Observations by Idiots

A repost from 2013, found by Betty. I had some fire going on in my attitude that year:
We need to make a new category that answers this question:
What specific resources do we have to deal with administrators who AREN’T going to be swayed by any amount of research and who rather rudely come into our classroom with sharpened pencil and with their boxes needing to be checked?
I’m talking about the really dimwitted admins who walk in and see (grossly incorrectly) what they think is a teacher oriented classroom and evaluate us in those terms, those new robotic terms sweeping education now, and fail to even see what we are really doing.
Specifically, what concrete things to we need to turn our attention to when the idiot is in our classroom to make sure we get the boxes checked?
This is no small matter and I would guess directly affects at least 75% of the teachers in our communityn so contribute your ideas, and please take this request very seriously. We need to get specific here!
I would like a teacher in this situation next year to have a flow chart or at least be able to instantly consult a category of concrete things they can do when being observed by the idiot so that the idiot checks the right boxes in front of them.
If you care to read it, here is the letter from one of our group members, along with my responses, that prompted this request for a new category called “Observations By Idiots, What To Do”:
Hi Ben,
I am writing to ask if a) you have resources on your PLC that are targeted to dealing with admins/evaluation processes/colleagues in a way that does not totally tip your hand about committing to whole-class Comprehensible Input methods, but also does not require you to actually change your in class approach to teaching using CI; and, b) if you have considered making a ‘toolbox’ of such resources similar to other things in development on your site.
To explain: I had an administrator do a ‘walk through’ of my classroom recently here in MA while I was doing a Matava story with my kids, and although she was very impressed with the level of student engagement, honest to God spontaneous spoken Latin from the superstars, etc., she also noted that the class was very “teacher centered,” presumably because students were not interacting in small groups, were not “teaching each other,” etc., and because I was the one who was reading the prompts and providing the input.
My response: This is a very hellish kind of thing for this idiot administrator to say to you. we know that it is unfair to say that the method is teacher centered when you are the only one who knows the language. It is cruel and stupid on her part. Robert has addressed this extensively. That said, she is in a position of power over you. Nothing could be worse. Nothing could be more unfair. Obviously, different people handle it in different ways. I am not in that situation myself anymore, praise be to God, but when I was, I just tried to maintain a low profile. Usually these people forget their own criticisms because they have so much to do. I listen and say thank you and they forget it. That is my approach. I must say that I think we have a load of teachers in this group who really care too much what people think and say about them. But that lack of concern can only come with time, I have found out. I really believed that those idiots had power over me when I was younger, as well, so I will cast no stones. Only now in my 36th year do I see how petty and small and insignificant those admins are, and, if in their pettiness and smallness I lose my job, then so be it. But I won’t ever give them my sense of peace and balance ever again in my job. Thirty years was enough to worry about what these fools thought of me.
So Ben, in a situation like this, as a first year teacher, with a notoriously difficult administrator, in a school where I would LIKE to stay teaching, I am wondering if the PLC community has advice on how to the take the coward’s way out and modify lesson planning to at least APPEAR ‘student centered’ in the buzzword sense, while still keeping a steady flow going of the CI that the research indicates will actually help my students learn Latin.
My response: Yeah we will ask the group and get plenty of suggestions. Like dictee the minute the admin walks in, instantly making it student centered. Or pair share on a reading or something, that early (step #3?) listed in Reading Option A, to again allow the idiot to see kids working together and thus you get the box checked for Student Centered Activities.
I ask this because it seems like the approach of closing the door and just doing what the research from Krashen tells you will work is going to be going away in my state, at least in my school system, where they have just approved a comprehensive evaluation system replete with checklists for things like “student centeredness” and “standards based learning” etc. etc. As much as I have had my hands-down BEST first year teaching experiences doing PQA, TPR stories, etc., I also want to keep my job and not get dinged on evaluations for the dreaded “teacher centered” lesson.
My response: I hear you. This is one for the group. I think it is a question of your being able to instantly pop into the shape of the teacher the admins are looking for. There are some articles and categories on this here. It is not a new problem and you are certainly not alone. Good teachers are losing their nerve in these settings like you are experiencing. Tons of teachers are quitting. It is very serious, as well know – a kind of extreme crisis in the middle of a war. You are right to bring it up. I think a successful response by the group is possible. do not let me drop this topic until you are fully satisfied with what we create for the flow chart, if we get one on this topic, or the new category, which, again, is entitled “Observations By Idiots, What To Do”.
So what I am wondering is if you have considered making available some resources for dealing with administrators who AREN’T going to be swayed by any amount of research, etc. well no but we could do it as a group process.
Again, if nothing else, I wanted to thank you for your awesome, just-about-lifesaving PLC. It has restored this classicists faith in the vitality of his beloved ‘dead’ languages.

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35 thoughts on “Observations by Idiots”

  1. An observation usually only lasts one period…so…I do not feel terrible “losing” one period with my students over something that will keep me from wishing terrible things on an administrator. ONE thing is clear: What I think is a good lesson and what my admin. thinks is a good lesson are two completely different things. When being observed, I must let go of what I think is good and go with what s/he thinks is good. This will make my life SANE.
    On that note, we can each listen to our admins to hear what s/he goes ga ga over and adapt that for announced and unannounced visitations. Then…we must occasionally incorporate those things into the class so that they are not foreign to our students when we use them. Like testing, they have a place, in our classrooms. AND, even better, some of them are great at the right time and done in a CI focus!
    1. Think-Pair-Share is considered a wonderful thing. It is not hard to use in our rooms from time to time.
    * Create a method for sharing partners. Use “clock partners”, pair rows, some method so that student quickly and easily know who to turn to when it is time to share. This is CRUCIAL. Use it regularly so that when admins. want to see pair/partner work you can use it and it will be already in place.
    Reading:
    *Tell students” Silently read one paragraph (more will be too much quiet time for admins.) Talk to a neighbor about the five most important pieces of information in it. ” Teacher then calls on 5 different groups to share different pieces.
    * Before going on to the next paragraph, ask them to think about one of these 3 questions:
    1. What do you think that the author will say next?
    Think-Pair-Share
    2. What do you want to read about next?
    Think-Pair-Share
    3. If you were the author, what would you write about in the next paragraph?
    Think-Pair-Share
    *Use classic CI technique of asking a student his/her opinion of what another student has said. Do you agree? Why or why not? This is a GREAT piece to add to your classroom at any time and will resonate with admins.
    Story-asking:
    Many of us already assign jobs. The artist, the storywriter and the quiz writer are wonderful for observation. Make sure that you use them when an admin. is present during story-asking. I’ve created a new job that I am going to practice with this week….I’ll let you know how it goes…
    I’m going to have two “co-directors” with me when I story-ask. I’ll ask a ? then each of them will ask a ? that extends/deepens the story. By this time of the year, students ‘GET’ how story-asking goes and can pull this off. I will have a “support sheet” with 5 questions that they can refer to for confidence. (How did s/he do that? Why did s/he do that? How many times did s/he do that? What was s/he thinking when s/he did that? What did s/he say when s/he did that?)
    Some kids will take to this very easily and run with it. These are the kids that you should utilize during an observation. You can then point out that this is also a form of differentiation, giving those students who are ready for more of a challenge, the opportunity to step forward.
    I’ll let you know how it goes. Again, I believe that it will work well because it is late enough in the year. Observations in Sept-Nov….particularly w first and second years…would not be the best time to utilize this.
    that’s all for now….Saturday chores are calling!!
    with love,
    Laurie
    * Discuss w/ a partnerConsider these options: Think about_____, discuss for 30 seconds with the student next to you,

    1. About creating partners:
      My favorite is to use a map (Bryce Hedstrom has them for Spanish-speaking countries), so they get extra reinforcement of geography and sound of country names in the TL.
      Last year I expanded on that and gave second level students the nationality names on their country maps: “Busca a tu amigo guatemalteco.” I love it, because it’s hard to get enough reinforcement of those nationality names.
      Since I teach Spanish, I do Mexico/Centroamerica/Caribe first semester and South America second semester. I presumed HS knew where Spain was–wrong! It doesn’t fit on either map, but I’ll be sure to point it out more explicitly.

  2. Thank you , Laurie. That’s a great job. I just turned the laser pointer over to a French 1 student on Friday and it worked very well. If I can try out your idea, I’ll report back. I really only have about ten days left. Great ideas!

  3. Ben and Laurie both have given great advice for the moment of the observation. Having a checklist for a Comprehensible Input classroom hanging by the door and asking the evaluator(s) to take one the moment they walk in the room is also a possibility. It guides their observation – unless they have a state-mandated checklist they must use. (California is not yet there, thank God.)
    I want to address things you can do at other times.
    1. Build relationships with your administrators; they are people too.
    There was a MASH episode in which Major Houlihan was having a lot of trouble with her nurses. It turned that each thought the other was uncaring and selfish. In one scene they were talking about the “gossip sessions” and parties the nurses would have and never invited Major Houlihan. The nurse she was talking to said, “You would come anyway.” Houlihan said, “No, but would have been nice to have been asked.” If your administrator likes you, she will see things with very different eyes. Greet administrators warmly in the halls, go out of your way to walk by and say hello. At school events (sports games, plays, concerts, etc.), stop and chat a moment. Ask about family, the weekend, summer plans. Give birthday greetings.
    2. Let your administrators know you appreciate their hard work.
    Every time an administrator even pauses at the door to look in, go to him (best) or write an e-mail/note thanking him for the visit. You might even ask for feedback, but at least thank the administrator for stopping by. (This is actually part of building relationships, but it’s important enough to list separately.)
    3. Educate your administrators in small doses.
    Whenever you see an article about Comprehensible Input, forward it (or photocopy it and give it) to your administrator with the notation, “I thought you would find this interesting, since it relates to [the standards / classroom management / assessment / etc.].” Then follow up and ask how the administrator liked the article, if she has any questions about it or would like to get together and discuss it. I just came across an article about principals who have turned their offices into conference rooms and no longer have an office; instead, they are out on campus much more. The article indicates that they are more effective principals. I am going to forward it to my principal with the notation that, because he I see him out on campus so much (I genuinely do), he might find the article interesting – after all, is supports what he already does. Administrators cannot be expected to know all “Best Practices” (there’s a nice buzzword), especially for a content area that is so different from the “core four”, so we have to educate them. But it needs to come from “authorities” (i.e. published sources) so that it isn’t just us talking.
    4. Learn your school’s terminology and use it, but do it in a way that allows you to continue basically as you have (with Laurie’s exceptions noted). For example, my district has adopted the GRR (Gradual Release of Responsibility) template for instruction. It goes “I do it –> We do it –> You do it together –> You do it alone”. If an administrator walks into my room when we are doing reading together, I can assign a quick “Think-Pair-Share” activity. Then I go over to the administrator and say, “We were just working on the text as a class; now they are working on it together; at the end of the period/tomorrow they will show me what they can do alone” [i.e. the five-question quiz]. I have now couched my classroom activities in the terminology they want and changed only a few minutes of class time to accommodate the observation. Incidentally, the administrator will seldom if ever “ding” you for talking to her for this brief moment when you “should” be monitoring the Think-Pair-Share activity, but don’t just stand around and chat; make the comment to give context and then go back to the class and do what Laurie has suggested.

  4. thank you Laurie and Robert!
    This is great stuff…..we are going to have to start to have to have learning targets each day/week and the kids are going to have forms to fill out explaining how they have reached that learning target….I need to figure out how to handle that with CI. If anyone has any ideas, I would be most grateful!!! 🙂

    1. Your posted daily learning target, written on the board, if it is a story/listening class could be:
      SW listen to [the target language] with the intent to understand.
      If it’s a reading class:
      SW read [the target language] with the intent to understand.
      If it’s a writing class:
      SW write [the target language] with the intent to communicate.
      These are just off the top of my head.
      The kids can then report that they reached the learning target by saying that they did:
      If it was a listening class:
      One or two word responses to your questions during the class.
      Interpersonal listening with you as per the jGR rubric.
      Acting (if they acted)
      Drawing (if they drew the story)
      Writing what they heard (if they wrote the story or the quiz as per those jobs)
      Clapping (if they were the Clapper Kid)
      etc. with the jobs.
      Listening to a [Text to Speech, etc.] passage in the target language.
      Passing a quiz on what was discussed in class.
      If it was a reading class, the kids can report that they reached that learning target by:
      Translating the text with you and the group.
      Discussing the text in the target language.
      Discussing the grammar of the text in L1.
      Reading a [Textivate, etc.] passage in the target language.
      Passing a quiz on what was read in class.
      If it was a writing class, the kids can report that they reached that learning target by:
      Writing a free write in [the target language].
      Writing a dictee in [the target language].
      Writing a pair/share story based on the vocabulary from the story.

  5. Ah….hugs to you Robert for your compassion and insight. You are so right about remembering the person inside of the administrator. It is a wonderful reminder also that this is all an outside mechanism imposed on us…and that if we don’t take it personally, or at least not too personally, it will have less power over us.
    MB…poor kids…in every class? Ay!! Can it be participating in stories, perceived levels of comprehension, other CI-related goals or do they have to fit in with district-mandated goals?
    with love,
    Laurie

  6. For my observations next year I am planning to conduct reading classes. But they will not be good reading class, they will be the kind the admin wants to see. Here are the steps for this lame reading class.
    1) Pick a longish reading the students know well, probably a personalized story created by the class from a previous TPRS cycle.
    2) Re-read the story with the class asking a few simple questions in the TL. Look at pictures from the story artist if you have them. Demand a choral response to give the admin a good impression. This is probably as good as this lesson will get.
    3) Split the reading into sections, like 3 or 4 of them, and number students off so each students gets one section. You can have this ready to go on a PowerPoint if your admin is looking for tech. The students can pair up with someone of the same number if your admin is looking for group work.
    4) Have students (perhaps working in pairs) create a few English comprehension questions about their section. These questions are written in English (b/c the students won’t be able to write good questions in the TL b/c they have only heard the language for a few dozen hours) and will eventually (see Step 6, below) be answered in English (so the admin can follow along and you can use the phrase “checking for comprehension”).
    5) Have a few members from each section volunteer their questions. From their suggestions compile a class list of English comprehension questions, maybe a dozen in all. Compile the list of questions on PowerPoint so as to show how tech-savvy your classroom is.
    6) Now students copy down and answer all the questions on their own paper individually. So they are now responsible for looking at the whole passage, not just their section, and answering questions. If you want, you can have the students not only answer the questions in English, but also provide a quote in the TL from the passage to justify their answers. See what that looks like here (an old post): http://jameshosler.blogspot.com/2012/03/rigorous-reading-comprehension.html
    Of course imagine English flying around everywhere while students work and groups and we transition between activities. But I like this basic format because it’s all at least about a reading in the TL which is personalized for the kids and which they will enjoy re-reading a few times throughout the process.

    1. I love this. But is it ok they are writing in english and not the target language? Also are you writing the questions student give you on the board| or showing it off a projector? Just wondering how long this will takeaway from lesson?

      1. Betty I think English is ok. Admins see it all the time in traditional classes. The way James wrote that up was to allow admins to check off the boxes. (I think he projected the questions.) I wouldn’t do it that way, though, when you have reading options 4-7, which keep everything more lively. That post you found is from 2013 so glad to see you using the vast resources of old posts here. I will repost this one here in a few days. Nice and fiery with some honest rancor in it. Good find!

  7. Thank you so much for all the replies here. There are some great suggestions and strategies that were not readily apparent to me as a first year teacher. My concern as a teacher in Massachusetts stems from the new evaluation system which (supposedly) requires that admins must visit each teachers class 10+ unnannounced throughout the course of the year– which means I will always have to be ready to work some “student centered” activities in the mix, will always have to have very specific student-centered objectives posted, will always have to write detailed student-centered lesson plans, etc.
    And I don’t have any particular adversion to the concept of “student centered” work. I just have a hard time getting it to happen without tons of English being spoken by the students.

  8. It hit me last week– at Adriana Ramírez’ TPRS workshop at the STA May Convention– like a Proustian madeleine:
    “NOT ALL LEARNING STRATEGIES ARE APPLICABLE IN EACH SUBJECT AREA.”
    We get told up the yin-yang “include metacognition” and “collaborative learning rulez” and “student-centered classroom.” But THESE DO NOT APPLY TO THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM.
    A) Metacognition? For adult 2LLers, sure…but when was the last time a kid said to you “gee, Mr Smith, I was looking at my tests, and it’s clear from me painstakingly going through each mistake– and your very useful corrections– that I really need to learn how to conjugate modal verbs in the third person pluperfect”? You don’t learn languages by thinking about learning languages, but by havingninteresting comprehensible input. It’s that simple.
    B) “collaborative learning” can’t work (well) because of GIGO: “garbage in, garbage out.” If language learning is mental modeling (via language games) by teacher, and mental game-playing (and copying) by students, how are ppl gonna learn from each other when they are barely competent at understanding, nevermind speaking?
    C) A “student centered classroom” in languages has student LEARNING– which means high-quality teacher modeling of speech and writing– at its center.
    THAT is what your Principal needs to hear. Show ’em the Krashen website– with a few choice articles like “High School Grammar: Why Bother?”– and say “I base my teaching practice in current research, not tradition.”
    Now, I teach English (comp & lit) as well as social justice, and believe me, metacognition, coll learning and student-centered class are VERY important in those subjects, but not for my Spanish classes. And if I ran my SJ12 and Eng11 classes like a TPRS class, those would be a disaster.

  9. Well said. For those of you who don’t yet know Canada Dry Chris, words with z on the end contain disdain for the term so labeled. So we have z above referring sarcastically to Collaborative Learning Rulez, i.e. bullshit.
    The three points Chris makes are really imporant to keep in mind. I would ask those in the group to use them when needed. They go into the same basket as jGA, with its four points made a week ago.
    Or we could remain quiet. Or, in a point tagging on what Corrado says above, we could capitulate and try to find a bunch of cooperative activities for our kids just to please the misinformed observor. So what do we do? Argue, capitulate, or what?
    Corrado is asking for further suggestions above. We should try to keep this thread going as it has not yet been answered. What do we do? What does he do with those 10 observations scheduled for next year?

  10. I just had kids today telling me that they aren’t learning anything! Level 1B kids – complaining because I don’t give them worksheets. One said, “we need things to memorize and worksheets to fill in, that’s how I learn best, because I learn like that in other classes.”
    I explained to them that I do not want them to “memorize” or “regurgitate” rules into worksheets – I want them to ACQUIRE Spanish so they can use far into the future.
    One girl said, in response to me telling them that they need a LOT of input before being asked to output, “we don’t have enough time to just listen to you speak – we have to be practicing more.” I agreed with her that there was no way they were going to be anywhere near fluent in only 100 class hours, that they would need upwards of around 10,000 hours of input.
    But, they want worksheets — just like the insecure teachers who need to have some measure of growth (and the government) – to prove that they learning. They are reading Agentes secrets now and they are in awe of the fact that they can understand it! yet, they still don’t believe they are learning anything. 🙁
    This is so hard!!!

    1. Send them home with worksheets to fill in for homework and feed their need. Use your precious class time for what you know works. Save your energy for that, not their arguments. :o)
      love you tons mb!
      Laurie

      1. and give them the answer sheets so they can correct their own work. Don’t correct it. No grade. We’ll see how long they want to do worksheets.

        1. Great ideas Laurie and Jody! I’ll definitely use this in the future for worksheet/bookwork addicts. I’ve been hesitating to assign bookwork for a new kid I got who just HAS to have work in the book b/c it’s the only way he’ll learn French. I’ve hesitated b/c I don’t want to sit and grade his book work. But, problem solved….just give him my teacher edition and he can correct his own book work! Genius! Such a simply fix…don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Collaboration = life.

  11. It’s hard if you let them get to you. They don’t know about acquisition and they are innocently trying to make sense of your rigorous class that asks them to actually pay attention and be a part of a process involving human give and take and back and forth eye contact and all that stuff we do, when they do it nowhere else.
    Their reaction is thus very predictable. And it just sucks when you have to justify your professional decisions to children. How to handle it? I don’t know. A lot has been said here over the years. The problem of rude kids questioning what we do in order to avoid real work hasn’t gone away. We haven’t solved it.
    I think we just must stick to our guns and keep delivering the CI and ignore them. It’s like those IB trainers spitting all that eclectic educationese junk instruction at the group in Florida, which is so geared to just a very few kids. Can we convince those trainers? No. Can we convince these kids? No. Can we just do our best? That’s about all we can do.
    I feel that pain in that last sentence, such a simple and true statement about how hard our work is. Every single one of us knows this pain. Mostly every day we know it. That knowledge doesn’t make it less painful. Yes, it is truly difficult!

  12. I had to sub the last 10 minutes of a math class yesterday. I sat there watching the teacher teach for about 5 minutes before she left. She was teaching Trig. I was struck by how all the students (many of whom I have in Sp 2) were diligently taking copious notes –jotting down everything that the teacher said and wrote on the board. They were busy… They were accomplishing something…
    It occurred to me that I may have to train students a bit better next year. The idea of listening and answering for periods of time is so foreign to them. I imagined what would happen if the math teacher taught math in a similar way…. by giving repeated “math” input and asking the students questions…. I know that they would be uncomfortable… I got such a sense that very few of the kids actually understood what she was saying OR what they were writing… but that they would figure it out later by reading over their notes…
    The way CI is done is SO foreign to them. They have not ever had to learn this way. It is probably a wonder that we don´t get more push back than we get…
    just a thought……

    1. Thanks Ben, Laurie and Skip!!!
      I know what you mean Skip — it is SO foreign to them!!! they have no idea how much they have learned! I just looked over our “curriculum map” and see that I have already “covered” everything!!! True – I have not tested them to death…..but they want that – so I will start giving daily quizzes now.
      They came to me in second half of Level one not knowing tener, querer, numbers past 100 (found that out today!)
      Laurie – I had already figured I would give them their beloved worksheets for homework! BUT …..then I decided to night to look up their activity on the Quia website which I subscribe to so they CAN practice!! a total of 12 students have spent a total of 2 hours and 35 mins doing grammar and vocabulary activities! So, how DARE they complain that I do not give “practice” activities!!! I’m a bit disappointed in them right now! (is it June yet?)

    2. I got such a sense that very few of the kids actually understood what she was saying OR what they were writing
      I sometimes talk to my students about the educational process and give them the definition of classical education: “The process by which information is transferred from the notebook of the teacher to the notebook of the student without ever passing through the mind of either.” Sounds like at least half of that definition was true in the math class. Next I point out to my students that I do not teach from notes, and that is how I want them to “learn” so that the information is stored in our brains rather than out notebooks.
      It ultimately doesn’t make it any easier for students to maintain the rigor of my class when their entire educational experience is currently diametrically opposed to this, but at least they have another hook on which to hang their understanding of the difference in language acquisition.
      I agree with Jody’s advice. Give them worksheets to do and correct on their own without receiving any credit whatsoever. When they ask about a grade, smile sweetly and remind them that they told you “we need things to memorize and worksheets to fill in, that’s how I learn best, because I learn like that in other classes.” You are responding to their needs and giving them things to memorize and worksheets to fill in – after all, you want provide them with another avenue of learning, one that fits their learning style. However, you assess only what aligns with the Standards, and that means you will be grading what they have learned from memorization and worksheets, not the worksheets themselves. Besides, studies show that their learning will be far better when they correct their own mistakes rather than merely reading your corrections, so you want them to get the most benefit from their preferred style of learning. But it is still for no credit.
      My guess – like Jody’s – is that they will one by one suddenly realize that they don’t learn language like that. When you refuse to reinforce the worksheets with class time and credit toward a grade, the worksheets will quickly lose their appeal for the vast majority of students.
      I assign the grammar portion of our textbook to my AP students. Each week they complete a reading and set of exercises that they can correct from the answer sheets posted on my class website (Edmodo). They can also ask me questions about the grammar at any time; I just won’t spend very much class time answering the questions. This year one girl set the record for sticking with this assignment – she lasted nearly the entire first semester; she is also taking the AP exam tomorrow morning.

      1. I had a girl, a really nice one, who told me with a flushed face (I had asked her about it otherwise she’d never have told me bc she wouldn’t want to “critizise” me!) at the end of the last school year that she thought she had not learned enough in my CI-centered classroom. That’s why I decided to give my classes vocab sheets with setences or chunks from our stories which they have to study from L2 to L1 and on which I quizz them. As this might help them to comprehend more in the future I feel it’s okay and it gives them and their parents a feeling of sth being accomplished. Even at a Waldorfschool it is hard for parents to fully trust a teacher when we teach in a way so totally opposed to anything they themselves have experienced in their own schooldays and there is no learning going on which they can “see”.

  13. Thank you all for this support! I am piggybacking onto mb’s post because she and I spoke today after a particularly defeating school day. Ugh! Same thing is happening for me, the complaints, the “i’m not learning anything.” The whole worksheet thing was frankly pisisng me off because I am hell-bent on not adding any more paper to my life and the last thing I want to do is add paper and “correcting,” so yay for self-correcting worksheet homework and double yay for having kids go online to practice their verb conjugations.
    What I am sad about is that I had such hope going into the year. First time I was raring to get into the classroom, and that has eroded over the year and I feel really lost right now. AND…I get that this is a huge shift for the kids, for my colleagues, for parents. Plus my school is in the middle of a slow motion earthquake of institutional transitions, so yeah. The energy around here is unsettled to say the least. Just trying to dodge the big chunks & have a go at it again next year.

  14. Jen, it’s absolutely certain that you accomplished far more than either you or your students realize. Trust the method and you’ll see things start to fall into place.
    I’ve been wondering if there isn’t something zen about TPRS. Didn’t the zen masters seek acquisition rather than learning? The samurai attained such mastery that he fought and parried without conscious thought. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do? Could we get our students to understand what we are aiming at by comparing TPRS mastery to the zen ideal? That we don’t care whether or not they can recite rules when they speak English, so why should we care about that when they speak whatever language we’re trying to teach?

  15. I *LOVE LOVE LOVE* this blog and all of you on it!!!!
    Your advice saved me (and my sanity) ! I had a GREAT day today during that Block.
    #1. I told them that I really thought last night about what they said in class yesterday. And, that I completely understand their desire for practice, i.e. worksheets. HOWEVER, if they want that practice so much, then why haven’t they utilized the Quia website that I subscribe to -with my OWN money- for them? I then explained that that website is my GIFT to THEM, and that they were “looking a gift horse in the mouth” (and explained that expression) and told them that I was very insulted that they did not appreciate my gift to them.
    #2. I read to them Ben’s wonderful explanation of what rigor looks like in a language classroom, and pointed out what they are NOT doing.
    #3. I explained that I understand where they are coming from….they have taken foreign language classes before and were taught differently. My way of teaching is so different from “how (they think) they learn.” BUT….they are learning a language in MY classroom, and I know from the research that one does not CONSCIOUSLY learn a language – if you do then you can’t speak. Your affective filter goes up and so does the “monitor” (and I explained that).
    #4. the “ringleader” – a 4%er Junior – then said, “well, we want GRADES in the gradebook! No offense, it’s not against your language of Spanish which we know you are so passionate about, but we are only taking this for the credit to get into college.” So I then told them, “sure I am passionate about the language, because I love it; but I am passionate about teaching it to YOU ALL because I want you to be able to use it to communicate to be prepared for finding a JOB in the future. Because, believe me – you will NOT find a decent job when you get out of college if you can not communicate with the clients of the companies you apply to, so that college degree you want won’t do you any good if you are not globally competent – that’s what a 21st century worker will be!!! I do not give you worksheets because I don’t want to waste your time and mine (nor do I want to kill trees!) but rather I want you to UNDERSTAND and negotiate meaning and TALK in the language!!!”
    #5. I also told them that I have my Masters in Teaching and Learning (but didn’t tell them I just graduated Saturday!!! hahaha) and I also go to several conferences each year and read a LOT to stay abreast of how to teach a foreign language. I told them that I fully understand why they want worksheets – all the research and surveys show that students just want worksheets to get out of doing the REAL work of acquiring a language; they want the easy way out. That the way I teach, by having conversations with them, requires them to be engaged 100%. So, I will give them worksheets for homework, and when they are done I will give them the answer sheet. They asked if they will be graded on it, and I said, “No.” (thanks Jody!!!)
    Then they started talking and one girl said, “whoa whoa!!! I wasn’t here yesterday! I don’t want worksheets!!! I love the way you teach!” We then read some more of “Agentes secretos” and did a textivate exercise for the first time and they LOVED it!
    A couple of boys had to stay after to make stuff up with me and one of them (a freshman) said to me, “You know, I really like what you said to us today – a lot more than what we said to you yesterday! It makes so much more sense.” and his friend agreed. ?
    AWESOME! Thank you again to ALL of you! Much love, MB

  16. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

    We love you too MB, especially me! I m grateful every day that through this blog I have met so many wonderful like-minded, like-caring, like-passionate teachers who I rely on everyday to make it through the day.
    Our work is very emotional. We deal with people, for many of us hundreds of people. Personally I have 150 kids I get to interact with on a daily basis.
    We are in essence lucky to have each other on this blog to cry to, vent, as well as celebrate through all those daily moments, those rituals we embrace with grace and passion.
    So I listened to you on Tuesday night as you were so upset at your class. I told you not to worry b/c the next day would bring another set of feelings and issues, knowing that this too would pass and that they are children so we can’t take everything they say at face value.
    And yesterday I listened again as you celebrated what I may describe as you overcoming your fears.
    Much of what we feel is dicated by our fears unfortuantely, but I think we must surrender those feelings and trust that if we are guided by our knowledge, intuition and good faith things will work themselves out.
    For the first time in months, I slept for 8 hours last night. Perhaps because I was
    with my mon and dad, alone, without any sibling rivalry, and I felt like a little girl again, safe and protected.
    I think if we can somehow provide that feeling for our kids, and accept that sometimes there are going to be bumps in the road but embracing that as part of the process we’ll be all right.
    Thank you for keeping me company on my 4 hour drive to Miami yesterday Mb.
    You are a true friend!

  17. Maybe this is the right place to post this . . . I had an unannounced admin observation today and the kids gave me 2 comments afterwards:
    1) “You didn’t change your voice and start talking all nice to us, pretending to be a teacher, like the other teachers do.”
    2) When I said that the admin is looking to see everyone is participating, the kids already knew that – apparently other teachers have told them the same. And one kid said that in one class the teacher has told them that when the admin comes in to raise their right hand if they know the answer/want to respond and raise their left hand if they don’t know/don’t want to respond. So it looks like they all want to participate! hahahaha.

      1. Nice work Eric.
        I have a strict open-door policy. Also I am now posting all the speedwrites by beginners online so ppl can see the immense power, gains and effectiveness of c.i.
        I had an interaction with a colleague yest. My neighbour. I brougt her her printing from the photocopier room. It was the French test. It was a list of infinitive verbs. They had to write the meaning, the 3rd person pluperfect ablative scrotum tense and the 9th person vocative passive pluperfect anus tense or whatever.
        I gave her this idiotic inauthentic asessment and said “literally every piece of research that exists says that languages are neither acquired nor remembered this way” (not in front of class) and she told me not ever to quote her or comment on her materials. There you have it. When the admins come to her room, they will see the kids beavering away at idiotic worksheets, unable in 3rd year to fluently answer the question “what did you do yesterday?” without looking at their notes, and the Admins will say, well, all students on task and engaged…
        This is why I’m gonna share beginner results online.

  18. Omg, did you read my mind? I was JUST THINKING “what student interactive stuff can I do with Adminz Observationz?” I am gonna do:
    1) Turn and talk and then report out with Weekend Talk, instead of doing Alina Filipescu’s stand up/sit down/move if the statement T reads applies to them (“teacher centered”)
    2) Quizlet. Since I have a subscription I can switch between a set that has L2->L1 to L2 fill in gaps.
    3) Textivate
    4) Airplane reading
    5) Perhaps this student-created (But working with text) activity that is easy too and involves kids interacting: https://palmyraspanish1.blogspot.com/2016/02/3-step-no-prep-extended-reading-activity.html
    –>I *would* do whiteboard numbered heads together (Kagan structure), but I’m terrified of getting dinged for my kids (middle schoolers!) fidgeting with the markers/whiteboards
    –>Kagan structure of Ask Ask Switch would be good, my kids haven’t done it yet so again terrified of getting dinged for routines not being smooth enough. Ask Ask Switch (Google Martina Bex Ask Ask Switch) is a GREAT activity to mask CI because you can type up either/or circling questions on students’ cards, or move to open ended if they have more acquired L2 to create with.
    –>
    I need to relook at your reading options Ben—if PLC has others please let me know! Merci mille fois!

    1. Meg my need is to not become too scattered and reading options 4-7 give me that solid continuum for an observer to see happy, confident kids, and all that is required is a story or an image from which to work that we did previously.
      The auditory work sets up the reading class for the observation. It’s taken a long time for us here to come up with this idea of basing observations on auditory input previous to the reading class observation.
      It’s a real good plan bc reading options 4-7 are so truly solid. All those reading options, all 20 of them, are the result of 17 years of constant testing by this group. Each one is gold.
      However, practically speaking in a limited class pd. of around 50 minutes, we can only use the heavy hitters of 4-7, with lots of repetitive input from the previous classes during class to put the sprinkles on the donut.
      When the kids have that much confidence in the text bc they created it in previous classes, it is a thing to behold as they literally show off for the observer.

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