In a meeting with my vice-principal this morning, who has just completed my second formal observation, she expressed grave concerns about the teacher-centered nature of my teaching. This is a common administrator complaint for CI teachers, and I have heard from many others who struggle with it as well. The Danielson framework for evaluation has made “student-directed learning” de rigeur, so many CI teachers are finding it hard to fit their practices onto that Procrustean bed.
Of course in a CI classroom there is a lot of teacher input. I am the only one who speaks the language, and I am a human who can interact with the kids (as opposed to a recording that is frozen on a screen), and I have loads of training on making myself understood, so why would I *NOT* speak to my classes? Ben Slavic, my dear friend and mentor, has invented so many ways to make the CI classroom less and less teacher-driven with every passing year. He will have my eternal admiration for his endless innovation, and tinkering, right up to the end of his 38-year career when he forged a strong new system of CI delivery in the 116-degree heat of New Delhi, India.
I explained to her that the kids’ images and ideas are the basis of the instruction, that this new way of working from images that I was fortunate to have learned about directly from Ben, its inventor/discoverer, and using the language that is needed to forward the story using Ben’s other recent genius invention of a simple story mountain to chug over in our happy little story train, that this new way is so much more student-facing than what I used to do.
What I used to do – faithfully, for twelve years, and with great verve, zest, fidelity, belief, and passion – I loved it at the time, I did – was much more teacher-driven, as we started with structures/words that I chose, a script or story idea that I selected or invented, and it was more like CI Mad Libs.
Ben’s new way of crafting stories has made me feel more like a conduit for their ideas, a translation machine with a heart, soul, and brain of my own. Their very own class Communicator who not only puts their ideas into L2 but also builds class cohesion and community. Beam me up, Ben.
To help kids understand the rationale behind what we do, I took an idea from Beniko Mason. This past summer in Agen, France, at Judy’s beautiful, relaxed, civilized, and oh-so-Midi TPRS Workshop, Dr Beniko Mason Nanki said that she always starts the year with “Orientation” for the students to learn about SLA so they understand the reasons we do things the way we do. I neglected to do this at the beginning of the year. It is not a mistake I will make again.
Rhea, with her Masters in Spanish Linguistics, was the special guest on this SLA Talk Show video – SLA Seventh Grade Style!