Cameroon update!

As many of you know, I went to Bankondji, Cameroon last August (2016) to lead a teacher training for the Aumazo tutoring program, a program designed to bring up the academic level of middle-school girls in the village to allow them to pass the high school entrance exam (I blogged about it day by day—you can go to the beginning of this blog and read upwards to learn what I was doing and my experience of it). For much of this past school year I worked with the head of the Aumazo program, Jacqueline Audigé, to support the teachers from afar. My involvement lessened in the spring, as the teachers grew more comfortable and the program was running smoothly.


After a whirlwind month of travel and conferences in June (the AP French reading in Cincinnati; the IGNITE conference sponsored by the Cherokee Nation in Talequah, OK; and the Comprehensible Cascadia conference in Portland, OR), I finally had the chance on Monday to sit down with Jacqueline and her son Olivier, who lives in Bafang and oversees the program on site.


After a tough winter in which Aumazo was confronting obstacle after obstacle, including a continued lack of regular funding, I was delighted to hear several pieces of extremely good news:

  1. Six girls in the village who took the BEPC (Brevet d’études du premier cycle), the high school entrance exam, passed. Of these six girls, five were in our tutoring program. (Last year, only three passed.)
  2. After a ten-year wait, Aumazo has finally received the ministerial decree giving official authorization to open the Aumazo high school.
  3. A funder has committed to raise the $11,000 needed to bring water to the school site, which will enable Aumazo to build the sanitation facilities needed to start using the one building that has already been built. Together with the official authorization that Aumazo received, this means that the Aumazo school will be able to open in September 2018.
  4. The tutoring program will operate for one more year as a continued bridge program as we await the school’s opening. The teachers that I trained last year will continue to run the program.
  5. Jacqueline plans to have me back in Cameroon next summer to train the teachers for the school as it opens. As much as I would have liked to be back this summer to do a follow-up training for the tutoring program, I agree that the money is better spent concentrating on the school itself. The tutoring program is only a bridge program as we awaited the paperwork and funding to make the school a reality.


Today, July 12th, is a Global Giving matching day. Please consider donating now—starting at 9 am EDT. Donations will be matched at 50%. The money will run out quickly, so the earlier you donate, the better chance you have to have your donation increased. You can donate here.


IGNITE and Comprehensible Cascadia!

Rachelle and I will be core staff at two brand-new CI conferences this month: IGNITE and Comprehensible Cascadia!

IGNITE (June 19-21) is the first-ever CI language conference for teachers of Indigenous languages here in the US. It stands for Indigenous Gathering of Native language Instructional Techniques for Educators. A few months ago, Wade Blevins of the Cherokee Nation’s Education Department asked Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic to help him form a team of trainers, and we are truly privileged to be heading to Oklahoma with some amazing people, including ACTFL Teacher-of-the-Year nominee Darcy Pippins, and blogger and teacher extraordinaire Mike Peto.

Comprehensible Cascadia (June 26-28) is the first-ever CI conference with an emphasis on EQUITY and on non-targeted instruction. The team of trainers at this conference is thrilling: Ben Slavic, Tina Hargaden, Mike Peto, Wade Blevins, Fadi Abughoush,Annabelle Allen, Jon Cowart, Haydee Taylor-Arnold, Elissa McLean, and Janet Kyung.

At Comprehensible Cascadia, you can participate in a beginning language class for Cherokee, Arabic, or Korean (while watching coaching happen in real time), observe real kids learning Spanish or French, and learn how to make your teaching EASIER and MORE EQUITABLE.

I’ll be teaching French to a group of intermediate/advanced-level secondary students while conference participants observe; Rachelle and I will be leading a three-hour workshop “Multilingual ≠ Multicultural: Challenging Assumptions in the World Language Classroom”; and Rachelle will be giving a workshop on teaching culture without stereotyping. Rachelle will also be on the equity roundtables and the coaching team. See the full schedule here. It’s a smaller conference than iFLT or NTPRS and a great opportunity to really dive in deep and be at the forefront of justice work in language classes.

Rachelle and I will also be presenting at NTPRS in July, so if that’s where you’re headed, we look forward to seeing you there.

Upcoming Professional Development with Rachelle Adams and me… for summer 2017 and school year 2017-18!

Rachelle Adams and I are once again offering professional development for world language teachers on teaching with comprehensible input. Please share widely!
Our summer series is an intensive version of the series we offered this year: “Teaching With Comprehensible Input: The What, Why, and How” and will take place July 25-27 from 9 am – 4 pm at E.W. Stokes Community Freedom Charter School.
There will be two job-embedded school-year series in 2017-18–one for teachers new to teaching with comprehensible input (or who want to be sure they have acquired the basics), and one for those who already have experience and are looking to grow their skills.
Here is a taste of the feedback we received at the end of this year’s six-session series, “Teaching With Comprehensible Input: The What, Why, and How,” which just ended:
  • This program should be taught in every school that offers [a] world language program.
  • CI [Comprehensible Input] gives you a more holistic approach… [it] appeal[s] to the heart and the intellect.
  • [I learned that] as language teachers we are the front lines of multiculturalism, and we need to take on that role with our students, parents, colleagues, and administration.
  • I have seen my students becoming more risk takers.
  • I love that both of you have very different styles and you both work well together. This helps different types of learners (and teachers) to connect to your sessions!
  • Thank you for your amazing energy and positive feedback every time.
  • I loved it. I felt very comfortable. The sessions were well-planned and [well]-structure[d].

Please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions –

We will be capping registration at 30 in each cohort. We have kept the price low in order to facilitate several teachers from the same schools participating. We have found that the most effective shifts happen in schools where several teachers from the same department attend professional development together.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Teaching with Comprehensible Input: The Why, What, and How


July 25-27, 2017 from 9:00am-4:00 pm


Three full days of training + 1 school visit (Sept/Oct 2017): classroom observation (onsite or virtual) and personalized coaching session

Location: Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School; 3700 Oakview Terrace, NE; Washington, DC 20017

Teaching with Comprehensible Input: The Why, What, and How

Six-session job-embedded professional development series + 1 school visit for classroom observation and personalized coaching session

Six Saturdays from 9:00am-12:00pm 11/18/17, 12/9/17, 1/20/18, 2/10/18, 3/10/18 + 5/12/18 for final reflection

Total cost: $425

Location: Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School; 3700 Oakview Terrace, NE; Washington, DC 20017

NEW! Teaching with Comprehensible Input: Taking Your Skills to the Next Level

Six-session job-embedded professional development series + 1 school visit for classroom observation and personalized coaching session

Six Saturdays from 1:00pm-4:00pm 11/18/17, 12/9/17, 1/20/18, 2/10/18, 3/10/18, 5/12/18

Total cost: $425

Location: Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School; 3700 Oakview Terrace, NE; Washington, DC 20017


→ for more info about me (Anna Gilcher, PhD) go to

→ for more info about Rachelle Adams, go to

Who Are You? or The Sacred Journey of Being De-centered

What follows is the text of a sermon I preached at Seekers Church this morning, 3/26/17. It provides (finally) something of a report on my time in Vancouver a month ago. The biblical text is John 9:1-41. (Quotations within the sermon come from the Inclusive Bible, an egalitarian translation not available online.)

The sermon began with the experiential activity outlined below. 

“Who are you?” activity:

  1. Find a partner
    1. one minute each — one person asks “who are you?” the other answers. “Who are you?” is repeated after every statement.
    2. switch roles
  2. new partner
    1. same instructions– but no role or responsibility (no professional, no caretaker, sister/daughter/mother)
  3. new partner
    1. not allowed to use anything they’ve used before in the other two minutes
    2. switch roles

Silent reflection: what did you notice?

SOURCE: NAIS People of Color Conference

My dear friend and work partner Rachelle Adams and I were invited to Vancouver last month to make a presentation to teachers on diversity and identity, and on how illuminating our own identity is a necessary step to cross-cultural dialogue and reconciliation.

British Columbia has recently redesigned its curriculum with two broad and drastic changes: the infusion of Indigenous ways of knowing on the one hand, and three Core Competencies on the other (Thinking, Communicating, and Personal and Social Responsibility). The ministry of education has pushed for the infusion of Indigenous ways of knowing or pedagogy to be used across the curriculum, moving away from content-based instruction that discusses Indigenous issues to the use of Indigenous pedagogy. The personal and social core competency includes: positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility.

We were invited to Vancouver because we had done a presentation at a language teachers’ conference last summer in Reno, Nevada entitled “Creating Diversity-Positive Language Classrooms.” Our guiding principle was: Students deserve to see positive representations of themselves and those they love… both as they are now and who they may be in the future. In our session, we presented some basics of diversity education including what are known as “the big 8 and little 4” social identifiers, and the importance of shifting from being just a multilingual classroom to being a truly multicultural classroom in which the community recognizes differences and similarities in different cultures, and supports equity and social justice for all members. (Language teachers are often given a pass on the hard work of multiculturalism because we assume that multiculturalism is inherent in multilingualism.)

(The social identifiersin US American society—are:  ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status appearance, family structure, geographic region, military status)


One of the participants in our session, Natalia Mayor, a French and Spanish teacher from Vancouver, was deeply struck by the overlap between what we were presenting and the new pedagogy and curriculum in British Columbia, and she invited us to come to present to teachers who were wrestling with how to make this shift.

Additional context for the shift is work that is being done across Canada, both within education and outside it, to come to terms with Canada’s colonialist past and the many generations of Indigenous children who were forcibly placed in residential schools in order to solve the “Indian problem.” Over 150,000 children were stolen over the 150 years of the program. The last school in Canada did not close until 1996. There is a very powerful program called Project of Heart that is working to bring people across Canada the knowledge of this history, which has been hidden, and is working toward true reconciliation. (There is also a Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I had no idea. There is much we can learn from our neighbors to the north.)

The “Who Are You” activity we started with today was the first activity we had participants engage in before we stepped into the core of our presentation in Vancouver. It helped us hold a lived understanding of our shared humanity as we looked at and honored the real differences that exist between us.

Rachelle and I divided our presentation into four sections, which I called “points de repère,” or geographical reference points. (I couldn’t resist using French in Canada.) The title of each one comes directly from the First People’s Principles of Learning, a list of principles published by the First Nations Education Steering Committee:

  • Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations.
  • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.

Finally, as an overarching principle, we used “Learning is a journey that takes courage, patience, and humility,” taken from the version of the principles published by the BC Teachers Federation entitled “Indigenous Ways of Knowing.”

I want to take a moment to note that this process is taking place, not in a church such as we stand in this morning, but in public school.

There is an immense amount to say about this. But that is all I will say for now. (Let’s take a breath.)


In our gospel reading today, Jesus gives sight to a man blind from birth, and many of those who are around, either to see the miracle happen or to hear about it later, find themselves exceedingly de-centered. For those on the margins, being de-centered is just the way things are. They’re not at the center, they’ve never been at the center. The closer people are to the center, however, the less accustomed they are to being de-centered… and with less practice comes great fear.

Let’s go back for a moment to the principle “Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.” As we know, consequences are both positive and negative; consequences go beyond our own individual lifespan — there is collective trauma across generations and there is collective oppression… we suffer and profit from them both, whether we like it or not, and this was as true in Jesus’ time as it is in our own. The more privilege we carry, the more we profit from the oppression. Recognizing this as a truth is a crucial step, and from there, our work is to take responsibility: (even if) it’s not my fault, it is my responsibility.

This recognition is highly de-centering to those of us at the center, and the more social identifiers we carry that are the “default,” the less practiced we are at being de-centered.

The willingness to be de-centered is a sacred journey.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be de-centered as a white person, and the sacredness of being de-centered. The Pharisees in this text show exactly what it’s like to suddenly be de-centered and how fearful we become when we find our own identity at the center at stake. Without having a conscious understanding of their own identity as socially constructed and privileged by the social constructs of the day, they quickly move to close the gap to recenter themselves… without regard to the cost to others around.

Now, it is important to note that the Pharisees do not hold privilege in every aspect of society—far from it. They are living as an occupied people under the Romans. White people, too, can hold positions not at the center (I’m a woman, I’m bisexual), and in many contexts, we experience what it’s like to be at the margins. Nor are the Pharisees a monolithic group—indeed, they are “sharply divided.” In this encounter, the Pharisees hold the privilege, as we white people very often do as well, and they quickly recenter themselves and find belonging in their commonality. Who are you? “We are disciples of Moses. We have no idea where this Jesus comes from.”

How many times have I, as a white person, clung to the comfort of staying at the center?

If we take “seeing” as a metaphor for whiteness and for being at the center, it becomes clear why it is so important that we “become blind.” Jesus says: I came into this world to execute justice—to make the sightless see and the seeing blind. This is a sacred journey, and an invitation to true liberation.

Are we willing to become “blind”… so that we may actually begin to see?

New for (almost) spring

It feels like spring today, and my energy is higher than it’s been for a while. Windows are open and I can smell a whole new season.

So, I’ve updated my website! Take a look at

New offerings this (almost) spring include a 2-part webinar through Fluency Matters in March and new openings in my intermediate conversation classes (see photo above). Click here to contact me for more information.

I’m looking forward to traveling to Vancouver, Portland, and Oklahoma City from February 23 to March 4 to present with Rachelle Adams at the Vancouver Secondary Teachers Association, the Vancouver School Board Languages Conference, and the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching. It will be a special treat to get to see colleagues and friends in Portland in between the two conferences.

Rachelle and I were also delighted to be asked to be the keynote speakers at the GWATFL (Greater Washington Area Teachers of Foreign Language) Spring Immersion Day on April 29. More info can be found here.

Here are the titles of the presentations/workshops. Let me know if you’d like more information.

  • Vancouver Secondary Teachers Association – Vancouver, BC – February 24, 2017. “Illuminating Identity: A Necessary Condition for Reconciliation.”
  • Vancouver School Board Languages Conference – Vancouver, BC – February 24, 2017. “90% for the Other 99%: Increasing Meaningful Student Engagement
  • Southwest Conference on Language Teaching – Oklahoma City, OK – March 2-4, 2017. “Rewriting the Story: Upending Bias through Language Learning” with Comprehensible Input.”
  • Fluency Matters two-part webinar March 15 and 28 at 7 pm EST: “Rewriting the Story: Upending Bias through Language Learning.” (Register here.)
  • KEYNOTE SPEAKERS! GWATFL Spring Immersion Day 2017 – Greater Washington Area Teachers of Foreign Language – National Cathedral School – Washington, DC – April 29, 2017. Multilingual ≠ Multicultural: Challenging Assumptions in the World Language Classroom” 

Preview class for beginning French group (adults): 12-1 pm on Monday 1/30

Class on 1/30 is a one-hour preview class for $40 with no obligation. Thereafter, we will be continuing as a semester-long closed group class.
Join us! You’ll be delighted to find how quickly and easily you can acquire French. You can read more about me, and about my approach, on my website:
Contact me here to register or to learn more.

Injustice Boycott

I spent yesterday moving and singing and speaking in community at an InterPlay celebration of Dr. King led by Caroline Blackwell and Masankho Banda. I left with greater determination than ever to do my part. I will not be, as Dr. King writes in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

I signed up with Shaun King’s Injustice Boycott when it was unveiled, and now the time for action has come. Shaun King is an impressive and thoughtful organizer. It is time to take action, and to stand strong, and to support each other in an organized way–not just with petitions and phone calls (although they have their place). This is the new Montgomery Bus Boycott. You may be shocked to see that two progressive cities, New York and San Francisco, are being boycotted. But this is because we need to demand more from our so-called “progressive” leaders. Did you know that New York is one of only two states in the nation that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults? Did you know that the San Francisco Police Association has blocked the passage of crucial reforms supported unanimously by the SF Police Commission? The Injustice Boycott is a thoughtful and fair approach to righting wrongs. The cities can be taken off the boycott list by meeting reasonable demands. And businesses that take a stand in favor of these demands will be put on a “Buycott” list and given public support and endorsement by the organizers and participants in the Injustice Boycott.