The Tarot Fool

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16 thoughts on “The Tarot Fool”

  1. If I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit my only hope after four years is to give kids the tools to acquire more fluency on their own, if that’s what their hearts desire. And of course many (all?) won’t, and I have to be okay with that.

    That’s if I’m being honest. If I’m talking to parents, students, or admins, though, I hum a different tune.

    1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

      Hi James,

      I love your honesty and candor!
      I agree with you totally and my hopes are that I give my kids the love of the language and confidence they can acquire it, IN TIME, WITH ENOUGH CI!

      However, I have NO Problem being honest with parents as well. If they question the learning outcomes I have set for my kids based on the solid research we can all access seamlessly these days, I offer to share some of that research. That usually stops them right there b/c many (not all) parents are not really interested in their kids’ FL education but only care about a letter grade for them.

      Another strategy I use to stop them is to ask them how many years of FL they’ve had in high school/university and ask them to speak the language they’ve learned. If it’s French I start speaking French and typically they are lost after 5 seconds.

      Since most of them have been taught through the old paradigm of language learning, they usually can’t utter more than 5 words.

      Then I ask them to compare the amount of language they can remember versus their kids’ and they usually get it. Oh! irrefutable proof.

      Mind you, I do that with a smile on my face and never in a confrontational way as I believe you can only catch flies with honey and not vinegar. I try to show them the hypocrisy of this all.

      So far, it has never failed but may be I’ll have to bite my tongue one of these days!

      I m now sitting in a IB seminar and my blood is boiling hearing the totally absurd expectations they have for us teachers, but most importantly for the IB kids. I m loving the IB philosophy but as far as language B is concerned
      (second language) I think they have not thought about it entirely. They are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

      So I’m coming back to this Blog, my safe heaven to calm myseld down and remind myself it’s all going to be OK. Revolutions take time.

      1. I’ve sat through IB trainings, too. The crappy part is we as IB teacher have basically zero power to change anything about the curriculum, which is set thousands of miles away by people who couldn’t care less about our opinions.

        So basically we just have to take it and get the kids ready the best we can.

        My main realization this year is that I can’t teach my lower levels (90 kids) as if they all need to be prepared for IB (only 3 seniors this year). Look at the numbers! Teaching the 90 for the sake of the 3?! Talk about catering to the 4%ers. I know many teachers with that mindset, though, and I guarantee you that all of those with you at that training are wondering feverishly right now about how to model their lower level classes after the IB curriculum.

        1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak


          I have been very vocal here in expressing some concern about the unrealistic expectations put on teachers and students alike as far as learning outcomes. To further complicate things and in the name of learning 21st century skills, they are bombarding us with these interdisciplinary concepts and linguo that is so cliche, almost demagogical, and they are asking for a horizontal alignment with other subjects.

          As we know on this PLC , language acquisition is a total different animal and the skills sets required to succeed are just very different than let’s say Social Studies skill sets.

          I’m surprised to see that teachers are coming to me telling me that my concerns and questions are all really good and valid. Sadly, they are afraid to talk! Even the trainer kind of agrees with me!

          I asked her (the trainer) if she could give me the contact email of the language Curriculum Manager and I got it.

          If and when I have time I would love to craft her a letter may be with the help of the people on this PLC and make our voices heard. If done well and diplomatically I don’t think it can hurt right?

          1. Maybe I find a thrill in being silent (read: Holier Than Thou). Of course that’s a bad thing. I’d be interested in crafting that letter to the coordinator with you. Maybe a good summer project?

          2. I’m also terrified of speaking up in the wrong context. I’ll argue all day if it’s within a context I’m comfortable with. Those IB training sessions just make me want to be quiet and get out alive.

          3. You are very diplomatic. But remember that for a diplomat to be heard, the people have to not have cotton all stuffed up in their ears. Otherwise, they cannot hear you. That, I suspect, is the case here.

            I suggest you pull together, today before it is too late, a group of those you feel hear you and agree. Set up a time to meet, maybe this evening. Meet. Discuss. Break away. You will not change the top down IB structure. But you can make your own group. You may need each other later bc there is nothing worse than being along in this work and I can say that.

            That is what we are doing here. Every day when we talk here it is a way of showing to ourselves via conversing with each other that we are not crazy, or not as crazy as we think, and I guarantee that if you push too hard on those with the cotton in their ears, they will immediately push back very hard and try to put you in your place.

            Don’t let them do that. Break away. Tell them what they want to hear, which is that they are very smart and wonderful leaders, but act within your breakout group to rectify what is really a very serious, an intensely serious, handing out of misinformation by those people who as you have pointed out are just plain wrong about language acquisition.

            It’s time we start just saying that. They are wrong. We have to say it because it is true.

            You won’t be able to organize next week bc the conference will be over, so you have to do it today, later today, even if it involves only one other person – that young teacher who sits next to you.

            Why do I say this? Because you and that young teacher are right and the trainers are basically full of shit. It must be said. How long are we going to let fifty year old research drive the curriculum for this century?

            It is our failure to just accept and state that they are full of shit that perpuates the illusion that they have something to offer. They don’t. They have something to offer four percenters, but not the vast majority of the kids.

            Therefore I state again that they, the trainers, are full of shit and that nobody is doing anything about it. Like go to Yahoo News! today. There was a youth hockey game. They started a big brawl on the ice, just like they see on T.V.

            No adults came in for two minutes. You are the adults, you and that young teacher next to you. I compare the trainers to children, very four percenty children who are being rewarded by other four percenters in the overall corporate structure that is the American educational system by being placed/misplaced in a position of power over the very people that they are supposed to be educating about languages! It just seems so weird that you are there. You get it – they don’t. It’s so bizarre, all those people bullshitting each other. Wow.

  2. Yes. We need to be is honest with ourselves. We would come off as unemployable if we told those around us in our schools that our instruction of 500 hours (four year program) is just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for real language fluency.

    And as you pointed out a month ago here, James, it’s less than that by a lot, maybe half is what you implied, and I would say that, even when we are burning on all cylinders, it’s 90-100 actual hours of true CI per year, and so we would only get 400 hours in a four year program. Not nearly enough.

    But back to the point, and this is what I want to say – it hurt me over the years to think that if I only did it right I could get a group of kids to fluency over four years.

    Now I realize, as you imply, that all I can do is drive them down to the bus stop. They have to get on and ride the bus across the country to fluency by themselves, if they want to. Certainly no college professors are going to do much for them in their classrooms that are ruled by the mind.

    This comes under the very important mental health idea that we can’t be and do everything for all people. We are limited in our craft. We need to lighten up and get that before we work ourselves into a bad place where we are not happy in our profession.

    Our kids are by and large not motivated. We really need to get that. It’s almost like we are up there trying to trick them into learning in spite of their mental acne. That’s not healthy for us.

  3. What I said above reflects something Bob Patrick shared with me yesterday:

    …you called on The Fool. One of the most powerful insights that I ever had about The Fool is that he is the free spirit that I danced with as a child that I can still find in me if I want to. When we do CI in our best moments, I believe that we find that inner freedom and we invite our students into it, too. That’s where the unconscious acquiring of language happens, time disappears, we laugh, [and] we get the language hum going….

    So, really, it’s not up to us to fret about ways to get more CI going and to count the available hours against the hours that we surmise (bc we can only guess) that are required. All of that is far from the real place where CI happens, the place:

    …where the unconscious acquiring of language happens, time disappears, we laugh, [and] we get the language hum going….

    This idea is undervalued in our community. So what if we have 50 or 5000 hours? We need to be in our classrooms now, in the real way Bob describes above. We need to relax and do more listening and reading CI in a relaxed way with our kids and show them through our actions how important they are to us and just let the language happen instead of forcing it so much.

    It is a natural process, and we so often make it unnatural, because we are so worried about being good teachers.

  4. Ben, just as you extend the thank you to Susie, I extend the thank you to you! It feels like everything I do I learned from you! And I totally agree, CI makes work fun and it all pours out into my personal life. I know for a fact that if I was still teaching in the traditional way I wouldn’t be nearly as happy.

  5. Ben said: “Now I realize, as you imply, that all I can do is drive them down to the bus stop. They have to get on and ride the bus across the country to fluency by themselves, if they want to. ”

    What is really amazing is that many of them do get on the bus, maybe more than we’ll ever know. I had a 14 year old girl whose English was so good that I was convinced she had lived abroad for some time. When I asked her where she had lived, she was surprised because she’s lived here in Agen all her life. But she wanted to follow her favorite American series and spent all summer listening to the new episodes that were not yet translated into French. The result was fluent English!

  6. Great post. I am having more fun with Spanish than I have for 15 years and my kids are mostly into it too (plus they are psyched about the lackof hwk).

    I read somewhere that kids laugh like 150x/day and adults maybe 6. I’m aiming to be more like a kid and TPRS does that. (Last week’s story: one of the kids in class had a date with Megan Fox– in Vegas at the Bellagio– but it was a disaster because Megan Fox had explosive diahrea and the local wal mart was out of toilet paper).

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