Quaker Oats

This thing on the TPRS listserve about CI vs. traditional made me think of another thing someone told me, in another context, years ago, but it stuck with me, about Quaker Oats.

That person told me that if I had three boxes of Quaker Oats on the shelf, and one was really old and one was kind of old and another was brand new, wouldn’t I rather have the oats in the brand new package? I had to agree that I would.

We are lucky in TPRS, very lucky! We have been blessed with the perspicacity and vision to read the dates on oats boxes, and embrace the new. How lucky we are!

To what extent should we embrace the new? Like Nancy implied, it really depends on the individual. For me, like Jack clearly states, it is best, for me at least, to not try to mix together new and old operating systems.

My kids are simply too precious, and my classroom too much fun now, too much like a paradise, whereas all I can remember from those 24 years without TPRS is grinding mental pain and unending frustration, except perhaps when I was teaching French poetry.

The biggest miracle is that my students have ceased, wonderfully, to be cardboard cutouts of themselves. By running with TPRS and not looking back, a miracle happened with me. My students became real people, who wanted to learn from me, who engaged me right back when I engaged them!

As long as we shut our minds to the past and open our hearts to the future, currently represented beautifully by TPRS, we can make this new CI operating system work.

But in my view, in my opinion, in my own experience, through my own eyes, in my own view of teaching only, for me, it is most important not to mix the old and the new systems.

For proof, all I have to do is think about the old system teachers I used to try to communicate with. For over two decades in South Carolina, I experienced (endured is more accurate) a complete lack of meaningful interaction with my colleagues (not one single interesting or stimulating conversation with one single colleague about teaching during that time).

Compare that mindset with that of the moretprs listserve, and the starburst posts we read daily from such INVOLVED teachers, teachers with passion, with poise and gifts to REACH KIDS, and much more importantly, the RESOLVE to make it all work, to argue, to struggle, to move forward, even if it means falling flat on our arses a few times!

Blaine once said something to the effect that he is not wedded to TPRS, and that if someone were to show him something else that worked better, he would do it in a moment. A most important point.

I think he said that because, like Susie and so many of us, he is just plain tired of seeing the old non-CI operating systems fail the children so completely, one after another, over so many many years, and so he decided to put his vision into WHAT WORKS. Susie has decided to put her energy into teaching WHAT WORKS.

Blaine and Susie know that, whether the new world of foreign
language teaching is defined as TPRS or something else, it will always pretty much consist of the things identified by Tim in his recent post on the TPRS listserve:

“….CI, connecting to kids’ interests, lives….focusing on
communicating meaning, NOT decontextualized grammar, etc….”

Tim further says:

“If we think about what makes TPRS successful….then we can look at lots of things we might do in the classroom that are not traditional instruction and are not TPRS, yet can be successful. I choose not to limit myself or box myself in by a definition that feels like it works today – because that definition may not work tomorrow.”

This is so true. Blaine is only interested in WHAT WORKS. It is up to each of us to decide what that means. We live in a free society. We can choose what operating systems we buy.

But Blaine’s name should be more associated with the idea of what works, and not with any one system of teaching. It is an important distinction in a world that seems to care a bit too much about labeling people and things.

We just need to focus on and make decisions that are based on WHAT IS BEST FOR THE KIDS. If we do that, we will be naturally drawn to:

“….CI, connecting to kids’ interests, lives….focusing on
communicating meaning, NOT decontextualized grammar, etc….”

And we will sense intuitively the deep truths of Krashen’s research, and we will avoid going into work each day and doing things simply because they are convenient and easy for us, because we will grock that we will be doing so at the expense of the kids unless we try our best to do:

“….CI, connecting to kids’ interests, lives….focusing on
communicating meaning, NOT decontextualized grammar, etc….”

Since, to quote Mark Twain, “Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain, or freed a human soul.” And so now in foreign language education we kind of have to turn to:

“….CI, connecting to kids’ interests, lives….focusing on
communicating meaning, NOT decontextualized grammar, etc….”

which is fast becoming, in all our nations’ school districts, all
at the same time (now), not optional but required, and so we really need to change or get out of the game.

New, challenging operating systems are afoot. Why blend them with the old stuff? TPRS is a stand alone system, and it takes courage and heart and more courage and more heart to work, but boy does it work, if you are willing to pay your dues to learn it!

TPRS represents the voice of increasing intuition in our nation’s classrooms, of opening heart, of personalization, of interesting. meaningful, and honestly connected-to-teens’ lives CI, of singing, of dancing, of having fun.

Call it TPRS if you want, but like Tim and Blaine say, you don’t have to. They are just letters, the bone, the label. Not important, what is important is the marrow:

“….CI, connecting to kids’ interests, lives….focusing on
communicating meaning, NOT decontextualized grammar, etc….”

Call it what you will.


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