Tuesday, August 9, 2016

NTPRS - Day 1 - Confronting Discomfort, New People, and Russian

*this is my attempt to keep track of what happened while I was at my very first NTPRS in Reno, Nevada 

I wake up somewhat groggy due to staying up somewhat late with Mike, chatting about our lives, experiences in the summer, classroom, etc.

Mike has to take care of something and I decide to not be his shadow. So I go downstairs to the opening breakfast ceremony but become really uncomfortable really quickly.

If you are ever around me, you’ll find out very quickly how socially awkward I am.  At times, I even bring up in conversation how socially awkward I am to relieve the tension of social interactions. 

I walk into the giant room where everyone is going to eat breakfast and talking and I freeze. As I scan the room, it occurs to me that I don’t really know anyone in the mass of people to such an extent that I will feel comfortable inviting myself to sit at their tables. And there are no tables that are empty, which is the easy choice for me.

So as quickly as I walked into the giant banquet hall, I just as quickly turned around and walked out. If you were to see me I am sure that it would look humorous to see me walk in, take a look and walk right back out.

Thankfully a colleague at my new school and phenomenal French teacher, Bess Hayles saw me and comes out to ask me to sit at her table.

So I go serve myself (during which some teachers recognized me from my videos and I awkwardly waved to them) and sat down.  While seated I met everyone around the table and felt a lot more at ease, but still out of my element.

It got easier. Then the opening ceremony started.

Katy Paukova spoke about her life experiences (or her story) about being an immigrant and a teacher and how her journey led her to storytelling in Russian via TPRS. Regardless of language, she is a captivating speaker and wonderful storyteller. Of course, I would find that out later as I was going to be in her Russian class during the week.

Shortly thereafter I found myself in said class. I decided that while I had 6 years of TPRS under my belt, a majority of what I did was through reading blogs and trying things out in my classroom. So I didn’t actually know what TPRS looked like 6 years after being trained in it and therefore took the beginner’s track.

It was co-presented by Katya Paukova (who presented the keynote at the opening ceremony) and Donna Tatum-Johns (who I had already seen at workshops 2 times 5 and 6 years ago).

We pretty much jumped into Russian and I loved it!  While I seemed to have a hard time following at times (jet lag?), I found Katya to be a very warm, patient and skilled storyteller.  She told a very simple story in conjunction with comparing and contrasting other people in the crowd.

Something that really struck me in her presentation of beginner’s Russian was how compelling it was for me even if it wasn’t the funniest story in the world. She just told it as if it was interesting and it was interesting. Nevertheless, she did add surprise details that I didn’t expect, which added to the fun of the story.

I also noticed she used various cognates like the words for tarantula, coffee, ferrari, pink (sounded like rose), and some others.

This made it a lot easier for my brain.

It reminded me of the following for my classes:

  1. it doesn’t have to be crazy and silly to be interesting. Surprise details are good though
  2. cognates really are my friend. I need to come up with a list of go-to cognates this year while I do storytelling just in case
  3. using actors did make it more interesting
  4. talking about others in class did help with repetitions

There was lunch at some point in the day (but I can’t really remember it at this point) and I returned to my beginner’s class. A lot of the rest of the class that day was practicing skills that I actually felt like I had a grasp on and talking about the theory behind TPRS.

For dinner, Mike and I found out that Bryce Hedstrom and Jim Wooldridge (Señor Wooly) were going to go out to dinner so we tagged along. I couldn’t believe that I was getting to meet two Spanish teachers that I greatly admire at the same time and we were just going to eat Barbecue so nonchalantly. 

Dinner conversation revolved a lot around who we are, our particular projects to help learners and my just getting to know them and vice versa. It was a really nice time.

When we got back to the hotel, Mike was hosting something called the “War & Peace Room” which is a throwback to something that Ben Slavic started called, “The War Room”. The idea being people can just practice whatever skill they want and we’ll be encouraging while also learning. It was all about practicing TPRS in some way.  This was probably one of the highlights of my week as we simply played in the languages (German, Mandarin, French, etc).  

The War room reminded me how much fun learning can be when there isn’t necessarily much of a plan other than a few structures on the board, but a compelling story. It’s also neat to see so many different personalities and how they can all create a compelling experience with their respective languages.

Soon thereafter, I went to bed, exhausted! And if I remember correctly, Mike and I had breakfast plans for the next day with someone I wanted to meet!

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