Report from the Field – Robyn Moreth

This report from the field is from Robyn who is now famous – in my mind at least – for her decision to be observed on her first day of ever doing CI. I just think that is so cool, really brave. Below, she explains a bit more about that choice:

Hi Tina and Ben,

Thank you so much for the info and support over the last few weeks as I try to navigate the CI waters. . . and doing it very much alone in my building.

The video links have been so helpful and I’m working my way through the book — which is fantastic.

Yes, it was crazy that I chose to begin CI on the day I was observed. However, after all the research I have done on this topic and knowing what I know now, how could I not begin as soon as possible? I should have started out the year doing it, but I didn’t have enough self-study nor the confidence to do it then. I still probably don’t, but I’m actively working on being a better, more effective teacher. Now that I know about CI, I feel a deep responsibility to implement it.

So now, an update from the field:

A week ago I was observed and overall, I think it went well. It was most definitely not true CI — more a mash up of TPRS/CI/RR (Robyn’s Ramblings). I ditched the scripted circling TPRS questions after one period — couldn’t teach and read a script; it felt incredibly unnatural. “Teach to the eyes” I kept hearing in my head, so I just asked my own questions, repeated, went slowly, and it went better in the next classes.

I wasn’t observed until the afternoon, which was a God send. By then, I was more confident. My students were great. What wasn’t great — my principal walking in 15 minutes late for a 40 minute class. 10 minutes in, I figured he had forgotten and was trying not to get super irritated about all the work I had put into our pre-observation meeting the day before. . . Anyways, he did show up and it went well. Fast forward to yesterday when we had my post-conference and he started off by saying, “I was really confused in the beginning. . .” Arghh!!! Of course you were, you missed the whole set up! But then he righted the ship and was mostly complimentary.

For me, I purposely made the stories short. I did have to target some vocab, but the kids didn’t know otherwise (but I can see how they might revolt in the future as you have pointed out). I’m wondering if I made the stories too short. It was 2 days story/ 1 day reading/ 1 day writing. Then did a semi-MovieTalk today with my 7th graders, but not my 6th graders. I feel like I puttered out this week. We had back-to-back shorter days (advisory/assembly schedules) so maybe that dampened my mojo, too.

Feedback from the kids has been really positive so far. 82% rated doing the stories a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5. No one gave it a 1 and only 3 kids gave it a 2. I sent out an email to parents with the interpersonal communication rubric this week. I sent out 133 emails and 3 responded — 2 very positive (one parent had met Dr. Krashen a few years ago!) and 1 was passive aggressive (“Does this mean you won’t be speaking as much Spanish?)

If you are still reading this, thank you for letting me rant on. My husband is quite supportive, but is not an educator. Having this PLC is vital to me.

Have a great weekend,

Robyn

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10 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Robyn Moreth”

  1. What’s really a joke is how the school system runs. Admin observes you one time and they want to see it all. How about actually having an administrator who actually gets to know teachers and is visiting classrooms and talking to teachers all day?

    How about coming to observations on time and staying the entire time?

    Sorry….just one of my pet peeves….

    Imagine if YOU were late for your observation…..

  2. That’s the entire point, right? They are so important that when they show up late it’s normal. We get dinged. But really, unless they can embrace the research and standards and start, like you say Greg, a daily dialogue of searching with us for what is best for kids in SLA, then they are useless and actually cause harm via their ignorance and pride. Most admins are rather sad little creatures. They leave the classroom where they are usually ineffective to look for more money and more respect in the building. Thus they come off as greedy and needy. Then you take someone like Sean who is as fine an example of a human being as I have met, and he has to sweat what these people think about his work? Gag me with a stick.

  3. So far, there has been great support despite the tardiness. I was nervous, but excited for him to see CI in action. I am very hopeful that it will continue.

  4. Robyn just be aware that those admins come and go through the revolving doors of education with great frequency. The work you are now embarking on will likely impress many such people. We can say with our 10 years here now as a private group that we are in this for the long haul. In my mind the few teachers who are attracted to this group are the no-nonsense teachers like you and Brielle who joined this past week. It is good after ten years to be building a safe intellectual and emotional landing place for the enormous struggles required by this new work. We are very happy to have you in this group!

  5. Great job, Robyn! It takes courage to go against “the norm” and create a new normal and even more courage to be observed the first day you are trying something as radically different as teaching with TCI techniques for the first time.

    I think it is entirely appropriate to respond to an administrator’s comment about being confused after walking in 15 minutes late with a kind and pleasant, “Yeah, that’s the problem with coming in late to a class. You miss important things in those first few minutes and have to catch up. Isn’t that why we have a no-tardy policy?” If you have a good enough relationship with the administrator (I do with mine), even joke about serving a detention to make up the work – but every situation is different, so not everyone can do this.

    As your students become excited about the course and tell their parents and friends, perceptions will change. When your students start using the language outside of class, other teachers and then administrators will take note. Your track record will speak for itself.

    Passive-aggressive parents are often simply trying to protect their children’s interests but don’t know how to speak directly with others without being aggressive. Of course, others are trying to engage you in a power struggle and show their perceived superiority. For this particular question, I think I would treat it as legitimate and send a reply something like: “Thanks for your e-mail. I appreciate your concern that your son/daughter be in a class where Spanish is spoken. The changes I am making in strategies and practices mean that students will hear more Spanish, not less. If you would like to come in and discuss the research, experience a lesson yourself, or observe your child’s class – or any combination of the above – let’s make an appointment. I am available after school most days. What day next week would you like to meet?” You’ve not tried to defend yourself, and you’ve put the ball squarely in the parent’s court. They can either follow up and learn or they can back down (usually with something like, “no, that won’t be necessary”). Either way, you can show that you have taken their concerns seriously. Oh, and be sure to keep a record of the correspondence.

    Sorry, I went into problem-solving mode there. But it helps to have scripts in mind.

    Sounds like you are doing a great job, and as Ben says: we are happy to have you in the group.

  6. I tried telling the story of la Llorona for the second time last week. The second time was much better. Students were reacting more. Eyes were more perky. So yeah, I get how getting a practice during the first couple periods of the day really helps for those students in the afternoon.

    Bravo for taking the leap into CI, Robyn, and doing so well at it! Please don’t fret over the opinion of your admin too much. Rapport with your students is much more important to fret about.

  7. Welcome on board, Robyn! I’m sure you won’t regret it. In my experience this is the only place where teachers open their hearts fully bc they needn’t be afraid of being put down. We are sharing our experiences and beliefs in a respectful, supportive way.

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