I Think I’ll Become A Teacher

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12 thoughts on “I Think I’ll Become A Teacher”

  1. I can’t even express how much I love this post. It puts into words everything I feel about what we do, and the enormity of the task. Actually “the task” really is not enormous. It is so simple and in the flow of real life. But it becomes bigger because of all the things you mentioned, how everything is dissected and disconnected. And celebrated more so for being so disconnected. But I really feel like there is a shift toward connection. We are in the middle of it so it is very uncomfortable, but things are definitely shifting.

    Nobody gets what we are doing, so it makes everything harder. This community is really a sanctuary for me because there is no other place I can have these conversations. Just back from a holiday gathering with my hubby’s side of the family. Great fun, great people…and it is a whole family of 0.0000001%-ers so I cannot even verbalize what I am doing even though everyone feels my enthusiasm and passion. As an example, my brother in law flatly disagrees with Krashen’s monitor hypothesis based on the fact that “I make grammar corrections all the time as I am speaking French.” Grrrrr. And I love them all. And it is hard to be around the constant celebration of extraordinariness…that is just who they are, a traditional family that values hard work and self-sacrifice. Harder is better, because it makes you stand out. Spanish and French are rather ordinary, because they are not the “hard” languages to learn. You know, like Arabic and Mandarin and Japanese, which are what some of my nieces and nephews are into. So to some extent they are puzzled by what I do, since of course they are all self-taught grammar lovers and cannot understand that most people do not learn in the ways they do. They would probably hate being in my classroom!

    Ok, rant over… back to the topic of interconnection, I just want to say that I really really want to stay connected to this group. I am terrified right now because I am letting go of my teaching gig in 2 weeks when the semester ends. I know it is the right thing for me to do, for a bunch of personal reasons that have nothing to do with CI or my students. So I am just putting this out there because I envision teaching still, but in a different venue. I don’ t know what that looks like yet. I still want to be part of this conversation, and I can also see that without a classroom of my own it will be very different. Maybe I will be seen as “the one who bailed out.” I hope not, but that is a risk I have to take even though it is far from the truth.

    A very wise 19 year old said to me a couple weeks ago “It feels like maybe everyone here got what they needed and you need to move on because there are a lot of other people beyond this place who need what you have to offer.” REally??? 19 years old??? Whoever complains about “kids these days” needs to take a breath and connect with a “kid these days.” One thing I want to do is visit folks in their classrooms to continue to build my skills and to observe and coach and offer whatever I can in this strange interim. So you may be hearing from me this spring about coming to visit 🙂

    I’m starting an adult class this week. I hope that will help me to keep learning and growing. And to be honest I hope that some adults in the class will feel the lightbulb go off and this might help to spread the word somehow. I don’t feel like I am giving up this work because it is too challenging, like Ben asks above. At the same time I cringed when I read that. I just need to move beyond where I am right now, and as soon as that became clear to me I had to take the leap.

    Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there so that when I chime in on things after mid-January everyone will know my change of status. I was already offered a part-time position at a charter school. While I am not necessarily interested in that right now, it was a sign that by letting go of my current structure I am creating space for other things to come my way. I really do not know where I am headed, and I have a bunch of ideas that have been bubbling up to the surface. We’ll see what happens!

    1. As an example, my brother in law flatly disagrees with Krashen’s monitor hypothesis based on the fact that “I make grammar corrections all the time as I am speaking French.”

      Does B-I-L edit in his mind? I have a student with a mindset which is afraid to make a mistake. So he mentally edits everything he says before saying it. It usually comes out perfect. But the rest of us have to wait around while the Monitor-in-Chief monitors before the Speaker speaks. He is monitoring for agreement, subjunctive/indicative, preterit/imperfect, etc. It usually comes out perfect but it is low on the fluency scale.

      Does B-I-L edit audibly as he speaks? E.g. “Elle est parlée…er…elle a parlé.” I do things like that when I speak French because I have not acquired enough structure and I have to move in to what I have learned, but not yet acquired. What I have acquired flows out with no need to edit. The language I have “learned” I have to think about and if I start self-correcting I it starts to sound more like stuttering and less like fluency.

      When speaking Spanish (my major L2) there is less need/desire to correct, except for meaning.
      Maybe B-I-L is different, but when I focus on form I give less attention to meaning.

      When speaking English (my L1), I find myself much more free to self-correct, but with much less need to and the fluency is as high as my personality will allow. If B-I-L is really good (fluent) he may be able to do some self-correcting as he is about to consciously between two grammatical options. But I do not see how he can be doing too much of that if he is speaking fluently. I would suggest that the true test of fluency is how similar his French production is to his English production.

      1. This is very interesting, Nathaniel, your discussion here about fluency. I think that to be fluent in a foreign language means to be able to conduct business, or provide help to people in need, or in other impromptu situations under time-constraints. When we are having conversations with people in a foreign language, pausing to self-correct grammar in your head will cause you to lose your audience. We don’t want that. Self-correcting orally with your audience would be better. Skipping self-correction of grammar often is preferable so long as the message is comprehensible. I’ll have to consider this when the time comes to create a fluency summative assessment.

    2. “…since of course they are all self-taught grammar lovers and cannot understand that most people do not learn in the ways they do.”

      Hi Jen.

      My thinking, as a self-taught grammar lover, is that they must be doing something more than just loving grammar.

      They have got to be doing something more than just rote learning of paradigms. Are they getting their input orally and rehearsing it, thereby creating their own repetitions? Are they manipulating the grammar examples with previously learned vocabulary?

      Are they seeking out input? Are they reading? Are they googling? Are they listening to music? watching movies? are they communicating with native speakers?

      Are they as competent as they would like for you to think? How fluent are they? Are they truly communicative? Are they blank-fillers? Are they relying on stock phrases? Can they understand native speakers? Can they read (seeing the movie in their minds)? Can they narrate orally/written with ease?

      People in general and FL teachers in particular like to come across as knowing more than they do with language. I don’t think you need to be intimidated.

      And even if they are all 4%s, most of your students aren’t and that is what matters.

      And if they are 4%s in FL, there is a good chance that they are not 4%s in some other aspect of life.

      With regard to your upcoming life changes, take courage in your next step.

  2. I think that this work is in point of fact too challenging. Those who do it are saints, if you take a definition I once heard of a saint being someone who does what they don’t want to do and doesn’t do what they want to do.

    I think that in general the work we are trying to get done in our classrooms is too challenging in the buildings in which we are employed, reflecting what you said here jen:

    …actually “the task” really is not enormous. It is so simple and in the flow of real life. But it becomes bigger because of all the things you mentioned, how everything is dissected and disconnected….

    That is a very subtly comment and bears rereading. The task is no more complex than a mother speaking to a baby, how that happens, the beauty and natural process that happens there. But our students are no longer pure in that way that babies are, so I repeat that the task really is too challenging in the buildings in which we are employed.

    But once we learn about comprehension based instruction, how can we go back? We can’t. So it is a critical point you make, that since everything [in schools] is “dissected and disconnected” then the task we have is massive and imposing and we feel overwhelmed and conflicted every day and everything else. I don’t want to mince my words on that point. This is not a game for those who lack courage. The opposition is so great. We must be greater.

    And jen I firmly believe that this work is for all of society. It is that big a change and so whether you are in the classroom after January or not is not the point. We are all where we are supposed to be. I will be forever out of the classroom at the end of May, and my only contact at that point for me will be here with our PLC and when I find that I am no longer able to comment intelligently here I’ll wrap the blog up but I am certain the work will go on in other forms. New people will come up. Judging by some of the new voices here, I am certain that this work will slowly evolve over decades and help millions of kids in ways we cannot anticipate in these days of dark and dead classrooms. My prayer is that each young teacher who is taking the leap of faith into comprehension based instruction right now makes it over to the other edge without going into free fall. I guess it’s time to start running now, to build up enough speed for the winter months, to jump as far as we can, and to grow in this work, which is so fine.

  3. I am Chris. Although I’m not sure the word is retirement. Perhaps “running away as fast as I can” catches the meaning a bit more accurately. Or “recovery” – I need to go into some serious recovery from all those years of insanity. But with the word “tire” in retirement, it does fit the biking image. Can’t wait!

  4. Well what with all your mad TPRS skillz, I hope you keep running this blog, and coaching teachers, and presenting at conferences etc. Lots of of experience and knowledge that the rest of us are– and want to keep on– benefitting from.

    How am I going to buy you beernfbyou retire now? 😉

    1. I really don’t know how you’ve done it, Ben, that is, teaching and running this blog. That truly makes you a unique resource. I’ve only been up here for a few months and I’ve certainly experienced a turning of my soul in that time. Thanks!

  5. Thanks, Ben! My new inspiration poster to tape on my desk on Monday:

    What brings life to our classes? The same things that brings life to life! Consider:

    •Life without meaning is empty. Language learning without meaning is empty.
    •Life without interest is empty. Language learning without interest is empty.
    •Life that is not compelling is empty. Language learning that is not compelling is empty.
    •Life that does not teach repetitive lessons, which we need because life is complex, is empty. Language learning that does not contain repetition is also empty, because we need repetition to learn languages.
    •Life that hurries by is empty. Language classes that go too fast because the teacher has no self-discipline are, for our students, devoid of meaning.
    •Life that is not personalized, that is, about us, is boring. Language classes that are not about our students are boring to them.

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