Indian Summer Thoughts

I rode into work today in perfect Indian Summer weather in this great state of Colorado. On the way back home, I saw a lot of kids walking home from school.

What I saw seemed incongrous. Kids struggling to carry backpacks full of books, some in their arms, etc., having spent the entire day in restraining devices, listening to adults talk or staring at a computer screen.

I’m almost certain that those kids didn’t experience too much rigor today, unless you want to call frustrating mental gymnastics rigorous (I call them stupid). I just know that those kids didn’t get to participate in a real way in their classes today.

I am sure that they had to get all of their meaningful contact with others in the form of friends in the hallway in a few minutes between classes. In class, I state boldly, that those children weren’t really being educated – because in my view education means being able to share ideas with others.

Now that we can Google anything, the entire concept of learning has changed as long as computers exist to replace our memorization needs. Computers are now doing the job of our memorizing stuff. But we haven’t changed how we educate our children.

Our job now is to know how to learn more and more how to move information between people. A language class that uses a book is now even more than ever, in that light, just a stupid thing. The waters of change will twist and turn those old traditional teachers and drown them in too much new information and they will quit.

So as those kids walked home today with their heavy burdens, just trying to live, we all went home from our jobs as teachers too. Some of had been again defeated by how weird this shit is. Others were floating on air over a good story that worked.

So as I rode through the crisp orange leaves on the bike path, loving the crunch, looking at all those kids walking home with all that heaviness on their shoulders, I was reminded why I am so intense about this. The well being of children is on the chopping block in our country. I will fight for that until they drag me off feet first.

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28 thoughts on “Indian Summer Thoughts”

  1. Well, thank you I think but the deal is that what are the younger new teachers going to do in this new teaching landscape? I can say those dramatic things, which I fully mean, but then I get to walk out now, or anytime I want, or get dragged out. But you guys are going to be fighting fights I never dreamed of.

  2. I don’t think that many teachers are as outspoken and as rebellious as you so unfortunately I am not sure that anything will change. Change can be so scary and we need it on a huge level however, this is the type of change that can start at a grassroots level. I think that all of us here are seeds of that change. But we also need to stop just preaching to the choir and step up to the proverbial pedagogical plate. People like me get broken down from the system and I find myself dreaming about my life after teaching. That said, I am going to be kicking and screaming for what I believe in until I leave or until they throw me out (as the case can sometimes be for the squeaky wheel in a society afraid of forward movement).

  3. Parents and PR are our best bets here. My fall Conferences were some of the best ever. Parents ‘get this.’ They love reading about the kids in the class (I start with the name tags and write readings based on that at the beginning of the year). It’s so elementary school, but critical to building community. Once the community is built, we are on the right road. If they drag me out then, so be it.

    1. Here, here!! I had parent conferences last night, and without exception, received wonderful feedback. One of the best ones of the night came from a mom whose son took Spanish I with another teacher. She said he fought and kicked and screamed that he didn’t want to take any more Spanish, but now talks about Spanish every day and loves it.

      When they have the opportunity, the kids will vote with their feet, too. I taught junior high last year and started at a new magnet high school this year. Of the students I taught last year that chose to come to the magnet school, all but one signed up for Spanish II (and that one is on an IEP and not motivated to put forth the effort.) Compared to the national attrition rates between first and second year of a language, that is amazing!

      In another conversation, a group of boys were talking about returning to the regular high school for various reasons, but they said they would wait until next year because they wanted to finish Spanish II with me. Of course, we all know it’s not that I am all that awesome, but it speaks volumes about the method!!!

  4. I don’t know if this is the place to put this but since I don’t really care I am going to write this in this space.
    Things have been quiet. After the workbook incidence, things have been nicely quiet, until today. We have a new superintendent this year. He is not a friend to world languages. That aside, he wants our principles (and we have 5 at my school) to be observing each classroom once a week.
    The guy that came into my class today is an ex-spanish teacher and he would do it differently.
    He asked to meet with me and then when he did meet with me (not telling me what the meeting was about) he berated me because I didn’t have tables so kids cannot be taking notes to refer back to later (I never knew teenagers went over Spanish notes…that is because they DON’T) He said that one boy was reading (which I actually did not notice until later and stopped it [it was in Spanish]) and that just because my kids were facing forward does not mean that they were paying attention. The class was answering my questions and doing well. We had a quiz later. They did well. Are you kidding me? I told him there was a reason behind everything I do and that I do not do things willy nilly. We are having a difference in teaching philosophy. He said that he has been to many trainings and he even referenced his Department of Defense language teaching. I was getting fucking ANGRY and I am sure that steam was starting to come from my ears. I am not an articulate person especially when put on the spot like this. I want to punch him in the face. A friend of mine suggests that I need to send him some links of the ACTFL guidelines as well as other TPRD/CI links. Any ideas?

    1. If you’re not tenured, fly under the radar. If you are, stand up for your belief and your philosophy. Is this guy going to be checking up on you regularly?

    1. Hi Karen,

      A TPRS teacher, Katya Paukova, is the Russian instructor at Monterrey, CA which I thought is the Dept. of Defense language program location. So he’s behind the times. I think somewhere in the archives I saw someone discuss this so someone else probably has more details. If he’s impressed with the DoD program, that might be a helpful fact.

      How terrible to have so many at your school giving you a hard time instead of encouragement and support!

  5. What do we do? I mean, when this guy waltzes into your room and makes false claims based on ideas that don’t make sense or add up – old ideas from days gone by – he reminds me of the political debate going on right now tonite, with so much hot air and bullshit coming from outright fools. I have to mute half of it.

    Karen all I can say is mute this guy – don’t let him get to you – he is a dumb ass. You may want to do as Diane suggested – send him some of the stuff from ACTFL and maybe choose from the administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education for a few other articles. You may actually want to get to a table with him with a mediator because what he did was neither collegial or professional, to say the very least. What he was really doing was imposing his will on you. I see such a parallel with this election season.

    Bullies operate in this way and they will not change when given a taste of power as in this situation or on the national stage. He had no right. He is bullying you and it is so sad. Read some of the articles here in the Bullying of Teachers category also. You should have never experienced that. Ever. And read some in the Mental Health category, that’s what I need myself right now.

    Maybe we should flood his email box with comments. Flush his sorry ass out in the open. But that wouldn’t help you. That’s how these guys (old white men – he sounds white) operate. They grab the power and then put the woman down. Had you been a white male and you two like the same football team, would that have happened? Screw it. I’m moving to Greenland or something. There you are doing good hard work with real courage and this guy comes in and does that. What are we to do? (insert your favorite prayer to God here)

    And by the way, I will work on getting Katya to call him. Diane is right. He needs to be de-confused about what is happening right there in Monterey right now with a TPRS/CI teacher rocking the house out there. None of the other instructors believe what she is doing and according to Susan Gross DLI is in a state of unrest right now due to Katya’ wonderful TPRS work. And she is a woman. I’ll get back to you on this. If you send me his email address I will ask Katya to contact him.

  6. Two thoughts:

    1. You are a way better teacher than he ever thought of being and watching you teach, and what your students were able to do, hit him hard in the admistesticles.

    2. He is not intelligent, educated or open-minded enough to see that your kids were acquiring language. He wasn’t looking for that. He was looking for items on a checklist that someone told him demonstrated learning. Any educator worth his salt would know better. He’s not worth much.

    That being said, honey catches many, many insects. Even this kind. Thank him for his visit. Offer to show him Susie’s/Bryce’s admins. checklist for this type of instruction. Let him know that you appreciate his concern…that you have thought of these things yourself, but in this type of environment, those behaviors contradict acquisition. Let him know that you would love to share research with him.

    Say a prayer for him. Take a deep breath. Swear a few more times …as many times as you need to.

    Then go back in tomorrow and teach your kids with all of the knowledge and love that you have. You don’t need tables for that. Or notes either.

    with love,
    Laurie

    1. What Laurie said. I don’t have tables in my room, either, just chairs. Fortunately my administrators get it. I also make it a point to go and thank the administrator each and every time one of them stops by. I also try to make a point about why I teach the way I do. It’s a process of gradual re-education. Just to add to Laurie’s comments, it would be great if you could find at least one item on which you and he agree, then build from there. Often you can lead people down a path if you start by emphasizing what they do right rather than what they do wrong. (It’s an application of that honey thing.)

      Ben wrote, (insert your favorite prayer to God here). I’ve always kinda liked Psalm 58:6, “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord.” I understand this as figurative language with the teeth representing that unwarranted power to destroy and tear people apart, so I am asking for that misused power to be broken.

      I had the privilege of learning Russian from Katya last summer in Punta Cana. It was a great experience. By the end of four days I was able to tell a story completely in Russian with correct grammar (as attested by one of the Russian teachers who was present), even though I can tell you very little about how Russian grammar functions. I’m sure Katya is rocking the boat in Monterey; she accomplishes so much in a short period of time.

    2. Thanks Laurie. I need to remember the honey thing because I can be so caustic. I feel like I am a wild animal backed into a corner.

      1. WOW!!! I LOVE the support that I get here. So worth being a member. Ben, I love your articulation and I hope that I am there someday. As I said above when I get bullied, I feel like a cornered tigress and all I can do is swipe my paws hoping to connect. I turn into fight or flight mode.
        I would love for Roger to get an email from Katya however the father of my son says that I should have her send me information and then send it on to him. I think it would be great for him to hear form her as a CC. Here is his address Nicolls_Roger@asdk12.org
        I am going to take a deep breath and say a prayer (thanks for the psalms) and collect my information. I will email him and thank him for his comments and then UGH. I am so bad at this stuff. I pray that I find the words. Right now I am praying for my 13.5 month old cause he is sick. poor baby boy.

        1. We have to walk very carefully, Karen (we’re in the same district), partly b/c our curriculum head also does not believe in TPRS/CI. So it would be great if Katya wrote a letter from DLI, but try to concentrate on the RTI goals and Common Core and how we’re meeting those requirements. If you want, we can chat. Do give him Susie’s form. Use the term CI, not TPRS, until you’re on the same page with him. We are in very dangerous times in our district. I’ve been called on the carpet twice already. I think that it might be something our principals are having to document for the new super. Two other very experienced teachers who are legendary for their students’ results on AP’s have received letters of reprimand, and one got a week’s administrative leave.

          I can retire. You can’t, so be careful.

          I don’t have desks either, as you know. Be sure that your kids are showing correct posture as part of their listening. I don’t lecture kids about that; I just request that they sit up straight, talking about what signals body form sends to the brain, how their posture will affect job interviews and teacher attitudes in other classes, and then I wait for them all to sit up straight. That’s one thing an admin notices if there are only chairs.

          Find out whether he knows and believes in Krashen. If so, that will be your ticket. You can give him Krashen handouts from the conference.

          (Also…be careful what you write, even here…make sure you’re not doing it from school…I had an IT “visitor” on my computer at school yesterday while I was pre-screening a Russian children’s cartoon.)

          Thinking of your baby! (And now I’m going to school!!)

          1. Thank you so much Michele. This is all really good insight. Things that I was never aware of. I always thought our district supported CI because of Janice. Janice has pushed TPRS/CI so much and I think I am getting mixed signals. Lucky for me I was teaching vocab straight from the book. This is the exact reason that I have asked to be a part of the curriculum decisions this year. I would like to do more of what Laurie’s District expects of students and less of pulling straight from the Ven Conmigo chapters. I have never met a student, not even a 4%, that got everything that was supposed to be taught to first year Spanish students. Luckily I am not going to be teaching Spanish forever.
            I will take into account what I am writing from school (I write that from home thank goodness) It might be better if I get sent any information and then I send it to Roger myself.
            I will ask Roger about Krashen. He might say, who? or he might gaffaw at which point I will know he is the enemy. The funny thing is Michele, The kids were sitting up, they were paying attention. There was one student that was reading Pobre Ana that I was not aware of until after he left. I really think that he is picking on me. I also do not see anywhere in our contract that says we need to have tables in our rooms. Okay. I am even more dumbfounded now that ever after you told me about the AP teachers. Maybe you can email me at my home email alyeksa@gmail.com and tell what administration they were under. Okay. now I am going to write this down and I am going to make sure that what he is doing is legal as I am following curriculum (even if it is lousy). It is so hard to do to a school that honors your way of teaching to a school that does not honor your way of teaching.

          2. “I have never met a student, not even a 4%, that got everything that was supposed to be taught to first year Spanish students. ”

            Here is that dirty little secret rearing its ugly little head again, namely that all these textbooks are designed by and for 4%ers, and EVEN THE 4%ERS CAN’T LEARN IT. This is where it all comes crashing down. There is really no evidence that anyone is reaching even the analytic learning goals of today’s 20th century textbook-based classrooms, to say nothing of acquisition. Then what of all the technology gimmicks promoted ad nauseam by ACTFL, which are based upon this false assumption that textbook curricula along with a few bells and whistles will promote acquisition? It’s all a massive heap of rubbish.

          3. Oh geez, how do you tell if you get a visitor? Now I’m all paranoid, thinking of things I’ve written from school…

          4. I could tell because my mouse started moving on its own, and then a communication window opened up, asking why I was on YouTube! It’s not that I want to be paranoid, just that we should know that school computers are not our private places.

          5. Michele,
            This is ridiculous. Can they not trust us as professionals? Of course you are not on Youtube willy nilly. What a bunch of dicks. Pardon my french, but I mean it. This is ludicrous.

  7. I want to echo Karen… what a supportive community! Thank you all for contributing, and thank you Ben for facilitating. It’s so comforting to know that when I need it, I can come to you all and get ideas and assurance and resources that I can’t get on my own.

  8. As I read your concerns and warnings, I am truly dumbfounded. Is this really what is going on? Are administrators laying off good teachers because they differ in teaching methodology? I had no idea about this kind of nonsense. You should consider moving north!

  9. Thanks again for all of the information. I think that my ADD problem of blurting came through in these posts and I feel like I owe the group an amends for being a hothead. Please DO NOT send my administrator an email. Probably not the best idea, unless it were anonymous…. And now I am moving on.

    1. …I feel like I owe the group an amends for being a hothead….

      You don’t. You must feel free to express those feelings. Some of us need to know that we are not alone, and that some have it worse. It’s for our mental health.

      I will be painstakingly going through all bios and then post a list of people to be deleted in the next few weeks – we must know who everyone is as stated many times here. I would like to have those deletions in place by Nov. 1st. So if you haven’t sent in a bio, the next few weeks is a good time to do that.

      Once the only people who have sent in bios are the only ones who are members, then the more paranoid among us – some with good reason – can go through the list of bios in the group members category and look for names. That’s a pretty good way to do it but it takes a lot of time, so I will need at least two weeks for that.

  10. Thank you Ben for providing space for venting, growth, and general comradery.
    I did send a Bio a week or two ago but I am not sure if you received it. It may have been dismal as I was feeling dismal at the time of writing it.

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