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Open Letter to My Students, Their Parents and Others Interested in the German Program at Cupertino High School.

from Robert A. Morrey, German teacher 1971-2001

 

Dear Students, Parents and Friends,

 

After 30 years of teaching German (and a few other things along the way) at Cupertino High School, I have decided to retire from my current position as teacher in the Fremont Union High School District. Several factors have led to this decision:

1) In the last several years it has become increasingly more difficult for me to recruit enough students to have viable classes with a required student/teacher ratio of 32.5 to 1. At this point in German 1 I only have 17 students left and only 21 in German 2. With 25 in German 3 and 9 in German 4, 5AP, and I/S, the advanced class is by far the largest and many of these students will graduate or not take German next year. With the introduction of additional language programs at Cupertino, the German enrollment has steadily declined to the point where I do not think that I will even have 75 students next year – far less than the number needed to have even three classes of German.

2) During the last three years I have not taught full-time because I cannot dedicate adequate time preparing for German 1, 2, 3, 4, other advanced German students, plus one or two Math classes. This year I have taken a 40% cut in salary so that I could teach just the three German classes and I find that I have some German students in my classroom 3 additional periods of the day because they cannot fit the regular class into their schedule, and, as a result, I still work a full day at school. I can receive as much money in retirement as I do now and for a lot less work, and I do not have to worry about how many students I will have in the following year.

3) As a professional high school teacher of a modern European language, I feel that I have developed a variety of skills and abilities that other teachers might find useful, but the teaching profession in California provides no process through which I can pass on my knowledge to younger teachers. There is no place for a veteran teacher to work on curriculum development and be paid part of his/her regular salary, or to work with other colleagues or new teachers to help them use new technology or even prepare materials for them and be paid part of a regular salary for that activity. My options are: be a teacher, become an administrator where I would not teach but would be paid more, or retire.

4) At the end of this school year I will have reached an age where normal retirement is possible and I wish to have more freedom to do what I would like to do during more of the year. As a regular teacher I am in reality tied to the classroom 180+ days a year, so that I cannot take trips to other places during the spring or the fall. Eric Paulson and I have been discussing ways to satisfy these desires while at the same time provide a continuing German program at Cupertino High School for those students who wish or need to pursue their study of the language.

 

Next year, Cupertino High School will offer German beyond the first year only to Cupertino students if a reasonable number of students sign up for this program, and I will conduct this class. The course will have a large component of independent study and work at various Internet sites. My current students already complete a great amount of work (currently done in the classroom) using various technologies: computer practice for vocabulary and grammar, computer-based answers for homework sheets, video and audio listening materials, and work at some Internet sites, especially at the advanced levels. All of these things can be done from a dedicated web site or from other Internet sites. I do expect to institute the following structural changes next year:

a variety of reading materials and video tapes will be placed in the library which students will be able to check out for reading and listening practice,

I intend to meet with the students at school quite a bit during the first few weeks of the course to help students learn how to find the work they need to do, how to complete the work, and how to submit it to me,

as the year progresses I expect to meet on a less regular basis with students at school, but I will have some other type of communication mode available at all times such as a dedicated ‘forum’, or a regular CHAT or AIM time, and, of course, e-mail,

all the computer-based materials described above will be made available on the Internet,

a variety of sources on the Internet will be listed where students can go to read and listen (and perhaps view videos through streaming video technology).

 

In order for an Internet-based course to be successful, I believe students need these elements in their instructional course:

a)      a way to develop and expand their vocabulary,

b)      a way to learn the grammar of the language under study and be able to practice the new material,

c)      practice listening to the spoken language at their level,

d)      opportunities to read the language at their level,

e)      procedures for producing spontaneous language as in face-to-face communication,

f)       procedures for producing reasoned written language.

 

Students also need to have the following two administrative elements available to them:

  1. a syllabus of the year's work with indicated check points so that the students know how they are progressing through the material,

  2. access to an individual listing of the work completed and grades for that work.

 

It is my intention that the students will complete the same basic curriculum, take essentially the same oral and written exams and final exams as the current students and that they will receive the same credit on their transcript as German students do today.

 

It is my belief that face-to-face teaching with a live teacher in the room is the best instructional design, but as we have seen above that is no longer possible at Cupertino High School for German. Over the past several years I have had quite a number of students use the technology and other resources available in the class to learn German successfully, even though they could not be in a regular class and had to work very independently. Based on this experience I believe that highly motivated and interested students and students who can work independently and who can learn from resources other than just the teacher to continue their study of German can learn effectively through this proposed course.

 

Teaching has been and is a great pleasure to me. I enjoy working with my students, many of whom are talented, interested, and motivated. Some of the students who have performed less successfully in the beginning years of their study of German become interested and successful learners in the later years; that change is always a pleasure to see. There are also those students who never are successful for a variety of reason, yet some of them contact me years later with good feelings about their time in the German program even though they did not learn German well; this, too, is great to hear. Even though I plan to work with a small group of students next year, I will miss the regular interaction with my current and former students.

 

Any Cupertino students interested in continuing their study of German next year in the course described above must register for the appropriate course during the spring course enrollment period. See me if there are questions.

 

 

 

Thank you for the many good years at Cupertino High School,

 

 Robert A. Morrey

 

Robert A. Morrey, Ph.D.

Mentor teacher 1985-86

United States Department of Education McAuliffe Fellow 1991-92

California Language Teachers’ Association Outstanding Teacher 1994