Report from the Field – Jeffery Brickler

It is in our shared successes that we can find the strength to keep on keeping on. Jeffery, no stranger to the muck and mire of transitioning to comprehensible input based instruction, recently sent us an excellent report:

Today, in my Latin I class.  I was working on creating a fictional family.  We had a mother and a father and 4 kids, two sons and two daughters.  I was one of the daughters and I was wearing a wig that a kid brought in.  I’m just like that.  I enjoy having fun with the first year kids.  One of the kids was trying to help me put the wig on, and she said in perfect Latin, “Veni huc:  Come here!”

I never circled that structure.  I never wrote in all the board.  I never even gave the definition.  I just said it in class when I wanted someone to come forward as an actor.  I was completely stunned.  Incredible!  I would also say that this kid is not the strongest in the class, yet she said it naturally and correctly.  I guess this stuff does work!


Then Bob Patrick responded to Jeff:

Yes, it does.  And the more you do this the more examples like this you will have.  She got it because when you used it, whenever you used it, it was an understandable message.  That’s CI.  That’s how we learn language, any language.  Latin is a language.  (can you hear the mantra I’ve created?).  Outstanding.  Celebrating with you.  And then Dan Navar added:

Agreed! Eugipae! Sounds like you’re getting some buy in over there.

Me again: We celebrate this victory. None is too small. David’s recent video, this report, John’s video, Bob’s recent posts, Team Latin, all that we get and share with our Latin teachers on this site, is a gift and we are all happy to be in the Latin loop here. And what was all that noise about Latin being a dead language? How silly! Latin didn’t die. It only took a really really long snooze.



3 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Jeffery Brickler”

  1. Jeff, I really appreciate this story, thanks for sharing.

    It reminds me of something that Ben said a while back about letting go of our need to control everything. If we really believe that language comprehension is a natural, automatic activity that our brains WILL do, (not just CAN do), then we truly have the freedom to relax, enjoy and just use the language.

    And I love the part about you having the wig on your head. You “just being like that” is such a huge part of having a human posture that is allowing space for your students to pick up phrases like “veni huc” in a relaxed, natural way. I can just picture you teaching in this way and I’m sure your students are very grateful for it because you are letting them know that you truly enjoy being there with your students.

    I’m noticing myself relaxing more each year (not on discipline, jGR, class rules, etc.), but on content, targeted vocab, and things like that in favor of slow, contextual language.

    One thing I noticed in particular this year is that I’m going through stories much more slowly than before. The discussion last year about the 2 week schedule had a big impact on my movement to this. I am now able to stretch out PQA almost for 2 or 3 hours, especially when I break it up with some TPR stuff in the beginning of the year. I will just take a break and then return to the PQA, really enjoying the stuff the kids tell me. That long PQA time really helps the words sink in before we make a story (which flows much more quickly after the long PQA period). And there has been more laughter in the long PQA too.

    I used to cut PQA short because I felt I needed to get the story “done” in a week. Why? Because I felt like I needed to accomplish some magical number of vocab structures for the week, or month, or year. Now that seems more and more ridiculous to me. There is way more pay off from those 3 hours of PQA than 1; more pay off for a slow, two week schedule with lots of real human connection than a quicker one-week schedule that we “got done.”

  2. I only see my students 3x/week, but right now, as we begin week 8, I am still working through student drawings which they made week 2, and there is still so much in them that we can talk about and build into compelling stories. So I feel the same way. That voice in my that says “you’re not really teaching them until you get into the textbook and cover a bunch of stuff” is getting fainter and fainter by the year as I learn to listen to my students rather the insecure cries of my ego and desire to be in control. But even as I give up control over content, I gain control over my classroom culture because I am paying more attention to the kids, now that I have freed myself from the preoccupation with content/coverage that so many teachers fall victim to.

  3. And when that curve starts its exponential turn, Katie bar the door. I am also experiencing something of an epiphany this year about how less early vocabulary is better, with more reps on them. This is Ted Sizer’s “less is more” idea. Anybody in our group teach in a Coalition of Essential Schools building? There is a category here on CES, actually.

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