Bryce and Lavinia from NJ are coming to my classroom today. I used to get nervous. All the time, I got nervous. I just can’t do that this time. I doubt if I’ll ever be able to get nervous in that deleterious way anymore when being observed. I’ve come that far.
When I teach kids, I am now only motivated by one thing – my passion for the freeing process we are all in. The freeing process that all this work, all this work, is about becoming liberated from the attitudinal prison cell that we used to inhabit that we could be wrong, that there is something wrong with us, that we could be shitty teachers if we don’t watch out. Open the door of that prison cell, leave, and throw away the key.
It’s not about how good we are at teaching languages! When we get over that, we will have learned something. Krashen and Ray and Gross and Fritze and Gaab and Noonan did NOT set out to help us find ways for us to get higher ratings as teachers. Instead, they found out and tried to apply a simple idea, that people can’t learn languages by thinking and talking about them, and applied it to foreign language instruction, and now there is a stampede.
We really need to get over the feeling of being judged when being observed. Bryce is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, a road warrior in the classroom and on the bike. Lavinia, who just joined our group this week but whom I’ve known for years and who observed me over five years ago and is doing transformative work on behalf of kids, aren’t coming to my classroom to see if I’m any good at it.
They are coming over to visit and learn and laugh. We are all brothers and sisters in this work. We do work with thanksgiving on behalf and in the service of children because we know that this work is real and that the work we used to do in foreign language education is not real.
This is freeing work for us, no doubt, but it is no less freeing for children, which is the important part. Look at kids when they are learning in a comprehension based classroom. They laugh. They are open to the fun. They learn. They are happier, much happier. That is not their history!
OK just had to say that. It’s time for us to grow up. It’s time for us to understand that the change we are in is not about us and how good or bad we are at this. We are all great at this and we all suck at this. Good. Let’s get over it. We work in the service of children, so that that they can be happier. Is that enough of a statement for us to quit thinking it’s about us all the time so that we can finally get down to the real work?
Let’s not forget the Class Competitions if we can’t observe each other in our classroom all the time. Let us find any way, all ways, to use comprehensible input with our students who come wandering into our classrooms lost every day looking for validation that the world they live in does not suck and that they have value and are not stupid and CAN, even with their D’s and F’s in their other classes, learn a language. Let’s stop pretending that everything is all right.
Who knows? Maybe the classes we all teach today will somehow influence what is happening in East Oakland. Who knows? You don’t know about what is happening in East Oakland? How everybody is seeing death in some form happen to people they know due to guns? It’s not about the guns! It’s about healing holes in hearts. It’s about giving kids hope. It’s about giving ourselves hope.
We will defeat the gun lobby. It appears that our part in defeating it is to simply do our small part in language classrooms. When people start to see that they are good at languages, because teachers are changing away from judging them to laughing with them in the pursuit of real language gains, real ones, then the guns will simply go poof instead of bang.
So collaborate more. Unlock the stuck doors of your classroom like Sabrina in Chicago Naomi and jen and Judy are doing with the Class Competition project, keeping it alive, with reports to follow in the next few months about the videos they have exchanged in the past month. Kids die in Chicago at far too great a rate also, and Sabrina, a true champion in this work, is in there fighting that every day by laughing with her kids in the French language.
Anybody doing stories around the Sandy Hook Elementary area today? Making kids smile a bit more? When Adam was the age of the children he shot, or when Dylan and Eric were that age and going to Normandy Elementary and Ken Caryle Middle just blocks from where I am sitting right now, before Columbine, would those shooters behaved as they did had they been students in the classroom of at least one teacher whom they thought wasn’t out to get them?
I don’t know, just thinking out loud here. But I open my doors without fear today to my brother Bryce and my sister Lavinia. It’s not about me and how well I teach. It’s about me putting aside my fears, so bound up in ego, and dropping the insane need for approval in school buildings who don’t know me or understand my work.
It’s about me getting out there today and working in the service of kids by putting into practice on a daily basis the still hugely misunderstood notion by Krashen that only a few of us even have so far fully grasped, that we can’t learn a language by talking about it.