Jim Tripp

There are still some outstanding bios which we need to solidify our knowledge of who each of us is. It’s not paranoid to think that someone can just join, not say who they are, and report on what we talk about here. As ridiulous as it sounds, it has happened twice since this group became a private group. I know, I know. Anywhere, here is a bio from someone who is doing awesome work in the area of comprehensible input, the one and only Jim Tripp:
My first year teaching Spanish was 2006-07. (Previously I had taught English for a few months in Mexico while in college and for several months in Peru after finishing college. I was assigned 6 sections of Spanish 1 and 2, with a total of 175 students! I don’t know how I didn’t give up after that. I worked SO much, living with my parents and putting in upwards of 80 hours a week, just to hold my classroom together. I was teaching strictly with the textbook, as was the agreement in our huge school (Omaha Central High) of 8 Spanish teachers. I failed something like 40% of students in the one year I was there. All this got from admin was a mention of concern on my final evaluation, but was overshadowed by how well they thought I was doing with discipline and order.
Obviously, I used to think that the teaching of disconnected grammar was the way to go. I remember saying often to my students, “Learning language is like learning math, there are many formulas and you just have to plug in the words and letters to get the right answers”. How little I knew.
Because I had not yet done my student-teaching yet, I had to move back to my college town in NE Iowa and get it finished. (Oh how sore I was to have to PAY $5000 to teach after what I had just “successfully” undergone in one of the biggest inner-city schools in the nation!!) But that led me to where I am now.
I heard about TPRS while interviewing for my first job after the student-teaching semester. The school that hired me agreed to send me to NTPRS in Minneapolis (2008) the summer before I began teaching there. Taking French for three days with Diana Noonan (and an all-star cast of student-actors including Blaine and Von Ray, Joe Neilson, Gerry Wass, etc.) the textbook coffin was sealed. Never would I open another for real teaching purposes.
Although I’ve read Ben’s books and Blaine’s green book, and am glad I did, the main piece of literature from which I studied before the school year began was Ben’s handout from a workshop he did at Omaha Westside High that I downloaded off his site for free. I read it over and over, and it was like learning by osmosis.
This is my 4th year teaching at Spring Grove Community School. Most experiences have been positive and the administration supports my use of a communicative method. The district (which is tiny) is now considering starting an elementary Spanish program.
I also teach an adult Spanish class in Decorah, IA, where I live. It is great, and has given me a newfound appreciation for what I proudly consider to be my trade.
I certainly have my conflicts and personal dilemmas with my job. One of them is having to give kids extrinsic rewards (i.e. grades). I fundamentally disagree with doing it after reading Punished by Rewards. And after reading a John Taylor Gatto book called Weapons of Mass Instruction, I now realize how shady the entire institution really is and what its main objectives are, despite our best intentions. So I keep plugging away, trying to make the changes that I can make where I am. Hard times man. But TPRS is a big step in the right direction in my opinion. Glad to have you all here to help me get better at it.



1 thought on “Jim Tripp”

  1. Surprise, surprise – judging by your past blog posts, I would have taken you for a wayyyyyy more seasoned pro. Apparently, you are a natural. And I have to thank YOU since you are definitely the one helping me get better (it will take me a few more years – at least – before I can help anybody). So, thanks for being part of us. Can’t wait to hear more from you!

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