Come See Us at ACTFL…or Follow Along from Twitter!!

Hi team! Hope everyone is doing well and finishing the month strong. It’s been a particularly challenging month for me with all the political stuff going on, so from one educator to another, I’d like to say, “Keep on keeping on! Keep on fighting the good fight! Our work matters!”

I wanted to take a quick minute and check in about the ACTFL conference coming up this weekend, in New Orleans. If you are planning on attending, Mary Beth and I would LOVE to meet you and see you at our session! We are presenting a session on Saturday at 11:00, called “Tips for Avoiding Burnout for Heritage Teachers.” If you won’t be at ACFTL and would like to experience it vicariously, I’ll be tweeting while I’m there as I attend different sessions so you can follow along! Tweeting is my favorite way to take notes (I learned how to make the most of it in from this fabulous blog post). My Twitter handle is @AdrienneBranden and I’ll be tweeting with the following hashtags: #actfl18, #heritagelang (for sessions related to heritage teaching), and #langchat (for sessions related to language teaching but not necessarily heritage sessions). The hashtag for our session is #survivingheritageburnout (hopefully at least one person will tweet during the session) 🙂

Our session, like I mentioned, is “Tips for Avoiding Burnout for Heritage Teachers.” As you know probably all too well, teacher retention in our field, particularly for heritage teachers, is a real challenge. The unique circumstances of teaching heritage learners (lack of training, lack of support, lack of colleagues in a similar situation, lack of accountability, lack of materials, and lack of knowledge from administrators) creates a perfect storm that can be devastating to heritage teachers…and thus, devastating to heritage programs…and kids. We’re hoping to share 9 specific strategies and mindset shifts that have made a difference for us. Also, I almost forgot, we will be giving away a copy of the amazing book, Practical Advice for Teachers of Spanish Heritage Learners of Spanish (courtesy of Mike Peto) during our session!

While we were putting together our presentation (over various Saturday mornings), there were many times we looked at each other and asked ourselves, “Is this really new information? This isn’t exactly rocket science.” We continually wondered if the information we wanted to share would be valuable. But each time we wondered this, we talked it over, and we realized, it took us years to learn what we are sharing. It is honestly what we wished someone would have shared with us before we started. Or, if someone could have shared it when we in the midst of the a challenging day, or week, or semester with our heritage classes.

Friends, I share this with you because I want to encourage you, too, to submit proposals for sharing what has (and hasn’t) worked for you with heritage learners. Mary Beth and I don’t submit proposals because we feel like we know all the answers, but simply because we realize that what we’ve learned along the way might be valuable to someone else on the same path. We also grew frustrated with the lack of professional development available, and the lack of sessions focused on our area, even at large language conferences. Your experience is valuable, my friends! Our proposals aren’t always accepted, but I can live with that. I want to know I tried to reach out and share my experiences. If the conference organizers can live with turning down a heritage session (which are few), then that’s on them. I want to know I did my part. Also, attending conferences gets expensive…and time-consuming. We usually operate on a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” mindset. A lot of times we don’t know how we’re going to get to a conference if we get accepted…but we have to put that aside. At least we might have the option to go if we submit.

If you will be at ACTFL, there are actually quite a few sessions focused on heritage learners, which is a nice change of pace. It is a little unfortunate that there aren’t more high school teachers presenting (most of the sessions are about university programs or from university faculty). Still, though, I’m excited to see what’s out there. There are also a ton of awesome CI (comprehensible input) sessions. Click here to see the CI-friendly sessions, and this list also includes the heritage sessions offered by CI teachers (like ours).

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that this is the first year I’ve joined ACTFL in a very long time (but I had to do it for the conference). But, when you become a member, you get to join one Special Interest Group (SIG) for free, and you can add additional ones for $5. I joined both the Spanish Heritage Learners (SHL) SIG and also the Comprehensible Input (CI) one. [Sorry for all the acronyms.] Anyways, so far it’s been great to be part of the SHL SIG. I’m linking their Fall newsletter here, for various reasons. It’s only a few pages long but it’s super informative. Here are some ideas/thoughts on what you’ll find here:

  • This SIG’s mission
  • You’ll notice that there are $100 travel awards for first time attendees at the convention in the SHL SIG this year (Mary Beth and I were both fortunate enough to receive one of these)
  • You’ll see a list of the heritage sessions that the SIG “sponsored” (even though there are many more); it’s interesting that many of them are run by university presenters
  • You can see the officers, most of which are university professors
  • You can see the info on the guest speaker’s presentation, which is also related to burnout (see photo below)

To find a full list of heritage sessions, visit the online convention program and search for the word “Heritage.” Do NOT, contrary to intuition, search by the “keyword” of “Heritage Language Instruction, because you will get zero results. Hopefully that is an oversight that could be corrected in the future.

Ok friends, I’m off to the next thing around here. We hope to meet you in person (or in the Twitterverse) over the next week! I hope this post has encouraged and inspired you to think about sharing your experiences and successes with other teachers in as many contexts as possible. My gut says that heritage teachers in 6-12 programs are dying to hear from actual teachers that are teaching those classes day in and day out. Keep up the good fight friends!


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