The Pool Is Deep

A repost from 2013:

Intuitive teaching is about trusting the heart/intuition to bring more to the class than just mere intellectual discussion. Mere intellectual discussion does not bring fun, nor does it bring the heart quality, which in turn brings more learning and much bigger enrollments with happier kids in them.

In fact, teaching from a merely intellectual stance, where the teacher is a mere “deliverer-of-instructional-services” (Ted Sizer’s term) brings the opposite reaction from students – boredom. Failing to include the kids in a language class on a personal level with laughter and highly personalized discussion, both of which spring from the heart, results in spaced out kids who can’t get interested in class because the class is not about the only thing that they care about: themselves.

Like Napoleon Dynamite says to Pedro before Pedro has to go speak in front of the student body:

“Listen to your heart; that’s what I do.”

We all have our own definitions of what it means to trust the process in a classroom, and I dare say that it is a novel idea to go into a classroom which might contain more than a few mistrustful kids and open ourselves up in that way, thus making room for kindness and genuine listening and care and concern for others.

Even one student, as all know quite well, can cause us to shut down our heart and put up our defenses. If there are people in the room whom we can’t trust it changes everything. Does that mean that we don’t try for this kind of teaching?

My own answer to that question is a strong no. Teaching from the heart is too wonderful a thing to not explore it. There is no doubt that most of us will have to deal on some level with the issue of open heart in teaching this year in relation to one or more difficult children.

We must bring greater and greater levels of trust into our classrooms, because we, Bob Patrick speaks to this aggressively, know and value trust as the gold standard for any language teacher, even if nobody wants to talk about that now in these deep mordorian days.

I am trying to say that I don’t think we have much of an option in exploring this area if we are to pull everything we can from TPRS/CI. This kind of teaching is essentially intuitive anyway, and depends completely on trust and good will. If the kids are not involved, slow down and make some space for the human piece to happen.

Those who make space for trust in spite of all the heavy energy in the room – and I don’t use that term lightly – will be the ones who make the method work for them as it is meant to work.

This way of teaching is a method of the heart. That is why Laurie calls her website Hearts for Teaching ( When we start a class, we have a box to put things in (PQA or a story script or just hanging out with wall words), but the things that go into it, the details for the language instruction for that class and that class alone, don’t exist yet since the kids only provide them during class in response to our skilled questioning.

We fill in the boxes with personalized, happy, pleasant, person-affirming information that differs from class to class since there are different students in each class. As we continue to focus on those happy, funny, unexpected and highly personalized things, the trust builds, the group becomes one, and the minds of the students forget that they are learning a language. That’s how it works.

Most people don’t resonate with that approach because of their need to “cover” what is in the scope and sequence. They don’t want to let go of the edge of the pool. But when we teach in an untargeted way, diving deep into the pool of language, we teach everything in the  scope and sequence and a vast amount of language more. By clinging to the sides of the pool, many will never find out how deep the pool is.






9 thoughts on “The Pool Is Deep”

  1. Building trust is so important, and so precarious! Ben says that I helped tip him back toward the practice of trust building in the classroom, and I can tell you that about half a dozen times this past year, with individual and specific students, my own trust in “trust” was so challenged that I considered abandoning the ship called trust. Such is the nature of human beings who work to build trust, and yet, I am convinced that it is our best calling. I also confess that I have flipped on both sides of that fence multiple times.

    My best lesson, the one I keep learning, is that the students who challenge me the most are the ones who will be my teacher. This past year, there were three. They pushed all my buttons at various times, and they each called me to consider what I was holding out for that they could not provide to keep me comfortable. Damn them all, I often felt. And then, I’d go back to consider how to work with them differently. By the end of the year, they each responded to that reconsideration on my part. They each came around. They each began to show up and smile and reach out and . . . wow, trust me!

    I am fairly convinced that I am in this life to learn this lesson, and I have the blessing of such students each year to keep re-teaching me. Why? Because it takes multiple repetitions to learn the lessons of deep communication.

    I am SO grateful for this place that Ben has set up for us to keep learning from each other.

    1. I think that, for me, those kids that drive me nuts are the ones who are reminding me to let them have more say in the process. I come across as more of an authority figure than I need to now that I have CI. You can imagine the degree of control I had to develop over my students in a grammar based system for the quarter century before hearing about TPRS/CI. So now, since the method has so much to do with my letting go of control and trusting and creating a situation in the room where the kids feel in control even if they are not, I see those difficult kids now as just wanting to express themselves more. It is such a fine line to keep in complete control and create that feeling in those tough kids. But you are right on with that thought, Bob, they really are our best teachers.

  2. I, too, am so grateful for this place.

    I am hoping this coming year brings me grace and understanding. There was one little…tough fellow who challenged me most and should have been my teacher. I knew that there must be something in this tough fellow which I recognized in myself and hated about myself and thus projected onto him. But try as I might to have that open heart…I still wanted to strangle him. His ear, mind, and heart were on safari for most of the year. He had a twin sister in the class and there was all kinds of dumb inbreeding, as it were, of more than a handful of the kids and how they knew each other through the local big German Club. Definitely a blessing, the German Club, but ridden with many curses for actually enjoying each other in the classroom. None of the kids from the German Club really flourished under CI. [Two of the 4%ers from the club began to because they were more gentle souls than not, and because I told them that it was my way or the highway as far as their grades.]

    I am being a tad bit facetious but just a tad. I really tried hard. And I am confident that *many* of my struggles with this tough soul would have been less, if not moot, by beginning the year full-throttle CI and holding the kids accountable without exception.

    The struggles with this kid were really my fault. If I had to use the full-force of each and every one of those parents who’ve been members of the German club since their sandbox-days to get those kids to conform to the notion that the whole class is a playground of mutual respect where we working *IN GERMAN*, than I should have. I think I would have been able to trust the kid then. Or: I think I would have built enough trust with the rest of the kids from this German Club, and with their parents, that it would have been much easier to control and isolate and hopefully ameliorate this kids behavior.

    I hope my heart will be in a better place next year. I do think the image of that clear and uncluttered workspace — if I can embody that next year — will help me get there.

  3. Big time comments Andrew, and thank you so much for the honesty. Now we are reminded again of why this is not a public forum. I hear two things most especially here:

    1. That class be done only in the TL as you say *IN GERMAN*. This is so close to the core of this topic, because it reveals the need to quell unnecessary comments from wiseacres, which you seem to have your share of, at least.

    2. How simplicity can be a deciding factor in our being able to finally find that equibalance between authority with trust, as per the posts under that category here. This is indeed a fine insight. By suggesting that simplicity and lack of clutter can make the difference in our success or failure in the fall is a stroke of genius. We can’t be ourselves, fully relaxed and yet in full control of the class, without this simplicity.

    Thank you Andrew.

  4. Many, many years ago, when I began teaching, all I had in my toolkit was Peace Corps training, which was a lot about memorizing dialogs and doing drills in those days. When I began teaching in France, I realized that the students were not going to stand for the same methods, and I began reading a lot books about how to teach. All I can remember from those books is a study that claimed that it didn’t matter what method the teacher used. According to research the only variable that had any effect on the students’ results was …. how much the students trusted the teacher.

  5. We each have students who push our buttons. They push us to question whether we can take it. But rather than see them as the enemy, it is good if we look at the actual button we are wearing on our sleeve. What is it? and Why are we wearing it?

    Those button pushers offer us a chance to gain control over ourselves. To really examine what is going on with us. And if we are honest with ourselves we can begin to address and heal the button (which is usually just hiding a fear we have in the first place). Once we’ve addressed our own fear, we usually get clarity as to how to approach the student.

    This year I had a kindergarten student I was ready to kick out of my program. That has never happened to me before. I usually give them a year or two of driving me batty. But as a whole the class entering 2011-12 was a tough bunch of individuals with no empathy for each other as a community.

    But what this kid was requesting with all his drama was for structure. He needed himself a little checklist that clearly spelled out my rules for engagement. The first few weeks of the list were awful. Then it clicked for him and myself. Every day we had a sit down as we checked through his list. The most important goal he was striving for was to take responsibility for his oopses. He had to own his behavior. In 6 weeks he had. And in the process he made friends. More importantly he built trust with other kids who by March had come around to understanding community and helping one another succeed.

    Now he isn’t in high school. He is six. But, he is working on his stuff. And what was it I was working on? My issue was being too busy and distracted. I needed to take time daily to help this kid. 5 minutes each morning and night to help him be accountable. To explain what went wrong when he attempted to do something but didn’t make a good choice in his method. I needed to LISTEN to his goals and help him look at what options were also available. If I had only done that in Nov. but I was way too busy. So we all suffered along for months until his drama was so BIG it couldn’t be passed off anymore.

    How often do we forget to let our heart listen? Have you ever noticed that some peoples’ ears are shaped like hearts? Really. Look at the ear holes that direct sound down the canal. When I let my EGO/mind be in control rather than my intuitive HEART, I am doomed.

    Trust is the key to building the safety to learn. And trust must be earned on a two way street.

  6. Kate, I hear what you are saying. I had a tough kid who had to work on individual goals. It was the negative attention that he wanted soo badly. This was despite most of the class being behaved or quiet. He would make outlandish comments referencing sports, other students clothes, etc… In old school fashion, he should have been kicked out. But I kept talking to him. He was consciously aware that he had to change but subconsciously he kept making these comments.

    I asked for support from a social-emotional counselor. We worked together to have him focus in class. Though he still needed help in class listening, he needed someone to listen to him. He thanked me and apologized at the end of the year. He asked me to sign his year book.

  7. So on top of everything else Steve we learn in this field early on that a big part of our job description is re-parenting kids who never had a model. Good for you dude. That’s the way to make your class work. Be proactive with those kids. We can’t hope that some kid will come around. We make them come around by our action on their behalf, our rule setting, our direct involvement. When a kid is too loud or too absent with the hoodie up, we need but remember that we have the power (stories) to involve them and insist on it. I am certain that not one storytelling class should ever allow one loudmouth or one kid’s head down. We can and we will do this. We will insist on proper decorum in our classrooms. It’s all about that first month again. If we don’t do it then, we lose the game. The best Starting the Year activity to get those kids involved right away? Word Chunk Team Game.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben