Backing Away From The Ledge 1

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11 thoughts on “Backing Away From The Ledge 1”

  1. One of the things that comes with experience is perspective. Two years ago I had “one of those classes”. If I had had it at the start of my teaching career, I would likely have quit teaching. As it was, I had enough experience to know that it wasn’t me.

    So, for our teacher in distress, this is very important: It isn’t you; it’s the class.

    I won’t advise ceasing to strive, but strive with the full knowledge that this class will never achieve what the other classes do; this class will always be resistant; this class will always test your patience, determination and dedication.

    Your administrators have, unfortunately, abdicated their responsibilities. In my situation, I at least had administrators who supported my efforts, understood when I asked students to go to the office for a class period, backed up my referrals, and generally did their jobs. At the same time, you can use their “adminispeak” requirement in the classroom. You talked to the class about respect. Be sure you include what respect looks like in your classroom: sitting up, shoulders squared, eyes focused, listening with intent to understand, participating in the ONE CONVERSATION with the WHOLE CLASS in the TARGET LANGUAGE. In other words, apply jGR. Then, every time you have to take steps (referral, detention, lower grade), you look at them and say, “I respect you as a human being, and that means I take you seriously. My respect for you means that I hold you to standards of behavior and performance. If I didn’t respect you, I wouldn’t care about you.” You also tell your administrators the same thing and ask them if they respect these students enough to hold them accountable. If they don’t, then why do they think the students will show any more respect than they are being shown?

    BTW, I now have a grand total of one person from that infamous class in German 3, and he was the “odd man out”. I actually have a good relationship with some other students from the class who chose not to continue with German for a variety of reasons; I am relieved that others have graduated or decided not to remain. At the beginning of this year I had one other student from the class who signed up for German, but when she realized that she was in a class with students who were serious about acquiring German and that there was no one in the class who would support her unacceptable behavior, she dropped.

  2. You said it: Rewind. Start from the beginning. Make a promise to not start or continue class until everyone is giving you exactly what you expect and what they deserve. Model, model, model. Show them the right way, show them the wrong way. Praise the right way every time you see it. Don’t let passive aggressive (or overtly aggressive) behavior take hold.

    Talking, especially in English, should make them unable to pass your class (via jGR), although I don’t recommend using grades to threaten students.

    If they can’t be quiet while you do circling, PQA or any other kind of CI input then just don’t have them speak. If they can’t be trusted to open their mouthes and just listen, then they won’t be allowed to do it.

    Have them read, read and read. Ask questions they have to raise their hands for. Do timed writings. Do dictee.

    If they don’t play along with you, and you’ve exhausted your well-meaning efforts, it’s really them and not you.

    But do not let them take over. Call parents, hold them accountable. And do it all with a smile.

    Never let ’em see you sweat.

  3. I second the read read read point. They come in and sit down and read in silence for ten minutes. In my classes they don’t do FVR (Free Voluntary Reading as per Krashen) but SSR (Silent Sustained Reading). Sometimes if there is a tardy problem with that class I lock the door and start awarding a point per minute to those reading. The other kids get let in ten minutes into the class when SSR is over and they just failed the quiz with zeros.

    But back to the point about reading. Instead of trying for auditory CI (always high risk in shitty classes) do R & D or better yet cRD with them after those ten minutes of SSR and then during the R & D/cRD class a superstar is writing a Quick Quiz based on the content of that class only and so you give the quiz for the last ten minutes of class (includes a review of the reading) and so you only have to be engaged with them for 30 minutes, translating and reading. Good point Bradley. We read more with bad classes.

  4. My conitnued communication with this teacher indicates that she thinks in part that it is HER and not the method that is causing the ruckus in her classroom. Let’s be clear – teaching in this way requires real courage. It is wrong for teachers to think that for some reason they don’t get it but most other people do. That is not true. The truth is that even those who are very experienced in TPRS/CI are constantly being challenged on all levels and especially emotionally. We all go through a huge learning curve and it is just not easy. No exceptions, save perhaps with Blaine and Susie and Jason who seem to have been born to this. Is the challenge of the new learning curve worth it? Oh yes.

  5. If we don’t have novels, what do we have the students read? I have one of these challenging class. I was able to weed out two students from it but I still have a few ring-leaders who try and ruin the class. It sucks for those who really want to learn but they are timid and don’t want to stand up to the jerks.

  6. …if we don’t have novels, what do we have the students read?…

    Erica have your story writer write notes in English on all the comprehensible input from that class. Take five or ten minutes to type it up before the next class and read it the next day using R & D and/or cRD.

    …they are timid and don’t want to stand up to the jerks….

    Then you must do it, as discussed in many recent articles here. Phone home on the bullies, and especially implement jGR with the teeth in. The other kids are waiting for you to do that, and so are the bullies.

  7. Here is the latest report on that class. I am so proud of this teacher who is not going to give up. Nobody could possibly know what she is going through except her. Luckily it’s only one class. Here is the update:

    Hi, Ben –

    Thanks for posting and for the thread commentary. I’m grateful to know that I’m not alone and that there are people out there who have successfully overcome similar situations. So, class is still pretty bad – still don’t really like them, still can’t convince them to just participate in a way that might be fun or interesting. The rigid seating arrangement and referring to jGR has at least had some impact – they are much quieter but there are also more heads on desks. Phone calls to parents of failing/jerky students have resulted in slight improvements. Turns out many of the jerks aren’t just jerks to me, they’re equal opportunity jerks … I will continue to make calls, apply JGR and give students the grades they earn. In the meantime, for this class I am focusing on reading, reading, reading – cRD, and daily participation grades and quizzes. As I get better at this I’m sure it will be more fun. I refuse to give up!

  8. I have stayed in contact with this teacher. She is in a new school with a new way of teaching and the worst (I won’t mince my words here to be PC) kids in DPS. My heart breaks for her as hers breaks under the stress. She gave it all she had and now is going to go into damage control mode with the book, I hope. It’s what I recommended. Her future is bright because she has “it” – the je ne sais quoi quality that makes a really good CI teacher – but the combination of it all being so new and her just starting teaching and those particular kids has turned this story into a tough one. But when I think of what she is going through I think of Winston Churchill’s statement that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” These are dark days for this teacher. But I am confident that they have a purpose and that she will prevail. She’s that good and she’s tough as nails. You kind of have to be in this change.

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