Just For Them

It is our mind that makes the language comprehensible to our kids, but it is our heart that makes it meaningful to them.

We often fail to try to understand what our students perceive in our classes. We focus instead on our own perception of our teaching. Yet, to make TPRS or any narrative method work, we must try to understand what our students are experiencing each day in our classes.

We do so by opening our hearts to them. Some teachers can enjoy a class without a lesson plan because their hearts are open to their students, and their minds know the tremendous cyclonic power there is in circling.

These teachers have mastered circling as a teaching tool, so they don’t really need a lesson plan. They know that you can build a fifty story building out of one sentence of PQA. What is there to fear?

Would you rather go into a class without a lesson plan or without an open heart? I would rather be without the lesson plan.

Our students sit there, looking for something real. What can we do? The first thing is to stop trying to change them, to “get them to learn” the material. This is not what they need. We can’t “get students to learn” anything, ever. Students choose to learn.  They choose to participate.

Instead, we must accept our students where they are, and open our hearts to their situation, which is that of being prisoners of our words. They cannot leave the room, so they are prisoners. We must, then, bring compassion and an open heart to them, because of the power we wield over them.

When we open our hearts to them and accept them as they sit there, looking for something real, they can open their hearts to us. They can change. When our hearts are open to them, and their hearts are open to us, we can both change. If this happens, much more learning can occur. We call this kind of learning authentic acquisition.

If we create a game in our classrooms built around piagetian grammar/translation analysis of language, open heart is not needed. This old way of teaching does not need the heart quality. It is a dusty old hotel.

But if we use a narrative approach, listening to the students as they listen to us, sharing meaningful and interesting ideas, then the reciprocality of human interaction drives acquisition, and we teach in uplifting space. This only happens when our hearts are open to the students. It is not enough to have an open mind – we must have open hearts.

So we cannot be successful in teaching a language by trying to “get” our kids to learn anything by focusing on the language as the subject matter of the class.  It won’t work. We must first just be there with students, using language as a vehicle to reach them, knowing that they, not the language, are the real subject of the class. When the students, not the language, are the real subjects of the class, then the linguistic exchanges between student and teacher can soar.

So our goal is not to teach the language to the students, but to communicate with them using the language. To do this we must connect with them, with their hearts, where language sleeps. When we do this, language awakes and takes on life as the vehicle to create meaning, and the paradigm is reached and surpassed.

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