Rule 2 of the Classroom Rules has been getting a lot of attention, but Rule 1 is of equal importance: Listen with the Intent to Understand. Such an obvious behavior is rarely done by students in schools. They listen with the intent to get a grade. If your students think that school is a game built around testing, then they must be constantly reminded by the adult in the room to try to learn what this rule means. In fact, the Communication Rubric with the child in the first six weeks of school is a requirement. When we enforce it, enormous stress is created in students who are used to memorizing for the grade. This reaction shows up usually in 7th grade and gets worse in 8th grade and gradually fades over the high school years when the kids don’t care anymore – the window to building quality human interaction during class with their teachers has already been closed. The result of our failure, by our not enforcing the Classroom Rules to quell the braggadocio of the kids who enjoy white privilege, has the predictable result that those kids have taken over the classrooms since American classrooms are microcosms of American society in general and the teachers, not just traditional teachers but even CI teachers, and I am thinking of many TPRS teachers here as well, have missed a golden opportunity tor implement a non-racist program in their classrooms (CI and CI alone has that potential among all forms of foreign language education options). Such kids in middle school have simply been trained – by us – that interacting with their teacher is a slightly unpleasant option. This makes it really bad for making CI work because it needs a willingness on both sides to make human conversation work. The kids who who learned in elementary school that they can use white privilege to control the social interactions in the classroom then take over their middle school classes. The teacher, too weak to stop that tendency to make the classroom all about what the white kids in it want to do and say, allows, perpetuates and even encourages exclusion because many CI teachers don’t have the courage to stop rude white kids from blurting out in their CI classes. Those kids, the future Trumps, have learned to get through school with easy grades simply by providing the information back to us in the form of a test. This is a travesty of education. In this sense, our CI classes may be the most important classes a child ever takes in school, to teach them tolerance for others and respect for adults. Rule 1 leads the way in telling them how to do it. Children cannot even function in the world without people skills and yet few if any classes that they take require them to do so. Any CI class, if it is going to work, requires participatory and reciprocal back and forth behavior so that the national standard of Communication can happen in our classroom. So why not make it our highest priority to aggressively enforce Rules 1 and 2 during class and via the rubrics? Why not enforce the Classroom Rules? We are almost committing a form of professional malpractice when we let our kids get away with tuning out or tuning into their screens or friends during class.
Some teachers were talking about George Floyd:
“What can I do about it? I’m just a Spanish teacher!”
One teacher responded:
“True – you’re just a Spanish teacher, but has this event not made you at least more aware that there is has been visible social inequity in our schools, and possibly in your own classroom? How long have you been teaching?”
“Well that’s a long time. Have you noticed anything?”
There are teachers who earn their paychecks with an almost complete disregard for what is going on in their students’ lives, and who see their young charges as nothing more than incapable annoyances who could never compete with their five star students, those who take over the classroom and thus divide the class, labeling the kids who aren’t like them as not as good as they are. It’s all an unconscious, time-worn systemic thing, where classes are divided along socio-economic lines almost automatically by the end of the first week of the year.
I see a parallel with what is happening with police and what is happening with teachers. Both are being asked to do too much. This brings a certain meanness into them.
Look at how we grade kids. It is divisive. Some deep kind of dark principle, the same one that divides cops from the people they are supposed to protect, is starting to be exposed in education, a dark principle very much connected to the way we teach and assess that also divides teachers from the children they are supposed to teach.
This is from my Category A book:
The approach described herein involves no planning. This involves no planning of instruction and no planning of assessment as well – no preparation of tests and no grading of tests, or almost none.
First, we have students writing the quizzes during class. Our use of the Interpersonal Skill rubric, as well, involves almost no effort on our part, since we are grading what we see our students doing in class in real time rather than taking tests.
The age of teachers working their fingers to the bone grading papers is over. Rather than do that, teachers are just quitting. It does nothing for the kids, who simply do not care, and the era of placating administrators – bless their ignorant hearts – is quickly coming to an end as well.
The old type of language teacher mostly only taught in ways that allowed privileged kids, usually white ones, to get into their AP classes. You know the type of teacher I mean. Other kids who “weren’t that smart” weren’t allowed into their upper level classes.
But the research shows clearly that all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic status, can master a language. That fact is born out by another fact – that many of our students have already mastered one language – English.
The old mission of this online community was simply to get better at what we do. This includes classroom management, awareness of the research, how to deal with tough kids, etc. We’ve done a good job for over 15 years on that.
Now, with Minnesota, we move into the real mission. It is my prayer that all readers here successfully make the connection between what is written in the link below to what we are doing here. What are we doing here?
Yes, we are trying to get better at this work and will continue to do so but, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, we are also gaining command of how to teach a language successfully (a) online and (b) with regard to the critically important information found below.
I keep thinking that I’ve written my last book. But now, with the growing awareness of systemic racism in our country, I am seriously considering writing one on how racism manifests its ugly head in our nation’s classrooms.
The fact is, it’s a fair topic that has probably been investigated many times before, but I feel that I am particularly well-suited to address racism in foreign language classes, having worked in both inner-city and white suburban settings.
Indeed, I doubt if such a book has been written about the inherent racism generated by teachers in our nation’s language classes because of the same ignorance that has led us to the current point of change in consciousness we are in nationally right now.