Report from the Field – Meg Prossnitz

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27 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Meg Prossnitz”

  1. I think it might be the time of year?

    I mean I don’t like to make excuses for myself and I want to improve but I had a rough class yesterday too and was feeling bad about myself. Then a colleague reminded me that a lot of teachers are just basically phoning it in right now and showing movies.

    A lot of teachers this time are year are assigning projects, watching MOVIES, and having kids work on their devices (if you have a 1 to 1 school). Kids escape into these devices. Then they come into our class and we expect them to listen to CI. It’s just not working this time of year. I’m basically going to do reading activities, Textivate, Kahoot, etc to “review” for the final for the rest of the semester (one week of class left, then finals).

    Some schools such as mine have accountability software to keep them locked into the proper site. I was told by a student that I am their only teacher who uses that software (to lock them into Textivate). This was a trustworthy student. I think a lot of classes the kids are “working on projects” which translates to wasting time and surfing the internet.

    So the other classes APPEAR to me managed, but is it really management or is it being babysat by a device?

    That being said, what admin wants at the end of the day is no discipline problems and no complaints from parents. If you can do that, you can do what you want. That’s why Ben and Tina’s stuff is so valuable. BVP’s book is great, but it’s all SLA.

    I’m coming to the conclusion that if we need to force some output or do the occasional explicit learning in order to just get control of the class, just do it.

    Have you tried Dictogloss? That is a great activity to get control of the class and the admins would like it I think since it is somewhere inbetween a CI activity and a traditional activity?

    1. Fully agree on three points:

      (1) …if we need to force some output or do the occasional explicit learning in order to just get control of the class, just do it….
      (2) …the other classes APPEAR to be managed, but is it really management or is it being babysat by a device?… [ed. note: yes, it’s 100% babysitting]
      (3) …what admin wants at the end of the day is no discipline problems and no complaints from parents….

      These are facts, realities. Any teacher who tries in such a culture to be a hero and teach for the highest ideals is a fool. Burnout is around the corner. In the above comment, Greg shows how we should all react when it’s all falling down around us. Unless we have every teacher on staff ready to work together, let the building fall. Take care of yourself. Don’t be a fool. Use Dictogloss, etc. Do some CI, but get to the end of class relaxed. We know this.

  2. Meg – Give quizzes. Give three quizzes in a class, every fifteen min. Your quiz writer writes five questions and when she has them she nods at you so the others can’t see and you give that quiz and double it for a ten in the book. That will hold them accountable. That’s just one idea.

  3. Meg you are a superstar and it hurts to hear that your admin is more concerned about law and order than learning/acquiring. What exactly are the discipline ‘problems’ and how are they ‘aware’ of them? Do you send Ss to the dean? Do Ss misbehave while you are being observed? Do parents complain? I want to get a better handle on the adminz’ comments…

    Some Ts have an easier time norming their classes by using PAT points or other behavior mod systems – they don’t necessarily always use it but it can help shape the behavior, so I’m told…

    I think those of us who are really into SLA and the aligned strategies have a hard time embracing a hybrid classroom – it feels phony and dishonest, but we can’t accomplish anything without a job!
    To me it feels like WL is still under the radar in that there is no broad understanding of how it works, how it’s different than other disciplines, even what we are saying/doing in class – so as Ben would say, our evaluators know not what we’re doing, Bless their hearts!

    If they then NEED to observe something they recognize (Law and Order, dammit!) then we can wear that hat for an hour – and even practice for it before the formal observation, and even be ready for when the adminz pop in for an informal…

    1. Yes this goes for me too, what Alisa said:

      … I want to get a better handle on the adminz’ comments….

      This group exists for this kind of troubleshooting so if you are comfortable doing so give us more details. We’ll break it down into pieces if we can.

    1. Greg that new book on Cycles of Instruction is gobbling Tina and I up this month. So the Bite Size Book on Classroom Management (CI Liftoff/ won’t be ready. It may never be ready but there will be a big section on classroom management in the Cycles book. We thought we got bitch slapped by A Natural Approach which we co-wrote while I was in India but this new book is just slamming us around. (This does not give you permission to not write the book YOU are going to write on CI. I will continue to hassle you on that. But writing books is hard. It tears a person down bc of its continuous mental drain. Then, unless people buy it from my website and not from TD, it’s like 12 cents an hour. Maybe! More like .12 cents. But I wouldn’t not do it for that reason.)

      1. Yeah, it’s crazy how much commission that Teachers Pay Teachers takes. I just posted that FVR reader mostly because I in a sense consider CI my hobby as well. I am not into sports so CI is like fantasy football is for other guys.

        It’s amazing how the “middle men” make more money then the people who actually provide the content/product.

        What gets me too is that the teacher that dishing out the worksheets across the hall from Grant Boulanger or Tina Hargaden could be making more money than them because of their Master’s degree and what lane they are in on the salary scale.

  4. Also, a lot of people have done this for years, but I just barely started…QUIZLET!!!

    I’m still doing super basic things with it, but it give me a break and gives kids something “interactive” that is still CI! I put in “vocab” (aka phrases or structures from a story) and they can do matching, etc. Quizlet live game is awesome because it makes the random teams for you and forces collaboration!!!

    It would be SO FUN for you to make a “National Lampoon Christmas Vacation” Quizlet!!!! YES! Fun for you and fun for them. Your kids are acquiring, so y’all can have a secret “schoolish” version of what you normally do. Heh. We can win the smoke and mirrors game. Oh yes we can!

  5. Hi Meg —

    I was in your presentation at EdCamp yesterday — great job.

    I feel for you. I also have same question as others — are parents complaining or just the admins?

    What has been working with me so far since my switch to CI (on Nov 1/Quarter 2 this school year) is to use that Interpersonal Rubric to knock down their grade. I have a lot of “blurters” and this is the only thing that will reign them in. I post the rules, walk over to them, etc., but this is what is getting through to them. If they are otherwise engaged, I may just knock off a point and put in the comments section (we use PowerSchool so I can comment on any grade I enter) that he/she needs to work on their chattiness/outbursts in English, etc. If I give a 2/4 (or 1/4– haven’t given this grade yet), then per Ben’s and Tina’s suggestion, I contact home. It has resolved some issues. Of course, other ones crop up — a new week is another opportunity to fall off the CI listening train for some.

    If grades don’t work to re-direct them, then I agree with others you may have to do some “traditional” methods. I am thinking about having a grammar packet ready “just in case” for if I really hit a rough patch. It can happen and often without warning even when things have been going smoothly. You could hit them with a drill and kill day — working independently only — and see how they respond to that.

    My first week doing CI, I asked for feedback using a Google form. They had to rate this new approach 1-5 — 5 being “it’s awesome” to 1 being “please stop”. I had 80% rate it a 4 or 5. Just 3 kids across 5 classes gave it a 2. Could you do something like this to have as evidence to show your admins that it’s just a small number of students who aren’t engaged? And we all know it takes just ONE student to spoil the whole class.

    I’m nearby in AH. Maybe if your admins know that others in the area are using CI, that would help?

    1. I hit them with a drill and kill month. Word gets around. It is so strong it brings a great response from all of your classes. Greg and Carly have done this this year w very good results. One day of drill and kill is not enough.

  6. It seems to me that TPRS and CI demos focus a little too much on instruction (demos on story-asking, etc) and too little on classroom management.

    Perhaps that’s because the answers to a lot of these classroom management problems involve things that aren’t “politically correct” that only Ben is willing to say (like “slap them with a bad grade” “pull out the blow torch, etc.”)

    It seems like the biggest struggle for most teachers is not learning the methodology but learning how to keep kids listening. That’s at least my biggest stressor, especially since in my job my reward for doing a good job was being given the difficult students. Which I don’t mind because I do want to help those kids, but I must say it has affected even my physical health sometimes.

    Demos at conferences, even in languages that the teachers don’t know, tend to go awesome because the audience is so cooperative.


      I do not think there is a way to demo this reality. Ben did the closest I have seen last August in Maine when he played the role of a wiseass teenage boy. This was the most powerful training session I have been in because it came closest to what we are talking about here.

      I’d love to see demos in which the audience is instructed to be relentlessly rude and talking constantly, so that I can see some of these techniques modeled in real time. With multiple simultaneous “heavy hitters.” Of course this still won’t be “real” but it will be closer than the fun demos where everyone wants to participate.

      1. Great point jen about what to focus on more (most) in trainings. The good news is that we can do it now. We can deal with them, and easily. I just know it. It’s come up a lot in my communication/co-writing of the new book w Tina and it grew from the summer workshops when Tina and I are on exactly the same page re classroom management. There is a way to stuff the jerks. Yes, yes and fricking yes.

    2. I believe too, that methodology isn’t a really big problem for most teachers. After a while we have enough materials and methods to keep the ball rolling but CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT in my experience can be an issue even for teachers with many years under their belt.
      I myself am not too bad at it but after having watched one of TINA’S awesome videos on this topic I feel I still have so much to learn and in my opinion classroom managemnet has the subtitle ‘RELATIONSHIP IS THE PRIME OBJECTIVE’ bc with it teaching becomes relaxed bc we and our students can enjoy each others company – oops, I believe I just stole a page from Ben and others.

  7. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I feel like those teachers here who like Jen are dealing with a more challenging crowd have the most to say on this topic. I teach lil ones and mgmt is an overriding concern, but these affluent kids in this highly functional school are generally happy, healthy, loved, attended to and stimulated, so I don’t see a lot of the shit show that some are regularly facing…
    Perhaps the norming phase at the beg of the yr must be longer and even more purposeful, with the same tropes repeated throughout the year?
    Can our classes be an island of safety and care (and yes, LOVE) in an interpersonal desert?

    1. The same goes for me. I don’t have really negative students; it’s just blurting and not listening I have to deal with.
      My heart goes out to those teachers who have to contend with highly negative attitudes and behaviour.

  8. Here is the latest chapter on the Cycles of Instruction and Assessment book. It is a rough rough rough ROUGH draft. It is now 336 pages long and will likely be 450 by the time we are done. this is why you have not seen much of me around here lately.
    I am excited about this book. It is a monster how-to-do-a-year guidebook. This is from the preliminary part, on setting the year up. Then you get to the monster chapter, 8, where it presents 30 instructional sessions, and Chapter 9, where it presents the instructions for the assessment cycles.

  9. Thank you for all the replies! I agree that I think what admin wants is no discipline problems/complaints from parents. Admin has seen when I’ve entered minors and have had students in the hallway so my big takeaway from my post observation was to try and hide any problems by not reporting them…which has hurt…

    I should try out dictogloss/dictée and I am having the kids do a lot of Textivate lately. I feel bad because they are being hard on my colleagues in Spanish and making them do old output-heavy curriculum. Thank you Tina for the advice and thank you all for the words of warmth! You are helping me get through a tough season 🙂

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