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Believe In Me Archived Post 11.2.11

(Originally posted 11/2/11)

I tried not to, but I have gotten pulled into Oprah’s Life Class on her new network: OWN. It’s become addictive. I haven’t signed on to the website and started my own private journal or tweeted but I find myself looking for the next show so I can learn more. I channel-surfed looking for another channel but landed back on OWN. You see, sometimes the world aligns so that you hear the absolutely perfect message.

It didn’t really start with the Oprah class. It started with the program preceding it: The Rosie Show. Another show that I didn’t really plan to watch. It was a tribute to Phyllis Diller. I was too tired to move and just let it play. Until Phyllis spoke about a comedian who gave her a compliment when she first started her career. She said, ‘For the first time, someone that I believed in, believed in me.” And Rosie repeated “Sometimes that is the turning point, when someone you believe in, believes in you.”

Wow.

As adults we have two jobs. In order to be a person that can better the lives of children is to a) Be someone a child can believe in. b) Believe in the child.

That woke me up and tuned me in. And kept me so focused that I stayed awake to watch the next Oprah class…which…as God or the universe…..whichever you prefer….would offer…is about
validation.

The last hour has been so aha-producing that here I am writing a post before it is even over. It started with a quote by Toni Morrison. A question actually. She asked, “When a child walks into the room, do your eyes light up? Does that child know that you care that he or she exists?”

Now there is this man talking to his abusive parents (who aren’t there but his wife is standing in to be a person who actually hears him). Listen to the things he says :

“You didn’t have children because you wanted children. You had children because you thought they would make you happy. We can’t and now you punish us every day. We are not people to you. We are just one more thing that you hate and you can punish us for it.”

Oh my. How much of the reason that we do our job is because we love how being good at a language makes us feel? How important is it that our students “respect” us by following our rules(write in black pen, don’t hand in pages ripped out from a spiral notebook, don’t be absent on test day)? How bent out of shape do we get when a pep rally or field trip or Honor Society induction get our perfectly constructed schedule out of whack? How frustrated do we get when they don’t do homework, fail tests or don’t come in for extra help because it destroys everything we’ve tried to do? Or did we get into teaching because we truly love our students?

Is teaching about us? Or is it about them?

If I’m being honest.

Then I have to ask myself… Do I communicate my joy in my students and in teaching? Or, am I transferring my own frustration about not being seen and heard as an educator to my classroom?

Am I, while I am in front of my students, forgetting to put people before points and relationships before data?

I think it can be very easy for our students to become the targets of our own anger, about situations that they have no control over, because they are our captive audience. Sometimes there is a fine line between keeping them informed of how the world works and keeping them informed about how the world works us.

“What I need is for you to teach me how to love. How to show love, how to receive love, how to appreciate love. Show me how to treat other people with respect. Show me how to make other people feel precious. I want to be able to do that but I just don’t have any idea how. All I know is what you show me.”

What if, just what if, I am the only adult that will hear this message from a child? What if, just what if, I am the only adult he or she might be willing to listen to about this kind of learning? Am I there? Am I doing what I need to do?

Do I hear my students asking, “Do you believe in me?”

And what answer do my actions give?

Thanks Ms. Diller. Thanks Rosie. Thanks Ms. Morrison. Thanks Oprah.

with love,
Laurie

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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.

What Really Matters Archived Post 8.14.11

(Originally posted 8/14/11)

The final piece of the puzzle is to continually focus on my students as people who are acquiring language, not students fulfilling requirements under my watch. I do not need to know all of the personal details of their lives, but I do try to remember that they have lives. In a few short years, they will be out in the world working with my future grandchildren, helping my generation to pay for retirement, defending our country, earning a living and each of them already affects a world of folks around them.

I try to remember to ….

Treat each student as if he or she has the potential to change the world.

Because they all do.

I’m not sure that that answers all of Laura’s questions, or yours…so keep in touch.

with love,
Laurie

Less Homework, More Participation Archived Post 8.14.11

(Originally posted 8/14/11)

In the last 5 years I have required less and less homework…and instead grade all in-class assigments.

Inspired by research and exhausted by the battles which always seem to accompany homework, I have chosen to actively and clearly offer as little as possible. When I give homework (usually one day per week if it is a 5 day week) I make sure that it is accessible from the Internet and easy to do without help.

My students have NOT learned nor acquired any less. In fact, they spend MORE time outside of class using Spanish. They actively listen to music and watch programs in Spanish or read online in Spanish because it interests them. Yes…even in my little rural district. Parents often report siblings speaking to each other in Spanish at home.

By de-emphasizing homework I have eliminated several things:

a) an ENORMOUS battleground where no one ever won a battle nor a war.

b) frustration over who did it and who didn’t.

d) students entering class a failure before class even starts.

I can also frequently remind students that when we use class time well, I can continue to keep homework to a minimum.

Now, before TPRS, this really didn’t seem possible. What progress students made, they made because of the ‘memorization’ that took place via those assignments. Homework really appeared to make the biggest difference in gains.

With TPRS, those output activities are just a little decorative icing on the cake. A little goes a long way. It may go “against’ the “traditional” approach….but it has been working for my students for over a decade, so I’m sticking with it!

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.

Class Contract Archived Post 8.12.11

(Originally posted 8/12/11)

A reader asked a number of great questions on a post where I wrote about NOT using participation points. I will try to address some of them here.

How do you get there?
Which system do you have that replaces participation points that works?
How do you deal with discipline (attitude, absences, English)?
Which is the social contract you have with your students and parents?
How did you reach this social contract?
How do you enforce the rules that make daily living (la convivencia) possible?

Below is the contract that I created to address these issues. When I have an administration that requires a signature, I’ll collect that. Our Dean of Students and Principal have a copy. A copy is on my website and a copy is sent home to parents.

The key to this, however, is taking time the first week of school to address each point below:

Your Rights and Responsibilities

1. You have a right to be treated as an individual who interesting, capable, and important.
You have a responsibility to treat others the same way.

2. You have the right to a positive learning environment every day.
You have the responsibility to learn and accomplish something positive every day.

3. You have the right to be informed about the academic and personal goals of this course and your progress towards
those goals.
You have the responsibility to complete the class work and homework designed to help you achieve these goals and to monitor your progress.

4. You have the right to communicate with me in a respectful and appropriate manner about issues that affect you in class or in this building.
You have the responsibility to communicate with me whenever you have a problem, question, or concern about issues in this class, or your achievement in this class.
You have the responsibility to communicate if you, or anyone else, is in danger of physical or emotional harm.

These are posted in the room and referred to as necessary. We address them as “new information”, one per day the first week…IN ENGLISH…along with any number of team-building and get-to-know-you activities in Spanish.

I address infractions to the above immediately and directly…although not always publicly. A one-to-one conversation often goes a long way. The first two are the most important. As the teacher,

I have the final say if there is disagreement on what kind of behavior falls “outside of the lines”. I briefly mention and discuss “boundaries” so that students understand that there is a need to have lines drawn for appropriate/inappropriate behavior.

What we allow, we encourage.

The first few weeks with a new teacher, it is the students’ job to find out exactly what that teacher will allow. For example: talking when the teacher is talking, writing on other students and/or their belongings/desks etc., arriving late to class, not engaging in class activities, pretending to not know anything, sarcasm, mean remarks, making fun of others, inappropriate clothing, not doing homework, passing notes, texting, eating and drinking in class………………………………………..

I don’t take it personally when students test the boundaries. As adolescents, that is what they are wired to do. They want to know how I will handle trouble when it comes. They need to know that they can trust me to keep the classroom a safe place. Ironically, it is the “troublemakers” that need to know this the most. Many of them are extremely bright and knowing where the boundaries are is how they function. Many of them have learned survival skills outside of the classroom and want to know from the beginning which of those skills they will need to survive this venue. Some of them have a reputation to uphold. If I am consistent about the rules, their classmates will not look to them to act up. If I am NOT consistent, then it becomes their role to see what I’ll be like today. They learn by watching adults….and each other. Adults who are inconsistent become playthings and entertainment. I let them know up front that we have other things to do.

So…Step 1: The Rules and Responsibilities

Step 2: Identify the Boundaries and Stand Firm

Step 3: Offer the Better Option….Calmly.

Step 4: “Conduct” the Class

I tell students that this class is much like a band/chorus/orchestra and I’m the Maestro. I literally “conduct” the class. They need to follow my words, facial expressions, gesture etc. and respond appropriately. The first piece we learn is the “Signal” (check out the post below)

Signals

I take my job as Maestro seriously and choose my activities (pieces) carefully based upon the strengths, interests and abilities of the students. From Day 1, I make it clear that I have chosen everything for THEM. Not because it is next in the book, what the other classes are doing, I think it’s cool, it makes me look good or another group liked it. For THEM. I choose activities which I know that my students will enjoy and will be successful at.

Every day for the rest of the year, I keep those rules and responsibilities in mind. I know that we will need to review them regularly.

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

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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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Windows and Doors Archived Post 4.29.10

(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

(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

(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:

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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.

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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.

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