Being The Space

by lclarcq on March 10th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Musings, Not So Good Days

It’s a tough week here. It is the end of the trimester and sadly, even middle school students feel the stress. We are also two weeks into an eight-week stretch without a break. With 10 more students per class than I’m accustomed to, I’ve also learned that I’m absorbing more stress from them as well. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the room in the center of a house fire when the room is full. And it is about to ex/implode at any moment.

That’s not what kids deserve. And frankly, I’ve feel like I’m not what the kids deserve this week either. But I’m what they have. So I’ve been looking for a way to stay calm.

I have tried to see myself as a tennis racket this week. Weird I know, but bear with me.

The tennis racket doesn’t get to sit still during a practice or a game. Even when the other player is dealing with the ball….the racket is poised and just slightly in motion…ready to return the play.

I realized that I did not have to be the entire racket…and that I could chose, at any, or every moment, which part of the racket I could be.

Professionally, and personally, I often have to be the strings. I have to catch the boll. I have to return the ball so that the players can hit it back to me.

But this week…..I’m trying to be the spaces between the strings. The spaces don’t have to do anything. They just have to be there. They let everything go by. They let the racket move and the strings do the work when necessary.

So when the tension heated up and the ‘little things” felt like they would explode into big things I kept saying to myself…”I’m the space. I’m the space. I’m the space.” (If you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of mantras!!)

It helped me so much. There is a time to be the strings….but it was a good week to be the space. I hope it helped the kids as much as it helped me.

with love,
Laurie

To Kahoot or Not to Kahoot? That was the question…

by lclarcq on February 14th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Musings, Technology

I admit that I can be a bit old-fashioned. And for middle-schoolers, that just means old. 🙂
I’m also the age of their grandparents (or older!!!) which doesn’t help either.

So, selfishly, I wanted them to play Kahoot. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t THAT old. That I knew how to use some of the fun stuff. 🙂

But I am also selfish with our time!! I really did not want to lose time because it might seem “fun”. But there was no way to know without trying….so….here is how it went:

Holy Moly they did have fun. About 90% of them. More about that in another post.

We played for several days in a row….which I didn’t want to do at all. But…my kids seem to need a few times to get used to things and so that was good.

Choosing team names quickly became more fun than anything else. By Day 2 I only accepted Team 1, Team 2 etc. I wrote the name on a Post-it and gave it to the player with the phone. Anything else became a way to make the class laugh and get away with finding a name that the teacher didn’t know the meaning of/reference to. That WAS a waste of time. So, as much as I could see how fun it was 🙂 , that was out.

I’m glad that I waited until we had really set a tone for the class. Not everyone had a phone, and sharing is not what middle schoolers are best at. So it really did take a few days for them to work how who would play with who and do it nicely. It worked out wonderfully in the end.

They felt super successful answering the questions. Really successful. It was the instant feedback, video-visual high that they have grown up with and it fed that need.

We did several types of questions. The “jumble” which puts things in order was not a hit with this group. Multiple choice was. The vocabulary ones made them feel smart. The reading ones got them reading even if they got the questions wrong. :o)

The best games were the ones I had time to make because I know my kids. But it was nice to not have to make everything.

This is not something they are ready to do only in the target language. So much energy and excitement that it all came flying out in English. We will be working on that. :o)

I do not plan on playing often. Never do too much of a good thing. :o)

If you haven’t tried it…think about it. Not everyone needs a phone/device but the more the better unless you are good at setting up teams. Also…if you are relying on the school’s internet, that can be a challenge.

I felt that I had to warn parents about the possible use of data!! The kids of course, did not.

Next time, I’m having kids help me plan questions to type of for the game!

You can find Kahoot at https://getkahoot.com

with love,
Laurie

What Works For One…

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction

I have three 6th grade/Level 1 classes and like most teachers, I’d like to think that I can have one basic plan for that level. I know better, but I don’t really KNOW better!! I’m trying to get to know not only individual students better, but also the makeup of each class better. It would really help me with my planning. :o)

All three classes need a lot of work with the basics. The first class was able to arrange itself in a circle without too much fuss and I led a series of questions/directed a conversation around several of the students.

There is a boy in the class. His name is ________. He is very, very famous in Spanish class. He has a lot of friends. One of them is also in Spanish class. His name is ___________. He is very, very intelligent. ___________is another student in class. He is very athletic. He likes football. Many students in the class like football. ____________ has a football jersey. Her favorite team is __________.

and then one of the kids ran to his backpack, pulled out a Seattle Seahawks jersey and put it on!! Great class. We are still pausing (often) so they can settle down, focus, stop talking, etc….but it was progress.

We transitioned into a conversation (with pictures) about Prince Royce. They understood, they were interested, and although we are still working on behaving like a class….I was pretty happy. We watched a 3 minute video about Prince Royce in English. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBHdga54kik) I could follow with a number of questions in Spanish using the “Super Seven” verbs. (Google Dr.Terry Waltz and Super 7…tons of great stuff!). They had some questions in English about Prince Royce that were interesting to hear. Questions about what he was wearing and how he wore his hair. I was able to use their emerging Spanish to talk about Prince Royce the person and Prince Royce the singer. (and to remind myself how important it is to FIT IN in middle school!)

Then we watched a clip from La Voz Kids where Prince Royce is a judge and a young man sings one of Prince Royce’s songs and talked about that using the same basic questions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buIs7yqT5jE)

I felt pretty good about how that went!

The next class? Ummm. Different story. They could not handle a change in the seating arrangement. When I tried to start the conversation about the class, we could barely get started. The social make up of this group is a study in middle school insecurity. Everyone is trying to be cool and the socially acceptable way to be cool is to make sure that everyone in the class knows that you are cooler than they are. Cliques, sarcasm, eye-rolling, snorts…you get the idea. Lovely individuals on their own. Toxic when together.

So…..back to the drawing board. In the middle of class. Ok…twenty minutes into a 90 minute block. Desks in rows. Take out a sheet of paper. I write a sentence about Prince Royce (on the computer, projected onto the screen). The students write the sentence in Spanish. I ask individual students comprehension questions. No one else is allowed to speak. On the outside I am neutral, calm, maybe even cold. On the inside I am frustrated and fired up!!!! This is BORING. SUPER, SUPER BORING.

But….the class itself was under control. The individuals in the class could each employ self-control. The language was comprehensible.

When we transitioned to the interview they couldn’t contain their reactions. After calming the storm of remarks, followed by the smiling stare of death for 45 seconds, I had to state in English that

a) Prince Royce is an actual human being and I wouldn’t let them mock him, or anyone else, in my presence.

b) Prince Royce is a professional. He has a job. He might be told what to wear and how to cut his hair, etc. etc. It is not our job to do either of those things.

And then we went back to the video. What color is his shirt? What color are his shoes? Do the shoes cost a lot of money? Do his fans like his shoes? Using the same, one student at a time, no one else is answering, and we write the answer on the screen and they write it in their notebooks scenario.

The same material. Completely different lessons.

The hard part? Not putting my own personal label on either one. I was totally miserable during the second lesson….but truthfully…it was probably the right lesson for that group. If I had tried to keep pushing 5th period’s lesson on 7th period, it would have gotten very, very ugly.

Tomorrow I meet with the third 6th grade class. It’s the most challenging one!!!! I’ll keep you posted. Right now I know the material, but I haven’t yet nailed down the lesson plan….

with love,
Laurie

Skill #1: Listening Well

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Creating Stories, Encouragment, Musings

So today I bit the bullet and decided to try to start a story in every class. I told myself (and them) that it didn’t matter how far we got with the story. I said that we would just get started. I told them that it wasn’t easy, at first, to just starting creating stories together. I told them that we would deal with the story-building skills as we went along. (and said a little prayer….)

One of the things that I have told my classes is that I work very hard so that Spanish class will be interesting and that acquiring Spanish can “feel” easy. However, none of the work I do with make any difference if the students against me rather than with me. I need this group to work with me….and they aren’t there yet. (and they sometimes look at me like I’m from another planet for wanting that!)

Over the years, many teachers have crafted a list of “behavior rules” for their classes as a way to get classes to work together. I knew that I needed to outline something similar for my new students but inside I was cringing at the idea that students with between 7 and 9 years of schooling needed “behavior rules.” I mean, I know that kids don’t always “behave” but it isn’t because they don’t know, by now, what appropriate school behavior is!!

So I tried this week to put out the expectation that every day we would be using four sets of skills. The first one is Listening Well. I didn’t want to make it too complicated (as a teacher I love doing that lol) , so I left it at this:

Listening Well means paying attention to what is said and what it means. I figured that that could cover a lot of bases!

Listening Well is Skill #1 because nothing else in acquisition happens without it…especially for Novices. I can check in with my beginners by simply asking them what I said and what it means.

In reality, Listening Well is NOT an easy skill, for anyone, in any language. We can all improve at it. (I know that I can!!)

What Listening Well looks like needed to be clarified for them.

For instance, Listening Well doesn’t happen if you are speaking at the same time. :o)
Listening Well to the teacher doesn’t happen if you are listening to a classmate. :o)
Listening Well doesn’t happen if you have earbuds in your ears. :o)

(I’m also pretty sure that I’ll be clarifying and re-clarifying those points on a regular basis!)

It is why I needed them to be able to focus on me and be silent at my signal. ( For more on signals…Check out this post!)

The idea is, I told them, that if the class can hear me, they will know when and how to add interesting pieces to the story.

And for a while in every single class, they were able to demonstrate that skill!! For the 8th graders ‘a while” was between 15 and 20 minutes. For the 6th graders it was between 10 and 15 minutes!!

I made it clear that when the skill got too difficult, we would change activities…so once I had to refocus any class for the second story I paused the story-asking and told them how we would continue next. (See the post-script at the bottom!) And then we moved on to another activity. They didn’t want to end it (yay!) but I did. I wanted to pause each story before it fell apart (or I did!).

Next post: Skill #2: Responding Well.

FYI….I still did a LOT of waiting until they were quiet, staring at whisperers (with a smile of steel), and walking over and standing next to the easily distracted!! I was not as patient with one group as I would have wanted!!!! It’s a fine line between calling a student out on behavior and publicly embarrassing him/her. In Middle School it’s even more delicate…I’m learning and re-learning!

with love,
Laurie
PS. Our progress:

8th grade class A: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem, attempted to the solve the problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down one reason in English the character will not solve the problem and tell me before class. (i.e. doesn’t have $, asked the wrong person, etc.)

8th grade classes B and C: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down where (location) the character goes to solve the problem and why. Hand in before leaving.

6th grade classes: Identified a character and setting. Given a problem: The character needs ____________. Final Activity: Write down in Spanish two things the character might need.

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.

Je Suis Paris….

by lclarcq on November 16th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Musings

(posted by request from a piece on Ben Slavic’s blog)
I spoke with all of my classes today. In English and in Spanish. I primarily teach juniors and seniors this year, with about 20 sophomores thrown in. I was saddened to find out that most of the students had not heard anything about it in any classes.

Earlier this year we had done a series of things re: Charlie Hebdo and half of my students now were my students then.

It isn’t always easy to do. But a number of students had wonderful questions, astute observations, and several spoke to me afterwards about their own concerns. I think that it was important to do.

I have several points that I want them to consider:

a. Read, investigate and think. Media is more about money than information right now and sensationalism makes money. Read more than the headlines. Ask questions.

b. Be grateful if you live in a place of “safe harbor” (phrase from Bob Patrick). Many people in this world, in this country, and in our own community do not.

c. Fear is the weapon of choice here and that we can fight.

d. The power-hungry rarely do their own dirty work. The people who are “on the ground” committing these crimes have been recruited because they are empty, angry or powerless. The power-hungry tap into that, manipulate that, seek it out wherever they can. When we hurt, insult, shame, embarrass or bully others (or allow it to happen), we help create the people that the power-hungry need to carry out their goals. Each one of us can prevent that from happening to someone.

Having just finished In the Time of the Butterflies with one group, and looking at Franco’s rule in Spain with another, these are timely messages.

My hope is that helping them to become aware of the abuse of power on the larger scale will not only help them to become better global citizens, but also to be aware of it in their own personal lives….and to become happier, better people.

with love,
Laurie