“Mildred”

by lclarcq on December 20th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2014, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships, Tough Students

“Mildred” is a “fictional” student in Ben Slavic’s book PQA in a Wink. She is representative of the students that disrupt class, challenge our authority and almost appear to work hard to NOT be successful. The Mildred in Ben’s book comes from an abusive home in a high poverty neighborhood. I’ve been thinking a great deal about Mildred this last week before the holiday break and….

…..Mildred had a rough week last week; I can promise you that. She is facing a two week “vacation” from school, which is the only place she gets a decent, consistent meal. In my district, it may be the only place she can take a shower. Or have heat. She knows that it will be hard to get out and get away from a caustic environment where she can’t do anything right and will hope just to stay out of everyone’s way and keep the possessions that she has out of everyone else’s hands.

Knowing what was ahead, Mildred was NOT in the best of moods and when some girl starting bragging about the gifts she already knew she was getting and the flight to Bermuda w/ Grammy and Grandpa, she muttered something under her breath. Another “Mildred” heard her, assumed it was about her and swore at her. It went downhill from there.

When the math teacher crammed in the last chapter so that she could give the unit test the Friday before vacation………

……. and the Economics teacher made the group project due so that she could correct them over the break………

…….and the English teacher assigned internet research that Mildred had to do in the library because she doesn’t have internet, (but Mildred spent three periods this week in the Dean’s office) Mildred only got 1/3 of the way through those assignments.

Her average now in those classes is failing and there will be a phone call and a letter home due to district policy, and the adults in Mildred’s life will be pissed as hell that they are being bothered by the school. Each of those teachers gave Mildred a lecture this week about getting her act together, telling her that she is failing, and pointing out how “little” it would take to be a “good” student.

It takes a lot of work and time to develop a relationship with Mildred that will allow her to be interested in any kind of “story’ that we might come up with in a TPRS class that can distract her from the reality of her everyday life. There isn’t a current event that compares with her tumultuous life. No matter how carefully crafted our lessons were last week, it’s pretty likely that we couldn’t engage Mildred.

But every hello, every patient response, every nugget of positive action can (I won’t say will, I can’t promise that) work towards creating a relationship where one person may create an atmosphere in a classroom that might be the only place in school where Mildred feels welcome…..where she doesn’t feel like an unwanted, unrequested, unneeded “guest.”

You see, school may be the place to feel fuller, warmer and safer, but it doesn’t feel like a place where Mildred belongs. Truth is, she is treated like an invader, an imposter, as someone who doesn’t deserve to be in the building. That began in kindergarten when she didn’t bring in school supplies or the required contribution of glue, crayons and Kleenex boxes for the class.

It continued through elementary school where she never brought in a permission slip, didn’t bring in a gift for the Christmas exchange, couldn’t be in chorus because she didn’t own dress shoes and a white shirt, never handed in one science or social studies project. In middle school she didn’t shower much and she got in some trouble because other kids made fun of the fact that she didn’t own a bra and wore the same shoes every day. Day by day the staff, mostly without realizing it, pointed out to her that she was different from the kids who were “good” at school

…and over the course of her ten years as a student she has learned to behave as she has been treated.

There are a lot of Mildreds in our schools. More than we can imagine. Some of them spent the week in the in school suspension room. Some stayed home for several days because the environment there was (believe it or not) less painful than the pre-holiday anticipation flying around the building. Some tried to fly under the radar…silent, not making eye contact, falling asleep during the movie whenever possible.

But, if they are lucky, there is a room or two in the building where Mildreds are welcomed. In my building I could see Mildred in the Ag Science room making centerpieces to distribute for the FFA fund raiser and selling t shirts during lunches for the Entrepreneurship Club. I saw Mildred watering plants in the Bio room. I watched another Mildred go from classroom to classroom making jokes…and scooping up uneaten Christmas goodies. There was a Mildred hanging out in the attendance office after coming in late, and several in the weight room after school. Two or three Mildreds purposely move slowly on art projects so that they can come in to work during study hall or after school. I caught one Mildred cutting paper snowflakes in there. There was also a Mildred reading in the corner of the library.

I’m blessed to teach in a district with a number of staff who have connected with at least one Mildred. It’s a good thing…we have more Mildreds than we find “homes” for. It can be overwhelming.

If you teach in a district with many Mildreds, don’t give up. One day Mildred may show up in your room asking for a pass to come down and cut out paper snowflakes. Or she may contact you on Facebook to let you know that she was grateful in high school that you let her know that she could, but she just never felt comfortable enough to do it.

WHAT YOU DO MAKES A DIFFERENCE THAT YOU MAY NOT EVER SEE.

If you teach in a district where it appears that there are few Mildreds, think again. In these districts, the Mildreds are simply more sophisticated. They come from families where the “differentness” is accompanied by an early-learned skill in “appearing normal.”

Your Mildreds may have money, a lovely home and an amazing wardrobe. Your Mildreds have perfect or nearly perfect GPAs. In fact, your Mildreds MUST maintain a façade of being the best in order to hide the atrocities that they deal with at home. They freeze US out with condescension, criticism, and by turning parents against US so that we turn a blind eye to what is really going on in their lives.

Some Mildreds are dealing with challenges within their own minds, hearts, bodies and souls that they have not yet shared with anyone. These Mildreds are the most lonely and in the most pain.

As you head home for a week or two, it can be a relief to be “Mildred-free.” I sometimes feel guilty about that. But we have our own challenges as human beings. Sometimes we need Mildred-free time to focus on our own world in order to survive. We can’t help anyone when we haven’t attended to any of our own needs.

If you have been trying to reach a Mildred, or two, or twenty….and it doesn’t seem to be working…Hang in there. Love wins. It truly, truly does. It may not win the battle that you see. It may not win the in the way that you want it to. But Love, because it gets noticed, in itself creates Hope. Hope is the enemy of fear. Hope is the enemy of complacency. Hope is the enemy of despair. Hope is the enemy of apathy.

Hope is frightening. In Mildred’s experience, Hope proceeds Disappointment. Hope has proceeded Pain. So a teacher who offers Hope is frightening, potentially disappointing, and painful. No wonder Mildred gives us trouble.

What Mildred doesn’t yet know is that Hope and Possibility together can create a new future. But you do know that….so don’t give up. Rest up. Then go back and keep offering Love and Hope. They are as valuable a gift as any this season.

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

Big Questions Archived Post 12.13.10

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days

(Originally posted 12/13/10)

My brain has been churning all day. I heard several things in church/Sunday school that spoke so strongly to me of my students and I have been trying to piece them together. I’ll try writing and see if that helps…

First was the idea that all of our lives we will struggle with three things:

1. Who am I?
2. Where do I belong?
3. What should I do?

As we go through different stages and different ages the answers will change, but our need to seek the answers will not. From our youngest cognitive moments to our oldest, we will carry these questions in our hearts.

What does this mean in our classrooms?

First, my guess is that the majority of our actions come from whether we have the answers to these questions at any given moment, our feelings about our answers (or lack thereof), and how we got those answers (or why we don’t have them).
Can I help my students with those answers for the time that they are in my classroom? I hope so. If they are comfortable with who they are (or with not having to know while they are in my room…), if they feel that they belong in my room, and I have made it clear what they should do while they are in my room ( or created an environment where they can find out without fear of humiliation or punishment) I can seriously reduce the stress level for my students.

Second, I can remember that the behaviors that I might find annoying and inexplicable actually serve a purpose…for that student. I can use that knowledge to understand, to be patient, to open doors of communication.

Third, I can keep utilizing those themes in my stories, songs, and other lesson details. These questions are part of our hearts, minds and souls. We all can connect with these issues and the struggles, mistakes and victories that stem from seeking the answers.
With love,
Laurie
P.S. These questions came from a study, “Romans 12” by Chip Ingram.

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.

I’m Losing Them Archived Post 1.13.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

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

(Originally posted 1/13/13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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

CI Challenges Archived Post 6.12.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Coaching, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

How do we deal with using CI when some days it is so challenging?!!

Those of you who know me, are aware that getting to, and maintaining a healthy body weight are a challenge for me. I keep seeing all of these parallels between my challenges and the difficulties that exist when a teacher attempts to incorporate a Comprehensible Input approach to his or her teaching.

Several people have mentioned that no one really knows EXACTLY how humans acquire, maintain and develop language, but at this time, we believe that certain things do contribute: sheltering vocabulary, a variety of high-frequency structures,interaction with that language, repeated comprehensible input,encouragement of one form or another,and success in conjunction the brain’s natural “wiring”. Yet, each human being may develop language and language skills in a unique fashion based on his/her brain, body and life experiences.

Isn’t that the same with getting to and maintaining a healthy weight? Obviously there is no “magic pill” or no one would have this struggle. There are, however, a collection of things that we believe contribute to a healthy weight: limiting calories, a variety of nutrient-dense foods eaten in small frequent meals, a constant intake of water, steady activity, encouragement and success in conjunction with the body’s natural functions.

The challenge to “do what works” in both circumstances can be extreme, EVEN WHEN WE ARE KNOWLEDGEABLE, MOTIVATED AND WELL-INFORMED. Pat may have a much better read on this, but this is what I see….

Challenge #1: Dealing with discomfort

Human beings are not good with this. We do everything possible to avoid it. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of little tricks in our repertoire to make sure that we avoid and/or eliminate discomfort. Changing from the comfortable is even more uncomfortable!! And scary. People who are physically or emotionally sensitive find discomfort even more difficult.

Things that we do to avoid/eliminate discomfort get in the way of our change and growth. Why? We have well-developed skills and entire skill sets of unhealthy ways to deal with discomfort. We call them habits. :o)

Challenge #2: Measuring our self-worth instead of believing in our self-worth

People who believe that they are inherently valuable because they live and breathe don’t get as uncomfortable as those who don’t. People who don’t believe that they have intrinsic value have, as I said before, a highly-developed set of skills that they use to a) determine value and b) measure their own value. Because we don’t like to be uncomfortable, from childhood we hone those skills that make us ‘measure up” well on our own scales. (pun intended) Because of the insecurities that haunt and stalk us, we measure everyone and everything. Because not measuring up is exhausting and painful, we stick to the things that we are good at and give them a much higher value than other skills.

Challenge #3: Lack of Trust

Changing a paradigm requires a leap of faith. It might be taken in baby steps or one giant bungee jump, but it requires rejecting the known for the unknown. That takes trust. Both improving TPRS skills and losing weight are easier and more enjoyable with caring support team. However, people who have been burned in the past by friends and colleagues who should have encouraged them but didn’t will find it hard to reach out and share this journey. When a journey gets tough, it helps so much to turn to someone for help. Without that support, it’s easy to turn around and go back. If our sense of self-worth is measured on our ability to work independently and/or if it is new and uncomfortable for us to rely on the assistance of others, these changes are going to be difficult.

Challenge #4: Not Putting First Things First

This is about being able to take the “long view” and see ourselves, our actions and our choices with a judicious eye. Over and over and over again, for any number of reasons, we put other things in front of what is truly important.

In the case of weight loss, my list is a mile long and I have conveniently convinced myself that other things should come first. I’m dead wrong, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking this way.

In the case of using Comprehensible Input, the same darn thing occurs. Any teacher who isn’t using it has a list of “good” reasons that they are convinced are more important.

Some people can overcome all of these issues lickety-split (thanks Susie!) They jump in feet first without worrying, overthinking, balking or obsessing. Others take things cautiously, carefully, one step at a time. They analyze and adapt. Neither approach is better or worse than the other. In the areas of weight-loss and TPRS I’ve met both kinds of folks who have been successful.

I’ve also met people who follow a strict regimen. So follow the guidelines and never stray because they believe so strongly in “what works”. Others do so because they have a hard time “marrying” diverse trains of thought. Whatever the reason, the strict regimen works for them.

I’ve met others who would lose their mind without forays outside of the box. People who need a dictation, a project or a double-circle activity the way some folks need an occasional pizza, beer and chocolate chip cookie in order to keep their lives in balance. These steps off of the path do not actually add to language acquisition nor to weight loss, but they have other positive effects that make them valuable, at the right time in the right amounts.

Can “anyone” be a CI teacher? Yes. Can “anyone” get to and maintain a healthy weight? Yes. But there will always be challenges. It will never be simple. It may never be easy. Some people will find the challenges greater than others. Some will be able to do it quickly and others will take a lifetime to get there. It can NOT be done in total isolation, without the ability to self-soothe, without a belief in the inherent value of the human soul nor without the ability to let go of the old and make room for the new. But, when we look at the gifts we receive in return (as well as our students, families,etc.)both changes are inherently and unarguably valuable.

If we have already “crossed over” on the journey, we need to remember to honor the journey of others rather than judge it, or our own journey loses it’s validity.

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.

INcomprehensible Input Archived Post 3.11.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/11/12)
We all use incomprehensible language in class. I do it all the time. Sometimes because what I think is comprehensible and what is comprehensible to my students are two different things. Sometimes because, as Susie pointed out, I am thinking like a teacher rather than like a student. Sometimes because I just so love a word, phrase, song, story that I ignore that little “voice” in my head and turn it into a lesson. Sometimes, and yes, I admit it, I am thinking only of myself and I want to be a little tougher or a little bit more impressive (“Wow” my ego says to me,” Look at the level of language that you can teach!”)Sometimes I just end up wanting to hang out with the 4%ers for a moment and roll around in a little grammar ecstasy. Sometimes the 11 years that I was in a student and the 14 years that I was a teacher in a non-CI classroom suck me back in.

Here is what I have observed in the 15 years that I have tried to wrap my mind around the CI based classroom:

1. Language acquisition occurs in the brain of the student.
2. I cannot control the brain of the student. Ever.
3. I can do my best to control the environment that the student is in, and therefore the environment in which the language is delivered to the student.
4. The best environment that I know of is:
a. focused on a storyline (a story, a reading, a conversation, a compelling visual etc.)
b. encourages every student to participate.
c. clearly allows every student to feel welcome and capable.
d. filled with repeated, interesting, comprehensible, heart-connected, compelling input in the T.L.
e. eliminates ever other distraction possible.
f. relies on continues student -teacher feedback and response.

Each level, each class will require different things to make 1-4 happen. It is an incredible challenge some days to make that happen. But teachers who love teaching and who love students and who love languages love that challenge. And there is a very strong, supportive group of colleagues out there to help. COLLEAGUES…not ancillary materials. :o) Wonderful, capable,caring people who have been more help than an materials I’ve ever come across.

Lastly…(if you’ve made it this far) is a story that,for me, brings this point about comprehensibility home. Over 10 years ago, at my first Susan Gross workshop, Susie taught over 50 teachers French. A room full of interested, motivated, language-skilled, language-experienced teachers. After TWO DAYS of instruction, the group could not yet recall the phrase “a glass of water” We could recognize “glass”. We could recognize “water”. But we could not recognize “glass of water.” She did not get angry. She did not get frustrated. She spent over AN HOUR interacting with us, and “a glass of water”. At the end of the hour, we could clearly hear, and recognize the phrase. We went on. Then, about an hour later, she asked us to produce it. Silence. Nothing. We got as far as the initial “l” sound. (and she had used the phrase intermittently) in that hour! As a group, we were depressed at our lack of ability. Then she pointed out to us that if we, a group of motivated, talented professionals needed HOURS more of CI with this phrase, that our students would certainly benefit from the same. She told us that the fact that we didn’t yet “own’ this phrase did not make her a terrible teacher, or make us horrible learners. She said that it was now clear indicator that our brains needed more clear, comprehensible input and time with this phrase before it was ACQUIRED. THEN ,she said that it was her job to remember that AND to make that exposure as stress-free as possible, because if she freaked out about it and hyper-focused on it that our affective filter would go up and it would take us even longer to acquire it. THEN, she purposely involved us in a story w/conversations that was hysterically funny. By the end of day three we had, as a group, a much better hold on the phrase and a much better perspective on how TPRS works.

And I don’t know about the others, but I still can produce the phrase with ease. :o)

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.

Flipping The Switch 1 Archived Post 4.21.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Engagement, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Output, Participation, Relationships

(Originally posted 4/21/13)

Twice last week I had the chance to see the light bulb go off over (or is that in?!) my students’
heads. I love that.

The first time was with my seniors. A young woman from a nearby college is working in my classroom twice a week with this group. She has worked with them individually and in small groups.

This was the first time that she had led a lesson with the entire class. She had a great PowerPoint for them and was asking them questions to get them engaged in discussion about the slides. They stared at her like deer in the headlights. Who had never heard Spanish before. When she called on them individually, they asked if they could answer her in English because they couldn’t think of the Spanish. What?

I knew that they knew exactly what she was saying and how to answer her. But they wouldn’t. So we hit the pause button and had a little discussion in English about what was going on. What was happening? They were comfortable in front of her individually, or in a very small group, but they were very worried about embarrassing themselves in front of this very lovely young woman AND the rest of the class. They weren’t as worried about that with me because, well, to them I am not a lovely, young woman. :o) And…they knew that I would put a stop to anything that might be said that was negative. If they made a mistake in front of her it would be much more embarrassing and they weren’t sure if she could smooth it over. So they completely shut down.

This was a very important discussion. This group is going on next year to another world. Some will
be in college classes and others will be in the work world….all will be out of my room when they get the opportunity to use the language. It’s time that they understand, and be truly confident in, their own abilities. It was time for them to realize that being embarrassed or worried is going to keep them from too many great things in life.

So we talked about the Affective Filter, what it is and how it works. We talked about how “an object in motions stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest” (Thank you Uncle Ted for teaching me high school Physics!!) We talked about getting started, mistakes and all, is the only way to get past the fear. Our lovely young college student shared her stories about her feelings when she first arrived for study in Argentina and some of the mistakes that she made.

Then we went back to the lesson……and it was as if someone had opened the floodgates. The conversations began and it was amazing. Light bulbs!! Not just for them, not just for my trainee, but for me as well. It takes very little for the Affective Filter to kick in. The relationships our students have with us and with each other are extremely important. And a little bit of encouragement, honesty, conversation and faith can go a long way.

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.

You Are Not Alone ..Students and Tragedy Archived Post 4.15.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Students and Tragedy

(Originally posted 4/15/13)
Tomorrow will be the second time in the past few months that we will have to get up in the morning and go to school after a tragedy. These are the moments we feel most helpless, and yet, these are the times that we have the most to offer. We need to approach tomorrow with grace and dignity.

Parents all over the country would like to stay home tomorrow with their children…and won’t be able to. We will have the responsibility of facing the day with their children. We must take that responsibility very seriously. We cannot let our own fears, doubts, prejudices….anything negative…invade the space we bring to the classroom. Our students need to know, again, that adults feel and adults grieve, but adults are calm, strong, and caring when children need those things most. That is our job.

It won’t be easy. This tragedy too is personal for many of us. Newtown touched us because it took place in a school…in our home away from home…to children and teachers. It rocked us and it rocked our students. This situation in Boston hits close to home as well. Many of us have gone to college, or have loved ones with college connections, to Boston. Boston is a city full of American history. Many of us visited there or vacationed there with our families. Many of us are also runners. Many teachers run. It keeps them sane. Most of us know at least one person who has run the Marathon. Perhaps you yourself have run it…or have been there to see those runners pass by that exact spot.

What is hardest is that it makes us feel so very vulnerable. Particularly if you spent the evening watching the coverage over and over again. It will be tempting to share our sorrow, our frustration, and more with our students. We must be careful about what we say and how we say

it…whether we are speaking directly to students or to colleagues within earshot of students. Each age group has it’s own vulnerabilities.We must be aware of those even as we deal with our own emotions. Tomorrow, as always, the children come first.

So know that tomorrow, we will all be in this together. We’ll be tired. We’ll be sad. We’ll be worried. We’ll be angry. But we’ll be the only adult in a room full of children….who need us to be a source of calm and strength. So when it’s tough, close your eyes for a moment and call on the strength of a colleague who, that very minute, will be in the same position in another classroom.

You will not be alone.

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.

A Light in The Darkness Archived Post 9.30.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships

(Originally posted 9/30/14)

These past few weeks have been difficult. We are struggling with how the new pre-assessments required by our district have affected our relationships with our students. It has been soul-sucking to say the least. We work so hard in the first few weeks in our department to create and maintain an environment of welcoming, trust, companionship and caring. Then we have to take an entire week to test our students, with a test that we had not seen, on material we, and they, knew that they did not know using skills that we, and they, knew that they had not yet developed.

Our students rose to the occasion beautifully. But it was still heart-breaking. I would say more, but I still don’t trust my emotions enough to put it on the blog.

Our goal this week was to disregard whatever “curriculum” plans we had in mind, and focus the entire week on activities and interactions that re-established an environment of success and trust. (my colleagues are amazing, by the way) Then I was out sick for two days! I feel like it has been an uphill road to get (back) to where I wanted to be three weeks ago.

As always, it is the students that lift us up. I’ll share “Brian”‘s story with you this morning. Brian is a senior and this is his second year as my student. I know his family very well professionally and personally, but I didn’t feel that Brian and I had much of a connection. He is extremely bright, and extremely quiet. It has always been hard to get a response from Brian, in or out of class. I have never really known if he is shy, withdrawn, non-communicative, anxious, socially awkward or if I just don’t register on his scale of “things important enough for a 16 year old to get involved with.”

(I don’t take that personally, many times I was so involved in my own world at 16 that I couldn’t have cared LESS about my high school teachers!!!) If I asked Brian a question, I would get, after a long pause, a one or two word answer at best.

One day last spring, after class had ended, Brian walked over to my desk and said, “I’d like to know more about colleges that teach languages. I think that I would like to become an interpreter. I really like this class.” From a student who rarely smiled, much less answered. He left the room so quickly that I didn’t even put together a response!! And that was the end of our communication for the year.

On Friday, Brian came to my room at the beginning of one of my planning periods and asked for a pass to come in. He said that he had no friends in his Sr. Lounge that period and that he got bored.I gave him a pass, he came back, started talking and didn’t stop for 35 minutes!!!!!!!

The conversation started when he asked if I had ever heard of “vocaloids”. (I hadn’t) and asked if he could show me an example of some songs that he really liked on youtube. (like this one)

He said that this song really put into words how he had been feeling about the world for a long time and that it taught him that he had created a very small, protected, but unhappy world of his own to live in. It was a dark place and he thought about leaving the world to escape it. He realized that if were strong enough mentally and emotionally to do that then he also had the strength to step out of it and look for happiness and purpose.

How does one respond to that?

What an incredible young man. What a gift on a dark day, in a dark week.

His message to me was that he didn’t give up. And he wanted me to know that. Having been there myself at his age, and numerous times after that, I was humbled and honored.

That is what four years of departmental support and safety can bring to a child. I am his third Spanish teacher. The two that he had before me had created a safe path for him to be on. He trusted me as he trusted them. Some people need years before the feeling of safety allow them to step out verbally into the world. Input before output. Not just of language, but of trust, confidence and self-acceptance.

Before he left for his next class Brian said to me, ” I appreciate that I can be myself and that you are interested. It feels good to know that. We can talk about what matters in this class and you will listen.” From a boy who only two days ago started to speak….

There are Brians in every class. Just know this. Because you many not see the connection does not mean that language acquisition and personal development are not occurring. Trust me, it’s happening.

I was just lucky enough this week that Brian shared his light with me.

with love,
Laurie

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

R and E: Systems Are Not Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

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

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

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

A classroom system organizes things like:

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

*how papers are distributed and collected

*how grades are assigned and communicated

*how the set up and clean up of activities occur

*how the room is decorated

*how and when evaluations occur

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

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

but….

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

There is no right way to do any of them.

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

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

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

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

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

R and E: Trust And The Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

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

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

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

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

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

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

These are mine…

1. Pay attention when someone is communicating.

2. Ask questions when there is confusion.

3. Point out when there is a problem.

4. Make a situation better rather than worse.

5. Try not to offend or harm.

6. Join in.

7. Appreciate and honor.

8. Honor individuals.

9. Honor relationships.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it or not. :o)

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

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

Totally against all of my rules. :o)

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

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

* When it is cultural, like after a sneeze.

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

* During lessons for acquisition.

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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