There Is No Right Way

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16 thoughts on “There Is No Right Way”

  1. I agree with everything you say and in my perfect world, I’d teach with invisibles, scripted stories and never test. However, if I bring this PLC to my administration and tell them that that’s what we do, they just laugh and think, wow, a fringe group of extremists. When I bring up “the research” they start to listen.

  2. Well said, Jeffrey. That’s why this is a private group. There are many TPRS/CI teachers who would call what I said above extreme. Fine with me! Chacun son goût/To each his own. But really, I can’t imagine anything so boring as looking upon my job as being there to only provide language gains to my students. Really, who is kidding whom? Most of our students won’t use what we teach them. But they will remember how we treated them. Our profession is very much a process oriented one, and yet if one were to listen to some of the self-proclaimed online experts fighting over minute little points about pedagogy, one would see that they are looking in the wrong direction. It’s not about which method works best. It’s about which method works best for the individual teacher, because it is the research in combination with the teacher’s personality that lights the blowtorch of comprehensible input instruction.

    1. Thank you for saying that Josh. It is rather odd, in the general CI community, how we fail to make the above point enough. It is a critical point. The sea of CI is in fact so big that no one can possibly swim in it in the same way.

      And yet if we don’t qualify everything we say with that point, then people tend to interpret the things we recommend, that are working for us, that we are so happy to share with others because they are working for us so well, as if we are saying that this is the only way to do it.

      An example is Tina who supports the new concept of the Invisibles that first happened in January in New Delhi. She edited the book, added to it, and shared it around in Oregon and a lot of teachers are now happily using non-targeted input in their classes. But that doesn’t mean that no targets/emergent targets is going to make a difference in everyone’s teaching, is the way they should teach.

      I can tell this is a sore spot with me because I am starting to ramble. But we have been so slammed on FB about the Invisibles, because people are thinking that we are trying to tell them to teach without targets. That is not true. We are just excited to have found something, untargeted (what I call emergent) input, that works better for us.

      In fact, the new CI Liftoff Facebook page is a reaction to that, and Tina is aggressively monitoring who is allowed into that group for the same reason I made this PLC private ten years ago in reaction to the strong criticism that came with the blog when it was public.

      OK I’m officially rambling but we do really need to be very careful to repeat the above mantra all the time, so people don’t think we are trying to be “all that”. We aren’t “all that”. We are just teachers trying out stuff and sharing it.

      This work is just plain too big and involves too many teachers with too many different individual qualities for anyone to claim that there is only one way to do this work.

      Sorry about the ramble.

      1. I agree with you completely, Ben. I’m so put off by some of the attitudes of people on the facebook group who posted to this exact comment that you posted there. It’s people who I thought had good things to add to the discussion in the past, but just seem so negative. It’s getting old.

        1. Suzanne said:

          …it’s getting old….

          That really made me feel better. Thanks. The other thing is when they tell me that an idea I made up has “been around for a long time”. I am happy to share ideas, of course the ideas don’t even come from me but from above, but it would be nice to get a little credit on strategies like all the jobs and one word images and the classroom rules and other stuff. It’s like it’s a big competition to be the smartest over there. We really are different and will use comprehensible input differently and that is not just a clever sounding thing to say. All that is why I’m devoted to the CI Liftoff FB page and Tina Hargaden’s leadership there where she comes right out and says no contentious discussion will be allowed there. And she means it because people who try to get in but have a reputation for argumentative snark can’t get in. It’s a safe place like I want here. It really is getting old for a lot of people and it needed to be said, so thank you again Suzanne!

          1. I hear that. I guess it just seems like people are arguing over how to cook the turkey, when in reality we all know that the turkey needs to be cooked before it’s eaten. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to brine it, then roast it, or deep fry, or whatever. Credit should definitely be given where credit is due, and in large part I give a lot of my credit for happiness with my job to having “discovered” you and CI teaching. When I met you (and Laurie Clarq) at the first iFLT before I even was pregnant with my daughter 6 years ago, I was so excited. I had finally met people who understood my displeasure with the grammar nazis that I used to work with in my old district. But I digress…

            In the end, we are all just a bunch of people who are brought together by our love of languages who want to transmit that love to a younger crowd and hope that they are enjoying themselves while acquiring in our presence. I’m just at a point in my life both personally and professionally where I don’t have time for the bullshit and negativity. I just can’t do that anymore. It’s too taxing emotionally to be invested in so much negative emotion and anger.

          2. “transmit that love to a younger crowd and hope that they are enjoying themselves while acquiring in our presence”
            I needed to hear this today. I have a visitor coming from Bend, OR – a student teacher who was at COFLT and saw my demo of OWIs and stories using them, and she was inspired to take up CI even pre-service! I am so excited to have her!

          3. …I don’t have time for the bullshit and negativity. ….

            Suzanne I think a lot of us are starting to feel this way more and more. Like I have been invited by people who claim to be experts in Denver to meet and have a discussion about my position on no targets. I refuse because it feels like I am being called into the principal’s office. Thanks for your comment. The turkey image is so apt. We need to cook it. Some will cook it one way and others in another way. The ones who roast it can’t be allowed to call the ones who deep fry it into a meeting to “talk about it”.

  3. Then the “war” we need to win is that of standardized testing and common assessments. I’m fine with grading on student language gains, because I know that our way leads to more gains.

    On another note, I’m tired. Tired of not getting along with my colleagues. Tired of not wanting to contribute to the group discussions. Tired of my students telling me that they are not prepared for the standardized tests because of my desire to tell them stories and speak in L2 about their lives.

    I’m starting to see grading on proficiency as a means to ending all of this fatigue.

    1. Jeff you express what many of us have never expressed in our years together here. We have talked about the mental health aspect so much, especially in the past year. Yes, we are all tired. Every one of us.

      But as long as we are not tired in our classrooms who cares? Those interactions in the building you describe, those snarky meetings and those people who are so closed off to new things, they are what is making us tired.

      In my opinion high energy and happy teaching is a function of flowing energy between people (Seattle Fish Market) and fatigue is about blockages between people. When we try to talk to our students about their lives, as you say, we are often met with big blockages from some kids, many colleagues, some admins and always a few parents. That is a lot to deal with!

      Open communication with our colleagues is blocked because they don’t trust what we are doing. This blocking of flowing energy can be devastating to us. I believe that it may be true to say that not hundreds but thousands of teachers have quit exploring this new way of teaching because of this kind of opposition in their buildings. It can be more than a person can handle.

      Yes, the blockages with our colleagues makes us tired, but a good story brings the beauty and flow of life back. But then all our stories can’t be beautiful and flowing. Some suck bad. So the atmosphere of mistrust that exists with our colleagues, their labeling of us, along with all those classes when the kids are blocked and the story sucks, man, they can take a toll.

      And then there is the point you make about where some of the kids, often the “high achievers”, tell us that they are not being properly prepared for the standardized tests. I get it, man. This is no game we are playing.

  4. Quotes that popped into my head while reading this thread:

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something , build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -Buckminister Fuller — maybe what we’re doing here is laying the groundwork for a new model to emerge, at some point in time, not of our choosing and who knows, that might be for another generation, another time, when all this comes to fruition, but regardless, “the work”, must be done.

    “Do the best that you can and be kind.” -?

    “Strong opinions, loosely held.” -?

    1. Nice thoughts Josh. I am personally ok with how it all unfolds as long as there is not repression of our ideas by strong political/self interests. I don’t think that is happening. I respect process and the role of time in big changes. And I like Bucky’s quote up there especially.

  5. “But as long as we are not tired in our classrooms who cares?”

    Finally, once again, I am really not tired in my classroom! I’ve been using non-targeted input for some time, and now I, once again, have a group with whom to read about how it is going for them. I’m so lucky to “know”others who appreciate and observe the benefits for students of non-targeted CI.

    Of course, it does help that I am in a school setting that allows me to set my own agenda. Since I am a staff of one, forums such as this are invaluable. Just reading what you all have to say gives me energy.

    What works for me? Mini stories and children’s stories. How? We have done, are doing and will continue to do stories with drawings, words and key clues on the board. With other classes I re-do the same story with the children’s book. I use all of the skills and strategies I have acquired over time–including sheltering vocabulary, building upon prior learning, careful questioning–but questioning not overdone, visuals of all kinds, clarification in English only as needed, teaching to the eyes. I capitalize on the energy of their motivation because I can be the storyteller I am at heart.

    Pure joy. As long as I am not tired in my classroom…I know that pretty much great things can happen. It is as simple as that.

    1. Jeanette anyone who can write what you wrote above after more than 40 years in the classroom, in my opinion should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I’m not being flip. What greater career honor can compare to that? Alas, only our fellow teachers can know what we mean when we say that a teacher who talks about “pure joy” of teaching after forty years is in some kind of elite professional class by herself and deserves the highest honors a society can possibly bestow upon her. But, again, only teachers can know the hell part of it, the part we have to go through just to get to the part where we see nothing but the glitter and beauty, which lies at the core of everything.

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