Teachers Should Work With Teachers 1

In New England, about fifteen years ago, there was an initiative to get heart surgeons throughout that area to communicate via email, shared video, videoconferencing, workshops, etc. At the end of the study, heart surgery deaths had gone down something like 35% percent.
The heart surgeons didn’t get better because their work was observed by their hospital administrators, but rather because they put their heads together on their crafts and compared notes and talked and shared ideas.
Teachers should work together like buddies to visit each others’ classes and stuff like that, building teams that trust each other, etc. If we get together like the heart surgeons did, there is hope. Teachers should work with teachers.



23 thoughts on “Teachers Should Work With Teachers 1”

  1. At our school the past few years the theme was “Sharing is Learning.” Administrators suggested that during our prep periods we observe three to five of our fellow teachers and complete a questionnaire/reflection. The result about 30 of us did it in a school of 150 teachers. For some reason we are so afraid to let people into our classrooms to see what we do. It’s tough to find teachers who care to share. It’s ironic because as teachers we are supposed to judge students but we fear to be judged by our peers.

  2. It has taken me three years of opening my classroom (as many of you do) and urging others to do the same to have the results that mentioned in this post. But when we got some grant money this year, we put it into observation time, and a lot of the Anchorage folks went around and watched one another. Everyone had to make comments on the results, and every single teacher from this period and from earlier chances to observe commented on how much they learned from watching others. TPRS somehow makes it easier to open up–at least it did for me–because there’s a set of guidelines (and because when you start using TPRS, you are doing something real). When you’re watching, you see another person working within the three basic steps. You start to acquire the best habits of the person in front of you–and if they aren’t perfectly skillful, you can think of ways to fix it without having to be on stage yourself–yet, you’ve been in that spot before and you will again. It means that you go home and do some channeling and some improving on what you watched. As the teacher who is observed, you get kudos for what you did right. It’s an incredibly powerful experience on both ends.
    So…having said that, here’s a random piece from the only bit of video I succeeded in getting up on line this year. I didn’t choose it–had to turn a mess of video over to our tech and beg for help, so it’s truly random. I was strangely nervous that day, and I can’t remember whether I told the kids I was videoing or not. Some of you have seen it already, via Nathan’s video group or my blog. A kid in the front is taking notes for me. A kid who runs up from the back right is snoring for us, because the actress couldn’t.
    Please don’t share beyond this group.
    (Russian 1; key structures were “she was sleeping, when. . . ” and supposed to be “she woke up,” but we didn’t get that far.)

  3. I love seeing CI in languages that I don’t understand and with a different writing system. It’s proof that the method works. The atmosphere of that class seems so positive and fun. I bet they walk out of there with Russian. Even though there was a lot of laughter there were a lot of reps of the structures.
    Thanks for sharing, Michele. I enjoyed it.

  4. Thank you Michele – this is a very nice clip. I totally agree with Drew:
    … even though there was a lot of laughter there were a lot of reps of the structures….
    And, as Drew said, there is great interaction and rapport, the foundations of our work using comprehensible input. You had that whiteboard behind you and didn’t use it once, another strength in that the kids didn’t need it. You certainly don’t have one of my big flaws, trying to cram new words in where the kids are struggling just to process words that they already know. I was seeing the class from the point of view of the second kid from the left, shy but interested. I didn’t understand the Russian, of course, and I can see how much that affects what is going on. You and I both use more English than needed, at least what I could see in this clip in doing little side coaching in English, to get things going in the direction you want. I want to avoid side coaching in English except maybe for one time or two per class. Also, I want to see the whole scene with the reactions of the students. I didn’t realize how important that was. But then we run into what you have written about, those parent releases. That may be one of the drawbacks in general to this work. But I still say it is worth it. It was great to get a feel of your interaction with the kids.
    I’m just thinking out loud, but I wonder if it is possible to put subtitled translation tracks like I do on my DVDs, if we have that capacity in our computers, like at
    Another thing we need to ask here is how long our clips should be – I couldn’t get that much from this except that it is all excellent use of comprensible input and circling. At some point, if we put longer and possibly subtitled clips up, we will be able to see how things change and develop, which is something Susan Gross said about Angela’s video, if I remember correctly. So thanks Michele and send more!

  5. Perhaps now we are starting to feel a little more comfortable about sending video footage in. I think of the video piece, my dream on this blog, as a gorilla in the room in the sense that we are taking such a risk to put our teaching front and center stage and yet there is no greater way to learn than doing exactly that in an atmosphere of trust and thinking only what is best for each other as teachers.
    Thank you so much to the brave three who have already sent links. How difficult it is to get to know each other via the internet!
    Let’s meet up and work together next week at the conference, as Michele has suggested. We can work together in break out sessions whenever we can during the week. If we can get to know each other better at the conference, then maybe the video piece will be easier for us because we will know each other better.
    I should set the tone, of course, but am waiting for some footage from DPS that is being professionally edited this summer. Hopefully, after the conference we can then move into the fall with the blog taking the form I eventually want for it with lots of video to go with lots of blog discussion.
    The main fear is being perceived as inadequate, of course, or somehow “not good enough” in the eyes of our colleagues. That is why we wouldn’t readily submit video, I suspect. But we are all good enough! We are where we are in our process, as in:
    So, Michele, you are perfect to help lead us forward in this work because you rush in where angels fear to trod when it comes to TPRS, something I most admire about you. This is not a lake that we can tippy-toe into – we must all plunge directly in off of the high dive.
    So, let’s see if we can get actual discussions going about the footage we send in. We probably need slightly longer clips to be able to see things develop. I personally think that translation subtitles would help. We also need to send in – like Michele did here – random clips and not finished products filmed when the kids already know the structures taught. None of this dreaming may work, and we may be forced to live and learn only through words, but I say it’s worth a try.
    Let’s not be so blunt with each other that we scare each other, but let’s learn how to speak honestly about what we see as well. Those who send in the footage can learn to perhaps to develop a bit of a thicker skin, as I did with Susan above – she meant no harm in suggesting that everyone was laughing at my comments in that post.
    Let’s prove Mary Anne Williamson wrong when she said once, “We aren’t educated in this country – we don’t know how to talk to each other.”

  6. I don’t have anything in my video library of me teaching yet. It’s my goal this year to start video taping some of my classes. What is the best way to share videos on here?

  7. Honestly, Drew, I don’t know. Since I have a Mac I was able to just upload my video to YouTube. I don’t know if they allow more than ten minutes, however. So I am looking into uploading the stuff I want to put up here later -entire classes – to Vimeo. If you search PQA on Vimeo you will see the same footage as on the YouTube link, but that’s also ten minutes only. I think that they allow longer footage, but they charge for that luxury, which I will definitely do because I have so much footage to share, gnarly as some of it is. Other ideas are welcome on this, because a tech geek I’m not.

  8. I now have a Flip video camera, which makes getting footage from the camera to the Mac much easier. Here’s something (not class footage) that took me a while to subtitle in iMovie, but I think it shows that subtitles work.
    I did this with the Flip, and loved the difference between this and having to wait triple time while my Sony videocamera loaded footage. Subtitles take a long time though…as you know well…

    1. Oh my gosh! Diana is even more beautiful. It was cool to see the kids.
      By the way i have a message from diana and I can’t read it. I will send it to you.
      Thanks for posting this.
      Personally I have a hard time watching long videos. I like 5-min clips better.

  9. This is perfect timing. For those of you who will be at NTPRS, you will get many chances to see and hear coaches in action. (I’d like to see more “coaching training” next year) Take note (or notes :o) ) on what you see/hear that is useful and what is not.
    Coaching is as challenging as teaching. Coaches have no idea what teachers are about to do and must do their job almost entirely off the cuff. There are great guidelines created, however, to how to coach effectively. The most important two are positivity and let the teacher learn through the experience. Pay attention to what you see coaches do and not do in coaching sessions. Perhaps if you are brave, and ask permission, you will ask someone to video you while you are being coached!!!
    Every summer we see the power of letting a teacher grow through his/her experience (s) of being coached (yes…some people get coached over and over again!)…it is amazing…where AHA moments transform teachers in front of our very eyes. This sharing could have the same effect.
    with love,
    and wishing there were a way to store up on sleep so I wouldn’t have to next week…

  10. …[coaches] must do their job almost entirely off the cuff….
    That pretty sums it up for me. How does that apply to our video idea here? We watch the footage, things occur to us, ususally in the form of questions like, “I wonder why she did that?” or “I saw her leave that kid for another; I wonder why….?” or I wonder if he circled that one term enough for the kids to feel comfortable with it before he went on to that other stuff.'”
    If the teacher being coached can remember answers to those kind of questions by the person serving as a coach, then the stage can be set for some growth. But that is a tall order. I once asked Jason Fritze why he did something once in a story and he couldn’t even remember what he had done, although it was brilliant. But all I want is to make them aware of what they are doing and ask questions and see what grows from that, like we did, Laurie with you and Jody Noble and Doug and those Alaskans and Carol and all them, in Los Alamitos.
    So this is no easy task. If it were, then people would be doing coaching all over the internet. But I agree with Laurie that coaching is hard and, in my own opinion here, I think that just asking questions is the way to go if we are ever get to this project moving. We all have to jettison the old thinking that we are there somehow to correct those we coach, who must in turn jettison the fear of being judged and found to be not good enough.

  11. Pre TPRS, the best year I ever had was when I had a curriculum intern from Russia, who spent the whole year telling me what I did that was good. I felt great, because I was getting regular (earned) props, and I did more and more of what she praised, and I got better and better.
    So I totally agree about the positivity. People who come watch me in my room never comment on what I screwed up on. They ask questions about what I did that they liked, and they comment on things that they thought were great, and that makes me remember those moments and try to repeat them instead of forgetting them.
    It’s not that I don’t want the helpful suggestions–they are gold, especially when they come from a shared place. I’m just saying that if you do nothing but praise what deserves praise, you can’t go wrong.

  12. First of all, I’d have to say that I love what Michele does in the video. She says she isn’t the greatest here, but overall I get the feeling that she is just flat out enjoying herself, and that becomes infectious. She takes the time to laugh. She takes the time to invest in the atmosphere, and that comes through no matter the language. Actually, after seeing this video earlier this year I was inspired to move my question words onto poster boards (away from the top of my whiteboard) so that they would be that much more accessible; She moves to them nicely as part of her circling.
    And, yes, coaching is something is a real trick. From last March until June I ran a video study group that was fairly small–about 6 to 7 of us–that met every other week to watch video of each other and interrogate each other about how they set up their classes, and while it was a lot of work, it was really helpful to get the interaction. My motives for doing this were not all altruistic–I used this to gather data for my doctoral dissertation–and all of the participants agreed to let me tape and analyze the interactions for my research into how people develop identities and communities in a group setting.
    The reason I bring this up is twofold: first I have some videos that I made of myself at that time that I can share here:
    Clip 1: Discussion of the characters in the novel Geld oder Liebe in my German I class. In this clip I am going over what is good (gut) and bad (schlecht) for each character. Students started the period by making lists of these in their books (allegedly) and here I am drawing them out and discussing them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH6uJtyMzlA
    Clip 2: Following the above discussion, I had students write down characteristics of their Dream man (Traummann) or dream woman (Traumfrau). Then I used the lists to create a comparison between the main characters in the story and their “Dream Man/Woman” using a Venn Diagram. We used the earlier discussion to get words on paper, and now we are processing it more at the personal level. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JCttkuGc4g
    Reason number two for bringing this up: I am currently still subscribed to the online teleconferencing software (Adobe Connect) that allows me to host online video viewing and discussion sessions, and will be throughout the summer as I continue to work with the video recordings I made. If anybody from this group would be interested in viewing (or re-viewing) some videos in real time (allowing the presenter to provide a gloss of main terms and descriptions of events as they occur), then let me know. The software can accomodate around 50 people at a time, so we could set a time for a group viewing.
    The only thing is, though, you have to provide your own snacks (the big downside of an online video session)

  13. Now we’re cooking with gas! I knew if I kept hassling you we could get this thing going. Killer. You young bucks have got it going on.
    – I immediately felt as if I was learning German. Nathan forced me out of my conscious mind; I had to immediately let go of any conscious analysis to tap into the flow of German.
    – the topic is awesome, compelling. Krashen would love this and may see it since he is in our group. It even echoes his own use of German in that famous clip made like 25 years ago where he models comprehensible input.
    – there is no English at all.
    – the goal is simply to get cute answers as per Blaine. He has no agenda that I can see of, no goal to teach anything; he’s just finding stuff out from the kids and reporting his findings back to the big group and it is exactly in this flow of comprehensible input that the unconscious minds of the students will actually acquire the language.
    – Nathan seems to be totally into the information he is collecting. He believes it.
    – personally, I would have held each kid in the room hostage with my eyes.

    The other clip was not available, dang it. Nice work, Nathan. In those six minutes, I really could see a master teacher at work. Awesome. You have a lot to teach us not just here on the blog but now on these clips and I definitely want in on the teleconferencing also. Just let me know how, when and where and I want to hear you talk about entire classes at a time. You’re an animal.

  14. Whoops; forgot to change “Private” to “unlisted” there. The second link should work now. If you’ll look closely on this clip, you’ll get to see an “opportunity” for classroom management presented when a) one student starts just randomly spewing, and b) another student takes an “Emo” accusation potshot an another student. I’m not convinced I handled that the best, but we’re flying without nets here.

  15. Nathan,
    This is a level one class right? This is a great way to do an academically higher skill with little output. My principal would love to see a lesson like this. High on Blooms. They were successful with one word answers. We all need breaks from PQA and Story Asking.
    Nice discipline too. Didn’t take time out of your lesson but you made the space safe and sent a strong message. The recorder said, “it says später”.
    I’m down to do some realtime feedback.

  16. Speaking of teachers working with teachers, Scott has created a folder (under files) on http://www.TPRStalk.com where we are sharing our embedded readings. Any level, any language. It is Michele’s and my hope that people will find inspiration and ideas there because colleagues will take a quick moment to share readings that have been successful with their students. As of today there are several Russian stories, a couple that I have done with my students in Spanish (including one on Selena created entirely from students’ writings), an Embedded Reading from Carol Gaab’s new (and fantastic) novel “Esperanza” (a true story btw), and the first chapter of Carol’s and Mira Canion’s “Pirates” in French.
    Michele and I will be adding the stories in Russian that are created at NTPRS, so that not only can Russian teachers use them, but also each participating group of participants can read the stories created by the other seven groups!!
    If you have any Embedded Readings that you would be willing to share…or you would just like to read a little..stop on by!!! Again…it is a folder under Files on http://www.TPRStalk.com.
    with love,

  17. Du Nathan, kannst du bitte die Vids wieder auf “unlisted” umschalten? Sie sind jetzt wieder “privat” — I missed this discussion and viewing and am quite distraught about it!

  18. Umgeschaltet! I put it onto private so that I could more easily transcribe the video session I used that clip in, but forgot to switch it back when my transcription was done. Oopla. It’s now finished, and I’ll just leave it open from here out.

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