Intellectually Impaired

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16 thoughts on “Intellectually Impaired”

  1. Dear Ian,
    THIS is the reason we use TPRS. What an incredibly beautiful example of how the human mind, heart and spirit can soar if, as teachers, we honor them. I will keep Bella’s image with me as I return to school after this break. (It’s clear that her name is no coincidence!!) Thank you so much for sharing this. Her story will bless so many teachers and their students.
    with love,

  2. PS….Ben, if Ian is willing, you should share this on the moretprs list. It could inspire so many more people..
    with love,

  3. This is awesome to hear. No need to write off students from acquiring Chinese. I hope that these kinds of results will draw attention to the effectiveness of CI for all languages — it’s such a showcase example of how CI works because you just can’t fake being able to read Chinese.
    Welcome, Ian and Caitlin! Glad to have some more Chinese teachers here. I am one, too.

    1. Wow, Judy! Nice find! That article provides so many insights. If I started quoting everything I liked from the article, I’d end up with another article! I encourage people to set aside the time to read this. I think I’m going to spam all the teachers from my school with it. And read the comments at the end of the article. There’s some gems there as well. Example:
      “A huge part of the problem is that people trying to research whether alternative education approaches “work” continue to evaluate them according to the metrics of the mainstream system, and most people who choose alternative forms of learning do so exactly because they do not accept those metrics.”
      – Sound familiar? This is like attempts to validate TPRS/TCI with mainstream assessments. What we need are new ways of evaluation to research alternative approaches.

    2. Thank you for sharing this very compelling article. It is helping remind me not to become too mechanistic as I am thinking more about how to help others teach Chinese, and the need to transform our thinking from testing and data to process.
      It also adds more reasons why I want to keep on giving kids time and input in class, and to ask for output only in ways they are in control of what they do.

      1. …ask for output only in ways they are in control of what they do….
        I like the way you said that. And in the first three years or more, as with infants and toddlers, that is not a lot of output. Just a fraction. I’m not going all output on y’all here.
        And that leads to the next question. Do we ask for output or do we let it emerge whenever it wants to?

    3. Since we’re pulling quotes from Judy’s article above, here’s another good one:
      “So in school we urge our children to strive to be better than their friends and we praise them publicly if they succeed, where many other societies would consider this to be extremely bad manners.”
      …which highlights for me how every word choice we utter to out students serves to create our own classroom culture.
      Here’s another one that follows Ben’s talk about the unconscious activity at night before bed:
      Science is rediscovering that memories are consolidated at night, despite the previous generation’s “data” which “proved” that children learn best in the morning. Children often listen better at night, they ask deeper questions at night, they imagine more vividly at night. In the brightness of day the mind turns outward to the world, a child often wants to be moving and active and socially interacting, and the things you are told in the morning may ping off all this buzzing activity like a moth pings off a moving fan. The things you are told at night are carried inward, they enter your dreams, they effortlessly become part of you.
      …if “things you are told at night are carried inward,” perhaps it would be best to have our students listen, before going to bed, to a recording of the story or narrative discussed or read in class that day. Yet, if I’m reading closely, the author is saying that it is not just the “things you are told at night” but the memories we relive in our minds that are carried inward. So, our homework could be to have our students listen to a recording before going to bed or simply remember what happened in class, including the language learned that day. I’ve been meaning to get my voice recordings of the stories up online for my students, like Eric says he does.
      I am a bit critical of the author, Carol Black’s, take on school-based reading instruction, though. I think there is tremendous value in teaching phonics and other reading preparation instruction, especially for many students with learning disabilities. I don’t think that C. Black has much experience with students with true learning disabilities. Nonetheless, the point is clearly heard on the pitfalls in pressuring students to read as well as pressuring students to perform on these standardized tests.

      1. Anyone can learn a language if we just get enough reps with focus on meaning. No one is intellectually impaired. They’re not. Those who are intellectually strong just want us to think that way, and it may be true in physics but it’s not true in languages. It makes me sad to think of how many kids who are now adults misread what they can do with another language. Now things are different, though. I place my hope in what is new in our field about how it’s all about the unconscious mind. Let’s get to work.

        1. The article Judy shared just about completely described my only student who had Fs my class two different semesters. He has fine ability in English – spoken, not written. He could cheer up anyone and loved making people smile (sometimes at my expense). He couldn’t sit still or stop making noise most of the time, and he probably got 20% of what was happening in class when he needed 120%. I think he is a perfect case of being pressed into school before he, individually, could benefit from that kind of setting, if he ever would thrive in that kind of structure.

  4. Very touching story Ian.
    I reiterate what everyone else here has already written and agree withe Laurie, Diane and Judy.
    TPRS is not the intrinsic reason for this miracle. TPRS is the vehicle which allows the teacher and students to interact in a safe and human way with one another, allowing this to happen.
    I shared this story last year already. I have a student who has a case of self-mutism. He has not spoken since he was in kindergarten. After a few months of being in my class last year he spoke to me (just a couple of sentences). I attributed it to this way of teaching. He still does not speak in any of his other classes, and undergoes major therapies and he rarely speaks but once in a while he says a word or two when he is alone with me.
    These stories and others are a testimony that we are making a difference. CI is the vehicle that allows us to make these little miracles occur.
    Thanks for sharing your story Ian!

  5. “Watch your child’s eyes, what makes them go dull and dead, what makes them brighten, quicken, glow with light. That is where learning lies.”
    One of the multitude of gems in the article. I pasted this here because of the obvious connection to our process.

  6. What an inspiring story, Ian. And beautifully retold. I’ll be meditating on this loving relationship between Caitlin and Bella for some time. As Sabrina said, TPRS is the vehicle in which we may share love and language with our students.
    This story would be a good premise for a big-screen movie script: teacher challenges status quo to touch the lives of students lost in the system… teacher demonstrates love and compassion in non-traditional techniques… teacher turns the soul of an intellectually impaired student… student develops language skills that opens doors for life after school.
    Anyone know a Hollywood producer?

  7. Let’s keep this idea of a film in mind. It is possible. Anything that reveals what is possible in life, in the face of major obstacles, is good material for a film and I honestly see no reason why such a film could not be made. It needs to be made. All we need to do is find the interest. All we need to do is locate one person.
    It could be about Bella or about Sabrina’s student. It could be made in Sean’s classroom, or in Brian’s in Detroit, because Sean and Brian are doing this same work of building links through kindess with their kids, even though it can’t be seen. Nothing really great can be seen.
    I would add one point. Sabrina’ teaching is infused with kindness for her students. She gives it to them like food. Sean is kind. Laurie is kind. Elissa is kind. Kindness doesn’t just happen, not in our classrooms. We must be kind if we are to teach this way. Some of these students have never seen kindness before.
    When I decided I didn’t like the format at iFLT, having been through it three times where we have to show the magic of the approach in one day with kids we never met (I couldn’t do it), I turned to Sabrina to teach those classes and I just focused on the war rooms.
    I talked with her right after the first session last summer and she was upset because she felt such distance with her new kids. Then I checked with her after class the next day. The bonds had been made! In two days, under five hours. (We will get that Denver 2014 video soon and I will post it here.)
    The point is that when we talk about making a movie of actually reaching kids in the real way, we realize the potential of the method but also we must realize the potential in ourselves to teach like Sabrina, with open heart.
    We cannot go in with TPRS and think that the method will carry us. We also have to do the heart work of feeling the vulnerability (what is more scary than trying to teach a bunch of kids a foreign language?) and opening up our hearts in kindness.
    This is Laurie’s song to us – it is the main song she sings – and I have been listening. Each year, each month, each day, each minute in class, our minds have to be honed sharply to the method but our hearts have to be honed to the giving of love. How to do that? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
    No wonder TPRS is done by so few! It’s so much easier to stay in our minds. But that’s not where the fun is, and TPRS cannot work if we stay only in our minds.
    Look at this for an example of what I mean. Watch and learn. But you have to watch with your heart, not your eyes. This is Taft High School in Chicago:

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