When I applied for work at Pudendum High School, I brought a recorder with me for my successful Spanish job interview. I didn’t know I was going to be successful, so I thought, well, if I blow it, I can see how I screwed up. Pudendum High is a prestigious school, so I dressed bespoke and brushed my teeth extra-hard that morning. Here is a transcript of the interview between me, Modern Languages Department Head Ick Sprekke and Principal MeBol Reha.
MR: So what would say your philosophy of teaching is?
Me: Set reasonable rules, figure out what the kids know and don’t, and start there. Also, get to know them, and teach them in brain-friendly ways. I try to keep it interesting.
IS: What is the best thing you’ve ever done in a language classroom?
Me: Abandoned the textbook and the computer and started telling stories.
(IS excuses himself to clean up after nose-spraying coffee all over MR)
MR: Ok, well, until Ikk gets back (wipes coffee off pants), can you explain how you can possibly teach without a textbook?
Me: Well I just see what they know. So, I’ll say clase, a los chicos no les gustaba lavarse con jabón and if they don’t know that that means “the guys did not like using soap when washing,” we have to start there.
MR: We have scope and sequence, and detailed unit plans here. How do you plan on covering this material if you use stories?
Me: Well, what is the material? Let’s say we have beginner Spanish or French, what would you want them to do in their first unit or lesson?
(IS returns with coffee stains somewhat less visible on his pants. Mebol Reha brings him up to speed)
IS: We would expect our students to know all thirty ways of saying hello and goodbye in Spanish or French, the letters of the alphabet, numbers from one to three billion, and a repertoire of metacognitive skills which aid language learning.
ME: I think those are irrrelevant objectives. Also, they are boring. I have no idea how I would get kids to pay attention to those. I wou–
(IS sprays more coffee out his nose and onto his shirt and excuses himself)
MR: You uhh certainly have uhh unorthodox opinions which I uhhh, well (checks his phone, I see him texting his either wife or mistress “Honey I will be there soon this interview is over this guy is an idiot”)…
BOTH, in chorus: How do you plan on integrating technology into your language classroom? We have Google Hangouts tied into our Kazoo accounts, cross-referenced to Freshgrade, with e-portfolios built on WebMD, and 37 Twitter accounts. We expect our students to self-reflect on their learning, in the target language, three times daily.
Me: When I see research showing that using a screen works better than human-to-human communication (or reading), or that self-reflection aids language acquisition, I’ll think about that question.
BOTH: Are you actually applying for this job?
Me: Yes, but I’m not into getting it if it means I have to do things that we know either don’t work, or work poorly.
IS: Look I would like to spray coffee out my nose but there is nowhere else to spray it.
MR: OK so how do you plan on covering the 30 greetings and the–
Me: I wouldn’t bother. I mean, hello and goodbye, that’s all you really need, numbers are low-frequency–
IS: What do you mean, “low frequency?”
Me: Words not used very much. There are books and lots of research out the–
IS: We have a curriculum.
Me: Well this is awkward. Don’t you by law have a set of questions you have to ask any interviewee, you know, to keep the process appearing fair or whatever?
BOTH: Unf– err, we mean, yes.
IS: Describe your strategies for encouraging oral production from beginners.
Me: I don’t have any. Why should beginners talk? They don’t need to talk to pick up a language. If they want to, great, but they don’t have to.
IS: Do you normally smoke crack before a job int– err, I mean, what?!? Our objectives here at Pudendum include oral production from Day 1 as a way for students to practice. You can’t learn unless you practice.
Me: (sighs quietly through nose) Well actually, research shows that–
IS: How do you address learning styles and multiple intelligences in the classroom?
Me: I address them the same way I do God. When research shows they exist–and matter– I’ll acknowledge them. After all, even Martin Gardiner, the guy who came up with the idea, says that they are speculative.
MR: OK, moving right along because I want to go home and eat fried chicken with some herbs strategically scattered on top of it to make it look even tastier, and then Instagram it cos I am so up-to-date, anyone can cherry pick their research, so we’ll just ignore all that, how about culture? How do you teach kids about French or Spanish culture?
Me: Uhh, I–
IS: Look, let’s cut the B.S. You don’t want to make people speak, you don’t use a textbook, you tell stories, you don’t teach essential things like the thirty greetings or numbers to 3,000,000,000, you don’t see the value in metacognition, you believe that multiple intelligences don’t exist, you probably don’t use the grammar workbook, am I right?
Me: You are. It’s a waste of time.
IS: So why should we hire you? Your beliefs and practices have absolutely nothing to do with the way we teach languages here at Pudendum.
Me: I get results. My kids can write 700-1,000 word stories in under an hour, without notes or dictionaries. They can speak fluently by end of second year. They can read novels independently. They can all write 100-150 words describing a picture or a topic in five minutes.
MR: Ikk, you now have to clean coffee off my floor, the school isn’t paying for that, now am I the one smoking crack here? Did you say your kids can write up to 1,000 words in an hour?!?
Me: Yes. But most only 600-700.
IS: Damn, this is gonna cost me, coffee stains don’t come out easy, you say yoru kdis read novels?
Me: What else would they read?
MR: Well thank you for your time, successful candidates will be contacted, bla bla.
***** that evening*****
My phone rang.
MR: Hello sir, I’d like to offer you the job.
Me (am I smoking crack or is he?): Indeed. Why? Round peg, square hole, you know…
MR: Well, Ikk and I talked, and we had this massive epiphany, and we realised a few things.
MR: Well we realised that teachers really do need basically 100% autonomy so we are changing our policies. We also learned that best practices are in fact more or less what you are trying to do, so we revised our curriculum so that just 100 required high-frequency verbs per year need be taught.
MR: I also personally realised that I don’t know a damned thing about language acquisition, which surprises me, because I am the Principal, and I am supposed to know everything and I go to a LOT of professional development and they say, drill and test, drill and test, and you know all the words…but oddly it seems as if not everything I am told is correct. Which is odd, because here in the United States, the authorities generally tell the truth.
MR: I’ll call you tomorrow and you can tell me then. Meanwhile, I am watching a Youtube video of this guy Steve Crashing, you know him? Some language guy?
April 1, 2016