Reflections on a Career

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9 thoughts on “Reflections on a Career”

  1. Ben,

    Thank you for posting this at what is, for me, the right time. I have just learned that a former student has passed away (the 3rd in an 8-year career). She’s only 17. What I remember best about her was brought to me because of Circling with Balls. She chose the silliest nickname for me to call her all year and didn’t think I would do it because it was so silly. But in the spirit of CI, I did. On all of her assignments for the whole year, she wrote this name. I overheard her telling friends in the hallway that I actually was calling her by this name and I was the ONLY teacher. And now she is gone from this physical world… but I was able to learn about her true spirit because of the work I was doing with her class in my CI classroom.

    It has been way too long since I attempted TPRS or any version of it ever since getting knocked down by my admin a few years ago. And then, we have midterms last week and the grammar/traditional teacher talks about how he had to “go easy” on his classes because their exams were not very good; these are the classes that I walk past and see him speaking to in Spanish, but what’s he really SAYING? It’s all repetitive content from the text book. And I ask myself, What’s the point? Time is wasting and his way isn’t doing anything. My own midterms are garbage. I’ve been wanting a reason to say “screw it” and revolt.

    I think if a person cannot be thankful to have become a teacher then s/he should not be one. Using CI methods make it a lot easier to be grateful. I am so grateful I became a teacher and have the chance to make connections with students that will last long after any of us are gone. You just cannot find that in a text book.

    1. Jen, I am so sorry for your devastating loss. But I am touched by your ability to find joy in having known your student on such a personal level. I will be thinking of you and the others who cared about her.

    2. Sorry for the loss of your student, Jen. Prayers to you.

      There is so much to be grateful for. It can be hard for our students to be grateful, so it becomes especially hard for us to exhibit gratitude among dower faces. Thanks for helping me reflect on this.

  2. In the end, for me the way I believe, it is all about the happy interactions we have with our students and colleagues. This diffuses the suffering. No one is going to win an argument anyway. Our students are there to help us emotionally, and vice versa. God Himself is there, in our students. How can we not see that? There is no need to keep it all in the brain arguing abut what is right or wrong. I am thankful today for you Leigh Anne and everyone else in our community, many of whom know each other in real life, and I am thankful today for how this blog space allows me to say what I want without going out into scarier internet places. There is no such thing as winning an argument. There is only soft enjoyment of our language and our students. Blaine models this best. God blesses us all, in every moment we spend at work suffering. And I do believe he has a special class of angels, a special group, who are watching everything, ready to help when needed. I do not say this casually. I have felt their help, instantly, in about ten situations at least over the years, where I thought I was going to die – in some way die – in my classroom – no hyperbole and any teacher knows this feeling, but those lightning fast angels came in and picked me up. They are totally bad ass and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to take a test to get special status, special certification to be teacher helpers. Amen. We are going to be just fine.

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I have been ‘monitoring’ the moreTPRS list discussion. Actually, the recent thread started with an innocent query from me, “How many T/CI teachers are there?” because I wanted to be able to use that ballpark figure to budge Hebrew teachers from their grammar fossil. I wanted to be able to say something like, “Over the past 20 years, thousands of language teachers world wide have adopted or shifted to comprehensible input-based strategies, and they’ll never turn back! Their students are steadily acquiring and retaining, and the teaching and learning is more pleasant for Ts and Ss alike!”
    But my query got hijacked to a rant about “what really even is CI anymore?” and a whole sidewind about drift from TPRS….
    I want the world to know that I’ve been using NT with elementary learners (1st – 4th in Spanish) and 3rd-7th Hebrew) and it feels as natural as can be. I feel like the novelty perception is higher when kids don’t necessarily see predetermined targets on the board, or predetermined story prompts. (Sometimes I have them up, sometimes not – depends what kinda NT thang I’ve got going on).
    What entrenched traditionalists don’t ‘get’ is that in NT we are still comprehens-ifying our utterances; still practicing all the essential skills. Teaching to the eyes; pause/point/slow; checking for comprehension. We are staying narrow/in-bounds…
    It’s true that targets emulate the school setting and prolly get more boxes checked off (for evaluators). They might also assuage the anxiety of certain teacher personality types. But T and NT (done right) satisfy the same criteria – comprehensible input! NT might make it more compelling, less filter-provoking (more naturalistic?) and definitely, with OWI and Invisibles, more creative, personalized/customized to the class, and fun.
    Terry’s issue about ‘noise’ is valid, but to my mind doesn’t apply. We are not using out-of-bounds language. Tina’s vids are with beginners. I don’t know if I could have done a whole NT story with first week 1st graders (absolute beginners) but after a few weeks, once they have some foundational words and a few hours of input, yes.
    Terry seems very concerned with documenting comprehension to make sure the Ss brains are beginning to map words to meaning. As an elem teacher, I see how loaded that scientific task is…the translating back n forth is very hard for lil kids! They have other ways of demonstrating comprehension!
    Ok, I think you’ve said it all, but I wanted to add my part about elementary, because I think it helps buttress the case for NT.
    Non Targeted instruction, working within the high frequency verbs (or bringing necessary words in bounds as needed) works beautifully with even the youngest language students.
    I find all the verbal jousting and accusations on the MORE list really gross and demeaning. I’m glad I have a safe place to speak my mind, and often ‘uncover’ my mind and learn.

  4. I think deeply about the ramifications of that L1 is essentially the same as L2. It is only the environment(s) and people involved that differ and time. And if we dont have the luxury of time, then why get irate about attaining fluency. Lets focus on personalized and compelling fun in the TL and even in L1 as need be. For me as a beginning teacher , this means immersion light but not necessarily leaving kids behind. Have all the skills about and let us be a language/communication parent to kids. Let us have faith in the process. Stories to me will always be the best….. oh wait, i got an idea brewing. Kids write a story of their own about themselves a cool one that made them happy. Then the teacher can a SL on it. Then at the end, students try to guess who is… or find out via questions… kinda like a mystery…. Sorry about the tangent. i had about 6 hours of sleep.

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