90+% Target Language Use: How To Respond To Administrative Push-Back

Is your principal unsupportive of your exclusive use of the target language in the foreign language classroom?  Has your administrator told you to speak more English?  Do you feel like they don’t understand or support modern foreign language teaching strategies?

What should you do if ACTFL recommends 90+% TL use and your principal recommends 90% L1 use?

  1. Self-evaluate your instructional practices. (see list below)
  2. Receive feedback professionally/politely. (see example below)
  3. Repeat, in your own words, what you hear from your administrator. (see example below)
  4. Respectfully offer your administrator links to academic research. (see examples listed below)
  5. Continue doing an excellent job.

1-  Perform a quick, but honest, self-evaluation of the quality of your instructional practices.

Remember: teaching in the target language will not effectively help students acquire L2 unless you model widely accepted best practices for instruction.

Can administrators easily identify what they are looking for in your classroom practices?

  • Are the performance objectives posted daily where students can see them?  Are they aligned with state and national standards?
  • Are all of your students on task almost all of the time?  Are there clear and consistently enforced consequences that effectively redirect off-task behavior?
  • Are students collaborating with each other, and with the teacher, as active participants in the learning process?
  • Are classroom expectations, procedures and rules clear?
  • Do students respect you as an instructional leader who is firm yet caring?  Do you create a learning environment where diverse students thrive?
  • Are your assessments diverse?  Are the results of your assessments valid?  Are they targeted to effectively demonstrate student acquisition of performance objectives?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, first realize that IT’S OKAY.  Developing a solid foundation of instructional best practices takes years of effort.  If you find yourself overwhelmed by all that is required of you, work on one area of improvement per year.  Start with classroom management and work your way up.  Second, realize that your administrator may be unwilling to support your desire to stay in the TL.  If you aren’t excelling in what administrators look for, the first thing they may ‘push-back’ on is your use of the TL.  Remember: using the TL can be an effective instructional strategy.  However it cannot be effective…:

Using 90+% TL during instruction is only an effective strategy if it rests upon a solid foundation of instructional best practices.


Using 90+% TL shouldn’t be implemented as a standard practice by a foreign language teacher unless more basic instructional practices have been mastered.

But maybe all of this doesn’t apply to you.  If your administrator is unsupportive of your use of the TL, even though you demonstrate consistent mastery of instructional best practices, consider the following advice:

2-  Thank your administrator whenever you receive feedback.  They are trained professionals.  Even if you disagree with their feedback, it’s important to receive it in a respectful manner.  The more your body language is open and positive the more supportive they will be when you respond with dissenting, but respectful, comments.  Your statement may sound something like this: “Thanks for your willingness to help me improve my teaching practices.” or “I appreciate you taking the time to help me reflect on my teaching practices.  I’m grateful whenever someone is willing to take the time to help me improve my teaching.”

3-  Repeat back (in your own words) the advice or feedback your administrator gives.    It may sound something like this: “I hear you saying that I should improve in the following areas (list examples).  I hear you saying that I can make these improvements by implementing (list examples).”

4-  Refer them to up-to-date academic research available from resources like these: ACTFL’s TL Position Statement, ACTFL’s Foreign Language Educator Articles, Leading Research Citations.  Your statement may sound something like this: “I’ve been so excited about my teaching career recently.  I’ve been seeking to advance in my field in the following ways (collaborate with other teachers online #langchat, following good blogs, reading professional literature, attending professional development seminars and conferences).  In my studies I’ve come across some exciting approaches.  (begin talking/emailing about the sources listed above)”

5-  After all this, continue doing an excellent job.  In some cases, you may not receive the recognition you desire or deserve from your supervisor(s).  Encourage yourself to do an excellent job despite the ill-opinion of a supervisor.  Do an excellent job for yourself and for the students and families you serve.  You can also find support by connecting with like minded professionals.  Consider joining online professional development chats on twitter.  Attend ACTFL‘s national or regional conventions.  Your connection to your professional network will give you the encouragement that you may not receive from your direct supervisor.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

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