Report from the Field – Robert Harrell

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17 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Robert Harrell”

  1. Just an update and a correction. At our department chair meeting today a district administrator stopped by and was willing to answer questions. He told us that the district chose not to sign on to the waiver request because it obligated the districts to agree to some form of “value-added” assessment of teachers, and the district wouldn’t sign on to that. He also said that the collaboration with Michael Fullan continues.

  2. Nice Robert! When I was doing my training through CSULB I was flabbergasted at how few students ended up learning what CI or TPRS were in the LOTE group. I was lucky to find great CI teachers like Maust and Henderson to observe here in the Latin world. This is such great news! The tide is turning in SoCal.


        LA – I teach currently at Westlake High School in south Atlanta. I am from Rowland Heights though – used to teach at Woodbridge High in Irvine and XRDS in Santa Monica.

  3. This is very encouraging, Robert. You’ve made connections and now traffic is flowing in and out of your classroom and mailbox! This is really huge. Soon, only 3 of us will be an old song. That you are getting student teachers in on this is also big. My two former student teachers both now teach at the same school. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. Just when we are feeling the weight of the October collapse. Thanks for the encouragement to keep moving along, doing the best for our students, whenever and however we can.

  5. The October Collapse is not just about us. They collapse too. They have been sitting for weeks in restraining devices from 7:30 a.m., low on sleep, electrified in all the wrong ways, permission given to leave at 2:30 p.m. but where do they go? Most of mine go home to extremely unstable environments. Homework? Really? My Jasmine works until 1:00 a.m., goes home, sleeps for four hours, gets up, makes her morning classes, skips her p.m. classes to get sleep she’ll need for work. And yet, brilliant. Her parents just are not able to get by financially without her help. A child. Ask me if I let her sleep in class sometimes, where she tries to listen and take the quizzes anyway. So when kids collapse in October they don’t want to do the auditory jGR requirements so much. Fine. Read. Do R and D. Who’s gonna tell that you are not doing stories and so you are bad? Another thing, I’m not even sure if stories work beyond level 2. A four year h.s. program for me is starting to look like two years of active listening and two years of focused reading.

  6. I long ago took to heart the biblical advice to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove – though I think I do better at the serpent part than the dove part. I also took the challenge of a friend of mine: “Tell me your rules, and I’ll beat you using your own rules.”

    Admittedly I have an advantage in being the only German teacher at my school – in the whole district, in fact. I can align my curriculum with myself. When I wrote my AP syllabus, I deliberately included as a Student Learning Objective (or whatever else you want to call it) the learning and playing of culturally authentic games and sports. Guess what the major sport in Germany is? Soccer. We learn a lot about soccer in the classroom: playing field, rules, teams, scoring, keeping a table for a team, etc. Then when we need to, we go out onto the field and play. That’s what my first period class did today. They’re second year, but I need to be aligned in the “lower levels” with my AP course. It’s called Vertical Teaming and highly recommended by AP. I even take my whistle and yellow and red cards to the field. Students are either playing soccer, practicing soccer skills (i.e. just kicking the ball around) or working on another assignment for class.

    Tomorrow I’m going to ask my department about creating our own mini-World Cup competition among the classes for second semester. It’s definitely cross curricular, incorporating an aspect of the culture of many countries as well as aligning with Physical Education, plus it ties into our schools Expected Student Learning Result of “Honor self, others …” A healthy lifestyle honors the individual.

    My school’s schedule includes a rotating 30-minute extension three times a week over a two-week span, so we can play during extension. (That’s what first period did today.)

    See, I’ve justified going out on the field and having fun using the system’s own rules FTW. (Students win.) Hmm, can deviousness be taught? Would people come to a conference session on essentially subverting the system?

  7. Here’s an addition to the report.

    I just got finished chatting on Facebook with a former student. When he was in German class, this student also worked late at night and participated in school sports. As a result, he often fell asleep during first period German. Nonetheless, when he recently (1.5 years out of school) encountered a German couple at his work, he spoke to them in German. Both he and they were surprised at how good his German was. They told him that of all the people they have encountered in the US so far who claim that they speak German, he was by far the best. My student was far from being a superstar, so it just goes to show that this stuff works.

    Anecdotal but still valid evidence.

      1. I understand some of the reticence to use anecdotal evidence. It is in part because the evidence can often be false evidence. For example, when asked about how they learned a language, many grammar teachers will reply, “By learning the grammar rules”, and adduce their own experience as proof. What the anecdote fails to consider and the speaker fails to mention is the considerable amount of time he or she spent receiving comprehensible input throughout the learning arc, including (nearly always) time spent in the target culture and country as well as reading lots of literature and hearing lots of speakers of the language.

        Similarly, I can talk about students who have gone on to university and aced the placement test for German, but many are exceptionally bright, so my anecdote might not be evidence for effectiveness of the method but the intelligence of the student. However, when our other students excel, we can generally rule out some of these other factors and ascertain that the method is what made the difference. So, anecdotal evidence needs to be examined in a different way from research data. Of course, research data needs to be analyzed to see if the test was legitimate and if the conclusions being drawn are supported by the evidence. Unfortunately, what filters out as “common knowledge” is often “common misinformation” that isn’t the findings of the study at all.

        The problem with some scholars, however, is that they discount all anecdotal evidence and worship at the altar of misinterpreted large-scale “research”.

  8. You used the verb adduce. Just sayin’. My vocabulary in English goes up just reading your posts, M. le Chevalier de l’Ouest.

    Anyway, I would just add that a true form of common misinformation coming from elitist AP teachers is how, esp. in the old days, they could take a truly bright student, fill them with information directly related to the exam, predict questions (both on the language and literature exams) and generally hammer a bunch of information into the kids head that could lead to a score of, typically, 3 or 4.

    It seemed as if all that counted was if the kid passed the exam, and not if they actually knew any French. I know that bc I did it in that way with such kids for one quarter of a century. And everybody thought I was a capable AP French instructor in both language and literature.

    However, was doing that not providing the community with misinformation? Was I not lying to the community? Yes I was. How do I know that? Because my kids couldn’t really – not really – understand French in the true way and they couldn’t say a word, almost. Any other AP teachers with kids who have scored at 3 or 4 on those exams and you knew that the scores were not real indicators, but rather the result of teaching to the test?

    One of my assistant principals has a daughter who had straight A’s through high school and college in French. They went as a family to France. She couldn’t say a word. He (new to our school) tells me that story whenever I grab him in the hallway to tell him about our WL department and its commitment to CI.

    Talk about misinformation. I am more likely to put belief in the happy and inspired face of a child talking about his relationship to French then in seven years or eight years of A’s on his transcript, only to see that, in France, those A’s led to a form of mutism.

    If a child is happy learning the language and wants to go on, I feel that I have done the best job I can do. If it takes 10,000 hours to acquire a language (on the conservative side) and in four years I have 500 hours only, what can I do in that time?

    (The saddest of all is when teachers don’t know that 10,000 figure and then go beat themselves to death trying to get results that are impossible.)

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