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R and E: Systems Are Not Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

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

A classroom system organizes things like:

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

*how papers are distributed and collected

*how grades are assigned and communicated

*how the set up and clean up of activities occur

*how the room is decorated

*how and when evaluations occur

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

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

but….

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

There is no right way to do any of them.

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

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

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

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

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

R and E: Trust And The Rules Archived Post 3.20.12

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

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

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

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

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

These are mine…

1. Pay attention when someone is communicating.

2. Ask questions when there is confusion.

3. Point out when there is a problem.

4. Make a situation better rather than worse.

5. Try not to offend or harm.

6. Join in.

7. Appreciate and honor.

8. Honor individuals.

9. Honor relationships.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it or not. :o)

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

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

Totally against all of my rules. :o)

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

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

* When it is cultural, like after a sneeze.

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

* During lessons for acquisition.

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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

R and E: An Atmosphere of Trust Archived Post 3.20.12

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

In the last piece I wrote, “It is important we connect with the class for at least a moment to them know that we are here, we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.”

If I make a few changes, I can summarize what I believe about discipline:

“We must connect with the class in order to let each student know that we are here, that we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.”

When all three of those are present, we are on the right path. When even one of those is missing in a given moment, we are on a dangerous detour. It is when we have been juggling one or two of those instead of all three that we see our individual students and entire classes slipping away. With some groups it is the only way to keep everyone safe ( I have several of these groups this year!!!!!!). At this time of year it becomes very important. (I know that many of us are feeling it.)

As Susie has often told us, “Discipline proceeds instruction.”

At the beginning of the year, the beginning of the period, the beginning of the activity, the beginning of the conversation.

Connect first, then communicate: I’m here. I’m glad that you’re here. I’m making the final decisions.

Of course there are many, many other things implied: I’m here because I care. I’m here because I’m knowledgeable. I’m here because you matter.

I’m here because I want to be. I’m glad that you are in my world. I’m glad that you came to class today. I’m glad that you’re trying. I’m glad that you trust me. I’m glad that you exist. I will listen to you. I will take your thoughts and feelings into consideration. I will pay attention to you. I will see the good things about you. I will forgive the difficult things about you.

I have faith in you. I have faith in the adult you will be come. I will honor the child inside of you. I can see great things in you. I will not let you hurt yourself. I will not let you hurt others. I will not let others hurt you. I will help you to learn to deal with problems. We all have struggles.

We all have feelings. Everyone matters. I am the adult and will do my best to act like one at all times. I will remember that I may be the adult, but I am not always right. I will try to model all of the behaviors that I expect from you…especially forgiveness. I will be in charge. I will take the responsibility. I will walk the walk.

But only three need to be said on a regular basis…and with our actions as well as our words:

I’m here. I’m glad that you are here. I’m making the final decisions about what is best for this class.

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: Transitions and Signals 3.19.12

(Originally posted 3/19/12)

Smooth transitions are a key piece to successful classroom management. But getting a class to make smooth transitions is a bit like grocery shopping with a hungry toddler!

Most of us do not start out using TPRS in the classroom for an entire class period. Even when we get to that point on some days, we rarely do just one CI-based activity (ie PQA or storyasking) for an entire class period..especially if our students are young, novices or we teach on the block!!!!!

We can make our world, and our students, much happier if we delineate when an activity, and the expected behaviors that go with it, start and end.

To do that, we first need a clearly taught, practiced and incorporated way to get out students’ attention. The truth is…we all have one. Maybe we didn’t mean to teach it or are even aware that we did, but our behavior did.

Kids do have instincts..very good ones. If we haven’t taught them a specific signal and response to get attention, then they will just do what they want to until they sense that we are on the edge of ____(insert yelling, screaming, throwing something, using the evil eye etc. here) and then they will listen up. If we never get to that point and just teach on whether or not they are listening, then we have taught them that what we want and what we say shouldn’t matter to them. The question is…

Question #3: What is an EFFECTIVE way to get the attention of an entire group?

Choose/create a signal and response. Teach it, practice it, use it. Repeat.

Many of you know that I am a huge proponent of the signal. Just as Blaine utilized Págames, I could not teach without a signal. If you don’t know what I mean then here is an explanation.

The only way that you can truly run a classroom is to have a way to get students to be silent, stop all activities and listen to what you have to say.

You don’t have to use my idea of a signal. But you need something and you need to teach it, practice it, use it and never let your students forget how important it is. Not only for a lesson, but for safety, security and sanity.

Anything can happen in a classroom.

On any given day with a class of freshmen I can use a signal as many as 15 times in 40 minute period. Sometimes it is to refocus/make a transition. Sometimes it is to add humor. Sometimes it is just a brain break. Sometimes it is to restore order. The more mature/experience the students, the less often I need a signal…but I always need one.

The most powerful thing about teaching, practicing and utilizing a signal is that it is the CLEAREST example we can give of what INTERACTION should look like…..and our entire teaching method/approach/whatever is based on interaction. Teach/practice/use an attention signal and you have the basis of the classroom that you want.

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.

Rules and Expectations: Part 1 3.7.12

(Originally posted 3/7/12)

What you see here is a compilation of comments from the MORETPRS listserv, TPRStalks, Ben Slavic’s blog, observations of other teachers and my own thoughts. I cannot stress enough how timely and important Sara’s question is for us as individual teachers this time of year AND in this season of language education as more and more teachers become interested in using

Comprehensible Input with their students. Teri has mentioned that we are getting closer to a critical mass of CI teachers and she is right. This issue of rules/expectations is crucial if we are to help teachers become CI teachers.

It is crucial if we are to convince departments to become CI departments.

Several of you expressed this so well: We need rules and we need expectations for our students in order to create an atmosphere that does the following:

a. allows and encourages each student to feel physically and emotionally safe, as a student and as a person.

b. allows the teacher to conduct the class and accomplish whatever leadership duties are important to the running of a safe school.

c. provides the maximum possible amount of Comprehensible Input each time the class meets.

d. facilitates both spontaneous and controlled interaction as often as possible.

When a teacher is first exploring the use of TPRS in the classroom, the conditions above are extremely beneficial, in fact nearly requisite, in order for successful CI based lessons to occur. The problem is that presenters are so often naturally gifted or extraordinarily experienced at creating these conditions. Not to mention the fact that the class during a presentation is made up of attentive language teachers!! (well…not always, but that is another story!)

There is also so much to see and take in, that when we first are starting out that we often only focus on what we the teachers should do in order to make a CI lesson happen. We have to figure out what story-asking looks like, how to make circling really happen, how to elicit responses, what to do with them when we get them, how to PQA, what to do with reading, how to work it in with what we already do…etc. etc. etc.

A piece has been missing and Sara has just pointed it out quite clearly.

Question #1: HOW DO WE TRAIN OUR STUDENTS TO BE TPRS STUDENTS?

a. They need to understand that a CI lesson is an INTERACTIVE lesson.

Many of them have never seen one…or haven’t since kindergarten….Here is a sample script:

“I am going to do or say something that will encourage your brain to acquire (insert L2 here). I will make it clear if one or all of you will respond, and what you should do in response.”

And then we have to live up to that promise. It will take a little time, but when it is clearly outlined, and clearly executed, with love and patience, it is nearly flawless.

Many of you know that I use the analogy of an orchestra with my students. The class is the orchestra. I am the Maestro. I will indicate if the entire orchestra is responding, one section, or if there is a soloist. If I don’t, there will be mess of noise. The students will attempt to play with insufficient guidance until one by one the give up drift into their own little conversations and activities.

You can follow Carol Gaab’s model on this. She clearly gestures exactly when she wants the response to happen so that wait/think time occurs. She may use a prop or a hand signal. Her entire body is poised and alert and frozen signalling “Wait for it, wait for it…NOW!” and the class responds.

You can follow Blaine’s model on this as well. Blaine’s signal is verbal…”Clase”….precedes the question and the entire class responds. “Princesa”…precedes the question and the class knows that Princesa will be responding. He inserts one individual response in sea of class responses and they know that they need to pay attention. If he doesn’t get the response that he wants, he lovingly chides them by saying, “Claaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase” with the occasional “Es obvio” and the class/orchestra is brought back in to play.

Teach.

Practice.

Reteach as necessary.

Not language: expectations and behavior.

In a CI classroom, language is acquired and behavior is learned.

The good news is that many of us have had years of experience in how to get kids to learn. All of the skills that we thought we helping them w/ language we can now use in order to help them learn the behaviors that they need in our rooms in order to be able to interact with us and with the language in order to acquire it.

So, for a CI-based lesson, whether it centers around PQA,discussion, story-asking or reading, our students must learn how to interact. We must teach them what is required, require what is required, and reteach when they are not giving us what is required.

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.

Start A Ripple..Or At Least Get Out Of The Way Archived Post 3.9.12

(Originally posted 3/9/12)

It has been a typically hectic school week. You know what I mean: Five week grades were due, the juniors and seniors have big deadlines to meet for English papers, Spring sports started, the musical is just around the corner, two grades had class meetings, everyone is sick (I was out for two days myself), requisitions were due, there was a Dept. Chair meeting, etc. etc.On Tuesday, just before I left early to go home ill, I was reminded that there was a Color Guard show in the building and that one of the visiting schools would be in my room. When I came back on Friday I was trying to recoup from having been out and figure out how to visitor-proof my complete and total disaster of a classroom.

First period there was no time. I had to teach and help a student who was on home-tutoring re-enter. Second period there was no time. I had to negotiate a disciplinary issue that had occurred with the substitute. Third period I had to check on the re-entering student and meet with another who was in crisis.

By the time 4th period class got started finishing an activity they had started earlier in the week , I was looking around the room, completely overwhelmed by the idea of making my room usable. A student asked me what I was looking at. A student who is often off in his own world and not very sensitive to what is going on around him. I told him that I was trying to figure out how to get ready for the room to be used. He offered to start the process for me. I thanked him but said, “No, this is my mess, this is my job, I’ll do it after school.” That was true, but I also figured that he wasn’t in the mood to work on his assignment. :o)

He looked at me for a second and said, “You know, just let me move a few things to that back corner and then you can block it off with a table.” and he got up, moved a few things and the entire picture changed. “See…it’s not that big of a deal…and it will be easy.” He was thrilled to have pointed that out for me, and I was thrilled to let him keep going.” On the way out, after spending over 20 minutes cleaning MY room, he said “Thanks, Profe.”

OH MY. Thank you estudiante mío. Not just for moving piles of books and papers. For making a difference in my day. For reminding me that my agenda is often selfish. For wanting to be part of the classroom in your own way. For starting a ripple, and reminding me to get out of the way.

with love,
Laurie

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

We Only Get Students That We Have Archived Post 3.10.12

(Originally posted 3/10/12)

It’s that time of year where the end is almost in sight, but the road ahead can seem impossibly long.

It gets tough.

Since the “entities” aren’t in our classroom, our frustration sometimes ends up falling on our students. I wish that it didn’t. I know that we try not to let it. Truth is, it often ends up there anyway.

I know that it is happening to me when I look out at my kids and these strange thoughts start sneaking up on me….

Why can’t they pay attention?

Why can’t they see how much I care?

Why do they fight me all the time?

Why do they think that everyone else’s class more important than mine?

Why are they so angry?

and then I realize that I’m talking about me and my feelings not about my students.

Sigh.

I know I’ve said it before, but I need to hear it again: We don’t get the students we want, nor the
students we think that we deserve. We only get the students that we have.

On Ben Slavic’s blog, folks are revisiting the beginning of the year rules. There is a feeling that we need to re-establish the rules….and a wish that we could start over again. I think that I know why.

We are not teaching the students that we had in September. Those kids are gone. We have a new group now, it’s March. Oh maybe they inhabit the same bodies, but the person inside is different.

I know that I have days when I wish that some of them were the same as they were in September: more refreshed, more open, a little less jaded. There are other days when I wish that they would be a few months older: more responsible, more mature, less restless.

But they aren’t. And I have moments when I just want to scream.

I think it is time for me to go back and get to know the kids again. Time for me to stop demanding, stop wishing, stop what-iffing.

I have 100+ really cool human beings in my room. At this time of year I find myself with only my flaw-glasses on. Time for new lenses.

For me, new lenses sometimes means a new routine…or at least a bit of a change. It’s as good a time as any!!

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.

Relationships Not Candy Archived Post 10.25.11

(Originally posted 10/25/11)

This was written in response to request from a teacher who had written her with classroom management struggles. The teacher felt that her best day had been when she brought in candy as a reward. She didn’t want to continue that practice, but was desperate to find something that works.

My heart goes out to anyone struggling with classroom management. At one time we have all had a group or groups that made us want to tear our hair out…..and praying for the magic formula to make a group ‘work”….or at least not be the stuff our nightmares are made of. We try any number of approaches…..including attempts to win them, or at least their behavior, with rewards like candy. If you haven’t been there, at least once, you’ve lived a blessed teaching life.

There is no magic bullet, no simple answer, but this teacher and I can tell you that candy is not the answer. Candy works only when it makes a rare occurrence…..and it is presented as a gift. “I thought about you today and brought this to show you my appreciation of your spirit and willingness to be a part of this class.” This is love. This has nothing to do with classroom management.

When candy is a reward it can lead to an ever-escalating “Me me !!” situation. What happens when a teacher can not afford candy, when the principal says no candy, when students start to get angry because it isn’t their favorite candy, etc.? In my case it turned into bitter and angry and resentful feelings IN ME!!! because they were ungrateful….when in reality I had set them, and myself, up for it by bribing.

Classroom management is so hard. It once was governed by clear rules and boundaries, parental and administrative support, and a general respect for the institution and adults.

None of those things are guaranteed today and it truly is about the relationships in the classroom.

THE most influential relationship is the relationship that each student has with him/herself. If the student values himself enough to want to have self-control (even if it is hard to attain) the student has the most valuable tool in the toolbox.

The most important relationship in our classroom is our relationship with our students. Whenever possible treat them with love, with love, with love. When we do that, and make our decisions because of that, everything else comes much more easily. When students know that a teacher cares about them, more than anything else, they are willing to collect and use tools in the toolbox. Caring about our students will not, however, eliminate our challenges.

The next most powerful relationship is between the student and the language. When that is strong and positive, discipline problems virtually disappear. But that takes time, and the erasing, for many students, of many years of negative conditioning about school and language “study.” That is why, as Susie so often says, “Success is the best motivator.” They need to know, and to see, that their tools, and skills work!

The next most powerful is the relationship between the students themselves.

Again, they come to us with their own histories and we must handle what already exists. We could try to make them “behave” a certain way because they like us as teachers, but in middle school and high school, the opinion of peers FAR FAR FAR outweighs the opinion of any adult. What we can do is to establish very clear boundaries about the language, facial expressions, gestures and interactions that we believe will help to create a positive relationship among our students.

The least important relationship is the one between the teacher and the language. Sadly, in many rooms around the world this is the strongest relationship in the classroom. Our passion for the languages and cultures so dear to our hearts is a lovely thing….but it is OURS. Not our students’.

It should be our tool that we use to help strengthen the relationships above.

How does this help with classroom management? Make a list of what you do as a teacher to “manage” your classes. Which category do they fall into? The most energy and effort should go into the first two categories….finding ways to connect students with the language (using CI +P) and helping students to be safe with each other. By conducting ourselves in the most caring, professional way possible in the relationship with have with our students, and by not letting our own interests in a topic erase our efforts to connect kids with language, with each other and with us …we can really improve our classes.

In time. In our own way. In small steps. In a way that allows for dignity.

With patience. With optimism. With appropriate boundaries. With consequences.

By being honest. By being appreciative. By being kind. By being responsive.

and never, ever giving up,

with love,
Laurie

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.

The “Uninterested” Archived Post 11.7.10

(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.

Teachers Must Model Behaviors Archived Post 8.20.10

(Originally posted 8/20/10)

The kids really need to be able to trust each other in our rooms. Getting to know each other really makes that easier when that process is guided by a trusted, caring and thoughtful teacher. Again…as in most of what we do, it’s not WHAT we do, but HOW we do it that makes the difference. Letting other kids “in” to their world creates an enormous minefield for many students…and some will not just balk, they will just shut down completely.Some thoughts…after reading these, knowing many of you and having worked very hard at this in my own room for long time….

a) The teacher needs to model EVERYTHING. We cannot take for granted that kids know how to get to know other people. The fact is ….they have little experience in this..very little. What do we need to model?

* the appropriate kind of information to share (short, detailed, but nothing that will make other people uncomfortable to know!!)

* the appropriate way to share it (w/o innuendos, sarcasm, self-deprecation)

*when to share it (in an activity or in order to connect w/someone else)

*how to listen w/caring and genuine interest when other people share

*how to respond to other people when they share

*how NOT to gossip about what has been shared (it may seem advantageous to share tidbits about students with other classes but it’s a trust-buster…)

*how to gently step in when the sharing is going the wrong direction

*how to ‘hook into” the information/feelings that have been shared so that it becomes part of the relationship within the class.The other thing that I think is really important here goes back to a post that Ben put up a few days ago. Students need to believe that it is safe enough in your room to create a “Spanish class” Persona in order to participate. Not all kids need one. Some kids wear one around every day.

Some kids are naturally too “transparent” to even know what one is. But you will have at least one, and probably several students, in each class that will need some support in making this happen.

A student who is struggling w/his or her sexual identity or preferences will be very cautious about sharing anything. These students have learned that the slightest reveal can set off feelings in themselves, or reactions in others that are hard to deal with.

A student who is dealing with being the object of abuse: emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual has been “trained” for a long time to not reveal, anything.

A shy student may be totally overwhelmed by receiving that much attention, even for a few minutes.

A new student, very aware of how quickly first impressions can carve out a social existence, may need to welcomed with great love and care.

A student with a “I don’t give a crap” persona (which of course we know is usually hiding a “I care too much or I can’t afford to care” attitude) needs to be given the leeway to share without totally surrendering that carefully crafted “I don’t give a crap” masterpiece.

I’ll be honest…I teach in a district where everyone “knows” everyone (at least they think that they do). It’s a fishbowl kind of a world and attitudes are set pretty early on. Every year, but particularly senior year, I begin the year with a clearly-stated goal of each student working with, accepting and hopefully getting to know the other kids in the class (not liking, this is not required)

I work, every day, in every activity, in every interaction towards this goal. And there are some groups that fight me all the way to the end because their need to control their world is so strong.Don’t give up. Every moment is another opportunity to build those bridges. If no one crosses them, so be it. Not only did you give them the opportunity to cross bridges, you gave them the opportunity to see them being built.

There will come a time in their lives when they need to build a bridge. It may not come in the time that you have them in class….in fact, it probably won’t. Just as our students “unconsciously” learn language, they “unconsciously” remember the doors you have opened and the bridges that you have built in front of them. If the need is strong enough, and other factors fall into place, every single thing that you did in class will have made a difference.

The easiest thing to do when trying to get a class to bond…is to try to get a class to bond. No can do. So when it doesn’t happen the way, or in the time frame, that you would like, try not to take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s about a bigger picture. Our job as teachers rarely allows us to step back and see the piece created. It is our job to get in there with the brush and to keep painting…hue after hue, layer by layer….so that the piece will indeed exist.

with love,
Laurie

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