The freedom and ease of CI

Here’s a snapshot of a spontaneous moment well used.

Picture that afternoon slump…..12-year-olds…..yet another class…..indoors.

One boy puts his head down.  I say in French, “Will, what’s wrong?  Are you tired?  Are you sick?

He responds: ‘fatigué’.  Head still down.  I try again, ‘Will, you have to sit up and LOOK, so you won’t miss anything!’   The ‘blahs’ smell victory.  This is not defiance from a student – just an energy lull I can’t ignore.  These ‘student-care-factor leeches’ will stop at ALMOST nothing.

All of a sudden I ask one of the gals in French, “Why is Will tired?’  She shrugs her shoulders.  I respond, “Invente!

Her face forms into a puzzled stare. Crickets.  But one boy seizes the ‘this is a game’ baton.  Using the French acquired through lots of reps tosses THIS into the ring,  “A cat makes a lot of noise!’

And we’re off.  Will perks up.  He understood.  A story about him is about to unfold.  He takes the bait. The corner is turned as Will opens the gate to Mr. ‘Energy’.

‘Energy’ smirks at the ‘blahs’ and they slink out of my classroom to ply their trade elsewhere. The twins, ‘Planned and Prepared’ totally primed for this class willingly sit down to watch the fun, content to wait for a different day and mood.  Teacher flexibility and curriculum freedom reign, but just what is my guiding principle?  As long as students are receiving input in French that they understand and are engaged, enjoying the process, it’s a GOOD plan.

Pivoting like this has come slowly.  In fact, only this year have I given myself the green light to try.  I think I’ve reached that sweet spot of teaching.  Not every day, mind you.  But at least 3-4 times a week, across all 4 levels I go with what pops up if it’s better than what I had thought out and forecast for a particular class period.  I relax.  Students relax. The atmosphere is playful and A LOT of CI (comprehensible input) is going on. Amidst smiles and the occasional laugh.

This newfound joy has caught me by surprise.  Kind of like the sweetness that can emerge in an enduring marriage.  Mike and I married in 1980.  And like any process, you need commitment, time and a willingness to learn new skills.  We are more in love today AND more committed to each other AND enjoy each other’s company more than we imagined when we each pledged, “I do!” at age 22.

So it is with teaching French. You have to stick with it and be willing to try new ways. That’s why I still teach.  For some reason, probably because I’ve never thought I was a ‘good teacher’, I’m always up for trying something new.  And teaching with comprehensible input has provided a mother lode of methods and ideas.

My advice for teaching, for marriage, for anything you care about?  Keep at it.  But look for the joy.   It’s out there and it’s worth the pain of the journey.

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