Krashen in Schools 1

Chris, again, congratulations on attracting the attention of the big dog with your paper.

A while back I had asked Krashen a simple question. I asked him how he would describe his own work. I wanted to hear what he would say is the simplest way to conceptualize his work. He wrote back:

It’s not about people, it’s about ideas.

A newspaper man tracked down Pierre and Marie Curie’s vacation cottage. He found a plain-looking woman sitting outside.

“Are you the housekeeper?” he asked?

“Yes.

“Is your mistress inside?”

“No.”

Will she be back soon?“ I don’t think so.”

“Can you tell me something confidential about your mistress?” he asked?

“Madame Curie has only one message that she likes to give to reporters,” said Marie Curie. “That is: be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”

[From: Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Clifton Fadiman, ed.]

In fact, Krashen deserves more and more real field support of the core ideas that make up his work. He needs more, much more. I’m sure he didn’t publish those 900 articles just to keep it all in the realm of resesarch, and to have people bandy about his work in a half assed way as is happening now, for lack of papers like yours.

As you know, I have a suspicious side that the vast majority of teachers claim to understand but do not understand Krashen’s work, failing badly to put it into practice in our school environments in such a way that his findings would best be utilized for us in schools. Sometimes, I wonder if it can be done in a really effective way, in a way that brings real change to our schools.

Do we really grasp the full impact and meaning and application of what Dr. Krashen has done? Where might your study, and others like it, eventually take us? Where might our work in our classrooms, a nice balance to Krashen’s more theoretical work which we in TPRS/TCI are each testing daily in our classrooms, eventually take comprehensible input?

 

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10 thoughts on “Krashen in Schools 1”

  1. So, you’re really talking about English use on both sides: teachers and students.

    Student English use are classroom management/personal relationship/classroom culture issues, in my eyes, and must be addressed on that level.

    I don’t see how student English use relates to this method or any other method–unless, perhaps, we believe they do it because we are going to quickly, not being comprehensible enough, thereby overwhelming their brains. Perhaps, we’re not interesting enough to hold their attention. I still believe it’s a management issue–one where we forge a long-term relationship with kids (which takes a LONG time) and give them the responsibility for letting us know, politely, what it is they need to succeed. Massive training necessary. Massive. Never ends IMHO. The most important and hardest thing we do.

    Teacher English use is another issue for me: The whole time I was reading what you wrote, I was thinking, “It’s not just that we use English, interrupting the flow, etc.. I believe our teacher brains get overwhelmed with the level of exertion and skill required to keep all of the CI balls in the air to be able to produce TL that is comprehensible and compelling enough (which means we have to go slowly, too) to reach 25-35 very complex, often extremely unwilling participants. That’s the hard part.” It’s not just creating a policy of Just Say No to English.

    If it were relatively simple to provide CI for 50 minutes/90 minutes at a stretch, I don’t believe we would be so tempted to use English. I just think it’s hard task.

    When I see the glazed eyes or a behavior issue erupts, I am challenged in so many ways. Checking in with myself about what’s happening to me on the inside, what action I need to take, how I can alter whatever it is I am doing to make the situation/comprehensibility better, etc., takes time and abilities I may or may not have. There I am–in front of a whole classroom full of kids– waiting for me to do something RIGHT NOW. I am alone in my classroom with full responsibility for solving the “problem”. That’s stressful. That’s our job–every day–all year long. Hey, I think I know why I might be speaking English!

    As I have become more skilled as a CI provider, classroom manager, and compassionate human, all of this has gotten somewhat easier–but it’s always challenging. I vote for facing the truth of ourselves, really working on the skills WE need, and forgiving our messy human mess. Bless the teachers of the PLC, their honesty, and willingness to improve. We march on.

  2. Oops–your original post changed between the time I started and finished writing the respons above. Now, it has NOTHING to do with the post. 🙂

  3. No, it has everything to do with the posts as a group of five. (The original gassy post had to be cut into five which will post throughout the day and be all up here by the time the Nuggets tip off against your Golden State Warriors at 7:30 tonite.)

    You always amaze me. I mean, you went right to my entire point (in post five) without knowing it. Yes, it is ALL about the use of English.

    AND you answered my question. My question was can CI work in schools – I honestly don’t know – and you basically said above, correct me please if I am not reading it properly, that it is well nigh impossible and we are to be forgiven if we can’t keep all the CI balls in the air in classrooms bc, no blame and we need to have compassion on ourselves, it may just be too difficult. Is that what you are saying?

    It is so important to me, bc what you wrote above brings in a certain compassion that I have never allowed my perfectionist ass self to have. I have always tried to get the CI balls up in the air, all 500 of them, and grow 498 other arms and hands to keep them going.

    Now, I see it may just be too much and, of course, that in no way justifiies a return to the old way, but simply means that we should stop trying so ineffably hard to make it work in our classrooms at the level it works – the level Krashen studied – in the real life 24/7 world which is so vastly different from our worlds in terms of available minutes to make CI work.

    Your response?

  4. See the thing is we have asked Krashen about this and his response has been this, as told to me by Contee Seely:

    …one significant thing that is lacking in Krashen’s approach to this and other questions is that he is not a language teacher and, so, doesn’t have the hands-on experience of a language teacher. I have heard him say that (some) teachers have the experience that he lacks and that their effective practices are more important than his opinion….

    So we really can’t ask Krashen about this. You would be the one to do that, amongst all of us here, but we have to do this ourselves.

  5. There are two things that attract my attention in this discussion. The first is the role of the use of English as you addressed above.

    The second is the role of time. I don’t think we realize, or we always forget, that, even though we know that tens of thousands of hours are needed for fluency, we still give the kids the AP exam after 500 hours. I mean, can anyone say horseshit on that?

    None of Krashen’s research was done, as far as I know, on what happens, or doesn’t happen, when the total amount of CI time available is 16 hours a month, which is the fact in classrooms.

    Of course, to reflect your point as I read it above Jody, the extended point here is really this question: “When are we going to forgive ourselves for not having enough time with our students to bring the results we know are possible in the comprehension based classroom?”

    To really extend it, we would ask, “When our we going to forgive ourselves for not being perfect teachers?”

  6. To the first point, especially because of the things I’ve gone through in the past two years, I would respond this way: It’s like being a surgeon, or a lawyer, or a parent, or any other profession that directly and immediately impacts people’s lives. There are a zillion balls in the air at any one time, many best practices which moral and caring practitioners strive to perfect, one’s best efforts and attention, and the zillions of invisible/concrete barriers that get in the way of the “perfect outcome”. We are living under pressures and expectations from the public and the government that are not based in reality. We have internalized this oppression and have a difficult time distinguishing between what we really CAN do and can’t. I can’t throw the baby out with the bath water here.

    If I believe in Krashen’s theories, I must continue to self-critique, learn, practice, and improve the teaching skills and thinking that lead to the best outcomes for my students. In the “boxes” in which we are required to function, will there ever be any result that approximates ” perfect surgery”, the “perfect case”, “perfect offspring”, the “cookie-cutter perfect fluency for all”? We know the answer– which gets to your other points?

    I DO believe we “keep trying hard” and with the understanding that we’re not actually beating our heads against a wall in the process (like many of used to do with ineffective traditional methods). We’re refining our practice, growing in knowledge and experience, getting the best bang for our buck with our students in the little time we have with them, and hopefully, transmitting our self-compassion and passion for what we do to them. The sense of head banging we often feel is not about the method and what it can accomplish. It’s about the unrealistic expectations coming from ignorant thinking.

    This doesn’t even touch the present eduformer situation most teachers are suffering. I personally believe we’re in a war. It is difficult to stay compassionate toward the oppressor and toward ourselves in times like these. I believe we’d better, or we’ll lose ourselves and our students.

    OK, starting to wander.

  7. “The sense of head banging we often feel is not about the method and what it can accomplish. It’s about the unrealistic expectations coming from “ignorant thinking”.”

    That “ignorant thinking” is often ours. Now that I’ve written that phrase “ignorant thinking”, a few times, I’d like to change it. It’s harsh and judgmental–hmm. Hard to change oneself, eh?

  8. Yes it is hard to change or redirect the harsh self judgement that we are not good enough as CI instructors.

    I personally find that it helps to share that fact with my kids. I tell them that I am just learning, so that if they see hypocrisy in my instruction – teens smell out hypocrisy in their teachers like bloodhounds – they need but recall what I share with them often that I am still learning.

    An example is that I want to stay more in L2 and don’t and then turn around and get on their case when they don’t. That’s a tough challenge for them, to accept how hard it is for me.

    That is why a lot of the student jobs are so valuable – they get us looking together in the same direction as one single group trying to accomplish a common goal instead of operating as two entities in oppositiion to one another, one “in charge” and the other obedient – the old model.

    So I like what you said about having hope that we can transmit to our students “our self compassion and passion for what we do…”.

    I also resonate with what you say that we have “internalized this oppression and have a difficult time distinguishing between what we really CAN do and can’t.” This can be lethal to a career when you are young and haven’t yet figured out that the emporer really isn’t actually wearing any clothes.

    It’s never too late to forgive ourselves. So we had a shitty year. So what? We can try again next fall. And we’ll probably get better at lowering our expectations as to what is possible, yet raising the quality of our instruction at the same time. So much is possible with this method! Plus, we get to learn and grow, something that most decidedly is NOT happening in the classrooms of the page turners (Grant’s term) of yesteryear.

    Speaking of Grant, go buy your item of pottery online from him NOW so he doesn’t have to eat dog food in San Diego. I have two of his mugs and they feel like they weren’t made in China. This is an unsollicited plug by the way. Grant’s site is:

    https://www.facebook.com/boulangerpottery

  9. Warning: ramble (!)

    I remind myself, and if I am truly present my students as well, that this is a practice. A practice is a tough concept for most of us, because we associate “practice” with “achievement” in a not very integral or lifelong way. Typically “practice” is associated with achieving a certain level of whatever, on a certain timeline, at which point we will “no longer need to practice,” because we “got it.” But that is where we get all gummed up. That is where the concept of school and all the testing and uniformity and “having everyone be at the same place at the same time” BS throws everything off.

    What we practice is “bringing it” daily to our classrooms. This takes on different forms depending on so many factors in any given day. But to me the “practice” is all about being there to open a pathway between all of us in the room, and about recognizing the innate wisdom each of us has within, and about creating these different pathways and letting out lights shine with CI .

    It is such a radical shift from “what schools are about” that I can totally see your point Ben: ” Can this even work?” If we are trying to match exactly what Krashen lays out, in terms of the hours and all that, then no. But I don’t think that is what we are doing. We stick as closely as we can, eyes on the prize so to speak, and recognize also that the situation is far from ideal and that there are so many other variables to account for. The biggest one that I think about is the motivation factor, because most of the studies I have read deal with adults or university students so for these people there is at least one layer of choice in their study of language.

    So we catch ourselves daily and sometimes hourly or whatever, when we let things go or “stray into English” or whatever. We notice it: “Oops, derailing. ” And then get back on the train. Simple as that. But not easy by any stretch. Because shit crashes. “Oops crashing.” Then we go into McGyver mode or James Bond mode or super-deluxe-dictée mode. Thing is, if we notice ourselves derailing and then add the layers of muck by beating up on ourselves, then we are committing violence. And by definition what we are doing is non-violent. Right? Plus it just makes the work so much harder bc we then have to dig back through those layers. Ick. So let’s stop the violence by noticing we are human, noticing “oops mistake,” and get back to our intentions. It is messy! Heck yeah! Messy and uncomfortable and aggravating and it pushes all our buttons and lots of times it plain ole sucks. And I would not ever consider doing this any other way, because even on the crappiest days I know I am for real and not BSing or posing. It is so much easier to face myself on the crappy days and just say “oh well, clean start tomorrow.” Sure beats the chronically fraudulent feeling I had for 20+ years 🙂 And the awesome power and sweetness that happens on the good days…yee-hah!!!

    So, a long-winded way of reminding us all to “bring it” every day (it looks different each time, remember that…May is different from September…third period is different from sixth period, tired me is different from energized me, etc.). Let go of grasping for a certain outcome. Surrender to the mystery.

  10. Jen wrote: Typically “practice” is associated with achieving a certain level of whatever, on a certain timeline, at which point we will “no longer need to practice,” because we “got it.”

    I believe that all practice involves striving to achieve a certain level of whatever. Where we go wrong is yielding to the dragons of “on a certain timeline” and until “we will no longer need to practice”. Perhaps the story of Larry Bird is apropos. He was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and was noted for his work ethic – but his was not a work ethic imposed from the outside, and it was not on a timeline. Even after he became one of the greatest players the Boston Celtics have ever had, he continued to practice. Here is a description:

    While most players waltzed into the locker room the required 90 minutes before game time, Bird has been on the floor by at least 6:00, more than two hours before tip-off. In the loneliness of Boston Garden, with only attendants and a few Celtics season ticket holders present, Bird shot more than 300 practice shots. He’d start with 6 to 10 free throws, move out on the court a bit, and then start firing away at a comfortable pace as comrade Joe Qatato hit him with perfect passes. Then the “Parquet Picasso,” as he was dubbed, would speed up the routine and by the end of the workout throw up rapid-fire shots, many featuring the Bird “drop back a step” maneuver that guaranteed him an opening from every angle. “I really don’t count my shots,” Bird said. “I just shoot until I feel good.”
    http://hoopthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/larry-bird-work-ethic.html

    Just a couple of thoughts:
    1. Even as a professional and one of the best players around, Larry Bird never believed he could stop practicing; he never “arrived” in that sense.
    2. His practice was “organic” rather than mechanical. Not the last sentence of the quote from Bird: I just shoot until I feel good. There it is – “until I feel good” about what I’m doing.

    To change comparisons, I remember (perhaps because my German 3/4/AP classes are reading my medieval book) the ideals of knighthood. They were impossible, and the knights of the Middle Ages knew this; nonetheless, they considered the striving important. Knights believed they were members of a sacred brotherhood and strove to embody the ideals of that brotherhood in spite of the fact that they knew they never could. Or consider the biblical injunction: “‘Be perfect, just as I am perfect,’ says the Lord.” Once again, an utter impossibility, but God’s response to our failure is an offer of forgiveness. Here are some quotes on forgiveness. Perhaps one or more of them will strike a chord:

    “A forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note, torn in two and burned up, so that it can never be shown against the man. “ ~ Henry Ward Beecher
    “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom
    “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.” ~ Billy Graham
    “Forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing. The important thing is that a discord has been resolved.” ~ C.S. Lewis
    “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ~ Alexander Pope

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