TPRS/CI is a reciprocal and participatory activity. We do not deliver instructional services from a pulpit. We interact with the kids. Blaine reminds us to listen for cute answers from the kids. Do we do that, or do we just say we do?
We must be honest with ourselves. Is there any room in our internal teaching dialogue for an open heart as well as an open mind? It’s a personal thing that we each have to answer for ourselves. Can we actually hear what our students are really trying to share with us? Or do we merely feign this openness, casting our internal teaching gaze on our lesson plans and the structures that we want to “cover” that day?
Teaching, really, is a function of the heart. We must make room in our classes for the heart quality, not just the mind. We must “bring it” to every class we teach, consciously, in spite of our lesson plans, in spite of our fears to loosen up a little and have fun.
It is our minds that make the language comprehensible to our kids, but it is our hearts that makes it meaningful to them. When we participate fully on a heart level as well as on a mind level with them, then they interact with us, and thus with the language, on a much more direct intellectual and emotional/affective) level. That leads to big gains.
Imagine any professional singer, in her job, just singing the words, without putting her heart into it. Would she reach her audience? Would her audience want to listen to her singing? Is it not the same for us?*
If we don’t give ourselves fully over to the hard work of opening our hearts as well as our minds in our classes, how will we ever know if TPRS can work for us? Many reasons have been given as to why TPRS doesn’t work for a lot of teachers. This is one we can add to the list – teachers aren’t comfortable opening up their hearts to the kids.
The childish reaction to TPRS is to say that it doesn’t work. But we are not children. We are adults, and we know the power we have to impact change in our classrooms. But in order to make these changes, we must surrender our embedded biases about teaching, and about relaxing.
Many younger teachers are entered the profession now – look at them. The privileges of youth allow them to enter carrying less baggage, and many of their hearts are really open. Let us give them a reason to keep their hearts open for as long as they care to teach. Let us give them this wonderful narrative approach to teaching that Dr. Krashen puts at the top of the list of all options in language teaching. If we don’t, how will they ever know what true teaching is?
*I used to back up a musician on violin. Once we played a concert in Kiawah Island, SC. After one song Glen (Fox) wanted to introduce me to the crowd. He asked me to take a bow. My bow sucked, I wasn’t feelin’ it. I was nervous. Glen turned to the crowd and said, “Hey, Ben is working on his bows tonite. Can we have another round of applause just for him?” Then he looked at me and his intense look referred to something he had said to me earlier that day, where he told me that the audience wanted to be recognized by the performer and how in bowing to the audience the performer should figuratively take his hands into his chest and literally pull his heart open to them. He looked at me and made that motion and I had to do it. It was horrible. I didn’t mean it. I preferred being scared. My smile was so fake. But I got the message and it has stayed with me ever since. If we for once think that we shouldn’t figuratively reach into our chests and open up our hearts to our kids every day, we might as well go back to the old way of teaching, the Mitch McConnell way, if you will, and get ready to lose our jobs just like everybody else who doesn’t embrace comprehension based instruction.