Troubleshooting Video 3 – Circling with Balls/Archie

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18 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Video 3 – Circling with Balls/Archie”

  1. Ok Ben-
    Two questions for you so I can be absolutely sure while we wait on the edge of our seats for the next video:
    1) Upon observation of Seth’s head down you do not explicitly tell him to pick his head up? You try to coax him into at first by personalizing what you’re saying with his interests?
    2) What do you do if Archie is playing along with you BUT with a twist-he’s understanding your line of questioning but responds with English like “You’re darn right I play football” or “Yeah I’m better than Karl [another kid in that class.]”
    And I just thought of a third question: How does the class go over their choral response? Do you give a mini speech to them at the start to explain each rule and their role in the game?

    1. Q1. I remember my first day as a new cadet (plebe) at Culver Military Academy. This older guy who had been a plebe the year before (means he was yelled at all year) but was now a lance corporal, barely above worm status, and he came in not an hour after I had been in the school and he made me make my bed with 24″ from the top to the 8″ wide, taut fold. When he couldn’t bounce a quarter off it at least a foot, he went nuts. The problem was that nobody had shown me how to make a bed before in the proper way. So yes in general I say to allow no one to put their head down, but in this video it is the first day! We can’t just nazi over to the kid and order him to hold up his head. So what I did here was just go over and make a little contact with him. We can’t enforce rules we haven’t presented first.

      1. A former student posted this link on Facebook. I ended up blogging about it because it really is exciting!! I’m hoping that Kate and I can really talk about this this summer. It “verifies” what I have always believed…and what I have seen over and over again. Rules work. However, a student burdened by pain and exhausted by stress doesn’t care about the rules. The article discusses how schools are helping students to learn how to combat the stress. Check it out!!

        with love,

    2. Q2. There is no set way of doing it. You will see in the next video that my son, modeling Archie, really gives me a hard time, which set me laughing. But we have to laser pointer the rules each time we need them in that first week, what we call norming. I didn’t have any rules up in that video bc I was just messing around there but I will put some up and maybe my boy Evan, who turns 15 this month, will agree to be Archie again. The norming the class piece, like teaching CI itself, is all about flow and the net. There is a point of balance between strong enforcement of the rules and keeping things human. It is impossible to find that point of balance, but we have to keep trying. They have to know that we care about them as people, but also that, in the same moment of showing an interest in them, we won’t let them break any rules. We can discuss this further once I get the next clip ready. Good question. But honestly, let’s remember that this business of norming the class at the beginning of the year is going to differ with each one of us. This is just the way I do it.

  2. Ok-
    So I’m full of questions. I thought of another two. 1) If something like the Big Circle on the first day of school is recommended but the instruction is that one does this in English…are teachers not sending the wrong message about what language will be spoken in their class? And 2) Ben- in your book TPRS in a Year you tell the story of Mildred. You begin the first situation with her entering class and not wanting to sit down just like a dog marking territory. Situation 1 concludes with you demanding she sit and her refusal leads the class to get the message you don’t know how to control the room. However Situation 2 is much better but you start it without mentioning how the teacher in the “better version” would address getting Mildred to sit on that first day. I believe you skip that and begin Situation 2 with standing next to Mildred as she fills out her questionnaire and you chat her up. I’m left to wonder how the better version would’ve handled asking Mildred to take her griffin’s

  3. Well first of all Mildred was a true hellcat, one of those kids who should not be allowed near a school bc of antisocial/near-criminal behavior all the time. She was certainly a pig kid as per that thread. And your point is good about Mildred – situation 2 was my only hope.

    I won’t do the Big Circle next year. I wrote it up here, it worked fine, but the Circling with Balls is really the way to go in my view on the first day. Here’s the thing: in the past I have relied too much on little speeches about how the class will behave. I can’t do that. I need to stay in L2 98% of the time. Rules are enforced with much more backbone when the laser does the pointing and I may repeat the words I just lasered too just after the infraction but then nothing more, no big speeches. Kids do not hear big or little speeches. They don’t hear them.

    I haven’t had a chance to see how the rigor posters will work and I don’t think that May is the time to test them. But as you know we decided here in February to have a last five minutes metacognition time to end each class and discuss how we did in terms of the Three Modes of Communication. I so much hope that those five minutes will keep me in the TL 98%+ during class. I don’t know.

    We are in a big transition time, all of us, as we discuss this past year with an eye towards staying in the TL and norming even stronger discipline via our use of CI and the rules next year. The main thing is to not try to standardize this into a method. It is perfectly fine, better, to FEEL the norming of the class and FEEL the CI and FEEL how we personalize our rooms next fall.

    There is no one way, and no one set of rules. When we run our classes intuitively and with the heart quality dominant, it just works better. Your questions are really good, but we have to all answer them for ourselves. What I do may not suit another teacher’s personality. The next video may help to answer some of those questions better than I just did, Jennifer.

    1. I understand what you’re saying….BUT for a newbie like me (to both TPRS and teaching) an example of how you would handle it might give me something to go off of. I feel totally lost in the classroom.

  4. Jen,
    The first step is to realize that there is no right way to do it. If it works the way you wanted it to, it was right…and ….there really is no way to predict if your reaction will be right. Every moment of teaching is like putting together a puzzle. If the first attempt does not fit, relax, think for a minute, and try something else.

    Often it is not what we do or say, but how, that elicits the reaction from students. Try to always make eye contact. Try to be about a foot or so away from the student when you speak. Try to use a neutral voice.

    Another hint that my adviser taught me back in the day is to not offer them yes or no questions. Instead of “Would you please have a seat?” (which sounded polite to me), she suggested , “Would you like to sit near the window or the door?” This allowed me to give her the message that I expect students to sit. This gives the student some choice, a bit of control (which is what the student wants). Here are some possible student answers, and teacher responses:

    “I don’t know” “No problem, the bell hasn’t rung yet.”
    “I don’t care” “Okay, any seat is fine. We’re going to get started in a moment.”
    “Any seat sucks, I don’t want to be here.” ” Yeah, first day is tough. We’ll get started in a moment.”
    “I’m waiting for a friend.” “No problem, the bell hasn’t rung yet.
    Student says nothing. “No problem, the bell hasn’t rung yet.”

    If the student just wants to be ornery, she’ll continue to stand.

    I’d let her stand. She wouldn’t stand for all of the class. My bet is that she’ll stand close to a chair so she can sit down when she wants to. She is just saying, “You’re not the boss of me.” It’s a silly thing to say. She knows you are in charge of the classroom. She is just trying to find out HOW she should protect herself from you. Are you a yeller? Are you sarcastic? Are you bossy? Will you judge me immediately?

    It looks, sounds, and feels like a power struggle. It’s not. It’s a lot of questions. Who are you? How are you going to treat me? It’s a lot of messages. I’m vulnerable. People have hurt me. I may try to hurt you before you do the same.

    If she says it out loud. “I’m not sitting in this class.” Try: “Standing is an option. Sitting in desks all day is the worst. I can’t do it either. When you’ve stood long enough, just pick a seat.” and start the class. If she doesn’t disturb the class, let her be.

    If, after a few days, the situation has escalated, you have to take another approach, but usually the student has found a way to work herself in by then…in her own way.

    A student like that probably has little to no control over her own world. Some pretty bad stuff is probably going down and she’ll need all of the support the school will have to offer at one point or another.

    The key is to look the student in the eye and think to yourself, “I’m glad that you are here. You have a lot to give. You are God’s child. You are going to make me be a better person.” Just by forcing yourself to think that way, you will calm down. You will treat her differently. The message will come through, by your tone, your expressions, your body posture.

    with love,

  5. Laurie,

    Thanks for the reply in such detail. I feel better knowing that a few of those nonconfrontational ways are ones which I may actually have chosen. I think I’ve just realized what bothers me most about an ornery student isn’t so much our interaction but what the other students are thinking as they watch us interact. These kids aren’t Ed psych specialists and I’m afraid they may read my nonconfrontational responses to the ornery student as a weakness within me. I must say, though, that after watching the video posted here about the school in Walla Walla that decreased its student discipline problems by more caring, student centered responses to their blowups leads me to feel better about my style. I’m much more easygoing about taking a kid into the hall to talk about what’s up with them than I am taking authoritarian charge and sending him/her to the office…

  6. Yeah I agree with Laurie that the Age of Authority in classrooms is over. We have something interesting to offer, so we don’t need it anymore. Non-confrontational discipline using team building is the key. We are mere facilitators. I always ask the kids things like, “Class, how can we remember that this word means this?” It is part of a shoulder next to shoulder approach to following the rules. Our goal is to follow the rules together. No, it isn’t easy, and many teachers who don’t like the feel of this new brand of kindness mixed with full control of the classroom by the teacher need to get out of the profession, because the time for busting down on kids is over.

  7. I wondered if the basement vids with me just talking into the camera are as valuable as classroom video for modeling the method, so thanks. It means a lot to me to be able to share ideas using a camera and no class bc it is so much easier! I could make hundreds of those, little three minute things, and share my experience that way. The classes themselves are a real pain to record, as we all know or everybody would be sending them in. This is so hard. We are all working so hard. While I am on a mini rant here and since it is Monday morning I would like to say that, since we all have somewhat agreed that we learn languages unconsciously, an egregiously ignored fact, then why are so many of us doing projects involving left brain analysis and the use of English right now? Are we that tired now that we can’t stay with the CI? Projects, English, group work, they all lose minutes, precious minutes to input. Just to share how I am ending my year – I am doing 10-15 min. of silent sustained reading with classical music to start class. I thought I put up that link to the music here but I will have to talk to my web guy about that. It is excellent music, just right with the 60 beats per minute heart rate leading to slowed brain wave activity thing going on. Then I work with the verbalizers – I referred to them here last week. The kids have written (individually) little stories, focusing on just one verb or verb chunk, and I PQA the snot out of them. I am currently calling them “verbalizers” bc they totally focus on connecting a verb or verb chunk to a kid. I’m experimenting with this idea for the fall for personalization and verb retention, kind of a combo goal there. The jury is out on this idea but I have done a few classes with them and I like what I see, as long as the kid puts strong effort into their little story. I will always put personalization and verbs at the top of any “to do” list in this work we are doing, and the report on the Eiffel Tower will have to wait. Then we do a dictée and, if time, a quiz. Class goes by fast, it’s all CI, and the kids are well focused and discipline is high for the entire period. I can’t believe that so many people trained in CI just blow it off for the last two months. And then there is the grammar piece we need to talk about – I can see a few classes to explain verb conjugation to kids destined for traditional classrooms next year, but it doesn’t need to be an entire month. Anyway, Sabrina, I am very very happy that those videos are helping you. It is why I do this, to help others here as a I get ready to wind down my career and rest a bit.

  8. Sabrina Janczak

    Your videos are very helpful. CI is incredible , powerful and hard. I get nervous and insecure when I see my students get bored or restless. You have the fast processors who get bored fast and the slow processors who need tons more of CI. Finding a balance is tough! Also I love that you tie in discipline b/c that is what I need most.
    When do you plan on retiring? It is sad to think about that.

  9. Ain’t sad for me. It is only bc angels wings are so broad that I have made it this far. I feel the truth of what you say here, Sabrina:

    …CI is incredible , powerful and hard….

    I feel that truth so deeply. I am glad for the angels being so kind as to drive my car into the school for me on those days when I could barely get in it. And for their not ever letting me go completely splat in front of my students on those days when it just didn’t work out, which still happens. I don’t think any of us realize what work we are doing on a daily basis. If we did, if our awareness of our work were not veiled from us, I am sure that we would all run screaming for the door. As kind and devoted and helpful as the angels are, I don’t believe that even they would do this work. Fools rush in, right?

  10. The thought of you retiring scares me. I will be very happy for you, don’t get me wrong but I have to come to rely on you and your infinite wisdom on a daily basis. Hopefully, retiring from teaching will not be synonymous with retiring from the PLC. I am sure that your angel wings will carry you much further still, because the angels know that we need you!

  11. Thank you. I hesitate to continue with this group if I am not in a classroom. I am currently in year 35 and this is my first year half time.

    Half time is nice, but even four hours in a school building is a bitch and makes me wonder how I made it full time the other 34 years, getting up so early, letting the angels dress me, pour coffee down my throat, stuff me in my car, and drive it down the road, while I waited for the coffee to kick in so that I could put that cheerfulness to work, so that I could survive another day, roughly 6,000 of them, with 30,000 classes.

    I thank those angels for helping me through those days. There is one thing I truly feel to be true and that is that not one of us in this PLC has any idea of the difficulty of the work we are doing.

    That craziness, that deep sense of not being good enough, that sense of being overwhelmed in trying something new bc we just can’t go back to the way we were taught and the way we taught before, that raw fear that we experience every day bc school buildings are fear factories, is just so much more than we are aware of – and I think I am seeing it now for the first time, so that when I think of all of us in this PLC working as we do, I am filled with compassion for all of us and me too.

    But, eventually, I can’t represent ideas that I am not actively doing, right? We must be in classrooms to bring about this change. If we are not in classrooms, then we don’t know. How can I know what is true if I am not in the classroom, duking it out with those unimaginably difficult kids, who are in such hells themselves?

    Thank you for your kind words, Brigitte. It is so nice to feel some validation after all those years spent being a freak.

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