I am a TPR Storytelling advocate, and have learned from TPRS to teach students so that they can comprehend input in the Russian classroom. While being able to teach comprehensibly might sound like a basic skill, most of us can admit that teaching with CI is a goal that we don’t always meet. I didn’t have the tools to teach with CI for 23 years, though I sometimes accidentally achieved it. TPRS principles gave me the structure I needed.
More importantly, the TPRS community taught me about connecting with students and colleagues, and for that I will be eternally grateful. “Teach to the eyes,” might as well be “Learn with your heart.” The CI community of teachers is open and sharing, and the philosophy of asking personalized questions and answers brings us into contact with our kids. “Teach students, not curriculum” is another TPRS guideline that should be part of all disciplines.
Whether I am learning from others or sharing what I know, I am always filled with gratitude and pleasure in the process. By connecting with our students to help them learn another language, we are giving them a new way to open their own hearts and minds to other cultures. But this week, I have felt strongly a new reason to be sharing what we know about teaching comprehensibly. By sharing the information, we can help save languages and cultures.
I’m with the Kalispel and other tribes at the Celebrating Salish conference in Spokane, Washington. Elders, teachers, and learners of Salish (and related) languages at all levels are here to practice their language and find better ways to help it grow from tiny numbers to healthy ones. Day care providers, immersion-school teachers, parents, adult education leaders and members of immersion language houses attended a beginning TPRS workshop session. I am honored to have been a presenter for such a critical purpose. It’s very different from attending and presenting to teachers whose languages are more commonly taught.
When we teach a language spoken by an entire country, we are working to be more effective in that teaching. Learning and teaching Salish, on the other hand, is a matter of survival, of personal identity. Laurie Clarcq tells us that language is the means by which we put a picture into the mind and heart of another person. Monique and Brendon, Salish learners and teachers of youth, told me that when they hear what another Salish speaker says to them, they feel it in their soul. They feel the language with their entire body, rather than hearing it and seeing pictures. Comprehension can even be a religious experience. They believe that part of the reason many of their tribe suffer is that they have lost their head-heart-voice connection. By spreading the language, elders, teachers and parents hope to give back part of a lost sense of identity.
What an honor it was to offer tools to help work toward that rebuilding.