Setting Boundaries In My Classroom

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51 thoughts on “Setting Boundaries In My Classroom”

  1. This is extremely well timed for me. I am so thankful to read this just now. I just realized that all my issues with my rambunctious class in fourth period ALL go back to boundaries. I wanted the kids to like me and my class and by extension Spanish and learning languages which is such a passion for me. So I let them violate my boundaries just a little. Because we were having such fun and everyone was liking the craziness. But just a little doesn’t ever STAY just a little. Not in seventh grade anyway at least not in my experience.
    So this gradual encroaching on my dignity as a teacher was due to my letting the boundaries shift gradually. And the kids’ pushing farther.
    So today I hit the reset button in that class. Met them at the door and told them that I care too much about our relationship to let me feel disrespected and grumpy and angry and worn out and tired after their period. Handed them copies of a pretty vanilla flavor story that was very compressible I had made up at home this morning and told them to sit calmly down. Then I read the story to them all at once and then after that first read we went around translating with one kid calling on the next. Then I had them write English silently under the Spanish.
    I told the kids it’s a ton more work for me to have to type print and grade daily but I care too much about everyone’s feelings to let me continue to feel the way I did yesterday.

    I am also a person who likes the approval of others. It’s an issue that goes back a long way in my life. And for some reason this year is a time that life wants to have me that lesson. Right here at the end of my fortieth go round our local star. But here’s the weird thing with the timing of this post. Yesterday I had a visitor too. And one I wanted to impress. It’s Lori Swan from the PLC. And of course I wanted her to get some ideas off of me and think highly of my teaching. So I just soldiered on through a shitty story that left me exhausted and was like Ben says here too much the kids driving the boat.

    Dude. They can’t drive. They can’t even reach the pedals.

    Today I got back in the drivers seat. We will still do CI just more on paper and maybe in a couple weeks we can hit the reset button on stories. If not though. Dude theyve learned so much. Their work today in fourth period was good. I just need to learn that laying down my boundaries is more important than everyone liking me.

    I’m so grateful that you’re willing to share the good and the bad Ben. Because yes. You are Ben Slavic. But if even you have these periods and these classes and these challenges with your teaching persona then well it’s surely ok that I do too. Cause I love you and I love me and I love my kids and we are all ok.

    Dude. Best timing ever. Thank you.

    1. Yes, amazing timing! I often experience that terrific timing on here! Maybe because we’re all teachers and you’re so real and honest, Ben.

      I must say, Tina, you did impress me yesterday! Even though that’s not the point and it really doesn’t matter (if we’re trying to stop being people pleasers :), but I learned a lot from you yesterday.

      First, I learned great ways to implement student jobs (which I’ve been sparatic about). You’ve got systems in place that work wonderfully and give students a way to belong and make a difference. Which is obviously the point. We got those systems in place today and my students seem excited and invested.

      Second, I was inspired by Ben’s new simple version of stories, so well demonstrated by your ease and creativity with your students. (My Spanish 2 class drew characters today and had a lot of fun creating them. It was helpful to have the non-smelly sushi king picture as an example :). I’m excited for our next block period on Thursday, to try this out! So is my class!

      Third, I was encouraged that I’m making a difference, as you are, even though I have some bad days. I felt deeply for you (as you patiently and calmly, outwardly, persevered) and I wanted to stand up for you and tell those little buggars to shut up and listen. I fantasized, on my way home, that I had stood up for you and told those kids that they had no idea how lucky they are to have such a fantastic teacher, who cares so much about their well-being and acquisition. And some day, when they get a non-TPRS teacher, they’re going to realize how good they had it in 7th grade with Señora Hargaden!

      Thanks for inspiring me, Tina!

      And Ben, thanks for connecting me with Tina! I’m so excited to attend your workshop in Portland this Summer!

      1. Lori, that was sweet to read. I felt like you saw a sandwich of high-functioning classes with my poor, ruined eighth graders and my special class of seventh graders as the filling. 🙂

        I am so glad that the student jobs and the drawing is going well in your classes. I could not teach without the jobs; they are so incredibly helpful. They let me pour my creativity and heart into SPEAKING THESE BEAUTIFUL, ROMANTIC LANGUAGES to my students.

        I know that my kids will look back fondly on seventh-grade Spanish and French. It is such a pleasure to share this year with them, and I hope that even if they go on to grammar grinders as Chris Stolz says, that they will remember the joy of learning and using these beautiful languages.

        What a gift we are giving our students. What a gift we are giving ourselves.

      2. Lori the fourth period class is eating up dictados and open story quizzes and free writing. Maybe just a good idea to switch gears. Thanks SO MUCH for brainstorming with me and for tolerating my ranting. I’m glad we met and I know we will see lots more of each other.

        1. You bet! And thanks for sharing your highly effective options with me. I appreciate the reminder that we have a “TPRS/CI arsenal” and don’t have to resort to traditional methods. I’m not sure what open story quizzes are, though.

          Way to go Rock Star! 😉

  2. I have to quote Tina: “Dude. Best timing ever. Thank you.”

    Boundaries boundaries boundaries. Yep. Me. No boundaries. Teaching is sooooooo NOT about the content! I’m chuckling to read this tonight, because I’m on an Ayurvedic cleanse, day 4, which includes a tech cleanse. It’s good. And I also for whatever reason felt compelled to check in, because it feels weird not to.

    I’m super tired but my eyes are clearing up (have had an ongoing eye infection since August…hmmm…stress related? hmmm…keeps bouncing from one eye to the other ever since I started this job). So yeah, clear vision, clear insight, etc. For this week I am letting go of needing to teach so much and interact (my version of “taking rest” given my current situation). So I am watching a lot while I “teach” by giving them “group work” and such, just to give myself a break. Watching the students, watching myself, watching the stories I create in my head around all of it. Watching all the patterns spin around. Ben’s post is a very accurate rendering of what goes on in my own mind.

    So thankful to have this group. So very thankful for each of you. 🙂

    1. There was something bubbling up about all of this that just came to the surface: the angst I create around the fact that I have not done a single story with any of the classes for many weeks. “And I call myself a storytelling teacher–HA!” But I came to a screeching halt with stories due to my lack of boundaries and due to what I perceive as a really dangerous dynamic in the various groups that prevents them from functioning. Social stuff that seems so complicated but all boils down to fear. But really this is my boundaries right? I can’t say “they” don’t function, but “we” don’t function bc I am not creating the clear boundaries of how to do that. Because I am afraid. I will dig into this more. Hm.

  3. Very courageous reflection about boundary setting, but (this could be the middle daughter ‘fixer/cheer-leader’ in me) I feel the need to ask whether you didn’t recognize the danger signals in class because you were temporarily blinded by optimism and your deep love for those kids?
    Is that such a bad thing?
    Also when we’re being observed and it’s going great it feels awesome and powerful, but who wants the stink of humiliation hanging in the air when we chide the kids for bad behavior in front of an ‘outsider?’ I think I’d try to ‘style it’ and carry on like you did, too!!
    I think the technical term, “super spring funkaholicism” encompasses a lot of what we’re seeing these days. Disinterest, malaise, bravado, chutzpah. I had a 1st grader mocking my speech and gesturing at the rug today, so when I caught it I sent her into the hall to have a “talk in a few minutes.” Yes, I made her cry, but her regular classroom teacher said that it was prolly a good thing. The behaviors lately have been, well…funkaholic. She needed to know that her choices were not consistent with the kind and respectful kid I know she is.
    If you go back and have a brief convo w/the kids about what happened today/(yesterday?), they will learn a big lesson from it. Bigger than the Big Book of C/I and the new one you’re working on put together.
    My mom would say it’s called, “How to be a mentsch.”

    1. Alisa said:

      …I feel the need to ask whether you didn’t recognize the danger signals in class because you were temporarily blinded by optimism and your deep love for those kids? Is that such a bad thing?…

      Yes. Because that’s not love but enabling. When they don’t show up as an actor or artist, that allows their behaviors. I hire jobs becauseI need those jobs to run class and I don’t hire, no boss does, because some kids waves his hand fastest. When I find someone who can do the job well, they are hired for the rest of the year.

      One kid, Jack, when I asked him on the actor’s stool if he liked cheese, looked back at me with zero comprehension. He’s a bullshitter generally. I never call him out. I will now. Then I looked at my artist. She was doodling behind the easel on the white board. But Jack from his perch on the stool was ready to entertain the class in English. And the artist was quite happy to absent herself from the story until my back was turned and she could ask the SW what to draw in the next panel.

      These people will be fired because they undermine the quality of my classroom, its efficiency. Many teachers who use the jobs don’t realize their importance. I could go around all my classes in this comment and tell you how I have CALLED OUT EACH KID BEFORE CLASS IN A FRIENDLY WAY WITH A SMILE BUT STEEL INTENTIONS BEHIND IT if they haven’t taken their jobs seriously. I’m not running a playground. Je suis un homme sérieux, moi.

      My message to them is show up for my class or get out. That’s my message to everyone in the class. If I don’t send that message, I sign up for failure in the story. I can do my 50% in the story creation.

      1. “My message to them is show up for my class or get out.”

        I was raised in this type of school.

        “I am not an entertainer.”

        I’ve said this before to the kids.

        Agree with you on this Ben. So how did you get blind-sighted Ben?

        I notice that you use “50%”. I used 100% with my kids. I cue them “100% en francais” before going into a story.

        I also say: “100%” when I demand the whole class to give a response either raising hands or giving me the “Over my head signal”.

        I’m not sure where I got that from.

        1. I think he means that he can’t shoulder the whole burden of making class run smoothly. The kids need to do half the work to make a good story or a good class.

  4. I feel you Ben. This post was definitely needed at this time of year as we all struggle to survive during these April and May days. I love your honesty and willingness to share your good and bad days. We all have them and you are so kind to open up your heart and share with us your journey.

    Although I always try not to beat myself up, that is easier said than done. This job can be so mentally draining. I know it is what contributes to my sleep issues from time to time. However, I always try to tell myself that what matters most is that the kids feel safe and comfortable in my classroom. It is truly not about the content, especially at this point in their lives. Again, easy to say this but sometimes hard to remember.

    I too am struggling with unruly kids this time of year. It feels almost like being a parent where they may behave in every other class and yet when they get “home” they sometimes treat you like crap. Instead of getting mad, I have started questioning them as to why they treat me like this when I am the one teacher that truly cares and doesn’t give them homework and just wants them to learn and not worry about grades. I teach high school so I can have this conversation. The question does get them thinking and although they still revert back to disrespecting me, at least I put it out there.

    Hang in there, Ben. I feel your struggles as do we all. Thanks again for sharing and may today be a better day!

    1. Thank you Polly and yes today was three home run stories in a row. Hmmm. Could it be because after yesterday’s FAILURE I was ACTIVELY SETTING CLEAR LIMITS WITH ALL THE MORE RUDE KIDS in my classroom? Maybe!

        1. I’ve posted about this before but Annick’s jGR forms really helped me with my LV 2 (first year TPRS) 8th graders. Blurting, side conversations are at a minimum.

          Before I only had some expectations projected on a PPT on my screen. Now the students need to read over whether they did what they were supposed to do. I give them the last 4 minutes at the end of class. No more kids’ heads down. Awesome. The form puts it on THEM.

  5. Wow! Monday I had a horrible day. The grammatical teacher from last year was still contacted to the school because of a trip to Spain he was helping to organize and chaperon. Every time he came back for a meeting, the kids complained that I was teaching them nothing because of the lack of worksheets. Monday was the first day of school after the Spring break trip. Some of those students were class stars. They all came back with stinky attitudes. I overheard one even saying that he had agreed that I sucked.
    I have never been so insecure in my teaching that I had to undermine another teacher to a student. May the fleas of a thousand………..

    1. I wouldn’t take any of it personally. Who has the degree? Who has the SLA knowledge? Yesterday, I had a story retell by a student. I asked, who whats to retell the story? My super student (who never writes the vocabulary) volunteered. There’s the prove. He could come back and tell me that I was the worst. That’s fine. I know I’m in the right.

      As part of the final the students need to reflect on their freewrites. There’s prove of meta-cognition — the awareness of how we learn.

      The truth is that people are afraid when faced with the truth. This is because it trumps all that is assumed. The earth is not flat.

    2. Susan I am 100% with you. If it helps, it seems as if we ALL in this group have at various times had such a fool colleague to deal with. Part of the deal. The only way out is through. Keep working at it. My kids here in India started the year off in alarm at no worksheets. Now I call them out by direct eye contact every chance I get in class when something happens to prove how powerful stories are. Which events happen every 2. 5 seconds in my class now that I have won that psychic battle. Angie won and jen is winning. John Piazza fought and is still fighting with swords (and really bashed up shield) for about five years now. Many grammar teachers are lying on the ground on the Bay Area Battlefield because he has refused to stop fighting. John Bracey has taken an entire district full of those people like the one you described and basically handed each one’s ass back on a silver platter to them. Alisa Shapiro with her Chicago based squadron of F-16s strafed the entire northern part of Chicago from the air and nobody had an answer. Robert Harrell is such a strong presence on his L.A. batttlefield that he barely notices the ants attacking him. He’s too strong. Tina Hargaden in Oregon is amassing a new army that looks like it is going to win, in fitting Portlandia fashion, by turning the enemy’s swords into plowshares. Many have gone down in the fighting and are out of the profession. Many are still fighting. People who do summer workshops have a much higher survival rate at this. Change is ugly. Keep fighting Susan. You have right on your side. Yes, if you send me that guy’s email address I will send him an email that he won’t soon forget. But it wouldn’t even get there because upon arrival it would burn up his computer with vitriol for being so unprofessional. Sorry a middle of the night rant. I guess I’m in rant mode this week. Feels good though. Feels good to send love and support to a fellow fighter on the battlefield in the heat of battle. And Susan don’t send me that guy’s name or address. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from finding him and pulling off my glove and slapping him up side the head with force.

      1. Thank you so much. I couldn’t talk about it with colleagues here because I don’t want to burn bridges with his friends and colleagues. I hate the first year in a new place. I just want to teach. With all the negative that comes from the students loyalty to their old teacher, I have to remember that the positive is they did bond. I wasn’t able to get them to transfer it yet this year but will continue trying.

        Preparing for district wide assessments was another joykiller. At least they were writing not grammatical. I will be more prepared next year. My students will be mine from beginning to end and I can train them up in the way they should go.

        Again thanks for your support. It makes me a better teacher. I promise not to send you his info.

        1. Susan said:

          …I wasn’t able to get them to transfer it yet this year but will continue trying….

          Stop trying. Too many of us have over the years have all agreed on something – even if a class has only one year of traditional instruction they can never lose their allegiance. They can come a long way back, but it’s like baby chicks following a mountain lion around because that was their first imprint of a mom. It’s that deep. Not to worry, it used to be that the foxes guarding the henhouse had control. Now it is becoming fast apparent that there are foxes guarding the hen house and those foxes are soon going to be unemployed foxes.

          BUT Susan I mean it. Turn all your attention to your level ones and give the older ones all the worksheets they want. That’s how this works.

          1. I liked reading about the unemployed foxes. Get on board with equity and love or get out of the way. Is everyone feeling the momentum of 2015-16? I still think it’s a year to mark on your calendar.

          2. I’m feeling it Tina. I’m just shocked by my 8th graders. With parents calls, an intervention with a counselor and the jGR self-eval form the class has changed much. This class is in it’s first year TPRS. I dont do it ALL the time. I use bail outs. They include dictations plus output activities from my old training as a student teacher.

            In my class of 38 eight graders, I still have about 3-5 students who are not engaged. about 2 blurters/side conversation kids. Not bad when about 2 weeks ago it was still a shit storm.

            I’m still trying to setup a video. This week has been PACKED with cancelled block schedule observations, beginning teacher meetings, back to school night and a nauseating unit plan I have to come up for my World Language Professional Learning thing. Somehow in the midst, I got sick. Yay! I say this with the utmost optimism.

    3. I’ve never admitted this, but it needs to be said: if you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be a foreign language teacher (half time), I would have laughed-or maybe cried. In grad school, I HATED the “stick-up-their-butt” foreign language Grammar Nazis. I shared enough classes with foreign language majors to spot them a mile away: they were always right. And their knowledge of the language was always better than yours. (Even if it wasn’t.)

      It’s evident in the way traditional heritage Spanish teachers treat my ELLs. They cut them down for misspelling stuff, but doesn’t once address the fact that they have awesome vocabularies, or in any way value their unique voices or perspectives. This brakes my heart because once upon a time I was a Heritage Learner too, and I felt that way. When people correct my spelling or show off their “superior” cultural knowledge (because France is the only “French” culture that matters evidently), I want to punch them in their smug foreign language faces.

      Some foreign language people are so haughty. You are the exception to this, and you are each exceptionally kind. You (literally) give kids a voice, while your more traditional colleagues just flaunt their own.

      There is no other field of education as entrenched in their own way of doing things and as resistant to change as foreign language.

      And then I think: that’s what you guys are up against. Each of you deserve a hug for what you have to put up with.

      Just remember, like Steven said, you are in the right. You all re-invented the wheel because traditional foreign language was broken. You are innovators and pioneers and scholars and I’m proud to know you –or I will know you in Chattanooga.

    4. Sorry about that, Susan.
      Just to kind of put things in perspective, it makes me wonder…
      They are taking a trip to Spain
      But they did not get their worksheets
      Spain. Worksheets. Spain… Worksheets…
      Kind of like “Can we have class outside today?”
      Can we go to Spain and do our worksheets? We could do worksheets at the Plaza Mayor en Madrid. The Plaza Mayor de Salamanca is one of the most beautiful places/plazas to do worksheets. We could order a cold drink and a sandwich in English and do our worksheets. And then we would really learn something.
      Incongruity is an eyeopener.
      I think I’ll order another worksheet.

  6. Ben, you’re brave for doing TPRS with so much warmth and happiness despite experiences that pull you down. They happen. Let’s not take it personal.

    In you’re writing you know exactly what happened in your class. You also know what you felt when you were observed. You also write about your past. One way you can begin to work on yourself is to write about your experiences in a journal about when people did you harm. We can create our positive outlook on situations every time once we know what we feel and what we want.

    My wife journals, meditates and attends self-improvement workshops. She’s awesome and provides me with mental tools to keep me sane. Only recently have I allowed to accept some of them. Things are looking up.

  7. This is on the topic. Brene Brown on empathy, compassion, and the importance of boundaries to make those possible: I’m 99% sure I saw that link because Laurie Clarcq shared it on Facebook.

    I’m still thinking about what’s in that video. I think the extremes of getting run over by rudeness, or the other extreme of becoming angry, hard, and nasty, are both hard to avoid. Being strong & firm enough to decide what’s no longer okay and speak up calmly & firmly about it is incredible & rare. It too often seems easier to me to keep taking nonsense because that is easier for me than speaking against it calmly and firmly. I have to learn to address it sooner, well before my tipping point, for their sake and not for my own. Does this make sense? It’s one of the things I admire about really great elementary teachers. This skill is constantly being tested so they develop it well.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I really like the video clip by Brene Brown – thanks for sharing it here, Diane. I recommend it – it has some real nuggets to think about.

  9. Schuyler Baird

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been a member for two years of your site and a follow for many before that. I began my career teaching TPRS 12 years ago when I didn’t really know what I was doing. Years later, surrounded by a supportive cast of TPRS teachers, I hit my first homerun story and then I understood TPRS and why I was doing it. Two years ago, when I moved to a different state to teach in a different school, I thought, “I’ve got this. I know what I am doing!” Sometimes I do, but today wasn’t one of those days. Thus, here I am checking into your website to remind me what works, what doesn’t, and why it didn’t work. You have replaced my personal support group that I had in my old school.

    I appreciate your honesty more than you know. Your stories keep me in check.

    Thank you,

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Schuyler. I think that we all get to the point where we think we’ve got it (an to an extent we do). And then we wonder, “What happened today?” Bravo for plugging away for 12 years. Some folks keep thinking this will go away. But it keeps popping up when you least expect it. The nay-sayers keep say-neighing until they are put out to pasture but they cannot change what works and what doesn’t.

      As Blaine has recommended for such a long time, “A bad day with TPRS is better than a good day with worksheets,” even if we get to do them in the Plaza Mayor de Salamanca. The longer we teach the more we can understand this: it is all about delivering understandable messages and nothing to do with filling in blanks on worksheets (even in the Prado).

  10. I’m so glad you all are sharing these feelings so openly. I also struggle with boundary setting in a major way. I get drunk off of being liked by my students. I can usually ride these positive vibes all the way through the first three-quarters of 7th grade. By the 4th quarter, my seventh graders suddenly start dramatically groaning when presented with anything but “preferred activities”. Throughout 8th grade, they progressively get more brazen. During a TPR session with my 8th graders this afternoon, I had a mean girl blurt in English “can you order us to leave class in Latin”. This was followed by her friends dryly responding “please”. I immediately stopped the TPR and had them decline nouns. I taught these kids that it was okay to treat me like garbage. I have been so afraid of their disapproval, largely because of fear over enrollment numbers, that I have created a dynamic where my kids feel like they have the right to rudely dictate what we do and don’t do in class. Manners have completely gone out the door and I let it happen.

    I have had to come to grips with the following realities, both positive and negative…

    1) I need to go back to using quick quizzes daily, sometimes twice a class with my 8th graders when their attitudes start to get “stank”.

    2) I need to truly accept the fact that I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect by everyone. This is not optional.

    3) Stories and only stories. No MT’s, no novels, no anything other than stories. Stories make everyone happy. If the story is out of control, I switch to another CI activity or grammar crap. They hate the other CI activities just as much as they hate grammar worksheets. This makes them instantly beg for another chance at stories, and then they act wonderfully. Seriously, my kids would rather me perform amateur surgery on them with antiquated medical tools than do a movie talk with them. I don’t care if it’s the last block on Friday before summer vacation after 4 hours of standardized testing, we’re still doing a freaking story.

    1. Interesting about the movie talk. I’ve yet to try one but I thought maybe erroneously that they would be eaten up by the kids. Why do yours not like them?

      1. My movie talks were well received by my LV1. Only one of myLV2 students said: “Just put on the movie”. Those MT are really just treats for them. LV1 has finished a movie. LV2 has not finished Le Petit Nicolas. I do them after a quiz/dictee/freewrite.

    2. John I know I enjoy the approval too. But sometimes I think it’s more. Like yes I love feeling liked and loved. But I also believe SO MUCH in the method and that my class is different. And I often feel hesitant to break the spell. But that’s not the right thinking. The right thinking is do the method with integrity. And if the kids can’t show up for that then do CI in a different way. Ben said below that his little rowdies just read for forty one minutes. Well that’s giving their brains exactly what they need. And it’s giving their emotions exactly what they need. A firm yet warm environment where their relationship with their teacher (which is the most important thing more important than any method) is going to be preserved.
      My own situation with my formerly rowdy class is real similar. Monday I was hosting Lori so I didn’t do what my teaching instincts were telling me to do and press firmly upon the reset button. Tuesday I did. We read and translated. Yesterday was Wednesday. We did a dictado and an open story quiz. Like an open book quiz but about the story. I just prepared comprehension questions on the bland story of Bill I wrote for them Tuesday. And early finishers did free writing. I’m actually super pleased with the emotional tone in the room and in an exciting plot twist so are the kids. It’s as if their behaviors were a signal for help. They were a signal for help. They usually are.

      Help me know what exactly you expect of me.
      Help me feel comfortable with my peers.
      Help me feel like it’s safe to be myself here.
      Help me understand the language you are speaking.
      Help me know why we are doing what we are doing.
      Help me be a kinder person who speaks to others with positive regard.
      Help me know that there are adults in this world who are consistent because at home I’m never sure.
      Help me learn to enjoy meeting challenges.

  11. leigh anne munoz

    Ben — you really touched a nerve with your readers. 🙂 We all have been there…yesterday, today; we all want to be stronger…

    We will be stronger. With such honesty among us, how could it be otherwise?

    Thank you for being so candid, Ben! We appreciate you!

    –Leigh Anne

  12. “…but I can’t tell anybody that because they think I’m Ben Slavic.”

    Teacher trainers who are also still teaching, not just training from an Ivory Tower.
    God bless, you! You carry the heavy burden of being honest with people and yourself about the hard realities of teaching, but still being open to the possibility of making teaching better.

    But we know you’re the real thing.

  13. The class that prompted the above post is coming in in five minutes. Here’s what I plan to do – 25′ SSR, then I will write out the story that we struggled with as it is projected, then a dictee, then ROA of some older stories, then some projected grammar worksheets.

    I’ve taken the easel out. No new stories until further notice. The above plan will fill the 85′ nicely.

    The dynamic of the class is about to change. I will not bridge any complaining. Big smile, but a slightly bitchy edge. I thus continue how to use my profession as a tool to learn how to love myself. I used to wonder why I chose the hardest profession. Now I know.

  14. This is going well as I sneak in a real time report on this class. They just read in silence for 41 minutes. So they just did the best thing that a student of a language could ever do. Read. Now, I will write and project at the same time the failed story from last class. See how that goes! (Remember, my goal is to eat up a block of 85′ of teaching in a quiet and focused way so that my kids GET what is going on in here right now, a big hitting of the reset button.

    1. I think having 85′ is a huge challenge just right there. It took me a while to get used to having 65′ classes once a week. I almost always include silent reading time on those days, and plan to all the rest of the year for sure. It does also seem to help them become calmer & more focused afterwards, too.

  15. This time of year I always ask myself why I’m a teacher. If we do it the way we know is best, then we can’t get hired or our department rebels. If we teach the class with love and make our stories fun and exciting, then late in the year our classes think they are our best friends and don’t have to do anything except interrupt us in English and think it is okay to bitch and disrespect us because we are “cool.” Then we start to shape up as teachers and they only remember our class for the last miserable month.

    If we are strict on the rules and the do your 50% then no student enjoys the stories and we have to deal with the bitching all year long. “Stories are soooo boring.” Nobody can endure that all year long.

    And finally, they go to the next level and lose all the progress we made because they are taught in English out of a horrible textbook. This job sucks.

    And then I’ll spend all summer trying to get better when my colleagues do nothing.

    These are the thoughts that go through my head in April and May. Good thing it’s not like that in August. I think that April is just something that we have to all deal with every year as teachers. Do what it takes. When I read this post this morning I knew how I was going to adjust to April. Thanks guys.

    1. Funny. I feel that I was too structured. too demanding of my students in the beginning. I made them read ALOT beginning 2nd semester. Then when I felt that they were complaining, I made them do more freewrites.

      However now in April, we are doing the freewheeling april challenge. 25 minutes or less a story. I’m also having private chats with my problem kiddos outside the classroom.

      Only now do I think that they are having fun. Only they know.

      1. The problem with free writes is that after you don’t read them the second time and just throw them away, they don’t feel your message. They figure it out. I for sure am going to have those private chats every class from now until May 27.

  16. Hello all,

    Part of the reason that April/May are tough is that the kids that we have now are not the same students that we have in August/September. They have different interests, different skills and sometimes different friends and even family.

    This is a great time of year to acknowledge that! Get to know them all over again. Reconnect.

    It is also a good time to “step up the game” and introduce new activities that are more in line with their level of acquisition and maturity.

    There is no standard way to outline this because each school is so very different.

    If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 7th graders I might start using topics like part-time summer jobs (babysitting, lawn mowing, etc.) that kids have in this area. I might start creating stories about 8th grade and all of the advantages they will have next year. I might start to introduce any kind of real person connection to the language that their squirrellier 7th grade selves might have dismissed.

    If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 9th graders I would definitely start incorporating summer jobs, summer concerts, and summer clothes…..which would lead into a story about the dress code, which will soon be a big issue for our freshmen because our principal is fondly known as the “The Dress Code Queen” I would ask about what next year’s freshmen will need to know, and create a BB, or PP or letter for the incoming freshmen.

    At any level, if you haven’t started an FVR time, this is a great time to do that….if you have the materials. In my level 3 and 4/5 classes they get 20 minutes 2-3x per week to choose their own activity: read novels, children’s books, cloze activities with lyrics to songs that we have done, write a story, take a practice quiz (similar to one section of the final and check with a key), read articles that I have ripped out of People in Spanish, or whatever else I can come up with. They start each 20 minutes with a grade of 100. Every time that I see that they are NOT engaged in the activity at hand, I subtract 10 points from their grade. Even my rowdiest can keep it together for 20 minutes IF they are choosing their own activity (and are not sitting near a friend!!) I play music quietly in the background and it is a nice, well-earned change of pace.

    Music, music, music, music, music. It’s a great time to have a “dance-off” like MB did using “Five A Day” in your language….if you don’t teach French/Spanish, just print off the expressions, and yell them out over the voice of the video. My Spanish kids actually prefer to do the French one. 🙂

    The skills that are most needed are the ones that you use in your class to complete transitions and to refocus. Keep working with those and the rest will flow more smoothly.

    Hang in there!!!

    with love,

    1. This is powerful, Laurie.
      The sophomores who started out as big freshmen are now little juniors.
      It is time to step back and take a fresh look at them.

  17. Thank you Ben for sharing your experience with us. Your blog is my only real PLC and I would have given up a long time ago thinking that the day you described above only happened to me!
    In one of your posts you mentioned the hard work CI teachers are doing on the Bay Area. Do you happen to have a CI/TPRS contact name in the Bay Area? I hope to relocate there this summer. Thank you!

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