Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I am a 4%er

My name is Keith, and I am a 4%er. I was that student who completed classwork on time, was always prepared for class, and excelled in school. I am a fast processor, so recall of material comes quite easily to me. If I did not understand something in school, I usually taught myself the material. In many ways, academics comes very easy to me, and as a result, I probably entered the teaching profession because I am a 4%er. I absolutely love grammar - I was that student who loved diagramming sentences (and quite honestly, I also loved doing geometric proofs). I loved the grammar translation approach, because it appealed to that logical side of me. I love grammar charts! I am the king of parsing - give a word, and I will rattle off EVERYTHING about that word without blinking an eye. As a teacher, I have to restrain myself from going off on grammar tangents in class. By no means am I ashamed to be a 4%er, as being one has opened up a realm of possibilities and of acknowledgements for me and has gotten me to where I am today.

But let me add this: I also know that I am an anamoly. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a 4%er (as if being a 4%er is a form of some disease), but I must realize that not everyone is like me - 96% of the population, to be exact. I must remember that I am the exception, not the rule.

As teachers who are 4%ers, we must realize that the majority of our students are not like us at all. It may be that we have a high number of 4%ers in our classes, and for us teachers, many times we secretly delight that we have these students. But what about the other 96% whom we are not attracting to our classrooms? Is the word on the street among students that Latin is just for "smart kids" (insert the term "4%ers" for "smart kids")? The 96% are the ones whom actually we need to attract as students to our classrooms if we want our Latin programs to expand and to grow!

We must be aware not to teach solely to the 4%ers, which is very easy to do, since they are the ones who seem to grasp the material so quickly and are most like us. This is where Comprehensible Input plays a HUGE role - we are teaching in such a way by delivering understandable messages and by lowering affective filters that ALL students can learn and can be sucessful.

At the same time, we must be mindful not to exclude the 4%er from the classroom. We can focus so much on the 96% that we isolate the 4%ers, who in turn become disengaged from our classes due to a lack of challenge. The remedy which I have found for this is to have at least 2-3 (if not, 4) different CI activities planned for the class period. The 4%ers (who due to their nature probably have already grasped the material) will appreciate the novelty of the change in activities, which the other 96% will also appreciate the novelty but need the repetitions of language. To quote fellow CI Latin teacher Rachel Ash, "We want repetitions without being repetitive."

If you are reading this, I bet that you are a 4%er too, or from reading this, you have just realized that you are one! Whenever I hear Latin teachers say that Latin is like a puzzle which needs to be decoded, I want to say "You are speaking like a true 4%er!"

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