Bryce and Lavinia

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16 thoughts on “Bryce and Lavinia”

  1. I think we all need to just stop playing our intent cards so close to the vest. We so rarely state to others what our intent is as teachers. That above is mine.

    Failing to state intent happens in this PLC and it happens a lot in school buildings. Many teachers don’t even care that much about kids; they want to become administrators and only need the teaching years as rungs up the ladder.

    There are others among us who are really classroom teachers. Who know that Adam and Dylan and Eric and the others were probably at some point in a language class and most likely hated it.

    I know what goes on at Ken Caryl Middle School (feeds Columbine) in languages. Two of my own boys went through there. They both hated their language classes and didn’t learn anything.

    Does any of what we do as language teachers affect the larger order? Do the small kindnesses and the ease of acquisition and funny stories and personalized instruction that we provide affect the larger order of how kids perceive school overall? Does that affect how they perceive themselves and their classmates?

    Ask Laurie or Sabrina or Robert or any of the other career classroom teachers in this group. They have made it their profession to look negativity and fear in the eye and overcome it through love and patience and comprehensible input. You can’t overcome the darkness and negativity of school by teaching kids about boot verbs.

    We have to keep the pedal to the metal with what we now know in our profession. This site is pedal to the metal on comprehensible input with no apologies about what I stated as my truth above.

    And we are doing better. If Hosler and Beck and Chris Roberts or any of the young ones are any indicators, yes we will overcome. We have to. Unless we want more East Oaklands and Newtowns and Columbines.

    We make a difference for the better if we teach in a way that all the kids feel that they are smart and funny. But we make a difference for the worse if we teach in a way that only a few kids feel smart and the rest feel stupid. That affects the big picture in the school.

    So we need to state that and quit reacting to those observing us in fear. We have to welcome visitors and show them what we are trying to do even if it is scary as hell. We have to become initiators. If not us, then who?

  2. What a great post! In a related vein: Yesterday I was at a WL meeting for my district and the facilitator asked “What do you do when you’re explaining something in the TL and a kid doesn’t understand to avoid using L1?” A few teachers suggested mime, pictures, etc. Then the facilitator asked “What do you do if they still don’t understand.” So, I raised my hand and offered that if a student doesn’t understand what I’m saying, I just write the TL on the board with an English translation. The facilitator shot my comment down, saying “Yeah, but you’re still using L1.”

    I’m not a person who gets easily worked up, but I was fuming for about 10 minutes after her comment. If I was a less chill person, I would have argued with her and put her on the spot to defend her position, which is what I really wanted to do. 1) I’m writing the English on the board, not SPEAKING it, 2) If a student doesn’t understand through mime or pictures, ummm, it would seem the only other option is giving a translation, no? 3) Kids have enough inferior feelings already….I’m not trying to add to that 4) Does this facilitator have any research to back up her zero L1 stance? 5) I care more about my kids feeling successful in my class than whether or not they can accurately figure out my charades or pictures.

    1. She should not be in that position because she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t completely understand the research. She reflected to you the Helena Curtain position, which is not accurate but the party line today.

      To shoot you down in that meeting was rude and unprofessional. What she said affected your mood and mental well-being in those ten minutes. She should not have done that.

      It is a sad commentary on where we still really are in this profession and who is really in charge in languages in our country. Ignore her and what she said. She is wrong and uninformed. She thinks the earth is flat still.

      But she has the power. For awhile longer. Welcome to the fight. You’re gonna get bruised up. Take the hit and get back up. State your truth again. I would like to talk to her. Can I?

      1. Thanks Ben. I think the thing that most bothered me (which most people on here have probably been bothered by) is that it was assumed that we shouldn’t translate. (Along with all the other things that were blindly being assumed in the conversations during the meeting…) We were having a discussion in this meeting about how to avoid translating without first having a discussion about whether or not translation is bad in the first place.

        I actually like our WL supervisor a lot as a person, even though I disagree majorly with what she’s trying to accomplish classroom-wise in our district. I do reserve a smidgin of belief in her mission though. For example, yesterday before the WL meeting she was at a principal’s meeting and presented a WL observation checklist she drafted to all the administrators in the district to use when observing us in addition to the state-issued observation form. She shared this checklist with us teachers at the meeting later that afternoon. While I disagree with every item on this checklist having to do with output, there was one thing I did like. In a section on rigor, she listed the following statement: “The major focus of the class is on communication (meaning), not grammar.” I’m encouraged by that, but then again she’s also very big on forcing output, which in the lower levels amounts to having “conversations” using memorized q’s and a’s (becuase that’s obviously how normal human beings converse with each other).

        I do suspect, though, that she might eventually open up to TCI teaching with ZERO forced output and UNCONSIOUS learning. Especially if she saw a successful demonstration of it (definitely not in my classroom yet). So, if you’d like to contact her that sure would be interesting. I plan on coming back to my district after my séjour en france, so I’d love to start winning people over to TCI.

        1. Greg,

          There’s a really nice checklist for observation here: http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Checklist-for-Observing-a-FL-Classroom.pdf

          I’ve given it to administrators while they are observing me and it’s been well-received. My department doesn’t know about it yet. Perhaps one day. I’ve not discussed philosophical differences with them in any depth because I’m free to teach as I think best without interference, and I have no interest in causing friction where it isn’t.

          1. Thank you, Diane!

            “I’ve not discussed philosophical differences with them in any depth because I’m free to teach as I think best without interference, and I have no interest in causing friction where it isn’t.”

            I agree completely -that’s where I’m at with my deparment as well.

            Also, I have several checklists hanging at my door ready to go for my next guest/observer. Thanks!

  3. The other day, I forget why, I think we were talking about tests or quizzes or something like that. And I felt the need to be honest with them about my priorities. I just said:

    “You know I don’t really care about giving big difficult tests. I care about three things: I care about Latin, I care about you, and I care about you treating each other with respect, caring for each other.”

    Sometimes it’s important for us and for them, just to be crystal clear about what our classes are about. Obviously our actions say this more clearly, but kids do not always know what’s going on, or they think our class isn’t really a class (because of their conditioning), and need it really laid out for them. On an academic level, this is completely justifiable by simply referring to a few of Krashen’s points: 1) acquisition is unconscious, 2)listening is essential, 3) the affective filter determines whether any auditory input reaches the language part of the brain.

  4. Ben wrote: We really need to get over the feeling of being judged when being observed. Bryce [and] Lavinia . . . 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.

    This is the situation all of us would like to find ourselves in. It has taken Diana Noonan (whom I saw at SWCOLT, by the way – ask her about the “incident” during Mimi Met’s keynote address) how many years to bring this about?

    Fortunately, I have a similar situation at my school in that, while not all of my colleagues are TCI teachers by any means, my department enjoys a collegiality that allows all of us to visit one another without fear. That does not, however, necessarily extend to administrators. They do come to judge us; it’s their job. I choose to set the terms of that judgment through a checklist. The week before our Spring Break, one of the Board of Education members visited our school. He specifically asked to visit the World Language classes, so the principal brought him to my class among others. When they entered the room, I greeted them in German, then I invited them in English to take one of the observation checklists hanging next to the door. Then I went on with my class; we were reading a class story and acting it out. Lots of fun and engagement. No fear for me or my students.

    We know from the battle stories, though, that not everyone on the PLC enjoys a similar situation. My advice is to be circumspect but not afraid. Below is a small collection of sayings that have helped me through the years:
    “Do right with courage” (Blaine Ray and others)
    “Do right until the stars fall – and then keep on doing right”
    “It is better to light a small candle than to curse the darkness”
    “Love casts out fear”
    “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”
    “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot grasp* it”

    *This is a pun in the original Greek; the word means both to grasp in the sense of laying hands on and subduing and to grasp in the sense of understanding. Darkness can do neither of those things to light.

    For those who are in anti-TCI environments, my advice is to do right quietly but consistently. In the long run it will make a difference. To use another aphorism:
    “Be a wise as serpents and as harmless as doves”.

    Thanks, Ben, for the thoughts.

    1. Thanks Robert, for sharing your collection of sayings. Just before spring break, I was informed that my contract was not being renewed. It has been a struggle, but I have been working on being respectful, cheerful and to believe the best about my administration. I have to believe that my principal is doing what he thinks is best for the school, or I will find it more difficult to be respectful and cheerful amidst the circumstances. In any case, I think I have done an OK job. We have maintained a positive mutual respect throughout. He has been open to discussing the matter and hearing my opinions and has a healthy respect for my passion and conviction for what I do. He still doesn’t agree with me, nor I with him, but at least I can leave this school and not leave a sour taste in anybody’s mouth, nor in mine (of the most part). I don’t feel that I can advance the cause for what is right by being brash and rude, regardless of how “darn right” I think I am. (You know I know I’m right : ) Few, if anybody, is won over by logic and empirical evidence alone, especially today. Today’s society, “Listens with its eyes, and thinks with its feelings.”

      “Aristotle’s On Rhetoric describes the modes of persuasion thus:
      Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when we consider a thing to have been demonstrated.”

      “Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. […] Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […] Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […] Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.”

      1. Beautiful quote Michael! I think all three modes of persuation described there describe well what happens when we do CI!

        I admire your sense of calm considering what you are going through!

        And I sense you will find a better suited job, wherever you go. They are stupid to let you go, you know it, we know it. They don’t b/c they are stupid.
        Sorry it’s not very eloquent but it’s my gut feeling reaction to what you are going through.

      2. Sorry to hear that, Michael. I’m glad you are able to maintain positive mutual respect. It certainly does help to remember that (almost) no administrator deliberately sets out to do what is bad for students. We may see their efforts as misguided, futile, counterproductive or any number of things, but I have learned from personal experience that it is less than useless to malign motives. That is when we tend to make enemies, and most of the time we are wrong about the motives anyway – unless the motives have been stated or made clear through other means.

        Your comment about society brings up an important issue as far as persuasion is concerned. I grew up in an era when factual and logical reasoning was thought to be all that was necessary to be persuasive. Now, as people “think with their feelings” (BTW, I loathe the question, “How do you feel about this”, when the person means, “What do you think about this?”) and accept the philosophy of “subjective truth” (“That may be true in your reality but not in mine”), the tools and means of persuasion are different, although I think Aristotle’s principal of persuading through demonstration is still valid. It’s just that the nature of the demonstration has changed; logical reasoning is no longer persuasive for many, it requires existential and personal experience.

        I suppose one more aphorism is apropos:
        “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” – certainly would apply in your case.

      3. Michael,

        I really sorry to hear your news. Are you the Michael in CO or the one DC?
        There’s an old song, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Hang in there. That’s all you can do, sometimes!

        –Leigh Anne in California

    1. I’d rather not relocate. If I hadn’t just bought a house (moved in in February), it would be a totally different story. I’d love to be down in Denver with you, Diana, and all the rest of the great CI teachers!

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