The “Uninterested” Archived Post 11.7.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships, Tough Students

(Originally posted 11/7/10)

Marc has started an amazing forum for TPSRers in Japan. His thoughtful questions generate a lot of discussion. I responded to one of his posts on that list and wanted to share that answer here because we all have those “uninterested” students.

Dear Marc,

I wonder if it might be worthwhile to look at a couple of other options. It may be that your lower-level students are not skilled at using their imagination or visualization skills. So not only are things that aren’t about them not interesting….they don’t exist literally…they can’t “see” anything that you are talking about and so they definitely get bored with that information.

Students who are very literal often display some or many of the following characteristics:

* they answer in one or two word utterances even in L1

* they don’t ask questions/display curiosity

* they like activities which result in a concrete result ie a game w/ a score

* they value personal privacy

* they see information of any kind on a “need to know” continuum…if they don’t have a concrete reason to need to know/share, they don’t.

* they are often very good at mechanical skills: fixing an engine, building etc.

* they do not enjoy reading

* they prefer action films to romance/comedy etc.

These students actually need storytelling, but are missing a key skill: imagination. They are the students who need, in increments, illustrations and the opportunity to add details to stories so that they can “see” what the story is about. They need to start with short stories and build as the year progresses to longer pieces. They need immediate feedback.

Another possibility is that these are students who have no idea that they can be successful. They have been labeled for years as “low-achieving”. They don’t even see themselves as students and here you are expecting them to pay attention and answer as students. It may take a while for them to begin to see that this IS something that they can do. Then, even when they do begin to see themselves as successful, they may freak out and react to that as well. It may always feel like you are pulling teeth with these kids because you will be. They stopped giving willingly in the classroom shortly after their first days of school when they realized that the system was not for them and didn’t like them. (even if the Japanese system doesn’t “fit” that concept, human beings do.

Regardless of the culture that we grew up in, we all have a need to be recognized and appreciated. )

These students will not respond as predictably as your higher-achievers, but their progress will be incredibly powerful and rewarding….and they willl progress!!!! The difference is that high-achieving students tend to progress predictably and in a linear fashion. This group will lay “dormant” for periods of time and then make leaps when you least expect it. That is how they grow. But they are the students for whom TPRS can be life-changing. Teaching them can be career-changing. Keep us posted!

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.

Windows and Doors Archived Post 4.29.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Tough Students

(originally posted 4/29/10)

At one point I considered naming this website “Wide Open Windows”.    I love the idea of flinging the windows open and changing the view, the perspective, the very air inside of a room with one movement.   In truth, there are many little steps that take place before windows, or doors, open….and we are often not aware of them at all.  So, when the light and air come peeking, or rushing, in it truly takes us by surprise…..and oh did I see that happen this week!!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog  about getting past adolescent armor.    Here is a piece from it:

“I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up.  Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event.  Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover.   Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation.  Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door.  It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor. ”

Sure enough, since I wrote that two different students reached out and turned the handle on the door….even if just a bit.   One of them is a young man who has planned all year to drop out at age 16.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn 16 this year.     So, for him, this year has been one long vacuum.   He is one of those students who will literally just sit….and do absolutely nothing.   His teachers, parents and counselors have been trying to sell him the merits of at least working for a GED….but he hasn’t shown much interest…only disdain.    In Spanish 1 we have been watching Selena and for one period we did a webquest about the singer.   I was surprised to see that he had logged in to a website and was reading.   Halfway through the period he starts waving his hand wildly and called me over.  “Hey Profe!”  This in itself is unusual.  :o)  “Did you know that Selena got a GED diploma?  That’s cool.  There she was, getting rich and famous and all and she still decided to do it.”     Oh yes, very cool.

The second student shouldn’t really be in my Spanish 1 class.   He was only in the 8th grade program for a few months before he wa pulled out to prepare for the grade 8 ELA tests….so….he had about 10 weeks of Spanish while the rest of my students had 40 weeks before they started class with me this year.    One of his best friends in class is another student like the one I described above.    The other left the district about two months ago.   This kid tries very hard to be invisible in my room.   He doesn’t offer eyes to teach to, conversation to interact with or even a response some days.   He also called me over to show me something during the webquest, however, it was not anything on the monitor.    He pulled the barrel of a paintball gun out of his backpack.   (It’s a plastic tube, but I have two paintball-playing sons so I recognized it)  He wanted to show me how he had “painted” the piece with black and green Sharpies to make it look camouflaged.   We chatted about paintball for a minute, then he got to work on the webquest.

Two students who prefer not to engage.  Two students who try hard not to get involved.  Two students offering me a connection.  A few years ago I would have dismissed those moments as meaningless.   A few years ago I didn’t understand the amount of work and effort (on their part) that it took to get to that tiny first step.   A few years ago I had no idea of the power of an interaction initiated by a student.  A few years ago I thought it was attitude rather than armor.  A few years ago I would have missed two opportunities.  Open doors.  Open windows.  I’ll take them.  I’m glad that I had written about them earlier this week, or I might have missed these two moments.

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 You See Part 2 …Archived Post 4.27.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships, Tough Students

(originally posted 4/27/10)

He was an athlete, a talented one.  He had a wise-ass attitude towards most adults, particularly those in authority.  He attended school often enough to stay eligible to play sports, but not any more than he needed to.   He smoked a lot of pot.   He didn’t hand work in on time…when he did it.  He was not voted most likely to succeed.

He now owns a highly-successful construction firm.  He bought his first house the summer he graduated from high school.  He owns a number of rental properties.  He stopped smoking pot when he saw how his pot-smoking employees made a mess of things.  He often hires men that are on parole or probation and gives them a second chance at life.  He is a devoted and responsible dad.   I’d say he is a success.

She was the snottiest student most teachers had ever encountered.  She had a small but very loyal group of friends.  She absolutely refused to work with anyone else…ever.    She was condescending.   She had a look that could flatten you.   She always gave the impression that she was smarter, prettier, better than everyone else….and that you had better treat her that way.   She questioned every grade.    She quietly insulted people.   She was not voted most likely to succeed.

She is now pursuing a Ph.D at one of the most prestigious universities in America.   She spends enormous amounts of her spare time advocating for the poor in Rwanda.   She travels to Africa and back several times a year, even volunteering to live in huts and use outhouses.    She raises money to help young men combat hunger and poor nutrition.  She makes presentations in churches and schools about her mission.  I’d say that she is a success.

 

He was a kid who made friends easily.  Maybe too easily.   It was often difficult for him to be quiet in class when the teacher was speaking.  He spent a lot of time checking with his friends to make sure that they were getting the information.  He hated to read….in fact, he didn’t really start reading until the summer between third and fourth grade.    He got bored easily.   He often got in trouble for defending a friend if a teacher was mean or sarcastic.   He missed enormous amounts of school when he developed a severe anxiety disorder.    He was not even considered likely to succeed.

He is now a prolific reader and owns a library’s worth of books.   He’s won awards for playwriting.   He’s a sophomore in college majoring in business and creative writing…but he really has the heart of a teacher.   He has maintained his friends from high school and has added a new crew as well.   He carries a B+ average and has helped several friends get enrolled at the local community college….kids who were told that they would never be “college material.”   I’d say that he is a success.

She was raised by a dad who was a drug addict and left to fend for herself even as a preschooler.   She was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in her junior year of high school.    She had to redo the entire year.   She didn’t have running water.   She rarely had new clothes, a real haircut or a vacation.   She had few friends in school.    She wore caution tape for a belt.     She was considered far from likely to succeed.

She is graduating from a top-notch four year college with a double major in psychology and philosophy.    She has worked with professors at Brown and Harvard.   She works with young women who are trying to get off of the streets.    She spent a summer as a camp counselor for young people with a myriad of social and psychological problems.   She gave her brother a computer as a high school graduation present.     She has been accepted by the University of Edinburgh (in Scotland, among other schools) for a Master’s program in Philosophy.    She has an entire group of friends whom she will miss dearly….and will most certainly miss her.   I’d say that she is a success.

I could go on and on.   One has traveled the world, earned a Master’s degree in Biology, routinely supports family members in need and hopes someday to become an MD.    One is working his way through college to earn a degree in Italian.  One is a wonderful family man in South Dakota, an active and amazing part of his community.   One is a gifted musician, producing her own CD’s, appearing in cafe’s around the city, working with the developmentally disabled and in a loving relationship with a dear man and two miniature dachsunds.   One is a loving, hard-working single teen mom working her way through college…..without the help of her mother.   One is a soldier stationed in Germany.   None of them were considered “a success” in high school.    They are all real, wonderful, amazing people.

Don’t let adolescent challenges, armor, attitudes and family situations fool you.   What you see is rarely what you get.

 

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 You See Part 1 Archived Post…4.26.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships, Tough Students

(originally posted 4/26/10)

(Please remember that I am working out my thoughts as I write…not necessarily preaching a sermon!!!)

A number of years ago I wrote a piece for the moretprs list about kids with “attitude.”   Lots of things have changed in a decade, but the fact that adolescents often have “attitude” has not.  This piece talks about what you see….so I will start with it:

******************************************************************************************************

UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS WITH “ATTITUDE”

Okay ladies and gentlemen…here it is..

We are a threat to hair flippers.

It is a well-developed protection mechanism designed to preserve a lifestyle which focuses on these young ladies’ social strengths…beauty and social position.  Hair flipping is an art and a well-practiced communication device.  It says:

DON’T THREATEN MY WORLD.

Other students have this protection mechanism as well.  Each group has its own:  The Swagger and Swearers, The Smell like Smoke Shufflers, The Eyebrow Raisers,  The Can’t Stop Gigglingers, The Smart Remarkers,The Grunters, The I Still Love Last Year’s Teacherers,  The Eye Rollers, The Incessant Whisperers, and among others..another one of our favorites…The Great Sarcastic Remarkers.

These devices are automatic…particularly at the beginning of the school year when you don’t know them, they don’t know you , and the class doesn’t know each other.  The mechanism says clearly:

THIS IS WHAT I AM COMFORTABLE DOING AND BEING IN FRONT OF OTHERS.  READ MY MECHANISM!!

In our position as language teachers we ask them almost immediately to do things WAY outside of their comfort zone.  It is very very threatening..  It is threatening because:

THEY ARE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. (to them a mistake is NOT always doing something wrong..sometimes it is doing the wrong thing)

THEY DON’T KNOW THEY CAN TRUST US.

THEY WANT TO CONTROL WHAT OTHERS THINK OF THEM.

Deactivating these mechanisms takes love and time.  Be yourself.  Love them. Push gently.  Be patient.  Show them that you are proud of your weird and wonderful and individual self.   They will see you as a role  model…even if they have to be out of their teens before they begin to emulate you.

LOVE AND TIME.

Stuff we all need.

*********************************************************************

I wrote this just as I was beginning my TPRS journey and it resonates even more with me today.  Personalization is so central to TPRS…yet our students often work very hard to cover and protect what is really important to them.  How do we combat that?

First, we accept that they have reasons for their cover.  It really doesn’t matter if we like those reasons or not…what matters is that we acknowledge who/what walks in our door.  How? By treating them as real, regular people…regardless of their hair color, hair cut, number (or location) of piercings, choice of music, addiction to video games etc.

(now…that doesn’t mean that I am advocating the acceptance of foul language, degrading t shirts, pants on the ground et.al)

One of the requirements in my room is that we treat others AS IF they are intelligent, interesting, capable and important.  It is as hard for me, some days, to remember that as it is for my students.  Frankly, they don’t always act intelligent, interesting, capable and important.  I have some students who make an extreme effort NOT to appear to be any of those things….

However, treating them AS IF they are really does work.  In time, using patience, and understanding that they may ultimately work hardest to keep their “cover” in place…but it does work.

It has been much easier to do since I took Susie Gross’ advice to “teach to the eyes” to heart.  It takes them a while to get used to being taught to that way…because it is harder to maintain a cover that way.   But it works….and the cover starts to melt…or at the very least to transform so that it more closely resembles the heart of the adolescent within…and less like the suit of armor that protects it.

I’ve also learned to open my eyes outside of the classroom.  It is amazing how different some students can be outside of my four walls.  I’ve seen spiky-haired, black-rimmed-eyed giants play piggy-back with their younger siblings.  I might see an exquisite water-color displayed that was created by a lineman.  I have had extremely well-coiffed young ladies who can dismantle a four-wheeler…and reassemble it.  I have seen tiny fairy-like creatures kick and run like wildfire on the playing field.  I am constantly surprised by the many facets of students’ interests, abilities and personalities.

I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up.  Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event.  Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover.   Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation.  Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door.  It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor.

It is my job to be open, ready and PAYING ATTENTION…so that I do not miss 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.

Love The Ones You’re With Archived Post …4.24.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Tough Students

(originally posted 4/24/10)

There is a difference between going in to school every day to teach students who should appreciate us and don’t and going in each day to teach students who don’t appreciate education but have the potential to.

The difference is in the emotional weight of the perspective.   The difference is in the expectations.

When we perceive ourselves as going in every day to teach students who SHOULD appreciate an education, SHOULD  understand the power inherent in knowledge, SHOULD see the value of the work that develops skills, SHOULD thank us for choosing this career and working hard at it, we are placing OUR values and expectations on our students.     When, invariably, our low-achieving students fail to live up to those expectations there is a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger.

So why do they fail?   Because we are teaching the students we think that we SHOULD have….rather than teaching the students we DO have.

Frankly, the students we think that we SHOULD have do not exist.  I don’t care if you teach in an urban, rural or suburban setting.  It doesn’t matter if you teach 40 kids in a class or 14.  If we don’t get to know these students that we have right now, we do not know whom we are teaching.

What I often hear sounds something like this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work.

These kids don’t do homework.

And so on.

What those folks (and I myself have been one) are REALLY saying is this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work….AND THEY SHOULD…(like the kids I used to have, like last year’s group, like when I first started teaching, like I did, like my own children would etc. etc.)

These kids don’t do homework…AND THEY SHOULD…(like they would if they were smarter, like they would if their parents gave a damn, like they would if they had had me for a teacher last year etc.)

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to teach the students we have…not the ones we wish we had.

But unless we stop comparing our students to who we think that they should be, we cannot truly get to know, love and teach the students that we have.

I know that you may not agree with me….but think back to my original post

This is an idea I think it is worthwhile to consider.   Who knows how powerful it could be?   Sometimes it takes just a little tiny turn of the handle to open the door…….

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 Chrysalis…Archived Post 3.17.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Relationships, Tough Students

(Originally posted 3./17/10)

Ok…Let’s face it.  Some folks don’t like caterpillars very much.   They are very wormy-looking.  They might look a little slimy or hairy.  But for the most part, lots of people think that they are cute little critters.  They appear to be curious, lifting up their little antennae-decked heads to sniff around.   Their colors are often beautiful.  And as we all know…they are hungry.  :o)

Children have been compared to caterpillars before.    Yes, I know…they often run around in a way caterpillars never do.  But……when it’s time to get ready to go to school?  Put on their pajamas?  Yup.  Caterpillars.

They are curious.  They can be fuzzy.  They can be adorable.  They can also be hairy, slimy and wormy.  And boy oh boy can they eat!!

If children are caterpillars, then adolescents must living in a chrysalis.  How perfect is that? They create a tough, ugly, protective coat of armor.  Underneath it they look as if they are sleeping…if you can see them at all.  There is little visible movement, although, over time, a great deal of change.     The shell keeps the world at bay until those changes take place.

Now caterpillars are a little luckier.  They can plant themselves on a tree branch and hang out.   No one is making them get up, get dressed, get to class, get a job and get moving while they get their act together.  Teens are not as lucky.  It’s no wonder then that they look for ways to pull the armor (hoodie, hair, shades) over their eyes and withdraw.  They need that withdrawal in order to work on their metamorphosis.

In our society, we have pushed adolescents to come so far out of their shells that it is inevitable that they find ways to crawl back in.   Society says “Get good grades, take as many classes as you can, get a part-time job, play a sport, play an instrument, go to church, have friends, have a boy/girlfriend, help around the house, volunteer, demonstrate leadership….. or you will not be successful.”

Is it any wonder that our students end up using chemicals, over-involved in sex or participating in self-injury?    That shell is there for a reason.  The evolving creature is very very vulnerable.  Yet, this is the time that we push the hardest for young people to get out and expose themselves to the world.

I’m not advocating that we lock our teens up in a protective fortress.  They are, after all, NOT caterpillars.   However, I do think that we occasionally owe them time, space, activities, and permission to withdraw…just a bit….from the childhood and adult activities going on all around them…in order to find a little peace.  They have enough going on inside to keep them busy.   Maybe if we did that, we wouldn’t find them going so far off of the deep end to do it for themselves.

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.

They Really Need Us…Archived Post 3.13.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Tough Students, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/13/10)

Warning:  My personal opinion only.  I know that some people will see this differently.   That’s ok with me.  :o)  (I sent a version of this to the moretprs listserv in addition to posting it here.)

This is the time of year when some kids just push us over the edge.  Maybe they are mouthy.   Maybe they are combative.  Maybe they are passive-aggressive.  Maybe they try to be solid lumps of stone covered by a hoodie.    On the listserv, in emails, on Facebook, in the faculty room….teachers are letting out their frustrations.  I know that sometimes these kids seem incomprehensible….especially since many of us really enjoyed classes in high school. There may be a lot of reasons why they are in our classrooms and why it appears that they have no good reason to be there. Here are some possibilities…(warning…maybe too many of them!!):

* They did not choose their schedules. A parent, counselor, former teacher, administrator thought they should be in there…or even more likely has no idea that they are, much less whether or not they should be.

* Students often “get” that they have to “take” a class. They don’t always “get” that that means participating in and passing a class. Oh yes, I”m serious. What they are told is: You have to take such and such. Imagine that you have a very literal mind. What would that mean to you?

* Many of them have experienced classes where they COULD sit, not participate, and pass. Who knows how or why…but I’ve seen it happen. If they got through one, they may be fairly certain that they cdan do it in your room.

* Many of them are very very bright. They are used to absorbing enough material to get by without doing much else.

* They really don’t care if they get anything out of it. School is a place to escape home. That’s all that matters.

* They are suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Just being there takes all the effort they have. Participating is, truly, too much to expect.

* They are hurting. Bruised inside by someone’s abuse or a situation beyond their control. Their coping mechanism is an ugly whiplash response to anyone and anything.

* They feel inadequate. (even, well…especially…if they are very smart) This is a new venue, or one in which they feel smart enough in. They feel lost and respond by striking out or hiding.

* They are very intuitive. They recognize when we need to be liked and find it distasteful. (perhaps because that need is so great within themselves) So they throw it back in our faces by rejecting us and our class.

* They are over-exercising their newly-developed skills of analysis don’t know it. They have analyzed us and found us lacking. it’s a natural part of growing up and yes…it can be annoying and irritating and frankly, rude.

* They don’t know how to deal with us. We may be too loud or too silly or too whatever for their taste and comfort level. Language teachers are NOT like other teachers and while they have had many math and English teachers over the years, they haven’t had many of us to deal with….and especially not CI based language folks. We don’t stand up in the front and speak at them while they sit there and absorb it. Remember, kids are HIGHLY REWARDED for being silent in other classes.

* We are women. Sorry to say it, but it is true of many teachers in the profession. Many teens are reworking their relationships with the opposite sex. Or the same sex. Or someone who is parent-like.

* They trust us enough to not behave well. They know that we are not going to swear at them, write them up every day, call  their parents and rant, be sarcastic in front of the entire class.

* They have an undiagnosed, or unaddressed learning issue. Many times they have learned how to fade into the background in other subjects. They haven’t figured out how to do it in a language. Every year we seem to uncover students with unrecognized issues.

It is probably very complicated. That is why we can rarely solve it. We can only do what we can. The hardest thing to do is to not take it personally. As I said before, when we were students, most of us would have done anything and everything necessary to do well and to learn the material.

THEY ARE NOT US. We cannot try to understand them from our own perspective. If we really want to understand them, we have to look at their world from their perspective.

If we want them to be us, well, frankly that ain’t gonna happen.

If we want to survive them, then we need to register them on our radar, but refrain from locking in on them as a target.

If we want to help them, then we need to first accept them as they are. We don’t have to like all of their behaviors, or even tolerate those behaviors in our classroom. But we do have to accept that they are their own quirky, complicated, adolescent beings. And that they have the right to be a student in our classroom….even if they don’t always act that way.

We will also have to bring in a support system. For us as much as for them.

This may seem very difficult. But I promise you…this is REAL teaching. The kids that smile and do all of their work and raise their hands and try really hard. They don’t need you. They will flourish with any teacher. But the tough nuts? They need you the most.

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.