What Works For One…

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt pretty good about how that went!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same material. Completely different lessons.

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

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

with love,
Laurie

Starting Over

by lclarcq on November 28th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Starting The Year

Hello from California!! I managed to be retired for all of six weeks before I moved cross country and sign on for a new job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was a good one!

For the past 30+ years I have worked in small districts in rural, upstate (seriously upstate) New York. For some of those years I taught grades K-8 but the majority of them were teaching high school students. My new job is teaching 6th-8th graders in a suburban, well-populated section of Northern California!

The students had another teacher for over 10 weeks and now we are all starting over.

I had met a few times with the sixth graders and today was our second real day together. They have been out of school for two weeks between Science Camp and Thanksgiving Vacation!!! So yes…we are really, really starting over.

The 8th graders and I got started the week before Thanksgiving. So today was day 6 for us.

I forgot how much there is to accomplish at the beginning…….

These students, all of them, are brand-new to me. Our very first accomplishment will be working together. Seriously. They are used to a different set up in class and mine requires a great deal of self-control…..or at least more than they have had to use. 🙂 I know they are capable. They know they are capable. Now…I have to get them to agree to do it.

The first day I worked with them (class sizes about 30), they were sitting with friends in groups of four. I tried to speak. I tried to get their attention. No one stopped talking. Not one student.

My pulse was racing, my face was flushed, my smile was frozen and my heart was pounding. I did not know the name of one single student. For the first time in nearly 30 years I also did not know their parents, their siblings, or even their other teachers.

I don’t know how long I stood in front of the room before I tried again. It was probably seconds…it felt like hours. I was being completely ignored.

So I tried again. I used a ‘signal’ that their former teacher had used. A few students noticed and responded half-heartedly…then kept right on talking. This was not going the way I had hoped!!!

Try number three….in a slightly louder, more authoritative voice. This time more than half of the class looked at me, shifted in their seats and mumbled a response. AND….made eye contact.

This was the most crucial moment for me. It happened in all three classes. I had to maintain eye contact with the 15 or so students spread across the room. With a smile on my face, I held my ground….for maybe 15 seconds. A small girl near me whispered to me, “I think it’s working!” I tried to just keep breathing!! One by one the rest of the group settled down and then turned around….finally realizing that something was happening. When everyone was quiet I smiled at stared at them while I (painfully!) counted to 5 in my head. Then I finally introduced myself. I think that was the most challenging 30 seconds of my teaching career.

I am dead serious.

I have no history at this school. No reputation precedes me. I felt completely naked and alone in front of those kids waiting for the silence, and for their attention. My head said…wait, wait, wait it out. My heart said…this isn’t going to work…they are going to ignore you forever.

I’d like to say that after that one encounter in each class, that I was able to establish order in a heartbeat with a look. Or at least using our signal.

Um, no. The 8th graders and I have found a direction in the week we have had together…but daily reminders, and those 30 second wait times, while not nearly so heart-pounding, still happen once during every class. The 6th graders? Well….we didn’t get much done today academically. There were maybe 10 “usable” minutes out of 35. i’m still learning names, getting them into a routine, helping them adjust to transitions and working to get them to function with a new seating system (where they all face forward and don’t sit with their friends.)

BUT…in one class 5 of those 10 usable minutes were truly beautiful. Students were asked if their vacation was “excelente” or ‘terrible” or somewhere in between. Only one girl said terrible. I asked her if the reason was a secret, she said no, she wanted to share. (Thankfully the class was quiet and listening….and this, of course, is why we needed it…) She shared in a whisper to me that her aunt had cancer. I told the class in Spanish. Then I asked, in Spanish, ‘Who has a friend, or someone in their family, with cancer?” Over half of the class raised their hands. Even though these kids had only a few weeks of Spanish, I could say to her…The class is with you. They are your friends. You are not alone.

I could tell the class that in 2013 I had cancer. And we learned the word hope.

She needed that. So did I. So did I.

with love,
Laurie

You Are Truly Doing Enough

by lclarcq on January 27th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are truly doing enough.”

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

“You are truly doing enough.”

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

Don’t let yourself hear anything different.

with love,
Laurie

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

“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

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.

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

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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: What a System Should Do Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

On the moretprs listserv,

Bob Patrick wrote: I don’t put a lot of time into it, but I always do it in Latin. I teach Latin teachers how to do these things in Latin, too, because they are the things that we all do every day, and they provide one of the easiest ways to do CI and multiple repetitions. So, while it should take up as little time as possible, don’t miss the opportunity to do it in L2.

Sara wrote:

I agree that the classroom organization doesn’t help the students learn Spanish but, I believe an unorganized class does detract from the learning.

With a solid system in place, I’m free to focus on the language and now how I want to handle bathroom passes.

And this is exactly what happens…once CI becomes a way of thinking, we start to view everything in the classroom through CI lenses. Then our focus can shift to how to align even the smallest details.

We want the systems to align with our instruction and our relationships.

That is truly Backward Design. As Sara said, a solid system is golden.

Teaching without one is a great deal of unnecessary work. It doesn’t matter exactly what our system is.

Next question: What should a system do?

1. A system should make relationships strong and confusion minimal so that classroom time can be maximized for acquisition. (or in other words, what Sara said above)

2. A system can prove opportunities for interaction in the TL that lead to acquisition. (or in other words read Bob’s statement above)

It doesn’t matter if you pass papers left to right or front to back as long as 1. and 2. above are happening. It doesn’t matter if you have kids carry a toilet seat to the bathroom or only sign out 3 times a marking period if it isn’t interfering with 1. and 2. (tee hee unintended pun that I couldn’t bring myself to delete)

Above all, it helps us to look at the systems that we have in place in order to see if they align with our Rules. If what we expect/demand of our students is outside of the Rules, then we will be seen as hypocrites. We may never be able to control whether or not our students respect us. That is a choice that they will make. We can, however, control whether or not our actions and words are honorable and making changes when necessary.

What can happen is that we get caught up in Rules and Systems (amongst other things) and forget that we are about Acquisition. You’ve heard the expression “Weighing the baby doesn’t make him grow.” Neither does buying him bigger clothes. It just makes him look nice when he fits into them. Sometimes our teacher-obsession with How To Set Up and Run

A Classroom does just that: make the teacher look good because the behavior is under control. That is nice, good and necessary, but not the end goal. I hope that that makes sense.

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.