Mental Health

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26 thoughts on “Mental Health”

  1. If I could tell my former self from last year—when I let an admin make me miserable—I would say, “Despite seeming like they’re all about progressive education, this person IS. NOT. IT. This person is in your room a few times a year. This person does not have YOUR wellbeing on their agenda. This person’s impression of you does not matter. It may hurt, but after your review, this person is back out of your classroom—where they belong. Acknowledge the pain, let it pass, and be happy when it’s over.” Admin is the worst. Wishing love and strength to this blogger! Lord knows we have been there! What YOU do that is best for your kids in YOUR room is the most important!

    1. So well said Meg. The thing is how we all to some extent have let these people have different levels of credence and power in our professional lives. Like you say, we don’t need to allow that. You speak truth to power. Judging admins are nothing. If they aren’t there to support us and help us realize our dreams in the classroom, then they don’t deserve to be in our schools. But what I hear you saying is that it is up to US to not give them that power. And that is hard for many of us who have been trained to think otherwise.

  2. Why not just compromise a bit and give them what they want when they are in your room? Consider it a break for yourself. Doing output activities or teaching grammar is SUPER easy for the teacher.
    You just gotta be smart about it. I wouldn’t even tell people you are NT, just say your targets are the sweet 16 verbs.

    1. Whenever I encountered an admin, I basically shut my mouth and let them tell me, after the observation, what to do. That was my basic policy with observations in general. It made them happy. That’s all many of them want, just to be recognized as important and smart. I would only explain my instruction in terms of the research and standards when and if I encountered an admin who was honestly interested in knowing how I aligned with them. Not too many were really interested, though. It’s just a power game. Such is the state of things in schools. Like, whoever invited Helena to AES this month was inviting someone from the past. But Dana had to go and act half way interested even though she should have been the one presenting bc she gets it (how people acquire languages) and Helena never did. Helena did get how to promote textbook programs, however. But her day is done.

      1. Ben, I’ve been really struggling with how to deal with this. Do I suck it up and write curriculum how Helena wants it – thematic units with lots of fake output tasks? Or do I continue to fight against it (alongside my head of department) because that’s what is right to do? I was so upset by the whole experience because she treated me like I was an idiot and the naughty child who was insisting on getting her way, even though she (meaning me) was wrong. I don’t know what to do. My mental health is important but so is standing up for what is right. The fact that Helena dismissesd Krashen (“he hasn’t changed anything in 45 years”) infuriated me. But I don’t know if it’s worth it. Sigh.

  3. What is Zach (I assume he is still department head) doing? He always played the game real well. When I ran into the high school machine it was ugly. It was the spring vertical articulation meeting with all three schools. I wrote about it here in March or April of 2016, just to process, because what I said about NTCI (I was in the middle of writing ANATS) was met with venom. Imagine getting hit by every teacher in the school except for Zach and even Linda Li bailed on me when confronted by the machine. (She didn’t disagree w me but didn’t support me either and all eyes were on me and I don’t speak well when I feel as if people are judging me.) It makes me think that the high school IB teachers invited Helena just to maybe quell the storm brewing in the middle school where kids are going to the high school full of love for stories and language learning and that is all squashed when they arrive in their 9th grade classes to learn “academic” language. Their thinking at the high school may be that here is this world famous “expert” and she is talking about thematic units and word lists and so those middle school teachers must just be weird. OK just ranting there – I’ll write what I would do in another comment field.

    1. I am sorry Helena did that to you. But that’s how bullies operate. Consider Blaine. He is the very last person on the planet to bully someone and yet his contribution to our profession vastly outpaces Curtain and Met. Never have I heard him bully anyone. For what it’s worth, something similar happened in Chicago between Curtain and Alisa. Can’t remember the details, but anyone attacking Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg is eventually going to lose – there are few teachers like her in the world, and Helena Curtain is not one of them. Do I remember this correctly, Alisa or am I mixing things up?

  4. So you asked me for my advice on this, Dana. I can only say what I would do. I am 100% certain that Curtain is hurtin’ others. And when people bully others in a profession. then the tendency is for others to want to prove them wrong. But Helena has been shilling for the textbook companies long enough to make me suspect that she and Met are receiving big remuneration from those powerful lobbies.
    And judging from my own conflict with Mimi Met (search bar will explain) Helena wouldn’t here a word you said to her anyway. Textbook teachers have been making her the expert since the 1970’s and I am sure that she believes it deeply by now and couldn’t hear anything you said to her or her representatives in the high school anyway.
    I say just ignore it on every level. Forget she even came to AES. She and Krashen are mutually exclusive. That is the source of her cutting him down: if he is right then she would be wrong and she has received far too much adoration over the years to accept any new facts in her system of language epistemology.
    And if I am right that the AES high school WL faculty brought her in as a kind of justification for what they do and protective reaction to what you and Linda and I and Zach did/are doing in the middle school, then let them (the high school faculty) have their way as well. Let them all do what they think is best and then you do what you think is best. (They won’t come after you bc you are so impressive and the kids are too happy doing Invisibles.)
    That’s what I would do. And if you still have those twice a year vertical meetings, just don’t say anything like I should have done. You can do that – there are only two per year.

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    First, Dana, I’d do the minimum of what you need to protect your livelihood. If they won’t fire you, then carry on. I would not switch but I would repackage if necessary – instead of a thematic unit based on XYZ, it’s based on a story, and the flesh-it-out parts are all the extensions – or you show the Star Sequence – and SAY it’s the EXACT SAME THING – cuz as Ben says, the admin Really Doesn’t Care. Test the edges of what you can do – and follow your heart and mind.
    Yes, Helena said on the phone that she was disappointed in me, even after I kissed the ring and told her that early in my career she inspired me and I stayed in the game…
    Here’s what I know abt her take on us from what she said to me:
    TPRS or T/CIers are like over-zealous converts who try to proselytize everyone else – and everyone else has the right to teach from their ‘eclectic toolkit’
    Authentic literature should be used even with young beginners-because it’s hi-quality (no regard for level/difficulty)
    Output is good for beginners and helps them learn (Dana says she claimed there was research on it – did anyone ask to see it?) games, tasks and functions – really into all that
    She (her materials – from what I remember) doesn’t get into ANY of the details about teacher-student interactions and how to actually, well, deliver the content.
    Like Ben says she has a legacy to protect – by agreeing to a seismic shift in pedagogy she’d be walking away from all that… (but it’s time!)
    She conveniently ignores the poor outcomes and student disinterest in the thematic classroom, (blames the teacher if they’re ‘not good enough’ or ‘not working hard enough’) and the incredible burden on the T to create thematic units, games, activities, dialogues, etc – a zillion moving parts to lose, store, tear – and don’t beget acquisition anyway…no I’m NOT TOO BITTER…
    She conveniently believes that we (T/CIers) are all about silly superficial whimsy with no substance… and that it’s a giant step down from hi-quality curric & instruction…Haughty…
    She doesn’t really listen with an open mind – it’s more abt defending her turf.
    In summary, don’t do it unless they force you to. In which case you survive til your next gig and move on. The stress and strife aren’t worth the wear n tear on your psyche. No way.

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Oh and she accuses us of divisiveness – says we have created a rift where we ought to all be advocating together. So anyone trying to improve their practice is a mutineer.
    Now I’m all riled up!

  7. Thanks for your input, Ben and Alisa. It was our director of Teaching and Learning who invited her last spring, then this fall and again some time in the future. I believe they are friends from way back, but I could be wrong. The HS teachers weren’t as against her as we were because they teach thematically anyway with a big emphasis on grammar and accuracy. However, all of the teachers in the HS have told us that their students are coming super prepared and they aren’t against us using NTCI.
    Ben, Zach and I are on the same page. We tried to write our curriculum to have it fit what we do but once we deviated from specifics, she got angry at us. “I thought we were past this. We got so far and now this again.” Zach was amazing. He kept asking tons of questions to try to get her to clarify, and that just confused her and made her think we were being defiant again. She came out and told me that what I documented last year was blank “there’s nothing there” (she later apologized after I nearly exploded saying that there are no themes).
    Alisa, she said all of that stuff with us too. She brought the three of us in one day pretending to hear what we had to say. Instead, it felt like she was trying to convince us to see the light. We call it the TPRS intervention. Lol
    She had the audacity to argue with us that all language teachers use comprehensible input and when I questioned her on that, she got upset with me.
    So, I think I’m hearing that we should play the game, do what they want and continue to do what I do. Zach is going to clarify with the powers that be and try to get straight answers about this curriculum documentation. Once we get that, we’ll move on. We did say that if we have to do it her way, we’ll make it very simple and basic. That way, we’ll make sure to cover everything by the end of the year. We’ll just take what we do with stories and break it down. But it’s just busy work.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yes, it’s just busy work. If we respond to the interests and conversations before us, then we can’t really pre-plan the way she’s asking. I would also question (if it’s safe?) whether limiting the documentation to her format jives with academic freedom.
    Also, if the kids are arriving at HS well prepared, why are we fixing something that ain’t broken? The powers that brought her in repeatedly, and the money spent (A LOT) – there will likely be resentment at that level that you guys aren’t ‘using’ the investment. So I wouldn’t be surprised if those authority figures clamp down on it. But once the busy work is copy/ pasted from someone else’s busy work, you are again unfettered to do your funky thang.
    Maybe tell us (or send a link to the template?) what kinda documentation they are insisting on, and I’ll bet the ‘group think’ here can find/help you create something that matches. Unless we can all pretend she was never there, and it never happened. Poof.

    1. I like the “poof’ idea. Helena has been at it for at least 40 years, dominating in this fashion younger teachers like Dana who hold the key but Helena doesn’t want to give up her old rusty one.
      Alisa you asked if it’s safe to make comments here. Let’s not worry about that. In fact, someone once told me that ACTFL monitors this site. I can’t remember any details but I have decided that if it is true (I don’t think it is) then what you say here is important:
      …I would also question (if it’s safe?) whether limiting the documentation to her format jives with academic freedom….
      We must support academic freedom. Somebody has to at least say it somewhere – ACTFL and Curtain run a business that promotes the textbook industry. They do not push for full alignment with the research.

  9. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    The Director of Teaching and Learning sounds like a clown who doesn’t know the first thing about what’s going on in the school, let alone SLA.

    1. They have their own office in the AES middle school basement. I always thought it was symbolic , bc they never got into the classrooms. I invited them every time I saw them. But they were too busy. They just officiated. It may be the same clown. Who cares? Dana may be moving on probably in 2020 to a new assignment on the international circuit. She’s tough as nails. She can make it till then. (I can’t imagine her staying in Delhi, since when you breathe it’s nice to have actual air there to help the process.)

      1. Different person than when you were here, Ben. I really like it here – my colleagues, the people of India, the culture. I’m sad that the school is moving away from what they used to be. But such is life. As long as they let me teach how I like.
        Alisa, good point about academic freedom – I’ll bring that up. Everyone agrees that the school doesn’t need to spend the money to bring her here for what they want us to do. If they want old-fashioned curriculum, fine. Give us release time and we’ll do it.
        Once they figure out if they’re going to make us use HC’s template or the one we already have, I’ll let you all know. Thanks!

  10. Alisa said:
    …if we respond to the interests and conversations before us, then we can’t really pre-plan the way she’s asking….
    That’s a really good sentence about our work with non-targeted input. It’s so heavily ironic that the very people who are in the building to help us teach better are the ones holding us back with their ill-informed requests for curriculum. Language instruction can’t be put into linear curricular order without the very element that Krashen’s RESEARCH has identified as critical – interest.
    I often wonder why Krashen gave his endorsement to TRPS. It was in Denver in 2009 and somebody in Denver Public Schools, probably Diana Noonan, has it on videotape. There were about 20 of us (TPRS teachers) there. Krashen told us that TPRS “comes the closest” to his research than any other way of teaching languages. We were ecstatic. We all thought that meant a full endorsement, but now I see it as otherwise.
    TPRS in 2009 was in my current opinion a far cry from aligning with Krashen’s research. And yet he has never come out and qualified that statement and so now people think of Krashen and TPRS as the same. It is not true. I do think that Krashen and Blaine Ray’s work are almost exactly aligned – I have an email to that effect from Blaine* – but what Blaine’s work has become now 25 years later has been schoolified.
    There are many articles on that topic in the archives here but they are probably hard to find bc of the scrolling out factor.
    *in 2016 in which I asked him if he ever really targeted and he replied, “I’ve never thought about it – I guess I don’t…”.

    1. Here is something else that Blaine wrote in 2017 that tells me that TPRS is not really what he had in mind, and that it morphed into something else under the influence of some very strong personalities:
      …I personally have felt that the three structures were not that important. The idea of three came from Asher in TPR in the ’70s . I taught a TPRS class one day for several hours. I started with three structures. A teacher watched me. After the class she said to me, “Blaine , you didn’t get to your three structures.” I remember that I told her that I didn’t care about that. I am certainly more concerned about teaching students rather than a curriculum. I have a bias towards high frequency verbs but a greater bias to making my class story interesting….

  11. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    You’ve been in the game longer than most, Ben, but I’ve seen Dr. K prolly at a dozen confs over the past few years. Doing the keynote, and in learning sessions – visiting classrooms, watching demos (he loves Mandarin), in small, less formal talks about specific topics or papers and in brief side convos (he’s interested in Hebrew).
    All that to say that Dr. K isn’t a classroom teacher, and brilliant as he and his immense contributions are, and the student-centered revolution that he caused in our profession notwithstanding, he may not have a sense of the day-to-day classroom. The contrived, maudlin and robotic at the TPRS worst (at least for me) – when the kids are just not feelin’ it.
    He prolly only sees the playful, pleasurable divas teaching eager language teacher/students; a very stacked audience for sure. Plus don’t forget where he’s coming from – the depths of really bad factory model Audio-lingual of the 50’s…
    So I can definitely comprehend why he saw TPRS as the best innovation yet – cuz it’s systematized and there are materials, conferences, workshops… It appears to be eminently do-able…and aligns with his major emphasis on lots of input (not grammar or output) and low filter/anxiety.
    Also – don’t forget his recent foray. This fall he was on the circuit doing Story Listening workshops with Dr. Mason (a bunch of us went to the workshop at Greg’s school). SL as they present it doesn’t incorporate or emphasize the pillars of TPRS – no big focus on any of the interaction skills, (though when I do SL with lil kids or with novice Hebrew, I tend to incorporate lots of those foundational skills I learned as a newbie to TPRS.) I think he and Dr. Mason see it as an even bigger contribution because the low training low cost model can positively affect students in poor settings – ‘all the teacher needs is a storybook…’
    Am I wrong to characterize Dr. K’s work and thinking as mostly about rationale and SLA? (…though he did co-author ‘The Natural Approach’).
    Do my arguments defending Dr. K’s support of TPRS sway anyone? I don’t think he sweats the targeting/non targeting issue w/TPRS cuz to him it looks compelling and relaxed. Maybe he attributes targeting as part n parcel to institutional learning.

    1. Alisa you said that (at the conferences TPRS) “appears to be eminently do-able”. This is a great way to say it – it appears to be doable. After a full 15 years of trying, I could never make it work for me, even though I wrote books about it. It’s not that doable but I take your point that Krashen would think it so.

    2. …maybe he attributes targeting as part ‘n parcel to institutional learning….
      I don’t think so. I think (targeted) TPRS was all there was to him until Dr. Mason got through to him about SL in the 2015-2016 time frame. This is hugely political and involves personal animosities. It’s amazing how that stuff happens. I’ll tell you about it when we see each other. Sorry you’ll be in NYC in a few weeks while I’m in Chicago but remind me to explain what I think happened with NT/SL. And just for the record, in 2016 I asked Dr. Mason what she thought a good ratio of NT/Invisibles to SL would be, suggesting 50/50 and she said 80/20. That was right after Krsahen had read ANATS and said it was “important” and “clever”. But then stuff happened and now he and others are more on the SL train. I strongly support SL, but when a system of teaching (NTCI) now exists that far more fully supports/aligns with Krashen’s research, why push SL so hard when Mason herself said that it should only be used 20% of the time. A factor at play here is cultural. In American classrooms, where students are so much harder to involve than Japanese college students (Mason’s students), we cannot just do SL. We have to offer more.

  12. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    The other important detail about story listening that we have to keep in mind is that Dr. Mason’s students are not novice level K -12. They are university students with hundreds of hours of English under their belts and lots of free voluntary reading, too. Some of us chose to leave the Workshop early because we felt it was absolutely not applicable, though we did get some guidance from it. These are not necessarily focus with tons of experience day after day month after month year after year in the American public school setting. It’s significant and it shows.

  13. I agree with what you say about Dr. Mason’s work. If TPRS is ineffective and if SL isn’t much more than a smallish part of the answer, what else is there besides aligning w the research and embracing NTCI? I know I am biased, so I am not the one to say.

  14. It’s probably that each of us at our different levels with so many different factors at play have to decide on how much SL to use. For example, in one of the urban DPS schools I taught in, the pressure of just getting to school was so great that listening to a story in another language just seemed to be so much for them – it was all many of them could do to get their dear hearts into the building. In that case, I brought them in with stories. In more high achieving schools, we might be able to use it more. I know that Kathrin Shechtman in Germany has videotaped her younger kids just eating SL up with a spoon. What I saw on the video was better than anything I could imagine. It’s certainly an area that we should support more exploration in. And it’s so easy to do!
    I’ll find the link and post it as an article here this morning.

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