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14 thoughts on “Question”

  1. I hope this discussion goes somewhere bc I need to hear what people say for my new book on classroom management. We must have certain characteristics like TRUST (in NTCI) and SIMPICITY OF DELIVERY (MENTAL SIMPLICITY (vs. TPRS which has gotten more and more convoluted over the years) and BELIEF in the Invisibles system and the CAPACITY to carry it out and GOOD CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (to me it’s a characteristic and not a skill – see below).
    To split hairs a bit – I consider skills far less important than characteristics. Skills can be practiced and over time put into our bodies. As we go through the months, for example, we will struggle with the skill of SLOW, but gradually we will get better at it. It is a more mechanical thing than a characteristic.
    Characteristics, the way I see it, emanate from, have their origin in, our mental frame of mind, in our feelings. Where do our feelings live? They live in our minds. If we teach in fear, then our students will pick up on it and our foray into CI instruction will be over before it begins.
    However, if we trust that our skills are in place, as the base of our success, and then, because of our deep trust in NTCI*, we can ride that trust into real smiles and lack of self-consciousness and then our classes will launch, because of the characteristics we possess. (So SLOW is a skill; fearlessness is a characteristic – at least that is how I interpret Taron’s use of the term.)
    That launching of our instruction into orbit is partially because we had the skills, but when we matched those skills further with trust and fearlessness, exhibited our characteristics, we knew what real teaching was all about.
    What I want to say here is that in my view few people care about, but I do, the first book** on the Invisibles, the jobs, the seven step story process, and all of that was the basis for the highly successful sequel***, and when I wrote it I was driven by a sense of urgency, that if we did not do what Taron says about dropping all the TPRS trappings****we would not get off the ground. Sorry for the run-on but I’m too lazy to fix it.
    *Because it is not connected to high frequency word lists, chapters in a textbook, chapters in a novel via backwards planning, thematic and semantic set word lists, NTCI emerges as an elegant, streamlined (because it is research based) system of teaching language that CAN give us trust in our pedagogy, in what we are doing, and thereby destroy our fear and when we are free of fear because we know that the system (Invisibles) is such a kick ass and engaging way to teach, then we, fearless, experience launch and then when the kids leave our classroom we wait until the last one has left and then put our right hand up in the air and say “YESSSSS!” and then we will know something. What will we know? We will know that we CAN DO THIS FRICKINGLY DIFFICULT JOB WITH EASE AND THEN WE WILL SLEEP AT NIGHT IN A WAY THAT WE NEVER KNEW WAS POSSIBLE, EVEN IF THE WORLD IS GOING CRAZY WITH ALL THE TESTING AND ALL.
    **A Natural Approach to Stories (2016) (ANATS)
    ***A Natural Approach to the Year (2018) (ANATTY)
    ****use the search bar on “Hit List of 26” for more on what I find specifically problematic with TPRS – I point to 26 things that they do that mess teachers up.
    I hope we all go think about answering Taron’s question. It’s so rich. It’s a delicious question.

  2. Taron FYI this unedited text is raw material for the first chapter in A Natural Approach to Management of the Comprehensible Input Classroom:
    SECTION 1 – What Are Our Goals?
    Things in our CI classrooms must be uplifting and lighthearted. Nobody can be expected to focus on boring things. We must know how to build the interest. We must keep it going all year. It is for the mental health of the classroom community that we are building that we must do these things. It is our responsibility.
    What are our goals? What do interesting classrooms feel and look like? What do we want to see in our students in our classrooms? What do we want our students to see in ourselves in our classrooms? What do we want our classrooms to look like physically?

    1. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for sharing that. I’ll give my input to some of the questions you’ve asked in SECTION 1.
      What are our goals?
      To provide a safe, stress-free learning environment driven by student interests where language acquisition can occur as naturally as possible.
      What do interesting classrooms feel and look like?
      The students are at the forefront of the story creation process – if it’s compelling, the students will acquire the language. Compelling input with a solid sense of classroom management and a genuine interest in student ideas and contributions make for an delightfully jovial classroom.
      What do we want to see in our students in our classrooms?
      Buy-in and joy for the language learning process.
      What do we want our students to see in ourselves in our classrooms?
      I was discussing with my colleague Jon the idea of controlled vulnerability in the classroom. I want my students to know that I am human, and therefore fallible – but I also want them to know that I have a passion for what I do and that I believe in them as learners and in myself as an educator. I believe I am getting better and better at this and I’d say that this year the aforementioned buy-in (BELIEF in the Invisibles system, as you mentioned) is at an all time high.
      What do we want our classrooms to look like physically?
      Now that I have a classroom, I’ve tried to keep it simple, but warm through the use of flexible seating and ABFL (anything but fluorescent lights). I’ve also splashed a few colors of paint in a few places and made a chalkboard table. There’s a lot you can do when you have your own space! In any case, I believe that the classroom design should reflect the simplicity and elegance of the NTCI process.

      1. Taron it occurred to me while reading your comment above how necessary this kind of self introspection is. It seems like we never actually say what we want our work settings to look like and then we go about trying to fulfill a goal that has not yet been defined. Thanks for this.

  3. Taron among the ones you suggested above, I don’t see not having full command over the language as a problem in any way. As long as we know more than they do we are good to go. In fact, I think that if we are fluent in the L2 then we tend to go too fast and generally present a more obfuscated version of the language.
    Plus, there is a sheer joy in knowing that if we are a young teacher who went into teaching the language probably more because we loved the L2 more than we loved the kids, who can by mini royal pain in the asses, or pains in the ass, then we will, over the years of teaching it, get better and better at it over the years and that can be a real lasting love affair.
    My French sucked when I first started but over 40 years I really got good at it. What a chance young teachers have – to get better and better doing something they love over the course of a career. How many people can say that they have jobs like that?

    1. Totally agree with you here, Ben. I’ve gotten really good at Spanish since being a CI and then a Spanish heritage teacher. While I’ve had my growing pains, it’s been such a joy to have a job where I get to become more bilingual.

    2. There were many participants at the IGNITE Conference at Cherokee Nation, led by Wade Blevins, concerned that they don’t quite know enough Cherokee (or Crete, or Shoshone…) to talk at length to their students. One lady, I remember, is working in a after school program with elementary school students with the task of teaching Cherokee. She would love to do more CI but doesn’t feel quite comfortable with her own command of Cherokee.
      Just like it was for me my first year or so, I may have tripped up on words here and there, and it did take some time for me to approach native-like speech, my students benefitted so much nonetheless. There are so many nuances to a language that even intermediate level speech is great for a novice student.

  4. Also Taron you mentioned calm as a characteristic we need. I would not vote for that one. It is because we can’t be calm unless we have a way of teaching that works. And that is NTCI. I was never calm one day trying to follow all the targeting and circling rules in TPRS that it sometimes made my socks roll up and down and sometimes even make my teeth itch.
    (Anyone new here who thinks I am unfairly biased against TPRS – I’m not. I respect being brought up through the TPRS ranks over 15 years and writing five books on it. I appreciate it. I am grateful for it for pulling me out of the traditional waters that stank, stink, stunk, reeked. But along the way the soup got too many chefs and it got too many ingredients/rules, class novels, etc. and it began to stink a little itself).

  5. 1. Love your students. They’ll love you back.
    2. Believe in what you are doing. The kids will also believe.
    3. Keep trying to get better. Read, go to workshops.
    4. Have intuition to know what to ask next to keep interest high.
    5. Be reflective, make adjustments.

  6. 1) Be interested in what you are talking about.
    2) Use visual support.
    3) Love your students (like Jeff says), or take interest in getting to know them better.
    4) Be invested in the approach. It’s tempting to fall back on output exercises, practice exercises, or other activities that smell more traditional.
    5) Be reflective (like Jeff says). Maybe video record yourself.

  7. Hi Sean and Jeff,
    I appreciate your responses! I agree with everything. Here are my favorites so far:
    Have intuition to know what to ask next to keep interest high.
    Have you all read Finocchiaro’s Communicative Functions? Here’s a link that lists them. I’d like to have those planted in my mind so that I can always have them floating around my brain when engaged in the story telling process with my students.
    Read, go to workshops.
    This is so true! I would have never felt comfortable enough to take up CI, let alone NTCI if I hadn’t done a ton of research about it (not to mention the huge push from my colleague, Jon). I always share this quote with my students: There’s no such thing as maintaining – you either get better or you get worse.
    Use visual support.
    I’ve been using the “point, then speak” strategy a lot more this year and it is helping a lot. It has the added benefit of SLOWing me down. I also made a music video for one of the characters my French II class made, and have made a rap for two of this year’s characters so far using elements from the stories (that’s never been the focus of the character creation process, but it is a fun addition to what we create in class).
    And of course we have to ? our students (at least ostensibly) 😉

  8. Taron the more I think back on my 40 years in the classroom I start getting more and more honest with myself. I didn’t love them. That’s why your qualifier of “ostensibly” is appreciated. Hell, I was just trying to get through the day and have a paycheck waiting for me at the end of the month, honestly. As hard as teaching is, I could never have done anything else.
    There is an element of truth-finding (about oneself) in teaching that in my opinion can’t be found in any other profession. Thus, teaching is for the brave, those willing to suffer. I have the greatest respect for my colleagues.
    We used to talk like this here all the time but it seems to have diminished. Oh well. I sense that teachers are less open these days. I do remind the group that this site is private for a reason.

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