Creating a Problem in a Story

Some people still think that the degree to which they can get a good problem going and then coming up with a cute and neatly wrapped solution is an indication of their talent as a CI teacher.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The quality of the problem and its solution in a story have nothing to do with our success in comprehensible input instruction. Where in ACTFL does it say that we have to produce wonderfully stories in our classrooms to meet the standard? All we have to do is communicate.

Do we really need the approval of teenagers that much, to make ourselves grovel while we are teaching and hope that the story is funny so that people will like us and tell us how good we are at teaching? It’s just a job, and challenging enough by itself, thank you.

Getting a “good” problem going is more about luck than skill anyway. There are so many factors to take into account. Thus, when we arrive at the point when we want to create a problem in our story, we need in no way enter that point with trepidation or nervousness. Rather, we should just allow the story to create itself or not. There is a parallel here with how we live our lives and protect our mental health in this work.

Problems in stories either emerge during the creation of the story or they don’t.

This does not mean, however, (1) that we can’t have something brewing in the back of our mind going into the story, or (2) that we shouldn’t pay attention to our “inner intuitive voice” during the creation of the tableau and story. This entire transition we are now in in foreign language education – the proper term is paradigm shift – to listening to our intuition in our teaching is really what is happening anyway.

Really speaking, as the say in India, we don’t have to do anything except ask the questions and guide things along in what is really a strongly intuitive process, a process that we don’t need to mess with if we are to listen to and respect what the research really tells us about how people acquire foreign languages.

It would behoove all of us to start thinking about how easy things are to manage when the facts of the story have been developed along intuitive lines so that they lead naturally to the creation and resolution of a problem – or not.

You don’t have to work so hard. Language, the vehicle for the unfoldment of the stories of our lives, real or imagined in class, will develop and progress along its own lines. The creation and resolution of the problem will occur in a natural way and we need not be afraid, especially on Monday mornings.

I even like to infer to my class that it is their responsibility when a story fails because they didn’t help me enough, that they just didn’t show up enough in class that day in spite of my best efforts to teach them in a way that makes that happen by using the Invisibles.

That is actually true, as I am sure some readers can relate. God please bless their young youtubed hearts, because kids have become very boring lately.

We are working every day, tired now in March but strong because we are being buoyed up from beneath, to redirect kids to more fulfilling experiences in our classrooms.

We can do it. It is our work to help children. When I think of the work some of us are doing, I am filled with admiration and respect and pride to be working with you. If you think you are going crazy at the end of another school year and are considering quitting the profession, don’t.

What you are feeling is quite normal. It is the feeling and echoing sound of real change, of real reform in education. Someone has to do it.

God bless all of us as we begin another week in our hellish buildings, armed with love and compassion for what is happening to our children in these unprecedented days, ever ready to help them, even if only one.

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4 thoughts on “Creating a Problem in a Story”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    “God please bless their young youtubed hearts, because kids have become very boring lately.”

  2. “Getting a ‘good’ problem going is more about luck than skill anyway…. we should just allow the story to create itself or not.”

    This has exactly been my experience.

    Also, a story that does not create itself in class with actors etc. can often create itself during write and discuss or when I type it up at home so that by the time we read it it actually does feel like a story. Without the kids staring at me blankly or yelling at me all different weird ideas, I can usually find an easy wrap up using whatever they gave me in class that they tend to accept once we read.

    1. Carly said:

      … a story that does not create itself in class with actors etc. can often create itself during write and discuss or when I type it up at home so that by the time we read it it actually does feel like a story. …

      Bam!

      Reflecting what Alisa said a few days ago in a comment, this is quite an insight and in my mind encapsulates where this entire two-month long discussion has been heading. We just can’t think of the creation of a story as some kind of performance. We do not have stages in our classrooms for the reason that we are not actors. We are teachers. If I had wanted to become an actor I would have gone into acting. We can do whatever we want as long we are communicating in the TL with our students.

      Thank you for this insight, Carly. Can I put it in my book? You and Alisa are quoted more than a few times in there already. (Laurie Clarcq once rightly said that I don’t actually write books, I just take stuff from here and cram it all together in one place.)

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