We know that the main reason kids don’t get involved is because they don’t understand, which is because we are going too fast. We know that.
But perhaps another reason that TPRS stymies teachers is that the method requires that we listen to our intuition, which is not exactly a major sport in schools. For stories to work, we have to unlock the whole child, the real kid, in order to get their input, which we require in the form of cute answers in storytelling.
We have not been trained to listen to our intuition as educators. We have not been trained to listen to the tonal mind of the group, and react to it, and integrate it into the CI. But we must. We must sense where the story wants to go, instead of where we think it should go.
That kind of self focus on the part of the teacher leads to the image of the teacher as a kind of egomaniacal master of ceremonies thing, where the kids are just little unimportant heads in the room.
The movement must be away from the mind and more into the body and feelings, and more into seeing our students as real human beings, if we are to grow as storytelling teachers.
I can describe it, but I can’t say I can do it very often. Yup, still caught up in the mind. I wish I could just tap into the invisible joy in the room, the kind that music seems to unlock. I want my language teaching to unlock joy in the way that music does. I’ll bet that my kids want that too.
The music image is not far off the mark when discussing storytelling. There is a rythm in the sound, there is chanting and movement. When we make hand signals to cue our classes, we are imitating the work of the great choral conductor Kodaly, who developed a system of hand signals to lead choirs.
I know I know. A bit whacky. Over the top. Out there. The next thing I might be talking about is an ethereal realm in the classroom, a Pure Land, that is a function of much more than the mind, but is somehow connected to paced sound, to a kind of vision of L2 as music.
Getting out of the way. Making room for what might be hiding in our students’ minds, just so close, yet so far if we can’t tap into it. Drawing our students out in a non-mental way by being fully present and listening fully with the intent to understand what our students might come up with.
I know I know again. Being fully present for the students. Listening for cues. Getting out of the way. Listening to the language of the heart that lies under the language actually being taught, the language of languages. Listening for a hidden dimension of communication in the classroom that is beyond the constraints of the mind. Doing something I have rarely and perhaps never done as a teacher. All very whack.
But, after all these years, my mind is a faded map, and, to tell the truth, it no longer serves me. I would rather wander through stories coming from my heart, which makes me incredibly vulnerable, instead of creating some kind of super story. This kind of sharing is not a show, but rather a sacred thing.
Real human communication is a sacred thing, isn’t it? When it can be? It is a thing that involves high levels of vulnerability. But then, when have teachers not been vulnerable, especially in storytelling?
We must all, at some point, come to our own understandings of what Blaine really means when he says that asking stories is really about listening for cute answers from our students. I, for one, see the cute answers as a way into the person.
I just want to find freedom in my classroom. A William Wallace (Braveheart) kind of freedom. I won’t find that by teaching in the old way. The only way out for me is forward, away from the mind. I told you – whack.