Life in a School Building – 2

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



17 thoughts on “Life in a School Building – 2”

  1. Hey as a union rep, I just wanted to say, if an admin asks you for a meeting, BRING A UNION REP WITH YOU AND WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Make sure ALL emails around the conversation are also saved. Our new guy likes pulling shit like this– “oh I just wanted to discuss ___ but while we’re here…”– and when he does this (for me or other staff members) I say “we’d be happy to discuss this at another time.” This often works because admins are busy.
    Another useful trick (if you have a collective agreement that probibits the admin from doing”disciplinary” stuff in your planning time) is to say “gosh, Bob, what with [crap like standardised assessment prep], I can only meet Friday at 4:30 ????

  2. You have to be very circumspect, and until you have a contract, anything is possible. Last night a friend told me about a French teacher at his school. The teacher has done an excellent job of preparing French students and has an excellent rapport with students. But … he is in his second year and does not yet have a contract and has been a vocal union supporter. For a year-and-half he has received nothing but stellar reviews. Then, an incident occurred on campus (I think it was a death of someone not directly related to the school or else a media threat against the school), and students and teachers were given the option of staying home following the incident. The French teacher decided to do so (as did my friend and another of others) and sent lesson plans just in case any of his students showed up. 20 minutes of the lesson were devoted to allowing students to talk about the incident and process their emotions. The principal wrote up the lesson plans as utterly insufficient and informed the teacher that he will not receive a contract and will not be returning next year.
    At the next school board meeting, many students and parents showed up in support of the teacher and asked the board to re-instate him. The board went into a closed session and voted to uphold the principal’s decision.
    Had the teacher been a permanent employee, he could have had union representation and due process, but under California law, a district can fire an employee for any or no reason during the first couple of years of employment, so there is little or no recourse when a new teacher has been targeted.
    My union encourages teachers to do what Chris is recommending: do not talk to administrators about anything dealing with job performance, duties, etc. unless a union rep is there. Administrators generally dislike the accountability piece when it is directed at them, so I also suggest writing everything down. But take it a step further. After the meeting write it up and send a copy of it to the administrator, union rep, and anyone else who ought to see it. On the cover sheet, state that these are the notes you took, and they will be considered an accurate record of the meeting unless the administrator or other participant notifies you in writing within five days of receipt of the notes. Then check with everyone to be certain that they received the e-mail. (BTW, this is not a bad procedure for sensitive meetings in general, including meetings with parents. It helps prevent people from backtracking on their statements at a later date when all you have is “he said/she said” and faulty memory to go on. By allowing the other participants to see your narrative of the event and placing the burden of dissent on them, you create a definitive record of what was said and done.)

  3. Wow…school leaders seem to be so out of touch nowadays. If you have good leaders in your school thank your lucky stars.
    I asked my principal about sections for next year and after a brief answer she wants to meet with me and have answers to the following information. I am not a department chair…I am a PLC leader… This no doubt comes form my department chair having a fundamental lack of understanding TCI.
    Teachers are very much in a strange place in School Buildings. For fun I am going to over answer everyone of her “concerns.” HANG IN THERE EVERYONE…you aren’t alone!
    Here they are…
    1-Preparation for our students for the upper division spanish classes.
    2-PLC being on the same page regarding scope and sequence, assignments, common formative and summative assessments.
    3-Functioning and collaboration of the PLC in regards to planning, reviewing and analyzing student data as a PLC team in order to determine improvements in teaching and learning. This includes items such as instructional strategies, immediate intervention for struggling and or failing students, assignments and assessments.
    4-Alignment of curriculum to prepare for upper division courses

  4. Michael the upper level teachers need the lower levels to be grammar based if they are to continue with what they have been doing. When CI is used at the lower levels it can undermine what they do. Do I have that right?

  5. Ben,
    I think that is how my grammarian colleagues sometimes feel. (That the CI kids aren’t ready). More and more I see that there is a resentment by the upper level teachers because TPRS students are disappointed with the results of learning.
    Students from 2 and 3 years ago are my best representatives.
    I started making the changes from the bottom up. More lower level teachers and students enjoy using stories and novels and this has forced year 3, 4, and 5 to “get in line.” I secretly love it! Even though I am challenged, I see the slow changes and am pleased.
    This new principal is asking me the questions that should be answered by the department chair. When I sit down to yet another meeting of this type even more resentment will be created because I know those concerns come from a D-head that does not know how to teach for acquisition. She teaches year 4 and 5 and mostly in L1 I might add.
    I look forward to politely sharing years of work in response to those concerns. It is with a light-heart that I do so because I think I am headed to a school that appreciates CI and TPRS. 🙂

    1. And don’t forget that if you teach for acquisition, that is, with love, in the lower levels, then there will be many more students wanting to take the upper levels; the upper level teachers are then forced to deal with… how can I say this?… a more diverse clientele.

  6. My colleague A– kicks major ass with TPRS– they had to add another Spanish teacher and French shrunk– but the upper levels teachers won’t change and still badmouth her (despite a formal grievance filed against dept head (about gossip, which is forbiddenby BCTF ethics) and won by A—. However their admins all get it now. But it takes a LOOOOONG time and some folk will not change. Sigh.

  7. I went in for what I expected were lessons on how to lessons.
    First, I was questioned about the Interpersonal Communication Skills. Everyone else in the dept calls it participation. Apparently, I had gone beyond the pale once again. I handed her a copy of the rubric I have been using. It seemed that a rubric was unexpected. Thought I was more subjective than that. Did not like the part about the eyes…too subjective. I pointed out that it is very objective. I look at the students. They are either looking or not looking. If they are not I try to get their attention. If they respond they were momentarily out to lunch, but they are back now, and we move on. Perhaps people who have taught and functioned outside of the interpersonal mode do not understand that the IM is the central venue for either language acquisition or human connection.
    Second, she said that she was going to provide common planning time before April break so that Sp 1 teachers (first) and Sp 2 teachers (next) could sit down and work out a curriculum map and common exams (Mid Year, Final, and Unit exams). (This is a response to my protest that we always have too many paperwork projects to do and so we have never had time to work things out. She had threatened to bring the dept coordinator down…testing me to see if I backed down…I was willing for that, because what I said was true.)
    I showed her the work that I had been doing (which represented scores of hours), correlating the 200 High Frequency Word list with the En español 1 textbook, and suggested this might direct our efforts at working together. This is my biggest concern. If we can define the scope narrowly enough and the sequence long enough, I think that we can “work together.”
    She said that she wants us to use a variety of methods, that TPRS is certainly one method, but it is not only methods. I consented to that. I am not sure what those other methods are exactly (they may be forthcoming but, as long as they sound like TPRS, it probably won’t matter what they are). Shortly after, I read on the Wellesley Public Schools website that their beginning classes use “methods as TPRS, pictures, basic synonyms, and the like” and “writing [English] on the board…to facilitate and insure proper understanding of what is being said…in the target language.” And we have discussed a variety of methods here, most recently vPQA, which should count for technology in the classroom box, and Sabrina & Colleague’s interview idea. And there are so many things that we could call methods that are just techniques incorporated into TPRS that this is easy to join in and put my whole weight behind it.
    It is funny how people have preformed ideas. “You cannot teach using only TPRS.” That is intended as a threat. It is actually the story of my career. Probably only Blaine can teach using only TPRS, especially if we are limiting TPRS to Step 2 (which is person who has 0 – 1 workshops under their belt). I felt like I was being threatened that I could not stay under water for more than 37 hours, or that I was not allowed to fight Chuck Norris for more than 1 minute, or eat 307 cheeseburgers today.
    She also said that we need to be lined up with ACTFL and the MASS Framework. My mind darted to things like ACTFL’s old way vs new way list, the interpersonal mode, the big C (communication) which is the ground and means for all other Cs, the 90%+, etc. I got the impression that this was supposed to make me feel like I was being pinned against a wall all the while knowing what lies on the other side of a crumbling wall. Was I being told that was going to have to toe the line with the very things that create the justification for where I have been trying to go? There must be a more sinister way of reading these documents. This is too good to be true. But Laurie spoke in our district, and I never expected that.
    So it was not what I expected. And it may have a positive outcome.

  8. I was smiling as I read it thinking that it was so nice that she is asking for all of the things we have been asking for folks to do. :o) Although, like you, I’m not so sure that she knows what she is asking for!!! :o) That will certainly become more clear in time.
    You have such integrity Nathaniel and such passion.
    with love,

    1. On top of that, Laurie, the talk is of moving from En español to the slightly more cleaned up version, Avancemos. Both of them have a TPRS supplement written by real TPRS practitioners (Jason Fritze for En español and Piedad Guitierrez for Avancemos). The problem is that it is all a little to canned, being constrained by X number of vocab items in Y amount of time. But if I have to go that route, it might be the leverage needed to get Jason connected and for me to get connected with Jason.
      What do you guys think?

  9. Nathaniel it doesn’t feel good to me that you are having to spend so much time relating frequency lists to a textbook. The textbook has no value so you are wasting so much time. This whole thing is something you should not have to go through. I mean, like Michael, if you are willing to take the head shots from those people, it is a good thing in general, but what about the toll on you? Do you really need to talk to these people? They are drunk. They really are drunk. As I read carefully what you describe above, it’s just loony tunes coming from them.

    1. With the frequency lists maybe it was a waste of time. I do feel that I have a better grasp on the situation. I wanted to be able to propose a something that we could agree on–to make fewer low frequency words tested items, to make all of the high frequency words tested items. I had to take the time to work through the details so it was clearer in my own mind. I think it put me on firmer ground for “writing a curriculum map.” I wanted to have some control of the curriculum map rather than it having a shackles on me.

  10. Nathaniel,
    Our school also uses En Español…I am not a fan. I will send you next week a copy of a scope and sequence designed to allow for both paths of teaching. It might be a piece of crap but it allows for teachers to have bit of profession independence.

    1. Please send it Michael. It may save me some time.
      Part of the problem we have is that been where some people still are. We cannot really work together to create a useful tool because they do not understand where I am (the thing about the drunk). Also, I never really was where they are. That English thing for example–I was a little behind the pack because I always insisted on starting off with useful expressions. During my first year, I really stepped outside the box, out of the verb paradigm box that is. I actually flipped the paradigm. I put the plurals on top and the singulars on the bottom. It made sense to me: avoid the silly boot verb explanation and non-native stress patterns. But the order of the paradigm was sacrosanct. All I wanted to do was flip the paradigm and now the clarion call is to flip the entire classroom.
      So I hope S&S doesn’t call for flipping of paradigms or some outrageous thing like that. But, even so, it may be just what I need in this situation.

  11. Ultimately in my own CI world there is no Scope and Sequence. There’s just a huge trainload of verb forms that we need to get gazillions of reps on in as many forms and tenses as we can. If that’s too weird for traditionalists, so be it. But I don’t let any kind of curriculum plan/format concern me. I know what I have to do. Use the language in a million varied and interesting ways every minute I possibly can in class. That’s my plan.

    1. And Ben, that’s exactly how it should be.
      What are the most USEFUL words to help kids to communicate that give us the greatest return?
      – high frequency and personalized content
      How many of these words can be mastered in 1 year of FL?
      – 500-1000 in reading, much less in speaking
      Doesn’t immersion and bilingual schooling “teach” kids a second language?
      -Yes. And they do NOT have a textbook scope & sequence.
      We know there are tons and tons of studies of the positive gains, superior gains, made from extensive reading (free voluntary reading). What kids do in such programs is read lots of graded readers, “simplified” texts recommended to be below their level. Do these books follow a textbook scope & sequence? – NO!
      Graded readers are based on word frequency and control the number of words in a level. Sound familiar? – Yes! What we are doing in a TPRS classroom is providing “extensive listening.”

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

Stendra Super Force generico all’ingrosso

Stendra Super Force generico all’ingrosso Valutazione 4.6 sulla base di 352 voti. Nome del prodotto: Stendra Super Force Categoria: Disfunzione Erettile Nome commerciale: Extra Super

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben