One More ACTFL Blog Post from Bryce

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9 thoughts on “One More ACTFL Blog Post from Bryce”

  1. (I think that’s a ninja sound.)
    I was wondering if TPRS was going to be a component of the presentations. Maybe I will make my way to the next one. I’ll need a TPRS secret map though.

  2. If it were any other method, Bryce and those guys wouldn’t have to fly stealth. My question on this topic is “Why go to that expense when we should be putting our minds towards having more national TPRS conferences?

    1. I don’t like the expense part of it either. But the stealth part is important, because that’s where a bunch of people get the news that it’s possible to teach effectively and joyously, actually incorporating what we know about brains and language acquisition. If we don’t do the ACTFL thing, then we’re always preaching to the choir, even if there are some new faces each time.
      Here’s great stealth: our new Anchorage language methods prof is totally into CI and TPRS as one clear method for achieving it. She is one of the folks who wrote textbooks for Spanish and French using TPR back before TPRS. She mentioned to me that even then, she knew TPR was only a beginning. She says that the reason TPR and TPRS work is that they achieve long-term acquisition, not short-term learning. I gather that recently one of the language heads at our school district asked her to explain why she was requiring student teachers to learn about and practice TPRS, given that it’s an “untested” method. She retorted that it is the only method that has proved itself within the context of CI and the only one that helps teachers achieve the ACTFL guidelines. She has dropped the methods textbook and is instead asking her students to keep a binder of research. She was a little dismayed by how long it has been taking her student teachers to be able to apply the CI methods she’s helping them to learn, but I reminded her that most TPRS teachers like to have ongoing support and training because few of us acquired language in school in this manner. I suspect that there will soon be a generation of teachers for whom TPRS/CI is the instinctive method.
      I came away from our (chance) conversation yesterday at a book fair with my head whirling. She’s also running for school board. Can you imagine having a school board member who understands acquisition? Now that would be stealth!

  3. So is the ACTFL organization the good guy or the bad guy? They’ve given us the standards and Vision statement about 90%, which works in our favor. Yet, they shut out the TPRSers.

    1. Like most things in life, they are neither entirely the one nor the other.
      I admire those who participated in “stealth TPRS” at the conference, and I agree with Michele about its importance. While I doubt I’ll make it to Philadelphia (you never know, though), I plan to start doing more “stealth TCI” in the California organizations.
      Most of the organizations respond to what they perceive as the demands of their members when planning conferences. When more members start demanding TCI/TPRS training and workshops, they’ll start offering more. So, while as presenters we may need to be in stealth mode, as members of the organization we need to be vocal about wanting those workshops – and we need to encourage our TCI/TPRS colleagues to join and be vocal as well.
      It needs to be a multi-pronged attack done with grace and a smile.

      1. So well said. The fact was, no hyperbole here, that the “TPRS” presentations really were packed. These are not idiots who attend these conferences, and the gradual shift into proficiency based teaching has their attention, some in the same way that we were first drawn to it, others out of the desire to be employed in five years.
        This is it right here:
        …when more members start demanding TCI/TPRS training and workshops, they’ll start offering more….
        We are in the technology boom. It is a major source of income to the same corporations who built themselves on the backs of bored children by selling millions of books priced at $157 dollars each which now litter our book closets and which are about as tasty and as useful to our students, perhaps less.
        Those companies know a gold mine when they see it. This is their time. It is not the time of healing the distance. God bless their hearts. They want money. Really, when Bryce and I walked around the subterranean world of the Denver Convention Center and most rooms had something to do with how to get a machine to teach a child a language, we actually started laughing.
        We went to one room, laughed, dodged a Segway going by at 25 miles an hour through the caverns, went to another room, peeped in, saw a machine being touted, laughed again, and raced off to the next room like two schoolboys. I think we were laughing not to cry.
        However, and this is big however, one person, influential in Nebraska, stated one evening that many of the teachers in her area had chosen not to come this year to ACTFL, but had stated directly to her that if there were direct training on TPRS they would have come. This sentence stayed with me.
        You are right, Robert. But I think we are in that weird place right now where we are fighting to give birth to a child that doesn’t look ugly to others, as TPRS has unfortunately become. That is to say, as beautiful as Blaine’s child of stories was when it was born, over the next twenty years up until now it assumed a thousand ugly faces in the hands of people who bastardized it in their classrooms, causing people to flee in horror.
        Until people like Bryce stealthily step up, as you say, Robert, “with grace and a smile” (Bryce has both in spades), people will continue to see only the ugly version of Blaine’s child. They will see what they want to see and not the beautiful child that we know is living in our hearts. I choose Bryce as an example but it could also be Jason, Leslie, Diana, Carol and the rest of those who presented last week. They are all champions and it is right to congratulate them, as many in our group have here since the conference.
        Stealth Krashen is not easy to do, however. But we are going to have to do it. I was told by Joseph Dziedzic – one of the fifteen “most outstanding teachers” in Colorado last year according to the Jared Polis Foundation – and the equally gifted Mark Mallaney over two years ago in a very pointed conversation – read “drunken” – that they didn’t care what is was called, they wanted to learn about it. That is what I feel many of the ACTFL attendees wanted as well, as ways to teach better and/or save their jobs.
        They don’t care what it’s called, they just want to learn more about it. We must swallow our egos and get better at this by sending in more video of ourselves and using this site for the purpose it was created, to get better at whatever anyone wants to call this approach (nice segue, huh, and it appeared out of nowhere like the one that almost knocked Bryce and me over last week).
        Now, let’s get to work, feel the heat, feel the fear, go to work the next day anyway, fall down, get up, gradually get better at it in spite of our fears, have a few laughs, learn to see that being happy is not separate from the work we do, and bring this stuff to those who want it. It is our responsibility to children. What better life is there than to serve those who cannot protect themselves?

        1. By the way, read that last paragraph again. Now think of it as public domain, with anyone on the internet with varying levels of knowledge of what we do able to feely read it and interpret as they would. Any more doubts about the need to be private here?

  4. Chris I would say that we must respect the vision set out in 1983 when the push towards fluency instruction in ACTFL – on the level of theory only in those years, unfortunately – was picking up speed and direction, a direction started in 1963 at the Northeast Conference principally by Simon Belasco (this is just my own poking around in the past); see
    It was like a seed planted in 1963 that grew into a shoot in the ’80s with Krashen and now has shown some flowers (each one of us) in Blaine’s work.
    What happened, in my view, was that the ’80s and ’90s belonged to the book and the corporate interests that drove their sales. Each year, the ACTFL yearly meetings were pretty much corporate events as they are now. The difference was that there were no Bryce Hedstroms or Leslie Davisons presenting at those conferences ten years ago, or, if there were, nobody could hear them amidst all the opening and shutting of books.
    Over those years the corporations who had their hands all over ACTFL (and still do) probably never bothered to read the standards and the 90% use statement – why should they? Nobody else was, least alone the teachers who were firmly teaching from the book during those years. Much easier to say about Blaine when he showed up on the scene, “He’s a crackpot!” and just maintain the status quo.
    So, over the course of the ’90?s, the original 1963 statement of Belasco as researched by Krashen and others got ignored. Research by a gifted research professor in California was one thing, it was only research for twenty years. No Blaine.
    Then Blaine’s ideas gained a lot of speed when he figured out a way to make everything – ACTFL standards and Krashen – line up so that they worked in the classroom. That was in the mid to late ’90s, and is continuing on today.
    I think that Blaine did that research purposefully, by the way, but I may be wrong on that point. He certainly invented the formula for Coke in our profession, however, and should never be pushed aside by new competing forces in terms of where the mojo to make Krashen work came from – it came from him and Joe Neilson and Susan Gross and Jason Fritze, primarily, Again, this is just my opinion, one based on what I’ve heard over the years in going to conferences and all and meeting those people.
    It doesn’t matter. The cat was out of the bag when Krashen did his first research in the ’80?s. The die was cast and just waiting for people like us to infiltrate ACTFL as we are now, as per:
    Bryce sees our future with ACTFL in a positive way and is not critical of those who would prefer (ACTFL practice not theory) books and old business as usual in the classroom. He just says that we need to get more people presenting at ACTFL, and not under the name TPRS which is frighteningly polarizing because it threatens jobs and crushes egos and is therefore naturally pushed away by the old guard, bless their hearts.
    It will be a gradual change and TPRS will not be the banner under which the (imperceptible) change will actually go down over the next 50 years. The banner will probably be the banner of proficiency via comprehensible input, or something like that. People will warm to the change much faster if we all stop trying to push the term TPRS down people’s throats. That has been, through no fault of Blaine, but rather through just plain confusion, the reason for a lot of the dissension of recent years.
    As the old bookies die off and leave the profession, Krashen’s work will take on new meaning and power. Then things will speed up. We are in the early and very muddy stages of this. We get extra credit for trying to teach using Krashen’s ideas now in this time. I don’t care about the extra credit. My interest is in not wasting the time of people in false instruction, and also in avoiding making millions of kids feel stupid, if at all possible. That has been going on long enough in language education already.
    So, Chris, this is all my own opinion, of course. I could be way off and probably am on some of the details above. That, also, doesn’t matter. There is line from an old Dave Mason song that “there is no bad guy, there is no good guy, there’s only me and you and we just disagree”.
    I was going to say that the teachers who clinged and still cling to the book can’t be expected to give up their livelihood and everything they believe about teaching, even if it is for the four percenters only, and ACTFL can’t be blamed for doing what it’s constituents who comprise it do, not to mention the role of the corporate mindset in all of this. And the CI people can’t be faulted for being passionate about what we believe. I do draw the line on personal attacks and hence our privacy stance here. It will slowly shift. Nobody’s to blame.

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