The point about being happy – everyone in the classroom being happy – is at the crux of our work. For many in the CI world, it isn’t. The work has been too much focused on student gains and how the teacher can focus on how their own skills and wonderfulness can bring them about.
Those are superficial things, housed in the mind, in ego. They alone cannot bring about the transformation in our teaching – a transformation to our own happiness – that we desire. We must learn to listen to our students’ hearts, and the only way we can do that is to listen to our own while we are listening.
The real listening of the prospective new masters of this work, which we surely all can become, is to listen to what our students really want. It’s not to learn the language. It’s to be seen as important by the group while they focus on what is going to happen in a journey around the Star.
It is via such journeying that our kids can learn to be happy in our classrooms including, astonishingly, our online classrooms. For them, being recognized as important members of the group comes first. Being recognized by the group provides them with their ticket to laughter and group acceptance. They have to have the ticket first. We provide the tickets.
For us teachers, learning has always seemed to come first. So it has been a problem. Teachers have mostly thought that teaching a lot of stuff is the most important thing. It’s not. You know what is – their growth into happiness.
This is not true in math or chemistry classes. But languages happen when kids feel part of a community and are made to feel capable. Noam Chomsky laid it all out here when talking about grammar, which I define as correctly spoken speech::
“…grammar is acquired by virtually everyone, effortlessly, rapidly, in a uniform manner, merely by living in a community under minimal conditions of interaction, exposure, and care….”
To repeat the idea: it is in our students simply feeling important and being acknowledged in class where their real language gains and our own success as teachers will originate. That plus speaking clearly for their maximum understanding. And where else can real interest be unlocked but in a good trip around the Star?
Certainly not in one of those novels, which are things of the mind, of thinking, and too distant from the hearts of our students. The novels are popular with teachers because they get kids quiet who think reading stuff that kids can’t relate to is a good way to instruct using CI.
Our work is no more complex than finding ways to open emotional channels to those difficult students in our classrooms who are so hard to love, and to find ways to reach them with a good journey around the Star. We can do it.
Therefore, real happiness in the CI classroom lies not in finding the next new and special CI teaching technique or set of lesson plans or novel. Rather, it lies in doing something much harder – learning to find the unexpected in the next part of the conversation, by being willing to wait, to seize on real human things, and not forcing plastic teaching on our students.
We have always put the learning first, and that is why we have not had the successes that we know are possible in this work. How can our students grow into the behaviors that we ask from them in our storytelling classes, unless we consistently model what we want from them in return?
We’ve been fooled. Let’s get our eye back on the ball and hit it out of the park!