Approval Drives Stories

We want good group dynamics in our stories, but wanting is not enough, and a sense of neediness on the teacher’s part actually makes the group dynamics shakier. Good group dynamics happen when the teacher allows the students to just be who they are in the classroom. Then the teacher will see something.

Creating an environment where students can simply be who they are is a gift of love.  Forcing students to focus their thinking on mere form, and assigning grades so that force and judgment are invited into our classes, is far from loving. The students retaliate by shutting down.   And then we have no hope of getting to interesting stories, much less compelling ones.

So it can be said that our work involves far more than merely transmitting information to our students. It is mostly about transmitting approval, and of teaching everyone in the classroom to also approve of each other in a kind way by modeling kindness on a daily basis in class.

Doing such a thing is almost impossible to do in a traditional classroom because of where our focus is. It seemed impossible to me at times even when using TPRS because I still had a fog of forms (targets) between my brain and my heart.  But bringing kindness and awareness to an Invisibles classroom is an easy thing once the class has buy-in on the process and the focus of instruction – the kids and their startlingly creative ideas.

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10 thoughts on “Approval Drives Stories”

  1. I have two students sucking the air out of the room. One wants logical stories but doesnt give any suggestions. Another wants to focus on grammar and also has a negative attitude when stories aren’t logical. Any advice would help.

    1. I would make light of it with the first kid, who is obviously in over his/her head in just having fun in class, like the others. I know what you mean, we all do, about kids sucking air out of the room. Just go with (what used to be jGR) dGR (or is it mGR now? – which one are we using?) and give him/her the interpersonal skills grade you think he/she is earning. It is not up to you to change a child’s behavior – the visible behaviors modeled by the other students in the room do that.

      The kid who wants the grammar – that is so pathetic. We have volumes of articles on that topic here. But we would need to find them. Anyone who can help please send links. That same grammar kid’s negative attitude on non-logical stories is why we get the big bucks, right? Just kidding.

      But if we truly think about how crazy it is to allow some sad kid into our minds and hearts in a negative way, and relate that to our paychecks, then we really must be looked upon as crazy. I would personally not give that kid the time of day in terms of allowing them to knock my knees out from me in my own classroom on an emotional level.

      Can you just keep the energy up with the other kids and let those two kids be seen for what they are – spoiled and self-centered and very scared kids who are unable to move their games up to the next level (the human being level) and unwilling to change and adjust to the new levels of light in their foreign language classroom this year?

      This is the Tolkien trilogy come to life in our classrooms, is it not? Courage, mon vieux. You carry the ring.

      1. Can you just keep the energy up with the other kids and let those two kids be seen for what they are – spoiled and self-centered and very scared kids who are unable to move their games up to the next level (the human being level) and unwilling to change and adjust to the new levels of light in their foreign language classroom this year?

        Yeah, and I would pull those kids, individually, to have a chat with them in the hallway. Try getting them to open up to you about whatever. “I see that you are upset. How are you doing? Are you okay?” Maybe they need a couple of private chats and they’ll begin to trust you. They might be stuck in how they see teachers and classes fitting inside a certain frame of understanding. You’re probably out of that frame. Many of us are, Hallelulah!

        1. I had a chat with one after class, left a message on the phone and had a counselor talk to her briefly. She said she was fine just bored. Okaaayy. She has trouble stepping up to the human level no doubt.

          I had chat with the other student’s mother. She came back more responsive but still needs reminding. I will continue to give my expectations over and over this week. Along with more chats.

          Thanks for the support.

          1. One of the great privileges of being a teenager is that you get to say your bored when you are scared. Our job, as if it is not complicated enough, is to know when to give the child the time they need to observe people in a class interacting in the human way (after all, language is the main tool for allowing humans to interact and is what sets us apart from animals). By being in our classrooms (so different now than before, are they not?) such suffering kids can slowly learn the social skills that they had obviously never learned. All we have to do is be patient. It’s the passage about taming the fox in the Petit Prince. So when a student tells you they are bored, open up your heart to that word. I heard somewhere that we must learn to love those whom we cannot love. The opportunities that such “bored” students afford us for our own internal growth are perhaps among the greatest gifts in teaching. By not being offended when they tell us they are “bored”, we get the real benefits of our profession, which cannot be counted in dollars, but in the internal growth of compassion and understanding and all the divine qualities in our hearts for students like this one.

      2. So true that these students cannot keep up with the human level. However can I keep up with the rest? I have so many introverted and shy students in that same class who pay attention but may not give the stop signal or may not give suggestions who have a hard time laughing and being human. So when I have those two students (more than 10 percent of my class), then class just stinks.

        I may just stop the stories and talk about us like for real. I may even do a circle and just talk in L1 with a social emotional counselor. I might even share out too. Is this too silly?

        1. No Steven it’s not too silly to:

          …just stop the stories and talk about us like for real. I may even do a circle and just talk in L1….

          Nothing is too silly to try in this work, because we must at all costs find ways of communicating with our kids, because that’s what comprehensible input is – communication. I fear, however, that the shy kids who are not stepping up in class, so that those other two stand out like sore thumbs, may not be able to meet you half way in the setting you describe above, without stories but just talking. It may not work. I would stay with the stories, but make them ultra short and go extremely narrow and deep with the reading options to give them maximum success. A lot of the time we mislabel classes as boring when the truth is that they don’t understand. I would use Annoying Orange and just keep hammering away at a very short story. The game here is to find that one kid who gets it but hasn’t said anything cute yet. Keep waiting, and let us know when “that one kid” says “that one unexpected cute answer” and in that moment you will see the smiles grow and their shoulders relax as the trust is built. This is no game for the faint hearted. I can’t wait to hear how this class is going in a week or two. It’s one of those “dud” classes without any real leaders. Keep plugging away – the leaders will emerge. Have faith in stories.

          1. I would stay with the stories, but make them ultra short and go extremely narrow and deep with the reading options to give them maximum success.

            Thank you. I will also try the annoying orange technique on a student that is borderline interactive and bored, the product of being in classes where kids need to be passive, judged and quiet.

          2. Read the article I will post on Annoying Orange before doing that. Don’t try it on the wrong kid. They have to be able to take the annoying comments from you.

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