By Anna Bellersen, MA TFL German Candidate
With graduation approaching and the state of the FL education job market looking bleak, several of my colleagues and I packed into a car and headed to the 2009 ACTFL convention in San Diego last November, hoping to network, learn about innovations in language teaching, and maybe get a peek at the beach.
The convention theme was: Speaking Up For Languages The Power of Many Voices. Steve Hildebrand, the keynote speaker, riled the crowd of several thousand into a pro-language learning frenzy by first admitting that he couldn‘t remember anything he learned from high school Spanish classes and expressing his shame. He then touched on the lack of focus on foreign language education today and outlined how his successful grassroots campaign for Barack Obama could serve as a guide for an ACTFL-lead campaign to speak up for languages. After the unveiling of ACTFLs new social networking and resource-sharing site, I left my MIIS colleagues and went to the first German session. The rest of the weekend flew by in a blur of workshops and panel sessions on integrating technology into language learning, introducing linguistic variation into classrooms, practical tips for motivating learners and, my favorite, a series of presentations on teaching cultural variation through modern music.
Between sessions, I met with members of the American Association of Teachers of German, colleagues from previous schools, new-found friends with similar teaching interests, and representatives from several exchange and study abroad organizations. I gained valuable knowledge about the job market and my options, gathered resources for students and MIIS colleagues in the German language classes, and gained a sense of belonging in the German teaching community. I also joined the ranks of teachers fighting for German programs across the U.S., signing petitions and writing letters to administrators, officials and schools considering canceling programs.
Imagine the occasional loneliness of being the only student in your department. Imagine watching your student teaching mentor cry while she tells you that your language is being discontinued in her school. Now imagine walking into a room with over one hundred other people who believe that your chosen language is worth teaching. People who are striving and working together to support programs all over the U.S. People who are choosing to fight against closures by making their programs stronger, even as they face imminent budget cuts. That is the energy, the drive and the passion that we TFL students learn to bring to our teaching, and that we are going to have to bring to our advocacy, as we continue to speak up for languages.