Pick One

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14 thoughts on “Pick One”

  1. Great point. Most of us type with automaticity, with a kind of kinesthetic memory and truly are not conscious of individual letters. I had two frustrating experiences lately–one with my son’s computer because he uses the Dvorak keyboard and I could not type; then in Guatemala using a keyboard with characters in different places, I could not remember a password because I have gotten so used to typing it kinethetically and not even thinking about the actual password characters.

    Really brings home how unnatural communication is if you focus on something other than the message. . .

  2. This reminds me of a Latin immersion experience I have participated in several times over the years. By and large, these summer gatherings where Latin teachers live together for a week at a time, using only Latin all the time, are very useful since we cannot go anywhere else to immerse ourselves in the language. Unfortunately, they also tend to be attended by 4 percenters who really struggle to let go of that one-letter-at-a-time kind of self-scrutiny.

    The last one I attended (and likely the last one I will ever attend) a fourpercenter on steroids (metaphor) interrupted every conversation I had with him to correct my grammar. Sometimes his “corrections” were not even about correct and incorrect usage but about his preferred style of usage. Finally, I became so frustrated that I told him, verly bluntly, that while I valued his friendship if he continued to interrupt me while we were having a conversation that I would simply stop talking to him, that in any other setting, doing what he was doing was simply rude. Further, I told him, if I had a question about correct usage, I would come and ask him for help. He agreed.

    Point of story: having someone interrupt my speaking to correct me is like having someone watch me type and calling my attention to the individual letters. Not only does it break one’s own flow of “automaticity” it raises the affective filter so high that one becomes immediately incompetent. How often do we become that “rude” character in our classrooms? I also note that if I am speaking and someone patterns back into the conversation something that I misused, I am able to hear that and use it. If I am not able to hear it, then I wasn’t ready to acquire it.

    1. …how often do we become that “rude” character in our classrooms?…

      This is very perceptive. It describes a true thing that happens to thousands of kids every day but is not even on the offenders’ radar. They are the teacher, like the person you describe above, and so they assume that they can act in that way, correcting and such. But they are unable to hear the effects of their teaching, which sadness and quitting. It is another reason that I grow stronger and stronger in the belief that what we do simply cannot be done in schools. And the only one so far who has even heard me on that point is Jim. Why can’t CI happen in schools? It is so hard and we get no support, most of us, at least. Under what conditions can it happen? If we get the support we need. The fight is too hard without the support. There are some in this group who pursue it but are so alone that, now at the end of the year, they are like soldiers who need to be pulled off the battlefield. That’s crazy shit but it is happening. The Latin CI community is about the bravest, if you think about it. Even today at work (DPS assessment writing team), two excellent CI teachers whom I respect scoffed at what Bob and John and Jeff and the others are doing. It is a fact that native languages get resconstructed from fragments every day. I heard a lecture in Oklahoma by an expert on Miami tribe language and how he singlehandedly brought it to life in his home with his family. So what if it isn’t the same as the original – it contains the seed and the soul of the original, and languages are always changing anyway. So there is no such thing as a dead language. I am angry at my colleagues for saying that. Time cannot destroy anything. Here is something I wrote after my summer of learning with the Sauk and Chickasaw last summer:


      1. I am sorry your colleague doesn’t think what we are doing is valid. So much knowledge would be lost without Latin. Should we simply give up…I think not!

        1. We spend a lot of our lives trying to become conscious of things, trying to bring things up from our personal unconscious minds into our conscious minds and learn from them. As Jung said, “Dreams are unopened letters from our deeper minds”.

          Why, then, should we not do that collectively as humans? As there is a personal unconscious, so also is there a collective unconscious, one that we all share as a race. If Latin is not a door into that deeper collective mind, then nothing is.

          I dismiss my colleagues’ thoughtlessness as exactly that, a blind spot in their awareness of us as a complete culture with a history. I guess it’s too far back for them. But it’s not too far back for all of us. I mean, those times were just plain bad ass. It’s no accident that a classical education was de rigueur for centuries.

          The few of y’all kicking up the dust are in for a lot of kicking, it seems, but kick away. Kick away the dust of centuries. Educate us. We need it. We need our mental strength back as a race. You bad boys and girls who are doing that deserve all the help you can get.

          Bob, what is your website?

          1. My website is http://www.mygrove.us. But, you may be actually asking about Latin Best Practices, which is a Yahoogroup. It’s here:

            And, another word about your colleagues’ reaction to Latin teachers like us who are doing CI work. Actually, two words.
            I see this often enough, coming from modern language teachers who are otherwise really rational people, but when it comes to us doing what they are doing, they look at us like we are walking around with our pants off, or something. I have a sneaking suspicion that for a lot of folks “Latin” is deeply associated with Catholicism and for what may be many good reasons, even unconscious ones, they are really reacting to Catholicism and not so much what we are doing with CI in our Latin classrooms. If you are reading this and reacting negatively to it, then that is likely what is going on. Trust me. Lots of experience in this. And, that’s okay. I understand how that can work.

            Second word. To those who think what we are doing is crazy, you simply need to come and visit one of our classrooms (btw, my classroom is always open to anyone who wants to visit, metro Atlanta). You have no idea what a difference TCI has made in our work. It’s not something you can reason or even have an opinion on that is worth anything. It’s an experience. So, I agree with Ben. Blind spots. If you have not experienced what a difference CI is making in Latin classrooms, then I can excuse and ignore your negative reactions to us. You simply have no idea. It’s huge, folks. And it makes us very, very glad that we found our way to it.

          2. Love this. I feel in it some of the energy we felt in opposing the war in Vietnam and all the work in civil rights, those times, that energy, just packaged in a different way, just located in shifted locales. Them’s fighting words by Bob, but words that express a new way of fighting, non-confrontational fighting. Like, we’ll beat your ass and you won’t even know it.

            That kind of thing. Good teaching, real teaching, real things that can’t be stopped anymore. There is so much schlock going on in classrooms now (and lots of it connnected to computer technology) and when Bob talks about simply delivering a more human and just plain better product in his classroom with such authority, it shows that the change in Latin and everywhere else is no longer anything but a function of time and steadiness on our part. The hard part may be over.

          3. As the only Latin teacher who has not chimed in on this, I feel obligated to, but ultimately this is not about Latin, or French, or any other language. Anyone who scoffs in this way, ESPECIALLY other language teachers, have allowed themselves to fall into the content trap, the trap of thinking it is about the content and NOT ABOUT THE HUMAN BEINGS IN THE ROOM. Why are Latin students not entitled to a humanizing experience in their classroom? Pretty much every objection to what we are doing (“we” being the CI community in general and the amazing individuals on this blog in particular), intentionally or unintentionally betrays an anti-human stance. To object to what we are doing here is to object to the humanizing force of stories and compassion, which is what we are trying to put into practice many times every day, not once a week, or once a year at a TED event, but for 4-6 hours every freaking day.

          4. I get that John. Everything you say has layers that can be gone deeper into. Two of them here: 1) it’s not about content. No, it really isn’t. It’s about doing something fun as humans. Thank you for that one. 2) we must not reject anything – in a world that is devoid of the human element- that can make us more human. Thanks for that one, too.

          5. So much good discussion here in this” little” thread about Latin…it might deserve it’s own space so that we can easily find it and refer to it in a few years when CI has blown apart the “classical” Latin education.

            I’m constantly telling people that traditional language education involves only the mind. CI involves the brain and the heart. Those who have scars on the heart may resist…as Bob points out. Those who excel with their minds will feel threatened that anyone with a brain can be as good as they are. But as John points out…how can we deny this to our Latin students?

            Kudos to all of you!!!

            with love,

  3. very useful analogy. I agree with Bob as well and a great point about the “affective filter.”

    I have a bad habit of correcting English grammar for people I know well. I guess I think I’m doing them some sort of favor! But yes, it does break the flow of conversation and is, indeed, rude.

    1. Funny post today – just this afternoon I was talking to students while -at the same time – typing their final! and then all of a sudden it hit me that I was doing both at the same time and was so surprised that I started making mistakes! haha 🙂

  4. I second Bob’s point about the scarring factor, and also about the kids who have been safe (until now) in keeping their education completely in the relative safety of their minds. But this is the warrior part of this discussion for us. We simply cannot let anything back us down. Fear of a kid. Attacks by crazy parents. We can’t do it. I know we all know that, but it bears repetition. What we are doing is no work for weak people. This group has not added more than two or three new members – maybe five – in the past six months and there is a reason for that. That is a strong statement about who’s in. I want it that way. We had a great year, and wonderful growth awaits as long as we keep our levels of safety and trust this high.

    On the Latin thing, thank you Laurie bc I forgot to categorize the above post as Latin. I don’t have it in my head that the Latin cagetory is of key importance here yet. So remind me whenever something is posted about Latin. Of course, the search function works, but I want the category to, as you say Laurie, be there in a few years to show the progression of this young thread into being a teen and then an adult. Sometimes we are too close to things to realize what is really going on. This Latin group of just a few people is just amazing to me, esp. when I hear my colleagues, well versed in CI, rejecting the idea. There is work to do in this area and we will do it. Just listen to the tone of the Latin team here – it is absolutely fearless. That is the kind of conviction that brings real change. Refusing to back down. Right on! Ad hoc loc! I’m not sure what that means but I enjoy quoting one of my heroes, Jeremy from Yellow Submarine.

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