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12 thoughts on “Expression-of-Self”

  1. This is beautiful Ben. I’m always thinking back to being coached by you in Denver when you stopped me because I was asking questions in a robotic way to check them off my mental list. You told me I needed to ask because I wanted to know the answer. And that changed everything, truly everything about how I interacted with kids in the classroom.

    I had a wonderful day of classes yesterday chatting about who was sore from the previous day’s field trip to the ice skating rink, so many repetitions of “a mal” (hurts) and “est tombé” ( fell). It was circling, except it wasn’t. It wasn’t because it wasn’t robotic, it was hilarious, with kids reenacting their tumbles and bring super dramatic and comparing exaggerated battle wounds. There was flow, there was energy. I couldn’t have planned it, I just had to feel it.

  2. Also this:

    …I couldn’t have planned it, I just had to feel it….

    This is why TPRS has mostly failed after 25 years of trying. They think it’s about planning and circling and targeting, but it’s not. Trust and Ye Shall Know is my motto. Kind of applies to life itself, right?

    Thank you Carly.

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    YES! Trust is at the heart of it.
    The teacher has to learn & trust the SLA research and it’s aligned & revamped classroom strategies & practices.
    The observers/evaluators/district curric czars and check signers have to trust and accept that the teacher is the expert, and that what they see in the classroom – kids demonstrating engagement and comprehension – is adequate proof that language is being acquired and their indiv language systems are growing, each at his/her own pace.
    The kids have to trust that this pleasant & positive community experience is worthwhile.
    Their parents have to value and affirm this humanized approach.
    The wider society has to trust that learning other languages is a worthwhile endeavor (as we sit yet again on the brink of a faraway war!) worthy of time, funding and commitment!

    Thank you, Ben, for keeping us focused on this monumental task, and fueling us with inspiration.

  4. It’s part of a long 21st century process that began with the mind and ego in charge but will end after a long time of suffering and learning with the heart and selflessness and concern for others defining language education and indeed life in general. It’s on its way, is how I see it.

    I have half a mind to go vegan so I can try to make it to the 22nd century to see if I was right. If I don’t make it, I know that there are little kids just being born now who will be the standard bearers of exactly what Alisa describes above who WILL see in this new era of trust and dare I say it, faith in humanity and faith in goodness and all things happy.

    All this insane shit going on now is just the dirt being raised from the floor. Cleaning things is never fun. But when it’s all clean (and I do think it may indeed take this entire century or longer), we will experience a totally different life as teachers and as people, one given freely by those big generous hands of Goodness or however you want to call it.

    And kids won’t have to conjugate verbs and do stupid and boring and useless stuff in school. They won’t have to be made to feel as if they are stupid anymore. If schools even exist by then…. They won’t, not as we see them now. God is too compassionate to let that happen. I think that He knows it’s been going on long enough.

    If you ever think that you don’t measure up to the demands put on you each day in your building, and if you ever feel really depressed on Sunday nites, it’s not you. It’s not. It’s not you. It’s a system led by robotic and selfish ego-driven people who somehow got power in education (and politics, etc.) that is on its way out. I should post a prayer bc this is in fact one of those Sunday nites, in January yet!

  5. Preach, Ben! Like Alisa says, thanks, as usual, for the inspiration. Your message is so inspiring because it helps us know that we are good people, we are like ships in the deep, murky seas of schools, trying to rescue kids adrift in the high waves.

    “You have to be out of your mind to learn a language.” This is beautiful. I really don’t have any SLA quotes in my room but I think I’ll put this one up.

    Regarding circling, here’s a genuine question of mine: Carly mentions that she felt the flow when talking about the ice skating her students did the day before. That it wasn’t robotic as it had felt previously when circling. I think a lot of us who have had the experience of studying circling and trying to make circling work in practice have felt this sense of free-flow pleasure in letting that go. But could someone who has never studied how to circle and took time and effort to try to make circling work really be able to run a conversation with their class, a beginning level class, without going out of bounds? Don’t we need to have this circling background to know how to pause on a statement, play with it, giving the unconscious mind a chance to embrace that unfamiliar vocabulary? Maybe so. Maybe we don’t need to circle, but we do need to repeat the unfamiliar vocabulary in playful ways. We just don’t need to ask the questions and expect students to give answers.

    Here’s one reason why I circle: gathering the classes attention. Let’s say students got a little chatty when thinking about a detail in the co-narration of a character or story, or a little side-tracked. I might circle to bring them back to my voice.

    1. Sean said:

      we are good people, we are like ships in the deep, murky seas of schools, trying to rescue kids adrift in the high waves….

      So well said! And among the hundreds of people who have come and gone through the doors of this PLC over the past fifteen years, I know that there in Chicago is one of the strongest of lifeguards, and one of the most dedicated, of them all – one Sean Lawler, the streetfighter for kids. I know why God gave you those three perfect kids – because they wanted you and your wonderful wife for their parents, so they could become streetfighters themselves one day. Onward in the fight!

      1. There isn’t a really big difference between this (below – click on video link) and what Sean is doing in Chicago. Most of us have no idea what is even going on, but those fighters in Chicago do, so we need to at least call attention from time to time to what Sean is doing there, out of respect and admiration for our brother of so many years here on the PLC.

  6. The reasons I dumped TPRS this summer for The Invisibles were 3 in particular:

    1. I love my family, and I enjoy spending time with them.
    2. I wanted deep in my heart to engage students as humans and respect their God-given, inherent potential for language, and The Invisibles/NTCI does that best. I didn’t know how deeply I wanted it until I read The Invisibles book.
    3. I HATE planning with a passion. I subsequently love FREEDOM.

    While #1 is most important to me, #2 is most important to this thread. In my opinion, the fight of OUR AGE, not just in education, is to remind our fellow human beings that they are in fact, human beings, and teach them that human beings have tendencies, needs, emotions, can overcome fears/anxieties, and so on. There’s so much despair out there, and I think, it is wrapped around our identity, knowing who we are, again, human beings. I’ve been surprised a lot this year at how difficult that is. You all bring up so well our need and potential for communication and belonging. Most students seem to not even realize they need these things.

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