• Home
  • Category: Teacher Training

Trustbuster #3 8.29.10

(Originally posted 8/29/10)


Teenagers may want to be treated as adults…but they do not want to be THE adult. They want us to be the adult.

They will test us. They will push our buttons. They want to know exactly what the limits are and how far they can go…for reasons too numerous to mention here. That is how they are wired.

However, in the mind of a teen, a REAL adult,…..an adult they can count on, look up to, lean on and learn from…knows where the boundaries are and isn’t afraid to enforce them. They find it very hard to trust, or respect, someone who doesn’t.

If we know ourselves as adults, as teachers, we will know what our boundaries are. We will know what we will tolerate, what we will accept, what we will encourage….and what we won’t. Our students know that about us…even if we don’t. Remember the adage: What you allow, you encourage.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strategically pick your battles. Drawing a line in the sand for everything will just leave you spinning around in circles erasing your own lines with your footprints.

Remember that students may have nine teachers, several coaches and a complicated assortment of parental figures ….each with his/her own set of boundaries to deal with.

So think about your boundaries. Figure out the essential ones. Communicate what is really important ahead of time. Communicate everything else as needed. Stand firmly when necessary.

For yourself. For your students.

with love,

All content of this website ©Hearts for Teaching 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.

Trustbuster #4 Archived Post 8.12.10

(Originally posted 8/12/10)

It has become a stock phrase in many American classrooms: “Do you want to end up flipping burgers for a living?!!” Used at just the right time, in the right place, with the right kids it seems very funny. It’s not. Ever.

Sarcasm is the tool of the weak folks. I can get away with saying this because, personally I am really good at sarcasm. I used it frequently, in my younger days, as a classroom management tool . It shuts kids up. It also gave me a way to be popular with kids who appreciated my witty ability to make other people look and feel like losers. Bottom line is….sarcasm produces shame.

That is why it works. I had to train myself to stop using it.Just because I think I am intelligent does NOT give me the right to make other people feel stupid.

Stopping sarcasm opened up many amazing doors for me with my students. Most importantly, I try to become a role model for other ways of handling frustration, communication problems, and basically BEING OUT OF CONTROL OF A SITUATION. You see, Sarcasm is a bright person’s way of taking control of a possible out-of-control situation. But that is another blog….

The reality of the Fast Food Future is that it isn’t the worst thing that can happen to folks. In many families, an adult working in fast food is what puts food on the table and health insurance within reach. Do we really have the right to insult that?

In some families, working in fast food is a far better alternative to what is presently going on….especially in this economy. Let’s face it: working in fast food is WORKING. It’s showing up every day, leaving smelling like French fries, putting up with uppity know-it-all fast food eaters, and getting a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with doing a day’s work. Anywhere.I know, I know….that isn’t what you mean when you say it. You want kids to realize their potential.

You want kids to aspire to wearing a necktie or a stethoscope or at the very least, not smelling like French fries at the end of a long day. But frankly, what you mean when you say it doesn’t really matter. It’s what THEY HEAR when we say it that matters.

What they hear is:

Teachers are smart and you kids are stupid. (and they all know that folks with the same degrees we have are making much more money somewhere else so they don’t quite buy that)

Teachers have the power to insult and students have to take it. (and they WILL find ways to get their power back, trust me on this….)

Teachers are completely disconnected from reality and shouldn’t be taken seriously. (ouch)

Sarcasm is allowed, accepted and encouraged when you are in charge or more educated. (and they will take advantage of that and spread their own sarcasm on the less fortunate whenever the opportunity arises.)

Teachers have a dim view of people who are lower-income and less-educated than they are. (and Teachers think that they have the right to be that way)

Now I know that many of us use those phrases with love and humor. We truly believe that the kids “get” what we mean and that they know that we aren’t putting anyone down. I’m going to challenge you on that. I think that they get the message loud and clear….no matter what kind of we put on it…and that it is the wrong message to be giving our kids.

We MAY think that fast food is a great place for teens but not a future to aspire to. There is nothing wrong with that. But using Fast Food Future sarcasm and insults to control classroom behavior or motivate our students will destroy any chance that we have to create strong relationships in our classrooms. We need to drop that line and find other ways to open doors for kids.

With love,

All content of this website ©Hearts For Teaching 2009-present 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.

Where’s The Beef? Archived Post 8.5.10

(originally posted 8/5/10)
In case you’ve never seen it….

If you weren’t watching tv in the 80’s (or if you just want a good laugh), check out the youtube link for the (in)famous “Where’s the beef?” commercial. It’s a classic.

Not only do I love the commercial…I love the message: Hey …where is the stuff that REALLY matters?

That is a great question. That is why CI-based methods rock. If you are looking to “beef” up language acquisition, right now, CI is the best way to go!!

Last week in Los Alamitos, a group of people got together to support each other and develop skills. It was not a formal session organized by the conference. It was a group that gravitated together around a desire to really dig into the ‘meat” of the issue: How can I be a better teacher?

Becoming a better CI-based teacher is so very much like becoming more fluent in a new language (or even in a first language!) We have to be surrounded by the method, immersed in the teaching moment, and gently directed by a focused structure.

When we work with students to provide an environment that supports acquisition, we MUST INTERACT with the students USING THE LANGUAGE. When we are working to acquire teaching skills we must do the same. We need to teach…with a goal in mind..to increase COMPREHENSIBLE INTERACTION with our students. This is how we a) build relationships and b) provide language acquisition opportunities.Learning ABOUT CI teaching is beautiful, fascinating, interesting. But it’s just the bun people.

Whenever possible, take the opportunity to teach, in front of a supportive friend, using the skills you will need in the classroom. That is where you will find the beef!!Yeah I know, easier said than done….but the pieces are in place:

1. Scripting. It’s long been a part of CI-based teacher prep…and you can share scripts with other teachers as a non-threatening way to get started. How does this look? Do you think that this is where the questioning should go? Can you think of other questions that I could ask? If you are already a scripter,then all you need to do is find the email address of a willing conspirator and you have begun your journey.

2. Skype. Wow. Teach in front of the camera….and your audience can be there without being there!!!! We can practice teach any skill…with or without students and get feedback.

3. Blogs/Listservs. Find a partner. Ask and ye shall receive. Folks are out there…I promise! Check out the map at www.tprstorytelling.com Pick a moment that went well or that didn’t . Write about it. Get feedback.

4. Invite someone in. Someone in your department. Someone in your area. A student from another class. A coach. Many of the folks who coached at NTPRS or IFLT are available to come to your school and work right with you in your classroom!! How cool is that?!!

5. Attend a coaching workshop. Whenever, wherever you see one. Ask for one if you don’t . Organize one. Not sure how? Contact me (lclarcq@yahoo.com) and I’ll put you in touch with all of the information that you need.

6. Watch. Sometimes it is outside our comfort zone to get up and share our teaching selves with other teachers. Wayyyyyyyyyyyyy outside. So take the opportunity to be a student or an observer in a coaching situation. There is so much to learn there.

Where’s the beef? In the teaching. In the moment. In the opportunity to stand up, get into it, talk about it, break it down, try it again. I saw it over and over and over and over again. I promise you. If you find the right people to work with…it will change your teaching…and your life.

With love,

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.

It’s the Teacher! Archived Post 7.29.10

(originally posted 7/29/10)

So…I have to constantly ask myself: What is the goal of this activity? For my STUDENTS? (and their brains of course!) I want my students to interact with me in the target language in a way that will allow them to acquire as much language as possible. Students must be doing ALL THREE of these things during an activity in order for me to reach my goal.


In the target language

In order to

Acquire language


As I listen to the ideas and suggestions about shower curtains offered by all of these passionate and experienced teachers, it is so easy for me to forget about my goal. The teacher in me gets a “pedagogical high” from thinking about all of the other exciting possibilities and I forget the goal!

My teacher brain is just a’rockin’!! It’s a game? Ooooooo!! Kids love competition! ( teacher-brain starts tracking all of the articles/presentations about involving boys in competition in the classroom…..). It’s visual? Oooooo!! It’s right-brained! It’s multi-modal!! (teacher-brain scans all previously-stored info on teaching/learning styles and brain research……). And it a micro-millisecond I am off on my own teacher-track…having totally forgotten about my REAL goal: to provide activities so that my students will INTERACT with me in the TARGET LANGUAGE so that
they will ACQUIRE LANGUAGE. So what do I REALLY have to have in an activity in order for that to happen?

A) Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language and…..
A situation where we interact using it.


1. A situation where we interact…
2. Using Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay So, what all of these teachers didn’t tell me is what I really need to know.

HOW do they interact with their students in the target language so that the language is useable enough, compelling enough, personal enough, repeated enough, understandable enough for my students to acquire language as a result of that interaction?

THAT is what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong…the activities are PHENOMENAL!!!! But as you read them, remember that it is HOW these teachers interact with student during the activities that facilitates the language acquisition….not the activities themselves.

It is why watching other teachers is so powerful. It isn’t the shower curtain that is enthralling.

It’s THE TEACHER. It is why mastering skills is so important. It is why going back to basics, taking the chance to be coached, and learning to teach in the moment are so vital. It is the relationships developed during the activity that matter. The activity is not the vehicle that carries our students to proficiency. Compelling and Comprehended language is the vehicle. Games and projects, songs and stories, conversations and TPR are the roads we can explore with that vehicle.As teachers, we sometimes think that the trip gets a little boring….so we are constantly looking for new roads to take. What we need….is to upgrade the vehicle our students are riding in. Would you rather ride to proficiency in a broken-down jalopy or in a well-tuned “luxury” vehicle?

CI-based instruction is even better than a luxury vehicle. It won’t break down. It isn’t uncomfortable. It’s energy efficient. It feels good to be in AND it does the job…very very well.

What are your best CI teaching skills? Do the activities that you use make the most of them? Do the activities that you invest your time and energy in utilize those skills? How can you adapt an activity so that your skills create a luxury vehicle that carry your students closer to proficiency?

These are the things that I invite you to think about as you peruse these suggestions. If you don’t know…ask the person who has successfully used the activity to offer suggestions, not only about the steps involved in the activity, but about the TEACHING SKILLS utilized during the activity so that ALL ROADS LEAD TO PROFICIENCY.

I do love ideas. But I have to make sure to start paying more attention to the skills required by the
teacher and the actions required by the students once these ideas become classroom activities. It can be tough when being a teacher gets in the way of well….being a teacher!!

with love,

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.

Output Myths #2 and #3 Post 5.6.10

(originally posted 5/6/10)

Output Myth #3:

The rate at which students begin to comprehend and produce a second language is totally dependent on teacher-controlled issues save three: student motivation, student work, student “ability”-level.    


If all of the students in the class are equally motivated,

(and teachers assume that they should be)

If all of the students in the class complete the same work,

(and teachers assume that they should have)


If all of the students in the class are perceived to have the same academic skill level,

(and teachers assume that students are either “teachable” or “not teachable”.)

then they will all accomplish/learn the same material at the same rate.


those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.


those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,


students who have earned A’s will know more and be able to produce better language than students who have earned F’s.

Although I thought so for many years………………none of the above is true.

Myth #3:

Saying a word or phrase over and over and over again is the surest way to learn it.

I’d like to share a story from 2000 ( I think….) when I attended my first workshop with Susie Gross.  It was the end of day two and we had been working with a select group of words for about 16 hours.   For whatever reason, the group could NOT produce the phrase le vert d’eau (the glass of water …please excuse any sp/agreement errors…I haven’t used the phrase since…).

How hard could it be???????!!!!!!!!!!!  We were ALL experienced language teachers.  We had heard Susie use it over and over and over and over again.  Someone suggested that we had not “acquired” the word because we really hadn’t had to use it.  We needed to say it. Over and over and over and over.

Susie said, “NO.”   The room got very quiet.  “I don’t believe in that any longer.   I haven’t used it often enough, comprehensibly enough for you all.  That’s all.”   I didn’t believe her.  I don’t know if anyone in the room believed her.

And she began another story…which I don’t remember at all…except that I do remember her somehow inserting “le vert d’eau” in there a bazillion times.    Finally…….it clicked.   And le vert d’eau was in our lexicon.  Just like that.  And it was still there the next morning.  And it’s still there a decade later.  And I definitely don’t go around saying it out loud.  At all.

Then there is the word “escaparate”  (shop window).   I learned it in grade 9.   I never said it out loud once in high school (although I really wanted to tee hee it’s a fun word…escaparate!  like pamplemousse!!  ).   I never used it in college.  Then, when I was in Spain for a semester….there it was..in my brain…totally ready to use!!!  Too bad I couldn’t remember a single one of the question words…..which I KNOW I had to use over and over again in high school and college.  In context.   Still couldn’t remember them….

Still….I spent many years creating activities which gave students plenty of opportunities to say things in Spanish.   Games and role-plays and projects and skits and all kinds of well-conceived, well-written, well-rubricked, totally ineffective activities…..that did not help students to acquire any kind of language for the long run.with love,

with love,

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.

Soulmates Part 2 Archived Post …3.28.10

(originally posted 3/28/10)

Many times our Teaching Soulmates are not located in our own buildings or even in our own districts.   In this day and age, there are so many ways to find and keep in touch with the people who will keep us going.

Locally, look towards your Language Teachers’ Associations.  Several of my closest friends in the world, and my almas gemelas, came from WAFFLE (Wayne-Finger Lakes Foreign Language Educators) and our association with NYSAFLT (New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers).    NYSAFLT conferences have connected me with other kindred souls.

If you haven’t yet been involved with a listserv, there is always FLTEACH  and the moretprs list through Yahoo groups.  At www.moretprs.net you can find a bulletin board-type of forum and all kinds of people to chat with about teaching and life.  How do you find a teaching soulmate here?  By reading posts.  And no, you don’t have to have them all delivering messages to your inbox.  They all allow you to join and read posts on the site itself…without ever having to open a message.

Many people have soulmates on these lists…and have never even communicated with them.    Sometimes a frequent poster has a point of view or way of thinking that sparks your imagination.   You will find yourself drawn to reading his/her posts whenever you need a boost.

Sometimes “lurkers” will send a message ‘offlist” directly to a poster’s email, and an electronic exchange begins.   I have “met” several incredible individuals this way.   Then, of course, sometimes a friendship is sparked by a good old exchange of ideas on the list.  At the annual NYSAFLT, NECTFL, Central States, SWOCLT, ACTFL and other conferences, folks put dots or smileys on their nametags so that they can identify fellow listers (lurkers or not!!)

Some of the most powerful connections have come when someone writes to the group with a need, problem or concern and is rewarded with an outpouring messages, on and off-list, from other teachers.   We are here for each other in a way that is sometimes not possible in our own buildings.

Recently, websites and blogs have created another way to build a family/support system for teaching.  Check out the TPRS map for folks who have volunteered to be mentors!!

There has never been a better time to make a friend…

with love,

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.

Soulmates Archived Post…3.28.10

(originally posted 3/28/10)


Right now teachers are in a tough spot.   We are being flattened by the expectations and criticism of administration, parents, the state, the government, the media and the public.   What we really want to respond to is the needs of our students, but blindfolded, hand-tied and foot-bound by checklists and paperwork, we often feel trapped, immobilized, crushed.   The image I carry around is that of a car crushed into a little cube in the junkyard and treated like scrap, yet being expected to function as a limousine carrying important dignitaries.

It is exhausting, demeaning, frustrating and frankly, impossible.

What will keep us afloat, or drag us down, in these difficult times is each other.

It may be time to approach our interactions at school like we do our Facebook pages.   The folks that whine and complain, point out all of the difficulties and pull us down with them need a Delete button right now.   Not an Erase button….they are still our colleagues.   But a Delete button, that lets us go and visit them from time to time, when we want to……rather than listen to their obviously and continously negative status day after day.

What we need to do, and are rarely equipped to do, is to seek out our teaching soulmates.

We have to do it ourselves.  Although most schools have mentor programs, they are designed to match subject area teachers to assist with curriculum and alignment.   They are NOT designed to match teachers who will feed each other professionally with inspiration and a shared passion for teaching.  How do we do we find those people?

1)  Listen to the students.   Whom do they talk about with respect?    Are there teachers whose activities they are still talking about with enthusiasm when they get to your room?   These are teachers that you may want to get to know better as educational partners.

2)  Look around the building.  Who is displaying student work?  Who is inviting folks to observe student displays, inventions, competitions?

3)  Listen in on classes as you walk by.  I can promise you that incredible things are happening in your building.  We just rarely have the time to notice.  Pick one period a week where you take just 5 minutes and walk around the building and take it in.

4)  Think about the club advisers.  Who is doing cool stuff with the students?  Activities that resonate with your approach to education?

5)  When you are at a conference day at school, sit near people you think may think like you do in order to get to know them better.

In some buildings, it is actually AGAINST the school’s culture to display enthusiasm for learning new things and becoming a better teacher.    If that is the case in your school, believe me, you are not alone.  I have seen it in many places.  I also know that within those schools are deep pockets of dedicated teachers who, in their own corners of the world, are reading journals, keeping blogs, joining professional organizations and changing the world.

There is someone in your building that you can connect with as an “alma gemela” (twin soul!).   It may not be a teacher.  It may be a guidance counselor, a secretary, a custodian, a cafeteria worker, an SRP.   But I can promise you that fostering that professional friendship may keep you sane over the next few years….and be an incredible blessing in your life.

with love,

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.

Lovin’ Laughter Archived Post …3.27.10

(originally posted 3/27/10)

Yesterday was such a great day!  It was a conference day…and as most language teachers know, it’s a rare conference day that has anything good to offer.  We have gotten used to digging deep to find a way to connect what is presented on conference days to our classroom reality.  But yesterday?  Whoo hooo!!

The presenter’s name is Randy Judkins and he hails from Maine (apparently lots of good folks up there!).  Randy is a retired math teacher but un-retired educator, juggler, jester and lover of laughter and levity.   We started the day off with a wonderful presentation and worked with him in smaller groups throughout the day.  Had Randy been inspired by a language teacher early on, he would surely have become a TPRSer.  Because the reality of it is, that what Randy is, is a really great teacher.

Here is what I observed Randy do yesterday.  With a group of about 150 reluctant (we don’t do much in the way of conferences in our district) educators.  He surely recognized the reluctance, but chose to embrace it and work with it, the way any good teacher would.  By the end of the day he had won over even the most critical and curmudgeon-like folks in the group.  How?

  1.  He requested, and worked the group up to, as close to 100% participation as possible.  How?  He made it painless, easy, and fun.  He asked questions, asked for group/choral responses, and then responded.  If the response wasn’t as strong as he would have hoped, he forgave us and tried again, by changing the question, or how he wanted us to respond, just a bit….until he had nearly everyone playing along.  Even better, those who weren’t participating found their colleagues cajoling them into joing in.
  2.  He was himself.   He showed us first that he was not afraid to be open, honest, funny, risk-taking or silly.  And very smart.  He shared a bit of his own (his)story.  Not details that made us uncomfortable or that were overly personal. …but the details that showed us what we had in common.  (hold on to that thought…)
  3.  He chose individuals to participate and treated them with kindness, respect, gentle humor and dignity…even when he was being silly.
  4.  He used humor that was pure.  No sexual innuendos, no overt violence, no put-downs.  Humor that was based on the true, the unexpected, the silly, the fun elements we all experience every day.
  5.  He spoke clearly and slowly so we could catch all of the humor, interest and passion in his message.
  6.  He accepted applause graciously…as if it were a great gift.
  7.  In workshop mode, he frequently stopped to observe and reflect on his observations….because observers see much differently than participants.
  8.  He PERSONALIZED.  He asked people what they taught, what they coached, and took note of clues that they offered (consciously or not) about themselves.  Then he responded to that information.
  9.  He laughed.  At himself.  There was no greater gift yesterday than the message that it never helps to take ourselves too seriously….and how taking ourselves too seriously is one of the behaviors that separates us from our students.
  10.  He did not try to change us.  He did not tell us what we SHOULD be doing.  Instead, he offered us the opportunity to be students for a few moments.  He showed us what laughter and love in the classroom COULD do….for everyone.

I wanted to pack him in my suitcase to take to NTPRS 10 in Chicago.  I found myself wishing that I could really attend a Maine Meeting Of The Minds this summer and bring him along.  I wanted to offer him a ticket to the SoCal get-together to meet Stephen Krashen and share his gift of humor and humility with all who are attending.


Since I can’t do that…I am inviting you to visit Randy’s website at www.randyjudkins.com .  If you ever get the chance to see him…please GO!!    You will enjoy every minute of it….as a participant, as a teacher, as a TPRSer.


with love,

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.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter