Bedrock Statement Ignored

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16 thoughts on “Bedrock Statement Ignored”

  1. Thanks for the healthy dose of realism, especially in those last two paragraphs. Difficult words to hear, but not so much depressing as empowering. If we can walk into classes with a realistic sense of goals, and realistic expectations of our own and our students’ limitations, I think everyone will be happier. You are right to say that working “harder” will not help us in this situation; it will only lead to burn out. The cliche about “working smarter” really applies here, to every aspect of what we do as teachers. We are doing important work, work that many people (especially the experts in language acquisition) would never do, so let’s go easy on ourselves, for the long haul.

    1. And John the result of my not trying to save the world for TPRS today was a very relaxing day that was all based on that one thought, that we can’t hammer this method in, that the system is built against what we do, in spades, and therefore a little realism, as you said, is in order.

      I learned so much. At one point I found myself just hanging out in the language with the kids like I always have wanted to. We were spot on the story, but it didn’t feel like it.

      It is like somebody whispered in my ear, “Ben, you can put the storybook down now.” That is because I had spent all day Friday doing PQA and going through the first location of “I Can’t Go Out With You” (Matava) and so, today in the second location, they had heard:

      during the break (between classes)
      falls in love with
      will you go out with me?

      so many times that we were free to just run goofily through the second and third locations and take the quiz. Those kids present Friday reaped the benefits, those absent (bc it was a Friday) were hatin’ it.

      At one point, two kids in the back where nobody could see them (two kids who process at lightning speed), in order to amuse themselves, started lipsynching what I was saying with exaggerated facial features and hand gestures.

      They were so tight with location 1 that they could pretend to say locations 2 and 3 with silent mimicry that was of the most pleasant and entertaining quality for me. They were cracking me up and nobody knew why. It was like when somebody gets on stage behind a speaker and starts using facial and hand gestures to make the crowd laugh from behind the speaker.

      What better lesson is there for us in this work? Even if we think that we have found the Holy Grail (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we have, but value is perceived differently by different people), and we go into our buildings with that kind of bombastic, preachy attitude (this describes me for the past twelve years), we just cannot bring the Holy Grail into class and keep trying to get our students to see it as the Holy Grail.

      Bad TPRS is not better than the alternative, if it makes the kids feel stupid because we don’t hone our craft with enough diligence. The alternative can be better! It’s all in how the kid feels about being a learner. I know, I know, the counterpoint can be made that grammar lessons are beyond worthless, but in my mind it’s all about how we make the kids feel as learners.

      Getting nutsy about TPRS/CI is not good for us and it’s not good for others. It reminds me of what Lea said last week about how she likes to learn things at her own pace in her own way and how she didn’t need to have people tell her what the only way to do something is, that it has to be her own decision.

      It helps us to remember that the kids don’t care, the administrators don’t know, and the parents only want to see the grade. If that is true, and it is, maybe we can be carry a little less of an edge into our classes this week, and just practice our craft. Passion in a teacher is easily misconstrued by students.

      So, another day with something learned. A good day. Thanks for putting it so clearly, John.

      1. Frame this and post it: Bad TPRS is not better than the alternative, if it makes the kids feel stupid because we don’t hone our craft with enough diligence.

  2. Hey Ben,

    I am on vacation so I can spend a bit more time on here:) A few comments come to mind
    1. I think there has always been a notion that classes like band, chorus, language, wood-shop etc are not as important as math, science, English and History… Teachers of these areas have always had to make a case for the importance of their subject. I find that in White, rural English speaking Maine it is even more difficult to convince my students of the importance of a second language. I did, however, get this email that acted as an antidote for me to what I found to be your very depressing post…:( I didn’t ask her permission to post this but I will leave her name out. She wrote:

    Oh my god Crosby! Don’t have time to write in Spanish sorry. But! I’m in Florida right now and manny people here speak Spanish. I was at olive garden last night and this little six year old girl came up to me and said “donde esta el bano?” and I took her hand and said “vamos” she followed me to the bathroom and after we were both all done she came out and said “gracias” I said “de nada” she said “como estas?” I said “muy bien y tu?” she said “bien” I asked “donde vives?” she said “Florida” then she thanked me again and left. Then When I went shopping yesterday this girl was buying a pair of shoes and she was sitting with her dad and they both were speaking Spanish and they were debating whether or not to to get a white pair or black pair. It was soooo cool!

    This is genuine Ben. The method has enabled this type of interest in kids.

    2. I think to a certain degree kids do feel a certain pride and sense of accomplishment as they progress with the language. Kids might have trouble knowing how much math, science or history they know but with an L2 it is very clear to them… They know nothing coming in to the year and now they know a lot…. I have sensed that that means something to all but the most unengaged child…

    I have been thinking that the idea that I got from Alice Yates (sorry, not sure if it originated with her) of sending students home with a rubric and product descriptor of having them relate a story in L2 to their parents might help parents realize and appreciate progress in the language. There is a place on the form for parents to write feedback and impressions…Sometimes parents are very impressed…. Parents have no expectations for their kids in L2 because they know they never learned anything. Once parents realize that their kids are making progress, I have seen attitudes change… Not 100% maybe not even 50% but some….

    3. Finally, if kids and parents are only interested in grades, then we MUST make sure that grades are tied tightly to skill/ability in the language. This is okay because TCI allows kids to really make progress in the language. This is an area that I think needs attention and training. I think Standards Based grading is a tool in this… Our grades MUST describe how well a student comprehends/writes and (later) speaks the language… If student grades represent effort, good behavior, homework completion etc then their grades will be inflated and not necessarily reflect ability with the language. If we insist that grades reflect ability students will be more interested in IMPROVING in the language because improving in the language will lead to better grades…. We must make sure that students who are not getting better in the language fail…. not get a D or a D- but fail… I think the ACTFL proficiency guidelines will help with this…

    4. I have seen video of you teaching Ben…. I have seen your engagement with the kids, the spontaneity and the fun you have with them. I don’t think you can gauge teacher success by the expression/attention of kids. I think the issue is much bigger than Spanish/French class.. The issue is that most of their lives are so dysfunctional that they are unable to learn….One study says 2/3 of all US public school students are unable to learn in school. I have found that when I speak to them outside of class most kids look to Spanish as a refuge from the ordinary boredom of other classes. Most actually tell me and other teachers that they like Spanish….

    1. So skip have you read how John qualified what I said? It is healthy realism and we need it. Otherwise, we set the sails too hard and we pick up too much speed and go sailing off hither and beyond. We may get blown up as far as the North Sea, and there are pirates there! So do you get my point now?

      1. yeah, I get it… and I probably needed the post more than most…. I am SO hard on myself and quick to take the blame…

        I LOVED what Bob said too: I have 50% to offer, and I will always give 100% to my 50%. The other 50% belongs to he student, and I will invite it, encourage it, tease it, and provoke it, but finally, it belongs to them.

        How crucial that it belong to them!

        1. I think that the way Bob says it below is pretty right on:

          …the same kids sabotaged themselves. The same kids gamed the system. And largely, most of us had a good time….

          If we try to stop certain kids from their major pursuit of gaming the system, we are going to have a very short career. We cannot control everything, but we can do what Judy said below, and that is to stay in charge. We can’t relax but we have to appear relaxed. It’s an unbelievable juxtaposition of behaviors. There may be few professions that even approach the subtle level of focus required by us. It just feels good to say that, to get that out in the open, because it gives the reminder of what skip said above that we absolutely cannot afford to be hard on ourselves and take the blame for the behavior of children that is learned in other classes and at home. We can only do our best, both with classroom discipline and with our instruction using comprehensible input. We can only do our best.

  3. It’s funny. I got up this morning, knowing damn well that it was Monday, and decided that I was going to have a good day, do good work, and end well. That’s what I did. The same kids sabotaged themselves. The same kids gamed the system. And largely, most of us had a good time. I was able to act kindly even as I ran the room, and I offered CI at every turn that I could. It was my dose of reality that coincides with what you are describing here, Ben. Earlier in my career, somehow I had bought into the notion that unless every single kid was making an A, somehow I was failing. I have 50% to offer, and I will always give 100% to my 50%. The other 50% belongs to he student, and I will invite it, encourage it, tease it, and provoke it, but finally, it belongs to them. Thanks for this wonderful Monday post.

  4. I often find that teaching and horse riding interrelate in ways that are enlightening to me. Because while I’m the teacher in class, I’m the learner on horseback. And yes, I can go to a lesson with the best of intentions and have the lesson be less than marvelous because the horse/students had issues of their own. As a rider I’ve learned not to blame the horse, to figure out how I could help the horse better, to think about how I could have adapted or should adapt in the future, to take the horse where it’s at and not to expect Olympic grace every day. As a teacher, I need to have the same patience with my students, to accept them where they’re at and not to expect them to be four per centers, to be the eager, motivated student I used to be. Yet both the students and the horse require a firm hand and limits. On horseback I’ve learned that the hard part is being consistent. My horse will often take one small step sideways just as I’m ready to put my foot in the saddle. (Funny thing, my former mare used to do the same thing.) The instructor let her know, without any brutality, that that was not acceptable. If I’m consistent, she stops doing it. If I let her get away with it once or twice, the next time I’m on my own it may take me ten minutes to get in the saddle. Students are the same. If I let them know at once, quietly but firmly, that their behavior is not acceptable, they accept and respect the limits. If I kind of ignore the little cracks they make to each other, the whole class can go to pot very quickly. But my reaction can’t be brutal or harsh. If you brutalize a horse that weighs 600 kilos, things can get dangerous. And a class that feels it’s being treated unfairly can get ugly. It’s hard for me to be that consistent all the time, but when I am, I’m rewarded with a quiet, attentive class/horse.

  5. …my horse will often take one small step sideways just as I’m ready to put my foot in the saddle….

    I know what you mean by that. We have to be relaxed but in charge. It’s so difficult. That is a very accurate analogy.

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