Thoughts on the Year

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9 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Year”

  1. Yes. Trust. You’ve just said it. It’s the most important thing. For years in my teaching work, this is the resounding and unifying theme: trust. I must be a teacher who can be trusted. I need to help my students learn that there is nothing between us more sacred than their trust for me and my trust for them, and anything that any of us does which breaks that is the only thing that matters. Grades can go to hell if we cannot trust each other. It’s a tough work, this work of building trust. The whole educational system is built on distrust. We test because we do not trust otherwise. We require signatures because we do not trust otherwise. We question and demand and post and require because we do not trust, otherwise. When we begin to cultivate an atmosphere of trust, even for a few minutes, it is amazing what students will share with us, and allow us to share. So, if I am trusted by this class, and I show up (as you have said, Ben, is really all we need to do) asking them to follow me into a story, or to tell me what’s on their minds, they will. What evolves will be beautiful, amazing, astonishing. It’s about trust. Nothing else. And, it’s still very difficult work.

  2. So, in a nutshell, aim for Flow rather than Control? Both easier and more difficult, especially with our teacher-mindsets that won’t let go.

  3. I agree that, when CI is working, there is really no need for “activites,” because the students know the routine and the expectations, and they are ready to dive into another story or conversation. The focus on structure and activities (CI based ones at least), on the method, has been very helpful to me, because it is what I rely on when things are not working great, when kids are not in the most cooperative or creative mood. It’s for the plans B, C and D that I need the other stuff, so I can salvage a potental disaster class and still deliver lots of CI instead of reverting to worksheets (which I did last friday when one class was being a royal pain). So I’m all for focusing more on the being in the moment, but let’s also acknowledge that on some days it’s not always possible or desirable to be in that moment with certain classes. And for those days and for those classes, we need our activities.

  4. I’m just the opposite. I hang in there with the CI. I work with individuals, move kids, and just won’t give up. My goal is a quiet, focused atmosphere where I am relaxed and they are hearing/reading with respect. It is a huge topic, and I’m not making claims that I succeed all the time. We are in our last ten days and Annick and Barbara and I decided yesterday that if we can teach at Lincoln, where disengagement and the inability to show up in class as a human being is a striking feature of a background of poverty, then we an teach at any high school in the land. Yes, we have ourn bail out moves listed here on the site, but ultimately I have decided that I won’t let them win. We live in a society that is laughable in what it has allowed children to think about adults, they bring their opinions of adult males as Homer Simpson or that dad on Malcom in the Middle and countless others from TV – all jokes – and expect to win over us, bc they win in other classrooms, but my message back is that they will not win, those six kids or whatever, depending on the group. I will actually work with only one kid with the CI. One of my classes – it is still washing off the poison from those two pig kids that prompted all those pig posts in the middle of the year – is still tough, and yesterday, with kids all over the building in a semi-out of control state, I just taught to three kids. We had great CI, and the others were basically told by me in the invisible world with glances and confrontations to shut up while I worked with these three kids who wanted to work. I love saying how inept I am at this stuff. It’s honest. I suck at CI, and we all suck at CI. Let’s get over that and just admit it. Few are the days when we fly. Many are the days when we don’t fly. But my point is that we suck at it bc of the kids and we think it’s us. It’s all toxic, but John I would like to talk you into finding how cheerfulness can be a supreme tool in our ongoing attempt to make this work. Cheerfulness is the goal word in this discussion. Cheerfulness takes us above the smell and into good teaching. That is the main thing I have learned from Annick this week. We rise above their bullshit with cheerfulness, we send kids out if we have to, keep making the parent calls. But cheerfulness is hard for us to bring in as a response bc if we are to be truly cheerful in our teaching, we would have to be cheerful with ourselves and that means actively loving ourselves and giving ourselves permission to not be perfect with the CI and for many of us that is hard. We judge ourselves and find ourselves to be lacking and the kids sense that and go off on us. This game is really about loving ourselves and forgiving ourselves and letting a power much greater than ourselves take over in the hard moments of teaching. I know that seems like a long way from the topic, but it’s not. Rather, cheerfulness and trusting in the flow of the CI is at the core of this issue. If we can just realize how hard this work really is, and how poorly equipped our kids are to even properly interact with us bc the society they are growing up in is mad, out of control with confusion, then something will happen in our classrooms. We will get it. We will see that, instead of running away from using CI in those moments of fear, we embrace the fear and keep our hands on the CI rudder, we steer through the storms. CI is actually code for a way of bringing the higher human qualities of patience, compassion (for ourselves and others), and forebearance into our classrooms. Today I have a date with my 8th period class. Many in there, ruined by the pigs, will not want to work. It’s May and they don’t want to do anything. But I do. I want to talk about that guy Brandon in Le Nouvel Houdini and I will do it and some kids will come with me and I won’t have to do that Blaine cop out of handing them the grammar books. This work requires faith and cheerfulness. We should say that before inviting people to our conferences and trainings. Look at the teachers who reject us by the thousands. Many of them – not all – just don’t want to do this work of learning how to try to communicate in a loving way with those whom we cannot love, of keeping a smile on our lips even thought our hearts be torn to bits. Who would? Very few. Much easier to tell them to turn to page 93 and be done with it. It is messy work, and too big a topic to even go into here, but no child or group of children is going to make me stop doing CI. Can’t do the cheerfulness thing? Of course you can’t. We can’t bc we are human and scared bc the world is falling apart right in front of our eyes. So what is the option? To go around with a bitchy edge complaining about all the slackers in our buildings? Great. Try that for ten years. Watch yourself burn out. I’ll pass. I am going to start realizing that I won’t succeed at comprehensible input until I bring the cheerfulness piece into my classroom and trust it to work. CI is really code for Cheerful Input. Only when you bring that can you have the comprehensible input. So, bring it. And let the fear go – it’s not helping any of us. It stokes rudeness in our students. Why would we do that?

    1. The group decision to embrace the metacognition piece and use the rigor posters to foster discussion in each class so that kids reflect and verbalize their ideas on how they learn with us is an important thread from the year.

      We created that entire concept of rigor, the rigor posters that Clarice did, the entire self-reflection piece to end the class, all to get kids to see that if they want to make real gains in listening, they need to listen with the intent to understand, and that if they want to make any real gains in reading, they need to read with the intent to understand.

      These are such simple givens to us but often are not at all simple to them. So we can talk about bringing cheerfulness to our classrooms as a major player, and we can talk about self-respect for ourselves, etc. and those are great additions to our teaching, but we need things that are more clear and concrete to the kids.

      The Sufi saint Inayat Kahn (no relation to Brigitte, I assume) has said that the best way to train children is in gently repeating the command. Bat may not be true in our case in CI classrooms. Our kids are so numb to rules.

      Does that mean we can go ahead and get angry in those moments of palpable moments of rudeness that almost shock us when they happen bc they are so over the top? Of course not. So do we bail to grammar worksheets? I won’t do that.

      Then what do we do with those four kids who almost visibly try to take down the class? First, we realize that they are the reason we are floundering. They are almost singularly the cause of the problem – which is a lot less about us than we may want to thing.

      That right there is my insight after writing that long response up there to you John. I know that this is not real clear, but work with me here.

      I wrote first that activities are bogus and a waste of time. You said that you wanted to use them anyway when the students misbehaved, esp. now when they are nearly out of control across the country. I said not to do that, to become cheerful.

      I said that because just yesterday I saw what honest, honed cheerfulness can do for a class given by a true master of CI, Annick Chen. That was a first answer, but mainly applied to us and what we could do.

      Now here is a second answer I just hit on, this one much more concrete, one that is mainly applied to them and what they MUST do to protect their grade.
      That is to realize that the four little adolescents in the classroom who could care less about following the rules and whom we know will not respond to our new cheerfulness (not fake cheerfulness, by the way – don’t even try that) need something to force them to follow the Rules Chart.

      Now this gets really interesting at this point. How can we actually make those four kids (honestly I just want to call them what they really are – four little shits) an offer that they can’t refuse, something much more powerful than a parent phone call (parents of shit kids are usually shits as well which is why those particular phone calls don’t work).

      And the best answer to their shittiness lies in one of the rules, but not the ones I used to think were the most important, rule #1, “Listen with the Intent to Understand” and rule #4, “Sit up, Square up Shoulders, Clear Eyes”.
      The one where we can hit them right in the teeth (that’s what they need) is a rule that I recently removed from the list!

      By the way, that rules chart took me a full 10 years to create through trial and error, thinking about this stuff and losing sleep at night for over ten years. Over 100 rules have been tossed and these few are the only ones that remain, so they are strong.

      So what is the rule that I am suggesting here (we cannot know if what I am saying here will work until we try this in the classroom) is the one that says “No Blurting/NoTalking Over”.

      Can you feel the truth of that? Can you sense the potential in that bad boy of a rule that if we only enforce can change our lives in the classroom and therefore out of it? I can.

      Here is what I will test now and as the school year winds down: when a kid says something out of turn, sneaking into the discussion one of those little comments designed by the kid to shred the conversation in L2, I can’t kick the kid out (can’t do that because too many kids do that in our classes now) but I can do something. What?

      Well, if I have this right – that this little rule “No Blurting/NoTalking Over” is the hidden power tool that I have been looking for all these years, I will (and here is the concrete part that the will hit the four verbally disruptive between the teeth because they have seen rules all their lives and have grown immune to them), I do the following:

      I laser point to a (brand new next year) chart that is next to the Rules Chart, called the Consequences Chart:

      ?Head on Desk – O for the day (no warnings)
      ?Cell Phone Use – O for the day (no warnings)
      ?Extended Bathroom Trip – O for the day (no warnings)
      ?Blurting/Talking Over – O for the day (one warning)
      ?Absent without excuse presented in the next few days – O for the day (in other words, I put the zero in for an absence automatically and they have to produce a written excuse to get the zero neutralized.) – this one I need to think about but the other four I am solid on implementing.

      To make it simple, I told them, at every infraction, I will briefly pause in class, walk over to the gradebook, enter the O for the head down or whatever. I told them that if they had no infractions and were clearly trying to show up and be present for class, they would get a 10 (perfect score) for that class. I told them that the rules only applied to when we were either reading or talking in French. I told them that in the moments that we were transitioning to another part of class, or if we were on a brain break, they could put their head down, text, go quickly to the bathroom, and blurt all they want.

      What is this? It is a quiz grade aligned with the Three Modes. We know that the four kids who usually blurt out and talk over will have done so a second time. Those are our target. So most kids get a 10 for the day – often their second grade of the day after the regular quick quiz written by the super star on the CI for that day, and four get a zero.

      It happens again the next day, and the next, and after just a few classes the kids grade is down to an F. We call the parents, explaining in detail how that happened and how concerned we are for their dear little Fauntleroys who now are failing our class.

      We explain to the parents how the national and new state standards require that we grade language students in terms of the Three Modes of Communication and we explain about the 90% Use position statement of ACTFL, which their little shit of a child is preventing us from doing, thus affecting our job performance, and we make it clear that the child cannot afford in our classes to continue to get more than just that first warning on the rule of No Blurting/Talking Over.

      I am going to try it. Everything we have so far, the Rules, my little lecture on cheerfulness above, phone calls, nothing works with those four kids who, let’s admit it here, are the real reason for all of our failures with CI and classroom discipline – just those four kids! – and we completely neutralize them, shut them up, whack them in the teeth, by simple writing their grade for the day in the grade book in the moment of the infraction to save time at the end of class), as they tumble rapidly to a failing grade as a result of having failed in the art of conversationand the Three Modes that are so absolutely necessary if our work with comprehension based instruction is to succeed.

      I’ll try it, if anyone else wants to they can, and we can get back here and compare notes. I think it will be, for me, the best thing I have ever tried to keep those four shits from ruining my class. If it works, I will be very happy, because the one thing that has driven me crazy over all these years of doing CI is those kids making some comment in English right in the moment I am trying to get the beautiful Boeing 757 jetliner off the runway and into the air.
      Are those kids, in the light of that image, dangerous? Hell yes they are! Are they pig kids, who need to be removed physically, as per that thread five months ago here? No.

      Here we are addressing those minor pigs – we might call them pig shits – who float under the radar much better. We must hit them where they will actually feel it – in the gradebook.

      This, to me, is the first practical and concrete and really strong response to those four blurter kids that I have ever thought of. Anyone want to go with me on this, I would appreciate the company.

      We only have a few days left. Let’s test it and see. I’m hopeful that we could make a HUGE step forward with this strong move on the blurters, who, as I suggest above, in my view are somewhere in-between 99% and 100% of our true problems with classroom discipline.

      1. Can this very comment become a post? I feel like I will need to keep going back to that one often and just want to make sure. Or maybe you can do what you have done with other posts – make it pop up automatically every once in a while on top of the posts chain?
        In the meantime, I will print it out and try to learn it by heart!

        1. This comment in fact appears as a post today. I will try to remember to bring it back around from time to time. I will also make a category for it under the word cheerfulness. Two other posts, much more concrete in nature, have resulted from this comment, and they are time stamped to appear tonite and tomorrow morning bc it is so much to read. I love that this comment, so general in nature (about cheerfulness) has led to a very specific response in terms of attaching the kids’ mastery of the interpersonal skill directly to their grade, as per Robert. That is described in these next two posts.

  5. “CI is the code for bringing the higher human qualities of patience, compassion, and forebearance into our classroooms”

    cheerful interactions=comprehensible input

    Cheerfulness is a sign of feeling safe–no worries.

    In safety is the only way we can actually learn and acquire knowledge. We can allow our unconciousness to be open to what is flying around us. We have to feel safe and trust that we will not be damaged by those in the room with us to let down our defenses.

    And right on about the images that young people bring about adults and specifically teachers to our classrooms.

    But, we have our own judgement of them. The judging thing is the part we have to get beyond. when judgement is out the windows in our classrooms we move from prisons to learning labs where each of us relies on the others to bring us forward.

  6. …but, we have our own judgement of them….

    Yes it is a two way street. That is why we need a clear way of evaluating them on their behavior as I posted just now as a new post. They don’t need soft rules or suggestions from us to adhere to higher human values in class. If they don’t see those things at home, they won’t be able to bring them to class, and most of my kids don’t see much of their parents, who work two and three jobs, at home, let along being groomed in the finer arts of conversation. They need clear rules that are based in loving guidance and they need to know that those rules will be enforced. Random judging, or moodiness on our part, cannot enter into the picture. They put their head down, they text, they ditch class, they blurt/talk over, they head out for a ten minute bathroom stroll, and they will see a clear, impersonal (no judgement) result in the gradebook, all given cheerfully.

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