The Pool Is Deep

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9 thoughts on “The Pool Is Deep”

  1. Building trust is so important, and so precarious! Ben says that I helped tip him back toward the practice of trust building in the classroom, and I can tell you that about half a dozen times this past year, with individual and specific students, my own trust in “trust” was so challenged that I considered abandoning the ship called trust. Such is the nature of human beings who work to build trust, and yet, I am convinced that it is our best calling. I also confess that I have flipped on both sides of that fence multiple times.

    My best lesson, the one I keep learning, is that the students who challenge me the most are the ones who will be my teacher. This past year, there were three. They pushed all my buttons at various times, and they each called me to consider what I was holding out for that they could not provide to keep me comfortable. Damn them all, I often felt. And then, I’d go back to consider how to work with them differently. By the end of the year, they each responded to that reconsideration on my part. They each came around. They each began to show up and smile and reach out and . . . wow, trust me!

    I am fairly convinced that I am in this life to learn this lesson, and I have the blessing of such students each year to keep re-teaching me. Why? Because it takes multiple repetitions to learn the lessons of deep communication.

    I am SO grateful for this place that Ben has set up for us to keep learning from each other.

    1. I think that, for me, those kids that drive me nuts are the ones who are reminding me to let them have more say in the process. I come across as more of an authority figure than I need to now that I have CI. You can imagine the degree of control I had to develop over my students in a grammar based system for the quarter century before hearing about TPRS/CI. So now, since the method has so much to do with my letting go of control and trusting and creating a situation in the room where the kids feel in control even if they are not, I see those difficult kids now as just wanting to express themselves more. It is such a fine line to keep in complete control and create that feeling in those tough kids. But you are right on with that thought, Bob, they really are our best teachers.

  2. I, too, am so grateful for this place.

    I am hoping this coming year brings me grace and understanding. There was one little…tough fellow who challenged me most and should have been my teacher. I knew that there must be something in this tough fellow which I recognized in myself and hated about myself and thus projected onto him. But try as I might to have that open heart…I still wanted to strangle him. His ear, mind, and heart were on safari for most of the year. He had a twin sister in the class and there was all kinds of dumb inbreeding, as it were, of more than a handful of the kids and how they knew each other through the local big German Club. Definitely a blessing, the German Club, but ridden with many curses for actually enjoying each other in the classroom. None of the kids from the German Club really flourished under CI. [Two of the 4%ers from the club began to because they were more gentle souls than not, and because I told them that it was my way or the highway as far as their grades.]

    I am being a tad bit facetious but just a tad. I really tried hard. And I am confident that *many* of my struggles with this tough soul would have been less, if not moot, by beginning the year full-throttle CI and holding the kids accountable without exception.

    The struggles with this kid were really my fault. If I had to use the full-force of each and every one of those parents who’ve been members of the German club since their sandbox-days to get those kids to conform to the notion that the whole class is a playground of mutual respect where we working *IN GERMAN*, than I should have. I think I would have been able to trust the kid then. Or: I think I would have built enough trust with the rest of the kids from this German Club, and with their parents, that it would have been much easier to control and isolate and hopefully ameliorate this kids behavior.

    I hope my heart will be in a better place next year. I do think the image of that clear and uncluttered workspace — if I can embody that next year — will help me get there.

  3. Big time comments Andrew, and thank you so much for the honesty. Now we are reminded again of why this is not a public forum. I hear two things most especially here:

    1. That class be done only in the TL as you say *IN GERMAN*. This is so close to the core of this topic, because it reveals the need to quell unnecessary comments from wiseacres, which you seem to have your share of, at least.

    2. How simplicity can be a deciding factor in our being able to finally find that equibalance between authority with trust, as per the posts under that category here. This is indeed a fine insight. By suggesting that simplicity and lack of clutter can make the difference in our success or failure in the fall is a stroke of genius. We can’t be ourselves, fully relaxed and yet in full control of the class, without this simplicity.

    Thank you Andrew.

  4. Many, many years ago, when I began teaching, all I had in my toolkit was Peace Corps training, which was a lot about memorizing dialogs and doing drills in those days. When I began teaching in France, I realized that the students were not going to stand for the same methods, and I began reading a lot books about how to teach. All I can remember from those books is a study that claimed that it didn’t matter what method the teacher used. According to research the only variable that had any effect on the students’ results was …. how much the students trusted the teacher.

  5. We each have students who push our buttons. They push us to question whether we can take it. But rather than see them as the enemy, it is good if we look at the actual button we are wearing on our sleeve. What is it? and Why are we wearing it?

    Those button pushers offer us a chance to gain control over ourselves. To really examine what is going on with us. And if we are honest with ourselves we can begin to address and heal the button (which is usually just hiding a fear we have in the first place). Once we’ve addressed our own fear, we usually get clarity as to how to approach the student.

    This year I had a kindergarten student I was ready to kick out of my program. That has never happened to me before. I usually give them a year or two of driving me batty. But as a whole the class entering 2011-12 was a tough bunch of individuals with no empathy for each other as a community.

    But what this kid was requesting with all his drama was for structure. He needed himself a little checklist that clearly spelled out my rules for engagement. The first few weeks of the list were awful. Then it clicked for him and myself. Every day we had a sit down as we checked through his list. The most important goal he was striving for was to take responsibility for his oopses. He had to own his behavior. In 6 weeks he had. And in the process he made friends. More importantly he built trust with other kids who by March had come around to understanding community and helping one another succeed.

    Now he isn’t in high school. He is six. But, he is working on his stuff. And what was it I was working on? My issue was being too busy and distracted. I needed to take time daily to help this kid. 5 minutes each morning and night to help him be accountable. To explain what went wrong when he attempted to do something but didn’t make a good choice in his method. I needed to LISTEN to his goals and help him look at what options were also available. If I had only done that in Nov. but I was way too busy. So we all suffered along for months until his drama was so BIG it couldn’t be passed off anymore.

    How often do we forget to let our heart listen? Have you ever noticed that some peoples’ ears are shaped like hearts? Really. Look at the ear holes that direct sound down the canal. When I let my EGO/mind be in control rather than my intuitive HEART, I am doomed.

    Trust is the key to building the safety to learn. And trust must be earned on a two way street.

  6. Steven Ordiano

    Kate, I hear what you are saying. I had a tough kid who had to work on individual goals. It was the negative attention that he wanted soo badly. This was despite most of the class being behaved or quiet. He would make outlandish comments referencing sports, other students clothes, etc… In old school fashion, he should have been kicked out. But I kept talking to him. He was consciously aware that he had to change but subconsciously he kept making these comments.

    I asked for support from a social-emotional counselor. We worked together to have him focus in class. Though he still needed help in class listening, he needed someone to listen to him. He thanked me and apologized at the end of the year. He asked me to sign his year book.

  7. So on top of everything else Steve we learn in this field early on that a big part of our job description is re-parenting kids who never had a model. Good for you dude. That’s the way to make your class work. Be proactive with those kids. We can’t hope that some kid will come around. We make them come around by our action on their behalf, our rule setting, our direct involvement. When a kid is too loud or too absent with the hoodie up, we need but remember that we have the power (stories) to involve them and insist on it. I am certain that not one storytelling class should ever allow one loudmouth or one kid’s head down. We can and we will do this. We will insist on proper decorum in our classrooms. It’s all about that first month again. If we don’t do it then, we lose the game. The best Starting the Year activity to get those kids involved right away? Word Chunk Team Game.

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