Report from the Field – Lance Piantaggini

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46 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Lance Piantaggini”

  1. Lance can you explain the different targets? I don’t quite see how you are working with them, and what the story script’s form is there. Usually when I work from a script (Matava/Tripp) it has three locations and is written out. These are targets.

    That is the technical question. Now, re the political aspect here. In my view, I would not try to teach a life lesson to a confused child/class via a story. That asks too much of a story. You want lightheartedness in a story – that should be the dominant feel of a story in my view anyway, along with bizarre, personalized or exaggerated things happening – and so perhaps you are trying to do too much with this story script.

    What kind of school are you in? Is there an anti-Muslim mindset? Is that what is happening, really, in our country right now. If so, I need to reconsider coming back from India this year. I don’t want to come back to a country where teachers are fired for trying to teach religious tolerance.

    Although the lesson appears to be here that we cannot mix teaching values with our stories. They must be allowed to stay light, happy, funny and be free to go wherever they end up going. It is a hard lesson to learn.

    Am I reading this right? What are you going to do in the morning when you meet with the principal. I wouldn’t go near that office without a union representative. And a heart full of faith in the goodness of life even in times like this.

    1. Not really a script, my bad. I was tired and lazy this morning when I wrote to you and didn’t fill in the details…I was just trying to get you the gist until the video uploaded. It’s a standard 3-location TPRS story about “not all people with beards are Muslims.”

      I thought it was a brilliant way to use the latest thing kids were all talking about, and turn her negativity into a story. The kids had a good time with it…they guessed all sorts of crazy colors and lengths of beards. At the end, there was a message. Guess what you’re saying is that indeed it was a wrong call, but that’s not a call warranting a forced resignation.

      I can’t do anything involving the union. I’m within a 90 day hire time frame where he can fire me without having to explain much, if anything. What I’ve done is crafted an honest resignation letter to the Superintendent. I’ll drop it off in the morning.

      1. Dear _____,
        Please accept my official resignation from _____ Middle School, effective February 12th, 2016, at the encouragement of _____, Principal.

        I am truly thankful to have had my pedagogical training recognized, then been given the opportunity to teach a language I, myself, was in the process of acquiring. I am extremely disappointed, however, by the lack of support I received at _____. As the third teacher stepping into the struggling new 7th grade language program, I asked for support after my first week of teaching (see attached email). Given the unique situation, unique solutions were needed. Instead, choices were made either to allot technological and/or personnel resources elsewhere, or maintain the status quo. As a result, behavior issues persisted, and the situation was handled without adequate consideration of the unusual challenges I faced. These challenges led me to make decisions that were later questioned by the administration. Sadly, the administration lacked intent to repair any professional relationships, and instead focused only on punitive consequences of my attempts to create a safe space for productive learning.

        In sum, the administration fell short of providing the necessary support in a unique situation in what was to be a prosperous new chapter of the _____ language program. In just a short time, I had already begun to produce results on par with other teachers in the district who had been teaching the full year. I was looking forward to collaborating with them on future development.

        I hope that that everyone reflects deeply, and takes away valuable lessons learned.


        Lance Piantaggini

        1. (the attached email from my first week in the job to accompany the letter of resignation)

          From: Lance Piantaggini
          Date: Sun, Dec 6, 2015 at 4:45 PM
          Subject: Long Read about MGMT & Specific Students
          To: _________________________________________

          Fearless leaders,

          After the first week of what you warned me would be difficult to manage, I’d like to ask for some support. _____ is slightly more aware of a few specific instances, but I’d like to bring both of you up to speed. In each class there is a handful of students who have asserted their power, and the rest of the students know who they are. Months of this behavior has created a particular dynamic highly damaging to language acquisition. The students who have bought into what I’m doing aren’t able to concentrate due to so many disruptions. Class isn’t very fun, or very effective for them at the moment. This must stop.

          If you consult the pictures below, you’ll notice that there’s anywhere between 1 to 8 disruptions during each class period (the number next to each name represents which rule students are violating). This accounted for 2% to 20% of class time on Thursday, and 4% to 30% on Friday since we had a 1/2 day. These disruptions result in the range of either me restarting a message in Spanish, which is confusing for students who were paying attention, or a full-stop to the class during which I address behavior, redirect, or remove a student. It is no surprise to me that C class had only one disruption each day because _____ was in my room for Co-Teaching. The disruptions in F and G class far outweigh those in the other periods. This probably comes at NO surprise considering who is in those classes, but now in a class with more structure, rules, and direction, those key students negatively impact the rest of them more than ever before.

          Given the unique situation of jumping in this late in the year, but also realizing that any success depends upon a well-managed class that should’ve been dealt with the first week of school, I’d like to ask that some adults be more visible over the next few weeks until we can change the class culture into something positive. What might this look like? I don’t know what you guys can do, but here are some suggestions:

          – After lunch, whichever one of you was able to be on lunch duty makes a brief appearance in my room.
          – At some point in the middle of F or G class (1:30pm, or 2pm) make a brief appearance in my room.
          – If _____ has a prep period F or G class, he could switch his Co-Teaching time to that period every few days so those students become accustomed to another adult.
          – ANY teacher whom the kids know who has F or G class Co-Teaching, or any other shared duty make a brief appearance in my room.

          Why all this? I have two major concerns. The first is that I will spend so much time redirecting several students each class that I will lose the others. Those few students who hold the power have strong voices, and other students will follow them, or are intimidated by them. Not cool. My second concern is that because of all the disruptions, the students won’t actually learn a great deal of language which means the efficacy (and security) of my position will come into question. As for the latter, I can tell you that a hearing-impaired student, _____ , is the star of our class and made a point to tell me that she can understand Spanish since I speak slowly and use Sign Language gestures. I heard this as well from _____ . This is huge. If the class works so well for her, anyone who pays attention is going to learn Spanish. With your help, we can minimize the disruptions of a select few, and ALL students will learn these languages and have a great experience.

          If the behavior problems are so severe and go beyond anything I have control over, I would appreciate it if we develop a plan to keep those students from disrupting others. Could we assign them an independent study with work to complete on their own in the library, or office, or under other supervision until they are able to remain in the classroom with other students? Could this be an announcement made by one of you to my classes that if they don’t agree to learning Spanish in class that they will be removed from other students altogether and given work to do? Would that announcement be enough?

          Thanks for anything you can do,

          Mr. Lance Piantaggini

      2. I thought the lesson was pretty inoffensive as far as stories go, but that was super gutsy of you to address the student’s comment in this way. It IS a lot to ask of a story. But, you know, stories are powerful.
        Something I have noticed about you is that you are fearless. Like how you have been posting and sharing these videos of some of the most challenging moments in teaching. And the way you take on these kids. I would have probably done with them what Ben counseled me to do with my eighth graders (who look like little angels compared to these kids…I mean, there is this kid just randomly whistling in the MOST annoying way throughout that last video!). I would have just let them simmer in their wild ways, use the book, and wait till I got a new, fresh bunch. But you are taking them ON.
        Lance, I am upset to learn about the lack of union representation you have at this point in your career. I hope that tomorrow you will be able to make the principal see the light before you resign. These poor kids would move on to a fourth teacher for the year and probably going to eat them alive as well. I mean, damn, there are not many people out there who could do what you are beginning to do in this class–turn it around slowly. As I mentioned, I do not think I would be up to the challenge. Maybe show him these two letters and see what he thinks of his role in all this. That first letter you sent in December is damning, in my opinon.

        1. …I would have just let them simmer in their wild ways, use the book, and wait till I got a new, fresh bunch…

          See episodes 9 & 10 on that one. I’m not sure I could’ve done that for the rest of the year, though, even if it’s sage advice. I find the barista job downstairs more appealing than months of textbook “teaching.”

          1. You are right, it does suck using the textbook. It is such a great reminder of how far the collective group of TCI/TPRS teachers have taken the profession. I hope that you can win out and make your boss see the light so that you can keep fighting the good fight with these kids. “They tell me you’re a man with true grit.”

  2. I am also speechless.

    From what I saw in the videos, you were slowly bringing them around. You exude steadfast commitment both to the kids not getting the upper hand and to the process of language acquisition. Your letter documents this. It takes time and fierceness, which you demonstrate day after day. It also takes support from colleagues and admin. Not knowing any other details except the apparent lack of follow through on admin’s part re: your requests from week one, it feels like they expect you to do this all on your own.

    I can’t offer any suggestions, only that you listen to your own inner voice and follow your internal compass on this. We all stand with you Lance.

  3. In the words of Red Leader, “it’s away!”

    I walked in, told my ‘pal that I had a letter for him, but that things didn’t really add up. I said that the circumstances seem like an extreme reaction. I asked why time wasn’t given to grow and learn. His response was that he “didn’t think it was going to happen here.” I said “oh, OK,” handed him the letter, then walked over to Central Office to deliver the letter to the Super. She wasn’t there, but that’s OK, she’ll get it in a couple hours.

    So there you have it, the ‘pal didn’t want to invest in me at the beginning, and doesn’t want to invest in me now. I think I’m gonna switch our Exploratory now and just teach them some Latin for 4 days.

    There’s a lot of work to be done. I need to finish my Latin novella, and I might be doing some touring to visit classrooms in MA. Bracey, Herman, can I come hang in your classrooms for a day? Also, Piazza, I’ll likely stay a few more days in the Bay Area now. Steve, I might want to rent a car and drive down to [Santa Cruz?] if you wanna meet up or would be willing to host a visitor at your school for a day as well.

    1. It is clear they did not support you from the zero response you got from that letter in December. I cannot believe how this has turned out. I am still watching these videos, and I think you were doing a Herculean job and little by little progress was being made.

        1. I’m curious to see what the kids’ reaction is to your leaving. I am sure many of them admire you and enjoy the class. I was watching some of the later videos and the group has really come along. You have done amazing training with them. I just watched the “alternative” videos.

    2. Steve is all the way down in Fresno, but that doesn’t sound like it’s gonna stop you from learning and growing from this, taking the high road, and trusting that all will wash out just fine. Wow. You Latin teachers keep surprising.

      I love the idea of us finding each other in actual reality and visiting each others’ classrooms and training up, always training up. That’s what champions do. Anyone can talk, but few can take a hit like you took and do a spin move and move on down the field for a big gain, like jen did.

      1. Yes. I am in Fresno.

        “…few can take a hit like you took and do a spin move and move on down the field for a big gain, like jen did.”

        Yes. We have to all keep those motors running. Reminds me of when my department chair chewed me out for 15 mins for not having an objective and homework announcements “FRONT and CENTER”. He apologized later but I believe that he’s mad because I’m taking away one of his Spanish classes next year.

  4. Oh, and I had just oooone more nugget for the teachers on my team, counselors, and admin:


    Concerning my response to _____’s behavior and my effort to shift the negative power dynamic of my classes, some have denounced my actions while others have praised them. This faculty is not on the same page. The disparity might come down to favoring the use of disciplinary consequences vs. classroom interventions. Those praising my actions see them as an attempt at the latter (e.g. instead of only following the Disciplinary Rubric).

    This illustrates an important topic lacking from teacher training that’s usually left for specialists (e.g. counselors, administrators, etc.). ______ classroom teachers would benefit from discussing the matter. Perhaps some PD time could be set aside to discuss and practice strategies similar to what ____ has listed on this month’s From the Principal’s Desk.

    I’m disappointed that I won’t be around for those discussions, but I wish you the best of luck. Friday will be my last day.

    1. In our district, there are Mandatory PD days for teachers using restorative practices. We get our sub payed or we have the option of going on Saturday for pay. I totally praise you Lance for taking it ALL on. Your challenging everyone AND your are holding your colleagues accountable. It’s a shame that there aren’t more teachers that want to bring these topics to the table.

  5. wow, no wonder they have already gone through a couple of teachers already. Don’t they see it as a problem to be on their 4th(!!!!) teacher already and we’re barely past half way through the school year!

    You have an amazing attitude with it already to move on and find the post possible way to get better (clearly this event has nothing to do with your lack of skills in any area) as a teacher. You’re free to stop by my classroom if you are ever in DC but I suspect I’d be doing more of learning if that happened.

  6. I quite like the inventiveness in your story scripting Lance. You’re trying to deal with an issue. I understand Ben says that stories should be light-hearted. I think ideally that’s where you’d be with students, so that you all can enjoy a story together without heavy issues. But your situation I think warrants some diversion from the normal and your attempt to combine light-heartedness (eg the details about the different beards) and citizenship (eg not judging based on looks) is quite impressive. Definitely not inappropriate. That’s my take on the story anyways.

    As for the rest of it… Infuriating. It looks like you’re able to stay positive about it. Do you think the district office will attempt to intervene based on your contact record, etc? What can be done to ensure that your termination is not permanently recorded as ineptness on your side.

    1. …What can be done to ensure that your termination is not permanently recorded as ineptness on your side…

      I resigned, so that’s not an issue. Even if it were, something tells me that it will pose no problem in my next interview. When asked about this job I’ll say “well, I was the third teacher by December, there’s not much else to say about that experience.”

          1. Also, there was this moment of bliss and complete absolution as I handed my keys over to the asst. ‘pal and said “Best of luck with teacher #4.”

          2. But they had good luck with teacher #3; they just couldn’t see it. What a shame the administrators at that school don’t appreciate educators of conviction like you.

          3. Lance, thank you very much for sharing this story, documenting your experiences and learning (pedagogically and systemically), and being active in this PLC. Please keep us apprised of your next moves!

          4. Lance said:

            …I’m not sure “teaching well” is even a priority….

            Teaching well has never been a priority. How else did all those traditional teachers get away with keeping their jobs for so long?

  7. I am think back to when you were considering this position. So much has happened in such a short time. I mean, you have just milked this job to the last drop for experience. With as much as you have learned from this, and passed on to the rest of us, it is as if you were doing this all in preparation for you next interview for a more tempting position.

    And this on top of your own blog, your workshop presentation at CANE, and your comments on Latin Best Practices and other sites.Have you considered taking your CI post-Honeymoon presentation to ACTFL in Boston? I understand that if you are a member of MAFLA you can attend ACTFL at MAFLA prices since ACTFL is in Mass this year.

  8. This is just amazing. What kind of school loses THREE teachers of the same class in just over half of a single school year!? This school is bogus. Frequent turnover is the sign of a deeply unhealthy organization caused by horrendous leadership. I’m glad you are out of that dump. You’re welcome to come by my classroom and hangout whenever you like, Lance.

  9. Wellllll, I was able to get one day of Latin teaching in! Episode 32 is my final recording in the CI video series (

    It turns out that two parents called about how “I was mocking Student X by walking like her around the room.” I was completely taken aback, and couldn’t imagine such an accusation/rumor. Wow, to have administrators actually believe that is a sign of complete distrust in an employee. This supposedly happened yesterday or Monday. I told them that I understand the position they’re in, but it’s simply not true…yesterday we started Latin, and Monday we did a final Timed Write before watching Pirates of the Caribbean (in Spanish) for the remainder of class.

    I told them that we have student actors play every role. In every class a boy wanted to play the role of the lead girl, so it’s possible that some of Student X’s friends thought the boys were making fun of her from overacting “like a girl.” From there, it’s a simple game of Telephone to arrive at “Mr P walked around the room like Student X making fun of her.” It’s pathetic. This is such a nasty profession. Administrators are too timid to stand behind their teachers and ask parents to look for a source other than their own flesh-and-blood 12 year old who would say anything to get out of trouble.

    I was asked to take the remainder of my sick days and leave this morning. I almost told them that I’d rather stay the week since I was really looking forward to some TPR in Latin, which is a super geeky thing to say on its own anyway, but I’m sure it would’ve made them furious at how positive I was about all this. My calmness blocked any gratification they were seeking from this witch hunt. Anyway, I went to my favorite coffee shop when I got home…BOY did that feel luxurious to do during the late morning. I recommend taking a personal day and doing the same when you need it this Spring.

  10. Dear Lance,

    I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks and I am so sorry that all of this happened. This district has some enormous problems. My heart breaks for the kids that are just there trying to get through the day.

    You are a strong man, with a strong mind, heart and feelings. You need a strong school to be a part of.

    Keep us posted!!!

    with love,

  11. Lance you are the 2nd teacher this month (that I know of) canned for trying to hold kids to a high standard of behavior and character. What is up with our adminz? Whereas (it seems like) 15 years ago schools were proud of their teachers who modeled integrity, fairness, courtesy and high standards and saw them as heroes, now it’s all about ‘being nice/well liked’ or ‘being a good fit.’ The minute a complaint is lodged by a kid or parent, the admin sees it as a liability to off-load. No fact-checking, no reflection. The community in turn is more empowered to complain away, knowing that if they don’t like you, they can have you fired.
    We are working with the Trumps.

  12. I agree with you, Alisa, but I do believe that a teacher must pick the time and place to focus on behavior and character. Early in my career, I lectured a lot on things like racism, etc. but as the years went by I slowly realized that I was there to teach French and that whenever I digressed the room went in, some subtle way, flat, in spite of my passionate points about whatever I was on the soapbox about. Now, I avoid combining life lessons with my instruction using CI, and it’s not just because I am aware these days that anything I might say at any time in one of my classes could be being recorded. I do feel and have stated here as well that in my opinion Lance made a serious error – and I think he agreed – in trying to use a story to teach values on racism. We just can’t do that. Ours must always be the domain of the lighthearted and the bizarre. This is especially true now in a time when America has lost its center. So I disagree with Jim to a certain extent as well on this. If the class is racist, and the beard comment by a misguided child is meant to serve as a power gathering tool for the child to bring the class against the teacher, then my own only response to that can be a good story. That and maybe a prayer, a silent appeal to God and those beautiful angels that he sends to me daily to help me in this work and protect me in my classroom, that the child change to become more human. But I can’t make that happen by myself, that’s far beyond my capacity. I’m just a storytelling teacher. That’s what I do. That’s enough.

    1. About morality and stories…I recently created a story with one of my classes in which a bird girl took her boyfriend to the doctor because she did not like his nose, it was too big, and the doctor gave him a new nose. When I wrote the story up, I felt the need to put in some stuff about how Bird Girl is not a good girl friend. At the end of the story, bird girl is happy because bird boy has a new nose, but I added that bird boy is sad because he has a bad girl friend. Even as we were creating the story I felt a bit uneasy, but the tone was light and the story so surreal ,with the bird-people and all, that I did not change the plot that emerged. The nature of storytelling puts us into a lot of unclear territory from a moral point of view…we include romance, violence, emotions of all kinds…but try to keep it light for the most part. I think it’s the trickiest thing about stories.

    2. Very good point Ben. I agree with what you’ve said here. I did not stop to think about the energy that this girl and her friends likely emitted, and the fact that you can’t try and “teach” a moral in this way. The point of stories is to compel them to listen, engage, and feel. This well-intentioned effort by Lance seemed to be recognized by those students as an attempt to undermine their beliefs and make a point of it to the whole class. I think the moral could work if it weren’t reactive as it was in the case of Lance’s situation. That kind of xenophobic disrespectful remark is better handled in English, straight-up, and prohibited. Do you agree with Ben’s evaluation of that situation Lance?

      1. Not really, but that’s fine. Agreement in all matters isn’t a prerequisite for PLC membership. Everyone in this group could disagree with me, but there’d still be support in that disagreement. Still, the fact remains that the entire school could’ve disagreed with how I handled that situation, but it doesn’t warrant the consequence presented to me. That was a cowardly move at the expense of over 100 students.

        Why don’t I agree? I was on the micro level of “don’t say that s__ in my room,” not the macro sense of educating today’s youth for a better future, etc. etc.. My serious error was thinking I had enough admin support to stop those misguided droogs from reacting the way they did.

        A team with more integrity would sit those kids down for a little chat. Student voices need to be heard, but it doesn’t take much for an adult to tell them “that kind of talk is not allowed in Mr Piantaggini’s class. His story sends the message that you have to be prepared for people to talk about the things you say and how you say them.”

        1. I certainly don’t think that what you did even comes close to deserving of what happened to you. In fact, I think it’s perfectly fine. What Ben allowed me to see is that teaching this kind of lesson, in an L2 story, is not best practice. What may not be best practice is a LONG way from what is inappropriate. I went back and read what Ben wrote. I do not see it as a “serious error” but rather one that is not suggested toward our goals of TPRS.

          If you ever came into my classroom, as you’ve bravely allowed us to do, you’d see LOTS of non-best practice stuff.

          And good point, we don’t have to agree on everything. In fact I think we all grow more when we challenge each other and disagree in respectful ways.

          1. I love your passion and fire Lance. I would have not reacted that way by writing a story. However, in your case, I would have expected better from my own admin.

            Also, if a school wont back you then you shouldn’t back the school.

  13. And I would also add; We teach tolerance, kindness, and respect by modeling it in our classes. By finding something great from every student. By honoring artists, goofy answers, creative ideas, and the uniqueness of every student we teach. By creating a class were students have jobs and we all work together “shoulder to shoulder.”

    I want to create a class where the students who are dishonored in other classes or environments are honored in some way or another in mine.

    (trying to channel my inner Laurie)

  14. Today a class ended up with two male parents of a male child. Only one kid couldn’t handle it and the rest of the kids were fine with it. The kid looked kind of stupid. All I did was say by way of explanation that they adopted their child. The kids were so busy with the other details of the story, so completely focused on the meaning of what was going on, that we moved right on. I have it on videotape and will try to get it posted here soon. When are we going to get over this s—?

    1. Woah. I’m not sure about that one. I would probably not allow it. Lots of fundamental religious folks here in the central valley… that would be a s—- storm at my school.

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