Report from the Field – Shannon Klint

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5 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Shannon Klint”

  1. I am frustrated because I just moved schools (not by choice) and the only person that is TPRS/CI is the French Teacher (I teach Spanish). I am teaching levels 1 and 2 and there are 2 other teachers that teach levels one and two so, I am trying to stay somewhat on par with the book they use (Ven Conmigo). I don’t want to come in and say, “this is what I did last year or “at my old school…” because I am the outsider. But I can’t help to switch into bitch mode when I find out that the Spanish III teacher teaches in… ENGLISH. WTF?!! and he uses the book exclusively. So what if my TPRS kids (who I feel like I am failing miserably because I am an art teacher first and a Spanish teacher second [I never teach art though, because someone has to die in order to get a position around here]) cannot handle the ridiculous book follower when they get there? And what if they switch mid semester to another teacher’s class and are lost because they have not been following the book? AHHHH. My big annoyance is that they made all of the kids pay for the stupid Ven Conmigo grammar workbooks when they signed up for the class. I am thinking, because the over achiever kids are starting to wonder where their workbooks are, if I can just hand them out and let them know that any work they do in them will be extra credit (I hate extra credit). okay these are my little rants. any ideas from anyone out there that is a light(TPRS teacher) that the darkness (traditional boring teacher) is trying to squash out like myself?

    1. Karen, our textbook is Ven Conmigo, too. Of all of the awful textbooks out there, I think Ven Conmigo takes the cake. I teach level one in a middle school and I have students going to a more, “communicative” (i.e. output driven), but I say traditional, HS department. In level one, we “cover” the first 6 chapters of Ven Conmigo, and ABSOLUTELY NO PAST TENSE. I also teach 7th grade, 9-week Exploratory Spanish, where I can basically do whatever I want, so last year and this year I’m TPRSing the hell out of those classes, getting better each quarter because I basically have 4 years in one, 4 times to start off new with new classes. But I also teach 1 level one class, my Achilles Heel. Last year, I did TPRS the first quarter, mainly using Cuentame Mas and some Matava scripts. But then second quarter came, and I got nervous about them going to high school, and wasn’t confident in my TPRS abilities, so I went to the textbook and taught out of that along with reading Pobre Ana. Needless to say, it was a boring, miserable year and my students begged me to “teach like the first 9 weeks”. Sorry kids….

      This year, after going to a 3-day workshop during the summer and getting so much advice from this PLC, I’m teaching the way I see fit for my students. I’ll be using Matava and Tripp scripts, the new LICT, and lots of novels. I’ve been using preterit and imperfect during storyasking, more than I’ve probably ever used in my life, and reading in present tense. My students are absorbing so much, and we’re only a few weeks in. I’m not going back to the textbook this year, at all. I guess you could also say I have more of a “bad attitude” this year as well and a chip on my shoulder. Mainly because I have zero tolerance for bullshit and I’m not a big fan of authority and being told what to do (grew up on punk rock). So I’m going to do things my way and I KNOW that my students will be more than prepared to move on. Research is on my side.

      I highly, highly recommend getting anybody from administration on your side that you can. Principals, assistant principals, curriculum directors, etc. Make them aware of what second language acquisition research says and how this way of teaching meets that. Make them aware of Blaine’s definition of fluency and how high-frequency words should be our focus, not bullshit vocabulary words from Ven Conmigo like “you ought to cut the grass”. And invite them to come observe you as often as possible, you want them on your side, they are the decision makers afterall.

      I’ve found that this has been my saving grace. I’ve helped my administrators see that one of the only things that matters is that we deliver comprehensible input to our students.

      There won’t be any changing the minds of other teachers. That kind of direct conflict, or warfare, is a suicide mission. Instead, I think it is more useful to employ more strategic techniques. Working from above is what has been working for me. Help the higher-ups see the light then you’re safe. I like to think of it as some sort of coup d’etat

  2. Karen I’ve not yet found a way to escape from that kind of anger, but I know that it comes from within myself so I can control it if I just keep trying. So I have no answer to this.

    Sometimes we just need to vent and that was a good one! People don’t vent enough here.

    It’s not easy to not get angry, since I keep seeing how much fun stories can be. When I look at their faces in the moments of the comprehensible input, at the happiness there, right there in the middle of their sad teen lives, I see Krashen’s strong fists in action, pummeling ignorance.

    It’s like we’re all taking a much needed time out from the sadness and we and our students are beginning to experience life, which is so intricately connected to it’s main expressive force, language, if just for a short while, in the way God may have intended for us.

    Like this morning when Avrion had to go to court for speeding in her Dae Woo and got a ticket and how much fun they had NOT FOCUSING ON THE LANGUAGE BUT ON THE MEANING – making crazy shit up about her getting the ticket and going to court on Wednesday and not Sunday.

    Laurie always says it best, to be looking at the good we are doing in spite of the seemingly unsurmountable odds against us and not to focus on the other. I think we have to know what is possible before we can truly appreciate the unbelievable negative impact of the old way of teaching.

    And that is where the word forgiveness comes in. They don’t know, so they can’t be blamed. We know, and we CAN be blamed if we, knowing, don’t act ON BEHALF OF THE KIDS with the information we now have, so that they can become happier and happier in their sad and confused lives and actually accomplish something in school and so we ourselves can also be happier in a profession that absolutely sucks when it is described by worksheets, books and bullshit software.

    This reflects my favorite quote from Soren Kierkegaard:

    “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”

    This is the way I want to interact with my students in L2. This is how I want to teach. This, to me, is what it means to be a teacher. This is what the old way of language instruction cannot hope for – new possibilities. And it is happening because I worked my butt off for twelve years now, not because I crossed my fingers and made a wish.

  3. “Oh well, kids are learning and staying in our program longer…”

    I think that we have to remind ourselves constantly that at the end of the day it really is all about the kids. I don’t think any of us would be in the profession if it wasn’t. I know that when I get myself all worked up about how to do this or that, I remember that the kids are what really matters. There are only 4 world language teachers in my district, I am the only one that is TPRS/CI. Thankfully I am the only French teacher, but I still feel push-back from my colleague next door who is forever offering me output activities to use. I don’t know if it is intentional or not; but I take it as push-back.

    Shannon, it’s great to “hear” from you!

  4. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I need to work on my skills and I am so glad to be here in Anchorage were we meet once a month to inspire and coach each other. My only wish is that I had the creativity that Ben has. I am working at that. I have TPRS in a year and am going to go through it this year because I am tires of being mediocre. Chris, you couldn’t have said it better. Ven Conmigo has bullshit phrases they like to teach. The meaning is good but when the hell are you ever going to use that in a phrase unless you are living in Panamá with your Panameño lover and you are considering cutting the grass of the bungalow you just bought?
    Any good ideas about the wonderful workbooks?
    I love this blog.

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