Starting Over

by lclarcq on November 28th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Starting The Year

Hello from California!! I managed to be retired for all of six weeks before I moved cross country and sign on for a new job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was a good one!

For the past 30+ years I have worked in small districts in rural, upstate (seriously upstate) New York. For some of those years I taught grades K-8 but the majority of them were teaching high school students. My new job is teaching 6th-8th graders in a suburban, well-populated section of Northern California!

The students had another teacher for over 10 weeks and now we are all starting over.

I had met a few times with the sixth graders and today was our second real day together. They have been out of school for two weeks between Science Camp and Thanksgiving Vacation!!! So yes…we are really, really starting over.

The 8th graders and I got started the week before Thanksgiving. So today was day 6 for us.

I forgot how much there is to accomplish at the beginning…….

These students, all of them, are brand-new to me. Our very first accomplishment will be working together. Seriously. They are used to a different set up in class and mine requires a great deal of self-control…..or at least more than they have had to use. 🙂 I know they are capable. They know they are capable. Now…I have to get them to agree to do it.

The first day I worked with them (class sizes about 30), they were sitting with friends in groups of four. I tried to speak. I tried to get their attention. No one stopped talking. Not one student.

My pulse was racing, my face was flushed, my smile was frozen and my heart was pounding. I did not know the name of one single student. For the first time in nearly 30 years I also did not know their parents, their siblings, or even their other teachers.

I don’t know how long I stood in front of the room before I tried again. It was probably seconds…it felt like hours. I was being completely ignored.

So I tried again. I used a ‘signal’ that their former teacher had used. A few students noticed and responded half-heartedly…then kept right on talking. This was not going the way I had hoped!!!

Try number three….in a slightly louder, more authoritative voice. This time more than half of the class looked at me, shifted in their seats and mumbled a response. AND….made eye contact.

This was the most crucial moment for me. It happened in all three classes. I had to maintain eye contact with the 15 or so students spread across the room. With a smile on my face, I held my ground….for maybe 15 seconds. A small girl near me whispered to me, “I think it’s working!” I tried to just keep breathing!! One by one the rest of the group settled down and then turned around….finally realizing that something was happening. When everyone was quiet I smiled at stared at them while I (painfully!) counted to 5 in my head. Then I finally introduced myself. I think that was the most challenging 30 seconds of my teaching career.

I am dead serious.

I have no history at this school. No reputation precedes me. I felt completely naked and alone in front of those kids waiting for the silence, and for their attention. My head said…wait, wait, wait it out. My heart said…this isn’t going to work…they are going to ignore you forever.

I’d like to say that after that one encounter in each class, that I was able to establish order in a heartbeat with a look. Or at least using our signal.

Um, no. The 8th graders and I have found a direction in the week we have had together…but daily reminders, and those 30 second wait times, while not nearly so heart-pounding, still happen once during every class. The 6th graders? Well….we didn’t get much done today academically. There were maybe 10 “usable” minutes out of 35. i’m still learning names, getting them into a routine, helping them adjust to transitions and working to get them to function with a new seating system (where they all face forward and don’t sit with their friends.)

BUT…in one class 5 of those 10 usable minutes were truly beautiful. Students were asked if their vacation was “excelente” or ‘terrible” or somewhere in between. Only one girl said terrible. I asked her if the reason was a secret, she said no, she wanted to share. (Thankfully the class was quiet and listening….and this, of course, is why we needed it…) She shared in a whisper to me that her aunt had cancer. I told the class in Spanish. Then I asked, in Spanish, ‘Who has a friend, or someone in their family, with cancer?” Over half of the class raised their hands. Even though these kids had only a few weeks of Spanish, I could say to her…The class is with you. They are your friends. You are not alone.

I could tell the class that in 2013 I had cancer. And we learned the word hope.

She needed that. So did I. So did I.

with love,
Laurie

Who Are They Now?

by lclarcq on April 17th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days

The following was a response to a dialogue on Ben Slavic’s blog and several folks suggested that I share it here. The conversation centered around the challenges of teaching students towards the end of the year!

Hello all,

Part of the reason that April/May are tough is that the kids that we have now are not the same students that we have in August/September. They have different interests, different skills and sometimes different friends and even family.

This is a great time of year to acknowledge that! Get to know them all over again. Reconnect.

It is also a good time to “step up the game” and introduce new activities that are more in line with their level of acquisition and maturity.

There is no standard way to outline this because each school is so very different.

If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 7th graders I might start using topics like part-time summer jobs (babysitting, lawn mowing, etc.) that kids have in this area. I might start creating stories about 8th grade and all of the advantages they will have next year. I might start to introduce any kind of real person connection to the language that their squirrellier 7th grade selves might have dismissed.

If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 9th graders I would definitely start incorporating summer jobs, summer concerts, and summer clothes…..which would lead into a story about the dress code, which will soon be a big issue for our freshmen because it is a big deal at our school I would ask about what next year’s freshmen will need to know, and create a BB, or PP or letter for the incoming freshmen.

At any level, if you haven’t started an FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) time, this is a great time to do that….if you have the materials. In my level 3 and 4/5 classes they get 20 minutes 2-3x per week to choose their own activity: read novels, children’s books, cloze activities with lyrics to songs that we have done, write a story, take a practice quiz (similar to one section of the final and check with a key), read articles that I have ripped out of People in Spanish, or whatever else I can come up with. They start each 20 minutes with a grade of 100. Every time that I see that they are NOT engaged in the activity at hand, I subtract 10 points from their grade. Even my rowdiest can keep it together for 20 minutes IF they are choosing their own activity (and are not sitting near a friend!!) I play music quietly in the background and it is a nice, well-earned change of pace.

Music, music, music, music, music. It’s a great time to have a “dance-off” like my friend MB did using “Five A Day” in your language….if you don’t teach French/Spanish, just print off the expressions, and yell them out over the voice of the video. My Spanish kids actually prefer to do the French one. 🙂 If you don’t teach language at all…any 3-5 minute dance off would really wake up your students! (Would love to teach American history and use the Hamilton soundtrack!)

The skills that are most needed are the ones that you use in your class to complete transitions and to refocus. Reteach and practice those. Allow 3 minutes here and there for just heads down and silence. Life is crazy for us all this time of year.

Hang in there!!!

with love,
Laurie

Step by Step Prep….

by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Planning, Musings, Starting The Year

Originally posted as a response in a post on Ben Slavic’s blog and posted here by request:

About 10 years ago I stopped freaking out about arranging my room for the perfect look the first day of school. I did it for the following reasons:

1. I was too burnt out to do it.

2. I was tired of putting in work to “look good” to others.

3. I was tired of the competition that takes place every September over who has the nicest bulletin boards, doors, etc. People walk around pretending to compliment each other when they are really trying to outdo each other. Over a door. Nope. Not happening.

4. I didn’t want my students to think that little elves showed up overnight to do the work that teachers do every day. I wanted them to understand that these things take time and effort and do not just magically appear when they aren’t looking.

5. It was time to let the room creation be part of the community-building aspect of the room.

6. I wanted the room to evolve with the interests and needs of the students in it. I can’t do that before they show up.

I still resist the urge every year to go hog-wild-teacher-crazy on the room decorating. (yes…..I dreamed of teaching kindergarten and this hasn’t gone away…) I fight little voices of guilt when I haven’t hung matching curtains and placed color-coordinated authentic decorations just so.

But……I have found HOURS of peace in which I can do other, more fruitful , things with my time. There was a time when I thought that it couldn’t be done, nor should it be done….but now I enjoy putting out one or two carefully chosen items in order to start the year. And now I never get angry because someone misplaced / broke a treasured item or wrote I <3 Ramon on the corner of my bulletin board. As the weeks unfold, the students decorate the bulletin boards, the door etc. They coordinate all of the colored paper and markers and scissors in a system in the room from the box in the back where I packed them up in June. (and they get mad at the kids who don't put things back right) They point out when something needs to come down and something else needs to go up. They volunteer to create a birthday calendar and follow it closely so that no one gets missed. I've come to love it this way….and I think they do too. It's not that the color-coded, coordinated, poster-plastered walls and award-winning bulletin boards were a bad thing…..but I've found so much more to enjoy….and so much less pressure…in this approach. with love, Laurie

When Students Are “Lost”

by lclarcq on June 20th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Engagement, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Language Classes, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year

Laurie says:
Taken from my post on Ben Slavic’s blog:

In our department we have created a scale of engagement (with the language and activities) that looks like this:

Stage 1 : Attention
(student is looking at/listening to w/intent to understand)
Stage 2: Identification
(student can locate sounds/text that are recognizable)
Stage 3: Comprehension
(student can visualize/dramatize meaning of the pieces they understand)
Stage 4: Clarification
(student will seek information needed to comprehend any missing pieces)
Stage 5: Interaction
(student will respond to aural input/text to the best of ability)

It’s ‘jargony” which makes admins happy. It breaks down expectations, which they are also looking for.

But it’s actually useful. We can ask the student, “What stage are you at with this?” Then we ask, “What do you need to get to the next stage?” Sometimes the answer is as simple as, “I have to try.” :o) But it has encouraged students to a) realize that this is their 50% and b) We can help if we know where they are.

Now, perhaps I should have prefaced this with a HUGE given, a message that we deliver from their first year on and reinforce as needed:

We are professional educators. We understand language acquisition. The district has hired us with the expectation that we will lead classes where language is acquired. We have designed classes with that in mind. Students are required to participate.

Then we work diligently to establish relationships with each student and each class. We adjust our plans based on our students. We are transparent about these decisions with our students.

Students who do not engage/participate will not acquire. Therefore, their assessment grades will be low. If non-participation affects the other members of the class, it is then considered a discipline issue. We address it by working to strengthen our relationship with that student and finding ways for that student to have a place/way to engage successfully in class. It’s often easier for them to participate than to not!! This works in our favor. :o)

We do not tie behavior to a grade. A) The disengaged student rarely cares about the grade B) Disengaged students don’t show growth anyway. C) The disengagement is rarely ever about Spanish. It is a signal that other issues are preventing this student from wanting to be successful and have fun!!!! This is a serious issue. D) The extra attention to the student as a person, rather than as a grade, is far more valuable.

As for our scale….it isn’t a participation grade. It isn’t a rubric per se. It’s used more as a diagnostic tool when students need help.

If you need help/things aren’t making sense, identify where you are:

I didn’t hear it/don’t see it.

Stage 1: I heard/see it but I don’t recognize it/can’t identify it.
Stage 2: I can identify/recognize it but I don’t know what it means.
Stage 3: I heard/saw it AND I recognize it AND I’m pretty sure I know what it means.
Stage 4: I checked what I think it means with the context to see if I’m right.
Stage 5: I totally get it and can respond verbally/physically to it.

In assessments we often only grade students on Stage 5….and there is a lot that goes on beforehand that we want our students to recognize and use to their advantage.

I can use it to set up formal assessments if I want to, but it is most valuable as a tool that we use as we use language to communicate.

Hope that makes sense…

with love,
Laurie

I Apologize…

by lclarcq on April 7th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Not So Good Days, Relationships

No one is perfect. This afternoon I had the chance to reflect on some of the many things I would change if I could go back to my first 10, or maybe even 20, years of teaching.

To my former students…

If I posted the agenda for the class and made darn sure we did everything on it, even if it wasn’t understood or didn’t make sense, I apologize.

If you voiced a concern and I not only didn’t address it, but also asked you to stop thinking and talking about it, I apologize.

If I offered extra credit, but only gave the points to the students who needed a higher average, I apologize.

If I suggested ideas that would help you to become a better student, never told you that they counted for a grade, and then took off points if you didn’t do them, I apologize.

If I followed every compliment with….But….and proceeded to berate you, I apologize.

If for every positive statement I made about you, I made five negative ones, I apologize.

If I assigned you a project that I had no experience with and then criticized how you did it, I apologize.

If I required you to use technology that I did not understand, and then criticized how you used it, I apologize.

If one or two people in your class didn’t do something correctly and I scolded all of you, I apologize.

If I asked you, in front of the entire class, to raise your hand and tell me that you didn’t do an assignment (even though I already knew that you were the only one who didn’t do it) I apologize.

If you ever arrived late to class and I made fun of you and let the class laugh at you, I apologize.

If it was clear by my words and my actions that I favored some of you and disliked others, I apologize.

If I made you feel that by being my students you were a burden to me, I apologize.

If I attempted to motivate you with sarcasm or by poking fun at you, I apologize.

I truly hope that I didn’t do these things, or at least do them very often. I’m sure that there are other things that I should apologize for as well…and I am sorry. I’m sure, at the time, I really did think that I was doing the right thing, the best thing, by behaving that way, but I was wrong…and I am sorry.

Why I am thinking about these things today?

I saw them happen…..and it really, really made me angry. Not to students, but to adults, and it still made me really, really angry.

And it made me remember, or at least worry about, times when I may have inadvertently treated my students poorly. I’m sure that I have, at some point, made my students as angry as I was today…and for that, I am sincerely sorry. Please accept my apologies.

with love,
Laurie

We’ve All Been There

by lclarcq on February 8th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, The Teaching Profession

This is a letter to a friend who is struggling this year with a small, but powerful, group of students. This group, and their equally vocal parents, are leading a “complain campaign” against the teacher. What is the problem? The teacher is working to create an environment where all students can be successful, where all students are capable of making progress and where all students, at the very least, allow their classmates to grow and to thrive. (Although ideally they would encourage each other.)

There is a group of students, encouraged by parents, who feel that this is not appropriate. They have been very successful in other classes by being “better” than other students. They do not understand, nor like, being part of a paradigm in which every student has value.

Are they saying this out loud? Not exactly. They are saying that the teacher’s methods are ineffective. But their meaning is clear. It is troublesome. It is exhausting. It has turned into a “me vs. them” scenario for the teacher. The students and parents are attacking the integrity of the teacher. Even though, all of the students, INCLUDING THOSE COMPLAINING, are doing very well.

We have all been there. Too many of us are there every day. (and right now, because the profession is being targeted, it is particularly painful!) When this happens we feel as if we are walking on eggshells, not even really knowing what we are doing wrong and certainly not sure how to fix it. What we want is for it to just get better. To get a do over with a group of kids. To make it go away.

So this teacher asked me, “What can I do?” And this is my answer. I asked the teacher if I could share it just in case there is another teacher out there, in another district, with other students, but feeling the same way. The teacher graciously agreed. Please remember that this is just a collection of my thoughts, certainly no definitive answer to anyone’s problems. But as our colleague Bryce Hedstrom often says, “We are all in this together.”

From time to time there are students that clarify our work for us. This seems
to be one of those groups for you.

For perspective:

These students are a product of their environment, which you clearly understand. At their age they have not had enough experiences to think differently. They are also savvy enough to know when agreeing with the status quo is in their best interest…and this is benefiting them …..in their minds….so they are perpetuating this. What you also understand is that this is NOT in their best interest, now or in the future. But you will not convince them of that, nor their parents. This is an insight that (as the word implies) must come from within..and in its own time. But….I PROMISE you that many of these students will come to see this in time. Many. I can only make this promise because I see and hear from many former students (and by now I have well over 3000 of them!!). I am constantly amazed at how they mature (many of them when they have their own children) and come to appreciate the messages I tried to include in my teaching when they were teenagers.

If you can, when you can, step back and stay out of their circle of thinking. They will graduate and move on. It feels as if these attitudes will forever prevail, but they will not. Often an entire school will change when one group of negativity graduates. I have seen it happen many times. Remember that while it seems as if their behavior stems from a need for power, that nee for power ultimately stems from a place of fear. Fear can only be overcome with love and/or knowledge. You offer these things. You will never be able to control when/if they will be ready to hear the message. Again, that will have to come from within these individuals.

In the meantime, you are offering hope, faith and love to students who do not have it. That is life-changing…for you and for them. If this is what calls you, follow it. Follow it as far as you are able. It connects you to a greater community than the little power-hungry social group can ever be a part of. I am grateful every day to be a part of that. I am grateful every day for the others that are doing the same.

For reality:
It’s tough dealing with these kids, and worse when they have formed a group with parental backing. Very tough. Exhausting. Soul-crushing even. I’m so thankful that you have administrative support. What a gift!!!! The truth is that you really must be shifting the status quo. You know that you are doing an amazing job of that when the folks who have been “in charge” really want to find fault with you. That is not fun, but it is their FEAR talking. They want to accuse you of not doing your job because they feel that you are threatening their “way of life.’ I know that you are not trying to ‘take down” a social group, just love and teach kids. It’s annoying and frustrating to be accused of something you would not do/be. Just because they say it doesn’t mean that it is true and it doesn’t mean that others will believe it, even if those that believe in you don’t stand up for you.

I know a number of other teachers who have been, or are, where you are. Some saw the culture change. Some have accepted that they are fighting an uphill battle and simply try to stay under the radar. Some move to other districts where they are not alone in their support of equal education for all.

Eventually you will have to make one of these decisions, or your own. You will know when it is time.

In the meantime, I am going to ask you to try to do something that may seem very
difficult.

Do not try to win these students over. Do not try to heal this relationship. Right now, it is not a healthy relationship, it’s abusive. The recipient of the abuse will never be able to heal a relationship with an abuser. Only the abuser can do that ….and these students do not have the maturity, nor the desire, to do so.

Right now your job is to be a teacher, and in some ways, a parent to these students. Not a friend. It does not matter whether or not they like you if they only want you to do things their way. To truly love them, to truly be their teacher, you will have to continue to do what is in their best interest whether they approve or not.

There are several challenges to that.

1. They are in many ways, the “popular” kids. Choosing not to cater to their “popularity” will be confusing to many students, and to many adults. But it will set a precedent for others who will, in time, be able to follow it. You will be a role model in the truest sense of the word. Other students will see how to handle a bully without being bullied, without giving up your dignity.

2. You will have to find ways to honor these students OTHER THAN honoring their
popularity and social power. This may not be a challenge for you at all. But it may be a very different experience for them. They are only accustomed to receiving artificial kudos rather than sincere ones. Be patient if they reject your positive comments about participation, assisting others, offering insight, etc. It will confuse them. They may reject it. They may mock it. But they will hear it.

3. You will have to rise above emotions. Emotions are their weapon, their target, their currency. Particularly insecurity and hurt. Picture yourself and strong, kind, caring and too mature to be damaged by their game. “Rise Above” will become your mantra. IT IS NOT YOU they are attacking. IT IS NOT YOU. They know that there is a piece of each of us that is vulnerable to being left out, pointed out, isolated and humiliated. They know how to hurt. They have done it in the past. They have done it to avoid being hurt themselves. They may try to hurt you. Remember that you too are vulnerable, but that no child, even in a group, even supported by a parent, can determine your worth. You are caring, you feel called to provide an equal education for all, you believe that catering to this group is not what you are called to do.

It is not an easy road sometimes. That is why other teachers in your position
do not always stay the course.

EVERYTHING YOU FEEL IS JUSTIFIED. However you respond or react is whatever you
can do that day. Know that you are supported, no matter what happens. Do not expect perfection. You are human. This is hard.

Sadly, sometimes people put us up against a wall and we have to make a choice: do what they want or do what we want. IT SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. But sometimes it is.

What you won’t be able to do is turn students who are abusive into students who are not abusive in one day, one week, one month, or even, sadly, sometimes even in a school year. When they are ready for relationships with a balance of power, they will be willing to let you establish a better relationship.

“People can change. We can’t change people. We can only change ourselves.”

I don’t know where I heard/read this…but it has proven true over and over again.

If these students refuse to change, and that appears to be the case right now, you do have the ability to create a new relationship with them. A relationship where you respect them, but not their cruel behavior. A relationship where you appreciate their abilities to acquire language, to be citizens of the world, their potential to be leaders…but not their ability to ASSUME that they have inherited all of the knowledge about how these things happen.

What does that look like? That will be yours to decide. Perhaps you offer those students an option that is more to their “liking” to do quietly in a corner of the room. Perhaps that traditional “work” that they believe is so vital, but in the library where they won’t be disturbed by the work that you and your willing students are doing going on in the room. (All of this of course with the approval of your department chair and administration) Perhaps you only give these “learning” opportunities as extra credit for those extra-motivated-to-excel-on-paper
individuals. Perhaps they get a particular classroom responsibility that singles them out for responsibility and makes them feel recognized and honored, but doesn’t take away from instruction. Choices like this can be brainstormed with like-minded colleagues.

It may also mean that you include ways to recognize all students, including these kids. Clipping articles from the local paper and placing them on a bulletin board. Posting lists of the high honor roll. Congratulating scholarship recipients, Eagle Scouts, athletic accomplishments, getting a new job, the list could go on and on.

Whatever happens, have faith. You are making a difference. You already have. Above all remember…This too shall pass and you are NOT alone. It might not feel like it …but it’s true.

Hugs and love and support.

Laurie

I’m Losing Them Archived Post 1.13.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Tough Students

(Originally posted 1/13/13)

Many of my colleagues, whom I love as a family (who doesn’t after 25+ years in the same building?) have a very traditional view of education. They may have brought some of the activities into the 21st century with technology,but the philosophy is the same:

a. Some people are smart and some aren’t.
b. Schools are for, and should reward, the smart people.
c. Teachers are the smartest people of all.
d. Students who agree with a,b, and c will be the best students.
e. Every one else is not going to be successful in life.

This is enhanced by the fact that I teach in a small community with a very distinct social hierarchy. A hierarchy that is repeated generation after generation, because most people stay in the area. It is not unusual for students to be living on the same land that was farmed by their great-grandparents.

They teach in a way , and assign work, that they like. They are so convinced that they know best, that they cannot be challenged, and will not engage in discussion about other options. Frankly, I myself was like that in many ways myself. I was always considered smart and a good student. I considered myself a good teacher. It was humbling, and difficult, when I began to realize that I was only a good teacher for certain students. It was a principal who pointed that out to me. Why? Because I was teaching his son, who was not a “good” students. I am grateful that he showed me how I was mistreating and mis-teaching his son….because at the time I really had no idea that I was.

My son, as many of you know, deals with anxiety and depression. In high school,when he was not in control of those challenges, he was considered disengaged, lazy, etc., etc. In reality, he was barely functional because it took all of the energy he had to simply be present. Even after his diagnosis was explained to his teachers (my colleagues), they continued not only to view him that way, but to ask him why he was so lazy, and discuss his “laziness” with other students on a regular basis. Since then, I have tried very hard to see my own students with more accurate eyes. What I have found over and over again, is that students who don’t work have reasons. Many times, as an adult, I wouldn’t see things the way that they do. However, the majority of the time, I am blown away by what they are dealing with.

As I have expended more time and energy into getting to know students, I have also come to see that my goals, and their goals are sometimes miles apart. THIS is what creates the greatest gap with my students.

In some ways, this gap is necessary. I’m an adult. I have knowledge and understanding and perspective that they do not yet have. I’m supposed to use that knowledge to help them to become adults themselves. My mistake, too often, is to forget that they are not yet adults.

They are adolescents and adolescents are wired to have a cynical view of adults. It is one way in which they separate themselves from the adults in their lives and begin to develop their own thoughts and views. We have to accept that if we work with teens. But this group of adolescents is coming of age in a world that is different from any world that mankind has ever known. I suppose that all generations have a unique quality that makes them different from the previous ones, but this group? This group has two distinct new realities:

1. They have all of the known knowledge, and emerging knowledge, of the world at their fingertips. In 5 seconds or less and getting faster every minute. Past generations (back to the beginning of mankind) have always relied on the older generation for knowledge. This generation doesn’t have to. They are teaching themselves and learning on their own all the time. It will change how the young perceive the old. It has to.

2. At the same time, they have knowledge and skills (in the realm of technology) that the previous generation does not. It is, in many ways, flipping our generational reality upside-down. This generation has a sense, if not a full-blown knowledge of this new reality. It changes how they relate to adults. I believe that it is going to change society. It has to.

So, instead of growing up on a society that revers and respects adults for their knowledge, they are growing up, with cynical adolescent minds, knowing that they have as much, IF NOT MORE, access to knowledge as the adults that are attempting to educate them.

In addition, they KNOW that they will be adults in a world that doesn’t need to look to anyone for knowledge and information. This changes our roles, as adults and and teachers, and we need to figure out what our new role is. Why? Because we cannot teach if we don’t have students….and bit by bit, our students do not see themselves as students. Or at least students of something that we have to offer.

At the same time that this is occurring, the educational world is requiring us to be even more “information-driven”!!! What we are supposed to be giving them is the one thing that they least want and need!!!!

So now we get to the dilemma. This kids have tuned out and what do we do?

Truthfully, all of my philosophical rambling may not be Kevin’s dilemma. They may just be under-rested, under-caffeinated and under-motivated.

Either way, getting to know them and their goals for the course and for life never hurts. At the very least, when we understand where kids are coming from we tend to take their disengagement less personally. We can say, quite honestly, “Well then, you are making a personal choice to not participate. The consequences of that will be ______________” If we know their goals, we can have conversation with them about the benefits of having different goals…and why we think that different goals are possible and worthwhile for them. Many students think that teachers care more about themselves than about their students. This era of grading teachers based on students’ results is not going to help that any. Honest conversation about our own goals in life and our goals for our students may appear to fall on deaf ears, but they will hear us. We just may never see the results of that.

I’m going to wind this up with something that you have heard me say before: Teaching is a prayer. We offer our lessons up to the greater good, hoping, because we have no other choice, that good will come of it….even if we never see it.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

R and E: What a System Should Do Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

On the moretprs listserv,

Bob Patrick wrote: I don’t put a lot of time into it, but I always do it in Latin. I teach Latin teachers how to do these things in Latin, too, because they are the things that we all do every day, and they provide one of the easiest ways to do CI and multiple repetitions. So, while it should take up as little time as possible, don’t miss the opportunity to do it in L2.

Sara wrote:

I agree that the classroom organization doesn’t help the students learn Spanish but, I believe an unorganized class does detract from the learning.

With a solid system in place, I’m free to focus on the language and now how I want to handle bathroom passes.

And this is exactly what happens…once CI becomes a way of thinking, we start to view everything in the classroom through CI lenses. Then our focus can shift to how to align even the smallest details.

We want the systems to align with our instruction and our relationships.

That is truly Backward Design. As Sara said, a solid system is golden.

Teaching without one is a great deal of unnecessary work. It doesn’t matter exactly what our system is.

Next question: What should a system do?

1. A system should make relationships strong and confusion minimal so that classroom time can be maximized for acquisition. (or in other words, what Sara said above)

2. A system can prove opportunities for interaction in the TL that lead to acquisition. (or in other words read Bob’s statement above)

It doesn’t matter if you pass papers left to right or front to back as long as 1. and 2. above are happening. It doesn’t matter if you have kids carry a toilet seat to the bathroom or only sign out 3 times a marking period if it isn’t interfering with 1. and 2. (tee hee unintended pun that I couldn’t bring myself to delete)

Above all, it helps us to look at the systems that we have in place in order to see if they align with our Rules. If what we expect/demand of our students is outside of the Rules, then we will be seen as hypocrites. We may never be able to control whether or not our students respect us. That is a choice that they will make. We can, however, control whether or not our actions and words are honorable and making changes when necessary.

What can happen is that we get caught up in Rules and Systems (amongst other things) and forget that we are about Acquisition. You’ve heard the expression “Weighing the baby doesn’t make him grow.” Neither does buying him bigger clothes. It just makes him look nice when he fits into them. Sometimes our teacher-obsession with How To Set Up and Run

A Classroom does just that: make the teacher look good because the behavior is under control. That is nice, good and necessary, but not the end goal. I hope that that makes sense.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts for Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

R and E: Systems Are Not Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Good Days, Not So Good Days, Participation, Starting The Year, Teacher Training, Tough Students

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

A classroom system is how we organize the nuts and bolts of the actions that are NOT part of language acquisition.

A classroom system organizes things like:

*who goes to the bathroom, how often and for how long

*how papers are distributed and collected

*how grades are assigned and communicated

*how the set up and clean up of activities occur

*how the room is decorated

*how and when evaluations occur

*if and/or how participation is tallied.etc.

You may not believe me, and it took me a long time to see this myself,

but….

Not one of these things will help your students to acquire language. Not even the participation piece.

There is no right way to do any of them.

They should take up as little of your classroom time as possible.

Therefore, discussion about them on lists, blogs and at conferences should also take up as little of your time as possible.

That is really hard for many teachers. We like those sweet little systems.

with love,
and complete knowledge that I could labeled as a heretic,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts for Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

R and E: Trust And The Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Good Days, Not So Good Days, Output, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year, Teacher Training, Tough Students

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

Rules are the first expectations that we communicate to our students.

Teachers who are new to TPRS, or struggling with TPRS often want to know what Rules work best. We have been taught that Rules=Discipline.

Rules are not discipline. Rules are communication. They tell students what we expect. From the rules students infer what we value. If there are toomany or they are too specific and we send the message that we value control. If there are too few or the consequences for breaking them are too spare, we communicate that we value the students’ admiration more than their cooperation.

What we should strive for are rules that set boundaries for the relationships that we want in our classrooms. So the question is: What boundaries are necessary for successful discipline and acquisition?

These are mine…

1. Pay attention when someone is communicating.

2. Ask questions when there is confusion.

3. Point out when there is a problem.

4. Make a situation better rather than worse.

5. Try not to offend or harm.

6. Join in.

7. Appreciate and honor.

8. Honor individuals.

9. Honor relationships.

10. When possible, do all of the above enthusiastically and creatively.

None of them specifically deal with language. Why? #8. If I make make a rule that specifically states how much language can be used, or what kind, then I have to make sure that it is appropriate for all my students,every day, at every level, in every situation and then keep track. I’ll never pull that off.

I keep my rules in mind for behavior. I keep the language in mind for the activity involved. Before we start, I’ll let them know what I have in mind for language. If I don’t, eventually rules # 2 and #3 come into effect and I have to address the issue.

When I have a rule that says “No English”, I engage the natural and instinctive teenage reaction to rules: Break ’em.

When I ask students to say something again in Spanish rather than English, they just do, if they can. If they can’t then I realize that they aren’t ready for production of that structure at that moment. I handle it in whatever way is best for that class at that moment and move on.

Are you wondering if they just answer me in English all the time? Some try. Most don’t. Why would they? If they trust me, if we are interacting in Spanish, if they are confident and capable, if they are engaged…well then, they speak to me in Spanish because that is what we do. Not because that is the rule.

Believe it or not. :o)

Does it happen instantly? No. But what we are focused on for the majority of our instruction and interaction is INPUT. INPUT leads to acquisition.

Output has other functions. If I have a heavy-handed No English Ever rule, then I give output another function: What to do to make the teacher angry.

Totally against all of my rules. :o)

Next question: So when might we “require” the TL from students instead of L1???

* When it is fun…like a silly signal response.

* When it is cultural, like after a sneeze.

* When it is easy, like thank you or yes.

* During lessons for acquisition.

We will get so so so much more L2 from students when we make it a natural, comfortable and confident part of our interactions and relationships than we will ever ever ever get from making it a rule.

The person who needs the rule is US. We are the ones who need to remember to communicate and to interact with slow, clear, Comprehensible Input in the TL.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.