So a few weeks ago, I got some news that did not make me so happy: all departments MUST give common assessments, and my department’s solution to that will be following Realidades. As the only non-traditional teacher (CI and proficiency goals, not grammar goals) in my department, this was VERY depressing news. I might have gone on a rant to several sweet friends and family members about how much I HATE textbooks, how outdated they are, how they stifle creativity, how the vocabulary lists are terribly irrelevant, etc (I must point out that my principal said on the first day of school that if we’ve lost our passion, we need to find a new job. Not a problem here, Mrs. Principal!).
So, three weeks later (and a fall break long weekend spent NOT thinking about curriculum and assessment), I’ve calmed down (the best teaching advice I’ve ever gotten was just that: Calm down, it’s just a job). One of the reasons I left my old job was because I was tired of being a department of one – it was exhausting being the only language teacher! I wanted to work with other teachers, to share ideas and collaborate on teaching and assessments. However, the honest truth is I haven’t been collaborating with my in-building colleagues very much. We share some activities, but I continue to primarily work alone, collaborating more online than with my neighbors down the hall. So while these common assessments and unit plans are being mandated by administration, I also have to acknowledge that more collaboration with my department is a good thing. Here are some realizations I’ve had about this Realidades/common assessments/mandated collaboration thing:
- I assess reading comprehension, speaking, and writing constantly, but I’m not great at assessing listening or culture. In my department, one of the other Spanish 1 teachers is really passionate about culture, and the other is passionate about listening. Mindset: I have things to learn from them.
- Realidades isn’t that bad – I can use their vocab lists as the “comprehension” base, but I’m not limited to teaching that vocabulary – I can still expand and personalize vocabulary to what is relevant and interesting to students. Mindset: Realidades lists are for comprehension – I’ll keep giving my students the words they need to meet the standard, whether or not they’re on the official list, and students will acquire what they need to communicate.
- When my department suggested using Realidades tests as the base for our common assessments, I died a little inside. You want me to give my precious babies a TEXTBOOK TEST???? But then I looked at the tests…and they’re not that bad. There’s a format for assessing culture and listening that I can work with, and as long as I get to formally assess writing or speaking each unit, I’m happy. I’ll certainly advocate for assessing grammar in context (please let’s not do verb ending clozes all year), but I’m willing to compromise as long as we write tests that meaningfully assess students’ ability to understand and communicate in Spanish. Mindset: It will actually be easier to adapt the textbook test into something I’m happy with than continue writing tests from scratch.
- Don’t be too quick to judge.
- Respect others’ expertise.
- Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water – supplemented with creativity, energy, lots of CI, and authentic resources, the textbook curriculum isn’t bad.