At the end of the conversation with [the IB principal mentioned here a few days ago], he insisted that I talk to [a certain teacher], who felt slandered by some of the content connected to one of her students [described in that same blog].
This teacher actually came out of class to speak with me on the phone. At the end of a civil conversation, she threw me a curve ball. She asked me to stop telling people that I thought that teaching using TPRS is better than other ways. She specifically requested that I now start telling people in workshops and such that approaches other than TPRS are as valid in foreign language classrooms.
In my fervent desire to get off that phone and pick my head off the floor after those roughly 45 minutes – it felt like 3 hours – of heated discussion with her principal, I agreed to her request!
Now I want to set that brain burp straight. I want to tell that teacher that I didn’t mean to agree to something so preposterous. I was quite upset in that moment and I said something that I didn’t believe, but it was done in confusion and motivated by the fear generated by the overall situation (if one can call being yelled at by someone you’ve never met for an extended period of time an actual discussion).
I must set the record straight for that teacher while this blog is still public over these next few days. I believe deeply that comprehension based instruction, in which the target language is used as the main vehicle of instruction at least 95% of the time, is in no way the equal of other approaches – it is better, more fun, and more effective.
Comprehensible input methods are far superior in terms of actual language gains.
CI and the Research (cont.)
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could
14 thoughts on “Disclaimer”
“All truth goes through three stages: First it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, finally it is widely accepted as self evident.”
—Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity (1788 – 1860)
We have apparently moved into stage two. You have just taken a salvo for us Ben. thanks for your sharing and leadership.
Teaching with CI is a skill and one that takes time to be developed, especially when one has years of non-CI teaching habits to overcome. Your critics may be suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect. The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.
Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, unskilled people will:
1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Nothing worse than the unskilled with an attitude.
Amen Bryce! I run into this a lot, but I have never seen it so clearly defined. I never knew what was going on behind the scenes in their cognitive process. This clearly describes what is going on.
Ben, you are far more gracious than I. I think that I would have hung up on the principal until he was willing to speak in a civilized manner. Unfortunately, our society has become far too rude and thinks that’s okay.
As far as the viability of methods is concerned, I think you simply have to decide what your goal is. All of my students know that the objective in the class is to communicate in German. Now that I know the goal, I simply have to find the best method to get there. For this goal, it’s CI/TPRS. For a different goal, a different method might be better. For example, when I was in seminary I wanted to read and translate the Bible. Learning Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic via the Grammar-Translation method made a lot of sense for that goal. I can’t speak any of those languages, but I can still parse and translate and impress people with my knowledge about the language. (Anyone interested in the Hiph’il 3rd person masculine singular imperfect of “ra’ah”?) Maybe that teacher has a goal other than communication – “exercising the mind”, “understanding the structure of language” or some such non-communication objective.
As far as the e-mail you quoted in a previous post is concerned, the guy is clueless. Of course, one should ignore as much as possible anyone unwilling to sign his name to what he writes. “Anonymous” is valid only when the author is lost in the mists of time, not inhabiting the sniper’s position. Anyway, I have a partaken of a “holy moly” that has rendered me impervious to this argumentation; it is personal experience. Having learned Hebrew, Greek and Armaic through the “all-important structure”, I still don’t communicate in them. However, having lived with a family in which the mother spoke Swiss German to her children, I – without having ever opened a Swiss German textbook or studied the structures of the language – understand Schwyzerdutsch. Don’t even think about trying to tell me that Comprehensible Input isn’t efficacious for language acquisition.
Sign me up for the members-only blog, Ben!
I can only imagine what your frame of mind must have been being attacked in such a fashion by this principal especially in light of the attack on the First amendment rights of the teacher who facebooked to her family and friends her frustration with students and parents and what subsequently happened to her. Don’t beat yourself up about momentarily caving in to the demands of the teacher in question. In my opinion (after 30 years of language teaching), those teachers who successfully enable their students to acquire the language using other methods are able to do that only because they are also providing comprehensible input. I was taught by several teachers who did just that. They didn’t use stories per se, but it was always about personalization and the stories of our daily lives. Grammar study was there, but it was never central. They were gifted, not tied to textbooks, but all about understanding, manipulating structures in context-based situations, and natural use of the language orally and in written situations. To me, TPRS is the first systematic method for helping teachers to arrive at that place. Thank you for the thoughtful forum you have consistently provided. I will be grateful to see it continued in whatever form you see fit. You do rock!
Chris what did happen to that teacher? I hadn’t heard about that.
Well, there were actually 2 incidents on facebook. In the first, the teacher (Natalie Monroe) evidently didn’t have the privacy setting on right and used NatalieM as her screen name, so her venting and rants about her students (not identified by name or school) were visible, and people could figure out who she was. Last I heard, she was suspended. I don’t know if they are continuing to try to fire her. She was all over the news for several weeks. Another teacher (Ms.Payne) posted a picture of herself holding a beer and a glass of wine and had correctly set privacy to prevent anyone whom she hadn’t friended from seeing it. Somehow, others were able to see. She was fired. At some point, the first amendment rights of teachers as private individuals have to be upheld. At the school I just retired from, a student had fraudulently opened a my space account using the name of a woman teacher. He posted all kinds of sexually explicit stuff on there. A friend of the teacher alerted her, she notified the school and district and asked for help to get it shut down and for the student to be expelled. She received no help from the district, it took a lawyer to get the site shut down, and the student was suspended from school, but nothing else was done. She ended up moving to another state.
LOVE the Dunning-Kruger notes. Now I can finally understand why the kids in a particular English class I teach are so confident! It’s not that I want to lower their self-esteem, but I do want them to hunger for learning.
And it says a lot about why I thought I could evangelize so confidently in my first year of TPRS. Now I’m a little less apt to roll over people until I find out what tools we have in common.
Blaine has always said that if anyone can show him a method that works better than TPRS, then he’ll happily extol the virtues of that method. We are not wed to TPRS as the only possibility, just the one we’ve found that works the best for the greatest number of kids.
Thomas and Michele I also resonated – BOING! – with the Dunning-Kruger premise. I knew that Bryce had a lot in his noggin after riding with him to and from San Antonio a few summers ago, but dude I wish you had played that card sooner than now. It is so spot on in terms of the fight we are in. Dang dude! There’s some real solace in those words. Thank you Bryce!
Now to work on the compassion piece – I have always believed that we are all doing the best we can in any given moment as we struggle to get better at what we do and help others in the best way we can. Hugs to those who would belittle our ambitions!
I, for one, am sorry that your blog will not be public. I bumped into it accidently (if one believes in accidents) and it’s been a terrific resource for me ever since.
It’s impossible to tap into the great huge serendipitious moments of the universe when the moments are behind a lock and key and password and all that…however, you go guy, it is, after all, your blog.
and i’m a better teacher for it
glad to see you’re back
I appreciate that Lynn. Just let me say this – nothing could express how exposed I have felt, feel now, with this content still public until the software set up is in place. I have actually been dragged into meetings with bosses and mistrusting colleagues where the colleague used some text from this blog, because they could get to it, to ask for an apology for something I said, some position I took on teaching that they didn’t agree with, essentially to find me wrong and to make me look smaller in the misunderstanding eyes of my AP in this case. Can you imagine what that feels like, to go into a meeting, and have the administrator pick up a printout from a chair of something I said and then have the colleague look at me like I committed some sort of crime against them and education? Screw that. I had enormous trust in people, but not anymore. Ironically, however, I plan to be even MORE transparent once this wall is up. Because the trust will be there. I will now put up a ton of video of my classroom instruction and use it to share ideas and I expect other blog members to do the same. No kids in the frame – not necessary, I have found, and a lot less legal hassles, etc. I just set up the camera from my side and turn the tape on. The first tapes will be Monday PQA and Tuesday stories and Wed/Thurs readings, all unedited, good stuff and bad stuff together. If we don’t use the tape we’ll just be yammering away, stuck in our minds. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. In that interest, I have just taped every class I taught M/T this week – 10 classes – as a way of showing exactly what my new weekly schedule looks like in action, warts and all. If we don’t use videotape in a common arena to get better at this, then we are stupid. Why not use it? Too proud? Too timid? Too afraid that people will find out our secret that we suck at TPRS? I suck and I’m proud. But to share that tape with people I don’t trust? Fuhgetaboutit. So, obviously, I’m talking wall.
Diane, we only have to look at how TPRS has evolved over the years to demonstrate that we are not wed to a rigid method. I see quite an arc of evolution. We try, we hash, we rehash, we tweek, we share. TPRS made me feel like a real professional – one who is never satisfied with the same tired routines; one who is always searching for the best way of leading kids to soak up language; one who is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating. That is this community and oh, how I have missed this blog. Reading the words of Ben’s detractors makes it difficult to see much good, but I would be remiss to not thank others who stepped up to create new spaces where we could commune, commiserate, and share. Thanks to Laurie, Michele, Jody, Terry and everyone else who took the time to create new places to visit. We are enriched by all of you.
Glad that your blog is back up! I’ll definitely be subscribing to it, or will do whatever I have to do to get your tidbits. I have to admit, I’ve been a naughty teacher and haven’t fully implemented all the wonderful stuff from your books or iflt from this past summer, but mainly because I found out in August (right after iflt) that we are expecting our first child in April and knowing that, this was not the year for me to re-invent myself. I still do a ton of CI stuff anyhow – I did the thing with the name tags like you did starting on the 2nd day of school and worked it for days – (the students seemed to eat it up!), but just couldn’t bring myself to go whole hog so to speak knowing that in April I’ll be on ML. Anyhow – just wanted to post and show my support for you and all the great information that you have imparted to me via blog and in person conversations that we had at iflt. Here’s hoping that in the fall, I can come out swinging. 🙂