Servant to a Book

James Hosler sent this:

Ben,

I just read the quote below on the blog of a well know Latin teacher who sticks closely to the textbook and is from the “eclectic” school of teaching. Lots of business, activities, etc. I’ve only been teaching for four years, but I can see that I would have been like this teacher if I hadn’t made the switch to TPRS/CI:

“Do I just need a break? I need a job that ended at the end of the day, not continued on into the night and the evenings. One that didn’t make me feel guilty for every minute that I spent NOT grading or making better lesson plans.”

So this teacher is thinking of leaving teaching because she is buried alive in work and lessons and grading and projects and activities and just being such a clever language teacher. I’m so glad I found TPRS/CI because without it I likely, too, would be counting down the days until I could find something better to do with my life than be a servant to a book.

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12 thoughts on “Servant to a Book”

  1. This teacher may be receiving high marks, but are we really in need of approval that badly? Alert: the kids don’t care that much. Blaine’s favorite answer to the question of why he started the whole storytelling thing is that he loves to play golf and doing TPRS gives him plenty of time to do that.

  2. Yes! I absolutely agree! I resent/ed and felt guilty about the amount of time I had to spend or should have been spending grading and planning. But, the planning didn’t amount to much more CI…just more “exciting” activities, that were not very exciting. Your ALERT is so spot-on: NO ONE cares that much! This is life, not 24/7 servanthood. We are NOT martyrs to teaching. Right now I am still on the learning curve, so I do some prep, but I love just grabbing the reader, and “hanging out” in the target language! I know there is no “one right way” to teach, but this sure is working out a lot better already than all the other eclectic “stuff” from before.

  3. And Ruth every training that we go to, every new strategy that we learn from people not familiar with how people learn languages, every activity that keeps the process in the students’ conscious minds, whether they are playing a game/activity or cognitively addressing/looking at some structural aspect of the language or whatever, is wasted time. It does not lead to gains. Focusing on the message leads to gains. We learn languages unconsciously, as per Dr. Krashen:

    “Language is acquired through comprehensible input. It is an unconscious process that happens when the learner is focused on the message, rather than the language itself.”

    Like Robert said in his comment below:

    “They spend an awful lot of time fiddling with the useless tools.”

    If people who embrace TPRS/CI were to look at the severity of the statement by Krashen they would have to re-examine some of the strategies they use. The professed objective of all planning for CI classes should be: “Does this strategy create a focus in my students’ minds on the message?” and “Am I staying in the TL over 95% of the time so that that can happen?”. (Because it can’t happen when English is there, polluting and always dragging the focus and power back to the conscious/analytical left brained concrete sequential – read “boring” – faculty.)

    1. “And Ruth every training that we go to, every new strategy that we learn from people not familiar with how people learn languages, every activity that keeps the process in the students’ conscious minds, whether they are playing a game/activity or cognitively addressing/looking at some structural aspect of the language or whatever, is wasted time. It does not lead to gains. Focusing on the message leads to gains. We learn languages unconsciously, as per Dr. Krashen…”

      Sorry, Ben, I guess I’ve been reading too many different posts all over the place here and my mind is cluttered (in a good way). I’m not sure what you are referring to. I get what you are saying, but I don’t know what I said first that led you to direct this to me. Give me a hint.

      1. That was my bad Ruth I meant Leah (Turner) who is fraulturner above. I was responding to what she said:

        …I resent/ed and felt guilty about the amount of time I had to spend or should have been spending grading and planning. But, the planning didn’t amount to much more CI…just more “exciting” activities….

        Everybody needs to go to a conference next summer – iFLT is in Denver – so we can sort everybody out and actually know who each other is for real.

  4. I’ve been thinking about the whole “toolbox” analogy and postulate the following:

    TPRS is in fact “one of the tools” in the Comprehensible Input toolbox. It just happens to be one of the most frequently used and versatile tools in the toolbox (sort of like the Leatherman multitool), but there are some others such as Look and Discuss, Read and Discuss, Sing and Discuss (that’s my new term for using songs), Movie Talk, etc.

    The problem with “eclectic” (and other) teachers is that they have a different toolbox. There are a few good tools in there (there would almost have to be with the collection they carry around), but also a lot of totally useless tools. Unfortunately, they spend an awful lot of time fiddling with the useless tools. It’s sort of like being a performance sports car mechanic but having a toolbox that contains tools for plumbers, electricians, and handymen as well. Sure, some of the tools those guys use also work for auto mechanics, but a lot of them don’t, so why lug them around?

    Just some random thoughts on a late Halloween evening. Tomorrow is Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day).

  5. Personally, I don’t think the toolbox metaphor is useful anymore. It just seems to allow backward (“eclectic”) teachers to perpetuate their non-acquisition work. I’m rather following Bob Patrick’s lead (who is really following Krashen’s) in emphasizing that the ONLY thing that promotes acquisition is understandable messages in the target language. Everything else is a waste of time. Some teachers promote acquisition by accident, in spite of their methods. Other teachers do this intentionally and consciously. The former are not efficient promoters of student language acquisition, because so much of their curriculum is taking away from acquisition.

    Also a quick note on homework. This year I went from teaching 4 days per week to 3 days in a 6 day rotation. Because sometimes I don’t see my students for 8 or 9 days if there is a long weekend, I have been giving my students weekly homework assignments during the interim, whereas I gave almost no homework last year. Relatively simple Latin derivative work that students can do on their own, and which most students would agree is useful and interesting. But this one addition has really killed me from an administrative/paperwork perspective. It takes me so long to keep track of the assignments, who turned in what, who turned it in late, who owes me missing assignments. I have kids who simply don’t do it, even though they want to. And for some of these poor kids, especially the ones who have learning and processing difficulties, it has really created a lot of stress for them and their parents. And this is what is dragging down their grade, and it takes up all my time. And none of this has anything to do with acquisition. So why the hell am I doing this? As I finish up the first quarter, I am seriously reevaluating what I’m doing, and asking myself what I’m doing for acquisition, and what I’m doing in order to stroke my professional ego, and compensate for my program getting gutted, which is not my fault.

    So, this derivative homework thing is part of my “toolbox,” but it really has nothing to do with language acquisition.

    1. I’ve been using Edmodo.com just for homework lately. It’s nice because there are no papers to handle and it tracks when students turn in their assignments.

  6. I have often felt that I never worked hard enough. I have always felt that I needed to work more. Even when I was the “clever” teacher, I lamented that I needed more time to be awesome.

    Ben, the answer is yes. Do we need approval? Yes. That is the problem. That’s why I keep talking about that this journey is so emotional and difficult. It is not just about the kids. It’s about me allowing myself to be healthy, not to seek approval, not to beat myself up. Only when we can love ourselves can we love the kids. No matter how much we work, it will never be enough. It is coming to that conclusion in a real way, not simply in an intellectual way. How often we say that we understand that we shouldn’t blame ourselves, that we shouldn’t seek approval, that we should work ourselves to death, but we continue to do it. It is one thing to understand intellectually these things and another to understand them in your heart and practice them.

    We need to cast off the need for approval, the need to be some kind of super teacher that doesn’t really exist. Simple solutions are always the best. I don’t like killing myself and get nothing from it.

    We need to look at our own souls and do the work there. Then, we will be able to be the super teacher.

  7. It really is absurd how much time our colleagues spend marking grammar on projects and tests and giving such detailed feedback, and how much time they spend creating games and other various “engaging” activities. It really is absurd. The kids just don’t care and they don’t even read the comments or pay attention during any of the activities. I just can’t get over what a farce it all is.

    Sorry, speaking with frustration after two morning classes today that were somehow both tired and restless.

  8. I get asked by colleagues and at workshops “isn’t TPRS exhausting?” when people see that you are indeed “on” for 75 min at a time providing C.I.

    I tell them, “not really.” While I do have to be “on” in class, this being “on” is fun (actually generally it’s hilarious!) and not super difficult. What I DO NOT have to do is be “on” for 2 hrs/night marking idiotic grammar worksheets the kids have probably copied, or wade through awful compositions where either I assign Numberz, which provide zero useful feedback to kids, or I provide Grammar Pointerz, which kids don’t give a crap about.

    I would rather work where and when it’s enjoyable and effective.

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