Corinne Bourne on COVID

Hello Ben,

I have loved the creativity of having to try to learn how to make distance learning work, never having trained for it! In particular, I’ve tried to assign activities that they can do in virtual groups, taking advantage of their attachment to their phones. That has been quite popular as a way to feel connected during this stay home period.

We have taken the view at school that we must continue to engage our students so that we can attest that their letter grade at the end of the semester means something. I have not loved being chained to my computer for many hours longer than my regular day and lots of the weekends. I am a hundred percent exhausted (though with a sense of purpose and achievement!) and there’s still the month of May to go.

Our administration will be developing, over summer, plans to be ready for further school closures by establishing a distance-learning policy. That will include, I’m sure, more systematic tech training so that we feel fluent with the various digital tools at our disposal. What a way to approach the end of a career!

Next year will be my last in the classroom in all probability. By the way, thank you for recommending Deuxieme Livre. My level two’s have been enjoying reading the Civilization Francaise section while they shelter in place. 
Corinne Bourne



18 thoughts on “Corinne Bourne on COVID”

  1. Interesting juxtaposition between Laura and Corinne, here, Ben.

    I’m glad this challenge has been meaningful for you, Corinne. I would love to hear more about any one of the virtual activities you’ve tried that have worked well. Some details would be dazzling! Thanks in advance.

  2. I would be much more successful with this stuff if I didn’t have to do it from my home. Hashtag Ihave4kids

    1. Hey Craig! How old are your kids? I sure hope you’re able to get by doing close to nothing regarding school work.

      1. Hey Sean they’re 13, 9, 5 and 1. Not that much school stuff going on and sleep schedule is a real challenge. I have a hard time wanting my students to do anything at all.

        1. Craig said:

          … I have a hard time wanting my students to do anything at all….

          That’s deep. That goes right to core of our entire relationship with our jobs right now. On one hand there are four children who no doubt want nothing more than to be with their dad these day, as dad is being given a rare chance to be there for them a lot more than usual.

          Now Dad and Mom can balance things more than usual. They can balance the pressure on themselves. It’s so good for the family, like a gift from heaven. It IS a gift from heaven, this COVID thing. A LOT OF GOOD IS COMING OUR WAY RIGHT NOW.

          But there is a fly in the ointment, Dad is being asked to do his job online, remotely. Key word there is remotely. Remote physically in terms of distance, remote artificially in terms of the hard fact – as someone here mentioned in the past week – that everyone knows that in language acquisition the physical presence of the instructor, in our field more than any other, is a necessity, remote also in terms of nobody cares and a very low percentage of kids even show up.

          During the regular school year, with no COVID, would YOU work as hard to plan lessons if you knew that only a small portion of the class would show up that day? What would that imply for end-of-year gains for the class? Is this just a big way to justify a paycheck? What is really going on here?

          Craig sees all that and intuitively feels the underlying TRUTH of this situation, that he is being asked to do something totally pointless by people who have too much power, too much time on their hands, and a WAY TOO INFLATED opinion of their professional responsibilities at this time in our country.

          Yes, provide those who “want to learn” (they don’t – their parents want them to “learn” in most cases for the grade) by posting some websites to visit. Make it look good to keep your job. But the truth is that working with small groups of kids online during COVID is just absurd in language classes. Why?

          Because if we can’t REACH THEM WITH COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT, AIN’T NOTHING GONNA HAPPEN ANYWAY. (To make my observation even more snarky, nothing happens in the classroom when CI is not used either.)


          Craig sees through that fakeness because he “gets” CI, and he knows no one is going to check up on him, and he looks at his family, and he makes the right decision.

          1. I want to know about the moral aspects of making kids come to online classes that are so boring that we hate it and they hate it. I just heard from a teacher today whose kids turn off their video function so she has to teach (in this case creating a one word image) w/o even being able to see the kids, and build the image from just a few voices. I mean, what are we teaching the kids, how to be deceitful? Why doesn’t someone stand up and lead us through this? Why is not Paul Sandrock and ACTFL doing something to help us? They are our national parent organization and as far as I know they are doing nothing meaningful. What happened to leadership in our country?

  3. On the bright side, you have four kids. I’m equally lucky, all boys. They’re the deal. Nobody cares whether you are successful or not. There is no success right now. Just foolish teachers worrying too much, working too hard. For the approval of whom? Those admins, as long as they don’t get a call from a parent, they don’t care. They’re in get-through-the-year-mode, so leave it. Fly low. See what happens. Nothing will happen. Tend to your family. That’s my hit on this.

    1. Agreed. For most the school year is over already. If you can try new things via online teaching then do so, if not it’s no big deal either.

      1. I do hope you can sit in for me on any of the Invisibles Zoom sessions I miss. I’ll send you my new plan on that tomorrow. Alisa is looking it over right now.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yesterday at our T/CI Chicagoland Zoom meeting, I heard from a young elementary teacher who said that her school had such high expectations for her Spanish lessons that she was regularly breaking down and crying from all the stress. She has also been learning at least one new virtual tool per week, to keep the lessons engaging and fresh for her Ss.’ I was outraged, saddened and (I must admit) a bit ashamed, all at the same time, feeling confident until then that I knew how to create and share a pre-recorded Zoom video… yay me, and help my end-of-career music and art colleagues to embed a link, or change their Google doc share settings….

    One of our underlying questions HAS TO BE, ‘Why are we doing this?’ If we need to meet a minimum standard (‘floor’) per our admins’ parameters, to earn our paycheck, then we may have little choice. But we can do our best to streamline our time and energies, use off-the-shelf resources that are already online, and insist on Truth: The engagement by our students in our WL classes these days IS NOT A REFLECTION of our teaching skills. The kids are all blitzed out on screens. Talk about addiction – we just offered a free truckload of electronic cocaine.
    There ain’t no interface – no matter the bells and whistles, that will keep everyone or even most kids engaged when they have the choices, distractions and realities of the pandemic…

    So let’s get through the end of the year – as my husband would say, ‘cheezy, but done,’ – and stop taking on the weight of the world. The search engine is your friend – if you don’t have the bandwidth, energy, time or disposition, then copy and paste from someone who once did… and if you’re obligated to, then screen share and voice-over it – but most importantly there – share a smile and a comment to your students. More good is done by them seeing you – that you are alive and managing the best you can – than any story or image. The bar is low. It’s just being a fellow human and surviving…. High art is nice – but not a requirement while the world is in free-fall… and we CANNOT afford to beat ourselves up about it. Never has it been more important to prioritize our and our family’s/friends’/community’s mental health.

  5. Well Laura is not real high on the Invisibles online. Your presentation yesterday gave some hope in the online activity department. At least they have some links.

    Re: that teacher w all the stress, I am willing to sending her some books if she even wants them. I didn’t fit in that meeting. You guys still in the classroom are showing me how far out there I really am, as COVID threatens to nail down the lid now on the coffin of CI.

    Your mention of Muzzy took me back to 1977, when I used it in my first year of teaching. It didn’t work then in terms of real CI. It burned minutes though. We all know what that means. I feel that my ideas didn’t fit into the meeting and apologize for that. That group clearly wanted one thing, and you as usual did a good job of that by supplying that list.

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    In all fairness, Ben, perhaps you were unaware of the Zoom meeting’s stated purpose -we were there to support, share & provide resources to survive through the end of the yr w/ remote learning. At other live T/CI Chicagoland mtgs we do trainings, demos & have discussions – those are 4-hour workshops with breakout sessions. This was a 90-min online mini version, just to connect and triage.

  7. Yes, it was meant to triage. That’s why I was also saddened to hear from a few how chipper they were to indulge in the online learning. Perhaps that chipperness comes from teacher drain and getting a break in the Spring when students historically check out. Perhaps the chipperness also comes from teachers who have students that usually do what you ask them to do, the first time. I understand that.

    But I do fear that the online teaching is, like you say, the nail that seals the lid on CI.

    Elaine suggested an emergency meeting in July. I think that’s a great idea and there, I think, Alisa and Greg and I others will be able to clear our heads a bit and focus on how to help ourselves make the most of next year’s realities, which might just be a real progress for all of us. I mean, the talk of having 12 students in the classroom in the public schools would be absolutely amazing!

  8. Ben, I’m so glad you came to our Zoom meeting. Please don’t question yourself on how you contributed. It was just what we all needed. Truly. Of course, by the nature of online meetings, we question how we were received by our audience, right?!

  9. Alisa told me in our Zoom meeting today about what that brand new teacher is experiencing right now. Not great. If I could help just one teacher make CI work, and for me that would mean seeing the Invisibles work in the Zoom format, it would make the two years of writing it worth it. The emotional toll of teaching even w/o the virus, esp. for us in our field, is immense.

  10. I disagree that CI is finished because of the pandemic. First of all, I think we will eventually have a vaccine and be back to work. Next school year might be bumpy, but from what I hear most parents are struggling with having their kids home all of the time- so the public does want to have in-person school. Also, in the USA, the “high school experience” (Prom, Homecoming, Sports, Dances, etc) is very important to people.

    Also, Krashen has many case studies of people who learned languages based on input alone. Input alone is sufficient for acquisition. BVP says input + interaction is optimal, but that is only OPTIMAL not essential. For students that have had 100 hours in-person instruction we can tell them stories via the Invisibles and Storylistening (either pre-recorded or live) and they will be acquiring .

    For beginners more one-on-one work is needed. Blaine Ray has been teaching his grandchildren (5 students I believe) TPRS via online classes and he posts the classes on Youtube. He says that he has experience success with that. I know that many of us disagree with the direction TPRS has gone (especially with the “triangling”) but it still is fundamentally an input-based method and it does get results.

    Anyway, just my two cents. The next year is going to be chaotic but I don’t believe this will last forever.

  11. All good points. I overstated that. CI is not finished and will never be because it aligns with the research. I do honestly feel that TPRS cannot work online. Those are Blaine’s grandkids, not kids whose dads and moms are out of work.

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