I want to bring up Scott’s video again. It is an important video because it represents, in my view, a stage in our development as comprehension teachers that we all must go through, and that is moving from working so hard on technique to relaxed teaching and “just being there” with the students. That is to say, we get to a certain point where we have our own style in place, we question well, our technique is in place, but something is missing – we are taking it all too seriously in our efforts to get the technique down. We need to move to relaxation and awareness of the students. We need both – the technique and the relaxation inside of us mixed with visible slow appreciation of our students. So that our students can relax to. If they can’t relax because we are uptight, they can’t learn. Actually it turns out the video we saw was of a class that is 50% IEPs, just to clarify that point.
Anyway, in addition to the already published comments Scott made on the PLC, he also sent me privately two more in-depth responses and I asked him if I could share them with the group and he agreed. This is a strong video with strong take aways for all of us if we want to dig and his comments below can add to our understanding. All of us on some level feel pretty much what Scott describes below, usually in the first few years of doing this work. I call what Scott describes below growth.
So first here is a link to the (previously posted) video in case anyone missed it:
and here is Scott’s first email to me:
Just wanted to send a personal note to thank you for taking so much time to watch and comment on my video. This was so helpful to me, especially the part about relaxing. I’ve felt this way for a bit now – I need to stop worrying about technique and just talk with the kids in a way they understand. I have one class (not the one from the video) where I feel like I am truly relaxed. It is my second year with them, and their success is one of the main reasons (along w/ Liam’s success) that CI/TPRS is getting some recognition in my district. I feel comfortable going into this class armed with just a couple structures and a marker, and I know the CI will be flowing. I don’t think about circling or any other technique during this time. We have tons of inside jokes, and even though I never once asked them to do output, I now can’t get them to shut up. Incredibly enough, they are part of a special program for students with social, emotional, and academic difficulties. This class has truly helped me see what CI is and what it could be.
Unfortunately, my three Spanish 1 classes have not gone the same way this year. They are mostly freshmen who are trying to be cool. They suck at playing the game, and despite how I have enforced jGR (giving a lot of 60%), they blurt, use English, have side conversations, etc. As a result, it is so hard for me to relax. Looking back at the video, I think one of the reasons I go quickly and hammer them with questions is because I’m trying to fill the air space before I have to deal with a disruption. In part, I blame myself – I’m sure I could have better executed a lot of what I read in Stepping Stones. On the other hand, it is just so tough to train them to exhibit the behaviors necessary to acquire rather than learn (like in their other classes). These are collaborative and replacement classes as well, so more than half of the students in each class have IEPs. Anyway, I will absolutely be working on relaxing – that observation was dead-on.
My response to this first email is that if that was a class filled with IEP kids, then that is some top quality work there. That is not an easy thing to do with 10% IEP kids and as I said above he has 50%! I have pretty much failed with IEP kids.
Amd here is his second email:
What I like about the PLC is we tell it like it is. In thinking about this again today (the challenges that come with using CI in the school environment), I realized what really bothers me about the whole thing: A lot of these kids who cannot exhibit the interpersonal skills required of them are EXACTLY those same kids who NEED CI/TPRS to succeed. They are failing their other classes, and they have not been successful with languages in the past. It is so frustrating that we are finally giving them what they need (an opportunity to feel successful just by relying on the natural human ability to acquire language), but for a number of reasons (“I already know I suck at Spanish” or “I’m stupid” or “This is stupid,” etc.), they just won’t play along (even with strict enforcement of jGR).
On the other hand, I have had a lot of success with some very low-achieving students – after years of failure with grammar worksheets, I feel like I am their savior. However, I find that the middle-of-the-road students are my most difficult audience – they did “fine” with traditional instruction (read: they did the worksheets, treated language like a series of math problems, did well on the assessments, and couldn’t say a damn thing in the end). Now, they are still doing well but are asked to do something much more rigorous – interacting. Some recognize that they are getting so much more out of class with CI/TPRS, but since they don’t care much about learning the language in the first place, this is not a motivating factor.
Anyway, I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but this is what I have observed thus far this year. I still think CI without all students on board is better than not doing CI. For me, though, it is very taxing. Lately, I’ve just been doing a lot more reading.
My response is that yes it is very taxing. Well said. And yes – good move to bail to reading because reading is the big dog many of us ride through November sometimes to the end of the year. Reading is more effective than stories, Reading is the way to do this work when we feel too taxed to do any auditory CI. And face it, auditory CI is much more taxing than R and D comprehension teaching.
I wonder what the burnout rate would be in other professions if people in whatever field were forced to work with kids who feel stupid, don’t care, aren’t at all motivated, etc. But let’s ask what is really taxing Teaching the old way is much more taxing.
Thank you Scott for your extra comments and for allowing me to publish them for the group. Now can we expect another video next fall since we have two already?