Today 2

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14 thoughts on “Today 2”

  1. Angela Williams

    Wow!! You have really given me some ideas for tomorrow’s classes. So far, I have circled “le gusta” (he/she likes) and “se llama” (his/her name is). In one class, after circling that one of my students likes to dance, I even ventured out to “a que hora” (at what time?), and I’m really thinking about introducing “baila” (she/he dances) to extend the PQA. That opens up more possibilities for us to discuss where she dances, who dances with her, etc…I’m so excited!!! 🙂

  2. Wow, Ben! I need to make about 10 comments on this post. The most important to me right now is this: You said that we are, “dutifully writing things like “Greetings” and “Clothing” in content objective templates for this next month’s planning to give to people who know virtually nothing about teaching languages and some of whom have never even heard of Dr. Krashen!” I am asked to do this type of dutiful writing, but I am sick of it. The teacher is the expert in the classroom. We are not just some poor, ignorant employee with hat in hand wondering what we should do in the classroom–or at least we shouldn’t be.
    Alfie Kohn said, “The overwhelming number of teachers… are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Since most of us TPRS teachers actually ARE able to describe the theory of learning to which we ascribe, we have the obligation to disregard (respectfully) the technocrats that cannot describe any theory of FL learning and furthermore want to tell us how and what to teach!
    Rather than the units that the grammar/translation teachers and the administrators want, I am writing and teaching according to the standards. Teaching to the Standards ought to be good enough, right? I am focusing on Standard #1: Communication in Languages Other than English. There, that ought to do it for the first 2 months. We will work in Cultures, Connections and Comparisons (Colorado omits “Communities” from our state standards) once the kids can understand enough Spanish so that we can talk about those things in the TL a bit.

    1. Right on Bryce. We ARE the teachers, and we read/study our asses off to teach best to our students, so nevermind admin requirements like this. I’m fortunate for the time being and have a pretty understanding admin with reasonable expectations.
      Alfie Kohn, saying it like it is everytime.

      1. Bryce said:
        …we have the obligation to disregard (respectfully) the technocrats that cannot describe any theory of FL learning….
        Keyword here is respectfully. These people sign our paychecks. They believe that they actually are helping us do a better job when they assign tedious forms – lesson plans/pacing guides/daily posting of content and language objectives – for us to fill out.
        It’s all about control. They think that they as administrators have to be in control. So four possible reactions have been suggested above:
        1. pay no attention to these things
        2. state that they are unethical
        3. disregard them respectully
        4. play the game

        I am thankful for this thread because it has helped me to now choose today an option that I can live with. It is #4. But this time I will do it without that flint like stabbing feeling. I will just accept what I can’t change and be conscious that there is a tremendous amount of pressure from principals coming from above them. That is the problem and another story, the different sized Arne Duncans at all layers of the system.
        But the little Arne Duncans mean us no harm, most of them. Some are evil, of course. Bless their hearts. Most are just doing what they are told. So – and this came from that discussion I had with Diana yesterday – we just let it go and give them what they want. Honestly, like Bryce said:
        …the technocrats…. cannot describe any theory of FL learning….
        Well, then it follows that they cannot really “GET” what we are doing when they walk into our classrooms and we can always use the explanation Diana suggested about not being on those words that day because we are behind by a few days on the pacing guides.
        My goal is to eventually get a ton of stuff from Denver Public Schools teachers – personal stuff that they have shared with me to respect DPS’s copyright rules – up on either this site or my school site that can respond to many of our educrap needs .
        This is a perfect use for this blog, to provide such things and in a format that they can be easily applied to any one ele’s program because all the eduforms are basically coming from the same place.
        We are all too far apart. When you get on a team like I’m on right now at Abraham Lincoln High School, with the kind of WL boss that I have at the district level, you will be glad that you stayed in the profession.
        We can and we all will help each other every day. Go in today and go without fear. Laugh. Play. Have fun. Don’t care what they think and chant away. If you chant and it fails just explain that you are trying to get their brains to lock on to the language and laugh about it.
        But get that kind of use of English out of the way today because – as most of use are ending about a week of teaching – the constant use of English to explain how the class works should stop now, after about a week.
        Today, I can say that I have used all the English to explain the rules and all to my classes that I can allow myself. If I speak English other than to ask “What did I just say?” – which I must do A LOT in class because we decided that the ten finger checks are far less effecive than asking what we just said – then I will be, by using periodic English, setting myself up for failure this year. All my work in learning how to do TPRS will be for nought. It is the sixth day or so of school, I have explained everthing, I have no call to use English, and if I do it today, I might as well walk out of the building this afternoon and never come back. It won’t work next week. I’m going for 99% TL this year. Lord give me the strength to do that. I wil make this last point into a blog post right now because, to me anyway, it is so important.

  3. Have to share this.
    We are doing a Circling-with-Balls-type of thing for the first few weeks in Spanish I right now. The phrase “I like”, “He/She likes” is big. Yesterday a kid says: “I like to swim in the Pacific.” I thought it was an instance of premature BEP. Turns out it wasn’t. He lived in Vanuatu (island nation east of Australia) for 9 years where his parents were managing a resort. Besides English and a bit of French, he speaks Bislama, the creole language of the islands.
    I was dumbstruck. What is that kid doing in our tiny, rural community? Pity the kid in that class that we focus on today. How do you follow that one?
    Anyway, point is, I NEVER would have known that about this kid or the other wonderful things we are finding out about one another without circling with balls.

  4. …we are not just some poor, ignorant employee with hat in hand wondering what we should do in the classroom….
    This is it right there, Bryce. We need to get what you are saying here. We need to shift over to a much more professional approach and state our truth about the way we operate and not allow challenges form people who don’t know about teaching languages, only about running school buildings. It really is like people with degrees in hospital administration telling doctors how to operate.
    We must stop interacting in a submissive way with our administrators. We must stop allowing that little spark, like flint-on-rock spark, of fear that comes into our chests when, in a meeting, an administrator tells us to how things will be done in terms of those pacing guides and content objectives.
    We either align with Krsashen – the polar opposite of that stuff – or we become fearful employees, gripping the rims of our hats with heads slightly bowed (in the invisible world) to the administrator as we say, “May I please have a job if I do it right the way you say? Please…?”

  5. It really is like people with degrees in hospital administration telling doctors how to operate.
    Ben, have you been watching Article 99?
    Hmmm, maybe we need to start asking people to show us the superiority of these requirements. “I consider it unethical deliberately to give my students less than the best education I can. All of the Second Language Acquisition and Brain-based Research I have studied shows that best practices include a non-linear approach coupled with as close to 100% Comprehensible Input as possible and the rigor of in-depth pursuit of topics that interest students. Could we sit down together and you show me the studies that indicate the superiority of another method? Because I want to do what is best for my students – it would be unethical to do otherwise. Thanks.”
    I’ll probably never do it, but it’s tempting. (I at least have the security of a contract and permanent employee status.)

  6. I had that thought yesterday Robert. Until a meeting yesterday, I was under the impression that I had full support of my admin team in my new half time position in my new very pro-CI school, the best in DPS, and a ton more than I had last year in a school whose department is in a kind of hell state. But now I can see that I don’t have FULL support and so Bryce’s hat-in-hand image really resonated with me.
    I really need to play the unethical card you suggest. Thank you – it is perfect. Why? Because I am not lowering my head to anybody anymore. It took me these 35 years to get here. Diana Noonan argues down principals all the time in DPS, by the way, and that is the only reason we are moving forward so fast in our district.
    Capitulate or play the unethical card? For the time being, I am going to do both. I am going to get together with my team today and we are going to start writing pacing guides to respond to the request of the administration, but I am going to leave the door open to the kind of discussion that you suggest.
    I can tell you that the design of the class I taught yesterday was an eye opener. I had always kind of preferred the freedom of Circling with Balls, with no planned target structures, to stories. Slightly, anyway, because stories are so much fun too.
    But that class yesterday (Today 2) was totally off the cuff and the structures emerged AFTER the fact, not before, and thus the spontaneity and the alignment with Krashen that we know is best was guaranteed.
    Luckily, I can ask Diana to come along to such a meeting. That will help. I will do it. This year. It is now time for this to happen. Because what they are asking us to do IS unethical.

  7. Well I got together with my team today and we decided to isolate target structures for our individual pacing guides by backwards planning from a novel. . By pullling out essential structures from the novel, we ensure that by the end of the process the kids will be able to read the novel. That was Annick Chen’s idea. It will work.
    Then I got to talk with Diana for a long time just now and she said so many things that gave me confidence and that reminded me how much of a game it is to be required to do pacing guides and so just write them, don’t worry about playing the ethical card, and set about doing good CI in our classrooms. Good advice – we give them what they want and move along.
    Now, Diana had a huge point abut pacing guides. She reminded me that, even in subjects like math, it is not good enough to “cover” material and say that we taught it and go on. We have to make sure that the kids have learned it.
    In our field, that is expressed much more accurately as we have to make sure that the kids have acquired the words targeted on the pacing guides. So if our (6 week) pacing guide has a set of words in it for a certain day and an administrator walks in and we are not using those words then we say:
    “Of course I wasn’t on those words today, my students haven’t acquired the words from last Thursday. I could tell that from the ten point assessment on these scantron sheets from last week that you see here. Look at these results. I guess that acquiring those particular words is harder than I thought and I can adjust that planning for next year. In fact, actually yesterday and the day before and even the day before that, I didn’t get to THOSE words either, because the ones from last Thursday here on the pacing guide have not been acquired. I have been guaranteeing the kids’ success this way. Of course, what kind of teacher would I be if I just taught the words and expected the kids to acquire them without enough repetition?”
    In terms of Net Theory, this is all so much bunk, but in terms of schools and pacing guides, it is kind of clever.
    Bottom line is that we make our pacing guides, post our content and language objective in our classrooms – we can give examples of those here in this discussion; I am sure people would like to see them so do so – and go about our business of PQA and stories.
    Fopr those in the group who are familiar with my new weekly schedule (see category – the one connected to Bloom’s taxonomy: there is no conflict here. I will just call the three structures for the week “major” and then each day the book structures (a few per day as per the pacing guide) will be called “minor”.
    But I think Annick’s idea of using a book like Pauvre Anne at level 1 as a source of essential vocabulary to build a pacing guide is a good idea. It also guarantees that teachers who don’t do enough reading, like me, are always doing auditory CI to set up reading CI.
    Diana has agreed to come to our building very soon and meet with our administratation to explain the district’s position on this. I look forward to that meeting.

  8. I feel so grateful for this particular thread right now. I have not started teaching yet. We have a wacky staggered late start to the year, but for the first time EVER I am so raring to go! I have never felt or said “I can’t wait to start!” But that is how I feel right now 🙂
    I am obviously fully committed to CI-based teaching even though I have barely started ( the last 8 weeks of last year). And thanks to Ben and to this amazing group I have spent many many hours reading, writing, reflecting and digging into the core of my teaching. More than I have ever done cumulatively in 23 years! Many people have compared this to a doctoral level seminar. I have no experience in a doctoral program, but this ongoing work is transforming me as a person and as a teacher.
    I’m putting this out there because nobody besides my hubby has any inkling of how much I put into this and I have the following dilemma. Our tiny dept is (I think) in transition to CI_based teaching, but I don’t actually know this for a fact, since we never have dept. meetings. I feel totally alone and isolated at school. Thank God for you all!!! I don’t even know if my dept head has read Krashen? We meet next Thursday for one hour. I can’t say with clarity that our dept goal is for students to acquire language. BUT THEN… on Friday we have to meet in “writing groups” to begin drafting department blahblahblah for the 2012 NEASC reaccreditation process.
    I wish we didn’t have to do this right now. I am afraid I will get railroaded in the group. We have to address things like “contribution to the mission of the school” and “consistency of activities with school’s beliefs about teaching and learning” and “appropriateness of offerings for full range of student body, ” and…my favorite: “contribution to the achievement of the school’s goals for the students and the students goals for themsleves.” GAH!!!
    Since we have no “evidence” (other than my own qualitative /anecdotal experiment last spring) about language teaching, I am afraid people will just rely on past models. I can’t do this without a serious moral/ethical/ conscience breach. It seems like the school’s goal for the students is college admission, and the students’ goal for themselves is to get good grades, so how can I bridge the gap between that stuff and my own goals, which are to be truly present each day, to connect with each student authentically, and to create a safe, open and vibrant space for real language acquisition “magic” to emerge???
    I am fortunate to be in an independent school, so I am not hamstrung by testing and tight pacing and such, but last year we spent both of our in-school prof. development on curriculum mapping. From that experience I know that nobody (so far) besides me (and my husband by osmosis!) knows the real deal about what we do ( ie, languages are not subjects).
    The advice in this thread about balancing doing the right thing and playing the game, “giving them what they want” seems doable. Maybe the timing of having to do a self-study is perfect, since we are literally studying ourselves in this process??? Would love to hear any suggestions / advice for navigating this.

    1. Well I for one am going to put up alot of documents that I myself have to funish my supervisors, and others are invited to do the same. And, looking at the zen part here, no one is going to get fired for handing in stuff that is not perfect to quiet the people who have way too much time on their hands (the people who wrote those comical benchmarks or whatever the hell they are – you called them “things” – that you gave us examples of above.) The focus now is on what we do in our classrooms. And if we do that well, and we will because, as Krashen has said, TPRS is “light years” – his words – ahead of everthing else. And so, if we just teach well, somehow all that documentation will be forgotten in most schools. But the opposite is not true….

  9. Even when departments meet, in my experience, if they don’t share the same vision, then it is a waste of time. My mantra until this year has always been “I must be doing something wrong because I can’t communicate in the least bit with these people who are my colleagues.”
    I love what you said, Jen, about how nobody has any inkling of how much soulful introspection and hard work goes into this. I think I can speak for Bryce on this as well. We work on this stuff so hard and so much that it is reason to question our mental well-being. But my mind is well, very well thank you, and in large part precisely because I am happy, very happy, in my job now for the first time ever. All it took was a lot of hard work to learn the method. And, bottom line truth here, kids and teachers are suffering. I’ve never had the chance to do something about it before. For 24 years I taught AP French language and literature to white kids and it totally sucked. Even in the public schools, communities in South Caroline were being routinely divided along racial and economic lines. Now I like my job. I have a found a way to reach kids with language and they aren’t all white and all girls and all perfect. Kind of rambling here, but good on you for saying that Jen. Meeting you in St. Louis made me realize that even if department chairs have never heard of Krashen, SOME people have and things have to start somewhere. What we are doing is really going somewhere great and true and wonderful, and so let’s just put on our CI Commando hats and get in there and have a great year! Bit of a rant there but what the heck, right? Bryce and I might get up and go see the winners of the Tour de France go through our backyard in a race tomorrow morning. How cool is that?

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