It’s always an exciting time right before Thanksgiving…not because of time off, yummy food, and time with family and friends (while those are exciting) but because it means that the Annual ACTFL Convention has arrived! As a district coordinator, my ACTFL week is a bit different from many; my learning starts on Tuesday afternoon. By the time ACTFL arrives, I’m ready to “relax” and take in sessions that I can immediately apply in trainings at home.
What I loved this year…
This year, learning more about the Intercultural Can-Do Statements was a huge theme. From listening to Frank Troyan lead us through how and why genre matters in lesson design to Ruta Couet and Jacque Van Houten sharing with us how the IC can-do’s should be the basis of curriculum. My biggest takeaways from these sessions were questions I could ask when I visit classrooms: what is the can-do? What is the evidence that students mastered the can-do? How can students use the can-do tomorrow? Very powerful questions when working with teachers.
I am so very excited about the new Language Resource Center at the University of Maryland: Professionals in Education Advancing Research and Language Learning (PEARLL) led by Thomas Sauer. Being a one-person show in my district (i.e. no specialists), I have many ideas but not enough hours. PEARLL is going to be a huge asset to my work in helping teachers to be the best they can possibly be.
I always enjoy hearing Greta Lundgaard. Her session on tips for surviving curriculum revision was just what I needed to get me through the remainder of the school year. Being in the midst of keeping a team motivated while rewriting a framework to be proficiency-based is my daily reality. However, I am challenged by keeping the motivation going long-term and garnering the strength and energy to tackle the revision process once the rewrite is completed. Greta is always inspirational and spot-on with her observations and takeaways.
What I love year after year…
What I love about ACTFL is the generous, sharing spirit that most presenters have. It is such an opportune occasion to attend the sessions from the leaders in the profession. And, if you haven’t had a chance to meet them, it’s easy to go up and introduce yourself or ask a follow-up question. Almost without fail, every presenter is willing to engage in conversation either right then or a bit later. ACTFL is the place to make connections and build your professional learning network. Our work is hard enough; we don’t need to isolate ourselves from others but we need to build bridges so we can work together towards our common goal.
The other marvelous aspect of the ACTFL Convention is the variety of sessions offered. When I have the opportunity to bring teachers from my district, I always advise them to figure out ahead of time what sessions they wish to attend; to choose the sessions that have meaning to them; and, then if they are in a session that doesn’t “speak” to them, move somewhere else. If they leave ACTFL without gaining a lot, it is really their own fault. The sessions are there: formal sessions, panels, papers, and unconference-type discussions. A variety of input to meet the needs of thousands of educators.
While I am always ready to come home at the end of ACTFL, it’s bittersweet. I have a convention family that I am able to spend time with and learn from for a week out of the year. That is what I look forward to the most every year.
Dr. Debbie Callihan-Dingle is currently Director for World Languages and Federal Programs in North East ISD in San Antonio. During her tenure years as director, she has revamped professional development, transitioned teachers to a proficiency-based classroom approach, and led the program through a curriculum and assessment revision. Prior to assuming this role, she was a French teacher for 16 years at MacArthur H. S. in the same district. As a teacher, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship to study in Paris as well as a French Embassy short-stay grant to participate in a summer program in Paris. Debbie has also served as president and treasurer of the Junior League of San Antonio, treasurer of her local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter, and as president of the Texas Association of Language Supervisors.