Report from the Field – David Young


I wanted to share with you how two fellow Spanish teachers of mine have greatly improved the level of interest in TPRS / CI thanks to their collaboration with members of this blog.

First there is the case of a teacher named Elizabeth Oxandale who formerly taught in my district and then went to Colorado to study for an advanced degree and then taught last year in the Denver Public Schools. She says that she worked with Diane Noonan and knows you and others from DPS. She says that she was hired by the principal of the school she taught at BECAUSE she was not a TPRS teacher and thanks to all of you in DPS she has been converted to being an energetic fighter for what is good and true and holy (TPRS /CI).  I was totally blown away when I saw her last week and she shared her experience with DPS last year.  I now think that at some point I had heard something mentioned on your blog about  a teacher named Liz from Kansas but never made the connection.

My second big surprise was from a Spanish teacher named Delia Perez in my district who is from Chicago. While she was in Chicago this summer she had some friends who worked at one of the Chicago Public Schools and asked them if she could observe some of their foreign language classrooms.  (KCK schools finish at the end of May and Chicago schools go thru much of the month of June.) She specifically asked to see if there were any TPRS teachers because she had heard me talk about it so much.  She went to see Sabrina’s class and was totally mesmerized by what she observed in Sabrina’s class.  At the start of our first meeting of foreign language teachers of our district last week she began her little report of what she did this summer by apologizing to the group for having heard me talk so much about TPRS but not really getting it.  She is hungry to know more about TPRS.  Also, at NTPRS, Sabrina had told me of Delia observing her class.

And then at our meeting of language teachers I told Delia that Sabrina was going to teach in the district (DPS) that Elizabeth (Liz) just came from. So many connections.

Also, my principal is going to pay to send the foreign language teachers of my high school (Wyandotte High) to a Blaine Ray Workshop that Donna Tatum will give here Oct. 18 – 19.

As for my Spanish classes that I teach I am having the best start ever in terms of being a comprehensible input classroom.  I have more fully developed the whole thing about giving students jobs.  A huge obstacle in my classroom (actually the entire school district) is the fact that they send huge numbers of  native speakers to beginning level classes. (And yes we do have native speaker Spanish classes on top of that.) This is an absolutely intolerable situation but one  that we have been unable to change. I manage to get by by making the class entertaining for the native speakers and also give them things to do to help the class.  I also encourage them to read on their own if they want to and have  available a large number of books in Spanish.  I think most members of the blog would simply say that this is a situation which should be rejected.  I must try harder to change it. However, I am grateful for the fact that my principal loves what I do and understands the importance of comprehensible input.

This year I teach only Spanish at the high school instead of Spanish and ESL as I did last year.  ESL is truly a pathetic lot. I attended an ESL conference (MIDTESOL) in Ames, Iowa last October.  It was a conference that was driven by college instructors who are truly clueless as to what to do with teaching a beginning language learner.  And they pretty much admit  to it.

The keynote speaker was a guy who has published many books and tells everyone of the importance of learning new vocabulary by making lists of words.

I also continue to teach Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese at Johnson County Community College here on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area. I have not contributed much to the blog this past year but I devour a large amount of what appears on it.

Also, I want to mention that I appreciated meeting a whole number of members of the blog at NTPRS in Dallas. We missed you.

David Young



10 thoughts on “Report from the Field – David Young”

  1. …I am grateful for the fact that my principal loves what I do and understands the importance of comprehensible input….

    David it is good that you have an aware and supportive principal. But in the light of Robert’s ongoing discussion with his district WL rep about Scope and Sequence, we see that we yet another person in charge of students’ educations who cannot understand what a disaster it is to place a native speaker in a classroom.

    The practice is barbaric. I applaud your response to get them reading in their first language. What could be better than that? Insist that they do it and make it the main thrust of their grade. Separate them from you other students, unless you use them in ways that are for the good of the group, but remember that they should be spending as much time in class reading, reading, reading.

    I think yours is a most excellent response to the problem. I think that all of us, when faced with having a native speaker in our classroom, should do the same. It’s the right response. It is the only response I have ever heard of that honors the educational needs of the kids.

    We can only hope that as time goes by administrators see what they are doing and stop doing it, but for now getting those students reading in class and separating them sounds like the best response.

    Thank you for this great report from the field.

  2. …the keynote speaker was a guy who has published many books and tells everyone of the importance of learning new vocabulary by making lists of words….

    I guess we could take this incredible statement from your report in two ways. We can despair that college professors who profess to know about language acquisition are, and have proven themselves to be for decades, completely out of touch with the real needs of language students except for those language mechanic college students who are made from the same tree they are.

    Or we could take a positive spin on it and realize that, since those folks are so out of touch, the road is open for some real work to be done. We can just drive our CI cars happily down the bumpy road and wave at their broken down vehicles by the side of the road, wishing them luck as they try to get their cars running, and then step on the gas and put our energies where they can most help kids, to what lies ahead of us down the road in our work with CI.

    I guess I’ll go with the latter choice.

    1. “Or we could take a positive spin on it and realize that, since those folks are so out of touch, the road is open for some real work to be done.” …..AND…it’s getting done, thanks to Bob Patrick in GA and Mark and Sabrina in CO!!!! be the turtle not the hare!!! Who else is teaching at the college level????

      1. Mark Knowles at the University of Colorado in Boulder is at it but no classes have formed there on CI as this one has at UGA. Mark is working with Sabrina this year on something at CU Boulder but I’m not sure what it is, whether it is research oriented or has to do with instructing in comprehensible input.

        Mark is the only one I know at the university level who is doing anything like Dr. Patrick, but the class at UGA is the first and up to this point only class being offered at any undergraduate or graduate level on comprehensible input in the U.S.

        Mark is a master of the ways of the ivory tower and linguistics and yet does not put it beneath himself to stand up and yell out the Quand/When yell in the middle of a bunch of people he doesn’t know, as he did in San Diego when I couldn’t get any of my kids to do it. For that kindness to me alone, I regard him as a gentleman, one of few in a world of aggressive and self serving intellectuals.

  3. Dear David,

    Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring message. It is just what we need to hear as we start a new year!! What we do changes the lives of our students and our colleagues…we just don’t always see it. Thank you for reminding us that these connections and continue, far beyond what we “see”.

    with love,

  4. GREAT news David!!! and it was great meeting you too!!!
    @Laurie….that article you posted about Yale and emotional intelligence was wonderful!! Have you sent it to Ben to post on here? I think everyone would appreciate it!

  5. Those guys from Yale and Emotional Intelligence. I don’t know what the article says, but all I have to say is go Peter Salovey!

    Now, to do what we are doing at CU-Boulder ALTEC – we are outsourcing underclass labor in the name of Sabrina and she’ll be teaching a non-credit beginning French course with us. I’d also like to see some CI Spanish happening at ALTEC and have other underclass laborers in mind to help us with that in the future. Since I direct ALTEC, I have a mind to overhaul that very small corner of CU-Boulder and then we’ll see what kind of impact that might bring to the rest of campus, if any. At the very least, the buzz it creates, both positive or negative, just might be the fodder for some very good blog posts here. Nothing quite on the scale of Bob Patrick at UGA, but that does not mean we cannot dream.

  6. ALTEC is the Anderson Language and Technology Center. We do believe there is a place for technology in learning languages and that this thing called the World Wide Web, however distant the current reality has wandered from the original utopian vision, still is an important communication tool between people, nations, and those attempting to live beyond the nation-state construct. Note that we also put technology in its proper place, after “language” and the conjunction, which in this case explains technology as a bit of an afterthought, as if we haven’t quite understood yet the concept of “language,” because we have not. Somewhat as an aside, I also believe natural language is the fruit of much of human creativity and therefore a technology.

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