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

Whitman Wanders The World

by lclarcq on February 25th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Encouragment, Musings

Many of you know that I teach in a small, rural district in upstate New York. A few weeks ago our department began to build a display entitled “Whitman Wanders The World”….and it has been such a joy to work on!

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After posting the picture on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve had a few questions about how we put it together so….here goes:

1. We made a list of all of the students that we could remember who had studied abroad, volunteered for the Peace Corps, been stationed overseas, etc.

2. We put out a call on Facebook for former students to share where they had been.

3. After collecting all of the information that we could, we created a card for each graduate. On the card we wrote:

the graduate’s name
year of graduation
areas visited
college(s) attended if applicable
military service if applicable

We labeled each card with a sticker that identified how the graduate had travelled: a flag for military service, a star for study abroad, a blue dot for working, a peace sign for Peace Corps, a red dot for Rotary etc.

4. We used a laminated world map and put a smiley face on each country/territory that a Whitman grad had set foot on.

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5. Then we simply arranged the cards around the map. It isn’t high tech and it is all hand done…not a fancy project, but definitely a heart-felt one.

Since the pictures have been posted we have had folks send us even more information so now we have more cards to add!!

Our next step is to add blue cards for where staff have studied/ worked/ etc.

It has been so fun to watch the students’ and staff’s reactions to the board. Because so many people stay in the immediate area, and the folks who leave often stay gone, it is really eye-opening to see who has been where!!

I hope that helps any of you interested in this project for your school.

with love,
Laurie

The Journey Continues

by lclarcq on February 22nd, 2016

filed under Encouragment, Musings, Teacher Training

Richard asked, “Aren’t there ‘predictable obstacles’ or challenges that most of us are likely to encounter along our way toward using TPRS primarily in class?”

This (again) is a wonderful question…and this post is just a compilation of my thoughts and observations. What are the challenges/obstacles for teachers who begin to teach with TPRS?

1. Fear of the unknown.

Will it work? What will work? How do I know it’s working? What do I do if..? What do I do when…? The list of worries is …well, unending. Without experience we are walking on faith (or hope) alone. That is not easy to do. It takes courage.

The best way to handle this is to watch other teachers whenever possible: conferences, demos, in person, via Skype, on Youtube. And watch the students. Watch them closely. When we are teaching this way, we are constantly reacting to our students….so pay attention to the students when you observe, not just the teacher.

This will give us more of an idea of what to expect from our own students…and what to ask for from them as well.

2. Not knowing how to prepare students to be successful.

Trainers and presenters have SO much to share about preparing to teach with TPRS, and usually not nearly enough time to do it. Unfortunately, we often do not show teachers how to prepare the students for this new approach. Here are some past posts that might help teachers to do that:

Rules and Expectations Part 1

Rules and Expectations Part 2

Rules and Expectations During A Lesson

R and E: Trust and the Rules

When Students Are Lost

3. Trying to be someone else (and forgetting all of the wonderful things we already bring to the classroom)

When teachers want to change their actions in the classroom, they often want to emulate the teachers/presenters they have seen. This is a GREAT way to start, but please don’t forget that you are your students’ already amazing educator. When we try to “be” ___________ (insert your favorite presenter here) we set ourselves up for failure.

Your students don’t want Blaine, Jason, Carol, or anyone else to be their teacher. They want you. They know you. You will be there every day for them. Bring yourself first. Then add the actions, expressions, motions, ideas of your mentors.

If you aren’t sure how to incorporate your teaching personality, ask someone in your TPRS/TCI community about the teachers/presenters that they have seen. There is no “perfect” personality for this job. You can be loud or soft-spoken, high energy or completely chill, left-brained or right-brained, organized or impetuous, stand-up-comedy funny or steady and serious. Really. I promise!! The steps will be the same…and you get to be you!!

4. Biting off more than we can chew.

There are many teachers who ‘jumped in with both feet” to this way of teaching. “I threw out all of the textbooks!” “I decided never to go back to my old ways again!” “I ordered class sets of all of the novels and started the next day!” Teachers tell me this all the time.

But I meet just as many teachers who say: “I tried it but it was too overwhelming.” “I spent hours scripting stories.’ “It was so exhausting.’ “I have 5 preps, I just couldn’t do it.” “I was great for a week, but then the kids and I lost interest. I didn’t know what to do next.”

My suggestion is to start small and start slowly. We set our students up for success. We need to set ourselves up for success as well. Some ways to start slowly:

a. Only incorporate circling. Practice using a variety of questions and responding to students’ answers.

b. Have a conversation with students about a picture. Ask a lot of questions using the circling techniques and practice getting choral responses and individual responses.

c. Ask a story that they already know well in English (but ask in the Target Language!) Does Cinderella or Goldilocks dance with the Prince?

d. Use a story script. ‘Ask” a story for 5-10 minutes and then stop. Don’t worry if the story isn’t finished!

e. Try a Movie Talk. The video clip will provide instant structure, comprehensiblity, and interest!

5. Trying to do it all alone.

It’s not hard to do, but it is hard to do alone. I really meant what I said about connecting with a colleague or a community of support. Talk with other people. Let them share with you. Share with them.

6. Not being able to let things go.

There is a lot to let go of. Along the way we will begin to let go of our fears and insecurities, our old lessons, our imperfections, our former expectations, our need to control stories, our desire to wax poetic over grammar topics, our beloved projects, our bell-curve practices, so much of our former teaching selves. When we hold on too tight to these things, we fail to make room for our newer selves and a new, exciting experience for our students.

How do we learn to let go? We practice embracing the unknown. We prepare our students for their new role (and ours). We remember that we are not letting go of our true selves. We let go a little at a time, and we let in new experiences a little at a time. We share our worries and our successes with others. And we relax. And it happens.

with love,
Laurie

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