This is a repost from a few years ago:
In one of my classes a boy named Fernando seems to enjoy writing at least two quizzes per class. It’s his way of getting back at the slackers. It’s like the two of us our conspiring to hold the other kids accountable, because we both know that a quiz every twenty minutes will sure do exactly that – make the zombies show up and be more human, or they will flunk. Even zombies don’t like, can’t afford, to flunk.
Doing both of those two new things in addition to jGR and the other things I have been doing over the past five years or so to keep the kids responsible to me in class has changed the dynamic in the classroom. There is more focus. So working closely with my timer and quiz writer has brought more focus to my classroom.
As they say in sports, the best defense is a good offense and what happens in classrooms is that most teachers, and this is nothing less than a tragedy, are put on the defensive to “make things happen” and to “get the kids involved” when the reality of it is that if a child is not involved in a class based on comprehensible input that is being done properly then there is something wrong with the child.
This indictment of the teacher by the students and the administration and by most parents is the sad legacy of what has happened in our schools. It is the reality now and has been for decades. I will continue to champion, at every turn, my brave colleagues who go into their classrooms every day to deal with some of these (thankfully not all) boring kids who have been allowed by the broken, totally broken system to turn it around on us and say our classes are boring when they are the boring ones.
Sorry about the rant but I am filled today with a deep respect for my colleagues who are initiating this change we are in, this grinding change. It’s a feeling so I can’t describe it but today for some reason – maybe it’s the cold we have in Denver today, such opposition in so many forms at every turn (we are freezing our asses off here today) – that we are warriors, nothing less, in bringing this change, freak flags held high. We are warriors.
When we encounter a zombie kid who just can’t help us make the language happen (it takes two to converse and, as Krashen has said, robots can’t converse) because their idea of school is to watch and memorize, then I feel deep love and respect for us, for me and all the years I taught what seems like millions of zombies and I thought I wasn’t good enough but it was the zombie not me who was preventing the communication.
If you take offense at my use of the word zombie, thinking it overly harsh, and if you want to continue to think it possible to reach kids who can’t be reached, be my guest. But any teacher who gets this work would not be offended by the term zombie – it’s those kids who – very possibly through no fault of their own, rather, their background with sugar products, for example – just don’t show up for class and, unbelievably, seem brain dead. Yeah, we have plenty of those. Stop trying to save the world and get those kids out before you make a mess in your pants trying to do the impossible.
OK rant over. But doing those two things has changed the dynamic in my classroom. I am far less likely to cave when a cool new thought requiring English comes into my head. I ignore it like a mosquito so it doesn’t sting me into a bunch of stupid L1 editorializing about something the kids don’t have the background to understand. And when the kids have the extra amount of quizzing (scantrons, though not particularly a new high tech tool, really help in cutting down the quiz grading process), then there is more focus and they become less zombie-like.
So working closely with my timer and quiz writer has brought more focus to my classroom.
I must say one more thing to anyone whose classes have now in December become too listless and empty or, on the other end of the spectrum, too out of control:
Beyond what we already do (jGR, vCU, SLOW, strict lasering to Classroom Rules, refusal to allow side talking, etc., some of us might want to consider:
1. ten minute bursts of L2 only with the help and guidance of the student timer.
2. up to two 10 point yes/no quick quizzes per 50 minute class.
3. inner strength and belief in ourselves and in CI. (No matter how much we suck at it, and we all suck at it, it is better than the alternative of no CI.) My prayer is that we don’t end up being beaten down by the false truth that permeates every atom in most schools, that the teacher is responsible if the class is not interesting.