The first three days of my career

My first year teaching I started with a fl, Russian. Having no idea about CI and being a lover of grammar and having studied tons of Russian grammar, I figured I’d get the students started on the idea of declensional cases, hard and soft, masculine, feminine and neuter and about 3,228 exceptions you know, all the exciting stuff.
But first, to hook them and intrigue them and suck them in, I opened with about three days of conversing with them in Russian…. today is Monday, this is a calendar [cognate], my name is Gospodin Barrett (later expanded into a half-hour lecture on pre- and post-revolutionary terms of address), what is your name, etc. They enjoyed it and after a bit I figured my job was done there and they were ready to learn the REAL language aka grammar.
This class was made up of some of the best students in the school. Moreover, almost all of them would probably go to the Soviet Union as missionaries for their church (LDS). Highly capable, highly motivated.
The year progressed smoothly, they moved from declensions to the 28 verb classes and easily mastered the alphabet and the distinction between palatalized and unpalatalized consonants and how to write those. Popular class, great students, all was well.
But at the end of the year, I got a shock. On the final exam, I had, on a whim, put in some of the material from August, 9 months earlier. The only thing the class as a whole did well on was that early material……. with no review, no mention of it even. That is what had stuck.
Thank goodness, the following year the ESL coordinator handed me two VHS tapes of some guy named Stephen Krashen who had lectured Tempe teachers a while back. As I watched those tapes over and over and over and over I thought about what I’d done those first three days and how that was what my students had remembered; I thought about how to that day (and this) French flows out of my mouth without thought despite only two years of high school French (thank you my little monolingual Margie what you did would be called child molestation today but I sure learned a lot of French); and I thought about numerous other experiences regarding fl I had had and decided Krashen had got it right.
It was a long slog of 26 years of fl teaching and I tried all sorts of things, incl more grammar instruction, but I never forgot the principles of acquisition, the 5 hypotheses, and my own experiences as a teacher and a learner.

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