Teaching language in a progressive school is a bit of a paradox. Unless the language learning is “immersion style” (meaning that the entirety of a student’s experiences all day every day “happen” in the foreign language) there’s no denying that it requires a certain amount of memorization, and that runs against the ideals of progressive education. Of course, I can’t possibly arrange for anyone’s entire experience at Putney to happen in French; because of this, I’m glad that, prior to teaching here, I worked in a public school special ed program. Assisting excellent teachers there gave me exposure to hands-on learning strategies that I use here to help students memorize verb forms, nouns, and so on. If we’ve got to memorize, at least we can do it in ways that are fun and that play to students’ individual preferences and strengths. “Perhaps my favorite aspect of working at Putney is meeting people—students or faculty—who are great models of personal growth and self actualization. The resources we have here are incredible. A lot of the faculty is very talented, gifted even. I am excited to see a renewed emphasis on languages and international awareness. Culturally it’s enriching. In terms of our school’s progressive goals, it can help students see the value of a more open, fair world. It also supports cognitive flexibility in students. As someone who speaks two languages regularly and fluently, I know that I have had thoughts that I could never have had if I didn’t speak two languages. Learning to be truly multi-lingual can be transformative on a personal level.
Teaching language in a progressive school is a bit of a paradox. Unless the language learning is 'immersion style'