TOL 021: Interview with Becky Kelley (Part 2) – Admitting your weak areas to your learners

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This is Part 2 of the interview with Becky Kelley. We continue to talk about her context — teaching French in a high school in America. We touch upon subjects such as  being a non-native speaker, and the importance of finding and expressing your style in teaching.

About the Guest: Becky Kelley is currently a French teacher at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vermont. She also spends her summers working at the Middlebury Interactive Languages Summer Academies, where she will be the French Language Director this summer. She has taught French and ESL in a variety of contexts, from France to California and from middle school to adult. She holds a Master’s degree in Teaching Foreign Language from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.


Time Stamped Show Notes

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[0:57 ]Being a Non-Native Speaker – How Becky views being a NNS Teacher.
[2:00] It’s important to admit mistakes or faults to your learners.
[2:24] In assessment, mistakes are not the focus. Becky focuses on what learners can do with a language and how well they can do it.
[2:40] NNS teachers can be a good role-model for learners in terms of learning.
[4:45] Being honest about yourself helps your learners build a better awareness of language and language learning.
[6:00] How Becky maintains and improves her French as a teacher – she teaches more, but in more intensive situations.
[7:13] Using French in a French I classroom is useful, but of course, the teacher might not be challenged, so it is important to improve outside of class.
[8:00] The biggest thing Becky has learned about herself as a teacher —  She loves assessment!
[8:33] Teaching and assessment go hand-in-hand.
[9:38] Becky’s best moment(s) as a teacher — they all involve seeing her learners achieving something you couldn’t achieve before.
[10:53] Becky’s worst moment as a teacher —  dealing with classroom management.
[12:50] Classroom management is vastly different in different contexts, regardless of the content you teach.
[13:50] One book that has influenced Becky’s pedagogy – John McWhorter’s Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music, and Why We Should, Like, Care.
[16:55] One resource for language teachers — ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
[21:14] One piece of advice for new teachers — Remember to stay true to yourself!


Resources Mentioned:

Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music, and Why We Should, Like, Care (John McWhorter) – A book exploring the social dynamics of language. In this book, he explores the difference between formal and casual language. It’s an interesting work with a sociolinguistic flavor.  Purchase here:

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) – Here you can find the ACTFL Proficiency guidelines and use it as a tool to assess your learners, depending on your situation and contexts.  This type of guideline is much more detailed than generic level names.


Other Useful Resources:




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  1. Nancy Sopp on March 18, 2017 at 1:58 AM

    I really appreciate Becky recommending that teachers admit their weaknesses to their students. That’s being authentic and also modeling language-learning. Like Becky, I do not try to hide my “I don’t knows,” but I didn’t know how many other teachers might be like that.

    • Rod Hinn on March 21, 2017 at 10:32 AM

      Thanks for the comment Nancy! I think some teachers do, but many don’t for the sake of not losing face in front of learners, but also other colleagues, who can be extremely judgmental for the wrong reasons. I respect both you and Becky for being able to be authentic, as it shows you are really comfortable with your teaching.

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