Question for the Group

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15 thoughts on “Question for the Group”

  1. I hear of many schools having “No-Fail” policies. Even if we teach in a school that doesn’t have that kind of policy, I still think it’s our job to try to reach and teach them. I”m not sure what the answer is though. I don’t agree with no fail policies, if a kid wants to fail (or doesn’t care if they fail) and there is absolutely no reaching them whatsoever the best we can hope for is that they don’t become a major behavior problem.

  2. Leigh Anne Munoz

    Out of about 150 French I kids, I have 10-12 sleepyheads, 3 of whom cannot stay awake daily, to save their lives. I consider this to be a low number, compared to 2006, when I had half a class of Spanish II with their heads down!

    Since my Spanish II days, I have made quite a few changes to keep the kids awake:

    I do quite a bit more PQA than storytelling; we watch Disney in French on Fridays; we watch French in Action, along with other things that I would love to ditch and just do pure storytelling.

    I have to adapt or die, but I digress…..

    The sleepyheads can earn a C- for semester II in my classes. They stay awake enough in Sept – Jan to pass a final in June, but just barely.

    Am I too lenient in my grading? Probably! Do I reduce the amount of storytelling in my classes to keep the heads off the desks? Absolutely.

    I feel a bit discomfited, but the situation leaves the C- kids with an awareness that they are waaay behind their peers, but that they did learn *something.*

  3. I say that my classroom, and this group class, is for people to learn language in, I recommend they go elsewhere (where I have no idea) if they would like to sleep (or work on other class homework, or text). That usually changes their behavior pretty quickly, but then again we have a much different clientele.

  4. Grant Boulanger

    From the MN Teacher’s Code of Ethics:
    *A teacher shall take reasonable disciplinary action in exercising the authority to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.

    I interpret that as it is MY JOB to make a reasonable effort to get them to engage. reminding them of expectations, calling home, reminding them of expectations, expectations, expectations, expectations. Kids have been trained that it’s OK. it’s not.

    ALSO, I feel as public servants it is our job to make a reasonable effort to get them to engage.

    If you teach in a private school, it’s a different story.

    1. Right on Grant. And true dat about private schools. I love the public servant angle in your comment. It’s real. We’re not working for a private club, a certain segment of society that divides entire communities along racial, economic and religious lines. We work to unite America.

      If a kid has a head down, it may be that our helping them lift it up may be just the amount of lift necessary for them to not quit on life. I would call that a fairly important move, seen in that light.

      I just can’t see letting a kid believe that they are not strong and capable. When we let them put their heads down, that is exactly what we do and we thus fail the kid. So does saying that conflict with my comment about only working with those who want to work?

      Not at all! We insist that the non participants hold up their heads. We cannot make them participate but we can force them to fake it until they make it. So there is no contradicition in what I wrote in that comment and what Grant and I agree on here.

  5. Grant, thanks for copying/pasting that line from the MN code of ethics. What I said above is not what I do all the time, as it may have seemed. When Ben asked that question, I was imagining the student who disengages at every turn, who has no desire to communicate with the class, who doesn’t care if s/he fails. How much energy can we dedicate to such students? How much should we? It works for me to make that deal (either stay and participate or go elsewhere), which I know they will not accept because it would be going to the only other place available (the office) and that would require a lot of explanation on their part and even more likely than before a failing grade.

    Re public servants, if you know me you know I am a strong proponent of universal public education. But as such people, we are in an environment, it seems to me, that is still quite segregated and divided, it’s just that now everyone is pitted against each other with unreal expectations from above. It’s like a big competition, and the game is not helping us create a healthy egalitarian society. so while there are those private schools that serve the rich kids, most probably, there are also many pioneering organizations/institutions that are trying to blaze a new path for kids’ education, without many of the constraints of the current rules. My humble opinion here, feel free to put me in my place if I’ve left out any considerations.

  6. Good for those organizations. Change will be the result. But a lot of those organizations are tied to privilege. Not too many parents in my neighborhood here in Central West Denver are thinking like that. The people with money want a new plan and bless them. I served that population for eleven years – Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, SC, before I woke up to the facts. Good for them. Go for it. But somebody has to fight for those who have no one to fight for them. And that leads right into the other point about heads down. I really do believe that I fail kids when I fail them, when I fail to do all I can to fake it until perhaps they get it. And if they don’t, at least I wasn’t enabling their refusal to embrace life – I did all I could. My new Consequences Chart (that post will appear here tomorrow a.m.) will help me greatly in those efforts. We are a big country with all sorts of people in it. But the Constitution is pretty clear in my eyes. It hasn’t yet been butchered out of recognizable form. Thus, there is still hope for public education and all of the people, and not just some of them. I don’t mean to start a big thread here. I made a decision long ago to avoid discussions of politics, drugs, and religion. I figure I don’t know much about any of those things, so why discuss them. I trust that the world is no doubt unfolding as it should, even if that unfolding is painful now. A glorious time awaits, I do believe, and we are part of it.

  7. I posted on the moretprs list today about a girl I had in class last year. I’m not sure that she ever actually put her head down, but she was often absent even when she was present. She was hopelessly far behind everyone else in the class. She barely qualified as a beginner and was in a class with kids who had had four years of English and one of the girls was a native speaker. I tried using her as a barometer, but she knew nothing and wasn’t admitting it if she did. I reached out as much as I could, trying at least to get eye contact, counting a lot on the British girl to explain things, but there were 27 other kids who needed to be taught and some of them were a handful whereas she never caused any real problems. I was puzzled by her attitude which was sometimes almost aggressive and sometimes overly apologetic. I met with her mother and the girl was obviously so angry at her that I didn’t feel there was any help to be found there. Then one day towards the end of the year I asked for written expression to be done in class and after pestering her neighbors for vocabulary, the girl asked me if she could write hers in French. I was shocked, but something about the way she was looking at me told me that she had something that needed to be said. So I said yes and went on helping others and she scribbled away for the rest of the hour. When I got around to reading her story, it was a horrifying secret that the kid had been keeping for years. Eventually the police were involved and she was removed from her home. I didn’t teach her much English, and I’ve often wondered why she chose me to tell her story to. Maybe because I tried to reach her, but I certainly didn’t feel that I had succeeded. When we do see those kids with their heads on the desk, we need to remember that we have no idea what they’re up against.

    1. So is letting them put their head down or not participate in the way described above the ethically correct thing to do or not? I still say no based on what Grant said. When there is active communication between human beings, even if resisted as by this girl, true things come to light, as this situation proves.

      Judy what if you had let this kid not try at all? You did, to some degree, involve her (as much as she could be involved) and then the truth came out. I believe that we have an ethical responsibility to work with all the kids we have been given.

      I will definitely make those new consequences work in my classroom next year. I have no other options. If I can’t get them to work, I may just finally officially sign off from the teaching profession. I can’t imagine not having a way to make those kids follow my rules.

      1. I agree that we need to try but I also think we need to be aware of what kind of eggs we may be walking on. It’s the “I can’t imagine not having a way to make those kids follow my rules” that bothers me. You know that when you’re riding, you can’t make a horse do anything. When you want to turn a car, you make the car turn by turning the steering wheel. When you want to turn a horse, you let the horse know that you would like to turn and if he doesn’t agree, you try to create a situation where it’s easier for the horse to turn than not to. I like the rules you posted today and they sound quite practical and doable in class. I also like the discussion you had with your students, and I think that’s the way to go about getting them to want to do what we want them to do. The rules make it easier for them to go in our direction than to act up, and I think most of them will feel very comfortable following your lead. It’s just that I don’t think you can “make” a class follow rules any more than you can “make” a horse jump over an obstacle. Gincy Bucklin, a very wise woman, says that if a horse refuses a jump it’s almost always because the rider has done something to make the jump appear almost impossible. Because normally a horse that is galloping towards an obstacle will jump over it because that’s the easiest out it has. If a student refuses to engage in a class, which is apparently the easiest choice they have, we need to think about what has happened to make that seem too difficult to attempt.

        Basically I agree with you and admire all the thinking that you’ve put into this. It’s just the idea of “making” students do things that doesn’t quite fit with how I see myself.

        1. …If a student refuses to engage in a class…we need to think about what has happened to make that seem too difficult to attempt….

          I’ve been talking about this with someone privately as well. I need to look at it. I reveals something about a need to control that has probably been with me my entire career. I want the method to work perfectly in each class, which probably accounts for my intensity with this work in general.

          My fear is that if I just relax and let one or two heads go down or watch a kid go out for a long stroll in the hallway, it will affect the entire learning of the class. I fear that if I let a kid blurt, it will drag down the work.

          I don’t want the beauty of this beautiful work tarnished on a daily basis. But you are right, I can’t control that, and I suspect that, although the Rules Chart has proven useful to many, the Consequences Chart may not work next year at all – that is what I feel. Thus, I really might be – and I say this rationally and seriously – in the wrong profession.

          If this is true, and I have this kind of compulsion to control the class bc I want the learning to be fantastic for everyone, then I am clearly in the wrong profession. This is a very good insight for me, Judy, and thank you.

          1. Ben, if it hadn’t been for your books, I don’t think I would have ever figured out how to make TPRS work for me. You are definitely not in the wrong profession when you are helping so many people to see how to reach kids AND teach them to speak a language that gives them access to an entire culture. I share your desire for perfection, but I think teaching can be very humbling, because I’ve never come out of a class without being aware that it was not perfect. Even during a class where there was a magic moment when I had them all engaged and sitting on the edge of their chairs, LISTENING and caring, I came away thinking next time I’ll do it a little differently. (Housekeeping is a great cure for perfectionists, because it’s never perfect. All you can hope for is improvement.) and with kids too, I think, that I look for improvement rather than perfection.

  8. Not really part of this particular discussion, but since “how we learn languages” was mentioned, here is an article about brain response to word stimuli. The article does not draw out implications for language teaching (nor did it intend to).

    Basically, the article says that as a word is learned, the neural response increases in magnitude immediately following the stimulus. In the test, a pseudo-word was repeated 160 times within 14 minutes. Obviously, not a lot of constructing meaning is going on – at the end of the time, the word remained meaningless for the participants.

    What I take away from this is
    -Introduction of new vocabulary must begin SLOW-Li; the neural response to the word is not yet very strong and will increase with repeated exposure, but the word must be recognized by the brain
    -The study indicated response simply to recognizing the pseudo-word, not to processing meaning along with it; I would expect it to take longer for the brain to process meaning along with recognition, both in terms of response time and in terms of acquisition of the word
    -The study dealt only with recognition, not production
    -I’m not likely to get 160 repetitions of any given word within 14 minutes and have any sort of meaningful interpersonal interaction going on, so obviously acquisition in a language class will occur much more slowly
    -The study dealt with recognition of a single pseudo-word, not with multiple words and grammatical / syntactical structures necessary to communicate; these are more complex, so would take more time to recognize, process and acquire

    Just my thoughts on an interesting study.

  9. I sense how true that it. I think that any of us in classrooms kind of know this stuff intuitively already. Why do a study on it, is my question. It is a given, to us who actually work in classrooms, that we need context to formulate meaning. Thanks Robert. Who designs these studies, robots?

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