Somebody commented on how hard it is to talk about what we do with others, how they get tongue tied and sound stupid when discussing comprehensible input with certain colleagues. I wish I could find that quote. It was two days ago I think. If you know it please point it out to me.

This has always been a problem with me. I very much dislike getting in front of people because of that energy. It is very subtle and I always thought it was caused by my own inability to be Susan Gross. And, while there is only one Susan Gross, I also have come to realize that, if there is judgement coming from others, we will often sound like foolish blabbermouths.

It’s not just us and our lack of articulation in speech, is my point. There is defnitely energy there coming from the colleague, and it is not all bright and wonderful. Which takes us down. I avoid it now. It hurts my mental state so much to get up in front of people. It is because the difference in what we do and what the old way people do is so marked, so extreme.

But then with San Diego in July it is going to be with people I love and trust and so it should be o.k. So the reason I am writing this is to really support and agree with who wrote that comment, and to remind us all that, in spite of all the overwhelming research in support of what we do in class with CI, we should all be very very careful about whom we speak with about this stuff.

With no cameras or people in the classroom, we are just different. I would love to see skip with his kids doing CWB but the minute I was in the room it would change. It’s just that way with this stuff for all of us. It’s that thing about the observing eye changing what is observed. Charles Baudelaire wrote a poem about this. He called it The Albatros:


Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers, Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage, Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches, Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroits et honteux, Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches Comme des avirons traîner à côté d’eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule! Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid! L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule, L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer; Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées, Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.  

— Charles Baudelaire

The Albatross

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds That indolently follow a ship As it glides over the deep, briny sea.

Scarcely have they placed them on the deck Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed, Pathetically let their great white wings Drag beside them like oars.

That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is, So beautiful before, now comic and ugly! One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe; Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman; When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers, His giant wings prevent him from walking.

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

I would conclude that we are all what could be called Poets in Search of What is Compelling. We are all sea birds, looking to dive hard down for the right word, the right image, the rich language input for our students waiting patiently on the shore for something real to happen in their educations. Contrast that with this line by Stephen Krashen:

…it is very hard to create compelling messages when the hidden agenda is the relative clause….





6 thoughts on “L’Albatros”

  1. “There is definitely energy there coming from the colleague, and it is not all bright and wonderful. Which takes us down. I avoid it now. ”
    Sometimes easier said than done! My school is getting complaints from freshman parents that the 9th graders are too stressed. Our admin is talking about no tests after Christmas through exams – we go back Jan 7 and exams are a week and a half after that. I do not count myself among the purveyors of stress since I rarely give any homework. I am very flexible about scheduling tests especially for my upper levels – “Oh, Friday is not a good day, too many other tests?” No problem we can do French test on Monday. Whatever. So my “traditional” colleagues, the purveyors of stress (which is passed off as rigor!) have their noses out of joint and I just try to keep the CI train rolling. I can be flexible. Here’s the rub – getting back to the negative energy- the same person who is being told to back off is the same one who cautioned me a few weeks ago about developing the reputation of French being easy as a result of no homework and easy tests and quizzes. You see, she had a mini mutiny a few weeks ago – her kids out loud said they should have taken French! I could care less, but she was offended and I got a warning to watch what I was doing. Funny, now the admin wants us to take a less stressful approach. Can’t win, I guess. Sorry for the ramble/rant!

  2. It’s not officially announced yet but Carol and Diana are working on doing a conference with Krashen and Jason Fritze similar to Breckenridge. I don’t even know if it will be called an iFLT conference or something arranged by TPRS Publishing or what. San Diego July 9th next summer. Same format with students from the San Diego area. If Carol is putting it together it is going to be good. I had decided to stop going to conferences but this one looks really good so I am reconsidering.

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