Language teachers talk shop at Mora Gathering
March 4, 2017
Mora, MN—When language teachers gather, the time is filled with words. Words race across the table, get shared with a partner, make up a discussion about the challenges and highlights of the field of second language acquisition, and are used to disseminate current information. That is what happened when ESL and world language teachers met at the New Generation Bakery in downtown Mora, MN in early March. Those choosing to spend their Saturday morning talking shop represented Minnesota Teachers of Second and Other Languages (MinneTESOL) and were members of the Minnesota Council for Teaching Languages and Cultures (MCTLC).
On the agenda were time slots for networking and sharing current information. Teachers also discussed goals from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), which resulted in participants advocating for their field by writing and sending postcards to their legislators.
Before the coffee gathering ended, a colorful realia grab bag game was used as a tool for teachers to share teaching tips and strategies when using real items in the language classroom. Played in a similar vein to a “white elephant” game, where one person can trade a prize by exchanging his or her item for something of more interest, it gave each teacher a chance to declare how they would include into a language learning task a stuffed penguin wearing sunglasses, a Mardis Gras-type necklace, a reindeer with a holiday hat, a gorilla carrying a red heart, a set of half-a dozen apple ornaments, or a lobster.
Stamped post cards and addresses of state and federal legislators were available for teachers to write to their elected officials. Some messages encouraged the recipients to “provide more avenues for students to travel to other countries to learn languages and immerse themselves in other cultures”, to “develop language proficiency in heritage language speakers”, to “increase student enrollment in world language programs at all grade levels”, to “strengthen and increase language programs at all education levels”, to “ address the shortage of qualified language teachers”, and to “ encourage all states and districts to adopt the Seal of Biliteracy” something already in place in Minnesota. These prompts were taken from the ACTFL goals delineate in its effort called “Lead with Languages”.
ESL teachers present were: Laura Sakirgil of Mora, Rana Olson of Mora High School, Tonya Brown of St. Francis school district, and Valorie Arrowsmith of the St. Croix River Education District, also with a foot in the world language world through Swedish teaching at the Concordia Language Villages. World language teachers present were: Kay Edberg, Spanish, Mora High School, Amanda Stenberg, German, Mora High School, Christie Dunkley, Spanish, Pine City High School, and Tracey Johnson, Spanish, Hinckley/Finlayson High School.