In the interest of transparency, I want to announce that Eric Herman and Michael Coxon and I have parted ways. Both have contributed much to the discussion here, but their strong focus on SLA, fascinating as it is, isn’t the best thing for the average teacher trying to work on their classroom teaching here. It takes away from our focus. I wish Eric and Mike all the best as they continue to pursue their work dedicated to helping children feel better about themselves when they learn a second language.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
28 thoughts on “Announcement”
This saddens me immensely.
🙁 Me too 🙁
Eric willingness to expand and share his deep understanding of theory (and practice) has allowed me to grow and further understand why I do things the way I do and why I maybe shouldn’t be doing things that I do.
Mike’s eagerness to work with and educate teachers who haven’t fully embraced our style/philosophy of teaching is a healthy asset for those of us who may work in buildings that don’t understand what we do.
I will greatly miss their input on this PLC. I hope that everything was amiable, and that we all continue to work with each other toward our common goals and shared values, regardless of venue.
I also am greatly disappointed to hear this. And with Jim (and many others I’m sure) I have learned so much from Eric and Mike. I found the theory and research part complimented so well all our practical talk of what we are doing in the classroom and it helped me talk with others about why I do what I do.
Oh no! Did this really have to happen? I like the SLA discussions alongside the teaching ones. Well, I guess life is change. I’ll try to accept it and move on. Big love and thanks to all 3 of you.
…[it] isn’t the best thing for the average teacher trying to work on their classroom teaching here…
Thoughts on those best things have been getting more and more polarized, and that’s even been true with or without a focus on SLA. I think the the biggest struggle moving forward will be shifting the focus to fundamental stepless and uncircled TPRS given the current landscape of language teachers who either demand steps, or require so much re-training that the only way to do that is to start at a different place from where the focus ought to be.
I’m not talking about the Teachers Pay Teachers plans, but instead support that draws teachers in. “Hook ’em while they’re young, like the tobacco industry” (-Goerge Carlin’s character in “Dogma”). Only the few take kindly to “forget everything you just learned in Grad School and just talk to the students,” or “just tell them a story.” I think the difference could mean creating an army or dissolving one.
I’d like to buy into that fundamental stepless and uncircled TPRS goal, but I’m not sold on the path to do so yet. I, personally, might be ready, but that doesn’t mean the majority of people are. We on this PLC are the 4% of the 4% of the 4%er language teachers who “get it,” and even we can’t mobilize as one. Part of what makes military units strong is the diversity within them. I see this diversity as our ideas and ideals, and challenging each other to think about them. That diversity has helped keep people in check. Without those checks, a new form of government might emerge.
Would it make you feel better to know that TPRS is not the only CI method facing this dilemma? SIOP is deemed by some as “rigid” and “overly prescriptive” and stifling creativity in the classroom. That said, it’s steps and main principles help the vast majority of ESL teachers and their administrators understand how to deliver comprehensible input. As with TPRS, its not enough to go through a checklist, teachers have to make changes to make lessons compelling for their kids.
The codification of the methodology into a checklist or multi-step process is going to stifle creativity if these become hard and fast rules. That said, it”mobilizes” like Lance says a vast army of teachers who are actually teaching CI.
SIOP might be misused or misunderstood here and there, but at least the majority of second language educators (not foreign language) are having a CI conversation because our SIOP guns are big and loud. I don’t have statistics but nationwide, CI is available a much higher percentage of US classrooms teaching English as a Second Language than foreign language classrooms–mostly because we are being taught SIOP pre-service, something Lance says is not the case in FL. It be imperfect, but it’s a CI for the masses. I get to modify and make SIOP work for me because of name-recognition: my administrators let me get away with murder (ex. a unit on fashion design or reading a silly but pointless graphic novel) just because they know and have bought into SIOP.
“Mobilizing CI” may be helpful to a point, but I don’t envy Ben and other TPRS leaders who have an uphill battle in leading new TPRS teachers away from steps, targets, and formulaic teaching. Are clearly-defined methods a double-edged sword?
“It be imperfect, but it’s a CI for the masses.”
Wow, the typos. That’s possibly the worst sentence I’ve ever written.
I was trying to get at: standardization of any method favors quantity over quality (for better or worse).
Oh and here I was about to compliment you on your command of Pirate grammar. I thought you were quoting Dave Burgues or whatever that pirate guy’s name is.
I **WISH** we got CI training in our grad and teacher prep programs. It was actually in grad school that I learned about CI from a ten-minute demo of CI by my Methods professor. She did not really mention TPRS per se but she did a demo using sports equipment. She spoke slowly in French and explained this is a soccer ball and I play soccer on the weekend and this is a bike helmet and I use this to come to work on my bike. Well, compared to all the other methods they were telling us about, this just made a lot of sense to me. So I wrote down Krashen’s name and then soon afterward discovered TPRS and took my first training in my own. It is too bad I had to dig and dig, I wish we had had a full-on TPRS demo in class. (Since that time I have met Chris Stolz and he does demos in methods classes and I know others on the blog do that as well. Good PR and outreach for our methods!!) In my program they spent a lot of time on things that were not as effective at building true proficiency, so it would have been so great to spend some of that time learning CI methods…but at least it got a mention and it started me on a happy journey of discovery, including finding Ben and you guys. I agree with Craig that that community is a treasure and a huge presence in my life. Thank you to all of you and I hope to meet as many of us in person in TN as possible in July…
…“Mobilizing CI” may be helpful to a point, but I don’t envy Ben and other TPRS leaders who have an uphill battle in leading new TPRS teachers away from steps, targets, and formulaic teaching. Are clearly-defined methods a double-edged sword?….
Well Claire said this two days ago and I’m still thinking about it. That last sentence. Its’ a doozy. My answer is that planning everything in TPRS is not just a double edged sword but an enabling factor for new teachers to not have to dig deep into themselves.
Yes, training wheels and diapers on kids for awhile, but not for years….
Well Claire I don’t consider myself a leader, just another foot soldier slogging through the mud who has put mental health and enjoying my work in front of all that stuff I used to put first. I really don’t know much about all the theory, honestly, and I care about it less than I know about it. I know what works.
Claire I hope you are keeping a file of all the ESL/TPRS gems that you write here. When there are enough and it becomes a book, I want to sell that book here. It’s a book long overdue in the second language acquisition world! I’ve even got a title suggestion for it: “ESL and TPRS: Building the Bridge.” (Dr. Krashen will write the introduction.)
The most inspiring role you play and why I consider you a leader is that you advocate for something honest: teachers having the structure of a “method” with a solid foundation in theory, but then the leeway to develop techniques that work for us.
You are a leader because you advocate for creative classrooms and elevate our profession to a craft. You honor classroom teachers in a day and age when people de-value us by saying that we need strict methods and checklists and constant evaluation to make sure we are following through with said checklists.
You are a leader because you make brave statements when you say “I want to get away from too much theory” because too much bogs down real teaching. It’s true, but it’s not what intellectual-types what to hear.
You are a leader because you practice what you preach. You act on it. Your above post proves that you take a hit when you act on your convictions, but you do it anyways because you’re BEN SLAVIC and you’re awesome! It’s a type of intellectual honesty that should amaze us, but some people don’t get it or can’t handle it.
I get it, though. I think you are amazing.
Wow Claire. Thanks. Validation. I am not, and many of us are not used to that! So yours is a sweet message indeed. Earlier today I was thinking about my motivation with this group, where I want things to go in the second ten years of the PLC that is just starting about this month, and I felt a kind of moment of purity happen and what came right into my mind was this quote, which is pretty much what I am hanging my hat on here in our group – the center point of the whole thing:
…when I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me….
Happy 10th Anniversary, PLC!
We heart you, Ben!
THANK YOU, Leigh Anne. It’s not just the beginning of an adventure anymore – we’re at full sail and the wind is picking up! And it wouldn’t be an adventure if there weren’t a few capsizes along the way. I assure you that this past one with Mike and Eric was done on amicable terms. We three needed to learn a few things from each other and we did. Honestly I don’t think the PLC can hold those super brains – it wasn’t designed for it. It was like the PLC ship was carrying (is carrying now if you look who is on here) a bunch of smaller ships waiting to be launched into the ocean on their own and the cargo just got too heavy. Each one of us is a PLC like this one in the making. We all have our own ideas and when one boat gets as big as another then it can’t fit on the one it was on before. This site is dedicated to better mental health through the use of sound strategies and is not a research site. That is what this sandbox is. Mike and Eric get that and I wish them all the best as here on our tenth anniversary we go through yet another change. Change is messy but it won’t happen without the messiness. I remember why I made the blog private in the first place – to make it safe to talk about TPRS with like minded teachers. Look what has happened in these ten years! The whole thing happened where TPRS became prescribed, Blaine persevered on through the whole thing, as did Stephen Krashen, a great, even dynamic tension in the movement has happened where one force within TPRS pits itself against another, people are learning and growing, going this way and that, which provides the propulsion we need to move forward, and things are ever expanding. I’d say we’re in good shape. I will miss those guys’ voices but for me in my own case how much theory can a man take? And it’s all about me as some have reminded me lately. Now that I am in my sixties, I look back on the entire voyage of my career with confidence that every moment I felt like collapsing on the floor (there were at least 500 of them) was in the oddest of ways quite worth it. Maybe I’ll see another ten years here. That would be great! But I bow down with thanks and reverence to my Friend for allowing me to get this far.
Wow. 10th anniversary! I consider you my mentor, Ben. The mentor is more than a teacher and the “content” is way more than “teaching and professional topics.” You have a great gift in piercing through the externalities just as I get over-involved in them. I feel the truth of this:
“This site is dedicated to better mental health through the use of sound strategies and is not a research site.”
In my own practice (of life and teaching) I’m constantly searching for balance between structure and fluidity. I practice this balancing act by practicing. And I also need some theory, but not too much (even though I always think I need more, and doubt creeps in when I get in that space) : “99%practice, 1% theory, as Pattabhi Jois said!
I am sad and will miss those voices. I get so much from those discussions, because the research was “pre-digested” for me! And because of the individuals I know and love. And I also understand the propulsion dynamic you describe, the ever expanding energy. Evolution of consciousness 🙂
From the first time I “accidentally” found this group, I felt an instant spark of recognition, validation and connectedness. I “thought” it was about finding a compassionate group of like-minded teachers and open vulnerable sharing. It was and is, AND it’s so much bigger than that. I appreciate and respect you and everyone else more than I can convey in words. <3
99%practice, 1% theory, as Pattabhi Jois said!
jen, this is such a relevant quote for me! I got super into Ashtanga yoga about 12 years ago. These days I hardly do any Asana practice in comparison.
But this quote rings so true with our teaching practice. Krashen’s theory is as fundamental to teaching a foreign language as steady breathing is to practicing yoga. The hard part is finding ways to somehow do away with the noise, the clatter, the distractions, and the anxiety that keep us from being grounded.
I also learned through yoga teachings how to meditate. A big tenant of which is to “let go of the fluctuations of the mind”. While we absorb the constant barrage of stress throughout the school day, no wonder it is so difficult to implement such common sense theory into our teaching practice.
Thanks for explaining this transition a little more thoroughly, Ben. It feels really weird for me to have Eric gone from the blog. I don’t know Mike as well, but I believe they will both continue to offer their leadership to our wider community. I feel a bit better now, having read your comment above. So thanks.
Having been a Hebrew student (almost 30 years ago) in an Ulpan (Hebrew immersion class) in Israel with 10+ different native languages among the students, I observed first-hand the issue of establishing meaning in a multilingual L1 classroom. The class was conducted entirely in the TL, and often pairs or groups (of adults) who spoke Spanish, Dutch, etc. established meaning with each other.
My first year teaching in the Chicago Public Schools I had 17 different native language among 35 2nd graders in my Sheltered English classroom. While collaborative stories would have worked beautifully I am sure, there would have had to be much more attention and scaffolding for the novices who couldn’t resort to a common L1. Stories (any compelling kind!!) are a great zero depth kiddy pool to get Ss immersed/soaked in compelling language. But it’s way harder w/no common L1.
When I think back at how many lofty goals I was supposed to be pursuing back then – really it was an impossibly tall order: Literacy, all the content areas of instruction – math, science, social studies, etc.- social emotional skills…
The prevailing opinion was that by grouping kids by language (all the Spanish speakers, all the Vietnamese speakers) they would resort to their L1 with each other and not acquire as much. (Kind of a sink-or-float argument – no I see how misguided it prolly was). Some of the language groups did receive literacy instruction in the afternoon – a bilingual model based on the concept that L1 literacy supports all subsequent literacy. Only those language groups with enough kids to form a class and require a teacher got such literacy support, i.e., the 2 Romanian kids in my class got ESL all day, but the Spanish speakers got Spanish in the PM.
What does ELL instruction in a diverse language community look like nowadays?
“an impossibly tall order”
Yes, that is my job. But it’s even more challenging for students. Their academic career is hinged on learning English in non-ideal settings (immersion) which with inappropriate programming and instruction can be “an impossibly tall order.” It builds character, and most of my ESL babies are (little) people I admire.
I love bilingual education; I’m so glad you mentioned it. When done right, it is a short-cut to language and literacy.
Sadly, Tennessee is an English-only state, so I am stuck with sheltered instruction in an immersion pull-out program. I teach comprehensible input despite my programming, using Content-Based Instruction (I’m trying to avoid calling it SIOP because it’s a somewhat polarizing method). Sheltered Instruction or Content-Based Instruction was born out of the late-exit model of bilingual education. It was designed as a bridge for students almost listening, speaking, reading, and writing on grade level-almost. It’s a decent alternative to bilingual education, and it can be just as much fun to teach as TPRS.
I bet your classroom would look similar to my ESL classroom when I taught elementary. I’m always surprised by how similar CBI and TPRS are. Why are airline tickets not free for teachers wanting to observe each other? They should be, because I need to come observe your class. 🙂
Gosh, Claire. It does seem like you up against some impossible odds.
I am extremely new to this community and have been constantly humbled by the giving and open nature of the good people I have found here. I know of no other professional educational community that is so concerned with perfecting their craft and reaching students on a more meaningful level. I appreciate the immense amount of common ground we all share in this regard.
I can not think of anything that would be so important to me that I would feel the need to sever ties with this community over them. Especially if I had contributed so significantly to its formation over the years.
I, too, will miss them both dearly. However, I know that they are still out there doing the good work and – where there’s a will there is a way – we will be able to (re)connect and continue following their quest to make us all better teachers (and people). Thank you, Ben, for giving them the platform to share so freely of their vast SLA knowledge.
I’m sorry to hear that you had to part ways, Ben. Eric is truly a beast in his depth of knowledge behind all things SLA. I have to think that much of his study was motivated by his interactions with us on this PLC. And Michael has proven to be nothing less than a passionate advocate for equity in foreign language education through TCI.
Perhaps many who want to participate in this PLC feel turned away from the theory discussions. Perhaps many feel that their input isn’t valuable. Well, I have to be sure to announce that your struggles are my struggles! There is nothing more valuable to me than hearing people share their struggles with honesty and humility. I appreciate you all for that!
This PLC is the only place in my professional world where I feel like we don’t need to boast. We don’t need to brag. We don’t need the ego stroking. This happens enough in our schools when we have those PDs in front of our administrators. On the contrary. Here I see ourselves opening our hearts and revealing our vulnerabilities as we struggle to dedicate ourselves to our craft and to our students. We are in it for the long haul. We want time for ourselves and our families in addition to teaching well. (I remember Ben saying he wants time to watch Breaking Bad a couple of months ago instead of lesson planning. That was powerful for me.)
The reality of being a teacher in most of our schools in America is a sober reality. Just the other day my wife, a pre-K – 2nd grade SPED teacher, walked into a 2nd grader teacher’s room after school. This 2nd grade teacher had the lights off and was sitting on the floor staring into the darkness. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” is what she said.
This feeling is nation-wide. We have a lot of healing to do.
Thank you for this, Sean. The healing is as much of the work as the teaching is, and takes just as much training and practice.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore,”
Thanks for this reminder, Sean. I and my family are still recovering from a very traumatic first year at my new school last year. Non-teachers cannot understand to what extent this job can test, and even undermine, your entire sense of adequacy as a human being. I am not exaggerating. It shouldn’t be this way. We don’t get paid enough, no one gets paid enough for that kind of stress. We need to support each other.