In each of the cases, these teachers truly wanted to implement CI/TPRS. They all had attended CI/TPRS workshops, so they had seen it in action. At the beginning of the school year, they began to use CI/TPRS, and things went very well...for awhile. The honeymoon, however, wore off, and trying to keep up the momentum became more of an effort. Essentially, they had no idea where they were going after a few months. When I heard all of this, I could totally relate, because when I first learned TPRS years ago, I went full bore with it, only to burn out after 6 weeks. Quite honestly, I was ready to give it up completely, but I had seen a change in my students' acquisition of the language but more importantly, students began to ask me how come we were no longer "doing the stories about students in the class." That is the reason why I decided to try out TPRS again the following year; that year, I lasted 9 weeks. By my third year, I had a much better and realistic idea about what to expect.
These discussions got me thinking: Why is that so many teachers who in good faith and with the best of intentions and enthusisam try out CI/TPRS but leave it behind to return back to their previous methods? Here are my reasons:
- Trying to do too much too quickly. I liken one's first year of teaching CI/TPRS to one's first year ever of teaching: it is all so new, and there is so much to learn. In their zeal, so many first-year CI/TPRS teachers try to take on too much right away, and suddenly, it becomes way too overwhelming, because no true foundation has been established.
- Feeling like one has to go "all in" or else. For a number of reasons, I hate hearing folks say "If you really cared about your students and truly understood what true second language acquisition was all about, then you would jump on board with CI." Number one, that statement is incredibly arrogant and employs shame to get folks into facilitating CI, but more importantly, it gives the impression that there is no middle ground/transition for new CI/TPRS teachers. There are certain CI/TPRS teachers whom I will deliberately avoid in person or online purely because they come across as intolerant of anyone who supports traditional methodology or textbooks. Although I can understand their zeal, essentially I find them very negative, because there is no middle ground or transition in their worldview.
- Doing it for the wrong reasons. I have seen teachers jump on the CI/TPRS bandwagon, because it is trendy. When a new trend, however, comes about, they abandon CI/TPRS.
- Lack of support. The reason why most professional developments fail is because there is no adequate follow-up or support. Speakers come in and then go. At most inservices, information is cast out among teachers, but the net is never pulled in to see who is interested and wants to explore it further with support. Instead, interested teachers are left to operate on their own with this information, which usually results in frustration and abandonment. So imagine a world language teacher embarking on CI/TPRS on his/her own for the first time. Though he/she may have blogs and online communities to rely on for support, these cannot compare to a live, in-person CI/TPRS support group. This is why instructional coaches can play such an important role in the school environment.
I hope that many of you who have fallen off the CI/TPRS bandwagon will one day get back on!