In TPRS we are taught to target 3 to 5 language chunks during a particular period of time. I’ve always done it this way. But I’ve always noted that sticking to just three has kept me from really paying attention to my students and responding to their comments, interests and topic choices. For example, I may be targeting a structure in class when I learn that something big is happening in the lives of one of my students. This happens all the time!
- Owen, an 8th grader, finished in the top five of his high school regional cross country ski meet.
- These two girls went to the Taylor Swift concert last night and that’s all they can think about.
- Carley is moving to a new house and will miss school tomorrow to pack.
- Five students in this class visited a college campus with their AVID crew yesterday.
- Joe wore a new t-shirt with flying cats, rainbows and unicorns and he’s just dying to have someone notice it (and him!?).
These are events that contribute to forming the identities of our students. They are what set their moods. They often are determining factors in students’ abilities to focus and be attentive during class. This is their life. To acknowledge each and every meaningful event in our students’ lives would be impossible. But to ignore them completely would quickly and efficiently send the message to all students that their lives are not being considered in my efforts to teach them.
That’s why I am always, ALWAYS open to following a thread of interest that has to do with my students’ lives in class, whether it aligns or not with the structures I’m “supposed to teach”. I am weaving threads to bond the community of learners who are with me in that moment. They have to know that THEY are the reason I’m teaching.
To that end, I love Parker Palmer’s quotation from The Courage to Teach:
Good teachers join self, subject, and students in the fabric of life … they manifest in their own lives, and evoke in their students, a “capacity for connectedness.” They are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.
Ben Slavic said it well on his online PLC on June 14:
In today’s world, with the unfathomable tragedies that are unfolding on scales both large and small, with today’s lack of connection, do we not want to nurture these future adults-in-charge with community, acceptance, and compassion, weaving a protective web, maybe, around their hearts going forward, maybe, into a brighter future? It seems worth a try, at least, to put radical acceptance of students at the front of our teaching. And let the language serve our humanity instead of the other way around.