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

Step by Step Prep….

by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015

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

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

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

1. I was too burnt out to do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/

To the Sociology class…

by lclarcq on May 14th, 2015

filed under Musings, Students and Tragedy

Dear Sociology Class,

Thank you so much for having me in your class yesterday. The discussion has been on my mind all night. How can I explain to you how things have changed? Sadly, I have gotten so used to the changes that it has taken me some thought to remember how things were before Columbine and 9/11.

When I started teaching in 1983, I was only 21 years old….barely older than my high school students at that time. I was concerned that they would not take me seriously, that I would not appear “adult” enough to them. School violence was never, ever a concern.

We spoke yesterday about some of the changes: locked doors, ID badges, escape plans.I don’t think we spoke about the real changes.

In 1983, in school, students were afraid of bad grades, phone calls home, the principal and at worst, and rarely, a bloody nose or a black eye from a bully. There was still gossip, of course, occasional fights and the usual high school drama. There were still cliques and kids where loners. But the idea was that high school was temporary, and if you were miserable, it would eventually get better or you would get out. People that didn’t like school, for whatever reason, dealt with it by finding things outside of school that they liked much better.

In 2015, in schools across America, things are different. Here, we are lucky. I think that we believe ourselves to be “protected” from what “other” schools deal with. Things like:
Extreme cyber-bullying
Public humiliation of a targeted individual
Student suicide precipitated by the above
Student suicide in general
An attack by an intruder
A school shooting by a student
A bomb

I have been following these trends for my entire teaching career. I have attended workshops, listened to speakers, read articles, followed studies. No one has definitively determined why

But I’d still like to know…….What has changed? Can we change it for the better?

These are changes that I have observed and that I have my own personal opinions about…..they may help you to get a better understanding….

Technology

Technology is a wonderful thing. But….Before technology was readily available; we entertained ourselves in other ways. We hung out with friends. We interacted with people. We learned how to get along if we had to, or wanted to. We learned how to settle arguments. We learned to forgive. We learned to move on. If you held a grudge, you were lonely.

Were there still “loners”? Yes, but not nearly as many, nor were they loners for as long. They also found hobbies, interests and other activities that helped them to feel worthwhile and valuable over time.

Technology not only allows, but encourages us to disconnect from others. When students start using cell phones, tablets, computers etc. for entertainment at an early age, they miss out on years’ worth of human interaction….interaction that teaches them their own value and the value of others.

In the 1980’s movies were only available in theaters. Theaters readily enforced the PG and R guidelines. If you weren’t the right age, you didn’t get in. There were only a few local channels (three here if you were lucky) to watch. Nothing of debatable content was shown before 9 pm….often not before 11 pm. There just wasn’t media to watch.

We talked, we played cards, we played board games, we wrote letters, we had pen pals, we built forts/tree houses, we babysat, we mowed lawns, we took care of people’s animals, we joined school clubs, we joined church groups, we went to the beach, we rode bikes (all the time, everywhere), We threw the football around, we played “hot-box” for baseball skills, we shot hoops, played HORSE, we swam, we drew, we sewed, we crocheted, we washed cars, we picked vegetables…..

We didn’t watch much tv. We rarely saw movies…and it was a big deal..and often a family affair. R rated movies were reserved for adults.

The “action” film genre didn’t really take off until the 1980’s. Prior to that it was against film policy to show the actual killing. The views did not see bullets entering the body or blood exiting. The “slasher” genre became popular in the 1980’s as well, as the home movie genre grew. Imagine, en entire population of young people who have never seen the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th, Saw, or Hostel films. Now we can watch television series’ (Dexter, etc.) on a regular basis in the comfort of our living rooms. How does it change the mindset and perspective of a young person to see these on a regular basis? These are questions we have to ask ourselves.

Shooter video games

These games were not available, on a wide scale, until the late 1990’s. Many studies have been done on this issue, and you may have your own opinion on them. However, their prevalent use by teenagers coincides with the increase of school shootings. That is enough for me. Although “pretend”, they reward players for violent killings. Why would we want that? Why would we pay money for that? Why would we want to encourage that?

Very large percentages of teenagers are skilled at these games, which are used, quite effectively to train police officers and our military. Whether or not this is why students have become shooters is up for debate. However, it has been proven that it is the reason that student shooters are extremely accurate and responsible for abnormally high death counts. That is something we need to pay attention to.

Thirty years ago teens were interested in sports, books, carpentry, music, farming, earning money, repairing cars, creating fashion, and well….many other things that your generation is interested in as well….but they were not interested in racking high scores in games that kill (very realistic, fake) people.

Please don’t think that teenagers didn’t have problems. They did. A ton of them. The world wasn’t perfect either. Hunger, violence, fear, poverty…although things existed. But they were not glorified. They were not entertainment. We didn’t pay large amounts of money and spend hours of our lives to delve deeply into the dark, ugly and deadly.

Humor

Beginning in the late 1970’s, humor in movies and television took a decided turn. Sit-coms began to insert more and more sarcasm. It didn’t used to be funny to insult or mock other people. Now the primary form of humor is just that: making fun of or saying mean things about others. The second most popular topic for humor is extreme stupidity. Over the past few years, when I have asked high school students what their favorite movie of all time is, the number one answer has been, “The Hangover”.

Now I’m not saying that the movie isn’t funny, but I’d like you to think about what makes it funny….for high school students:

Grown men who have had so much to drink they cannot remember what they did nor where their friend (who was also drunk) has gone.
They used student field trip money to finance the trip.
Grown men who lie to their spouses/girlfriends/fiancée about their behavior.
One of the men drugs the others.
They are taking care of a baby…no idea where it came from. (Other things are done to the baby I can not and will not mention here, but which are NOT funny)
And a million other things that I won’t discuss with high school students…..

It is worth noting that this is the kind of movie that a vast majority of my students name as their “favorite movie of all time.” What does this say about what we honor and enjoy as a society? What does it say about what we want to encourage? What does this say about what we want young people to honor? What does this say about society when even middle schoolers have watched and enjoyed this movie on a regular basis?
How does this type of media exposure affect how young people look at the world?

Think about the films and tv programs that are most popular in your age group……How many of them base their appeal and/or their humor on making fun of others, people being irresponsible or people getting hurt?? Popular comedians? Do you know any that don’t base their humor on these issues?

We talk about bullying as if it is something bad, (and it is) however, look at what else we honor:
Comedy that makes fun of others
Comedy that embarrasses others
Gossip
Violent movies
Violent video games

Is it any wonder that bullying has evolved to become such a powerful and dangerous issue?

What other questions should we ask ourselves about the society we live in? Sadly, the last 30 years of adults have not paid very close attention to this question and it has made life much more difficult for all of you.

What do you want for the society that you and your children will live in?

The life you live now, the things you value now, the things you invest your money and time in now will determine the future. Believe that.

With love,
Profe

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

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

Incredibly, Uniquely Beautiful

by lclarcq on February 5th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Engagement, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Musings, Pacing, Relationships

Midterms are over. But I worry that the mindset isn’t.

Even those of us who don’t enjoy assessment, tracking data and recording grades can get caught up in the tidal pull of measurement and the undertow of evaluation.

Well….that might be a little too metaphoric, but we ARE teachers. Since the age of 5 we’ve been playing with tests and trying to win. That is hard to let go of. Many of us were test champions and grade royalty.

(The following is my own opinion and might be considered heretic in this day and age)

I realize that we must assign grades and that students require passing grades in order to move to the next level. We have all worked hard to create systems that allow the progress our students make to be accurately reflected in the grades. Our jobs depend on it. But…in the great scope of life…

THE GRADES DO NOT MATTER. They are artificially “scores” that someone/something determined would measure value in schools. They are part of the system, BUT THEY DO NOT ACCURATELY REFLECT ANYTHING.

They certainly do not reflect value. No human being can be given a numerical value. It’s ridiculous to even think of it (although sadly, it is commonly done throughout American culture, not just in schools.)

Every moment that we see our students in terms of a number, we have lost an opportunity to see them as people.

The system, and most of the people in it, will try to change your mind about that. They will also try to convince you that YOUR value will also be determined by numbers: your students’ numbers. They will tell you that not only are students are numbers, but that we should compare students using these values. Actually, they would like us to line them up according to these numbers. They want us to believe that the students should all on the same place on a line of measurement at the same time. Finally, they tell us that the students should be moving along that measuring line at the same pace. On a day to day basis.

They are also trying to convince us that it is our job to make that happen. If we don’t, we are failures. (Yes, they use THAT word….a word we have secretly been afraid of since we entered a school at age 5)

My dear friends, that is a crock of horsepucky. All of it. Including the idea that we are special because we “earned” good grades when we were students. Grades do not make anyone special.

EVERYONE IS SPECIAL.

Its really difficult to see that. Our job doesn’t always let us remember that, even though that is an elemental part of our profession.

Please remember it.

Everyone is special and everyone is unique.

Our students are not supposed to be alike. They all enter our classes at different ages. They enter with different backgrounds and experiences. They did not learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to read their first language, learn to ride a bike, learn anything at the same rate. Why? Because while we may all be wired in the same way, we are all unique and incredibly miraculous human beings.

Have you ever seen a group of one year olds together? They are all at very different places in height, weight, ability to walk/talk etc. If they are paying attention, if they are in the classroom approximately the same number of days, they are all getting the same amount and quality of input. AND THEY WILL STILL NOT BE IN THE SAME PLACE.

Some students show growth in slow, steady increments. Others will grow in “hops”, showing improvement every two to three months….but very little in between. Others are icebergs. Everything grows beneath the surface and we see nothing…then all of a sudden BOOM! After six to eight months (or more) of nothing….amazing things are happening.

No one is really “ahead” or “behind”, despite what society might want us to believe. If the student is there, and involved, if we are providing a rich environment and comprehensible instruction, then the student is where the student is supposed to be. Period. They will move when they are ready, at the pace that is best for them. We can pay attention, and we can respond, but there is truly little we can do to change that.

And it is no reflection on us.

Hard as that is to remember.

We need to enjoy each student where he or she is….or we will lose sight of the beauty of the human brain, the human mind and the human spirit. How each and every human is unique and heart-stoppingly beautiful.

Nothing else really matters.

with love,
Laurie

You Are Truly Doing Enough

by lclarcq on January 27th, 2015

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

I really hate January. Between post-vacation blues, a germ-filled building, exhausted colleauges, flu-stricken students, midterms, data analysis, reports, grading, meetings and attempting to “gear up” for a new semester, I get really worn down. When I’m worn down, everything gets blown out of proportion and I take things way too personally.

I’m the queen of taking things personally, having spent most of that past five decades elevating it to an art. :o) I have had to work very hard to listen to the voice in my head that says..’Oh that’s a good idea.” and not the one that says, “well duh!! You know that. You should do that. Why didn’t you think of that? Kids would pay attention if you did things like that. Thirty years in the profession and you still don’t have it right. ”

I’ve taken large numbers of suggestions as face-slapping criticism and used to cry on a regular basis after post-observation conferences with my principal. It’s taken a long time, and a lot of practice, to just listen to people without a strong, emotional self-flagellation reflex kicking in.

The folks in this profession are very passionate people. That inner energy sometimes leads us to extremes….whether it’s extreme dedication, extreme worry, extreme committment or extreme self-evaluation.

When I’m swinging towards the extremes, I have to remind myself of the following:

“If you are doing the best you can today, and hoping to always do better when you can…..

You are truly doing enough.”

Regardless of what your administrator, colleagues, students, their parents, and that nagging little ugly voice in your head are saying to you.

“You are truly doing enough.”

(and yes…I’m saying this to myself as much as I am saying it to anyone reading this….)

Don’t let yourself hear anything different.

with love,
Laurie

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

What do students need ME for anyway?

by lclarcq on January 21st, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Relationships, TPRS techniques

This post started as part of a response to my friend Skip….and then it grew from there. Thanks Skip for asking me the questions that make me think.

I never wanted to be a Spanish teacher. I wanted to teach kindergarten…or third grade. I wanted to sing songs, read stories, and introduce my students to history and heroes. Actually that is what I do, I am just lucky enough to do it via Spanish. But that is not what most of my colleagues were doing when I started thirty-plus years ago. I truly admired and respected those teachers, I just couldn’t be one of them. Maybe it was because I didn’t start out as a Spanish major (although I ended up with a Spanish and an Education degree), or maybe it was because I wasn’t very confident about my language abilities at the time….but my goals as a language teacher were a bit different.

Truthfully, I never thought that I would be able to convince teenagers to commit to memory the hundreds of rules and thousands of words necessary to master the language. I loved it, but I never thought all of my students would. And I wanted ALL of my students to love Spanish class the way 5 year olds love kindergarten (okay…think 30 year prior to Common Core!)

Thirty years ago (and more), we used to consider it our job to teach the understanding and appreciation of the beauty of the language…its history, structure, details. And we did that. Sadly, few students were able to draw on any of this knowledge after a few months….much less a few years.

We then made it our goal to teach the students the vocabulary, verb forms and highly irregular patterns so that they could also communicate with others. We created texts and materials that we thought would help our students to be able to put all of the pieces of the language in order to function while traveling, doing business etc.. But we still taught as if mastering the al to help students to communicate. It was a great deal of work, and yes.. fun, to create activities that allowed students to pretend that they could communicate in a real-life situation.

Sadly, once again, students failed to retain the language for any length of time.

It was the first reason I was so impressed with the results of TPRS and teaching with Comprehensible Input. The language stuck. For a long, long time. I was pretty excited about that!

Then along came technology.

I think that our job as language teachers has seriously shifted. And I am afraid we may not even know it.

Any knowledge about the language that students need can be found easily on the Internet. All of it. Communication can occur with a cell phone and an app. And almost instantly. And with about the same accuracy that our students used to have….probably more.

I had a great reason to switch from learning to acquisition in my classroom. But if my students can just use a machine to communicate…..why would it even matter if they acquire a language?

What IS our job now? Why would students need to be able to communicate…device-free…in a world quickly becoming overrun with devices? Why do they need us? Can’t they get all of the language they need via technology?

I think we need to be asking ourselves, and our profession, that question. What are we doing that students cannot now do for themselves…..without us?

For me (and you’ve heard me say this I think), I want my students to acquire Spanish in order to explore the hearts, minds and souls of people who speak Spanish. I want them to acquire Spanish so that they can think more deeply, express feelings to others, ask questions about the universe and SHARE that journey with people of other cultures…..and they can do that so much better in more than one language. AND WITH A PERSON…not a machine.

I believe that our job is less about teaching the language and more about using the language to teach the skill of making personal, social, historical, artistic and even political connections.

I believe that our job is about establishing relationships, nourishing relationships, growing as a result of relationships …..Relationships that are a)built via communicating so that we are understood in another language and b)built because we understand others in their language .

It’s about understanding….and being understood as a human being. It’s a job that no machine can do.

They need us for that.

with love,
Laurie

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