Is The Journey Predictable?: The Beginning

by lclarcq on February 21st, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Encouragment, Musings, Teacher Training

Richard asked several great questions in a comment from Saturday’s workshop post. Here is what he wrote:

“The whole day was great, and the night before. Excellent! I was hoping that she would tell us more of HER story, of her own personal journey with TPRS, to include problems met, coped with, and how. I also have a question regarding the A-Z. She said people don’t go from A to Z, but they are where they are, but aren’t there ‘predictable obstacles’ or challenges that most of us are likely to encounter along our way toward using TPRS primarily in class? Does she mean that we don’t all encounter them in the same order? I need clarification on the A to Z statement she made. What did she mean?”

Dear Richard,
I’ll leave my own personal journey for another day…and go straight to your questions about the journey for now. It will probably take me several posts. :o)

For those who were not at the conference, I spoke about how the journey of growth as a Comprehensible Input-based teacher does not follow a clearly defined map. Teachers do not start at Point A and follow a straight line to Point Z. It would certainly be easier for teachers (and for trainers) if it were, but it would also definitely NOT be as beautiful, personal, and powerful. The truth is that each teacher’s CI (Comprehensible Input) journey begins differently.

We each “find” TPRS or CI teaching at different points in our career. So……

1. We each come with an individual “education” background, based on our childhoods, college studies, professional development histories and personal reading/research experiences. As we grow, our new experiences sometimes mesh with, and sometimes challenge our background knowledge.

2. We each begin the journey with a different level of understanding of how language acquisition works…and a different level of faith that it does. Some folks believe completely and totally that acquisition can happen in a classroom. Others believe in acquisition, but don’t yet believe that it happens in a classroom. Others are just becoming convinced that acquisition, rather than learning, actually exists and occurs. Depending on what we “believe”, our “AH HA!” moments are different as we begin to see acquisition occurs in our classrooms.

3. We each “begin” our growth as TPRS/CI teachers with different skills. Some are innate “people” skills that we use to manage the class, create relationships with our students etc. Others are deliberate “teaching” skills that we have developed; “tricks of the trade” so to speak.

4. The environment we are teaching in when we begin our journey will be different for each teacher. Some are the only teacher in the department, others work in a department of 80 or more. Some have colleagues in the same building or district who are also interested in, or at least supportive of, this teaching approach. Others are the “lone wolf” in their educational community. Some have districts that help to fund and to provide opportunities for training. Others must carve out these opportunities from their own finances.

5. We are each “introduced” to this journey in a different way. Some people first become informed by reading articles and blogs and such via the internet. Some first see it via Youtube. Some are introduced to it when a colleague begins using it in the classroom. Some see it first at an hour-long demo at a state conference. Others are immersed in a 5 day week long summer conference. Even the people we read, or see, or hear when we first begin shape our understanding as they open a door.

What do we have in common then?

Are there commonalities among “novices? I think that there are common needs:

A. A need to share our new or renewed “fire in the belly” about teaching. We find a growing level of excitement about the possibility of students who really are excited to be in class and who are successful with the language. We are blown away by what we see our students being able to do. We want to tell people about it!

B. A need for colleagues and mentors. We have questions!! Our questions are not all the same, but we have a lot of them!! We also need the support and reassurance that supportive colleagues and mentors offer.

C. Input, Input, and more Input. At any stage in the journey, but most importantly at the beginning, we need to see, hear and read about TPRS/TCI. A teacher who is going to progress on the journey is a teacher who, at some point, develops an attraction to, if not a minor addiction to, all things TPRS/TCI-related.

I believe that the best way to feed these needs is to find a TPRS/TCI community (or communities!!) to belong to. Whether we join the Yahoo group mortars (often referred to as the moretprs listserv), one of the Facebook pages, Ben Slavic’s blog community, or begin to attend the regional groups that are growing around the country doesn’t really matter. Being part of the community is one of the best parts of this journey …personally and professionally.

I once read a very insightful piece about the Camino de Santiago where the writer, who went on the pilgrimage alone, without friends or family, described the Camino as something he did alone, but never really on his own.

I think that the TPRS/TCI journey is very much like that. In our classrooms, it is our own personal pilgrimage, but we never, ever have to travel the road alone.

Thank you Richard for the questions…very, very much.

with love,
Laurie
PS If you are looking to connect with other TPRS/TCI teachers, check here for some options.

Skip Crosby Delivers From The Heart

by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Starting The Year, The Teaching Profession

Skip Crosby is a wonderful friend and amazing educator from Maine. Earlier this month he gave a speech to several hundred teachers in his state. Below is a slightly-modified version of that speech. I am honored to share it with you with his permission:

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/10/uncategorized/how-maine-foreign-language-teachers-can-gain-relevance/

NTPRS15: The Ripple Effect 1

by lclarcq on July 29th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Coaching, Encouragment, NTPRS, Relationships, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training

Ah…the ripple effect. It is the essence of teaching. Teaching, I’ve often said, is a prayer. You send your message (lesson) out each day, hoping against hope that someday, in the unseen future, it will make a difference, because you never really know. That is why it was so beautiful to watch the ripples happen right in front of us.

What did we see?

Kindness and encouragement.
The first day (Monday) FIFTY people showed up for the first coaching session. Now you should understand that at the same time participants could choose coaching, a Spanish lesson with Blaine and Von Ray and a Mandarin lesson with Linda Li. Now that is some stiff competition!!!!! I cannot ever remember a year where FIFTY people showed up on the first day. It was beautiful.

And they came with the desire to not only learn, but to support and encourage. Because the coaches gave clear parameters and modeling, there were NO criticisms…only insights, positive reflections and encouragement.

A willingness to share.
Teachers had so many insightful observations that I couldn’t stay away from the coaching sessions. Beginners were volunteering to teach after only FOUR hours of instruction!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Teachers with all levels of experience in the classroom and with the method were together and sharing for one purpose: to grow and to recognize growth.

A desire to honor other teachers.
At one point we began to limit not only the teaching portion, but also the feedback portion of the cycle to five minutes because groups could have easily gone on for an hour sharing feedback! It was so wonderful that we hated to cut it short, but wanted also to honor the fact that many teachers wanted the opportunity to be the teacher. The result of that was that teachers who did not share aloud shared notes and observations personally with teachers when they saw them later. Wow.

A need to be heard.
Nothing touched me more than the woman who came up to me after a teaching cycle in which she had been an observer. “They listened to me. And they really heard me. No one has done that in years. Thank you so much for making this available. I needed it so much.” She was in tears.
That happened several times during the week and I was so moved..to simply be heard.

The beauty of being in the moment.
Because we were focusing on what the teacher was doing right, and how that was reflected in the actions/reactions of the students, everyone in the group was in the moment in an amazing way. There was no chatter between observers. There was no typing emails or answering texts. Coach, teacher, students, observers all in the same place at the same time focusing on the interaction between students and teacher. Beautiful.

Honoring the journey
Each of us is on our own journey. We each take a different path, move at a different pace and pick up different ideas/thoughts/memories/skills along the way. This year there was much less of a frantic pace to “get to the mastery level” and more of a joyful exploration of where we were and what we were doing. There was the opportunity for us to enjoy our journey and to observe and celebrate the journeys of others.

These ripples, and more, spread outward as participants brought a new perspective back to coaching over and over again, as well as to presentations and workshops. It changed meal time conversations and opened a new door to what was called, “The War and Peace Room.”

with love,
Laurie

NTPRS15: Walking the Walk

by lclarcq on July 29th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Coaching, Encouragment, NTPRS, Teacher Training

Here are some basic tenets of teaching with TPRS:
1. The teacher constantly works to create an atmosphere of success, inclusion and safety.
2. The teacher builds on students’ successes and strengths.
3. The lesson is highly interactive.
4. The ideas are given by the students, but decisions are controlled by the teacher.
5. Student errors are not criticized; the teacher models appropriate language in response.

Our goal last week was to have the coaching model parallel our teaching model in the classroom!!

So…..
1. The coach constantly works to create an atmosphere of success, inclusion and safety.
2. The group focuses on the teacher’s successes and strengths.
3. The experience was highly interactive.
4. The ideas are given by the coach, if requested, but the decisions are controlled by the teacher.
5. Teacher actions are not criticized; others model additional options when they teach.

The two biggest challenges were that we were not yet used to coaching that way and teachers were not yet used to being coached that way!!

As the week progressed, coaches made several adjustments that helped everyone:

A. If a teacher needed, and requested, direction, the coach offered two options and the teacher chose which one to use, or many times, offered a third to try.

B. If a teacher truly wanted “corrective” feedback, the coach and the teacher met afterwards, alone, to discuss it.

C. We will be labeling responses “growth feedback” rather than “positive feedback” since the term had some negative, emotional connotations from some teachers.

D. Someone in the group, possible the coach on deck, will act as a scribe during the feedback time so that the teacher can have a written summary of what was shared to reflect on.

E. We will post a list of skills for all to see for reflection and feedback.

F. We will post a list, inside and outside of the coaching room, so that all can see what each participant can offer. (Some people didn’t realize until the last day that they could be observers and not teach…we wanted to improve that!)

I was so humbled by the way the coaches took to this new approach and how clearly and deliberately they prepared participants to be successful in this new model.

But I was not prepared (silly me) for the power of the insights shared by the participants involved as students and observers. I learned so much simply by listening to their reflections. I was also overwhelmed by the emotional response of so many involved. Teachers need to be heard.

Each time we observed a coaching cycle (teaching+feedback) we, the coaches, also grew. Here are some comments from coaches…

“I have never learned so much in the position of coach.”

“In this model we ALL grow together. In the end, I just want to say that we never stop growing. By allowing myself to grow, I feel I’m much happier today. I want to thank you for the happiness I have gained. I can’t thank you enough for all the love, support and encouragement I have received from all of you this week.”

” I really want to see the next step in our journey towards offering the best in teacher support that we can, in a way that builds confidence in one’s own ability to analyze strengths and areas for growth.”

“I have every confidence that it will grow and evolve as will we as coaches. I feel a keen responsibility to do all that I can to help others be successful and to enjoy leading their students to true acquisition.”

“It is from each one of you that I continue to grow and be inspired. This certainly is evident in our ever-changing ideas about coaching and reflection on how we can help others grow.”

“Paradigms shifted and hearts soared!”

It was a clear shift and the beginning of a ripple effect that touched the entire conference.

with love,
Laurie

NTPRS15: Coaching For Coaches

by lclarcq on July 29th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Coaching, Encouragment, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training

Or C4C as we affectionately refer to it, is a fairly new addition to the NTPRS line up. For several years now we have offered this day-long workshop to teachers who would like to be trained to support and encourage other teachers on their journey as Comprehensible-Input/TPRS teachers.

This year 30-40 people signed up to attend, and we had decided, just the night before to flip the paradigm on coaching. We showed up nervous, but eager to share this new perspective.

I have to tell you how blown away I was by the courage and heart of my fellow coaches. We really like to be ‘in the know.” We like to plan well and execute well….and here we were with a brand new plan.

The morning began with a series of activities organized by coordinator Teri Weichart. In a series of “mixer” activities, we shared ideas about teaching, coaching and life. By the time the morning was over we had gotten to know the people in the room, and especially those in our smaller groups, much better. There was a lot of laughter and a supportive, caring atmosphere. We had also had the opportunity to talk about the role of coach and what a good coach looks/sounds like. Also, and maybe most importantly, we had each developed an outline of our own personal coaching philosophy.

The next event was to demonstrate how the coaching practice (or teaching cycle) would run using our new paradigm. At least half of these teachers had been to a number of conferences (and C4C trainings) previously and were most familiar with the ‘directive” coaching approach (ie the coach tells the teacher what to do, when to do it and how to do it.) They had signed up for this workshop believing that that was what they would be trained to do.

We recruited Skip Crosby of Maine to be our teacher. I have to give a shout out to Skip for being willing to do this in front of so many other teachers!!!

Five teachers were recruited to be Skip’s students and another five to be the observers. (Two of these ten teachers were coaches and had been through the training the day before….all of the other eight were totally new to the process.) The rest of the 30 or so participants gathered around as an “audience” for the demo. Gary DiBianca and Amy Wopat were coaches on deck to observe me as coach and to give me feedback.

As the coach, I outlined the roles of the:

Teacher (teach; strive to make students feel important and make the language comprehensible)
Students (pay attention to the teacher, try to understand the teacher, tell the teacher if confused)
Observers (watch teacher and students. What does teacher do to make students feel involved/supported and how does teacher make the language comprehensible?)

Skip and I discussed his goals for the lesson (use the verb structure “le da”) and the level of language he wanted to use (level 1 Spanish). He shared that he wanted to try using actors as part of the story.

Skip was a fantastic teacher for the demo. He has his own laid-back style and wasn’t afraid to regroup or ask for input during his teaching. He was also honest about being nervous. (Who isn’t in front of peers?!) His genuine love for teaching and interest in his students was incredibly apparent in his lesson (and he only taught for 5 minutes!!)

****Hope to have the video of this lesson available for you to watch so check back!****

After his lesson, Skip reflected:

His students reflected:

His observers reflected:

“You involved us. The story was about us.” Keith Toda

“It was totally understandable for us and I am a total beginner…because of the pointing, going slowly…and eyes..meeting our eyes.” Pu-mei Leng

“I was happy to be the student because when you asked me the question, I knew the answer. I wasn’t afraid to answer.” Matt (Latin teacher)

“He looked at me and smiled at me and so I felt special in his class.” Kristen Eastland (coach)

Observers:

“I loved how you added surprise to the lesson by throwing the glass on the floor….it showed how the class is going to be fun and spontaneous and unpredictable.” Carla Tarina (coach)

“I loved the (use of the) two colors (when writing Sp/Eng on the board for the students),and you took time to write, you didn’t rush yourself, which gave time to the students to soak it up.” Anna Gilman

“….the smile/frown ..what you did with your face,I thought that really connected, how you communicated with it…the surprise..and when you pulled the actors up there I thought, aha, our whole group’s involved, there’s a strong connection.” “Buck” Arbuckle

“I really noticed how incredibly in-tune you were with your students, students you barely know…you really went through it to make sure that it was comprehensible instead of just plowing ahead. I thought that was amazing.” Kelly Ferguson (coach)

After hearing from everyone Skip shared this:

“(It’s good to hear about) the comprehension piece, which the most important part of this. It’s gratifying to know that they comprehended everything.”

My response to Skip was that I was amazed that it made him feel good to hear that he was most gratified by knowing that his students had full comprehension rather than hearing that he had a “good story.” (because too often that is what we teachers are worried about!)

Skip then shared,
“I tend to think of things as right and wrong…and that there is a right way to do this and if I just learn the right “code” it will all work, and that is really debilitating sometimes, so, I was really trying to figure out what would be realistic in terms of “le da” (gives to him/her) and I think it was working.”

Then he went on to share that he felt that he was just at the point (after 5.5 minutes in) to add another structure–le gusta–because the class was solid on “le da” and the class/observers totally agreed.

Amy Wopat and Gary DiBianca then gave their observations about the coaching process:

“When you were setting him up, you talked to him about his goals and his professional life, you took the time to truly listen.”

“You did everything on the front end, so everyone stayed in their role…There really wasn’t a need to manage.”

and I concluded:
“The point of all of this was for everyone to have a job, to know where to look for what went right, so that we can build on our strengths. If at any point you thought something might have gone wrong, here is my suggestion for you: hang on to the thought and when you get up here to teach, DEMO what you would have liked to have seen. Demo it so people have the chance to see other ways to handle things.”

I believe that this is so important. People do not change because we tell them to change…or even because we ask them to. They change when they are ready, willing, and able to. When we demo options, if they are ready to see a new way, they will see it!! Otherwise, our advice will be wasted and our roles as coaches will be frustrating.

Then Carla Tarini offered one last astute observation:

“As an observer I am just loving looking for everything I love about what you (Skip) did. It was so relaxing and then I want to write so many things down, even the things that are so little but so nice that you showed.”

Carla, as one of the previous day’s teachers, shared how much more she had learned by watching than by teaching.

What is so clear is that our teaching to each other is a true gift. By watching and reflecting I can learn so much from my colleagues and peers. Then I have the courage to teach for you. Thank you to all of those willing to share.

Now you know the background….what happened next was truly astounding…

with love,
Laurie

NTPRS15 : An Introduction to Coaching From the Heart

by lclarcq on July 29th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Coaching, Encouragment, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training

I hardly know where to begin. I have been to a number of national conferences and I am still surrounded by the effects of this one.

For the coaching team, the week started on Friday evening as 20 of us began to arrive in Reston, Va. We usually only see each other once a year and so our first hours are spent hugging, laughing and catching up on the previous year personally and professionally.

The following day we began with what is affectionately known as “the Retreat”. It’s a meeting amongst the coaches to craft any changes in the NTPRS coaching philosophy and approach. The coaching coordinator and the C4C coordinator also share their plan for the week with us. It’s a full day and we count on it to prepare us for an unusually busy week ahead.

This year, Lizette Liebold and Teri Weichart (our coaching coordinators) asked me to demonstrate a slightly different take on coaching that worked well in Maine and in Vermont. Dubbed “Coaching from the Heart” by Beth Crosby (Maine), this approach has two important elements: a) The coach’s job is to make the teacher feel safe and supported throughout the experience b) The focus is on the teacher’s strengths, not weaknesses.

The purpose of this approach to coaching is to empower the teacher. Teachers, particularly now, need to feel safe and to feel empowered. Without those two elements, teachers will not step out of their comfort zones to try new things nor to grow. They are ESSENTIAL to a growth mindset and a growth plan.
I wanted teachers to believe in their own abilities to understand teaching with Comprehensible Input, to apply the skills of TPRS in their own classroom and to be able to adjust without the direction of a trained presenter or coach as necessary.

Michele Kindt and Carla Tarini each took turns as teachers as we walked through the steps of Coaching from the Heart. How do I put into words what happened?

As each of them finished their 5 minute lesson, they sat down and shared what they felt had gone well. It’s so very hard to teach to, and in front of, a group of our peers, that it’s often hard to know what went well!!! When they had finished, the teachers who had been the “students” in the class each gave Michele and Carla their feedback. They were instructed, from the perspective as a student, to share what had made them feel supported, safe and included and/or what the teacher had done to make the language comprehensible. One by one each shared his/her insight with the teacher. EACH ONE had a slightly unique and personal perspective on what the teacher had done to accomplish the two goals. They were encouraged to be specific about the actions of the teacher and their own reactions.

Then the group of “observers” who sat directly behind the students during the lesson shared their observations about what the teachers had done in the lesson that had made the students feel included and had made the language comprehensible. They were reporting from the perspective of an observer and fellow teacher.

Not one “I would have” or “You should have” or “In my classroom” was spoken. When the observers were finished, the coach asked the teacher to reflect again, this time including any “Aha” moments that might have occurred during the feedback from students and observers. Then the coach asked, “Is there anything that you might try differently? and Is there anything here that you will think about differently in your classroom when you return?”

After each demo, there was almost a hushed feeling in the room, as if something profound and sacred had occurred. (No, that isn’t hyperbole.) Teachers, Coach, Students and Observers were deeply moved by the experience.

The group, who had been offering a different kind of support for teachers for a decade, offered to change to a new way of coaching, literally overnight since Coaching For Coaches began the next day at 8:30 am !!!

Within 30 minutes we had agreed on the following adaptations to our coaching plan:

1. There will be two coaches for each coaching station, a coach and a coach on deck.
2. Each teacher teaches for 5 minutes.
3. The coach does not interrupt the lesson unless the teacher asks for support/input.
4. The teacher can stop at any time to talk with the coach, make a change or restart the lesson.
5. If asked for help, the coach offers two options and invites the teacher to choose which s/he prefers.
6. The coach, students and observers only give positive feedback for the teacher to build on.
7. The feedback centers on the two questions: How did the teacher make students feel safe and welcome? How did the teacher make the language comprehensible?

Comments that I heard that day:

“It felt as if we were all in this positive growth mode together: teacher, coach, students and observers, a team.

“I could stop worrying about what the coach and the observers were thinking, because I knew that their feedback would only be positive.”

“I needed the reminder of how it feels to be the teacher.”

“I felt heard. Really heard. For the first time in years.”

“I had no idea that I was doing half of the things that they (students and observers) saw.”

“I am so touched by the love everyone is showing the teacher.”

“Student and observer reports were so insightful, I was blown away.”

“The time to reflect, as a teacher, student or observer was so valuable.”

“I learned so much more by watching than by teaching….who knew?”

It became clear that observing was the key to personal growth. It allowed us to watch and reflect in a way we had not done before. With that in mind, we welcomed participants on Sunday’s Coaching for Coaches workshop.

with love,
Laurie

Someone

by lclarcq on April 5th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days

(This post, like many others, is one that I am writing to myself…and posting in case someone else needs to hear it.)

Tomorrow, when you get back to school…

Someone will be grateful that you came to work and you won’t even know who that is.

Someone will make you laugh when you least expect it and you will smile about it the rest of the day.

Someone has been looking forward to being in your room and can’t wait to get there.

Someone will give you strength and someone else will ask for it.

Someone did something amazing this weekend and cannot wait to talk about it.

Someone did something regretful and needs to feel forgivable.

Someone needs an adult who acts like an adult…and that will be you.

Someone will remind you that children still dream and remind you to do the same.

Someone needs to be reminded that they matter and yes, that might be you.

Someone will step up in a way you have never seen before and you will be impressed.

Someone will see you make a mistake and learn that adults can be fallible.

Someone will hear you apologize and learn that adults can be humble.

Someone will forgive you and remind you that it is okay to be human.

Someone will be there to remind you that this is really what teaching is and you will be grateful.

Someone is there every day to be there for you, with you, because of you.

That is why you are there.

with love,
Laurie

Reflections on FLENJ 15 by Piedad Gutierrez

by lclarcq on March 8th, 2015

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Musings, Sharing CI/TPRs, Uncategorized

From time to time I invite other teachers to write a guest post for this blog. There are so many dedicated, caring and brilliant people in the classroom that I would like to share with you. I met Piedad Gutierrez of New Jersey at an NTPRS National Conference in Las Vegas well over a decade ago and she has continued to be a wise friend and insightful colleague. She had so many things to say last weekend at the conference in NJ that I offered her a venue here. I’m so happy to be able to share her thoughts!! When you are finished, check out her website at TPRS Of New Jersey. with love, Laurie

From Piedad:

Something really good is happening in NJ. When the state world language teachers conference invites Dr, Steven Krashen as his keynote speaker, one of the day-long workshops is facilitated by Laurie Clarcq, and three of the one-hour workshops are presented by TCI and TPRS teachers, something really interesting is evident. There is a shift, a shift for the best.

Dr. Krashen said the obvious, what we already know he thinks: acquisition is different from learning. It is all about the story, the compelling desire to know about something. It is never about learning the language. However he said something I have not heard that clearly before, the vocabulary and the grammar come within the narrative. May be we do not need to pre-teach the vocabulary nor we need to explain the grammar. It is all about meaning, not rules. We read, listen to, and watch stories; therefore those should be our means of communication. All those eclectic activities, all those boring dittos and cloze activities should be replaced with the stories, the narratives, the legends, the comics, the videos, the poems, the songs. The language is just a tool, not the subject.

The subject is the audience. The students are the subjects of our classes. We teach them, not the books. If we focus in what drives our students’ interest, we win. With or without a curriculum, topics or themes, a list of words, a sequence of structures; as long as we are able to identify what our students care for, we can conduct classes that lead to acquiring the language.

Lauire Clarcq, a master TPRS teacher, shared that Embedded Reading strategy that she and Michele Whaley developed. Six hours were not enough to get closer to the brilliance and clarity of the techniques she developed with Michele. Story within story within story, like the Russian dolls. Keep the repetitions going while recycling known language and adding new information to the story. Keep the interest of the students by twisting just a little where the story is going. Magic! Step by step, Laurie guided us, explained to us how reading sentences is different from reading paragraphs, used cognates, embellished and enriched the story and kept it simple and funny. Ah! Humor and compassion, Laurie’s middle names.

Less is more goes not only for lesson planning, it goes also for presenting. When you have only one hour to convey a message, it is very difficult to select what to say and how to explain to an audience of teachers eager to learn new tricks. That would be my only concern. TCI and TPRS are not collections of activities, the narrative is the activity. Asking the story, the movie, the poem, the song IS the activity. The authentic communication developed between the teacher and the students, is core of CI. The students comprehend what the teacher is presenting and the teacher comprehends what the students are interested in. There is no need for pre, during, and post movie talk activities; the movie talk IS the activity! There is no need for pre, during, and post reading activities, the embedded reading IS the activity!

TPRS and CI are defined methods with clear steps to follow. The students get to know the routine; the students know when to listen and when to talk, when to write and when to read. You, the teacher train them.

Piedad Gutierrez
Educational and Bilingual Consultant
http://TPRSofNJ.com

Keeping Up With The Joneses

by lclarcq on March 5th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Not So Good Days

I’ve not really been much for trying to keep up with everyone else in the neighborhood. Growing up we wore hand-me-downs from our cousins, always had a “well-used” car, and did our best shopping at garage sales. It’s never really been my style to try to have, or do, what everyone else was doing.

But lately I’ve found myself doing that exact thing with my teaching.

It used to be that teachers operated in our own little classrooms. If you were lucky, you had a few colleagues you shared ideas with, and you might get to a conference once a year. But most of the time you did your own thing and that was that.

Now we are UBER-connected. There are blogs, listservs, wikispaces, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, webpages and more…each sharing teachers’ ideas and experiences. On one hand, that is FANTASTIC. We are not alone. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, I find myself asking….why aren’t I doing that? Should I be doing that? Am I depriving students if I don’t do that? Wow, I must be behind, out-of-touch, too slow, uneducated, or in other words” not good enough” if I don’t do what others are sharing about.

Just trying to keep up with what is out there…much less implement any of it…is exhausting.

It should be exciting and inspiring….but some days it is more than a bit overwhelming.

What’s up with that Ms. Jones anyway?!!!!!!

When I get in this mood I have to whip out a little self-talk. I pick one or more of the lines below and say it/them to myself until I stop trying to be Ms. Jones and her perfect classroom.

**You are not Ms. Jones. Even Ms. Jones is not Ms. Jones.

**You do not have to be a tech guru. You do not have to be ANY KIND OF GURU.

**It doesn’t matter how many “tricks” or “ideas” or “insights” you have. You can only use so many per day.

**Your time each day is limited. You can feel overwhelmed by too many ideas, or you can find one idea and work on a way to use it.

**You can be jealous or you can be grateful, but you can’t be both. Pick the one that makes you happy.

**Teaching is not a competitive sport.

**It is perfectly wonderful to be a bit of a mess. Messes are real.

**Your students’ successes are more important that your insecurities.

**Love trumps Laptops.

You get the idea. I AM grateful for all of the wonderful ideas that are out there, and for all of those generous teachers who share them. I just have be careful not to compare myself with the Joneses. Ms. Jones is not in my classroom and my students need me.

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