A delicate dance to transition to CI

You have been reading these newsletters for a good while. Perhaps you are now longing to lead your traditional-minded colleagues to discover CI instruction. Perhaps you are the Department Chair and you’ll soon be hiring new teachers for the next school year. Today I want to point you towards two articles I have written describing how I facilitated my department’s gradual transition to CI. I have seen many colleagues fumble this transition, most often because they believe that ‘preaching the truth’ along with an ample amount of evidence & research will win hearts & minds. Unfortunately, humans are not so rationale.

It is crucial to avoid drawing a line in the sand that divides your colleagues into ‘pro’ and ‘con’ camps.

In my experience a formal presentation and logical argument does less to win hearts & minds and more to divide the department into ideological camps. Instead, as Department Chair, I worked to empower ALL teachers to find their path (even when I did not agree with them). I zealously protected the right of EVERY professional educator to use their training to determine what is best for their students.

The first article is about transitioning when not everyone is onboard. We have to respect the rights of the others who may not be following what we would consider to be solid principles of second language acquisition (SLA). We still need to respect our colleagues even if we profoundly disagree. That respect comes back and protects us too.

The second article covers when you have a department now fully transitioning to CI but everyone is exploring different paths. Among Spanish & French teachers we have several very different approaches to CI instruction characterized by their creators (i.e the Blaine Ray approach, Martina Bex, Tina Hargaden, and the very flexible ‘Two Conversations’ approach that I describe in my CI Master Class). This article helps a department create a framework so that all department members can follow the approach that feels right to them without having a department chair dictating that all level 1 teachers must teach using X resources, Y movie talks and Z class novels. It lays out the idea of the Sweet 16 high-frequency verbs and simplified assessment, allowing all teachers to grow from their strengths.

Effective leadership has less to do with preaching and much more to do with empowering. When your colleagues are focused on their own professional development, your department culture will not be antagonistic but rather fertile and a delightful place to work. Embrace the diversity of approaches and facilitate growth.