The Old Way Crushed Hope

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18 thoughts on “The Old Way Crushed Hope”

  1. It isn’t even, at heart, about giving them the ability to be good at something. It is ultimately showing them over and over again, that THEY MATTER. Regardless of how they “perform”. We SEE them. We HEAR them. We WANT TO KNOW about them. We SHOW them over and over, as many times as possible, every day….using the language.

    We have determined that it isn’t the language, it’s the message. I don’t believe that the stories, or the pictures, or the movie clips or the novels are the message. I believe that they are the vehicle for the message….and the message is…YOU MATTER.

    That is why what we choose to include in stories and conversations matters. That is why the novels we choose matter. They are important vehicles for the most important message that our students will ever hear. YOU MATTER.

    When we allow sarcasm, when we poke fun, when we touch on school or public “gossip”, when we choose material that is compelling to their baser instincts, we aren’t really telling them that they matter. We are telling them that their attention to us matters. When we carefully choose what we use for a vehicle we give them the message that they are important enough to treat with dignity and clever enough to find humor without viciousness. I may be wrong, but I suspect that Jody and Judy will back me up on this.

    99.9999% of the time a student or a class doesn’t respond to us it is because they aren’t getting that message. We can continue to try to slow down, narrow our language use, scaffold for success and further adjust our instruction, but what helps most is examining how many more ways we can continue to give the message to the students so that they will eventually hear it: YOU MATTER.

    It is rarely easy. It rarely happens in the first half of the year with the tough kids/groups. They are the most vulnerable to rejection so they will test us for a very long time. Don’t give up!! They matter.

    with love,

    1. This is why I love Laurie! The woman radiates with love. It’s Saturday and between Ben and Laurie’s comments, I’m eager to get back in the classroom and care on my kids!

      #1 goal: develop student self-esteem
      It is higher self-esteem that is the best thing we can give a student in order to be successful in life.

    2. Very early in my teaching career I had a girl that was unpleasant, inattentive, chatty and never showed up on time or did her homework. One day I took her class to organize a “stage” for a visiting troop of actors. We had only open wire frames for a backdrop and I gave her a pile of old bedspreads to throw over them so that the audience couldn’t see the backstage. I was busy setting up the seats with the other students and when I turned around she had draped the bedspreads beautifully so that it looked like a real stage. I was amazed and I thanked her sincerely. It was a minor incident, but would you believe that from then on she was a model student? All it took was for me to recognize that, as Laurie says, she mattered.

    3. And with her comment Laurie takes Krashen up a level. What does that mean? It means that where Krashen advocates that we focus on the message and not the words (the basis of all comprehension based instruction), Laurie advocates that we focus not just on the message (the facts as the story unveils itself, the things happening in MovieTalk, the details of the image in Look and Discuss, etc.) but also on the message within the message, which is that the kids matter. When they are safe and know that they matter and that their teacher is going to shelter them not only from too much vocabulary but also from anything that denigrates them (too hard a quiz, a snarky comment from the kid sitting next to them, a feeling that they are not smart), then they will do as Judy’s kid with the stage props and be in harmony with what we are trying to do and our whole lives, not just professionally, will change. Make no mistake – this idea of inclusion and safety in the group is at the very core of this ride we are on. It’s at the core, Jerry! No one knows that better than our very dear Laurie, whose heart brings change without effort because it has in it so much love, borne from so much time spent in the classroom. Yes, she like Robert could have presided at the helm of an organization like ACTFL, but why waste talent? Laurie brings her wisdom to us straight from the only place it can really be found, our nation’s classrooms. And people wonder why we in this group often refer to each other as warriors. Really?

    4. Jeffery Brickler

      This question may seem naive or foolish. How to we do this? How do we show them that they matter? For too many years, I have focused on trying to learn how to be a great teacher in other’s eyes.

      How do we build their trust? How to we show them that we SEE them? In my heart, I do care and love but maybe my own fears and affective filter gets in the way of showing that.

      Damn fear affects us all.

      1. Not naive or foolish. It is the gazillion dollar question. “How do we do this?”

        I really hope Laurie will offer us some gems here. Reading your post and also John’s on the other thread and floundering myself with a group of kids I’m working with now…makes it so obvious that this is where we need to focus our energy for our own and our student’s well-being, which are inextricably linked.

        1. …we need to focus our energy for our own and our student’s well-being, which are inextricably linked….

          Yes our well-being is linked to theirs. But they are the children and we are the adult. That means that any teacher teaching anything anywhere in the world, as the only adult in the room, must be one who sets the example. I say this through slightly gritted teeth because over my career, especially in the early years, I wanted to point and blame and fall on the floor in a heap and cry until they changed. Some teachers try that but then don’t have employment the next year. Some teachers avoid it by figuratively bashing the offending kids over the head with the textbook and drills and memorization and worsksheets which work alarmingly well and describes many more language teachers in the world than use CI. And they call us whackos. Right.

          I once was offered a job (Lincoln High School in Denver) in the first five minutes of the interview. The AP doing the interview had asked me what I do about differentiation and I remember saying something like how each kid’s perception of whether I liked them or not was the first step of what I do when differentiating. He stopped me and said that I had said the right thing and he wanted me there with those awesome proud Latino kids, over 80% undocumented, and it turned out to be the happiest of the six buildings for me in my career.

          But this job of loving whom we cannot love is not easy. It makes all the rest like learning how to teach using CI so easy. For me it is a spiritual thing I won’t go into, but is not love at the base of all our growth and struggle, and all we do in life? Can we turn that off for our profession and start it up again after school? Surely we didn’t go into teaching to teach kids languages, since so few of them end up achieving that goal.

          What are we doing then? Speaking for myself, I was trying to find a job that did not kill me (it almost did about six times), working with a subject matter that I totally loved more than my own identity as American, and one that had in it the potential to teach me to love others. I sensed that was where the good stuff was. I am not here, and this is just me talking, to teach languages, really, at all. I am here to learn to love others, as has been advised to me by one Really Neat Guy and his Really Cool Dad.

  2. Thanks for this. This is the core of it all. It’s not really about the language. The language is a lovely medium through which we connect. The acquisition magic is almost a “by-product” of this connection. I don’t mean that to sound crass. I just don’t really know how to say it. It’s like we connect through our common humanness, and the way we happen to do it is through language, which is sound, vibration, facial expression, gesture, openness, laughter, emotion, confusion and clarification. And all of this happens in spite of “us.”

    The number one human urge is to connect. This is why all the curriculum maps and other flavors of the month in “education systemZ” and all the bells and whistles and gadgets are beside the point. The human to human connection needs to be in place. It ain’t easy. I think this is why I am so hyper focused lately (always?) on the affective filter and the neuroscience of stress, anxiety, depression, trauma. I just learned there is a field called “interpersonal neuroscience!” How cool is that?! But just as we don’t need to know grammatical labels to acquire language, we don’t need to study neuroscience to create connected communities of teachers and students. I agree that it’s most powerful to have both the practical reality and the double blind studies to back it up, but push come to shove I will always believe my own experience interacting with my real live students.

    Our ability and intention to connect may be our one remaining lifeline in all the chaos going down right now. As I write this, there is a dark evil force at work in my former place of employment. By this time tomorrow all hell will have broken loose. So everything is about to get real ugly up here in my little corner of the forest. It’s taking all my effort not to unleash my inner ‘bee-atch” and get all up in ppls grills. Instead I will go hang out with my dog and a bunch of trees.

    A book I am reading right now, about neuroscience of relationships, mindfulness in the classroom, etc. basically underpins everything we do / strive for in our CI classrooms. I would even venture to say that CI is a critical link in the educational systemZ. I’m hoping to connect the author of this book to some of our peeps / conferences, etc. bc I think the intersection of what we do and this neuroscience has deeper implications that could be explored / expanded in schools.

    1. This is really good, Jen. Is the book The Invisible Classroom? I’m getting it. Tell me if it’s a different one. I think you are right about how important this is, for schools in general, using some of our CI approach and principles in other subjects. Someone brought that up somewhere here, and I actually tried it a bit last year when I was also teaching 6th grade science, because I saw the link. I just dabbled, though, and didn’t explore it enough. Like you say, this intersection is big.

    2. …we connect through our common humanness, and the way we happen to do it is through language, which is sound, vibration, facial expression, gesture, openness, laughter, emotion, confusion and clarification….

      For the first thirty years of my career, my wish to do what you say above, jen, was thrown back in my face in every class I taught, except for a few with gifted kids in my AP French Literature classes. Most classes, certainly all the lower levels for all those years, were trials for me, where I would try to find that common human bond with my students and not get it. That was the rule of the day. Only six years into my using CI, that is eight years ago, did I see the common human bond you speak of start to happen, and then it never stopped. I advise young teachers who sense that they are on the verge of a quantum leap into a more human and humane classroom to remain calm, keep teaching using CI, don’t expect it to happen overnite, and allow things to unfold. Bear the burdens of this time of relearning. The guarantee is there. Light is seeping into the cobweb-filled classrooms of the past. One day we will all laugh and say it never happened. Junior who speaks four languages because he was in Neubauer’s or Piazza’s or Hosler’s or Dodd’s or Patrick’s classes when they were young will ask with incredulity, “People didn’t really think that by studying grammar they could learn a language, did they Mom?”

      1. I’d say the majority of our parents are already asking that: “Teachers don’t really think that by studying grammar they can acquire a language?”

        Grammar can be taught, practiced, and some students can get decent at applying the “pattern,” but that is NOT LANGUAGE ACQUISITION. That does NOT develop in the brain a “mental representation” of the language. Acquisition, defined as mental representation, develops only implicitly and as a result of input.

        1. It is pretty crazy how many of my parents dig the TCI I describe to them at parent-teacher conferences. Parents will have to act as another medium to spread the word to other foreign language teachers.

          I’m reminded of these affluent suburban districts around Chicago where the 1950s instruction abounds in the FL departments. Ray speaks of it at Lyons Township. Alisa and the Winnetka3 speak of it at New Trier HS. Elaine (host of our next TCI Chicagoland meeting on Nov 22) speaks of it at Deerfield HS. And I get paid half of what those teachers get paid!

          1. Oh, I bet the more affluent, especially private schools, are abounding in traditional FL instruction. It feels more “academic” and “harder” and fits well with their “elitist” model.

          2. Eric, I taught a Spanish summer program at the Univ of Chicago Lab Schools this past summer. The French teacher, who also teachers there during the year, her whole schtick was preparing students to perform a play. This year it was Cinderella. I saw that play. A couple of students shined, reciting their lines with native-like pronunciation. Parents in the audience drooled. Then, there was the rest of the class that could barely recite their one-liners.

            I overheard one parent go up to that French teacher after the play, “This is what Lab School is all about… fusing art and academics! Thank you!”


          3. Ick. Gag indeed. I have always felt queasy about reducing language classes / programs to performances. The crowds love them, yes, but in the end you have spent hours…days…months…preparing kids to recite lines. Language isn’t a party trick. Sheesh! The sad thing is these folks actually believe that they “speak Spanish” or whatever bc they memorized their lines. Ick.

          4. The Winnetka 3. I like the sound of that. I met them briefly this summer. If those other two are cruising on the shoulder of Alisa, all I have to say to the suburban grammarians is to tell them to get ready to have their asses handed to them on a plate.

            And notice that as soon as Ray had the highest score in the Chicago area on the National Spanish Exam with a perfect score of 70 correct answers out of 70 questions, he has been feeling less suburban heat compared to when he first started out with CI some years ago.

            I think the heat is starting to be transferred now. Good – they can warm their asses up on the plate the Winnetka 3 hand to them. No apologies for the crude image. I have been waiting almost forty years for this.

  3. And jen I messed up on the Invisible Classroom post you sent me three weeks ago. It should have been posted by now because like Ruth says the intersection with us is big. Sorry. I’ll move it up in the queue right away. This shows how where our priorities should be, not wasting our time talking to those bozos on the ACTFL list. Yes, I said bozos. I get to say what I want here. And bozos is the unedited version of the term, sans adjectifs péjoratifs.

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