21 July 2016

Coming Together - #iFLT16 Day 2

I panicked.

Tuesday night, after an hour and no fewer than 68 repetitions of the target structure, all I could get was something like Hatshepsut capisce kaput. I still remembered Shto eta? from Camp Musicuentos and could name blue and green balls. But NOTHING new from an hour's worth of comprehensible Russian input was sticking AT ALL.

I mean, after a DuoLingo lesson or two, I could say SOMETHING. But at the end of the day, all of my new Russian was gone, and all I remembered was that Bill Van Patten needed to get Bette Midler an iguana martini at The Phantom of the Opera.

Now yesterday, Diva #1 demonstrated for us how all communication serves a purpose. Bully! I'm on board! Daniel Pink: Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose. Yes. Good.

Where Bette Midler and iguana martinis fit wasn't clear, though. And it was even less clear when I could call up shto eta but not "wants to buy" or a single other question word.

What was missing?

Well definitely Mastery, that's for sure.

Yesterday, however, I couldn't stop muttering huchit kupit under my breath on the way to dinner and after pool time with the little Sextons. I also added tantsevat and kto and liubet. And oo...yest...kind of (Natalia is trying to help me).

So what made the difference (besides a sleep cycle or two?)
  1. First of all, at Camp Musicuentos, I got to interact with the language individually with Linguacafe. I'm pretty sure that's how shto eta got stuck.
  2. Then Tuesday night, I looked at my notes (tweets, whatever)  before going to bed. I NEED that visual. Brain science tells us most learning IS visual, and that we retain little of what we hear.

  3. Moreover I looked at the words in context. I could NOT call up that word wall when I got back to the hotel. But this helped:
  4. And being able to see a different written story today combined the best of both!

  5. And so I could calm down.

However it was in Language Lab yesterday that what REALLY mattered started to come together for me. And what really matters is coming together.

Watching Grant Boulanger in action--with these kids he'd just met yesterday--allowed me to see Mastery, Autonomy, AND Purpose. In Sr. Boulanger's mini lab class, it was crystal clear that each gesture and rejoinder was helping him

  1. get to know his kids: what made them comfortable, what tickled them (sometimes literally!)
  2. establish his expectations: for their responses, including when he hadn't given them enough support to feel comfortable
  3. build their trust in each other: teasing without being cruel, sharing each other's space (ie "toca la cabeza de Bob")
One of the most magical moments for me was seeing my student freeze when he gave her a new and unfamiliar instruction. Of course she wasn't really the little girl from my freshman lab last semester, but in that moment, she could have been. But she only paused a moment, then put her fist to her palm--and almost every other kid did too! They recognized their limits and THEN sought assistance! That gesture meant "clarify"! They didn't have to resort to the L1 or wrestle with the L2 to get what they needed--and they kept going with absolute faith that what they needed would be provided! Not painfully extracted through a series of charades and pictograms.

The purpose of all of the entertaining TPR activities was DEFINITELY relationship building here, definitely under BVP's psychosocial heading. And the mastery was evident in students' choral and individual responses. And the autonomy? Well, when they got to practice the commands with partners (not unlike Linguacafe), let's just say Sr. Boulanger also had to give the requisite Pillsbury "Hee Hee!" after one partner instructed another to "toca el estómago del Sr. Boulanger."

After that, coming together with some of the smartest people I've met helped even MORE of the experience come together for me.

My online PLN has been so very supportive in person, with Kristy, Martina, Justin, and Carrie thoughtfully checking in with me and following up on my questions and reflections. It was in such a check-in--where we even got Russian teacher extraordinaire, Michele Whaley, to back me up!

In our little chorus room cadre, we decided 500, 300, 68 reps of a structure--that's not what makes the language stick, but rather the emotion. I think in many cases, the feeling of success from Mastery is enough to carry a lot of us, but also having a hot plate of an Italian dish you previously didn't know the name of coming straight at you while the waiter names it and tells you to move--that could work too!

Also Herr Bailey was also able to add to our community and confidence building signal repertoire with a little ASL:
Again [from Baby Sign Language]

Slow [from Baby Sign Language]
As well as the "up to here" sign we all now and love to indicate when students are "full" and can't handle any more!

Having these signs means students really CAN trust that we won't ask them to do anything they're not ready for, so we CAN come together!

Yesterday I also got to absorb a lot from different breakout sessions--even if I wasn't there! (Shout out to Elizabeth especially!), but I think the coaching session was perhaps the most powerful session of all.

In it, I learned how to scaffold risk.

I've had a list of what I want to come away with, but I just couldn't go first! I froze! 

But I didn't have to make a gesture before Amy started breaking down where we could all start, including possible structures to start with. And half of us who weren't ready got to start out as students, the other half as observers. Three Brave Souls just jumped in! But Skip and Amy took turns chatting with the Brave Souls and us students and observers and discussing exactly what was expected.

And then we only focused on the positive so WE could all come together and feel confident in OUR new learning! After all, psychological safety is crucial to any team's success!

I look forward to taking everything that started coming together yesterday and putting it to work in coaching today!

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