Don’t Give Up

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14 thoughts on “Don’t Give Up”

  1. I understand and feel the pain as well. We have 27 days of school left and I’m glad. I’m worn out and beaten down emotionally and mentally. Overall it’s been a pretty good year but I dropped the ball on classroom management and discipline before the middle of the year and I’ve now been feeling the wrath of that in two classes for the past few weeks. I have two classes that I absolutely dread. When the bell rings for class change and it’s time for these two classes, I immediately feel a strong depression and fear overcome me and I just hope that I can get through the 43 minutes with little to no major problems. For about a week and a half now, we’ve been focusing on grammar and verbs, and that’s what I’m planning on for the rest of the year. I can’t handle any more stories this year and these two classes definitely can’t. The grammar instruction and worksheets are my bailout move for the rest of the year. Next year I hope to do better with classroom management. It’s really just a matter of changing who I am as a teacher, I new to be a little more serious, and man up and not be afraid to confront and discipline students.

    On top of that, I’ve been treading water in my level 4 class. I went from teaching middle school for 3 years to going to a high school and having a level 4 class. Every week, all year long, has been a struggle, figuring out what to do, what to teach, etc. I’ve never once touched upon the subjunctive, and that’s in the curriculum.

    This year, I’ve felt like a total failure. But I’m trying to be hopeful and positive about next year.

    1. Just look for one bright moment. One peaceful student. One small connection. One smile. One moment of joy with the language. One act of kindness. One funny, quirky interaction between young people. Let that moment be your day. Forget your goals and expectations and everything you are supposed to be doing. Not forever, but just for now. Don’t lose your humanity to the nightmare that teaching can become. Rebuild your heart one student at a time. I guarantee you that since you clearly care so much there is at least one respectful student in your class. Teach to that person until you have ground beneath you again. Discussing the situation with students might not be a great idea when you are not feeling confident with the method. When I tried that it sunk me deeper because I wasn’t prepared to meet their challenges. I once was in a karate class and the sensei told us to always enter a fight with the thought “I am going home tonight”. When the bell rings and you feel your heart sink, remind yourself that you are going home tonight.

    2. “…It’s really just a matter of changing who I am as a teacher…”

      I too have felt like I had to change myself as a teacher, Chris, but then (after a year off to get my spirit back) I decided that what I really need to do is to trust myself as a teacher, who I am really, to be strong in who I am. Sure I can tweak things here, tighten up a bit there, learn some tricks, but what seems to make a big difference for me is when I back myself up and believe that it’s good to be who I am instead of pulling the rug out from under myself. This makes it harder for others to pull the rug out from under me, too. I’ve taught 6th grade (not French) for years. It was tough at times. This is my first year teaching French (grades 6-8) and most days with some classes I have butterflies in my stomach and I don’t really know what I am doing, but it’s ALWAYS better when I remember to trust myself and not start thinking in the middle of a sentence that I am doing a terrible job. Because I’m not. I bet you aren’t either. Next year will be better, for me too. It’s almost summer.

  2. Chris, it takes courage to face up and admit our failures. I think it’s an essential part of being a good teacher. Think of those who go in and give the same grammar instruction and worksheets and consider themselves as successful. It’s the wanting to be better that pushes us to improve. When we lose that …. I’ve often said that no matter how well a class goes, I’ve never once finished an hour’s teaching without wishing I had done something different. Given another example, called on a shy student, thrown in a different detail, used more pop-ups, etc. Keep trying and every day will make you a better teacher. And you may discover that some of your students already think you are remarkable. Simply because they see you trying.

  3. Chris,
    The nice thing about teaching high schoolers is that, sometimes, they are capable of introspection and change if you find just the right opportunity to have a frank conversation with them. At this point in the year, it may not work, but before the end of the year, with these difficult classes, you might try sitting down and using a period to talk about what’s going on in class, from your perspective, and ask them for their opinions on what’s going on in class. Now they may not be able to handle this, and if that is the case, you can go back to the worksheets, no harm done. But they might surprise you, when given the opportunity to voice their diagnosis and possible remedies. This will also give them some food for thought for next year.

    Good luck, and keep that finish line in sight.

    1. I have not normed my classes well enough. The students still give ideas in English because I have not insisted on Spanish. But next year I believe I will be stronger because of all of my mentors online that have empowered me.

      I have had a heart to heart talk like this with a class. Things were going negative with complaints and I took way too long before I asked “Why?” to one student. The students were stressed about the testing. Also they were tired of school. I think we had a break through and was happy to feel a better vibe in that classroom.

      Sometimes though I think giving it time with some positive interactions is the best thing. I am thinking back to another class. It took about a month and a half of genuine smiles (from me to them) before I saw a change. That’s sometimes hard to do because you are dreading the negativity but in this case I eventually felt a change.

      We have all probably been there and all we can do is our best. I hope things get better for you, Chris.

  4. Dude. Lesson 1: start subjunctive on your first day. Not as in, “this is what it is and how and where to use it,” but you start throwing structures that use it in from day 1. When they get to level 4 and you “have” to explain it, they will say “oh we know this.” My level 1s know “quiero que seas” and “quiero que te vayas” but can’t explain the subjunctive.

    Lesson 2: variety. Kids burn out of too much ___. In my case too much PQA is bad; so I do a story then novel; rotation helps. I think you learned somethign useful with management. As Susan Gross said, “discipline precedes instruction.”

    Hang in there. 5 weeks.

  5. I’m really frustrated now with trying to adapt a textbook that crams too much advanced material too fast down kids throats. Also trying to blend the explicit, formal grammar instruction and translation with real SLA methodology is a real bear of a challenge. I know, I know I’m being a baby, but it seems futile at times and I feel like a sell-out…doing more harm than good.

    1. Hey Joey, I’m so glad my days of trying to figure out how to make those textbook activities and exercises work for the classroom are over. Despite the struggle we may have teaching CI, and the flopping around I sometimes do in class, I’m at peace knowing that my teaching is know based on some fundamental understandings of language acquisition. Plus, I feel like a human being. And we are mighty human beings for standing tall against the ire that is flung at us by our students.

    2. Jeffery Brickler


      I totally hear you! I get so tired of trying to using this textbook. In my mind it really waters down the CI. You can do it and it is the best way to use a textbook, but it really inhibits the learning. The stories are good at times, but the vocabulary is peculiar at times. I’m trying to move away from the textbook and use real language. This is a bit frightening, but the kids feel like you are really teaching them and not the book. For whatever reason, Latin teachers so feel like teaching from a book. I think it is because we have no training in actual acquisition or ability to use our language correctly. It is all passive knowledge and the kids have to interact with it in this passive way. I am working to turn this into active knowledge and make meaning with my kids right now.

      There is also great pressure from others to do what they are doing, lest the students not be able to read Vergil and Caesar on the AP. In my experience at my school, so very few if any could even do this reading and even then it was mere translation, decoding. A farce!

      I am still thinking that I will use the book for some cultural readings in the later years. I am hoping that by then, the readings will be easy and the kids will be able to tolerate more words. I’m not really sure, but I have to give it a shot. I know that the kids really appreciate how much I teach them and not the text. They get this in all their other classes and are sick of it.

  6. Yes and the culture of the building you are in largely affects your reaction to the challenges we face. Even having one colleague or even just one administrator with an open mind who is willing to look at the facts is huge. Going it alone against a department that has its feet still in the 1950’s can be really difficult. We are all in different situations on that point.

  7. Chris there are lots of specific little things you can do for the classroom management with those two classes. One example is the ten minute thing where a timer kid sets her timer for ten minutes of strict TL only discussion. It keeps you from caving with English, which I suspect is the heart of your issue, and so the class starts out on a good tone. Lots of other ways to get them to shut up. We can talk about this. I would try with CI for as long as you can go, and only then go to the worksheets. Read some of the bail out moves like dictee and get their little pencils moving so they think they are learning. The fourth year class, don’t give it a thought. This work is extremely difficult for older kids who have been raised on CI. If they have had the old method it is impossible. What is really going on here is what you said, though. Confront yourself. Decide what you want as a teacher from yourself. Then implement it in the fall, after practicing it now. Practice and don’t waste classes when you could be practicing. You always have the worksheets. And don’t expect anything. We’ve all lost classes. It’s horrible. It’s not just you. It’s hellish. So read up on bail out moves. Look at R and D. And don’t let the little darlings speak using English. Don’t. Find your ringleader(s), talk to them as they come in, call parents, call parents, explain the situation, call more parents, practice and report back here if you can in a few weeks. The work you do now to address this will pay dividends in the fall. And remember, we have ALL lost classes. It’s part of the trip.

  8. I have to say that our classroom management skills as CI teachers is on a total different level than those of teachers in other subjects. Even in other subjects where there might be whole class discussion going on, it happens for small snippets of time, AND students have a book of some kind on their desks that they’re reading, or refer to, as the discussion is happening. No, no, no. Not in our classrooms. Students have their eyes on the teacher and are quietly listening for long stretches of time.

    Being able to make this happen for 10 minutes at a time, as Ben states above, is an impressive feat. I think we should all praise ourselves for being able to accomplish this when we can.

    I’d also like to mention, in response to Chris R’s refreshing candor, that I start class, like many others on this PLC, establishing authority and talking in the L2. It’s at the beginning of class when I need to show students that I have a strong backbone, like a column holding up the Acropolis (multiple meanings in that metaphor perhaps), more so than any other point in the class period. Ben posted a link to Drew Hiben’s (sp?) video from a couple of years ago, where you’ll see Drew planting his backbone at the beginning of class as well.

    The other week I did a 60 minute dictation with my last class period of the day because I was just tired of them. Then, when I told me dean, he said, “Good, those kids need to have something like that happen to them more often.” See here, I know that if I didn’t have that kind of administrative support I’d be feeling worn down and beat up.

  9. Angie you wrote:

    “I once was in a karate class and the sensei told us to always enter a fight with the thought “I am going home tonight”. When the bell rings and you feel your heart sink, remind yourself that you are going home tonight.”

    I love this. Thank you for sharing two years ago.

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