Showering Approval

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37 thoughts on “Showering Approval”

  1. Well if we are inventing words here then I propose “datafry”.

    Ben, this ONE THING is the most important thing that we can offer students. Approval/Acceptance. It is, deep down, what they all, what all of us, crave. It is our deepest emotional need. It is the manna of our hearts.

    To hear, to see, to know, that you matter.

    NOTHING is more important.

    with love,

  2. And I don’t think a teacher in the profession of language teaching would disagree. But their approach forces them to disagree. And they haven’t a clue about how to reach kids. Even if they want to. Where does that put us?

    It puts us in the position of never giving up our efforts. Why? Because we happen to have stumbled, perhaps through luck, perhaps not, on a way of instruction that can reach kids. I’m not referring to the TPRS imposters but those who genuinely reach kids who have been overcome data smoke.

    I recently spoke for three straight hours, in one of those conversations that just keeps spinning into new areas, with a person who works in juvenile arrest for Jefferson County. What I heard from her blew my mind. I thought I knew what is going on with kids, since I work in a school.

    I don’t know what is going on. And I’m not a social worker so I can’t help even if I did. But it is entirely more frightening, in terms of basic human experience and the right to strive to be happy, than anything I had ever imagined. What is the logical conclusion of this?

    I am, we are, through our craft, in a position to influence a lot of kids. We can make their days less unhappy. WE can make them feel as if they count in the little slices of their days when they come to us. Therefore, we must work hard at this craft that is such a lightening rod in f.l. education.

    If we are to call ourselves patriotic Americans, then we must do this. We are public servants. If we get overwhelmed, like the three teachers who quit this group in the past few months – all three told me that they had to quit and go into something else or basically go crazy – then we go do something else and if we have the strength we then return.

    Sorry – a little rant there. But for the love of God who is going to show up to put out the fire in our schools? We can’t get water in every classroom, but we can get it in ours. We can bring the approval that they need, and it doesn’t have to be fake, and we can make a change. I have waited all my career for these times, and that is why I am a little on the intense side with it.

  3. Kids need approval. If they don’t get it from parents, they can try to get it in school. If not there, in a gang.

    This statement is true, Ben, and one of the reasons that gangs have become such a part of our society. Gangs give kids what looks like unconditional acceptance and approval. Once they are in, though, that approval becomes contingent – but kids need the approval, so they are willing to do whatever the gang wants in order to keep it. There is a reason fellow members of a gang are called your “homies”.

    In German 3 we do concrete poetry, and I always show a poem that I think is very powerful. It’s called Worte (“Words”) and is by anonymous (a very prolific writer indeed). There are two parts to it.
    A. Worte
    Du Worte Ich
    –Just in case that doesn’t format correctly: this part of the poem consists of the words Du (You) and Ich (I) separated by Worte (Words). The word “Worte” occurs 16 times, and they are stacked on top of one another (like a wall).

    B. Worte Worte Worte
    Du Worte Worte Ich
    –Again “Worte” appears 16 times between Du and Ich, but this time they obviously build a bridge.

    Its a great concrete poem and reminds all of us that words can be used to put up walls or build bridges. I try to build bridges.

    1. Rats! the formatting didn’t come through.

      Here’s a link to a google book that has the image; the link should land you on p. 98; scroll up to p. 97 for the image.

          1. Oh darn!!!! Time with Robert is precious.

            with love,
            and a little sad, but so happy for Robert!!

          2. Robert Harrell

            Thanks, Laurie, for both the wishes and the compliment. I will be in Punta Cana for the TPRS conference, then fly to Spain from there.

          3. Darn! Robert, several of us wanted to corral you long enough at Breckenridge to ask about the virtual trip to (Moscow, in my case). Is there any chance that you’d be willing to Skype or write about what you do? I took a flying leap and promised my advanced class that’s what we’d be doing in the fall. I’d like to be somewhat ready!

          4. Haha, me too! i pretty much read the post and then went into school the next morning and “presented” the idea when we were having our morning assembly about electives for next year! So yeah, Michele and I and probably a bunch of others had planned to sequester you! I have not even picked my city yet. Would love advice on how one even decides this!

            Anyway, have a super fun time in “Quisqueya la Bella!” I am actually heading there (up north to Mao / Esperanza in the Cibao region) right after Breckenridge!


          5. Jen, here is a short summary of how I decided on Berlin and Vienna as my virtual trip cities:
            1. They are significant cities (capitals of their respective countries, for one thing)
            2. They are different from one another, representing two distinct Germanic cultures
            3. They offer opportunities for “adventure” because they are big enough to have extensive public transit systems (subway, light rail, tram, bus)
            4. They have distinct neighborhoods that offer students a choice of places to live (including prices)
            5. They are featured in books that we read (“Emil and the Detectives” for Berlin; “Viennese Blood” for Vienna)
            6. Famous people have called them home or are associated with them
            7. They have history
            8. They have culture
            9. They are transportation hubs for ventures further afield
            10. I have visited both of them enough to be somewhat familiar with them
            11. Information about them is readily accessible on the Internet, in encyclopedias, in books, etc.
            12. In the case of Vienna, Michael Miller’s materials offer a nice introduction to a trip to the city
            13. I have lots of pictures of both cities
            14. They avoid the stereotypical picture of a German or Austrian (Most Americans think of Munich for Germany and Salzburg for Austria)
            15. There are enough tourist sites and activities in both cities for students to find plenty to “do while there”

            If I were doing Russia, I would definitely choose either Moscow or St. Petersburg – probably Moscow with a side trip to St Petersburg

            If I were doing Spain, I would choose Madrid. With Spanish, there are so many great possibilities in the other Spanish-speaking countries.

            If I were doing French, I would choose Paris.

            This year I had one girl in my class who was really excited about the Vienna project because her family will be going there this summer. Now she has a good idea of what to see and do when they go there. She’ll be an excellent tour guide.

          6. OK, I’ll make writing up some things on the virtual trip a priority. Right now I’m working on the soccer activity. Ben, Jen and Drew have initial drafts of what I’ve written so far. Anyone else want to get on board? You just have to give me feedback on it. (When I was writing my medieval book I had a number of people who volunteered to proofread and/or give me feedback. One person from the original group actually came through; two others wrote back that they simply overestimated the time they could devote to the task and were swamped or had taken ill; the rest simply failed to respond to repeated e-mails asking how it was going. Guess who will never receive another free manuscript from me? On the other hand both Martin and Brigitte did a great job on the pirate book.)

          7. Thanks very much, Robert! I know that we’ll all be very grateful.

            My biggest issue with such things is that I end up not remembering what kids are like and plans fall flat. I made up some lesson plans last summer that were TPRS-friendly around songs, and while they worked as lessons, they didn’t work with the group I got. I need to learn how to plan in advance in a way that doesn’t restrict kids.

            We won’t have regular lab access, but I do have lots of pictures of Moscow, and they’re easy to find on line. I would love to talk about another town because it “is” Russia, but I don’t know enough about either of the two biggies.

            Let me know if I can do any support work for this.

  4. Annemarie Orth

    One of the things I remember most from Susan Gross workshop is her explanation of the “love bank.” Before disciplining, you gotta contribute to the love bank-what is it 20 times or something?

  5. 12 deposits BEFORE making any withdrawals.

    This is so timely Ben… We get out the 19th of June and this is a VERY difficult time of year. I have REALLY tried to approach each and every student of mine as I would want every adult in my son Gabe’s life to approach him.

    Gabe LOVES to play baseball. His talents lie in music, reading and writing, not athletics. His coach has him convinced that he is a good ballplayer. He encourages him, sends him text messages that he had a good game and truly treats him like a son.

    I love that coach for that. I am determined to do the same for even the most unlovable in my classes…. Even this time of year!

    Thanks again for the reminder and for the challenge

    1. We’re out skip but I had a thought the other day. If the grind is really rough now, you have two outs, neither of which are your best CI options, but both of which eat up minutes.

      One is dictation and the other is movie reading. Then there is that fake class thing we talked about some time ago, the term having been mentioned as not idea by someone, I think it was Laurie. Laurie, if you read this, I have decided to change the term to false classes.

      1. Just remember..every moment that we are in front of kids is the REAL thing. Even if it isn’t what you would like to consider “Pure CI”. Using words like “false” and “fake” label those days as unimportant and us as “false” and “fake”..whether we like that result or not. I know that Politically Correct is not necessarily your thing (or mine either!) but there is no use landmining ourselves!! I was thinking more along the lines of “Change of Pace” day. :o) Something a little less on the “this shit doesn’t matter” line. Love ya Ben!!

        with love,

        1. Thank you, Laurie, for the emphasis. There should be no guilt associated with not being able to do 100% CI when things are difficult, as long as whatever alternative approach we choose will allow us to continue to be there 100% for our students, as human beings.

          1. …there should be no guilt associated with not being able to do 100% CI when things are difficult….

            That is so huge, because people never actually say that and it must be said. Sometimes we must back off of the CI even if it means raining on the parade. Thank you, John. We can’t be perfect with this, and we won’t be.

          2. I agree. Connecting with and really hearing the kids trumps everything. Sometimes backing off so that you can engage in something different goes a long way. I caught myself last week in my tunnel vision, and I have to admit a bit of zealous attitude.

            The kids have been asking all year “when are we going to cook?” Usually we do some cooking together a few times, but this year I couldn’t figure out how to do that without giving up precious CI time. We did it once earlier in the year but I was so uptight about insisting that they not talk, so it could still be a CI experience. Ridiculous! We have to use a kitchen where people are constantly coming in and out, so there is always interaction in English. Not to mention that these are teenagers…duh…they are going to talk to each other when they are in a situation where there are multiple tasks being done and I cannot personally supervise them all. And I am really not interested in heading up a police state!

            I kept saying, vaguely “oh, we’ll get to it.” Fortunately I realized that “giving up” a period of CI for a cooking class would be perfect right now, as everyone is just slogging, hammering away at research papers and final project and presentations for all their other classes.

            Honestly for me, they have been amazing lately…walking in, settling right away with their FVR books, reading in complete silence, focusing, not blurting during stories and PQA. Might be that they are so tired they really appreciate the down time of just sitting and reading.

            So yesterday we made crepes and listened to French pop music in the kitchen. This is an all-girl class, and they really like Tal and Christophe Mae. They sang and laughed and cheered each other on in their quest to flip the crepe in the pan! Fabulous and easy fun and I did not have my bitchy edge going. I admitted to them beforehand that I’d caught myself driving the train too furiously and had basically ignored their requests, so that made it easier to relax with them.

            So ironically probably more French was heard because they were so into the music that they kept playing this one song over and over so they could sing along!

          3. …might be that they are so tired they really appreciate the down time of just sitting and reading….

            Might also be that you have made some great strides in enforcing your rules and norming, so that that they do it for that reason and out of respect for you and what you are doing. Congratulations!

        2. Given the chance, I try to piss people off.

          Really, though, Laurie, it may be that calling those days fake is also just another way of dealing with the stress of taking it all too seriously, which I have been known to do once or twice in my career, and have made great strides with lately.

    2. Annemarie Orth

      No kidding it’s difficult-we get out the 20th and it has been raining for 3 days straight!!!! I’m reading piratas with my 8th graders and it’s enough if I can detect a pulse in them right now.

      1. Are you in the northeast? I am in NH and it has been raining for 3 days too, only now it’s cold rain. I think I am going to spark up my wood stove!

        I am so proud of my kids. They really have been hanging in there more than I would have expected at this point in the year. I told them that. I actually got caught off guard that the year is nearly over! That is amazing. And also funny/ sad because I somehow thought we had an extra week, and was trying to finish Pirates with French 1. Except there is no way to do that because we really don’t have an extra week AND I have to give them their “exam” early…like Wed! So I told them I don’t know what came over me to think we had another week, and no, we’ll have to wait until next year to finish. We all laughed at my very ditzy moment. Then one of my most reluctant readers grabbed the Pirate novel for FVR!

  6. The word I use for this is “trust”. They want and need approval. They also want and need another human being in their lives that they can really trust. For some kids, a parent does that. For others a grandparent, a scout leader, an older sibling, or, or, or . . . one of us. A teacher. If we go into a classroom aiming to be the kind of person who can be trusted, then any one of those kids in that room will seek the spark they are looking for.

    I am sorry to say that I don’t think that every FL teacher gets this. In my experience, they largely don’t. They themselves feel safer engaging grammar and charts and rules and homework than . . . making themselves trustworthy to a student. As I’ve said before, without the trust, nothing else really matters. I teach (fill in the language)? Who cares, if the kids in my class can’t trust me.

    This is just the heart of what we do.

  7. “We can bring the approval that they need, and it doesn’t have to be fake, and we can make a change.”
    Thanks, Ben, for breaking down the assumption that so many teachers hold, consciously or unconsciously, that approval must be tied to traditional academic performance, or else it is fake, PC, “self esteem building” etc. Genuine approval, positive supportive energy for every student, is never fake, nor does it go against a truly rigorous pedagogy.

    1. Yes! And I really don’t understand what is wrong with “self esteem building?” I recently found a bunch of notes from Susie’s workshop and highlighted among many gems was “The number one predictor of success is self-talk.” So true, and has many implications way beyond school. For sure, self-talk completely supports (or sabotages) a “truly rigorous pedagogy.”

      1. At previous schools (luckily, not my current school), I have often heard teachers use “self-esteem building” sarcastically, or phrases like “so I suppose soon our job description will be to make our students feel good about themselves.” I say, why the hell not? But to the antiquated mindset of many teachers, it’s about the content, not about feeling good about oneself. But I think everyone on this list knows how impossible it is ever to get to the content when you have a room full of students (or even 2 or 3) who have been made to feel terrible about who they are.

        1. How many times are we going to have to hear those comments? Again, this is so well said, John. I say we just confront them next time. I am learning to confront bullies. This is a good one to work on. They say it, and I, like you, say, “Why the hell not?” Damn robots!

    2. I like the connection between showering approval on children in a true way and “a truly rigourous pedagogy”. Great success cannot be had through the mind only. This approval thing is huge. Thank you, John. They must have du coeur (heart in French), which may be the root of courage*, the courage to learn.

      **from the Online Etymology Dictionary – courage c.1300, from O.Fr. corage (12c., Mod.Fr. courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from V.L. *coraticum (cf. It. coraggio, Sp. coraje), from L. cor “heart,” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.

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