Cute Answers

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8 thoughts on “Cute Answers”

  1. Jeanette Borich

    I used these rules just a few years ago. And, then, one fine day I had a parent tell me that it was wrong to expect his middle school son to sit up with squared shoulders. Ay, ay, ay. Whatever.

    Re: cleverness with stories, I agree that the training for telling stories in order to get cuteness and all of the rules for how to do it the “right” way has been over the edge. As a result, the teacher (and I experienced this too) has a nagging classroom fear of not doing enough, not doing the storytelling comprehension checking correctly. In reality I believe that it is the students who need to do their fair share and maybe even at least 10% more than their fair share. I am mostly referring to how middle and high school students often do not. Please entertain me, they say.

    What teacher among us does not contribute more than our fair share when we step foot into the classroom?

    How about expecting 60% from the students? I know I always gave and still give way more than my 50%. And, last night I analyzed my results from my first days of my renewed story listening initiative. Now, to get the blog up and running!

    Thanks to this group for leading the way toward a kinder, less anxiety-filled classroom setting for both teachers and students via OWI, Invisibles, Story Listening. These past two weeks I was able to collect some 3-4 grader feedback re: what they understood (in English) from our stories, and I can now compare that info with how they believed I shared the stories with them. But, I am also keeping track of their engagement. Good stuff! We all need to be accountable to one another.

  2. …keeping track of their engagement….

    This is loaded. It’s like we have to figure out ways to make it interesting to them and then on top of that keep track of it. I really agree that they are little Fauntleroys telling us to entertain them, but it is the system that has made it so. And then on top of that they have been made to think that it is not the engagement at all but the grade that counts. No wonder we are all half crazy. I think that a lot of us here are just trying to find a way out of the school woods, to find where best practices meet school. That has been one of the overarching threads here over the years.

    1. I’d add comsumer tech culture. Kids use tech to be entertained and laughing practically 24/7. My students have tons of homework but fail to just do their work and distract themselves with social media and videos into the wee hours.

  3. Yes. This is a big deal. All of it. I always felt queasy about the whole process of student suggestions and having to reject them, etc. I am pretty sure this feeling is connected to the feeling of being picked last in gym class, which I was and which I believe constitutes trauma of some sort. Or maybe it was moving around so much as a little kid and always being the new person. Why else would this feeling linger? This gives me some perspective on the many situations our students face that are more severe, and that obviously affect how they move through their days.

    In some groups the process was fine and lighthearted. I realize that was back at my old school where the classes were smaller and I just had a better feel for the kids’ lives since I had been part of that community for many years and had coached most of the kids before I ever had them in class. This makes a huge difference. I just realized that this instant as I wrote that down. Knowing the majority of the kids outside the classroom (via service projects, sports, music, theatre, recess duty, etc.) allowed a more seamless transition into the classroom.

    Now that I am in the deep end of the pool just barely treading water to stay afloat I feel so much more cautious as a teacher. So story asking has not been that fun here, with the exception of a handful of times. Even those, when we got a good character going, were still in the realm of the 5-7 extroverts taking over the reins. And I allowed it, thinking I needed those details, but really what I needed more was to get the group together and to showcase each child in the way that focused on their individual light, rather than perpetuate the hierarchy of “leadership by loudness.” Most of the time as I approach a class I have been fighting through a layer of nervousness and insecurity about what was going to unfold. I see this so clearly now.

    I’ve not yet had a “good run” with the invisibles or with class stories this year. BUT just in the past few days I’ve shifted the energy and hope to try again with student characters. I have 1) brought more structure to the story listening process, thanks to Jillane Baros and the tools she has shared on FB 2)remembered to do the reading immediately the next day in a relaxed storytime way but that also includes highlighters for each kid. Amazing how that shifted the attention for my groups! 3) lightened up on myself and therefore the kids 4) let go of the feeling that I had to be micromanaging every “instructional minute” 5)had some free drawing days where the kids have been laughing and drawing and I get to float around admiring their work and engaging one on one with some of the quieter kids.


    1. Jen it has been my privilege to watch you grow into this profession over all these years. When you talk about lightening up on yourself and stopping all the micromanagement, just drawing with the kids like Tina has been doing lately, you are stopping the belief that school has to be all about stress. What you have written above is something that I very much respect. We just can’t learn a language when the classroom is all intense and focused on whatever. That is not what language is as Krashen said in his telling statement:

      …the path of pleasure is the only path. The path of pain does not work for language acquisition….

  4. I agree with this whole-heartedly. The cute answers in high school lead to problems in some classes. Depends on the dynamic of the room. But how do you know at the beginning of the year what that dynamic is going to be?

    It’s almost better to hold off on that responsibility until you know that the members of the class can handle it. I can take cute answers in 4 of my 6 classes with no problems. They like each other’s answers. And in my other 2 classes (one especially) they resent being one-upped. But once you set the rules of the game, they are there for the year. You can add new rules, but taking them away is awkward.

    Is it teaching that is so delicate or is it CI teaching that is?

    1. I think CI teaching is especially delicate. I taught ELA and SS and French for nine years before coming over to full-time French/Spanish. There is a definite difference – in the CI classes, it is so much more, so much, about community. Of course, I had a focus on community in ELA/SS, especially since I was using a workshop approach grounded in reading/writing partnerships, but in CI, community drives EVERYTHING because the simple human communication is the entire curriculum. So yes, teaching is delicate but CI is a whole different ball game. Which is why it is so hard to fit into schools. If it were not the only thing that works, I am sure we all would have hung up our hats and gone home by now. Because it is hard work squeezing reality, community, listening, understanding, and respect into today’s schools.

      1. …because the simple human communication is the entire curriculum….

        This makes me reflect on that fact that many if not most current professionals in our field were the ones who were the best memorizers and in fact may not be very good at human communication, since they got big rewards to memorize and so turned it into a profession. Then we come along and start talking about just talking with the kids and they pull out their Spock faces.

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