The Door Says Spanish But It’s Really More of a Group Therapy Session – Some Reflections on What We Do by Craig West

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



9 thoughts on “The Door Says Spanish But It’s Really More of a Group Therapy Session – Some Reflections on What We Do by Craig West”

  1. This is just another reminder among thousands each year about how we really don’t know anything about what we are doing. We are just so pompous and full of ourselves. With each class we applaud ourselves on how we spoke to them like “Wow! I stayed in the TL at least 70% of the time in that story!”. “I only interrupted the story like 15 times!” Then we congratulate ourselves on hitting our targets and on only giving one little quiz and that free write was good too, and how we only had one negative cell phone interruption. What a good class!”

    What is really going on is that we are lying to ourselves. We just can’t stop. A lot of what we talk about here is not going to bring about the authentic gains that we really want (vs. the fake “school” gains that we accept) in our students. Craig is right. For most if not every single one of us, our classes resemble group therapy sessions more than anything else.

    We continue with HUGE egos to look for output in binary form, etc. (all that Craig describes above) in continued day in and day out self absorbed trumpeting. Why self absorbed? Because we are not allowing the language to teach them, which is the only teacher. We think we and and our endless L1 infused strategies do the trick and we are pathetic in that belief.

    I call upon us, all of us in our little group here, to stop ALL testing of quantified writing and speech. I call upon us to stop ALL forcing of output OF ANY KIND, and to stop blending L1 and L2 (yes, speak L1 all you want but keep L1 and L2 in separate blenders during class and at least try to get a big long stretch of 15-20′ of uniquely L2 going in class at least once) and quit doing that horrible thing of explaining everything. It doesn’t work!

    Everyone just needs to shut up and start speaking to our kids in ways that would produce something like Craig’s parents see in their daughter, who is learning the language without any explanation from her parents, without instruction in tenses, without the message that she can be wrong, without much of anything but hearing the language each day.

    And I’m so sorry I’m getting a bitchy edge here but can we just stop with the HACKNEYED argument of “Oh, well, Ben is a little off on that because, you see, I don’t HAVE 24/7 to input L2 into my students brains so I have to do it differently. I have to actually do some teaching and targeting because I don’t have all that time!” When are we going to shut up with that one?

    Can’t we get a little real about this, y’all, even a little bit? We’ve been seriously bullshitting ourselves in language education for so long now. ESL is worse than us. When are we going to just realize that either we start to provide our students with rich input in the form of uninterrupted play in L2 that attracts them like bees to honey, or let’s just go home. Can we just provide the loving input but now without all the FEAR IN OUR VOICES?

    Can we do that even if it is only 15′ of class while the rest of the time we are pontificating and posing and strutting about in front of them and throwing used up markers into the trash can by the door and showing off and sneaking in grammar explanations and talking about all manner of stuff in English that they JUST DON’T CARE ABOUT and fighting them, fighting them all the time mentally for power and making sure that they submit?

    Can we not do a better job of encouraging their simple and uninterrupted joy in being a part of the story instead of getting them to do it our way and winning the cell phone wars and the other little mental battles by calling ourselves the sacred term of teacher while doing all those self-defeating behaviors that mark and mar our professional lives? We can’t stop doing those things, can we?

    Boo-hoo! Even if we could succeed in silencing our bullshit to just provide them with rich and loving and attractive and beautiful input during class, they probably wouldn’t even let us, right? Because they are so mean, those little bullies! Oh boo-hoo – they won’t even let us stay in the language in class. Boo-hoo!

    We are so full of ourselves. We don’t have any idea what we are doing.

  2. “… we really don’t know anything about what we are doing.”
    YES! Dare I say, in defiance of your delicious self-loathing (for all of us) above, “Power to the teachers who are courageous enough to tinker and experiment, observe and tweak, crash, burn and try again?”

    1. Alisa, will you be my life coach? Please?

      I had a problem with this too, we do know what we are doing. We’re hot, remember. But if we focus too much on how much or how little we know, we miss the kids around us. Beautiful minds like Ben’s diminishing what they know is a form of vanity. I am more vain than here and it’s a really ugly weakness of mine. I’m constantly hung up on “am I smart enough to do this the right way?” instead of your brave desire to just try,” crash, burn and try again.””

      Humility is simply not worrying about ourselves: what we know or look like or accomplish, but rather taking the attention off of ourselves and constantly focusing on knowing more.

      Like you say, Alisa, it’s the process and desire to “tinker and experiment” to get ourselves closer to the kids, not really how far we are into that process that’s important.

      1. Seriously, I’m loving this therapy session. I can’t stop thinking about it.

        Alisa, seeing you and others pick up Ben’s mental health challenge has inspired me to do the same. I choose not to be codependent in any aspect of my life just because we’re surrounded by hurting people

  3. Every time I crash and burn I try to pull down part of the building with me, Alisa. I advocate total demolition of the buildings that manufacture and sell affective filters for CI classrooms. It’s becoming big business. I personally want to find a big baseball bat and destroy those buildings and beat down on all discomfort in CI classrooms. I want to do that with ferocity and without restraint. I take Krashen very seriously when he says that pleasure must be a dominant feature in comprehensible input classrooms.

  4. Last week as one of my students was stumbling through a response and I interrupted to “help” her put her thoughts into words. Immediately after, I told myself to shut up, be patient and give them time to process (even if it seems a little uncomfortable). As Craig so beautifully reminds us, we gave our own young children this freedom and smiled joyfully as the words stumbled clumsily from their mouths at times. (In fact I didn’t correct them, because I thought their imperfections were precious).

    At the beginning of the year I tell students that we will all make mistakes as we take risks and begin to speak this beautiful new language of Spanish and that it’s part of the process: to be expected and completely acceptable, in fact looked forward to with fun anticipation. Yet, I speak the opposite with my actions when I rescue them and say it “right” for them.

    Working on shutting up, smiling with admiration and celebrating the process!

  5. Kristen ND Wolf

    This is utterly inspiring! Thank you all for your deep and deeper thoughts. I have felt this way many times myself, as a learner and as a teacher. Yet, as someone who is relatively new to CI/ TPRS, I struggle with putting it all into practice in a way that I know will work for both myself and my students. I want to be creative and have fun with my students, yet I lack the experience to make it happen authentically and comprehensibly. Thanks for your heartfelt words and ability to eloquently express what has always been in my heart and soul. I look forward to reading more from this fascinating group. I know this is the right path….

  6. Kristen I have been having a weird kind of morning thinking (honestly being kind of depressed) about how much true opposition there is to this work. How snarky it is. How some of our colleagues look down on things they don’t know about.

    But they don’t know. Something is happening around here but they don’t know what it is, do they? Mr. Jones.

    And when you call our attention again to Craig’s post about his baby whose natural speech development so aligns with what we do, it just makes me feel better because I know that we have the research on our side on this deal.

    There is no research to support the textbook approach. Not a shred.

    I just need to spend my time getting ready to honor my students’ actual speech development patterns and not do it the plastic way. And that is what we are doing, we are becoming real and it’s not easy. It seems so hard at times but at least we are trying.

    Your comment made me feel so much better, that there are teachers out there whose minds are made up and are willing to start walking the walk. I have every confidence in you.


    1. The pattern for me after I quit with the elitist AP thing (quarter of a century of that insanity) has been elation at the idea that I found something better, vastly better, something that feels real because it is real. But then I have some kind of online or in person encounter with someone who is snarky and snooty about CI, and that gets me down like I was this morning. Then something happens like your comment and I get kind of like a bee in my bonnet because I want to defend, defend that which has transformed my life and share it with others so that they don’t up teaching like I did for so long. That irritated feeling lasts for awhile, because I have a ridiculously strong competitive streak in me, and finally the anger gives way to a kind of awareness that the only way through this, to keep my mental health, is to bow my head. Just bow my head.

      I have to remember that nothing good happens fast. This is no path for the fainthearted.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben