A Concern

I am concerned that the discussion here, once so focused, is getting overly diffuse. This is not a good thing. It’s what happened to the moretprs listserve and I don’t want it to happen here.

In my opinion, groups like this one lose their focus because they lose touch with their core values and beliefs.  I am starting to see more discussion here on things that don’t really matter and don’t really help people be better teachers. It’s becoming a game of small ball, I fear.

I would appreciate feedback on this point from those who have been reading and using ideas from this site over the years. Am I just imagining this or is it true? If it is true, then what do we do about it?

Here’s the deal. We either use comprehensible input in our classrooms or we don’t. We don’t water it down with new strategies that look good but don’t help us do what we know is best for our students. We speak to our students in ways that they can understand, and we have them read things in the same way, or we don’t.

250+ articles that await in the queue. I would like to put a freeze on them.  I would like to suggest that we knock off the mud and try again as a group to defend, illustrate, redefine and restate those exact breakthrough ideas that we have created here together over the years, ideas and strategies that have revolutionized our teaching, but which have lately become lost in the discussion here.

Maybe it’s the forum. Is that helping or is it causing us to lose our focus? Do we need to add or remove any sections to the forum, or get rid of it altogether? Add one for Chinese? Latin? Elementary? Help me out here. I don’t want to run another listserve here. If this site loses its focus and becomes another listserve, I’m done with it.

I will start a thread in which we experienced teachers RESTATE what has been so exciting over the years. We will make a list. I would really like to see some discussion on this. I think it’s time to return to what got us to a point in our careers that I would say is nothing short of miraculous. I want the miracles to continue.

Am I making this up? What do we do? Is my sense that we have somehow gotten off track in our discussion accurate? Am I wrong? What’s going on? Help me out here.

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35 thoughts on “A Concern”

  1. You are so right and I am so guilty! I absolutely love the forum but I have noticed that I run there a few times a day for a quick fix and to make sure that I’m not missing out on the latest, greatest idea/new tool. However, it has also made me loose focus of the big picture.
    The thought of losing this PLC due to our own lack of focus scares me. There are so many people out there who claim to do CI/TPRS but for the most part they just think they do because they “tell stories” in their classrooms. This is the only place where I KNOW that true experts are at work and where I don’t get a watered down version of the truth.
    I don’t know what the solution is but I, too, want the miracle to continue and for that to happen, I still need your help.

  2. I have sensed this also. In my opinion it is a combination of things. I think that the forum has changed the dynamic. It gives the feeling of those listservs and other fora that exist. It takes our focus away from the discussion here. It distracts us much the way that talking about language takes away from using the language. I see the discussion of the forum talking about language and the discussion here on the blog as CI.

    I think we should stop the forum. This is a bold statement, but it needs to be done. There are so many other places out there to get these kinds of nut/bolt things figured out. Moretprs, latinbestpractices, just to name a few that I know. We don’t need another one here.

    I would also like to see a limit to the membership. When there are too many people the discussion get’s watered down. This is evident in the forum. Maybe limit membership based upon contribution or time spent engaging in our discussion or even an application process especially for new members. I know that I read every day and the I try to contribute as much as I can. Last year, I put myself out there and we learned about how dangerous this work can be. We really need this kind of authentic sharing. We also need people to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Then, we need others to do it in the classroom to test it out.

    Even though I am no expert at this process, I want to contribute in any way that I can. Our comments, ideas, experiments, successes, and failures can only be valuable if we focus on them.

    This is just my thoughts on what I have seen.

  3. You wear your heart on your sleeve, Ben, and we all benefit.

    I had some pretty immediate thoughts when I read this post. I can relate somehow to the angst, or something. And a new person perspective might be useful. The thoughts aren’t random, but they aren’t particularly organized or in any particular order.

    Are you concerned about the blog and the forum, or just the blog? I see them as being very different, with the forum being much less controlled by you and the blog being more so. I think people appreciate the blog for how you shape and guide it and the forum for how it is open for all of us to post.

    I would love to hear an example or two of what you see as the types of things that don’t really matter, that are off the track of the basic principles and that make a game of small ball. Just to understand and not have to only use my imagination or assume I understand.

    You choose what to post on the blog, so the loss of focus there must be taking place in the comments. What I notice is that sometimes the comments become a separate discussion that is kind of (or completely) off the topic of the original post. Some things that could be in the forum are spilling over into the blog. Maybe we need guidelines.

    I have been going back to old blog posts on basic topics a lot lately and am creating my own list of “Important Pieces to Use and Remember” because it does feel super hectic and overwhelming with all the different ideas and manifestations of ideas. You are very good about reminding us with timely posts about the things that are really important. I’m always relieved when you do that.

    I think the forum is good because it is a place where people can ask and discuss things without you, Ben, needing to feel involved unless you want to. The forum got a lot of action at the beginning, but it seems like that has slowed down a bit. I hope you decide to keep it. I don’t think it should have separate categories for the different languages. Not sure about ages; so much is adaptable and useful all around.

    Maybe if you can feel okay about the forum going off on its own and people just using it as they need to and think of the blog as being the place to maintain and develop the core ideas, you won’t feel that things are so out of control. I don’t think you can really control a forum unless you close the membership, and that would be a pity for all of us. Is there such a thing as a really tidy and organized forum? I don’t know; this is the only one I’ve ever belonged to.

    Maybe you could post some things in the queue on the forum if they don’t fit the tone of the blog, or maybe you already do that.
    BETTER IDEA: Do you feel obliged to post all 250 things in the queue? What a burden! Maybe you should have un déblocage énorme du queue and start over with new guidelines 🙂 If someone really wants to try again, they can send something to you again. The blog is yours.

    I don’t know. I hope these thoughts are somewhat useful and that you don’t mind hearing from a novice in this field. I just understand what you are saying and want to give you support. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you do.

  4. Ben, I appreciate your comments! I regularly check this blog, but I find the idea of another forum to check overwhelming. I am sure that others can sift and focus better than I, but I have to know my own limits. There is only so much time and brain space.

      1. I signed into the forum for the first time this weekend and got overwhelmed right away. I decided right then to keep reading the regular blog but not the forum.

  5. In Support of the Forum
    I think many of the conversations on the forum are really thoughtful and helpful to a lot of us. There is a lot of experience and eloquence out there. I appreciate the time and energy people are willing to spend to share their experiences, give helpful advice, or just sympathize and support. Especially in schools and districts where we are the only ones teaching this way, it is crucial to have the support of this community. I appreciate the immediacy and accessibility of the forum. There may be some ideas that get off track or are not really in line with TCI, but maybe we all could be more aware of that possibility and feel okay about commenting in ways that point out the straying from TCI. That in itself is a good awareness to have – to remember the basics whenever we decide what to do.
    This is the only online group I belong to, and I don’t want to lose it. I’m sure others don’t either.

  6. I’m new, but I like having both the blog and forum. The blog is “better” because of the right side of organized categories. The forum is not to be compared with the more tprs forum. I found that place second, and don’t find it as helpful, communal, etc. I probably wouldn’t post there, because this place seems more trustworthy. I found the forum great for newbies like myself to get quick feedback. After a while I probably won’t post there to ask for advice. Instead I might answer other peoples question. I think some of the forum post answers could be archived into a HELP section for newbies. Again, just my new opinion.

    I second the question, as to a few examples as to what things are vearing away from CI…?

    Thanks Ben.

    1. I never answered that last question Leah. I think I meant veering away from the Big Ideas. Does that make sense? I feel so much better since we all have shared here. I now see that the need I have is to simply return to the Big Ideas, those 19 or so things that really really work and get over to the forum when I can. I think I was feeling pulled in too many directions with all the commentary here and on the forum. I say we limit the forum sections, keeping:

      General Discussion
      Specific Questions
      Successes

      I will give myself permission to not go there all the time.

      One really important thing is for people to feel free to post ANY COMMENT here and not reflect on if it belongs here or in the forum. It belongs here. What a loss it would be if people had to check themselves before commenting here on the blog. Don’t. Trevor thought it would be a good idea to limit the discussion here and so originally suggested that when the forum started up a few months ago. I am overruling that. We need to get back to the old freedom of expression right here on the blog. Are you hearing that Eric? Each and every comment is more than welcome, it is valued. Then we would be back to normal feel of things, with the added benefit of all the good things that would be happening on a daily basis over on the forum as well. We get to have our cake and eat it too. Yea!

      I think this is a good practical plan. Is that an acceptable answer Leah?

      1. I hear you, Ben! Thank you 🙂 Actually, I almost never read this, because it is hard to keep up with comments, since I can’t tell which ones are new and which ones I’ve already read. I try to read comments in order as they appear on the “recent posts,” but I miss a few.

        I also read everything on the moretprs listserv. It is where I first received guidance and now I try to give back. But so much of that reading is a waste. So much of that conversation goes in a non-CI direction. People are posting their vocab flashcards, talking about their newest output game, arguing grammar rules, etc. At this point in my development as a CI teacher “I am thankful for” . . . this PLC more than any other TCI resource (it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow). I can’t wait to do the story “Nappy Nap” when we get back!

  7. Hi, Ben! The only miracle I need this year is to make it through the year!

    Please continue with everything as is. It is great! We are all smart enough to handle a blog and a forum. I like it all. You do the blog and James does the forum. What’s not to like? Are you mad that I joked with the Chevalier de l’Ouest about whether he likes to party or not? LOL

    You and James are awesome!

    Thanks to everyone who posts — this year I need to read everything there is and more. Sorry I don’t have any deep insight, but I will add this…

    I detest the idea of ditching the forum and limiting membership.

    Are you getting complaints? If not, why worry about it?

    If people start complaining about the forum, then James can step in and do his thing, you know?

    Anyway = my .02

  8. I hadn’t noticed a straying away from core concepts, Ben, but I’ve only been here for 15 months. What I do miss is several people who used to post comments often whom I’ve not seen post so much this school year.

    Maybe the forum is a new kind of thing. It’s not MoreTPRS but I see how it would be the concern. I get that in daily digest form by email – any other way would be too time-consuming for me. (The biggest problems I have with MoreTPRS is often Spanish is assumed to be understood by the participants, or that people post a general-sounding subject line then proceed to share something very specific to Spanish.) I think that the forum is great for specific questions from people in a crisis and others can offer support & point them back to resources in the blog. I was also glad to see Robert Harrell’s suggestion about attending language teacher association meetings, and I posted there about the upcoming Chicago-area gathering of teachers Nov. 23. Those are good uses of the forum, I think.

    It’s also been nice for discussion of things that doesn’t happen to be a current blog topic or that doesn’t affect everyone. Ex: I’d thought about starting a Chinese reading discussion over there so it’s not in the way of others who don’t teach characters. That’s not something I feel I ought to do in the blog even though I’ve done so a bit. I appreciate that discussion feels more possible because of the forum. I also am glad people can talk about German readers or verb tenses, things that don’t affect me directly.

    Are these the kinds of things you mean, Ben, about feeling less centered on core values? If so, I think that the blog is about core things, the mainstay of all of our teaching. What if the forum is for emergency help and specific issues and topics? Then there’s still the problem of going & looking at the forum. Not sure how that could be helped.

  9. I believe the blog is yours to control, Ben, and if anyone objects to that fact, then they can simply terminate their membership. Personally, I appreciate your shoot-from-the-hip comments. Most of the time those comments make me feel that I am not alone with my sentiments about teaching. I am not able to get on this site every single day; in fact I sometimes go for weeks without checking in. But I like knowing that I have a “place to go” when the everyday stresses of CI get me down. This blog is yours to navigate, Ben!

  10. I love this website. I don’t always get to visit it though but when I do it is really helpful. Sometimes I do get a little overwhelmed trying to find ideas and fitting them into my class.

    As a newbie to CI teaching I feel very disconnected at times, like I’m treading in water and I’m grabbing at bits and pieces in the water (on the PLC page) to try and make myself a raft but my raft isn’t so well put together so I fall off and have to try again. I love to be organized and I’ve found teaching this way I’m very disorganized and I can’t quite figure out a way to fix that problem and it’s driving me cra-cra. I’ve looked at the two week schedule and have tried to implement it into my class but my problem is I’m a visual learner and my stupid brain can’t picture everything in my head. I’m hoping to go to iFLT this year though. I think that will help me make the connections with what I read on here.

  11. Ben if it helps at all, you could remove the Elementary thread on the Forum. It seems that only 2-3 teachers on this blog work with little kids. I thought it was a wonderful idea, but not of interest to the group in general. Sometimes I feel that I am writing to myself ?I am certainly guilty for sharing silly games, and “watered down strategies” that would frustrate most CI teachers. It is just the nature of our clientele. I guess?

    Through your brilliancy, you have attracted the brightest FL teachers in the country, I’ll dare say world. Your blog is the most important resource for TCI teachers.

  12. I like the forum, but maybe that’s because there is no one else in my district doing CI, so I feel like I can pose a question and get a response fast. I’m on the yahoo group, but I just don’t get the feeling that a lot of the people on there are willing to deal with my newbie-ness feelings. It’s your site, you need to do what’s best for you as well. I like the blog, but part of the problem with it is that there is SO MUCH info to read, and some of the links to articles don’t work that I go to the forum to ask or read about stuff. The blog is great, don’t get me wrong, but there is just so much info that it’s overwhelming when starting out. Heck, it’s still overwhelming now. 🙂

  13. I get that and you described it perfectly Suzanne. I think it is a limitation of the technology and also is connected to the fact that we are always getting new ideas and applying them. It’s like, many times in the middle of the night I have had to get out of bed and write something that wouldn’t let me sleep. That is not fun. There must be some way to organize this stuff. I just don’t have answers, and it feels good to say that. I like that we can keep firing comments off here on this topic and maybe a picture will form and we will know what to do about going forward. But the randomness, I fear, is part of the medium, part of the nature of this kind of online professional growth, and we won’t be the only online learning community who will go through this.

  14. I say keep the forum as a place for specific questions only.

    You can use the forum, Ben, as a way to take the simple Q&A out of your e-mail inbox and out of the blog queue. Questions like, “I have a mix of desks and tables in my class what do I do!?” don’t need to be on the blog but will likely get a good amount of fast answers (within a day or two) on the forum. And the best part for you is that you don’t need to filter them onto the blog, the users themselves can ask anything on the forum no matter how simple or trivial in may seem to some.

    And the blog remains the place for the big ideas and the “general discussions” that might be started by the more thoughtful e-mails and updates-from-the-field you receive.

    I would keep the “specific questions” section and the “successes” section of the forum and get rid of everything else. And request that everything posted to the “specific questions” section have a title in the forum of a question.

    1. I second that! I don’t always have a chance to look through the forum (mostly because of the additional sign-in step), but I think it has been a great resource for specific questions.

    2. I like this, too, with the addition of “Announcements” as another thing to put in the forum. Announcements of regional workshops or training, annual conferences, that kind of thing.

    3. We should do this. I will email Trevor to that effect. Then if I get an email question I will send it to you. I love the idea that the forum will be a simple haven for questions from anyone but mainly for new people to get quick succinct answers to the nuts and bolts stuff. That is what was missing from the site before we had the forum.

  15. I read every new blog post and comment and I read every forum post and comment. Everything. I don’t want to miss anything. I love the forum feature that allows you to read all “new” comments. I wish the blog had a way for me to see which new comments I have read and haven’t read. I feel more relaxed to participate in the forum, because I view the blog as more sacred and I let the more experienced weigh in first. This “Concern” post has heightened my anxiety. I never intend for my participation on this blog/forum to be off-track or non-TCI, but without specific examples of these behaviors, I now feeling less inclined to participate.

    I think the forum allows us more interaction and is especially important for newbies to ask questions and get answers from the generous, more experienced teachers. Of course, the forum discussion topics are vast and diverse, since we all have different needs at the given moment. On the forum we are not limited to discussion around previous blog posts and we have that “new” comments feature to quickly navigate what has recently been posted. I can ask questions on the moretprs listserv, but on Ben’s PLC I feel there are more well-informed, experienced, dedicated, and active responders. I get the feeling that the blog is exclusively fore a more advanced/experienced TCI level of discussion, whereas on the forum you have all TCI levels.

    What is the intended audience? Is the blog and forum just for the advanced, already knowledgeable and experienced teacher? One very important and ongoing job is to educate new teachers in TCI, but is that one of this site’s goals? Anyone transitioning to the TCI approach may make a strategy suggestion or make a comment supporting the learning a language process, rather than the acquisition process, but to the teacher in transition with less of an understanding of CI and TCI, these comments are not purposefully off-track.

    1. Great comment Eric. You have succesfully articulated a theme that I am starting to see emerging in a lot of comments and that is about focus. How can we keep our focus when responding to the needs of teachers with so many different levels of experience? So thanks for doing that. I have no answers, but just stating the issue so clearly is a big deal. I do know that the forum was started – in my own mind – to get to the new people and get them feeling more comfortable and get them answers. And it’s nice to not have to come up with an answer here in this comment to the dilemna of the huge size of the cloud of change we are in right now, it feels good to be able to be a part of just keeping this dialogue going. And Eric don’t curtail your comments. You are an example of how fast this work can be integrated into one’s pedagogy, and as such are an inspiration to other new people just starting out.

  16. I also like the suggestion that James has about keeping the forum for specific ideas and questions and the blog for more general discussion. I truly see this blog as a resource for all teachers that are making CI happen in their classrooms, and it has been amazing to me to have this wonderful resource. I am one of the only elementary teachers in my district that uses CI, and it is great to read the blogs and comments and know that I am not alone with what I am going through.

  17. This makes me happy, Angela. Can you imagine what it was like for some of us older people? In my case, 24 years of being totally totally alone in my work, wondering if I was crazy when I doubted the party line coming out of every door in my hallway? Making up new systems of teaching that didn’t work because they didn’t fit with the thinking around me? (I did, I tried to make up new ways to teach languages and failed.) It hurts to think about my professional solitude all those years in South Carolina. Knowing the people in our group is a source of great happiness and inspiration to me, especially when I get to see the ones in DPS here, which is quite often. We in DPS are almost like a family, complete with insults, really rude out of line jokes, and all that. Stoltz would fit right in. Yes, we in DPS are a bunch of sick individuals. But we have one very unsick goal – to give children hope in life.

  18. Forum rocks. Clears blog of clutter– I can ask a Spanish only question and not baflle the Latinists, French ppl, elementary ppl, etc. Quick answers and nice and focused. Keep it.

  19. The blog is where I come to get deep draughts of inspiration, and frequently learn some techniques that improve my teaching. I have tried to use the forum, couldn’t always add a message in response to a question, so that was frustrating, and I don’t have a lot of time for reading a lot of messages. I like just reading the ramblings of your mind, Ben. And I don’t comment or participate much, but it is very important to me to feel a part of this community. I feel that I am becoming a better teacher, and that the inspiration I get from this blog is helping me get there. That it is a qualitatively different thing, whatever I get from this blog, than what I can get from the forum here, or the tprs listservs, or FLTeach.
    I think at some time there was the idea that people would get together through the blog or the forum to form little local mini support groups, or share groups. I think that would be wonderful, if it could get organized. It doesn’t even have to be local, just groups of people who want to work together. I did an exchange of classroom story videos with Sabrina last year that I thought was wonderful for me and for my students. I’d love to do that again with another teacher somewhere else in the US, but I don’t know how to start. Instead of an open forum, or maybe in addition to an open forum, maybe people could be put in smaller groups to work together? That way maybe the newbies would also find the kind of support that that teacher from Tennessee is looking for?

    1. Hi Naomi, perhaps you should start a new thread in the “Specific Questions” category on the forum: “Looking for a teacher-collaborator to exchange classroom story videos.”

  20. I sort of feel like I am going to repeat what’s already been said, but tough! I would not, could not and will not be able to continue what I’m trying to do in my classroom without the kind and caring members of the PLC. Do you understand what you’ve done here, Ben? When I found the moretprs forum, I thought I would be able to really get what I needed this summer. I thought that I would be able to see exactly how to change my classroom into a TPRS classroom. Then I found YOU! It was like a message from beyond! Thanks to you and the PLC, I am still here and I am still trying to do whatever I can to incorporate CI into my classroom. I PQA, I CWB, I TCI my brains out every day! Being a newbie to CI is tough, but the payoff is in my future…I won’t always be a newbie. And you, Ben, and the PLC allow me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    The forum, for me, is like the whipped cream on pumpkin pie. Do I really need it? No, not really, but I sure do like to have it if I can! I barely have time to check on the blog, and believe me, when I NEED to read the blog, I make the time. I check the forum about twice a month. I can’t do it any more than that.

    Ben, as has been said, this is your baby. Do with it what you think best. I can only aspire to be as thoughtful and outspoken as you are.

    Thanks Ben!!!

    Deena

  21. I love reading posts from all you brothers and sisters here on the PLC. Yes, I’m learning how to teach, but I’m learning how to teach because our brothers and sisters here open the windows for us to peer into their minds; how they think and feel and struggle with the development of making CI work in their classrooms. This is part of what is so beautiful about your blog, Ben, that your PLC so openly, honestly, and thoughtfully share the struggles they encounter.

    The forum gives us newbies a chance to share our struggles as well. And with a little guidance from experienced members of the blog, like with a reference to an article on the blog, the forum stays connected to the Big Ideas on the blog. Let’s allow room for us to share mis-directed ideas on the forum so that someone can jump in and say, “Wait! Don’t forget about …!” And I’m so grateful for such guidance from James and Robert and many others.

    If the forum frees up some space and time for you, Ben, to focus more on the blog, we might just be all the better for it. I can’t imagine all the emails you read and respond to. Is it sustainable for you?

    All in all, it warms my heart to read posts from the same family members here as I’ve been visiting a few times a week for the past couple of months. I feel connected to the people here, more so than the ideas.

    I wonder, is it hard to feel this sense of connection to the blog if there are too many members commenting? Maybe, but that’s exactly why you have the forum, right? Also, on the blog, if their are tons of people commenting, you still have the ability to “Reply” to just a particular comment and take a lovely stroll with a member to explore a particular idea presented. Others can join you on this stroll or skip to other comments.

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