T1 is deeply embedded in the collective unconscious of teachers. Unpacking the language into parts is our default mode, and unlearning that is the real work of becoming a comprehension-based teacher. Grammar-translation and audio-lingual methods are the way the vast majority of us were taught, and thus it is the way we think subconsciously about our jobs.

We think of our jobs as parceling out parts of the language for the kids to master. We think that if they hear the pattern “il voulait manger/he wanted to eat” then their brains are going to uptake the “rule” “il voulait —er” and then be able to stick in “mange” or “étudie” or “regarde” or another verb stem. That is not how second language acquisition works. That is the spectre of our grammar-translation, ALM upbringing following us right up into this 21st century, when the real change is about to happen.

Becoming a comprehension-based teacher is more about unlearning than learning. It is more about acquiring skills and habits of mind and attitudes and dispositions than it is about “learning how to teach using comprehensible input”. It could even be said that comprehension-based teaching must be acquired, not taught. It must be felt in the bones and in the body and in the heart in order to become part of our teaching. It must locate itself in our smiles. Those who try to keep language instruction all up in their minds will struggle needlessly and ultimately not be happy in their classrooms.

It is like the ego. It is in our best interests to subdue it, but yet, there it is, popping up each day. It is in our best interests to focus only on conveying the message or the story and on the students in front of us. But there it is, the desire to analyze grammar and teach things connected to the vast parsing process that is called second language instruction today. It is so vast, the need to bow down to the curriculum is so deep in us, that we give in to the perceived need to control everything vs. letting language happen.

Language class is not fun when one person is controlling everything in the classroom. Language class is not fun when we only let the students fill in blanks after we have chosen the topic of discussion. Like the struggle to overcome our attachment to the ego, with all its petty demands and desires for our attention to an extent that is way beyond what is healthy and balanced for us, the struggle to rid ourselves of T1 is difficult. God will help us. He always does.



4 thoughts on “Ego”

  1. Unlearning will come maybe after reading 50,000 comments on how to teach/facilitate better!

    What an irony – our goal is to simply communicate – but we are all clogged up with educational accountability – demanding us to create reams of documentation – proving that we’re in control of our program. Curricula, report cards, essential questions, scope & sequence, evidence for evaluation, rubrics…

    The educational system really is an obstacle to all this crucial unlearning. We must be conscious of this so that we can play the game to protect our livelihoods, but be authentic with our students.

  2. …the educational system really is an obstacle to all this crucial unlearning….

    The positive side to that is that I know many top flight educators who know that fact so well but never let it keep them from their focus on the kids. It’s like, “Nothing is going to stop me from taking these kids where they are right now, warts and all or captain of the football team or recluse with a hoody or whatever, and loving on them, no matter how badly I feel that day, and sending the message in every minute I have with them that nothing can stop them, that they are captains of life and that life is fun and they can have fun living it, even with French!” THAT is what I base all my curriculum decisions on. The people running the school are like ghosts to me, and my students are there in living color. And if anyone tries to get a kid thinking that they can’t do it, can’t learn, then I will find that person and put my face in their face and I will be the one talking. That’s what this blog is.

  3. “T1 is deeply embedded in the collective unconscious of teachers.” Ben, it’s simple then. Let’s not be teachers. Toss out that title, that role, that symbol, that burden, that job. We are adults that care– with boundaries.

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