Look at Grant Boulanger’s powerful example of untargeted, unscripted student interaction:
Now ask yourself what would be lost in this beautiful human interaction had Grant’s intention been to say “needed to brush her teeth” over seventy-five times in the class. Indeed, it is obvious that Grant’s intention here is to get to know the kids in front of him and build community by weaving connections among the students.
Getting reps on targets is still an effective way to provide comprehensible input, it is just that it affects the quality of our interactions in the moment as human beings. Many people will still choose to do this work in that way. But some of us are ready to really, truly lean on the research that, if you dig all the way back to Noam Chomsky, teaches us that we really cannot be in control of what the kids acquire at any given moment. With that said, why not make connection and happiness and authenticity the goal, and let the targets emerge from the human beings in the room with us? Why not get the blinders off and shift our focus from mere language, mere targets that are, let’s be honest, chosen almost randomly from the vast pool of possibilities, to something much more valuable – short people who are quickly becoming the adults in charge.
In today’s world, with the unfathomable tragedies that are unfolding on scales both large and small, with today’s lack of connection, do we not want to nurture these future adults-in-charge with community, acceptance, and compassion, weaving a protective web, maybe, around their hearts going forward, maybe, into a brighter future? It seems worth a try, at least, to put radical acceptance of students at the front of our teaching. And let the language serve our humanity instead of the other way around.