not holding the line with some.

18. NEVER get into an exchange with a difficult student in front of the
class! An audience is what they often crave. Take them out into the hall
if you absolutely have to resolve the issue right then, or insist that
they come by after school or whatever.

19. Related to that, don't feel you have to justify absolutely
everything -- you are the adult and the professional in charge of that
room, and some things just ARE! (O.K., call me old-fashioned again; the
current rage is for us to be "facilitators" -- I think we can and should
be both that and clearly in charge!) There will often be the (usually
very intelligent but offbeat) student who loves to match wits with you,
and a lot of class time can be wasted in empty argument.

20. If you should have one or more real troublemakers, one strategy that
has worked for us is to arrange with (an)other FL teacher(s) (of a
different language if possible) who teach(es) nearby that period to send
the offender(s) to them with written work to do. You've removed their
known audience; put them in an unfamiliar environment with a language
they don't know (in itself a little intimidating). You've kept the
problem within the department, rather than turning immediately to what
may be your last resort -- the administration.

21. If you've planned carefully (and of course you have), don't let
yourself get distracted and off the track by unrelated questions
(Sen~ora, what do you think about X?) designed to do just that --
unless, of course, you see here an opportunity to do so in the L2 about
a topic of genuine interest to all. Which leads to #22...

22. Planning carefully doesn't mean that you don't pick up on
spontaneous leads that present themselves as a good learning opportunity
-- ignoring a comment or a question that, although not on the topic at
hand, is clearly an avenue of interest and practice in the L2, sends the
message that this language isn't really meant for meaningful
communication. The trick here is to recognize what are distractions, and
what are opportunities.

23. Avoid empty praise. In these days of the emphasis on "self-esteem"
it is easy to fall into the trap of constant praise for very little.
Students aren't fools, and they know when it's empty. True self-esteem
is raised when the praise is clearly deserved, and when it isn't just
given for everything.

24. Make certain that you have all the materials in order for each
class, and right at hand -- loose time while you go searching for
something is an invitation to party.

25. Treat your students with respect, regardless of their age. I treat
my high-schoolers as adults until they give me reason to do otherwise.
Laughter is a great help in the classroom -- just make certain the laugh
is never on someone, unless you are willing for it to be on you. Be very
careful about personal jokes and humor, unless you know your students
extremely well -- feelings are easily hurt at this age, and an innocent
joke that is felt to be at someone's expense can cause trouble.

26. Have some specific organizing routines ready -- will the homework be
written on the board for all classes for the day? Will people be
assigned to pass out papers that are being returned? Do you have
Kleenex, pencils, pencil sharpener, etc., available somewhere? Do they
have to have a pass to leave the room? If so, how do they get it without
disrupting the flow of the class?

27. Think hard and make some decisions before you start -- are you going
to collect homework? Check it? Grade it? Do you have a way of evaluating
oral work? Be certain to make all of these clear to the students -- they
have a right to know exactly how they will be evaluated.

28. Make your room (assuming you have one) as much of a cultural island
as possible. Posters, artifacts, realia, postcards, anything you can
find or cart back from anywhere helps set the stage.

29. For students who are absent, maintain some kind of record that they
may consult upon return to see what was missed in both homework and
classwork. This could be in the form of a card file by day, a notebook,
or similar format, kept either by you or by someone in the class. Put it
in an easily-accessible place and make students responsible for checking

30. Don't worry about your students not liking you. Worry about them not
respecting you. The teachers they respect are, in the long run, also
liked. Don't aim to be their friend -- they have plenty of those. Aim to
be their teacher, who gives them the greatest gift of all -- knowledge.

31. Love your subject -- only if you do, can any love of it be imparted
to your students!



96/06 From-> Bill Heller <>
Subject: Marilyn's Advice to new teachers

I can only add my "Amen" to Marilyn's wonderful advice to new teachers.
As much as the novice wants to be a "humanistic" teacher that the kids
will all like, it turns out that the teachers that the students really
like the most are the ones who keep order in their classroom, who make
every minute count, and who are committed to replacing ignorance with
knowledge. Don't be afraid that they won't like you. Be more concerned
that they won't respect you.

Follow Marilyn's advice, and you can be well on your way to being a
respected teacher who is also well liked.

Bill Heller


96/06 From-> roland a levy phys fac/staff <>
Subject: Re: Marilyn's Advice to new teachers

To: First year teachers

May I add to Marilyn's and Bill's advices, that the atmosphere in the
classroom is also very important - not only decorations related to L2
are important, but also a firm and relaxed atmosphere at the same time
are important - Students should feel "comfortable" to express themselves
in L2 without "sneers" or "giggles" from classmates (and I'm sorry it
still happens, from stuckup teachers!!!). Once this climate is
established, students will look forward to being in your class. Bonne

Viviane Levy
A.L. Johnson Regional High School (for one more "regional" year) Clark,
New Jersey


96/06 From-> Mary Ann Dellinger <>
Subject: Re: First Year Teachers

Ditto on Marilyn and Bill's advice. With all the emphasis on touchey
feeley going on, as we stray farther and farther away from academics,
one must keep focused every minute of every school day. And the most
important minutes are those first 10 the first day of school. You may
have a B.A., M.A. or Phd. with a 4.zillon G.P.A. but it takes them five
minutes to size you up.

Get a system and stick to it. I remember a text we had way back when in
one of those useless Education classes with someone who had never been
in a classroom in his life. It was called "Don't Smile 'til Christmas".
A bit exaggerated, but you get the idea.

Without fail, no excuses, read: Harry Wong's "The First Days of School"
and remember, you can always break down your barriers little by little,
but you can never build them up again.

Mary Ann Dellinger


96/06 From-> Mike Watson <>
Subject: Re: First Year Teachers

I absolutely agree. Dr. Wong gave a talk at the beginning of the year
last year to our whole system. It was great and I used many of his
techniques. It was the best year I've had so far.

I heartily second Mary Ann's recommendations. Read Wong's book and
remember that it's easier to drop barriers through the year than to put
them up.

Mike Watson


96/06 From-> Timothy Mason <>
Subject: Subject: Re: First Year Teachers

I see that advice about not smiling before Christmas is still going
strong. I usually smile the first time I see a class. I even laugh and
make jokes. And I continue doing so throughout the year. I also teach
things, and the students learn. And when I see that young teachers are
advised to be grim- faced and rigid for about half the academic year, I
understand why it is that so many children and adolescents do not like
school. Which is why I give no such advice to the teachers I do train -
on the contrary, I tell them that there is no reason to be scared of a
bunch of fifteen year-olds. Or eleven-year olds. Or eighteen year-olds.
And the trainees come back and they tell me that I was right to give
them that advice.

Of course you need barriers and you need to establish distance. But one
can be firm without being gloomy. And of course, there are difficult
classes and difficult times. But good humour gets you through those
difficulties a lot better than most other stratagems one might use. And
after 25 years or more of teaching, I still enjoy it. I'm not 'burnt
out'. Oh, and whenever I hear one of those teachers' common-room
conversations about how awful the children are, how stupid and knowledge
resistant they are, I go away and do something less depressing, like
having a chat with one of the 'lunkheads'.

Timothy Mason


96/06 From-> Sue Osborn <>
Subject: Re: Subject: Re: First Year Teachers

I concur 100% with Timothy Mason's comments about smiling from the
Since a foreign language is communication, then it seems to me that in
order to teach it effectively, we must incorporate the joy, happiness,
and enthusiasm of the language and that's with a SMILE! I often am
amazed how seldom I see SMILES on our teachers. If that's due to
burn-out, then get out of the profession.

When I talk English, I do so with a smile and I hope I bring sparkle to
the conversation. Similarly, I try to do the same with the topics I'm
teaching or having the kids discuss. Learning is retained when closely
connected to emotion and why not have that emotion be JOY! And you can't
have joy without a smile. No way!

Works for me! And it sounds like it works for Timothy, too!

Have a great summer!

Sue Osborn


96/06 From-> Lydia Frank   <>
Subject: Re: Subject: Re: First Year Teachers

I also agree with Timothy Mason and Sue Osborn that it is important to
smile from the first day, and I am going to be a first year teacher this
year. Students agree, too, I believe. When I finished student teaching
this spring, one student wrote a message on the survey which shows how
important a smile can be.

"I've observed that you always seem happy in class. Most teachers don't
seem happy. Thanks for making me smile when I'm feeling down."

How horrible school must be for those who have teachers who never smile.
I think smiling is extremely important for foreign language teachers
because students have to feel comfortable in class if we expect them to
learn how to communicate.

Lydia Frank


96/07 From-> Veronica Dees <>
Subject: M S Exploratory French


Perhaps someone on this list could help me. I teach Middle School (5-8)
Exploratory French. Each class meets 50 minutes daily for one quarter
(9-weeks). Then those students move on to the next exploratory subject
and I start all over with new students. I usually teach 130 new students
each quarter.

With over eight years of HS teaching experience, I exhausted ALL of my
means, knowledge, ideas, etc. during last year's pilot of this program
by just providing enough activities for the students. This school year,
I will be phasing in Level II for grades 6-8. Does anyone have any tips
to get me going? Basically, I'm a little tired of being center-stage all
of the time. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you. We don't have a textbook
either. So there's nothing to fall back on. Needless to say, last year

Frantically in search of a professional picker-upper,

Veronica Dees


96/09 From-> "Sharon L. Kazmierski" <>
Subject: Re: I need encouragement. -Reply

When I was a first year teacher at a middle school, our team leader
suggested that I listen to set of tapes he had by Harry Wong. The ideas
I got from simply listening to those tapes -- in my car stereo on my way
to work -- were very motivational. I really suggest getting them and
listening to them on the way to work in the morning in your car stereo
if you have a tape deck. It really does make a difference if you listen
in the morning to those tapes because when you walk in the door, you
feel prepared.

Also, I listen to Dr. Laura Schlesinger every day on the way home from
work -- she is a national syndicated radio talk show host -- and I feel
that I have learned a lot about dealing with people from listening to
her ideas and philosophies.

Don't give up because it does get better. Even after two or three or
four years you still are nervous. But it really does get better. Having
lots of activities makes a big difference too -- and that takes time.

Also, have a sense of humor, be fair, be consistent. Be human too.

Sharon L. Kazmierski


97/09 From-> "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez" <>
Subject: Re: Advice sought

One piece of advice would be to keep every scrap of evidence of your
teaching success, including student papers, or recordings, letters from
teachers and/or parents, test scores. If you are not getting solid
support from your administration, two possibilities are that:

1. They don't support you, and this evidence is your best defense if
they turn on you, or

2. They think they should support you but don't know how, in which case
your evidence arms them.

Either way, there's no arguing with success.

And conversely, if looking over your results you see that they're not
that hot, you might decide to take everything off the walls, buy a new
set of ballpoint pens and notebooks for every student and have them
dutifully sit and copy their textbook every day. I had a French teacher
in 6th grade who used to have us do that while he went off to the
janitor's closet with a bottle of something sustaining. Now there's an
approach... ;-s

Cindy H-G


97/08 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: New teacher and first days--help!

One problem that you face, if your situation is anything like ours, is
that there will be about a week of "drop and add". Kids will leave, and
new ones will come in. If you do some things during this first week that
they have to know to do the second week's work, kids coming in at that
time will be unable to do it, and you'll just have to start over again.
I think that this is a good time to do something which is worthwhile,
but not critical in a sequential sense.

Today was our first full day with the kids. I always start the first
year kids with a lesson over the Roman Empire and draw a map to show how
Latin spread across Iberia, Gaul, Dalmatia, etc. Then I put up some
cognates in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Latin (I don't know any
Rumanian) to show the relationships which exist between the "children"
of Latin. I explain how Latin evolved differently, due at least in part
to the different native languages spoken by the residents of the areas
that the Romans conquered, and I explain that the modern languages are
the evolution of the Latin spoken by the soldiers, not the senators back
in Rome. Contrasts such as "equus" vs "cavallus" and so forth help make
the point. I compare it to the spread of English in VietNam during the
60's and 70's, showing how the local people pick up the language of the
powerful and the rich to do business with them, (restaurants, bars,
hotels, etc.) Another good comparison is "Hogan's Heroes", the TV show
which is still rerun in syndication from time to time. I point out that
Col. Klenck, "Frenchie", all of them speak English, but it sounds
different because of the native language.

Then we start a general discussion of what language is (words,
"particles", sequence--word order, ) and how you can't just take
word-for-word translations from the dictionary and produce a good
sentence which natives are comfortable with. (I give it to you-- vs I to
you it give--in Spanish). I try to get them to see that patterns are as
important as the words themselves (The dog bit John vs John bit the
dog----same words but different meaning). Without knowing the pattern,
you can have the right words, but the meaning is confused.
I was knocked out of my socks today when my middle son, 15 years old,
who is now in my first year class as a freshman, said to me that it was
actually a lot more interesting that he thought that it would be. Thank
you God!

I'll start the sequenced stuff next week when I'm pretty sure that
everyone is there who is going to be there. Also, I'd wait till then to
pass out books, workbooks, etc. so that you don't have to chase around
getting them back from someone who drops after 3 days. I know that this
sounds like "filling time", but with the drop and add thing, I think
that this is one time that it makes sense, and you can do things that
won't be critical to sequence, but are still good learning activities,
background, etc. and worthwhile.

Richard Lee

97/08 From-> Jennifer Morrell <>
Subject: help for first year teacher

Bonjour! I have just finished my first week of my first year of teaching
French at the middle school level and I have encountered some problems
that I would like to get some help/input about if possible... 1. I am
teaching two sections of French 2 and so far the students tell me they
cannot understand my accent because their other teacher didn't speak
with an accent, they won't even try to converse with me in French, they
are supposed to be on chapter 5 and when I gave them a diagnostic test
to determine what I needed to review from last year, so many of them
left it blank that I'm feeling like I need to teach them French 1 all
over. They are planning on taking French 3 in high school next year and
I am feeling immense pressure to prepare them. They are very stubborn
about any of my ideas...can anyone suggest anything for me to try???

2. I am also teaching 2 sections of exploratory French to classes of
about 30 screaming 7th graders, this is the first year my school has
tried the program so I feel responsible if it fails, yet these students
are just out of control....the first day I had students raise their
hands and ask how to say words like "f..." in French, and how to "roll a
blunt", so I am trying everything I know how to do to keep them
interested and engaged, but when we do games/fun stuff, they are even
more wild, I don't want to send them to the office because that reflects
on me as a teacher but can anyone help me with some activites to keep
these kids occuppied...I also have about 13 students who have attention
defecit disorder so if anyone has suggestions on how to help them in
French I would greatly appreciate that as well... Thank you -

Jennifer Morrell


97/08 From-> Timothy Mason <>
Subject: Re: help for first year teacher

Jennifer Morrell writes ;
"I don't want to send them to the office because that reflects on me as
a teacher ..."

No, it doesn't. No teacher can be expected to to work with out of
control pupils without help from the administration - this is
particularly the case for a beginner such as yourself.

I suggest that you need to talk to your colleagues about the situation
that you find yourself in, and you need to speak to a senior
administrator. If these people will not help you, then you are in a
badly run school. You should not feel yourself to be responsible for a
programme which you had no part in designing, and the success of which
does not interest the principal actors. You should also contact the
institution in which you were trained and talk to one or other of your

Now look to your own practice. How well-prepared are you for your
classes? How clear are your objectives? How fast is your pacing? Do you
have a sufficient number of varied activities? Take no notice of the
silly remarks or the criticisms - it is often the case that these will
die out if the teacher makes it clear that they are of no interest by
ignoring them. Do not allow them to play last year's teacher off against
you ... they probably gave her an equally hard time too.

The results of tests given at the beginning of the year are almost
always catastrophic. This should come as no surprise ; the learners have
certainly had no contact with the language during the long summer
vacation, and will need a period of readaptation. Certainly, they will
need to revisit structures and functions that they have already covered
- this is normal ; you should think of the curriculum as a spiral, which
always goes back over the same material, hopefully deepening
understanding and capacity at each twist of the thread.

Timothy Mason

97/08 From-> Lana Malone <>
Subject: Re: help for first year teacher

I, too, have had the experience of replacing a teacher. It seems that
whoever was the first teacher is the one that got it right. It helped in
my situation to ask the students what they felt they needed to work on.
That way they had some control, knew I was listening, etc. We worked on
what they wanted to work on the first week or so. They weren't
unreasonable. Also, ask what activities help them learn. Maybe their
former teacher had some activities that you could use for a week or two.
Once they see you're on their side and are listening, they'll probably
come around. Don't take it personally.

As far as the screaming 7th graders go, keep them very busy, change
activities often, speak the target language. Also, don't let them know
they've rattled you. I learned that if you act like you've seen it all
before and are not impressed, they stop that behavior more readily.

Lana Malone


97/01 From-> Ron Takalo <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

Dear Anthony:

A good question - what five pieces of advice for a new foreign language
teacher? Since I have taught high school and junior high school Spanish
for sixteen years, and college level Spanish for fourteen years, your
question is intriguing. My Ph.D. was in pedagogy from the University of
Texas at Austin, so your question should be "up my alley"

First of all, you are going to get lots of advice, so take it all
(including mine) with a grain of salt. There are many good teachers and
many good ways of teaching. Method A may work for Teacher X, and method
B may work best for Teacher Y, but Teachers X and Y both think they have
all the answers, and that the other is wrong.

With that caveat, let me offer this humble advice:

1. Be enthusiastic - enthusiasm can probably accomplish more than a
particular methodology
2. Read journals, FL TEACH, books, etc. on pedagogy
3. Attend local, state, regional and national conferences - they are a
great source of information and inspiration from great teachers who have
been in the trenches for a long time.
4. Do you love to work with the age group you are assigned to? If not,
find another age group or another profession before you hurt yourself
and the students.
5. Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, but involve me and I
learn - attributed to several sources (Chinese proverb, Ben Franklin,

I hope this helps, and is more or less what you were looking for.

Ron Takalo


97/01 From-> rgurnish <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

Anthony: here are five pieces of advice from me to you that are almost
all geared to organization. I feel like managing stuff well keeps me

1. Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. Think! if it's a
great idea then take an extra ten minutes to think about the glitches
that might come, the materials that you might need (and that you don't
have), the problems that you might encounter. How many great ideas have
fallen flat because we missed a step or forgot about certain factors?

2.Keep a copy of everything! Use a three ring binder if you want or file
folders, but be careful to save everything you pass out to kids, every
lesson plan you write, every AV you use, etc. Saves time the next year
even as you change things from year to year it helps.

3. Don't be afraid to call or write home to mom and dad. I admit that's
not always easy but it's worth it. The kids may not like it but
communication with the parents is important. Plus, you're not there for
a popularity contest (although, let's face it, it's nice to be liked!)
you're there to help the kids learn and appreciate and progress. Here I
speak as a teacher and a parent. Also, call or write about good things
as well as bad.

4. Document and keep good records of absences, tardies, flicks,
suspensions, etc. I have been asked on a number of occasions if "so and
so" was in my class on "such and such" a date. At least one time it
saved a kid from being in trouble with the law (I was her alibi!)

5. After all that, enjoy what you are doing, have fun (sometimes when I
introduce a new word, I'll say things like "isn't that a great word? or
doesn't it sound fun? I love to say that" Let's say it together. It's
corny, the kids think I'm weird, but they remember. In fact, today a
girl kept saying "nunca". Kids asked her why and she said "it's a great
word I say it all the time.") be enthusiastic.



97/01 From-> Kristin Parker <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

I agree with the replies I have read.

I'm a third year teacher, and although I know my advice wasn't
solicited, I'd like to volunteer it anyway.

1. Be strict in the beginning of the year--it's easier to ease up on the
controls, rather than to try to regain them.

2. Remember--there is a desk between you and the student. Respect and
like them, but do not try to be their "buddy" Be there for them if they
ask you to be, but it's not your job to be where they don't want you.

3. Establish your grading policy in the beginning. Know what you expect
from the students. It makes it easier for you to assess the students'
progress throughout the semester, and it helps the students to know and
understand what you want.

4. Get to know your colleagues. They are an invaluable source of
information and support.

5. Enjoy your classes. If it's not fun to teach, look at yourself first,
before "blaming" the students. If it still isn't fun, then teaching
might not be the right profession.

Kristin Parker


97/01 From-> Kristine Conlon <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

1.Have enough stuff to do to fill the time you've got. Overplan if
necessary. If you run out of stuff to do, sing. I usually plan up to
eight activities for 50 minutes (question of the day, correct homework,
partner work, quiz, explain grammar, listening tape, stand up and
interview eight people, etc.).

2.Don't yell, they'll only yell back. Keep your voice low.

3.Don't admonish a group. Admonish one or two people by name.

4.Don't give a kid an audience. Take him or her out into the hall to
reprimand him/her. A lot more will be accomplished.

5.Don't be sarcastic. It doesn't work, and it can really harm.

6.Give them points for everything. No matter what we do, they have
something to give me so I can give them credit.

7.Adults, let alone kids, will kill for an M and M. Even seniors like to
get a sticker for a perfect paper.

Kristine Conlon


97/01 From->
Subject: Re: Needing advice

Be patient, good teaching comes with experience

Plan, plan and plan again

Don't take everything personally

Take time to reflect about your work

Be caring to your students, listen to them

Pat Ahrens


97/01 From-> Cathy  Quinn      <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

1. Look to the excited experienced teachers for guidance and ideas.

2. Be creative and willing to try new ideas even when some fail.

3. Try to get to know your students and learn to know what makes them

4. Care about your students.

5. Get involved in a local Foreign Language Project because you will
always be a student if you are a teacher.

Cathy  Quinn


97/01 From-> Julia Ann Fleming <>
Subject: Re: Needing advice

1. Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences and expectations. It is
a hassle to do, but ten years from now you'll have it to refer to when
you're in a professional crisis. I wish I had done it. My expectations ,
though I believe are still high, have gotten weaker and weaker as the
years pass.

2.Keep an idea box. Have dividers for listening, speaking, reading,
writing, and cultural ideas. This will become more and more useful as
the years roll by, too.

3.Set priorities. Rmember you are here for the kids and not for Powers
That Be. You'll need sound priorities to keep your sanity, too.

4.Keep on learning. NEVER COAST! Once you cease to think and challenge
yourself, you become an ineffective teacher.

5.Keep your standards high. Being the most popular tea cher may
not be fun,at the present, but you'll always have the respect fo your
students then and later.

Julia Ann Fleming


Subject: Re: Advice to new teachers - FLTEACH FAQ (was:Finding your "teacher voice")

I would add one piece to new teachers: learn to see yourself as an adult. If you're in college, you might be accustomed to rolling out of bed, brushing your teeth, and heading out to class in your jammies or a sweatshirt over your jammies, no make-up, etc. If you dress professionally, you will learn to see yourself as a professional, and the voice will come more naturally. Go to a gently-used place and get a couple if blazers (or dress shirts and ties.) You need to wear grown-up clothes, grown-up make up, and a grown-up hair-do. If your hair is long, wear it up. Especially if you look young. My daughter is 5-foot nothing, weighs a hundred pounds, and has big, long hair. When she did her student teaching, she always wore heels, with her hair up. You have to convince kids (and adults) that you're a grown-up, but even harder, you have to remind yourself. (You're not an imposter! You ARE a grown-up! Enjoy! Even the paying-taxes part!)

And, new teachers: read every word of the FLTEACH FAQ page, (memorize what Marilyn said!) take what fits, and enjoy the ride! It's the best job in the world, in spite if the frustrations!

Carol Ross Stacy

C. Commiserations, But We’ve Been There and You Can Survive, Too.

96/11 From-> Jo Benn <>
Subject: Re: Any advice?

CLPinkney wrote:

>I am a high school French teacher of some very reluctant learners of the language.
>This is only my second year at this school and it is proving to be even more difficult
>than last year. The textbook which I am saddled with is the Scott,Foresman series
>which is very inappropriate for my students. Even with my supplementary material
>(which takes my hours to cut, trim, paste, etc.), it is all so frustrating. I have lived
>and studied in France and am a true francophile. At this point in time, I am giving
>serious thought to leaving the teaching profession (at least at the non-university
>level). It appears that my talents are being wasted at the lower levels.

Don't despair--it really does take time to adjust, and high school
students are tough to teach sometimes. I think the textbook could be a
big problem for you. I am in the same boat this year. I cannot imagine
why this book was created--it drives me crazy and I have trouble
teaching with it. And I have taught high school and middle school for
more than 15 years. I am struggling with a level one class this year.

I know people will say that it doesn't matter what book you use, you can
adapt any book to your teaching style. I have to teach my students so
that they will end the year with approximately the same knowledge as the
students of the other two French teachers in my school. I am finding it
extremely difficult to teach the material in my own way because I don't
like the way so much vocabulary and grammar is thrown together
arbitrarily in each chapter.

Sorry I haven't offered any constructive advice--thanks for giving me
the opportunity to let off steam! Don't give up but get on the textbook
committee when it's time for a new one.

Jo Benn


96/11 From-> "J. Vincent H. Morrissette" <>
Subject: any advice

CLPinkney wrote:

<I am a high school French teacher of some very reluctant learners of the
<language. This is only my second year at this school and it is proving to be
<even more difficult than last year.
<The textbook which I am saddled with is the Scott,Foresman series which is
<very inappropriate for my students. Even with my supplementary material
<(which takes my hours to cut, trim, paste, etc.), it is all so frustrating.

Teaching is indeed a difficult profession to pursue. We teachers have to
deal with three very mercurial constituencies: parents, students and

From my perspective, the most important of the three is certainly the
youngsters who are entrusted to us. And this is the most difficult
one to win over. If I were in your situation, I would look over the
material that needs to be covered in the Scotts Foresman series, have
students learn the basic vocabulary and grammar through games, songs,
competitions, skits (you can get a lot of ideas from the archives of
FLTEACH) and periodically test so that students can see their progress
because I believe that nothing succeeds like success.

Give a lot of praise. Give everyone a chance to excel at something
everyday if possible. Find class activities that make students work but
don't require much preparation from you, except for organizing the
needed materials. Discover ways to grade classwork and homework that do
not require a lot of your free time so that you can be joyful,
energetic, alert, encouraging and in full control of yourself in class.
If you need specific help, don't hesitate to ask for it from FLTEACHers
or write me directly.

I've been teaching French since 1958 and at the secondary level since
1972. There are days, even after these many years in the classroom, when
I question myself whether I have chosen the right profession for myself,
whether I exert any impact whatsoever on my students and whether I am
receiving any respect or simply any human consideration from them. Then
suddenly out of the blue a student who has shown no particular interest
in my course says something like, "I've learned so much in your course.
I can see the progress I've made since I first entered your
classroom..." Or the parent of an expressionless student says, "My
daughter just loves your course. She thinks you are a great teacher..."
Or a graduate goes on to major in French at the university and makes
sure that you learn through parents or friends that you played a major
part in his/her choice of major.

A high school student who once tried to have me fired because I was
proving to make what she considered too great demands on her asked her
mother to sound me out as to whether I would be willing to be her mentor
when she was a senior at the university because she "would not think of
doing her student teaching with any other teacher." At such times all
the self-questioning and the hours of grading and class preparation
disappear and I know I'm where I want to be -- in the classroom. So I
echo young Bill Mann's exhortation: don't give up on yourself just yet.
You may be about to turn the corner that will lead to a new dimension in
your teaching life.

Then too there are students' unspoken messages that you are important to
them. You will surprise yourself in discovering, for instance, that
students are actually listening while you're speaking, that they observe
class procedures without your having to resort to strong-arm tactics to
enforce them, that they drop by the classroom during free periods just
to chat or ask a question (which is really their way of being recognized
by you because you are important to them). There are so many little
signs that betray students' respect/ admiration of you. You may be
concentrating so much on trying to be an excellent teacher in the
classroom that you are missing these camouflaged messages. It is
important to recognize those students who appreciate what you are doing,
not to favor them but as necessary fuel to go on. You might also give
some thought about winning students over just by being yourself, by
letting them see that you are available to them for whatever, that you
are interested in *them* (ask discreet questions about their lives,
congratulate them on extracurricular activities, follow up on
information they have provided, etc.). It is a backdoor approach that
often proves successful. They will study for you because they like you
as a person. In fact some may study only for you and not for other

It sometimes takes time for youngsters to appreciate what you do for
them. They may resist what you are asking of them. Later some of them
will come to see and value what you did for them. In my case, I liked
teachers who did not require much of me in high school; now I resent
such teachers because they did not force me to reach for my potential.
But as a teacher, you must push forth despite the resistance; you (and
your students) will reap the benefits later on. I must believe that or
teaching will be a futile exercise for me. And I do believe it because
it has happened to me again and again in the course of my career. So it
has been for me and so, I trust, it will be for you... if you stay in
there long enough to experience "what goes around comes around."

Sorry if I have been rambling. But I think I owe you support and
encouragement as a colleague just as I would hope for support and
encouragement from my peers if I felt as discouraged about teaching as
you do now. Just don't quit when you feel you're down. If you do, you
may miss the adventure of your life!

J. Vincent H. Morrissette "If you tell me, I'll listen.
Santa Catalina School "If you show me, I'll see.


Support for the above letter:
96/11 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: any advice

I strongly second Vincent's message here - it's also the story of my
career, which began the year before Vincent's.

>It sometimes takes time for youngsters to appreciate what you do for them. They may
>resist what you are asking of them. Later some of them will come to see and value what
>you did for them.

Absolutely! I keep threatening to put up a sign in my room that says
"Appreciate me now and avoid the rush!" There isn't a year that goes by
that, and this was no exception, that I don't get visiting students,
letters, and now e-mail (ain't tech wonderful!) thanking me for what
they think I've done (although most of the time it's what THEY have done
-- simply be decent students who have taken advantage of their
opportunities). And often these are not the really top students, but the
ones who struggled; the ones who had to dig and who developed some
organized study habits along the way.

>Just don't quit when you feel you're down. If you do, you may miss the adventure of your life!




96/11 From-> Bill Mann <>
Subject: Re: any advice


Wow! I really enjoyed reading your piece of advice. It is so true! Just
last week I had a compliment given to me from another teacher which came
from several of my Spanish 3 students. My 8th period class has testing
and pushing me to my limits. I have been trying to come up with fun and
interesting ways for them to practice different things so that I could
try to harness their energy level into something constructive.

Several students went back to their Spanish 2 teacher and told them that
they really like my class despite the fact that they do not like many of
the students who are giving me a hard time. They say they are really
learning a lot from me and that they feel that I truly am there to help
them succeed. Their confidence in Spanish has been boosted and they are
constantly ready for whatever is coming next.

Since this has happened, slowly but surely, other students are beginning
to come around. My original message stands---Hang in there!

Bill Mann


96/11 From->
Subject: Re: any advice

To CL Pinkney: This is my seventh year of teaching Spanish. When I read
about your frustrations, it reminded me of how I felt for the last six

This is the first year I can truly say that I am enjoying teaching in
the high school level. Most of the difference has come from me. I have
changed my attitude towards my students. I started out the year
"playing" with the students. 99.9% responded to me. I am still very
structured about what I do, I still have very high expectations of what
I want from the students, I still present lessons and give quizzes, but
I am having fun in my approach to all of these. I am really loving what
I am doing. Now, part of this is from the students. I have a very
positive group this year, except for one class that I can't seem to perk
up. Class dynamics, go figure. I am trying not to let that one class
upset me too much. I just look forward to the next one.

Of course, I have also planned what I want to do with the students four
to five weeks in advance. I, too, am using the Scotts Foresman series
for Spanish. It requires work on my part because, for as much as it
claims to have communicative objectives, unless I plan activities for
these objectives, doing the book work is not going allow the students to
learn them. It is just a lot of repetitive work. Students figure out the
patterns, but really do not understand the "message".

Talk with other teachers, ask for their feedback, suggestions for
certain activities, etc. That's what we are all here for, to help not
just students but each other as well. If it weren't for those who I work
with, I probably would not have struggled on for the last six years.
Might have gone into herbology or something. Anyway, good luck.



96/11 From-> James C. May             <>
Subject: Re: Any advice?

<<I am a high school French teacher of some very reluctant learners of
the language. This is only my second year at this school and it is
proving to be even more difficult than last year.
The textbook which I am saddled with is the Scott,Foresman series which
is very inappropriate for my students.

I feel the key to teaching is perseverance. Last year I had a terrible
class (and this after 25 years of teaching); they were so bad they
wouldn't even repeat words after me when I asked them to. Little by
little I got cooperation, by talking to individuals and/or calling
parents. By the middle of second semester things had really improved; I
actually looked forward to that class!

As for your textbook, are you trying to cover it all in one year? We use
the Spanish equivalent of your SF text "Voces y Vistas". While I like
it, you really do have to preteach a lot of vocabulary and it does take
some getting used to. We divide the book and use the first half in
Spanish 1 and the second half in Spanish 2.

I would also encourage you to use video as a change of pace. I use one
feature film each semester. Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are
always huge successes in French 1 classes in my school. Vary your lesson
plans and try to teach to the multiple intelligences as much as
possible. Make it a point to attend conferences. I always look forward
to our state convention (WAFLT) and ACTFL first semester and Central
States Conference second semester. They are truly a shot in the arm:
everyone is pro-foreign language and I always walk away with some
terrific ideas.

Finally, I would have you realize that this is a difficult profession; I
think it was Charles James who said that student teachers quickly
realize that it takes more than enthusiasm for their subject area to
"win over" students. (Charles, I am paraphrasing what I remember from
one of your posts). If it is truly making your life miserable I would
leave the profession. But don't give up just yet; give it some time and
be optimistic.
Good luck!!

James C. May


96/11 From-> REBECCA L CHISM <>
Subject: Re: Any advice?

>I am a high school French teacher of some very reluctant learners of the
>language. This is only my second year at this school and it is proving to be
>even more difficult than last year.

Oh boy, have I been there! This is why I am now at Florida State
University doing a PhD.! However, I did endure five years of teaching
high school, and believe it or not, I actually miss it. Here is my
perspective on some things:

l. Find ways to stay positive in a more-often-than-not negative
environment. Instead of focusing on the 15 kids who did not want to be
there, I tried to remember the 10 kids who did!

2. Find your support system. Hopefully, there is support from your
administration, counselors, parents, and other teachers. It helps to
know you're not alone.

3. You'll be surprised how much actually does get through. I've had
students come back to tell me how much they learned, how much they miss
my class, etc. The only problem is, it usually takes a few years before
you hear anything like that!

4. Remember what you are there for. YOU love French, and this is a job
that allows you to do what you love to do.

5. Realize that you are only half of the equation. They are the other
half. The most you can do is continually invite your students to learn.
They may not choose to right away, but you never know when they will.

Good luck to you! Feel free to write me off list if you care to.

Becky Chism

D. Instructive Reminiscences

96/11 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Reflections, encouragement to "Any advice?" (long)

I responded supporting Vincent's message about the rewards of teaching
-- and, as always, I began to reflect a little more about my own
memories and feelings. (There IS a point to what follows, I promise.)

I never expected to be a teacher. I actually started my working life
taking a temporary government translating position while waiting for
security clearance for Voice of America. At that time Latin America was
considered of very little importance (sometimes I think it still is, and
that there will be a pay-back time), and just before I started my job I
was called and asked if I would be willing to double as secretary to the
(then) other 8 people (all men) in the L.A. division -- along with my
hired position. No way, Jose. It was then the Thursday before Labor Day
weekend, and I now didn't know what to do. Someone who lived in my
building who worked for our school system just happened to ask if I
spoke Spanish -- the teacher had just quit at one of the then-junior
highs, and they needed a replacement fast. I went on Friday to interview
with the principal, and started teaching on Tuesday. No ed courses, no
student teaching, no room, no materials, no clue.

At that time students started Spanish -- if recommended -- in the 9th
grade; I had only 3 classes of Spanish, so had to teach general math and
7th grade Social Studies as well. (We built Williamsburg for an
extraordinarily long time. School in Brasil had not taught me a lot
about colonial America.) I taught in the band room (they could have
killed each other behind the music stands and I wouldn't have known it
as long as they were quiet), the Home Ec lab (we still had treadle
sewing machines, and little girls who would show up in the middle of
class to make brownies), the shop area, and on the mezzanine overlooking
a fish pond which very quickly contained no living specimens. I had me
and the text -- "El Espan~ol al Di'a" and that was it. My take-home
salary was $187 a month, with $104 going for rent and a phone. (Sadly,
the proportions are not much different now.) I tutored, worked three
nights and Saturdays at a department store, and sorted mail at the post
office for two months until 2 a.m. during the holiday season.

I witnessed the first language labs and the advent of first edition
A-LM, which truly revolutionized language teaching, bringing the
philosophy that everyone could learn a language, and moving our
beginning levels to the 7th graders -- goodbye to math and social
studies. We issued the materials in a loose-leaf notebook, a chapter at
a time (try inventorying that!), along with take-home records. I taught
in a different room every period, with each day having a different
rotation, because my principal assigned me to the lab as my room,
forcing me to constantly change rooms with everyone else in the
department; my students used to stand out in the halls and watch to see
where I was going. With the influx of immigrant students, which would
eventually change our school system to some 57% minority / ethnic, I
became for a while the first ESL teacher, since no one had any idea what
to do with these kids -- they were putting high schoolers in junior high
on the assumption that we spoke easier English! We tried every-other-day
scheduling, in modified blocks (yes, world, there's nothing new under
the sun), which was quickly abandoned after two years.

We saw the Pledge of Allegiance dropped from classes and announcements,
went thru the bra-less phase and the anti-war demonstrations; ours was
the first school to integrate in the state of Virginia -- four little
kids scared to death, with media coverage, and bomb threats that my
family in Chile heard about before I did. I refused to join a state
professional association that forced African-American teachers to form
their own association. Several of us scandalized the school, students
too, by being the first women to wear pantsuits to school.

My school was closed (to be re-opened immediately as an alternative
school), so after 21 years I moved to my current high school, where I
will complete my 40th year, and will at some point retire -- undoubtedly
to the relief of some! I once, in the free time that has long since
disappeared, counted up the number of hours of county meetings, faculty
meetings, extra meetings, lunch meetings, conferences, and workshops
that I have given, and that figure at the time was more hours than I had
slept in these years.

I just came back from one of those conferences, where I talked with a
woman who was in the very first class I taught, and who has now been a
language teacher for some 30+ years herself. Confirmation, as Vincent
pointed out, can be years in coming. I was again lugging a stack of
materials I had bought. A nagging voice says "Why? You already have more
than you can use, and can't find half of what you have!" Because... I
always have. Because...I can't yet break away from what started out as a
solution, possibly temporary, to a job that fell through, but that
became almost a consuming passion over the years.

Several people have just posted enthusiastic reports of conferences they
just attended. I can both understand -- and not understand -- why so
many of our colleagues don't attend these opportunities. I understand it
best when I look at my non-existent bank balance. I understand it least
when I realize that, even after all these years, there is a community of
colleagues out there willing to share the creative ideas that they have
developed. I ask myself in what other profession do people do this with
no remuneration, often on their own time and at considerable expense,
and very often (at the secondary level, at any rate) with no
encouragement or reward from their school systems.

It is at these moments that I know how grateful I am to an incident of
sexism which pushed me into a profession that I am proud to belong to,
and that I am still reluctant to leave.

If you've read this far, I apologize for taking so much bandwidth and
time. But I hope that at least one of the younger colleagues who has
expressed discouragement recently has read it, and will be encouraged to
hang in there. You are on the brink of a whole new world in teaching,
with resources we never dreamed of. It may not be the place for you, but
be sure to give it a decent trial before you decide to leave this
profession of dedicated, sacrificing, and caring people.

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


96/11 From-> "" <LAURA.BERTRAND@ASU.Edu>
Subject: Re: Reflections, encouragement to "Any advice?" (long)


Your message was very touching and inspirational to student-teachers
like me who are just now embarking on our professional careers of

I will try to remember these words on those days when I feel I have had

Thank you in advance for all the solace your message will provide.


"Every child is a work of heart."


97/01 From-> "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez" <>
Subject: Re: I need advice, too!

For me it was the other way around -- teaching brought me to
linguistics. I had always been interested in other cultures. For
instance, when I was in HS (studying French and Latin), I belonged to a
World Friendship group in my hometown.

When I finished dropping out (it WAS the 60s), I found that my French
was my best fallback for a college major. That led me to teaching, and
at the time, Bilingual Education, which in turn led me to Spanish. By
now, an adult, I became fascinated with my own experience as a langauge
learner. I was also teaching French nights to adults nights at a private
language school, and had a pair of French sisters learning English,
under my wing at the daycare center where I taught AM. I became
increasingly bothered by two observations: 1. Some people, like me,
obviously learn languages faster and more easily than others, but it
doesn't necessarily correlate with "school-smart" -- some of the best
language learners were miserable failures in school. 2. People seem to
learn differently -- some learn wonderfully on the street, while others
fossilize (a term I learned later) in a broken idiolect of their own.
I increasingly wondered, for the sake of those who had no choice but to
learn a new language, for the immigrants, *what makes a good language

Once I was teaching in the (Boston) public schools as a bilingual
teacher, I noticed that everyone who was really serious about the field
went to Puerto Rico. But that never interested me. I saw it as another
monolingual place. I was interested in the mix -- what happens to people
when they are thrust together? How do they manage to become bilingual? I
wrote around to several addresses in the back of lovely two-volume book
entitled Bilingual Schooling in the United States. Of the three who
wrote back to me, including William F. Mackey of Laval, all said I
should go to Georgetown for my doctorate in the Sociolinguistics program

That's how I got into linguistics. And while I was studying, I taught
English as a Foreign Language to college-age and adult students at
Georgetown. Despite my father's warnings to stick to my goals, I got
carried by the sweep of the program into greater interest in the
sociological (rather than individual learner) ramifications of language
and culture contact. When I graduated I got an appt. at a university in
Linguistics and Sociology and Anthropology and taught language teachers
(among others).

When I left that university and came back to Washington, DC, I went into
the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department as a research and
evaluation specialist, helping to develop and evaluate programs and
staff in all the 60+ languages taught to foreign service officers to
work at the embassies, etc. Since all our teachers were native speakers,
that got me back into the international environment I had loved ever
since I was young. I also was in a position to return to my original
question about language learners and how they learn. Language aptitude
was a particular question for the federal government because it doesn't
pay (the government or the people involved) to train people who won't

My research and duties took me rather far afield into database design
and management, so I left to try my hand at Information Management. that
was a terrible failure. I didn't like it; it bored me.

By great good fortune, I landed my present position (below) a month ago.
Now, along with administering these programs (ensuring teachers, books,
classrooms, student satisfaction, faculty development, etc.) I am
looking at developing distance FL programs to go with the distance
everything else programs that UMUC has. I'm also going to be doing some
teaching, though this semester I'm teaching English composition rather
than Spanish, which I'll teach later.

What I love find most challenging about teaching is that I have to look
at my subject from every angle and must see all its components in order
to present it (or guide another's discovery of it) effectively. I
increasingly think that there is not a single way to take a subject,
including language, apart, but rather, there are many -- far more than
there are present-day theories of language. The linguist looks at them
all to determine which is the most concise and offers the most
interesting generalizations (scientific inquiry, Occam's Razor, etc.).
The teacher has to deal with as many conceptions as there are students,
has to be able to lead those students from where they are to some common
point expressed in the course objectives. That means ascertaining and
understanding all those conceptions (teacher's diagnostics) and helping
the students each form their own distinctive paths to the common goal,
and that has to be done in shared class activities (though probably with
individual guidance). So the teacher does not have to evaluate which
student conception is the best, as the scientist such as the linguist
must, but the teacher must be capable of multiple conceptions and must
be able to handle them all simultaneously. I am scheduled this Fall to
teach two writing courses, and I am already boggled by the challenge.
But it's a tremendously mind-opening challenge, and to the extent we
succeed, teachers reap enormous reward in the satisfaction of having
positively affected the lives of others. I still write to my mentors and
I have students who still write to me, years and decades after the

Cindy H-G

E. Insights About School Conditions

96/06 From-> Timothy Mason <>
Subject: Re : Advice to new teachers

I believe that it is possible to prevent teacher burn-out in most cases.
Schools where young teachers are treated with courtesy and understanding
by administrators and colleagues suffer lower rates of burn-out. Schools
where colleagues in danger of burning out are offered support and
counselling suffer lower rates of burn-out. Where there is an esprit de
corps and a desire to teach things to children, teachers burn-out less
frequently - I have noticed that this is often the case in schools with
large numbers of children in difficulty.

Burn-out occurs most frequently in schools where there is constant
conflict between the administration and the teaching staff, where there
are high levels of conflict between pupils and staff over
non-enforceable rules, and where there is no clear policy as to
educational aims - take a look at Michael Rutter's work on this, or the
study carried out by Reynolds on schools in Wales. It is in such schools
that the 'common-room culture' becomes most poisonous, with continual
moans about the stupidity of the children, the uselessness of pedagogy
and of 'liberal' educational ideas - it is a culture which unfortunately
swallows up the young teacher and quickly dampens her original

It has been the appearance of elements of this culture on the list, and
some disquiet on my part about the effects that this might have on
people new to the profession, that lead to my original posting, and it
may be that disquiet that lead to my being rather sharper than I should
have been. There is no reason to feel superior to, or dismissive of
burnt-out colleagues. Their condition is far more likely to be the
result of structural problems and poorly thought-through policies than
it is to be a sign of any deep character flaw in their part. The problem
won't be solved by inviting them to leave the profession, although it
might be a small step in the right direction to invest in programmes to
help retrain and place those teachers who feel that they can no longer
carry on.

Timothy Mason
St. Germain-en-Laye

F. Some Suggested Resources

96/07 From-> Eliseo Pico <>
Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans for college FL Methods

The "Silent Way" is a method of teaching foreign languages originated by
Caleb Gattegno. His main book is called "Teaching languages: the silent
way". Diane Larsen-Freeman has a book describing this and other methods.
John Oller edited a book called "Methods That Work" (Heinle) that
contains a good description of this method. Anyway, be aware that
Michael Long has indicated that "methods" do NOT exist where they
should: in the classroom. It is important what you do in class, the
activities you propose, the interaction you promote. The 'method' is
quite irrelevant, and the very concept of method is outmoded. Read
Long's "Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching
methodology" in Kees de Bot et al. (1991) Foreign Language Research in
Cross-Cultural Perspective. Philadephia: John Benjamins. At the moment
we are living a post-methods era in language teaching (Kumaravadivelu).
Eliseo Pico.


96/09 From-> Patricia Seaver <>
Subject: Re: I need encouragement

A couple of people have mentioned Harry Wong. He wrote a book that I
recommend to my student teachers every year. It's *The First Days of
School: How to Be an Effective Teacher*. I learned of it from a Spanish
teacher who was raving about how many good ideas she had taken from it
even though she had already been teaching for 10 years. The last time I
bought a copy (I keep a couple of *loaners* in my office and they have a
way of walking away and not finding their way back), it was $29.95. You
can order it from Harry K. Wong Publications, 1030 W. Maude Ave., Ste.
507, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. I hope that's the current address. The ISBN is

Good luck,
Pat Seaver
SUNY College at Geneseo

G. Yesteryear and This Year: Kids, Books and School

97/12 From-> PBarr21106 <>
Subject: Re: A long note to younger teachers

Richard, your impassioned response to my post is sincere and
well-informed. Perhaps with more discussion, we could see that we do
agree on many matters. The matter of belonging to professional
organizations is one example we might take. I would hate to see teachers
pressured into joining professional and academic organizations,
although I believe such participation in professional activities is used
as a criterion in looking at candidates for positions. However, I can
relate the frustration and boredom of some of my colleagues directly to
their refusal to involve themselves in their profession or content area
(subject matter). At 3:30, they are gone, often to a second job and that
is not their fault. But their lack of excitement comes, IMHO, from their
refusal or inability to read anything in their field, take any courses,
attend any conferences or workshops, or even talk about their field. My
inquiries into how math is taught these days usually elicits some
derogatory comment about lazy students and then a change of subject to
sports. Now, do we disagree or agree? You would probably say, well, of
course, if membership in professional organizations promotes good
teaching, then such membership is fine, and you and I would not

I would agree that some good things from the past have been lost, but I
usually qualify that with a reminder that a lot of people did not have
those good things provided to them. Are those educational or social
issues? I am reading El Camino Real in order to respond to Helen Jones'
comment earlier that it is superior to current texts, and I have found
many good things in it. But I am not sure that we have not added a lot
of good things to our education that were absent in the halcyon days of
yore. Your experience and expertise in FL teaching is far greater than
mine, so any such discussion would have to be more general. Also, I was
not a great student, no awards, no high GPAs, no ivy league schools;
just a working class kid who got a chance to go to college and loved
learning. (I think more kids have that opportunity now than ever
before.) You and I may have had very different experiences in our own
schooling. However, if you would like to discuss details of what
subjects are taught and how they are taught, I would be glad to do that,
on- or off- list.

 Pat Barrett


97/12 From-> PBarr21106 <>
Subject: Re: A long note to younger teachers

I just received a Christmas card cum personal note from a friend who
taught a full career in Catholic schools. She recently returned to
teaching to supplement her retirement and said she found the kids
different. She is still teaching in a Catholic school, same subject,
religion and morals, and says she has adjusted to the kids. What had
changed? She said they were more aggressive. Now there is something to
hang your hat on. I will call her and get her to elaborate on what she
means by aggressive. Remember how often people of different ethnic
groups are labeled aggressive, how women are labeled aggressive?
Sometimes it is a matter of style (loud voice, variable intonation,
gestures, etc.), sometimes of language (lack of traditional respect
markers, etc.). What is it in her case? I will ask her to visit my
classroom and tell me if she thinks my students are also aggressive. I
find them not to be so, but she may find both me and them aggressive.
Maybe we can get to the bottom of this oft repeated charge that kids
nowadays are harder to teach, don't know as much, etc.

Pat Barrett


97/12 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: A long note to younger teachers

>I find them not to be so, but she may find both me and them aggressive.
>Maybe we can get to the bottom of this oft repeated charge that kids
>nowadays are harder to teach, don't know as much, etc.
> Pat Barrett

I'll be interested in reading what Pat finds out, but I would make this
observation: I believe it was Mary who commented that students are more
likely to stand up for themselves these days and not just passively
accept from authority figures -- and this may be at least part of what
she means. My personal feeling is that when I began teaching, there were
"aggressive" students -- there always have been -- but that society was
much more unified in its standards and expectations. School, home,
community, and church could be generally counted upon to work together
to uphold and reinforce (depending, of course, on location and
socio-economic, etc., levels) the same ethic and standards of behavior.
As society has become less judgmental, with "do your own thing" more
acceptable, the avenues for rebellion against authority dicta have
proliferated. And, of course, various problems such as drugs, single
parent families, both adults working producing latch-key kids, and even
the current generally positive economic climate, where many more kids
have more money to spend, have all contributed to making a profound
change in attitudes.

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


97/12 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Societal changes (Was: A long note to younger teachers)

>>we can get to the bottom of this oft repeated charge that kids nowadays
>>are harder to teach, don't know as much, etc. Pat Barrett

Mulling this over again, and thinking about my response last night about
the changes that have occurred in society, the following points come to

1) "Don't know as much" -- Perhaps this could be stated positively by
saying that theirs is a different type of knowledge -- they certainly
are more knowledgeable about some aspects of life than kids were some
years ago. What they don't seem to know is a lot of what Hirsch calls
"cultural literacy" -- whether you consider that good or bad depends
upon your point of view. I attribute this partly to less and less of the
kind of familial contacts that kids had some years ago -- extended
families, grandparents and parents who had time to read to them and play
with them, etc., and partly to the de-emphasis that I have steadily seen
on specific content material in the educational system. I have stated
before that 3/4 of the materials I have collected over lo these many
years I can no longer use without modification -- both linguistic and
content. Have I seen an improvement at least in their oral skills in
exchange? Frankly, not really. It is my impression that as we have
"slowed down" and "cut down" on the quantity of material taught (and I'm
not emphasizing grammar here), the kids have simply slowed down and cut
down their efforts. You tend to get a percentage (variable based upon
motivation) of control of what you teach, and that percentage seems to
me to remain somewhat constant, regardless of how much or how little you

2) There is a definite decrease in the social graces -- again, I just
don't think they are being emphasized a lot by tired parents -- and they
simply take a lot more for granted.

Examples: Whenever I took kids on a field trip, either during the day or
after school, most of them would, at trip's end, say (well, mumble
sometimes!) "thank you" -- you could almost see Mom telling them "Now,
you be sure and thank her." Trips abroad, I would get thank-you notes
from students and parents, as well as often some token of appreciation
while there (the latter were unnecessary but nice, the former plain
courtesy IMHO). That has just about disappeared completely.

Related to that, I, like many of us, spend an inordinate amount of time
writing recommendations. I put in a great deal of thought and effort on
each one. I used to get a fair percentage of "thank yous" -- either
verbal or written -- along with later a report as to whether the student
had been accepted or not; now it is rare that I get even one. (A
colleague got a Christmas card just before vacation from a mother
thanking her for writing her son's recommendation -- very nice, but what
a shame that the 17-year-old son could not write his own). Another
colleague commented before vacation how everything she tried to do for
her students, including some fun stuff the day before we left, seemed to
be just taken for granted, and most did not even wish her Happy Holidays
upon leaving. That, too, has changed, at least at our level and school.

I'm sure others can add to this. However, does this mean that I feel
negatively toward today's kids? No, I still feel, as I always did, that
95% or more are great kids, and the others have always been there in
some form. Does it mean that I think society (and that means all of its
institutions working together) is failing to do its best for today's
kids? Yes, I do, and I hate being a part of that, regardless of the

I suspect I'll keep thinking about this, but sadly I don't have any
miracle solutions to propose. Maybe someone wiser than I...

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


97/12 From-> michael landregan <>
Subject: Re: A long note to younger teachers

>I just received a Christmas card cum personal note from a friend who
>taught a full career in Catholic schools. She recently returned to teaching
>to supplement her retirement and said she found the kids different. She
>is still teaching in a Catholic school, same subject, religion and morals,
>and says she has adjusted to the kids. What had changed? She said they
>were more aggressive

I have taught in Catholic schools (high school) off and on for 10 years.
I have found the students much changed from when I first started in 86
to now, but I don't find them any less aggressive than 10 years ago. I
find that there are the really well-behaved kids to the worst-behaved.
I find they are so much more visually oriented than before. they have
real problems analyzing material without a picture than before.  Melissa

michael landregan

Contributors are:

Mike Watson
Dana Thacker
Ron Takalo
Patricia Seaver
Cathy Quinn
Eliseo Pico
Marcella Pasetto
Kristin Parker
Sue Osborn
Vincent Morrissette
Jennifer Morrell
Barbara Mitchell
James May
Bill Mann
Tim Mason
Lana Malone
Viviane Levy
Richard Lee
Melissa Landregan
Sharon Kazmierski
Helen Jones
Cynthia Johnson
Bill Heller
Cindy Hart-Gonzalez
Bob Hall
Beckie Gurnish
Lydia Frank
Julia Ann Fleming
Mary Ann Dellinger
Veronica Dees
Anna Damiens
Kristine Conlon
Rebecca Chism
Richard Boswell
George Beyer
Laura Bertrand
Jo Benn
Marilyn V.J. Barrueta
Pat Barrett


Return to  [FLTEACH Main Page]


W3 page maintained by address & address
Copyright © 1998 Jean W. LeLoup & Robert Ponterio