Have Hope!

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14 thoughts on “Have Hope!”

  1. Congratulations! You more than deserve the compliments. I only hope is that one day, I too shall have a similar experience. It would make all the difference. Keep smiling!
    Pat R
    Minnesota

  2. Wow, Ben. What great story. Definitely a day-maker…and a guess a career-maker!
    I have a similar story about a former student who visited me after school yesterday and gave me a hug and broke down and cried. I told her to tell me what was wrong–I thought that perhaps she was pregnant or something major like that. But it had to do with her high school Spanish class. She explained that she loved Spanish with me in middle school, she in fact thought she was good at it, that it was her “best” subject. And now she’s a freshman in a high school Spanish 2 class which is totally traditional and doesn’t understand the teacher (nor does anyone else). We emailed back a forth and this is what she said:
    “Her assignments usually always have to do with everything she’s talked about in class. so, thats why it’s hard to do them considering I don’t know whats going on in class. Most of the students do ask her clarifying things/questions. but she kind of gets defensive when we do, and she claims that she doesn’t wanna have to repeat herself. but throughout the whole class almost every student is like “wait? what are we doing?” she’s just not clear on a lot of things. she also does not use visual cues, or pictures. I understand about 30% of the class. it’s tough.
    I love this language, and I don’t wanna lose it.”
    It broke my heart to see her so sad about a Spanish class. So it was major for her after all. Of course I felt like I didn’t prepare her enough for a traditional class, didn’t teach her reflexive verbs or teach her how to memorize lists of vocabulary like she has to now. BUT the fact that she cared so much about wanting to continue with her love of language despite the teaching tells me I did something right. But I still may have to teach my 8th graders reflexive verbs this year!

  3. “I made one kid confident and happy about learning a language. That’s good enough for me. To think that I was allowed in my life to work with kids and help them believe in themselves and in life while sharing one of the truly great languages and cultures in the world – what more is there, really? ”
    This is really what it’s about. And there will be so many loud voices that are going to say that this is not enough, that we’re not doing our jobs unless we’re drilling them with reflexive constructions, or whatever. As Laurie mentions in her wonderful new post today, we are doing enough when our hearts are in the right place, when we are coming to school everyday to be there for kids who truly need us to be caring and compassionate. This is what makes careers. It’s just too bad so many teachers don’t allow themselves to recognize and value this most important aspect of their work

  4. You have made a difference for many of us – where would we be without this wonderful place to share ideas and solve problems. Yes, Ben, you have indeed made a difference! Thank you.

  5. Ben, this story is a perfect example of the “college and career readiness” mentality destroying inspirational teaching and learning. What you did for this student was to put him in touch with a genuine learning experience that changed him forever. What an honor and privilege when it happens! This is how all our students eventually feel…we just don’t always know it.
    Any time I hear the term “college and career readiness” I am going to treat it like the other words I dislike in our field (memorization, study, standard tests) and run for the hills.
    This story is the antithesis of what college readiness represents!

  6. It’s heresy,I know, but this is really the only thing that matters. All true learning comes from the student, not the teacher. All we can do is make the student feel able and worthy. Then we open the door to the world…and the rest is truly out of our control. Total heresy. But hey, I’m not the only heretic out there. :o)
    with love,
    Laurie

    1. A heretic? Maybe in the eyes of these progressive smarty-pantses who keep trying to make us feel like less than nothing. But our collective wisdom says “you can lead a horse…”
      Which remind me of two aphorisms from John DeMado’s “10 Organizing Principles for Language Acquisition.”
      1. Teaching will never suffice for what learning must accomplish.
      2. Languages are learned, not taught.
      By teaching we understand delivering and providing Comprehensible Input and by learning we understand doing what is necessary for acquisition. So we strive to bring our 50% to the table (a stroll to the water) and encourage the students to bring their 50% (take a drink). And what a joy when it happens. And when we finally get the feedback loop completed like Ben and Annemarie.

  7. Laurie says, “All true learning comes from the student, not the teacher. All we can do is make the student feel able and worthy. Then we open the door to the world…and the rest is truly out of our control. ”
    This whole post comes at a very good time for me. Yesterday I was told by one of my VERY dedicated sweetheart of student – in conversation – that not too many in my Level 3 want to take Level 4, because they say that all I do is “review.” That hit me really hard. I mean REALLY HARD. All I have been doing is wondering how to address this with the students – I want them to go to Level 4, because they are all really good!
    Then last night it hit me: #1. this is our first year as a whole year course (every other day vs. every day for one semester) So, technically, right now is the equivalent of the end of October! #2. they just had midterms last week – first time we did this, and they were all common throughout the department. My Level 3’s were all in the upper 80s and in the 90s!! NO one got below an 85!! (OK my colleague had five 100s …..but those kids were also part of the OLD schedule where they had Level 1 and Level 2 everyday for a WHOLE year! and they are the AP/Honors-type kids, so I am not comparing against them) #4. My colleague loves the textbook, because it also, as he states, makes the kids “feel” like they are moving along a continuum. #5. then my colleague told me that all of his Level 2s will very easily and clearly be ready to step into the next textbook. (I am still working in the Level 1 textbook with my 3s, using it just as a source of some exercises and vocab. – because I feel like I have to.)
    thanks for listening …..any ideas on how to handle this situation would be most welcome!

  8. Hey mb, I’m sorry to hear that you have a student that doesn’t appreciate your work. I wonder how much this student really speaks for their peers when they say “many in Level 3 don’t want to take Level 4 because all they feel like their doing in Level 3 with you is review.” I wonder how perceptive of their peers this student really is.
    Let’s think long term here. Let’s put the complaints you’re getting now from an adolescent into a looking glass of 5-10 years in the future. With your teaching, in 5-10 years your students will think back at your class as actually having learned your L2 instead of having sort-of learned what the subjunctive means.
    Maybe have a peace-circle like talk with the classs — maybe spend an entire period — where students are encouraged to share openly without fear of having ideas stricken down… to clear the air if that needs to be done. You could refer to the Rigor poster here during that time.
    Talk about production through QuickWrites or QuickSpeaks, if you do them. Does your colleague have his kids do QuickWrites or QuickSpeaks, or any other kind of automatic production assessments?
    Of course, you’ll decide what is best to do with your kids. I get thrown at me the idea of doing peace circles with my kids all the time since I came into a new school at the beginning of the year and, as my assistant principle made the analogy, I’m trying now to train a dog with a leash that has been used to running around the streets with no training. Often I hesitate on the peace circle because of the experience of such restorative chats turning real bitter and sour when you have a real outspoken negative student being the most vocal.
    Please keep us updated!

  9. Thx Sean!
    First I need to clarify… That student that told me….i was mot being facetious describing him…he is the sweetest, kindest , most gentle person I know. I have have been lucky enough to have him for 3 years now. He has a severe case of stuttering, but he doesnt stutter when speakong Spanish…and he speaks the most in class! He is my little rock star!! He is pretty much a loner…everyone likes him bc he is such a gentle soul, but the other kids dont engage in conversations with him….so he has heard this as they have “chatted” when i have had to run out of the room here and there…that class is also B1 so they start showing up 10-15 mins before school stRts and Im still printing or copying.
    And thanks Ben for sharing….it does give me hope!
    And I’m not sure if my colleague gives quick freewrites yet, but he is a good teacher and is on the same wavelength as me…. Love the kids and teach them to love the language.

    1. Hey, mb.
      Doesn’t stutter speaking Spanish…And you have had him all three years…Hmm. That sounds pretty interesting and pretty impressive.
      “Step easily into the next level textbook” That must mean no beginning of the year review, right?
      Remember what Laurie mentioned about last month about getting student feedback? Ask them to write down what has helped them (to understand spoken and written Spanish). If they write it then you can avoid them feeding negatively off of each other and feeling intimidated about saying something positive. Maybe it could count as bonus points on a quiz–and everybody who writes something down gets the points. Also, do not let them do it anonymously. When I ask for feedback at the end of the year I instruct them to write their names on the paper, letting them know that I want to be able to ask for clarification.
      What Sean said about reviewing Rigor and the language learning process may be helpful.
      Also, you might be able to throw in a new twist on the stuff they perceive as review.
      E.g., if the students have “Hay un chico que se llama Juan” (there is a boy who is called John)” and “Juan va a Bangor (goes),” the next step could be…
      “¿Es bueno que haya un chico?” (Is it good that there is a boy?)
      And this can contrast with…
      ¿Es malo que haya un chico? (Is it bad that there is a boy?)
      ¿Es mejor que haya un elefante? (Is it better for there to be an elephant?)
      ¿Es mejor que haya un elefante o es mejor que haya un elefante?
      ¿Es malo que se llame Juan? (Is it bad that he is called Juan?)
      ¿Es mejor que se llame Tinseltop? (Is it better for him to be called Tinseltop?)
      ¿Se llama Tinseltop? (Is he named Tinseltop?)
      ¿Es mejor que se llame Tinseltop o es mejor que se llame Juan?
      ¿Es bueno que se llame Juan? (Is it good that he is called Juan?)
      ¿Es bueno que vaya a Bangor? (Is it good that he is going to Bangor?)
      ¿Es malo que vaya a Bangor? (Is it bad that he is going to Bangor?)
      ¿Es mejor que vaya a Bangkok? (Is it better for him to go to Bangkok?)
      The important thing is that there is probably no new vocabulary, but you are able to raise it up a notch in complexity, add a new morphological ending (unless they know the forms from classroom commands), and let them feel that something new is happening.
      At some point it can be pointed out that this is considered very advanced stuff and really difficult. You can even call it the subjuntivo, if that will impress them. Point out that this is a very complex structure. But keep teaching for understanding, getting your reps, and assessing for understanding and pointing out their success with difficult Spanish.

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