Whatever Gets It Done

I believe that this is a metaphor for what is happening now in our schools:
http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-south-carolina-school-employee-tosses-student-in-classroom-20151026-story.html
Therefore, any small spark of humanness that we can bring to our schools, however we do it, through CI or grammar translation or the audio lingual method, whatever gets the job in any small way done to make school have more value and meaning to children like this one, will be a help.
We are not all about teaching languages. We are not separate from those around us in our buildings. If one person hurts, we all hurt. Par contre, if one kid feels a bit better about their life upon leaving our classroom, because we tried so hard to teach in a meaningful way that is not boring, then we all benefit.
We must continue to love our kids and make them feel the opposite of what this kid was made to feel like. It’s a moral showdown and we must play our part in it by teaching well and by standing up to all forms of bullying in our buildings, and be forever on watch for the non-physical versions of this event, which happen so much more often.
Sorry, a mini rant. Couldn’t help it. That’s my state. Go Go Gamecocks.

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21 thoughts on “Whatever Gets It Done”

  1. I see both sides of this incident. First, the deputy most likely used more force than necessary to remove the girl from the class. He could have escorted her from her seat in a variety of ways and still removed the disturbance. He probably let his emotions get the best of him. However, we only saw what happened up until that point. What happened in that classroom that created a condition in which a law enforcement officer needed to come and deal with the situation in the first place? The girl disobeyed both her teacher and then the administrator who came in later. At what point are we OK with a student who is so disrespectful that he/she refuses to get up. You can’t just ignore him/her. What do you do?
    Other students have the right to learn in an environment free of disruptive peers. Can you imagine trying to control blurting, cell phones, and side talk in a classroom environment where students tell their teachers and administrators to “F” off?
    To the point of your post though, we do need to teach with love and concern for our students as human beings. However, we simply don’t know from this video what caused this. What if that teacher taught like we do in CI and the student still just didn’t care about reciprocating love and respect? I believe that the way we teach in CI will create the kind of environment where interactions like these don’t occur in the first place, but what do we do when a student starts a fight, picks on another student without letting up, or becomes an active disruption? What do we do when things reach this extreme because there is no father at home, respect for one’s teachers is not taught, and the student does not appear to respect the authority of the professionals who are charged with educating her?
    I understand that this video is shocking to the conscience, but I’ll play the devil’s advocate and ask how we can realistically do our jobs in that kind of environment.

  2. My first reaction to this is that if you need an officer to remove a student, you better clear your room first. Now the student has an audience and can lose face by getting up and leaving. I very much question the class continuing to be in the room while trying to physically remove a student. The video is shocking and should never happen. We certainly need to try to connect to kids, so that they are willing to work with us and engage.

    1. From a former police officer’s perspective, it would be better a.) for officer safety reasons to not have a bunch of people behind you (outside of the classroom) and b.) to get in and get out as quickly as possible so as to not escalate the situation by letting the student think about how (or whether) he or she would resist. The second is really the more important of the two.
      You’re right though that we need to try to connect to kids so that they are willing to work with us and engage. 99.9% of kids will respect a teacher when he or she has respect for the student. I fortunately haven’t experienced that tiny minority of kids who for one reason or another would be willing to be taken out of the room by a man with a gun in front of his or her peers versus voluntarily stepping outside and talking civilly about whatever the problem is.

  3. I agree with you, Ben, that in our classrooms we need to let humanness and humanity reign supreme. There are those pedagogues (such as the math teacher of my colleague’s son who just lost him forever by giving him an F on solving a math problem because he didn’t do it exactly as she thought it should be done) who teach to the Big Bad Five Cs (Consent, Compliance, Conformity, Conventionality, and Complicity). I don’t believe TPRS people want to be a part of that kind of Five C program. I wonder if that’s not what kind of teacher this student was facing – would it be such a surprise if it were?

    1. Well I taught there in Columbia, SC for 11 years. That child has probably seen little but the five Cs in her young life. We are here to combat that.
      Let’s not avoid the point here. Racism and poverty cripple people. And yet, on the flip side of that, Reuben Vyn’s African American kids at George Washington High School in Denver in 2012 outscored by an astronomical amount the privileged kids in the GWGS segregated IB program on the DPS French exit exam. If it were a football game it would have been 78-0.
      For any new members of the PLC not familiar with Mark here in our group he’s there with VanPatten and Krashen and Nikolai Penner (Canada) and only a handful of others at the university level in the US shaking things up:
      https://benslavic.com/blog/mark-knowles/
      https://benslavic.com/blog/mark-knowles-on-wl-education/

      1. You make me blush. I’m a busy guy, and try to keep up with things, but I’m far from being as on top of it as the esteemed group you included me in there!

      2. I think of Reuben all the time. I never actually met him (except for that 3 second introduction as y’all were headed out on your bikes in Breckenridge) but he is a legend from what you have shared…100%TL from day one, and the massive results you mention above. Did you or anyone you know visit his classes ever? I am dying to know what that looked like / sounded like, esp. in the early days all in TL.
        Obviously he connected with the kids or he could not have built that community. I’ve always been curious about him and how he worked his magic.

        1. Hi Jen, I talked with Reuben today by Skype. He’s in a PhD program at Univ. of Iowa. He was working on a project, interviewing language teachers about their classroom methods (I was one). I have told him how highly Ben speaks of him here in the PLC, and he brushed it off (like Mark just did in a similar way above). I’d like to know, too, more about how he taught, though that conversation hasn’t happened yet. If I were only to speak in Chinese I know I’d lose my students — been there & done it. We do the no-English-but-what-does-that-mean, but I mean the entire class.

          1. Diane I will send this to Diana. She has done by far the most observations of Reuben. Joe could address this as well since his classroom was next to Reuben’s back in the day. I just hadn’t seen him teach enough when he bolted for that PhD program. I am at a similar point of curiosity. What I can tell you is that I never heard him speak one word of English in his classroom.

          2. I don’t think the “doesn’t speak any English” is something a CI teacher should be applauding. Establishing meaning and checking comprehension with L1 are 2 of our SHORTCUTS to acquisition.

          3. I used to think that as well, Eric. But Reuben’s test scores were so high, and since then as you know I have been wondering out loud here about L1 use as a fundamental interruption to something deep in the mind, an interruption to a kind of miraculous process. That is why I never agreed with all the great points you made about glossing, and why I still don’t know what I think on this topic. Now that I have figured out a way that works for me (Two Strikes) that keeps the class in L2 only (except of course for writing very limited new things on the board with translation), I am more inclined to be against ANY L1 use in the classroom. But we don’t have to have this discussion again. We had it pretty intensely about eight months ago, as I remember, and luckily there is no right way to do any of this, since we continue to make it up by the seat of our pants and on the fly, which is the best way to do anything because we get to be part of such a creative process instead of being like the robots in so many of the rooms down the hallways from our CI classrooms.

          4. I think Reuben’s interest is in becoming someone in a role a lot like Diana Noonan’s, helping to promote quality language instruction and supporting language teachers.

          5. Diane here’s Diana’s reply about that point on use of TL and Reuben:
            Hi Ben I keep intending to check out your blog but I’m truly fried at the end of the day…training 25 new teachers and explaining CI over and over and over is exhausting… East (Jenny, Sarah, Paul) and TJ (Nina, Sabrina) just hosted wonderful labs this week. These are always so great! Watching Annick (South) right now…amazing.
            Diane’s question: Both Reuben, Mark, Paul, Julie and many others in DPS stay in the TL 99% of the time because they are very intentional about the words necessary to conduct the class, including classroom directions. TPR and gestures are essential. Students are naturally curious about language but when they are allowed to speak English, the teacher gets off track and students continue to blurt out in English. What I’ve seen Mark do is to ask for permission to speak in English, for him as well as the students. When a student asks, he may or may not say yes. If he says yes, he gives them a number of words – like 5 words only.
            I think it would be a great idea for Diane to attend a lab with one of the rock stars in DPS. I would love it! Let her know that she can write directly to me. I’ll send her the link to the schedule.

          6. And Diane to add to Diana’s obervation about Mark:
            …what I’ve seen Mark do is to ask for permission to speak in English, for him as well as the students….
            I can’t even do that because I nor my students have the discipline to limit our communication once the L1 door has been opened. So now I don’t allow MYSELF OR THEM a single word. (2 infractions and they are in Linda Li’s or Zach’s classroom to read a chapter book and fill out the Dual Entry Form – it works for middle school students anyway.) Instead there are colored 3X5 cards around the room for them to write down comments or questions. I get them during the next break and address them in English. (It’s not like the entire 85 min. is in the TL – I go for big chunks of 30-45 min.)
            Most important: the BIG change in making this no English blurting thing work, and Zach Al Moreno agrees with me on this point and has seen a big change in his classroom, is how we see that it is all up to the instructor not to use L1 ever during the targeted L2 period. Then it all works. Makes sense, right? Wish I had learned that one thing years ago!

          7. Thanks for contacting Diana about it, Ben! I got the schedule of DPS labs and will be looking for when I can go. I have one day a week where I don’t teach in the afternoon… all the better.

        2. Jen the story is that he had to choose between training up to the Tour de France level when he was at PSU and starting a family and getting a job. No kidding. He dragged Bryce and I up that mountain that day. My impression was that he made a deep connection with his kids but it wasn’t born of any kind of big expressed need on his part to get their attention; zero cheerleading. Just a calm demeanor and as I remember he spoke faster than I thought he should. The big thing was how calm he was and just delivering the CI like a machine, but the kids glommed on and kicked ass in DPS that year.

  4. Here is another story that just took place up by Laurie’s neck of the woods. A friend told me about it (I am originally from NY) and this poor teacher is now on Admin leave and she has been teaching for over 30 years!
    But, again, you don’t know what provoked her — kids are very good at that these days. but for that one second of “losing control” she could very well lose her job of so many years.
    Be careful folks!!! These kids are so good at pushing our buttons, and in some states teachers don’t have the luxury to be relaxed in the delivery of instruction because they have to “be on Page # xyz by such-and-such a date.” So, remember to RELAX — you will get where you need to be when the kids are ready to get there.
    However….as I am seeing in my new gig, there are kids who, despite all your efforts, they cause problems, refuse to go to the office, etc etc. Thankfully – well, thanks to this blog! – I have learned to not really care. If they refuse to give me their cell phone, I will write them up for insubordination. No back up from Admin? Contact your Union rep. We should NOT have to fear for our safety or that of the other students. These ornery kids should not be ruling the classroom. But, Teachers, never touch a student, and always remain calm. Take a deep breath. Count. Diffuse yourself before trying to diffuse a kid. (Unless of course someone is in danger!!!) Don’t run the risk of destroying your reputation and losing your job because one little PITA pushed you over the edge! You’re better than that – always keep it in your head that YOU need to set the example of how to act and remain calm and respectful at all times….because the reality is (if you have a kid acting like that) that they don’t have role models in that regard!
    http://www.whec.com/article/stories/s3938197.shtml

    1. I would never put my hands *on* a kid in today’s political climate unless they were a physical risk to themselves or others. That being said, I snatched a few phones in my old building last year after asking and reminding very patiently and respectfully. The administrators in that building really didn’t support the teachers in this effort.
      Cell phones are the mental health crisis of this generation. I walk through the cafeteria and see a table of six good friends and none of them are talking with one another. They’re all on their phones. Kids will walk down the hall and not even look up from their screens to greet a teacher who cares so much about them. High school girls will post scandalous pictures of themselves to see how many “likes” they can get to boost their self-esteem. Guys post on social media about their sexual conquests for everyone to see. I’ve seen studies that say that the average teenager checks his or her cell phone THREE to FOUR HUNDRED times a day. That is nuts. I know of quite a few students who would absolutely spend the whole class playing with their phones if you let them. We have glass walls on the hallway-side of our classrooms, so you can really see what’s going on in each room. There are teachers in my new building who will be explaining how to do a geometry proof and there are kids in the first and second rows playing videogames, SnapChatting, etc.
      I want my class to be Genuine Human Interaction and Communication 401, not Verb Charts and Word Lists 101 (I think I saw something similar from Ben here before on this), but that’s impossible if the most engaging thing in the room is a kid’s phone. Unfortunately, the offender is not the only one distracted by his or her behavior. It gets me off track as well as everyone else seated in that group. It seems to be the worse with kids who are on IEPs or 504s for ADD/ADHD. Why a parent of an ADD/ADHD student would send their child to school with a smart phone is beyond me. The best time was when I asked a student to put away her phone for the second time and she responded that her mother would get upset if she didn’t text her back!

    2. Marc Fencil,
      You say that you “would never put your hands on a kid in today’s political climate.” In another political climate, my physical science teacher who will remain nameless pushed our table on top of Jo Jasso and me and put his hands around Jo’s neck “to restrain him.” To this day I have no idea what Jo did to provoke that, but I do know these two things: one, Jo who was one of my best friends, just happened to be Mexican-American and obviously of indigenous origins, and two, the science teacher suffered no consequences whatsoever for that bizarre and violent act. Is that your idea of a different political climate? Let me tell you, I’m pretty sure there are politicians, including from where I grew up, who would like to take us back there.

      1. I mean that we no longer have the guts to address certain behaviors and then we wonder why unruly youth are fighting police officers, dealing drugs, and living off of the system instead of taking personal responsibility for their lives. Not too many decades ago, students thought twice before telling their teachers to “F” off because they actually feared the consequences. Am I saying that students should be afraid of their teachers? Absolutely not. They should feel loved. The student should also respect their teachers. I have a four-year-old son. I love him and he loves me. I have spanked him a few times for misbehaving after he crossed the line with his behavior and when he aware that he was doing was unacceptable. Does this mean I don’t love him? Of course not. I love him and that’s why I am teaching him that there are consequences.
        I’m not here to try to change your opinion about how to parents though. I don’t know what happened to you and your friend, but unless you know that your teacher put his hands on him because he was Mexican-American, I’m not sure how that is relevant (unless that’s what you’re implying). From your account, it doesn’t sound like the teacher should have touched him though.
        If more parents actually taught their kids respect and handed out consequences these days, we wouldn’t have to debate whether an administrator should be able to paddle a kid as a last resort. I wish we didn’t have to think about that route either, but I also wish we would acknowledge that we are not willing to put the rights of every student to learn over persistent troublemakers.

  5. I apologize for bringing it up – I shouldn’t have. Our focus should here remain on:
    1. getting CI strategies in place and kicking butt in our classrooms.
    2. personal emotional support in doing CI, because we need it.
    3. current research to keep things clear as to why we are working so hard to learn this way of teaching.
    4. how to communicate best with colleagues on the changes we are bringing, so that they can learn what’s speeding down the pike at them.
    It’s ok to have different opinions on other topics, of course, but the above four areas are where I would like to confine our discussion here. I’ll do better in choosing articles – that one was particularly volatile. But we have too much else to talk about.

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