Trust the Process

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14 thoughts on “Trust the Process”

  1. I was catching up on blog entries and after a few lines of this one I realized why it sounded familiar. I am the teacher Ben is referring to! Thanks for posting this, Ben. And thanks for the link to the “Art of Conversation.”

    I start my first adult class on Monday. It’s a 7-week course– a two-hour class each week. (Except for the first class which is one hour and is a free intro class– me hoping to get people in the door!) If there is interested we’ll continue the class after the session ends. I’m really excited and curious about the class. I have a feeling I will like teaching people who are CHOOSING to take Spanish. It became clear through the email exchange with Ben that I was forgetting to trust in the process. My goal, once in the room with the group, is to be in the moment and let go of my thinking about them and myself…

    In the meantime I am still feeling torn between using the cards or doing something more akin to what I experienced in Linda Li’s Mandarin class (and what I have been talking with Jim Tripp about what he does with adult classes). Which is PQA and mini stories… Jen has coffee. Bob doesn’t have coffee. Bob wants coffee. He really wants coffee…Bob looks at Jen’s coffee. Jen gives her coffee to bob…. Circled etc etc…. I like this because it keeps things simple, and focuses on very high frequency stuff.

    I like the cards because of the great personalization they create in the class. So I’m thinking of using them. But I could use some help from the group. One thing that would really help me if I use the cards is to hear from people about common directions they go with them. There’s the whole “this person plays tennis (etc) better than the teacher” thing… or I read someone’s comment about saying that the student plays such good football… because they are “a beast”…. Or Ben’s idea that they do the activity with their pet….I’d love to have a little bag of tricks in terms of where to go with the cards, so if you have fun ideas that have come up as you’ve worked with cards I would appreciate it! (And what if, as we are in rural Vermont, everyone draws gardening!?!? Ha!)

    So, to recap. Questions are: focusing the class around cards or high-frequency structures and personalized mini stories or a combo? AND if you have any advice/suggestions/cute directions to take the cards. OR anything else you want to share about working with adults.

    I’m sure it will become more clear to me once I get in the flow and am with the group, but in the meantime I appreciate your guidance!

    I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!
    Much love and gratitude to all,


    1. Even gardening is great!! :o) Why do they garden? To save money? To relax? To save the earth? To enjoy the fresh air? To escape ? What do they do with the produce? Sell it? Cook it? Give it away? Make 345939.e loaves of zucchini bread? How do they protect the garden? All good, high-frequency stuff!! (well ok maybe not zucchini lol )

      My advice is to be ready to do a story. If you don’t need it, you don’t. You can turn it into a reading down the road. But, if you want it, you have it!!!!!

      If you have them make the cards, it will help you to get to know them, and to know how to personalize ANYTHING that you end up doing!!!

      So excited for you!!!!
      with love,

  2. Hey Elissa,
    You wrote “And what if, as we are in rural Vermont, everyone draws gardening!?!? Ha!” This made me (in rural NH) think of all kinds of garden / rock harvesting / late blight “inside jokes” that are specific to a certain community. You will do great because you’ll just tune into who your students are, and build the group from there. Sounds exciting.

    I don’t have experience doing this kind of class but was tossing around the idea to offer something similar at the local library. Anyway, keep us posted. When/ where is the class? It would be fun to come visit /participate 🙂

  3. …just tune into who your students are….

    That’s what I meant with the pets thing. It gathers steam by itself. We ask a question about a pet and let it all emerge from there.

    The Linda Li thing is great (she picked on Krashen in one session last summer for a half hour, all about one vente coffee in his hand). Just allow the facts to emerge. Linda just observes, in a bemused way, what is going on, follows the thread as it develops, and talks about who has/gives/drinks coffee in the class. And boy does she go slowly when doing that! PQA in a Wink! provides some PQA activities, but its real goal is to convey this same mindset that we see so expertly modeled by Linda. It’s a mindset, not a thing. That is why the L’Art de la Conversation article is so important to me.

    You really do have to trust things and let them emerge. The killer of the method is to plan stuff and inform the kids about it. It is such a big shift. I hope the group can provide you with a good answer as to which of those PQA approaches might be the best for you. It’s a good question.

    But again, ANYTHING can become PQA so don’t worry too much about it.

  4. Ben Lev is doing some awesome classes in CA. Maybe he can share about them here. There is so much potential for us to branch out, make money, have fun with adults who are actually motivated. Bryce does a lot of this. We should get a thread going about it. Ben gets adults of opposite language backgrounds sitting across from each other, teaching each other. We don’t have to do the community college thing, where the institution pays us minimum wage for hard work and keeps most of the enrollment fees. We can run little businesses. The market is there. I think this could be a huge thread for all of us to explore here. Just because school buildings provide health insurance and all doesn’t mean we have to think of our teaching gifts in those terms only. Our method is superior, vastly superior and marketable than anything out there. Not even close.

    1. I agree with Ben. And, we are helping to raise awareness of CI-based language instruction with adults, who are parents and teachers themselves. Once they’ve experienced it, they will want that quality for the young people in their lives too.

  5. Hey everyone! Thanks so much for your thoughts.. they really helped me get my mind around this, and then let go into the class tonight. It rocked. I am so excited. I’ve been wanting to teach adults for years, but was intimidated by the idea of it for some reason. They weren’t scary! I’ve been struggling with classroom management with my K-8 grade this year, and to be teaching a group with not one interruption or not having to separate anyone… was amazing. We spent basically the whole class talking about one guy who plays 100 guitars at once and an electric, small, black cat. He’s so talented! I was nervous at first, but relaxed into it and TRUSTED the process and there was lots of laughter and at the end an older man said “Where was this when I was in school???” I can’t wait for next week!

    Jen- the class is in Brattleboro Monday nights. I’m also teaching a 2-day “immersion” near Boston Feb 4-5 if you know anyone in that area. More info is on my web site.

    So much love to you all. What a joy to be part of this revolution together!

    Now off to plan 7 classes for tomorrow…. 🙂

  6. Yeah sometimes we forget that we largely teach unmotivated people. That is huge and yet we forget. We shouldn’t forget that. What if a basketball coach had to coach a bunch of kids most of whom couldn’t care less about basketball, but who were forced to join the team by parents?

  7. After some experience with CWB and the Personal Inventory Questionnaire, I have decided to break the PIQ down. We’ll tackle it 1 question at a time. I have too many kids to gather 10 personal facts about each. We started with coming up with nicknames and drawing what we really wanted, but didn’t have. I have barely even tapped into all the stories that could be created from that 1 question, but I use that PQA in moderation (15-30 minutes per class). And it is always there as a bail out.

    To comment on the unmotivated kids, first off, I love the analogy of coaching a team of kids who are being forced to play on the team. Fortunately, I have seen huge turnarounds in the attitudes of the “unmotivated.” You have to ask yourself, Why are they unmotivated? So many times it is a shield. The low achievers in the other academics come into class with tons of insecurities and ways to hide them, like self-handicapping (don’t try, so that then when you don’t succeed you can blame it on the lack of effort and not your intelligence) that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I put a HEAVY focus from Day 1 this year on how EVERYONE acquires a language when it is taught this way (TCI). I shared quotes from leading researchers and experts, like “Language is acoustical, not intellectual” – Segal, and “. . . the ideal second language class is one in which aptitude will not predict differences in student achievement.” – Krashen, 1981. And I say to them, “It’s so easy a baby can do it. I just have to create the conditions you had when you were a baby.”
    Click on my name in this comment and you’ll be brought to my website. Scroll down and see a visual flowchart explaining how languages are acquired. It is just a pretty way to present Krashen’s theory. And I have that poster hanging in my classroom. And I ask the kids, “Is intelligence listed anywhere on this poster?” The answer: NO. I tell them that if they just try to understand what they read and listen, stopping me when I go too fast, then EVERYBODY will be successful. The first day, when I said I would go slower this year (this is my 2nd year), there were audible sighs of relief from some kids in the class. So I’m going slower and I’m asking all the time “What does ___ mean?” and “What did I just say?” even when it is obvious what it means. I’ll point at a word that is defined for them on the board and ask them to tell me what it means. I think it keeps the kids all with me and builds confidence.

    1. …you have to ask yourself, Why are they unmotivated? So many times it is a shield….

      Thank you so much for saying this. It’s where the coaching analogy breaks down. Not wanting to play basketball is one thing, but not wanting to speak a language is an entirely different kettle of fish! Well said and thank you and also thank you for all the great comments and observations today! You are in Virginia?

  8. I really like the idea of breaking down the PIQ and using it one or two questions at a time. I always do it in English, my target language, but that means spending time explaining the questions. And I get lots of information that I can’t use all at once, then forget to use later. I think doing it bit by bit would be a good way to reinject energy into a group when things start to slow down.

    And oh yes, do I ever agree with the idea that disinterest, lack of motivation, etc., etc., are defense mechanisms. “You can’t say I’m stupid because I didn’t even try.”

  9. Along with the lack of effort, I find another thing. “It’s too hard” is coming from 2 boys in my 6th grade class who have lower academic grades and attention deficit issues. I have to keep on them so the children will do classroom expectations to look, listen, respond, and signal when unclear. (When I’m unclear – too fast or unrecognized word.) One boy said, “But it’s hard to look and listen.” I continued to affirm that is how they will learn to read Chinese: look & listen when we are reading together. I am also being extra-vigilant about comprehension checks, slow, and pause & point to encourage these two (and their classmates) that yes, they can.

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