Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thanks to all you invisible mentors

Ben Slavic posted yesterday on his blog about the need for intuition in teaching with TPRS

One part of his posting that he simultaneously posted to the TPRS Listserv sparked a response by Meg Villanueva (post# 91152) about the need for mentor groups to spring up. Ben said:

We in TPRS are largely not even competent. Teachers who first see the beauty of the method soon wander away from it. . . . Many teachers stop using it, not because of any insights they have that it is a “bad method”, but rather because they are incompetent at it. They can’t do it.

Ben's posting made me think, but Meg's response made me want to join the dialog.

Meg said in part:

The other thing, I think, that makes teachers fall away, is the first, second and third year of teaching TPRS. The first rush of understanding the method is wonderful. You come away from a workshop fired up and excited, and you can't wait to start. Some teachers never make it through that first rush, because they try it and it doesn't work immediately, and so they figure it's not for them. They figure that they don't have whatever it is that they feel it takes to do well. Simply put, they want immediate success and aren't willing to work.

Others get through the first year on the cloud of happiness at seeing the effects of the method. Then, in the second or third year, reality sets in. The students might feel bored because the teacher's technique isn't polished yet. The drag of doing others' stories or the effort in making their own stories wears them down. They haven't yet figured out that the students love to make the stories. Their circling technique isn't good enough yet, and they feel bored themselves. After a while, they begin to think about that textbook. It would be sooo much easier just to assign work.

This prompted me to reflect on my own journey:

I am that teacher in my first year of TPRS. It's not easy and I say now that I can't ever go back, but I see some signs of what you say. I know my technique isn't polished and I know I am doing things wrong, but I just have to remind myself that it does take time. I appreciate you guys who must spend a good half an hour on a post like this because I am that TPRS teacher who needs the encouragement; the only one in a building (actually, the only one in the district that I am
aware of).

I would love to be able to observe someone else doing TPRS and to have one of you experts come and observe me and although there are others in my state, they're all relatively far from me and time is always that precious commodity.

At least I have the listserv and Ben's books and blog. I don't always have time to respond and I am trying to blog a little on my own just to, in a way, force myself to deal with these issues of being on my own. I know it's what's best for kids and with some more training and practice, I will get where I need to be. The time in between, though, is a challenge.

I am excited that the President of UFLA (Utah Foreign Language Association) this year is a big believer of Comprehensible Input. He's even a college professor. I don't know how he teaches in his classroom, but he came and keynoted a district language teacher conference back in September all about CI. That led me to attend a workshop with Blaine when it came here a few weeks later. That led to me KNOWING that this is what I have been looking for for years. It
all came full circle when I applied for a grant with the UFLA to attend the National TPRS conference in Minnesota this summer and received it. I am so excited to be able to go and spend a week on preparation. I am hoping that will give me a similar experience as those of you who have the experts nearby.

Still, like you say, the initial euphoria I got from attending Blaine's conference fades a little over time and turns into work and although I am willing, it is hard to stand in front of my classroom
all day every day. I am glad I teach business as well. It gives me a "break" from talking and some "technology" to feed my inner geek. But, for better or worse, my enrollment is higher next year. I know it's in part because of the switch to TPRS. At this rate, my business classes will evaporate in a few years and I'll need to be ready to do this every day all day.

So thanks for all of you who are mentors without knowing it to teachers like me who are trying our best to make it work. I hope to meet some of you personally in July and I really want to come out of the first three years and maybe even bring along some other teachers who are starting to take interest in my classroom. Keep on posting.

1 comment:

Becca said...

Hey mike i found your blog on Ben's web page. i am interested in finding out what this conference is that is coming up. I believe i can use some funds to go to it...i would love to go and find out more!