Most Difficult List

It’s that time of year – the time to make lists. I have been wondering what our group members would call the single most difficult aspect of our work with CI/TPRS. So, in addition to any New Year’s resolutions you might send in, also send in what you consider to be the hardest part of our work. It should be interesting to read as we get ready to ramp things up this week. Here are some of the things that I consider most difficult in my own work:

Dealing with those who don’t get CI, letting them go
SLOW
Staying in bounds/Point and Pause
Really listening to the kids’ suggestions
Circling
Not being afraid

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28 thoughts on “Most Difficult List”

  1. My Resolutions:
    1. Reduce clutter, be it objects, books, computers, activities, busywork, worries, etc. Try to clear away everything that threatens to interfere with the student/teacher and student/student relationships.

    2. Not be afraid to repeatedly confront students and parents of students who are compromising my class. As many times as it takes, not giving in. This is an inherent part of being an advocate for all of my students.

  2. My biggest and most important resolution for this year: staying in bounds. All too often I find myself catering to those rapid processors, leaving the slower ones in the dust. So, this is a biggie for me. At the same time, this is also what I find the most difficult thing to do (along with not going SLOW enough, but we all seem to suffer from that disease).

  3. Here are mine:

    1. Figuring out how to deal with students that don’t want to be human and learn via CI
    2. Keeping up interest during circling and PQA
    3. Not being afraid and just letting go!!!

  4. Gotta remember that teens live for and love emotion. That’s what pulls them in, especially the laughter. 10:1 ratio of high engagement activities to serious stuff.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you. With the insanity that is our schedule before the holiday break (canceled classes because of rehearsals, parties and the like), I forgot what it was to teach. Now I am back on track. As we were doing some PQA in one of my sixth grade classes yesterday, there were my bumps on logs whom I couldn’t engage. Then my next class had so much English being shouted about. I have slipped out of bounds and have to have a sit-down with myself to get my students back on track. (Is it wrong of me to sometimes want to fast-forward to the summer so I can teach in front of someone, hopefully in Vegas, and get some concrete feedback? I have another video I’d like to post to my YouTube; it’s a class that was a disaster. I’d love criticism…)

  6. I too was super stressed before the break. Today is my first day back and I have not had a class yet – only three today. How’s that for easing back in to a three day week? No, it’s not wrong to ff to Vegas. In fact, I think it’s a fine idea!! In Ben’s hierarchy – if it is one – I would put “Not be afraid” at the top.

  7. My list:

    1) work through fear
    2) simplify/ clarify/declutter
    3) discipline: equally relevant to myself and to the students

    I’m in a really weird space right now. I wasn’t stressed at all going into break. Very unusual, so I really noticed it and felt really great! Coming back, not so much. I feel stuck, rusty, clumsy and uninspired.

  8. jen–
    clutter freaked me out to when I really looked around and saw how distracting my work space (not to mention my house, etc.). I worked through a lot of that, but it had started to pile up really bad again at work. On the last day before break when we had hours and hours together I turned loose one of my go-getters and her best friend on my office. In less than 35 minutes, they straightened out the book shelves, cleared off the counters, filed, and put the stuff they weren’t sure about in a box. All I had to do was sift and toss through that one box.
    You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Call on some help from your classroom community.
    And I read a really good thing about fear over the break–when fear strikes you, breathe and relax, your heightened awareness as you relax will allow you to face the fear head on and actually conquer it.
    Discipline yourself (not berate) and remember that it is a practice like training for a 5K it isn’t someth

  9. ing you actually get and it is done. It is an every moment decision. The choice is only yours. Because in the end we can only control ourselves.

  10. Kate good on ‘ya for cleaning it all up. When I walked in today I was shocked at how monastic my workspace was. Just my Dell laptop and a Matava book. Clean countertop. Dude. If teachers new how all that old shit contributes to their feeling tired all the time, they would call a cleaning service right away, or, better yet, stuff those old books and useless paper – with all that useless stuff written on them – in the trash.

    On the breathing/being aware of the moment (skill #22 in TPRS in a Year!), that is a huge point to make if we are to make this CI stuff work for us. If someone asked me to describe how my experience with students before and after learning about TPRS/CI, I would say that now, when I look at my students in while teaching them, I actually see them – I mean with my eyes, I actually see who they are. I address them by their (real or imagined) names. We talk about stuff they did, about them, each of them, unique and special and all as different as snow flakes. Yes, we go back to the story or the reading, but we are always comparing, comparing, comparing them to Pauvre Anne or Ben Sullivan or whomever, always comparing comparing comparing them to a movie star and how absolutely wonderful it is that they are more beautiful and smarter and more glamorous. Always returning to them. And in those new relationships, new because we are talking about them, the response from them is less cold, less inhuman, less dry, and then, because I am talking about them and how interesting they are compared to Anne, that fear goes away. It just disappears. It is in “right adjustment to others” (Inayat Kahn, the great Sufi mystic used that term) that we learn things. When we allow that human element in, that personalization, we banish the fear. That’s what happens.

    1. “allow the human element in” Yeah.

      Our first day after break–I have the same students, but they are in different sections, so the chemistry of each class has changed–we made new students cards (along with “I’m afraid of” “I’m unique because”, we added “___fascinates me” and/or “annoys me”—they sound quite similar in Spanish. They were not allowed to use actual names for those blanks!) I also threw out the idea of letting them choose code names for themselves if they wanted and quite a few of these sophomores really embraced that.

      Not much Spanish at all, but we just kind of hung out and got reacquainted. I realized that I’d missed their little individual selves.

  11. Susan VanBronkhorst

    Does anybody have ideas about what to do with native Spanish speakers in a beginning Spanish class? These are fourth and fifth graders.

    1. I have native Spanish speakers that make up nearly half of my Spanish 1 classes. Bad situation. The counselors know that it is wrong but can’t seem to schedule around it. If the native speakers are mature enough you can give them independent things to read and write. That is a big if. If your school needs to hear a researcher in this field, you can use Ana Roca. She has written and conducted a lot of research about the instruction of Spanish to native speakers. Sometimes I have my native speakers write stories that the beginners can use. Other times they read. I like the stories by Gary Soto, for example. And then you can have them write.

  12. Yes. Ask the administrators/counselors who put them there if they would have put Franklin D. Roosevelt in a Political Science 101 class in college if they needed to put him in some class so that his schedule would be full.

  13. Susan those kids can REALLY become a problem in there. I’m sure others in the group will give you less cheeky answers than the one above, but in point of fact you must SEPARATE and HONOR those kids in some way. Use them to help you teach the class. I would have them on stools next to me on the Word Chunk Team activity and they love doing one of those three jobs (search “jobs” here for details). I would have them sit next to me on a stool in class and I would ask their advise on things that come up. Make them experts, because they are experts. Make sure the class knows how much you respect their expertise. I would do those things with them in the lower levels and also at the high school level. However, I would first determine, if they were high schoolers, if they can actually read and write the language, because a lot of fluent kids can only understand and speak, and some are illiterate. Then, in that case, I would INSIST that they read and write for me in the back of the room and I would not allow them into the class discussion except occasionally. But I wouldn’t do that literacy piece with your kids at their age. How long is the class, how many weeks?

  14. I was thinking the same thing Ben about how you had built in helpers. It would divide and conquer for group work to have them individually in different groups with students who don’t have the speech fluency. So they would be honored.
    And I remember when my son was in a coma at the hospital a large family from Miami whose children were also in a car wreck in comas. They only spoke Spanish to each other so the hospital assumed that is what they read and wrote. When they spoke mother to mother with me they used English. One day after we’d been watching the children’s monitors together they shared with me that they didn’t know what would be the outcomes if their children awoke. I said did they get the brochures on possibilities and they said, they didn’t read Spanish. I was able to intervene with the staff and get them English (which they could read). Their experience in the hospital turned around from that moment on. And the children woke up within hours of one another. Their brains had all entrained. They are all okay (relatively) today.

  15. On January 10, I start my new term with two new Spanish 1 classes and the same students in IB Spanish. There will only be 36 this term instead of 40. I wonder how much that will affect the class and me? So, I get to start off with a brand new group and brand new mindset. I want to remember the joy I experienced my first year with CI. One of my colleagues told me I was taking things too seriously this past term and I needed to lighten up. I believe I let some kids’ behaviors get away from me and when I tried to be joyful they took it as permission to practice their Suck Joy ways.
    1. I will not put up with the negative behavior that sucks joy from my life and my other students.
    a. Remember that the students may not really understand the
    right way to behave and show them and tell them, as per one of
    Ben’s inspired moments.
    2. De-clutter and delegate.
    3. Slow down-look them in the eyes.

  16. And talk to them personally outside of class and look them in the eye with that look that you will not allow them to play their Suck cards in class. Ever. Then, after that, make the parent call:

    “Hi, Mrs. So and So, I just wanted to remind you that your child is having a bit of trouble with my rules in class and so I thought I would call to ask your help in keeping [your little Fauntleroy] in [the target language] this year. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I always say! Oh, what’s that? You agree? Awesome! Well, you can find my rules on the class website or if you have time I can tell you how they work. I’m sure [your daughter/son] will do a great job in my class this year, and thanks for agreeing to support me in my efforts to align with the new California standards which say that I have to stay in [the target language] at least 90% of the time. If [your snot ass kid] has any more problems with the rules in class, I will be sure to call you. Thanks again and have a great evening!”

  17. “Dealing with those who don’t get CI, letting them go
    SLOW”
    Yes. These both! And of course going slow again because it’s so easy to mistake students’ enthusiasm at the beginning of a new semester as understanding. That’ll be my one goal for next week.

  18. Susan VanBronkhorst

    Thanks for the ideas about making the native Spanish speakers the experts. I am actually seeking advice for my daughter who is going to start a long term sub position for a Spanish teacher out on a medical leave. She is trained to teach high school biology, but speaks Spanish…. So I am trying to give her a crash course in teaching TPRS Spanish. She was in some of my classes this week, but are there some good videos she could access online that you would recommend?

    Thanks, Susan

  19. We are all afraid. Ray and Chris and jen and me and a few others differ in that we are willing to throw it out there for what it is – a fact of this massive shift we are in.

    I was doing a workshop session with Laurie in St. Louis one afternoon last July. There were 50 teachers in the room. I could see, and I am sure Laurie could see (because she met their hard gazes with so much love in responding to their questions), that they were all afraid.

    Let’s all get over it. We are afraid. Done. Now, let’s relax and go into work tomorrow and do it again. Why? Because the fear goes away, one day at a time. The more we embrace it, the more we practice with the method, imperceptibly, the fear lessens.

    We become the teachers we want to become. But not overnight. This is no game for the faint hearted.

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