Something Poignant

I got a message from a teacher today, talking about things connected to the Invisibles:

Dear Ben,

I am reading your ideas and trying to pretend they are not true even though it is as if you’ve read my innermost thoughts. I suppose I don’t want to believe they are true because that will mean I have been wasting so much time and energy.

Further, it means changing yet again, like the move to CI several years ago. I have been plagued by self-doubt ever since. At this point in the trimester I feel like I have to finish La France en Danger but can’t help wonder what if things could be different?

Thank you, I am reading and thinking and resisting for some reason but I will come around quickly to your line of reasoning. It can’t be too late in the year.

I responded:

What you wrote is very poignant. Very pointed, honest, kind of professionally raw. Welcome to the club. I always wondered how I spent 24 years teaching AP French. Such sick years personally for me.

And then  the years spent trying and failing at TPRS. Had not Tina recognized that my take on TPRS over the years was unique (i.e. largely untargeted) I would never have known why I never fit it. It’s such tough work, getting to the deeper layers of the onion.

I hear every word you say above. Can’t give any advice because we each have to react to this stuff in our way, which to me represents a return to true things, to integrity, and as Tina and I say a lot to each other when we discuss this new stuff, to a call from something that we can only call divine.

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13 thoughts on “Something Poignant”

  1. I just love this honest post. Now being 60 with almost 30 years of teaching English as a foreign language, change doesn’t come to me as easily as it did when I was still 40 or even 50.
    I remember my beginnings very clearly: I was very dissatisfied with the language proficiency of my students and was on the lookout for better ways of teaching.
    After a few years I was so lucky to encouter Asher’s TPR during an inservice training. I was fascinated and started right away to reconstruct my lessons with immediate success which was a lot of buy-in from my students. Being a Waldorf teacher I had done some learning with movements but it had been much too little. I remember when in a year 5 class some of my students started using English spontaneously. I felt like on the top of the world; my dream come true. But their communicative English somehow stayed at almost the same level over the following years; I felt deflated and started looking again. I found Blaine Ray’s TPR-Storytelling and was again fascinated and started right away full of enthusiasm but after initial success I couldn’t make it really work. So I plodded on without being really happy bc I still had this nagging feeling that there must be better, more natural and human ways of doing English even in the not natural situation of the classroom.
    About a year ago during another seminar I was introduced to traditional TPRS and Susan Gross. I ordered her DVDs right away and was so impressed and happy but afraid too,
    of this at least at the beginning hard work of getting all those reps and so on.
    And then my guiding angel brought me to you Ben and the NT-approach. And now I know that the search for an ideal way of living and learning the language is over but the journey goes on bc there can never be an end to CI.
    After this long ramble about my teaching life I just want to say once more that I’m inexpressebly grateful for your and Tina’s work and support and for all those dedicated and supportive teachers on the PLC – I can never thank you enough for having made my last couple of years an enjoyable experience with all of my classes!!!

    1. It’s so comforting to see my own experiences echoed here. I told someone recently that this was my 5th year doing CI for the first time. I don’t think that is a bad thing. I am grateful to be on this journey with you, and grateful that the journeys of others have helped illuminate a path for me 🙂 Thank you Ben and Tina and everyone on this PLC.

    2. Wow Udo! 30 years and still learning! That’s hopeful for any of us having to work in non-ci district and departments. Teaching with CI may be tough at first but the pay off is huge! My colleagues are starting to get suspicious because I have a smile and happy tone in my voice every morning. CI will shine a lot on many and even more as time goes on! That said, Keep rambling!

      1. Yes, Steven, I’m learning still. I’m glad that you mention the pay off bc having started with SL and the Invisibles just some months ago The student biuy-in is certainly much higher and I wonder when I wil see more language output but I know of course that can take some time.
        I firmly believe we are all born to learn – by which I’m obviously not only refering to our school settings. But as you well know it must be mostly interesting and enjoyable and I can only tell you when I was doing grammar stuff regularly in my middle school classes, neither the kids nor I could enjoy it. I’m interested in Englihg grammar but kids usually aren’t, they want to understand and communicate.
        The only thing I truly regret is that I got so caught up in surviving mentally and emotionally day by day that I didn’t search the internet for language research and better ways of teaching. I did lots of inservice-trainings but CI and Krashen was never a topic in those seminars – makes me wanna scream all day long!!!

        1. Udo as I am sure ppl are tired of hearing me say here over the years, I taught AP French lang and lit the old way for a quarter of a century so I would scream louder than you. Plus they can’t hear you bc you are in Germany.

          1. Sorry if I seem nationalistic, Ben, but I would be satisfied if the so-called experts in Germany would hear me for a start!

          2. Udo the first person to join this “blog” at the time is Martin Anders from Germany! He is a most honest friend who, like you, has spoken true things from the heart about the challenges of this work. If we choose this work, we are going to have to put up with the “experts”. It’s just that way. The way I see it is that if we follow our hearts we will be glad one day that we did, even if it is hard now, and sometimes more than that. But how can we do otherwise, right? We must align with the research and the standards so there really is no choice about it. I admire your dedication to the cause. Change in each country has to begin somewhere. My mother was in a concentration camp at the age of 15, taken from Tagenrog, Russia during the war, and so when I read sentences that have the two words “nationalism” and “Germany” in the same sentence my skin crawls. But taken in the context of your intent, I realize that the great country of Germany is now returning to the fold of nations and it is a good thing to see, as we all become one people on this earth together even though we have different tongues. It is this unity amidst diversity that we work for, that will bring us together. Even this sharing of ideas in this comment is part of the healing between our nations. And we thought we were only language teachers. That became quite a rant, right? Oh well, I got a smaller cast on my arm today and my fingers are revving up again, getting ready in a month to get back to my normal “motor mouth’ status. (My mom was near Wiesbaden and my brother played in the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra years ago, and I lived in Strasbourg and hitchhiked all over Germany and even spent the night in a German Lutwaffe base outside of Munich one time – we are all one people, linked in hidden ways, and my own passion for this work we do is fueled by the idea that we are not separate nations competing with each other, but brothers and sisters – all one – it sounds kind of corny, but I believe that it is nonetheless true.)

  2. Your five year journey (has it been that long since that Denver conference?) started in honest self reflection and clearly continues on in that spirit. If we can’t just stop and take a look at ourselves – whether what we are doing is good or not for us and the kids – we won’t grow. I am thrilled when people say honest things here and you certainly are doing that Carly. We all appreciate it. It’s hard to lay our fears and failures (and successes!) out in front of others but it’s worse if we don’t, n’est-ce pas?

  3. Ben, one thing I noticed from your old videos when you were doing TPRS in Denver, was that you were adamant about not going out-of-bounds. You expressed this in your narrated videos. You felt that it was not right.

    With the advent of NT CI, does this still apply?

    For me, I have been able to allow students to handle more noise this year than ever. The TPRS style of complete transparency [word by word translation] is tossed out the window. Student buy-in has been off the charts because with NT CI, I have been able to go almost ANYWHERE in the language without restrictions as long as students understand the context and the messages, actions and basic details of what is going on. In regards to results, I have seen a richer and more varied understanding of vocabulary including seeing it in output.

  4. …with the advent of NT CI, does [not going out of bounds] still apply?….

    Subtle point!
    Short answer: no.
    Longer answer: For some reason with NT I just can’t seem to lose them. I don’t know why but it’s probably for the same reasons of contextual richness that you mention above. When we are communicating and it’s interesting, we understand. That is field proof of Krashen’s theories.

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    In other words, as I understood Dr. K to say, compelling-ness is directly proportional to the size of the Net. The more compelling, the wider the net we can use…

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