Last weekend on American Idol, contestants prepared and sang duets with former Idol winners. In the taped segment that gave a glimpse of the pre-performance preparation, La’Porsha said this of her singing:

I used to sing like I knew what I was doing. And now I sing like I know why I do it.

La’Porsha – American Idol Contestant

Over the last several years, I have begun to understand the WHY in language teaching better than ever. I’ve become much more intentional in my instruction over time. I wasn’t always.

I want my students to use language spontaneously, rather than mechanically.

I want them to experience joy in the classroom and I want it to feel easy for them.

I want to build confident, competent language learners who know and understand how languages are acquired and want to continue learning languages into the future.

I want upper level classes to represent the demographic of the entire school.

I want students to develop the ability to understand others – their language and their culture – but first I want them to know, respect and honor their peers  that sit next to them and live in their communities with them.

The more I match the approaches, strategies and techniques I use to the principles I believe in, the more my teaching resembles this powerful duet between La’Porsha and Fantasia – crystal clear in purpose and full of joy, emotion and power.

Have you thought about WHY you teach languages? Do you know WHY you teach the WAY you teach?

What’s the purpose of that worksheet? What’s the goal of that partner activity? How does all that marking of papers help your students develop fluency?

Don’t think for a minute that my classroom resembles Utopia. I struggle to make it work daily. But, I feel I’m on a better path – a path free from background static that creates more work for me and less acquisition for my students.

Static that ultimately impedes my goals.

And the more attention I give to my own craft and how students are responding to it, the closer I get to my own personal Utopia.

Keith Urban, country singer and Idol judge, described the duet performed by La’Porsha and Fantasia as:

an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object

That’s what I want for my classes. A homerun class. Every. Time.

What’s that you say? It’s an unrealistic goal?

I’m sure that singing a duet with Fantasia was also an unrealistic goal for La’Porsha at one time.

Do You Know WHY?

2 thoughts on “Do You Know WHY?

  • February 15, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Man, you are singing the song! Such powerful insight. Thank you for this! Bob

  • February 15, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Beautifully put, Grant. You are doing it right, my friend. Students have to be willing to understand their neighbors before we can hope that they will be willing to understand those in another country and culture. From the classroom to the world.

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