In a recent communication with a parent there was, in the signature of her email, this quote by Paul Shepard:
“…I move toward a feeling that we can make enormous changes, but that they’re not going to be made through change in ideology, or policies or programs. They’re going to be made in the way we rear our children….”
I keep reading this quote. I think that it holds my entire relationship with my job in it. I alluded to this recently in terms of the OPI thing, where there are experts everywhere, measuring and branding kids, when all kids need, really, is to be encouraged that they can do things, to be in classrooms that have real smiles in them, lots of them and not fake ones either. We need to expand on the fun piece.
The kids need to just have fun and feel that they are o.k. just the way they are and that they are good enough at French. The kids need to know that they won’t be compared to others all of the time, or to some set of ever changing diagnostic instruments.
We get the kids to know these things when we use methods based on comprehensible input. At the end of the day and after all the spite-filled conversations are over, it is methods based on comprehensible input that allow kids to feel good about themselves in the foreign language classroom. Methods that focus more on content and less on kids fail to get this done.
Kids need to sense when they walk into a classroom that people are happy to see them, and that that happiness is not contingent on how smart they are at the mechanics of French. Then, with that base set, they can actaully really set out to learn the language because they want to, because each day they know that will have positive and fun experiences in their language class.
This is my point, and the reason this blog exists, ultimately. It is to help us all to learn how to really acknowledge kids by focusing on ideas set out by Krashen, which, alone in my professional experience as I suggested above, present possibilities to us that we absolutely must explore if we are to put into practice what Shepard expresses above.
We won’t change education by measuring it more. We will change it by reaching kids. Anything we talk about on this blog site must be towards that end. I’m not anywhere near against old ways of teaching that haven’t worked as I am pro kids.
We all are. Anytime we can put ourselves in a group of people like Laurie Clarcq and Jody Noble professionally, we know that we are on the right team.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
2 thoughts on “Paul Shepard”
Again, it seems like a lot of my comments are OT. It is curious that when I read the quote I thought of the role of parents – not teachers, in “rearing” children. I am more and more convinced that our role as teachers is ultimately doomed unless we as a society figure out how to parent more effectively and get our priorities straight. So many of our students come from such horrible situations at home that they can barely learn. We need dads to step up and be dad’s and realize that their number one role is to “rear” their children sacrificially.
I know that I can make a difference in the lives of my students. That is just not enough. They need more than I as a teacher or an educational system can give them. There is not substitution for a loving, nurturing and functional home. How will my student (that I will call Pablo) ever learn how to be an effective dad when his took off to another country when he was 11 to live with some woman he met on the internet. Pablo never hears from him. Not surprisingly Pablo is not able to function very well as a student.
I really resent the constant implication of society that if we were really effective teachers we could reach, and have great results with, every kid…..I just can’t believe that. I have written notes to Pablo, have stopped him repeatedly in the hallway this year to positively reinforce him. I visited him in the hospital. I have done a lot beyond what I can do in the classroom. The bottom line is that he has a very difficult time dealing with the anger and hurt caused him by his dad. And the vicious cycle will continue.
TPRS has enabled me to personalize my classrooms more than I ever have in the past. I have relationships with students that I had only dreamed of before. My classes are non-threatening and inviting. We laugh and enjoy the flow of the language. Many of my students (thanks to you, Ben) have names that developed “organically” and this enables great bonding. Ultimately, however, it is still not enough. It is not enough for so many of my children from broken homes, with dads in jail or other painful situations.
Sorry to go on and on but the quote touched a nerve. It is right on. How do we restore the family so that our children can come to school ready to learn ….? Parents have the real power here. What they do is ultimately so much more effective than what I as a teacher can do. That is what I take as the fundamental implication of the quote.
I agree with you Skip. It is not our job to rear children. At the same time, we can have a positive impact on the lives of children, no matter how tiny. My hope is that I can create an environment where all students feel safe and want to acquire Spanish or at least listen to the song of the week. I don’t worry too much about what happens when my students leave my classroom, I guess because I have no control over that. I know my students smoke, drink alcohol, smoke pot, and have sex, but I’d rather not think about that. I’d rather take joy from the moments when I witness teenagers let down their guard and forget about being cool while enjoying the Spanish language.