I have often said that Ben Slavic is the one that made TPRS comprehensible to me. I had read the Green Bible, I had attended a workshop by Janet Holter Kittok in St. Louis and I was convinced that the method was efficient, that it worked. What I did not understand was how I could do it. Then I read some of Ben’s posts on the moretprs list and I ordered his books.
I began with TPRS In A Year and immediately began applying his advice, learning the strategies as he suggested, a week at a time. Trying things out, not feeling that I had to get it all at once, accepting that teaching this way was a skill that I could eventually master. Little by little, things began to click and I could see a difference in my students’ acquisition. For his help in getting my foot in the stirrup, I will be eternally grateful. And I still recommend TPRS In A Year for those who want to try TPRS but are not sure where or how to start. PQA In A Wink helped me get into asking my students questions about themselves, but it took me longer to assimilate, perhaps because I was still working on basic skills.
When Ben created his private forum, I joined and have never regretted being part of it. I have often told people that it is the best and cheapest professional development to be found. Not only are there fascinating discussions going on all the time, but I have met so many wonderful people through it, some of them in Europe. For some reason Ben’s forum feels different than the moretprs list, more private, safer, more congenial. I look forward to reading it every day. And I learn something almost every day. One day I read a description of Jason Fritz doing Reader’s Theater and began trying it. Now I do it all the time. Many of the people on the list became familiar names to me, like friends from far away that I had never met. Robert Harrell, Carol Hill, Laurie Clarcq, Martin Anders, Jason Bond and Charlotte Dinscher have become good friends and will all be in Agen this summer.
When I tried to organize the first Agen Workshop in 2013, Ben promoted it and most of the people who came that year had learned about it on his blog.
In 2014 I finally met Ben face to face at the IFLT conference in Denver. I was looking forward to meeting him, but didn’t expect to have someone shout out “The Queen of France!!” from the other end of the hall and bow down like a true French courtier. For some reason, when I remember the scene, he’s waving an enormous Trois Musketeers hat with a gorgeous white plume. I’m sure he didn’t have one, but that’s how I remember him. I am basically, fundamentally a very shy person and was horribly embarrassed. All I could say was, “Get up. Please, get up.” He seems to have forgotten that the last Queen of France had her head chopped off. Later I hoped to get the chance to listen to one of his enchanting monologues where he would discuss TPRS and students and comprehensible input and I would gain wonderful insights. But a lot of other people had the same idea and every time I saw Ben he was surrounded by admirers and I felt intimidated. I mean, I couldn’t just walk up to him and demand, “Say something inspiring!”
In Chicago I attended one of his “War Room” sessions. He was coaching people who were trying out their TPRS skills with a friendly audience. It takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of colleagues and pretend to teach. All coaches know that it’s a brave thing to do and that their interventions should be tactful, delicate and caring. (Coaching doesn’t work for me, personally, because I teach English and it’s hard for my “pretend students” to pretend that they don’t understand their native language.) Anyway, I can only say that what I saw that night in the War Room was a tactful, delicate and caring Ben Slavic.
Last year I was able to invite Ben to come to Agen and he accepted. So Ben came and did his War Room coaching every night. Also, being very generous with his time and energy, he presented during the afternoons, talking about One Word Images and the Invisibles. I was teaching every morning and presenting every afternoon and running a conference all the rest of the time, so I didn’t have many chances to see Ben in the evenings, but I heard very positive things about the War Room sessions. Many came away inspired to try something new.
Ben was staying in the same hotel with Dr. Beniko Mason Nanki, Dr. Stephen Krashen and Tina Hargaden. They often had breakfast together and Ben and Tina learned about Beniko’s technique of Story Listening. The rest is history and I encourage everyone to try this way of giving students compelling comprehensible input. Dr. Nanki is publishing a book about it and Ben and Tina are putting out a revised version of his Invisibles with a forward by Dr. Nanki.
When I think of Ben, the word that comes to mind is passionate. He is passionate about his craft, passionate about wanting to help others find their way. He has the courage to go off the beaten path, the courage to try new methods and the courage to speak his mind. I don’t always agree with him, but I have discovered that he also has the courage to admit his mistakes. But actually, the Ben I know best is not the Ben I met briefly in Denver and Chicago and Agen. The Ben I know best is the writer, the writer that I’ve been following for many years now. He has a gift for words and many of his posts are pure poetry and I can’t help but admire his ideas. I hope to see him back in Agen one of these days, and that this time we’ll find time to have a good meal and a long discussion about teaching students with comprehensible input, something we are both passionate about.