Thoughts On What It Means To Finish A Career

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31 thoughts on “Thoughts On What It Means To Finish A Career”

  1. Sabrina Sebban_Janczak


    You are the most inspiring teacher and one of the finest human being I have ever met.
    If it weren’t for you I would have quit teaching.
    I owe you everything I’ve learned. You retiring is bittersweet for me.

    I’m selfishly a little sad you won’t be a teacher anymore, but I’m mostly happy that you are finally retiring and doing other things such as yoga and writing and being more with your family.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done throughout your career for the all the kids whose lives you have transformed and for all the teachers out there who have learned so much from you.

    Thank you for all the love and encouragement you have given all of us. You leave behind a huge legacy.

    And we love you for all of this.


  2. Thank you Sabrina and thanks for taking over the teaching chores in the morning at iFLT. We all know this first year in Denver has been a big transition for you this year but we hope to hear your voice more next year.

    I am looking forward to iFLT as my last chance to be around some wonderful people, do some hard training, and then finally rest. I’ll keep the blog going as long as it is useful to others. Mainly I just want to rest. That is why it is such a fine thing to know so many superstar younger teachers through this blog who won’t brook any compromise on pedagogy and are going to fight to make Krashen’s work come fully alive in their classrooms, no matter what it takes.

    In my opinion, very honestly I say this, there are very few such teachers, really, as you know. There are a lot who talk the talk but few who really walk the walk. Truthfully, I feel that many of the ones who read here and keep the discussions alive, like you, are ones who play the game for real.

    1. Ben, I sure hope we get to see you at future conferences and such. It won’t be the same without your presence and laughter floating around. Plus, who will be the star back-up dancer to Carrie Toth’s (and Laurie’s?) TPRS rap?

      Salud a un descanso muy merecido!

  3. Ben,
    I cannot state this any differently than Sabrina did, so I will quote her!

    “You are the most inspiring teacher and one of the finest human being I have ever met.
    If it weren’t for you I would have quit teaching.
    I owe you everything I’ve learned. You retiring is bittersweet for me.”

    I still remember that Sunday in April of 2011 when I trolled the internet for one last life raft–just to get me through the end of that year so I could then quit. Stumbling on your then-public blog was literally life changing. I read through some posts, and instead of sitting and mulling and analyzing, I did the unthinkable (for me)…I wrote and asked whether I was crazy to think of starting over in April. I got what seemed like several instant responses and encouragement…so I jumped and never looked back. It’s as if it were not even a decision as much as a deep connection that i finally discovered! I don’t know where I am headed at this point but I feel a lot of energy keeping me in the CI river so I will let myself ride the current.

    Thank you for creating this incredible space for all of us to connect to our inner wisdom / inner warriors and to each other. Thank you for always tying everything to Le Petit Prince. Thank you for often quoting Thomas Merton. Thank you for reminding us of “L’Art de la conversation.” Thank you for being a badass renegade! You have shared so many gems with us to help us keep sparkling…such a priceless gift!

  4. Ben.

    You BETTER stick around, virtually. Without the daily grind (outside the classroom– dealing with adminz and people who think learning = rules) your brain will be free to think about this stuff even more. I bet there’s a few hundred languages teachers in Colorado who would LOVE to have Monsieur Slavic arriver in their classe and aider leur prof! And with no admin etc to answer to, you can be even more forthright (in theory…not that you’re else than forthright as it is).

    Plus, we all massively benefit from this PLC’s support and forthrightness and WE WON’T LET YOU DISAPPEAR damnit 😉


  5. Speaking forthrightly, I am really tired, more each day as I realized that I am really retiring. It’s starting to set in and so my mind and body are starting to actually get that, which brings on great fatigue.

    But no my heart is strong and no I wouldn’t disappear. It has taken an entire lifetime to find people like you whom I can trust and with whom I would go to war. I hope to continue and I would like very much to help any teacher who asks. It’s just that not many ask.

    I see this change I am in now as a chance to maybe sit in a chair at the back of the battlefield and watch as you all rush in again, right into the fray, each year at the end of the summer. I could hold a scythe or one of those medieval bludgeons and you can come running back when you need one and I could hand it to you.

    1. I have to echo what Michele said in that I also lived on this blog for about 2 years. Those first two years after going to NTPRS in 2008 , I needed everything you’ve written. (I still don’t think I would be where I am with the method and my students had I not read and re-read and re-re-read your handouts from Westside, Omaha (or was it Laramie Handouts?). You have a style in your writing that is compelling. And bold. And I very much appreciate that.

      Then I go and read Chrisz’ blog for the first time yesterday, and holy shit, that is some good stuff, and I know that even if you aren’t writing as much as you are now (though fingers crossed that you will still write and speak out) there are some fine thinkers and shakers in this next generation who will help advance this (now more accepted) movement of humanizing language instruction, with great vigor and gusto.

  6. Ben,

    Like Jen, six years ago I was about to quit teaching (Russian) to go to my next gig, which would have been a pre-K teacher of kids with disabilities.

    If anything, the training in SpEd made me more than ready to find your training and your blog. I was completely blown away by the connections between teaching young children with speech difficulties and teaching children who don’t yet have a language. I may be retiring soon myself, but it won’t be out of any sense of despair with teaching the kids. You have taught me how to reach children first and to actually achieve success in language acquisition. (If I retire soon, it will be because the politics are just wearing me out.)

    Thank you so much for this blog. I literally lived on it for about two years. While it still gives me ideas, philosophy, and support, it also sometimes offers me a chance to support others. You gave me back my life!

  7. Well thank you Michele and just to say as well that we know it’s all from Susan Gross, really, and Blaine. But Susie cannot be overcredited for what she has done. The effect she has had on so many has been simply monumental, heroic.

  8. Since september 2009 when I first wrote to you and discovered your overwhelming generosity to help and to give, reading your blog has been the first thing to do for me every morning of the week, a nice cup of coffee at hand.
    Although it was James Asher who opened my eyes to end a 20-year-career of growing despair as a French language teacher, I will never know how to thank you for everything you contributed to my mental health and to the improvement of my teaching. In spite of the strength we all need because, as you always say, teaching is not for the faint-hearted, I can be a happier and more relaxed person.
    Rest, but keep on inspiring this community.

  9. People in and around Colorado, or going to iFLT…

    GET BEN DRUNK! Retirement = great excuse for beer-filled bash. If I were there I’d haul Ben down to the nearest pub. The man needs a proper send-off, people!

    1. Good! I’m so glad that long bike rides are on the calendar. And long naps.

      I echo the admiration and appreciations already written, and want to thank you for the language teacher prayers. They really touched me and helped me be more compassionate with my students and my teaching and my self. They reveal your beautiful, fiery spirit. Thank you for the fierceness and inspiration – you’re a warrior of the very best kind.

      1. Ben, my heart soars with good will, just to know that I finally have a tribe, when I never did before for all those years. I think it is because few people hear the drum we beat on with such passion. So thank you Ben, and I really resonate with what you said especially about the naps. You know, maybe if we had just gone to daily naps in schools from about noon to two o’clock, to finish the day out at about four, all the problems schools face now as they crumble into pieces could have been avoided. Probably not, but it’s a thought about the role of fatigue that can really unravel everyone in a school. Whatever, I will be taking many naps now. Many. I’ve earned them. I just hope I can stop thinking about PQA enough to finally lie down and rest.

        1. Someone wrote a book I think it was called “The exhausted school” or something like that. It is exhausting working in an oppressive system. That’s why we thrive under the CI umbrella, because the juice is there, the real human contact, which is demanding but exhilarating, the umbrella kinda shelters us from the pelting of hopelessness that is so so present in our schools. We have to find the hope in the connections we build with our kids and collegues, and avoid the despair-textbook-hurry-up as much as possible. You’ve helped us do this in a spectacular way.

          All of us are exhausted from hopelessness, and especially this time of year, and especially at the end of a long 37 year run. You have more than earned all those naps and rides and choosing exactly how to spend your mornings and afternoons.

          Something that helps me drown out the noise when I want to nap is to put in the headphones and listen to “BrainSync” which is a free download, it’s not like ambient noise, it somehow calibrates your left and right hemispheres…. that, or Bach’s solo cello suites played by Pau Casals, magnificent.

  10. Ok not an epic bender, but a couple of beers. Better yet: 100 miles on bike, then yoga, then shower, THEN BEER.

    Ft Collins has that New Amsterdam brewery…mmmm Flat Tire amber ale…mmmm

    1. Yes, Chris, I’m up for a few beers after my next century. What do I have to say to get you to come down for the ride and the beers? Two beers max. I prefer getting drunk on poetry, as per:


      Charles Baudelaire

      Il faut être toujours ivre. Tout est là – c’est l’unique question. Pour ne pas sentir l’horrible fardeau du Temps qui brise vos épaules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trêve. Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise. Mais enivrez-vous.

      Et si quelquefois, sur les marches d’un palais, sur l’herbe verte d’un fossé, dans la solitude morne de votre chambre, vous vous réveillez, l’ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue, demandez au vent, à la vague, à l’étoile, à l’oiseau, à l’horloge, à tout ce qui fuit, à tout ce qui gémit, à tout ce qui roule, à tout ce qui chante, à tout ce qui parle, demandez quelle heure il est; et le vent, la vague, l’étoile, l’oiseau, l’horloge, vous répondront: “Il est l’heure de s’enivrer! Pour ne pas être les esclaves martyrisés du Temps, enivrez-vous; enivrez-vous sans cesse! De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise.”

      One must always get drunk. Everything is there – it’s the only question. In order to not feel the horrible burden of Time breaking your shoulders and pushing you to the earth, get drunk without reservation. But on what? On wine, poetry or virtue, whichever. Just get drunk.

      And if, at times, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake up, the drunkenness diminished or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that flees, everything that suffers, everything that moves, everything that sings, everything that speaks, ask what time it is, and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, and the clock will answer: “It’s time to get drunk”. To avoid becoming martyred slaves of Time, get drunk. Get drunk without reservation. On wine, poetry or virtue; you choose.

      [Translation mine]

      [ed. note: This is one of my favorite prose poems of Baudelaire. Now you can see why I had to find stories – it’s the closest thing I could find to being drunk while earning a living.]

  11. Bernard Rizzotto

    I posted a note on MoreTPRS once, almost out of despair really. You alone contacted me, you called me a warrior (!!!), you put me back on my feet, you fueled me with so much love that I am still running on it 7 years later…


    1. Bernard when coaching you in Las Vegas I saw so much kindness in your smile. You had that French smile that Sabrina has and it is such a great asset to add a smile to CI instruction. You may have still been getting your sea legs then, but even then, as with Eric Olsen, the instruction that evening was just excellent. I remember wondering why I was even coaching you and Eric, since you both seemed so relaxed and confident and just really accomplished with just about every detail. I am glad things have gotten even better as per:

      Man! I should have retired a long time ago. I have never received compliments like this ever in my life, but these are making up for it. I’m going to share a lot of these with my family and friends. I am very happy. I knew I would retire one day and now I am, and it is a happy thing indeed, especially with the very kind things you all are saying to me. THANKS!

  12. You are a master of Simplicity, kindness, encouragement in the face of despair, steadfastness, and Heart. You are also a ringmaster of wild experiments, courageous declarations, gauntlet-throwing dares, and you inspire us to speak truth from the core of ourselves. You are a mentor who has saved careers (mine), healed hearts (mine), and all with a humanity and irreverence that keeps it grounded and real. A true teacher, showing your full self – mistakes, regrets, anger, love. It is beautiful that your path has brought you home to yourself. By doing that, you give others permission and show how our own healing becomes a beacon. Congratulations, Ben – and Thanks.

  13. Wow. Had I known that somebody would some day write such words to me, I would have had more strength in my arms to carry my teaching flag a little higher throughout all the years. It wouldn’t have dragged on the ground so many times. Little did I know that I would be able to help someone in this way. And I guess the flag I carried wasn’t white, after all. And the dirt all over it? Those days of teaching death when I drove home shaking inside? I guess it was all part of some kind of loving plan that I didn’t know about at the time. What you wrote in that paragraph is proof of that. Thank you, Angie.

  14. Ben – Of all the things that have left a lasting impression on me and my teaching career is the time in St. Louis that I saw you connect with a former student that was there for a Basketball tournament – I think. Your impact on him was most obvious. What struck me though was how energized, excited and genuinely interested you were in howthis young man was doing. You dropped everything and spent time with him. You spoke highly of him. You loved him. How gratifying it must be to retire knowing that you gave your all and your best not only to colleagues but to so many young people.

    On a lighter note, I honestly will forever laugh EVERY time I think of “Mr. Binky” – I watch that video at times JUST so I can laugh…

    So, for all you have given and have meant to so many – thank you! My family and I love you because you were instrumental in helping me find a way to fall in love with teaching and not have to quit. How blessed I am to say that I ONLY have 15 years left!

    Looking forward to seeing you at IFLT

  15. When I met you in Maine some years ago, skip, I felt I had met a long lost brother. You make it so easy for people to be around you. The fifteen years coming up will be lucky years for those in the FLAME group and for your students. Thank you so much for the kind words.

  16. You’ve inspired a movement, Ben. It’s no joke to say it’s like the Civil Rights Movement. Yeah, you’ve helped scores of us implement Krashen’s, et al, SLA research-based practices, but perhaps more importantly you’ve helped us, as Angie says above, tap into the sweet goodness of our inner core so that we may fully connect with our students.

    Whereas the grammar based instruction only reaches the top students in the class, I still find the temptation of neglecting the barometer students very strong in my CI teaching. This is a civil rights issue: we have to make sure we provide CI for all the students in our classes. I am so humbled by your leadership on these matters.

    Just like a good PQA session, I sincerely hope you find the serenity in your soul to follow with joy the path your retirement takes you. The question is, will this retirement train you’re about to hop on stop regularly enough to continue to lead us?

    I knew within the first few weeks last September, 2013, of participating in your PLC that I was experiencing a turning of my soul. I remember posting as such. You helped turn my soul after it got trampled on by a nasty principal last year. Yes, your knowledge and expertise makes you stand out. But it is your genuine regard for our development as teachers, demonstrated through kind, thoughtful, witty, and loving words, that makes you shine like the sun. We all feel the warmth of your sun, Ben.

    Yes, we will pick up where you leave off, Ben. But you are like that little lake called Poudre Lake up at the top of Trail Ridge Road close to you in Rocky Mountain National Park, which they say is the source of the Colorado River. Let the rest of us run wild and free from your Poudre Lake through these striking mountains and singing canyons. And if we take care not to let the adversity sap our reserves, we won’t dry up before we reach the Gulf of California!

  17. david sceggel

    Ben, thanks for letting me into your world. Before I watched you present in St. Louis, I was doing TPRS by the book, way too fast, and in my heart of hearts resenting the kids who couldn’t “get” it.

    When I saw your relaxed style and the easy way you laughed at silly things, I wanted to do it your way. It’s so much better. Now I giggle to myself at the goofy things kids come up with. If Blaine gave us the method, and Susie gave it teeth, you gave it love/humor/and peace.

    Much love in the next season of your life, and when you stand before the Creator on that Day, you will say “I learned to love.”


    1. Wow David. This method is certainly a vehicle for love and humor and peace, but I don’t see myself as anything more than a dogged practitioner and student of Susie who refused to give up on what I sensed was magic clay fourteen years ago.

      I sunk my fingers deeply into it and wouldn’t let go, and soon found myself pleasantly buoyed up in the ocean of everyday teaching stress in a way I had never been before, riding my new magical CI boat. I started looking forward to going to work!

      I then started yelling to others who were half drowning in the often stormy sea of language teaching and many have also sunk their fingers into the method. Though we are few now, we will be many later, and the kids, the kids – they want stories too. They are waiting for stories. They are waiting for us to learn how to teach them using stories.

      Thank you David for those beautiful sentences. I will treasure them. And one day standing before my Creator I will say, “Thank you for teaching me to love. It seemed like a bad beating at the time, but now I get it.”

  18. Let me get in on this love fest!!!

    I started TCI with the Green Bible, moreTPRS, and other free online resources from other teachers. Those materials and practicing TPRS in my classroom only got me to Novice-High, maybe Intermediate-Low in my TCI proficiency. It is this listserv that has directly contributed to my TCI development into the upper levels and nothing has done more for my rate of TCI acquisition.

    Before I joined this blog, I bought “PQA in a Wink!” and “TPRS in a Year!” (both of which I devoured in a few days), and you made me a temporary member of this blog. Once you join this listserv, you don’t go back. A comment you made to me as I related some of my troubles with traditionalist colleagues has stuck with me and I want to share it with all of you: “Like a rose in a desert.” Love it.

    Also, watching your videos was the first time I saw that TPRS can be done without “Redbull teacher energy.” A lot of my style comes from watching you. Calm. Relaxed.

    BTW, I love that excerpt from Stepping Stones published in IJFLT June 2014 about the change we need to see in our teaching. I wanted to forward to all my FL colleagues, but then realized that is too much of a “hint hint.” haha.

  19. I can’t express the extent of my gratitude, Ben (although many of our fellow warriors have done so here beautifully). I wish I could have come up with exactly what Sabrina wrote. You saved my career, my sanity, and therefore my over-all well-being. And when I think of the impact you’ve had on not only our craft, but more importantly on each individual – your students, your colleagues, all of us who are so fortunate to be a part of this community, and thus all of OUR students… the power of your work seems infinite. I feel so grateful for having found you, and I wish you all the peace and happiness possible in your oh-so-well-deserved retirement. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  20. Thank you Kelly and Eric. Thirteen years ago Bryce Hedstrom and I went to a TPRS workshop on the state level – in Colorado Springs – where Karen and Susie were presenting. We were both brand new to the method. One night we talked late into the night in our hotel room and both fell asleep saying the same thing to each other at the same time: “I just want to help people.” Now, seeing you and all the other fine talent in this group in the starting gates like a bunch of thoroughbred horses getting ready to power out as the bell rings, I am humbled to know that I have played even a small part in this. My prayer of being able to help others has been answered.

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