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Our Impact Here And There

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. IX no. 4

April 1980

First published in 1980. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1980-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-303-6 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

Our readers may be interested in knowing directly, from people who are acquainted with our work and are in contact with educators overseas, the extent to which our publications, our seminars and our workshops are affecting education both here and there. The short reports in this issue of our Newsletter reflect a number of attributes of the persons who write them, as well as of the situations they are in. Readers will gain significant insights into the ways of working which one follows in order to bring about certain essential changes in existing conditions. At the same time our readers will be right in thinking that a great deal more could have been gathered and from many more people who have kindly supported our work in various countries all over the world. The vital attempts of enthusiastic educators who take upon themselves to share with colleagues what they think is valuable, have always been seen by us (at headquarters) as the means by which we are taken beyond our territory. Those who agreed to let us publish their contributions are clearly among the people who have a vital role in expanding the horizon through their contact with the educational scene abroad. We wish to thank them for it. The variety and richness of these articles, written as personal narratives, make them attractive. They may serve the purpose which made us ask for them. The News Items, as usual, give reports on special workshops.

Table of Contents

1 From Australia .................................................................. 1 2 From British Columbia -Canada........................................ 5 3 From Europe..................................................................... 9 4 From Geneva....................................................................15 5 From Japan..................................................................... 19 6 A Recent Teaching Experience ........................................ 23 7 Planting Seeds In Argentina ............................................ 27 News Items ......................................................................... 31

1 From Australia

When I returned to Melbourne, Australia in early 1974, mention of Gattegno’s “The Silent Way” invariably prompted the response “The what?” “Who?” Unless associated with Cuisenaire rods or Words in Color, neither name meant anything to teachers. Yet it had been in Melbourne in 1967 that I had first heard of “The Silent Way” and had attended my first workshop on it, given by a member of Schools for the Future, the organization that preceded Educational Solutions. I spent my first 3 years back in Melbourne teaching in one school, using The Silent Way with immigrant children. My colleagues were politely uninterested, although one said she knew about it and found the rods useful for getting over some concepts. Now, three further years later, The Silent Way is a recognized approach to language teaching in Victoria, being used to teach ESL at all levels, as well as for teaching high school foreign languages. Between 2 and 20 hours on The Silent Way were incorporated into about 3/4 of the language teacher training preservice programs and into many inservice programs in Melbourne in 1979. Two weekends of intensive foreign language study, The Silent Way has been recognized as fulfilling the semester of study of a foreign language required for education students at one of Melbourne’s three universities. About 200 teachers voluntarily attended 3-day workshops on The Silent Way last year, and in the program for German teachers at the Victorian (State) Annual MLTA Conference in 1979, a one-hour introduction to the approach was given out of a total of 6 hours. A video tape showing a class being


Our Impact Here And There

taught The Silent Way is available through the film unit of the State Educational Dept. In the state of Tasmania The Silent Way ought to be a household word, having had exposure on TV, in the papers and on the ABC radio (Australia’s BBC). TESL teachers in Sydney are also aware of the approach and will have the chance to attend workshops this year. The change took place very quickly. It began largely, thanks to a man called Alex McKnight, who was responsible for the inservice training of the State’s ESL teachers. Alex had first known The Silent Way in Australia some years ago and was reintroduced to it in England, where he was doing graduate studies for a year. On his return he looked around for someone to offer a workshop on it and was directed to me. The workshop was limited to 40 participants, but the advertisement attracted 120 and in the end three were given. Subsequent workshops (5 per school year) invariably attracted 50-100% more applicants than could be accepted. They were mostly teachers of ESL at all levels in all kinds of schools and programs. It has been through the interest of practicing teachers that methods lecturers, course supervisors etc. have come to contact me to work with their students and teachers. Some have been happy just because their teachers are interested, some like to feel they are abreast of trends (fads) and a few have been genuinely interested themselves. Because of constant demand for a chance to see a set of lessons unfold, I and some other teachers have begun offering intensive language courses on weekends. Most teachers have found the courses fun as well as interesting and useful. And the number of articles on The Silent Way appearing in respected journals and books of late has also helped overcome initial doubts about “legitimacy.” But for all the publicity and contact, it is only a very small minority who have dared to do more than use rods initially, attempt to talk less in their classes and perhaps consider a little differently the activities they initiate in their classrooms. I say dare, because fear is the most often cited reason for not wanting to make a change: fear of “all that work” (preparing the language), fear of the uncertainty in themselves if they were to begin something new, fear of the kids thinking it was


1 From Australia

stupid, fear of colleagues’ or supervisors’ ridicule, fear of making a mess of things. Two thirds of those who have taken it on are people for whom “it all made sense” right from the start and who have been reasonably self-propelled ever since. About one third began very timidly, or in fits and starts, and some have collapsed, while others have found that their fears were largely imaginary and have gained strength from the actual experience. Actual experience and word of mouth publicity, joined with the growing intellectual discussion in linguistic circles, seem to be the best means of reaching people. Yet to establish any sort of circle of people actively engaged in giving meaning to the term “the subordination of teaching to learning,” one must be prepared to offer constant support over a long period of time. I have always been aware that although The Silent Way made sense to me too, right from the start, I was privileged to have constant access to Dr. Gattegno for help and inspiration and the active support of colleagues all day, every day, and most evenings as well, for more than two years, as well as weekly opportunities to attend seminars and workshops. Thus I was allowed to serve a real apprenticeship in learning to be a Silent Way teacher. It seems a bit thin to have only myself to offer my colleagues out here by way of support. In order to broaden the possible support for those new to the approach here, I offer monthly meetings of Silent Way people at my home and a bimonthly newsletter to keep them in touch with what I and others are doing. Both seem to be of use. There are a host of new problems facing us this year: cutbacks in government financed inservice programs, cutbacks in time off allowed teachers for inservice training, a surplus of teachers, which tends to foster timidity towards new ventures, etc. etc. But those who have already found The Silent Way providing a meaningful, exciting and successful approach to teaching are not only continuing with their own work, but are themselves the vehicle by which more people come to know and be interested in The Silent Way. At the same time I am teaching in a new area myself, and am constantly being faced with challenges in my own teaching, which have allowed my concepts of language, language learning and teaching to continue to grow. This new work, plus graduate studies in linguistics and language teaching,


Our Impact Here And There

have combined with my experience and understanding of The Silent Way and the subordination of teaching to learning, to be mutually enriching. The independence from me of new teachers of The Silent Way and my own continuing investigation of language teaching on the practical and theoretical planes, seem to me to be essential factors in bringing what The Silent Way has to offer to the attention of new people with any hope of making a lasting impact on their teaching. Jane Orton 11 Wertheim St. Richmond, Victoria 3121


2 From British Columbia -Canada

Approximately ten years ago John Trivett and Sandy Dawson, professors at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada, decided to create a number of teaching/ learning projects. We sought a title for these projects which would bind them together, which would reflect the essence of what the projects stood for in schools and the university, and which would act as an easily identifiable label for the projects. We chose the acronym SUBTLE derived from Gattegno’s phrase, “The Subordination of Teaching to Learning,” as being representative of the huge influence on our work by Gattegno. Gattegno was gracious enough to accept our explanation of our use of his subtitle to What We Owe Children, a book which has continuously been required reading by our students. During those ten years, Projects: SUBTLE has organized and offered numerous workshops and seminars on the teaching/learning of foreign languages, reading, mathematics, and other subjects, based on our long and intense experiences of implementation of The Silent Way, Words in Color, and Gattegno mathematics, using both local resource people (Dawson, Trivett, McDowell, Esparza, Philoctete, Nehring, and Alexander to name but a few), and some of the folks from the Educational Solutions’ office in New York (the Gattegnos, Shelley Kuo, and Cecilia Bartoli). Through these activities contact was made with some 300 teachers in British Columbia and the states of Washington and Oregon. In addition, professors Dawson and Trivett have offered many courses at SFU in which the principles and practice of the subordination of teaching to learning was the central thrust. Indeed, it


Our Impact Here And There

is two such courses offered here in the last sixteen months that I wish to deal with in this short article. The first, taught by Dawson soon after he returned from a sabbatical year working with Gattegno in New York, was called ‘‘Educating Awareness,” and enrolled some twenty students. The second, currently being offered by Trivett, entitled “Classroom Practice in Educating Awareness,” has twenty-five students registered in it. These two courses, officially recognized and sanctioned by the University, are the first credit offerings we have made which have had as their central concern the relationships among energy, evolution, and education as applied to classroom practice in a variety of subject areas. In Dawson’s course, “Educating Awareness,” attention was directed towards educating the self of each participant to the movements of energy within and by those selves in order to learn and to foster the selves’ evolution. For this work, audio tapes of Gattegno’s seminar on Evolution and Memory, held during The Winter of ‘77-’78 in New York, were used extensively as a means for providing the climate in which students could obtain contact with, first, evolution as energy coming to know itself and, second, themselves as energy systems capable of evolution. These tasks involved gaining acquaintance with one’s self as being of the four realms — the cosmic, vital, behavioral, and human realms and then the further task of studying the movements of energy within one’s self which takes place as one learns, as one teaches one’s self. Most participants testified that both these tasks were not easy for them, requiring as they do an inner climate of watchfulness for energy movements, minute shifts of energy, which can easily escape one’s attention. They testified that watching one’s self learn necessitates a state of quiet detachment from the item being learned in order to observe what is happening to one’s self when learning, while at the same time one’s self is immersed in the learning situation. For many students this two level focus of awareness could not be achieved until they got their preconceptions and ego attachments dissolved, that is, until such time as the energy they had locked up in aspects of their selves had been freed, and thence made available to meet the challenges before them.


2 From British Columbia -Canada

Initially, the course was to consider the application of educating one’s awareness in classroom settings, but the experience of the participants was such that the application question was considered only peripherally, the central concern of the course being the education of one’s own awareness as a potentially evolving energy system. Consequently, Trivett’s course, “Classroom Practices in Educating Awareness,” was seen in some sense as a continuation and/or extension of Dawson’s course to the day-to-day realities of teachers working with children in classrooms. Of the twenty-five students enrolled in Trivett’s course only two were also students in the previous course. However, all of Trivett’s students had at some point in the last ten years made contact with our work in Projects: SUBTLE, and some of them are currently using Words in Color, Gattegno mathematics, or The Silent Way materials and processes in their classrooms. The format of the course has been for students to involve themselves in activities drawn from the curriculum areas of reading, mathematics science, and foreign languages (French mainly); to then study these experiences both from the point of view of how they functioned as learners, and how such activities could be transformed so as to be used in their own classrooms. In addition, a regular feature of each meeting of the class has been to report on the trials these teachers-students have undertaken with the children whom they teach. As well as becoming sensitive to themselves as learners, the course participants have the additional challenge of becoming sensitive to their children as energy systems who are capable of learning, and of recognizing how to make use of the powers and gifts children bring to learning situations, and to do so in a way which celebrates the children’s’ learnings while subordinating their own teaching to that learning. Many reports have been offered which indicate that some of the teachers are gaining valuable insights into both their own and their children’s’ learning processes. Others report that they are struggling to eliminate preconceptions they have as to how children learn, and to get in touch with themselves as learners. As well as these formal, university level enterprises, the work of Dawson and Trivett in Vancouver has a number of other forms which though diverse are ail directed to a serious study of the theoretical


Our Impact Here And There

underpinnings and practical applications of the subordination of teaching to learning. Trivett, for example, has recently had a book accepted for publication, the first of several books he is writing, which deals partly with the understanding of school based mathematics, and partly with the form of the confrontation of mathematics by students with the form of presentations by teachers. Trivett is also leading a study group each month which is examining Bateson’s book Mind and Nature., and the relations this book may have with SUBTLE approaches to the learning/teaching process. Both Dawson and Trivett have written chapters for a forthcoming book entitled Self-Education, Dawson’s chapter focusing on The Self Educating Its Awareness,” and Trivett directing his attention to “Educating Everyone’s Mathematical Self.” Dawson in currently preparing a proposal for the Canada Council which, if successful, would enable him to direct a major research project on the relationships among energy, evolution, and education with particular emphasis on mathematics education. Dawson also continues the work in editing the Evolution and Memory seminar audio tapes and the preparation of printed material to go along with these tapes. Finally, both Trivett and Dawson will be associated next fall with the mathematics research project currently being developed by Gattegno and his associates in New York. Brief though this summary of activities may be, I do hope it conveys the vitality of the enterprises taking place centered around Vancouver, Canada. We would welcome contact with any readers who might be attracted to our part of the world, and we would gladly share with them our experiences and insights derived from our attempts to subordinate our teaching to the learnings of those with whom we work. A.J. (Sandy) Dawson Simon Fraser University Burnaby V5A 1S6


3 From Europe

The impact of Dr. Gattegno’s work in Europe seems to be growing steadily as the years go by. At present, there are in France three associations of teachers: one in Paris, one in Lyons and one in Besançon. All three actively seek to help their members to become more skilled in the techniques of the subordination of teaching to learning and to understand its principles. At the same time they provide opportunities for newcomers to become acquainted with this different way of working. They regularly organize workshops on various topics and periodically invite Dr. Gattegno or other members of Educational Solutions to lead one of their seminars. In Switzerland there is a similar association while in Spain there is an active group of teachers interested in The Silent Way. Their number is large and motivated enough to have begun a new cycle for the Diploma of Advanced Study in The Silent Way. In England (Great Britain) at least two language schools have now a few teachers experimenting with The Silent Way. Recently three workshops were organized in Bristol by the Abon School and an average of 25 participants, from different language schools, attended each workshop. In Italy a handful of teachers have begun a pilot English course using The Silent Way, at the University of Rome, and hope to show their colleagues its effectiveness so as to extend this way of teaching to the whole English program.


Our Impact Here And There

Predictably the teachers who are touched by this way of working come from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. Neither the level at which they teach nor the subject they teach has any part to play in their being ready to accept a way of teaching that makes sense to them. In Besancon and in Lyon the associations primarily serve elementary school teachers and special education teachers, the one in Paris is geared almost exclusively to teachers who are engaged in adult education both in the private sector (banks, corporations, industries etc.) and in universities. This indifference to the age of the students being taught and to their level of mastery of the subject studied gives evidence of the special and unique quality of Dr. Gattegno’s pedagogy, which is guided by the learners rather than by the content of the material to be learned. The process of learning is similar in a child, a university student, a businessman or a deaf person, although the content of what is being learned may vary greatly. However, if it is true that more and more people are ready to respond favorably, and at times even enthusiastically, to a more sensible way of teaching based on down-toearth common sense, the transition between the discovery and the assimilation of it is at times quite shaking for those who make it, and its application to the classroom is not that smooth nor necessarily obvious. I’ve been in contact with many of these teachers and have visited many classes which were said to be taught The Silent Way. The range of competence in the approach and even in the understanding of it was extremely varied. So, for example, I saw teachers imposing on their students the memorization of all the colors for the English sounds without ever suspecting that, because their students had not seen the usefulness of the instrument, the effort they were asked to make made no sense whatever to them and in fact made them very resentful. On the other hand, I saw a teacher who didn’t use a single portion of the materials of The Silent Way because circumstances prevented her from doing so, but had understood its spirit so well that she was able to exploit her students’ mistakes most effectively and, through them, make them aware of what it takes to be a better learner. Common sense had told her that, if she were to serve her students properly, she had to


3 From Europe

take into account a reality which, however undesirable, still occupied her students’ minds entirely: that they had to take a very difficult examination often after only 15 or 30 hours of instruction. She had selected the awarenesses that these students needed in order to do better at the examination, and worked on those. But, because she worked on awareness, students were also getting more in touch with themselves and their potentials, with the result that their English improved in the short time they had with her. They had become better learners. Yet to find teachers as alert as that one is may not be so easy, and each has the right to be where he or she is. I’ve been asking myself for a long time where the difficulties of practicing The Silent Way come from. As I observe myself and others, I’ve come to notice that in most cases the obstacles arise simply from the impossibility of dealing with situations in a simple way. I never quite realized before how difficult it is to be simple and direct. It seems that as we grow older we form more and more schemas which we then use to fit new situations as if we had pre-prepared notes in our minds. To meet new situations in the classroom with a fresh mind, without prejudices and ready-made ideas seems to be an extremely difficult thing to achieve, yet we use this simplicity many times in our everyday life. We don’t have preconceived ideas, for example, when we cross a street. We rush or slow down according to what our common sense tells us to do. We may decide to cross even on a red Light if we see there is no danger in our crossing, while we would refrain from doing so regardless of the color of the traffic light if a car were coming. We are definitely guided by common sense in most of our daily activities but when we enter a classroom, for some mysterious reason, this common sense often abandons us. In a recent seminar for teachers, while playing the game of grouping words into categories according to what they have in common, somebody made up a category which nobody could find. When we asked him for the common element in the words chosen, he told us that what all the words had in common was the absence of the blue color for the “c” (representing the sound this letter has for example in “appreciate”). When questioned about the appropriatedness or otherwise of his choice, this person answered that he had made up that


Our Impact Here And There

category to make it challenging for the people present since they were native speakers. I’m not sure they were challenged nor that it ever became clear to him that in fact we had been asked to read his mind and his motivation. Asking us to do that task was nothing but a complicated, confused idea he had in his mind. Yet, this is exactly what we often do in our classes: we ask our students to read our minds. With The Silent Way the temptation is even greater because we can easily have the illusion of good results. Through tapping out words on the charts and using the convention of the new gesture language we establish in our classes, we can practically make students say anything we want. So we bask in the illusion that they know because they’ve said what we had in mind, while in fact they may have no idea of what is going on. Traditional education has taught us that knowledge is an accumulation of facts, each having its solitary place. This place is the one held in the teacher’s mind, or on the pages of the books we are given. This closed way of looking at the world has made many of us very rigid and inflexible, so that, when we teach, we take for granted that the only possible answers are those we have in our minds. Dr. Gattegno invites us to break this mold, to free ourselves from our past, from what we know and have learned. In fact, if we give up walking in a straight line we discover that we can adopt circular movements where the past and the future can meet where the old is integrated with the new, where new points of view, new connections and more comprehensive answers have a chance of being both created and discarded. Knowing something is no longer accumulating information about a particular subject, but rather linking awarenesses in various ways so as to create a large, complex, yet simple network which makes sense. The reason it does so is that it is known in its elements, which basically are the very same facts we want them to own. In other words, what I have become aware of lately is that to have an awareness in one area doesn’t at all mean that we are able to transfer it to another area. In fact, transference seems to need an awareness of its own. So, for example, after years of practice in The Silent Way I’d come 12

3 From Europe

to a point where I was capable of discerning whether or not, in a language class, I was truly subordinating my teaching to my students’ learning. However, it has taken me fully several years to realize that, in my seminars for teachers, I had no criteria for knowing where my students were and that this principle was not operating as a conscious minute-to-minute instrument. It was only at a recent seminar that I asked myself and my colleagues the question, “Can we say that a teacher is a student of teaching?” As I asked the question, it became apparent to me that for the first time I was putting an emphasis on the teacher as a “learner” of teaching, which was a very different proposition from considering him as a student of learning as my previous understanding of the matter had led me to do. This latter formulation had made me stress the learning undertaken by the learners of the subject being taught; the teacher then became an outside observer, and had to resort to learning another language or specific skill in order to observe himself learning. The first formulation, on the other hand, shed light on the “learner” in the teacher at every moment of his presence in class. If I, the teacher, am a “learner” I will make mistakes like all learners, and without these mistakes I cannot be guided in forming criteria for knowing what to do. Furthermore, if I am a “learner” I’ll never be a finished teacher. I’ll keep on learning as new situations arise and I will be the sole judge of when I achieve a particular learning and prove my competence in it. In other words, I’ll be able to function as in the many other areas of my life in which I decide how good I want to be. Nobody has ever been able to impose on others a definite competence in their native language for example. Each of us decides how deeply to develop, and with what skill to manipulate, our own language. So, my competence in teaching will not prevent me from going on and becoming a virtuoso if I so desire. Finally, and most importantly, my focusing on being a “learner” at every moment in class puts me in far closer contact with the “learner” in my students, in the here and now of every situation. This new awareness has greatly changed me. When I walk into a classroom I no longer wish teachers were behaving this way or that way in order to keep the spirit of The Silent Way. Assuredly, I can see when


Our Impact Here And There

its spirit is in fact being destroyed, but I have no desire in me to chastise the perpetrator of the “crime:” the teacher is where he is and, as I see it now, needs all his mistakes to make progress. I now understand far better in what way the subordination of teaching to learning has become a science which, for the moment, has only the body of discoveries of its originator to show. To be engaged in a science is not only a matter of understanding what others have become aware of, it is a matter of discovering in oneself the same and or other awareness. This will take as short or as long a time as it will take for each individual. To look for immediate results is to miss the whole point of the problem. Results are not a criterion by which the validity of the truth of this new science is to be assessed. How many generations of scientists it took before sciences like physics, chemistry, biology yielded spectacular results! Nonetheless, from the start they held some truths. As new people enter this new field of inquiry, new instruments will be invented and new insights reached. So, whereas no longer unfavorably struck at what happens in classes where people claim to teach The Silent Way nor ecstatic in others I’ve acquired a far more neutral attitude which helps me remain humble and use humility as a freeing instrument. I no longer feel compelled to justify anything, nor to deny anything. I’ve understood that the whole realm of claims and expectations has nothing to do with learning nor with understanding the problems of this science better. In fact it is only a distraction from my real work which is important to me as the means of my evolution. All of a sudden a quotation given to me some years ago and which I had often used as a consoling reminder, acquires the truth and the strength of the inevitable: “Il n’est point nécéssaire d’espérer pour entrependre, ni de réussir pour perseverer.” Guillaume, Le Taciturne, King of the Low Lands. Cecilia Bartoli in Paris 78 Rue Beaubourg, 75003


4 From Geneva

Over the last thirty years or so, Dr. Gattegno and his colleagues have done extensive work in Switzerland and have been observed by hundreds if not thousands of students, parents, teachers and administrators. Dr. Gattegno first published his French language materials for reading and mathematics in Neuchâtel in the early 50’s. His ongoing development of Animated Geometry stems from the pioneering work of J. L. Nicolet, the late mathematics teachers at the Ecole nouvelle in Lausanne. Since I have only been here since August 1979 and — apart from a wealth of anecdotes about this or that seminar, teacher or administrator and fundamentally ignorant of what came before my arrival, I am going to restrict myself to what I have observed and know has happened or is happening. It may mean slighting important work and associates, but at least it will permit me to remain closer to the truth through my reality. I know of four groups of teachers in four different Swiss schools and an undetermined number of individual teachers elsewhere who have been sufficiently touched by the contributions of Educational Solutions to devote themselves to working with what they, or we, have understood of the subordination of teaching to learning. The most recent is the Shangri-la School in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small, experimental secondary school which has programmed an extensive series of mathematics, English and Spanish workshops, using Les nombres en Couleurs, Animated Geometry, and The Silent Way. They have called upon the services of those of us in Geneva who have experience teaching mathematics and English, and they have just completed an


Our Impact Here And There

intensive, ten-day Spanish workshop with Patricia Perez from Educational Solutions, New York. The school is using the seminars as normal courses for students and inservice training for its own teachers. Both groups have been enthusiastic in their response, stating in regard to the English that it is the first time in two and a half years of English instruction that they have had an occasion to manipulate the language without reference to French. The results have been such that the school is already planning to double the mathematics and English components in the fall, to invite Patricia Perez to return for more work in Spanish and to organize a Chinese seminar with Shiow-Ley Kuo, probably in November. They are also studying the possibility of acquiring English, The Silent Way and Hebrew, The Silent Way, the two video programs produced by The Silent Way Video Company, New York. Shiow-Ley Kuo is largely responsible for introducing the second group of teachers — those in the Department of Chinese at the University of Geneva — to The Silent Way and the work of Dr. Gattegno. After the initial contact in January 1977, two university teachers spent a month in New York studying The Silent Way, participating in the recording of the video series, English, The Silent Way and working with the staff of Educational Solutions. Subsequently, they collaborated with teachers from the International School of Geneva, who had had much more experience with the approach, on a series of inservice Chinese workshops designed to extend their awareness of The Silent Way before introducing it at the university. According to a recent departmental paper, The Silent Way represents the core of the firstyear program and the inspiration of certain work demanded of second and third-year students. Cited as an example, are Chinese vocabulary texts inspired by A Thousand Sentences. Another group of teachers and students currently involved with The Silent Way and Gattegno mathematics comes from the Geneva lowersecondary public school system. They include mathematics, German, Italian and history teachers who have the unenviable task of trying to experiment and grow within the confines of an extremely rigid, state program which, for example, forbids the use of Algebricks for the


4 From Geneva

teaching of mathematics. By remaining discreet, they have managed to participate in Educational Solutions workshops organized in Switzerland and France, invite Dr. Gattegno to give a demonstration in mathematics and apply what they have learned in their classes. As a group they are also working on their English, using The Silent Way. The fourth and perhaps “oldest” group of Swiss teachers and administrators actively concerned with work done at Educational Solutions is to be found at the Foundation of the International School of Geneva, a large primary and secondary school founded after the First World War to promote bilingual education and international understanding. French primary teachers at the school have worked with La lecture en couleurs, Les nombres en couleurs and The Silent Way since the mid-sixties. They have also been instrumental in spreading these ways of working to teachers in other parts of Switzerland and France through a non-profit association, Face à l’Education, which organizes training seminars, language workshops and an annual awareness seminar the scope of which goes well beyond the techniques of teaching and into such areas as the brain, death and human relativity. These seminars traditionally attract some one hundred participants from all over Switzerland and France. Finally, this group of teachers, of which I am a junior member, as well as the administration of the International School have taken an active role in seeing to it that a new, revised edition of the French reacting material, La lecture en couleurs, will soon be available. In addition, several top level school administrators have decided to emphasize the group’s work and thus the ideas proposed by Educational Solutions and to include them in their political and organizational plans for the Foundation. To a large extent, this stems from the current world economic situation and its impact on private education; at the same time, it reflects their evaluation of the successful work done by the group over the last decade and their own desire to improve education within the school. While this decision is not without its own dangers, it does indicate that yet another impact of Educational Solutions lies in the demonstration that in a period of economic uncertainty, educational progress and innovation need not be incompatible with economy.


Our Impact Here And There

To complete this social picture of Educational Solutions’ impact on Switzerland, the reader will have to imagine many other individual teachers, like Ghislaine Graf, who is teaching Silent Way French to political refugees for the Center Social Protestant in Lausanne, all working alone in other parts of the country. While their impact on local teachers and educators is unknown to me, the impact of Educational Solutions on them is undeniable — if equally unknown to me in its personal nature. The fact is that those teachers who are willing — in my own case — or even happy — in the case of others — to put up with the struggle to learn how to improve as teachers, demonstrate that there is something — call it extended awareness, call it truth, call it what you like — something which makes all the blows to one’s image or ego (all psychic movements, I will grant you, but real nonetheless) worth the trouble. Yet having lived those shocks and having recently discovered that all the solutions proposed by Dr. Gattegno and Educational Solutions were not miraculous after all, but demanded more of my time than I had imagined, I now have much more understanding for the thousands of people who have not continued and much more respect and understanding for those of us who have. Endurance has to be my current major criterion for measuring impact. Allen Rozelle International School 1208 Geneva


5 From Japan

Certainly there were some in Japan who knew of The Silent Way before I did. And one of them literally changed my life with a 20-minute demonstration of Hindi in the summer of ‘75. There were no charts and no explanations, just rods and a voice that spoke only a few times. But it was enough to suggest to me that it would be worth my while to learn more. What I learned in just those 20 minutes was enough to keep me thinking for some time. I was excited by the challenge of searching for criteria. Listening to myself and to others. Hearing what was said and noticing whether or not it was accepted. I was amazed at the concentration I was able to maintain, largely because of the lack of “static” from the teacher. And I was stunned to see the lack of discipline in some of us, how we would not be with what had been said or done. For the first time, I took the time to look at my own and others’ learning with a new awareness, namely that what is “taught” is not necessarily “learned” and that the learner must take even more responsibility than the teacher if learning is to take place. I began to feel that the learner had to learn to master himself before he could hope to master the “content” of any lesson. In the summer of ‘76, I invited Shiow-Ley Kuo to Kyoto to work with 34 students over seven days in a special Mandarin Chinese mini-course and again for a few hours at the first national conference of our


Our Impact Here And There

budding Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT), now the official TESOL affiliate for Japan. In ‘77, Carol and Nobuo Akiyama gave presentations in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo which created a great deal of interest in learning Japanese The Silent Way. JALT invited Shiow-Ley back again in ‘78 and also had the opportunity of working with Dr. Gattegno that year in a series of seminar presentations. One of his students at that time was Ms. Song Young Ok, former Peace Corps TESL Advisor, who came all the way from Seoul for the workshops and used her native language to give weekend minicourses in Korean to our members in Hiroshima and Nagoya. Locally, Donald Freeman of the Language Institute of Japan (LIOJ) and I have worked with interested people wherever they have been. Presentations have been made on the four major islands of Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu and, most recently, in Okinawa. Teachers here have had the opportunity to work with Silent Way in English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Hindi and German and it is presently seen in classes for grade school children, junior and senior high students, junior colleges and universities and adult education classes, with hundreds of teachers and literally tens of thousands of students involved. At JALT’s annual language teaching conference last year, attended by almost 600 people, presentations on The Silent Way numbered nine out of a total of seventy, far more than on any other approach. One of those dealt with The Silent Way in the junior high school classroom, a traditional bastion of conservatism. A remarkable video tape of an entire class was the perfect answer to the doubting professors who had gathered to say that it couldn’t be done. Finally, this last summer, as many as nine people from Japan spent time in New York studying at Educational Solutions. That is a long trip, but all felt that it was worth it and more.


5 From Japan

We here are grateful to Dr. Gattegno and the staff at Educational Solutions for having granted us the awarenesses and the instruments to begin our work. But we know, too, that the revolution will not occur overnight. With the patience of the East, we hope to continue to teach and to learn. Thomas M. Pendergast, Jr. Didasko, 6-7-31-611 Itachibori, Nishi-ku 550 Osaka, Japan


6 A Recent Teaching Experience

with two students led me to an insight into what it means to work empirically. This couple came with a low intermediate ability in English. After our first few classes I realized that I was facing the difficulty of helping them change the improper linguistic habits which they had acquired and were functioning through. This was the language they had been relying upon; their criteria had been generated by stretching it to meet their needs. These habits made little room for a sense of the melody of English, or for good pronunciation. They included a host of semantic and syntactic errors such as the omission of articles, and improper subject-verb agreement. When these errors were pointed to however, the students could often make their own corrections. This gave evidence that in fact they had many of the right criteria, which at this point were not yet serving them automatically. Bad habits require great efforts to break as any one who has tried knows. This effort seems to be spent in two ways; on the vigilance to recognize that an action has gained momentum towards completion, and on the energy needed to keep one’s awareness forced upon stopping this movement and redirecting it to the new choice of change. The obvious first step was to make sure that they could recognize the parts of their speech that they needed to change. Then they could begin the discipline of monitoring themselves to do the work required. Thus, I felt it was important to make them aware of their errors as soon as they made them. Then, if they couldn’t make their own corrections, I would help guide them to them. To evaluate, I would await until a


Our Impact Here And There

statement or statements were finished, and ask to see if they could recognize which were their consistent errors. They showed more and more that they could, and I felt we were moving in a useful direction. I soon knew that despite their improving abilities to discriminate what they needed to work on, they were not taking the critical step of disciplining themselves to be careful with their accuracy. I saw this to be at the core of our work; it amounted to their putting their awareness into listening to themselves rather than in making themselves understood at all costs. Our way of working demanded this to the extent that I tried not to allow them to be carried by their thoughts while abandoning the language. I wasn’t fully conscious of it yet, but I was beginning to try too hard. Because I was committed to moving carefully, we created a pace that added frustration to their underlying anxiety that they weren’t going to reach the proficiency that they expected. This frustration was exacerbated if I had, say, to, pause to find a word on a word chart. These feelings began to find their expression in their firm suggestions of how we should proceed with the course, which included our not wasting time on pronunciation — if I would model the word we would move much more quickly; vocabulary lists, and (horror of horrors) our working through a drill book that they had. My response was to listen and try and demonstrate or explain (heatedly at times), why I disagreed. In truth I wasn’t listening at all. I was mobilized in my attitude about knowing what they had to do if they were ever going to learn English. A member of the staff reminded me that it wasn’t enough that I knew what they needed to do — they had to know it too — that I had to touch their sense of what was best for them. Where else was this sense but in themselves, working knowingly on what they felt was important? I looked to help facilitate this by presenting them with material that could challenge them to this end. My reflections focused around the language I was bringing into class from the viewpoint of its content and clarity. I tried to move into areas


6 A Recent Teaching Experience

that would meet more of their social needs as they made me aware of them. The problem here was that I couldn’t anticipate what they felt was important. As we moved spontaneously into these areas I found myself within a familiar struggle; trying to keep them focused upon the work that would improve their abilities without snuffing the sparks that moved them to speak in the first place. By now I was invested in our not wasting time. As a result I had to deal with my reactions when I felt this was happening. Though I knew that I was really triggering myself, a part of me justified the feeling that these two could drive anyone to distraction. Still, I had to find another way to relate to what was happening. I worked to renew my sensitivities towards these people — embracing the events and circumstances of their lives, along with my other observations of what was important to them. What I discovered was that despite my new found sense of understanding and resolve to accept these people as they were, I was right back in the grips of my war of nerves when I was within the direct experience of their copresence. The awareness which then came was both powerful and humbling. I realized that it was I who needed to exercise the same discipline and watchfulness that I had been asking them to. I had to keep part of myself reserved to be aware of what I was doing instead of putting all my presence into what they were doing. Not just from the standpoint of controlling my reactions, but to take into account my effect in this relationship. What was I doing that created our dynamics and synergy? I had become so attached to my idea of what they had to do to learn and what I had to do to help them, that I had closed myself to receiving the real developments that we were creating. This gave me a direct insight into what it means to work empirically. Rather than selecting for what I wanted or thought I should be seeing, when I was watchful I was alerted to these movements and able to stay with what they were really showing me. It was like having a built-in delay that gave me the room to respond intelligently rather than 25

Our Impact Here And There

impulsively. I was aware that my awareness was in monitoring myself monitoring my students and thus had the means to assess our responses to each other. Ken Kramer SIT, Brattleboro, Vt.


7 Planting Seeds In Argentina

Last October, I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary. While I was there it occurred to me that, besides participating in making decisions as to the number of cakes and bottles of champagne needed to appease the voracity of a hundred guests, I might as well use my time in a manner that would serve not just the very valid needs of a family group at a time of joy, but also the more serious and pressing needs of education in a country where these needs have been neglected for quite some time. I decided to approach two different groups of people responsible for educational changes in Argentina. At the public school level I met with the interim acting President of the National Council on Education and with her pedagogical counselor. At the private school level I met with Prof. Van Gelderen, Pedgogical Counselor to the Escuela Argentina Modelo, and with several administrators of that institution, as well as with Dr. Ratto, Principal of the Instituto Bayard, and Professor Gabba, of Marymar (an educational publishing house). I was warmly welcomed by all of them as someone associated with Dr. Gattegno, and was delighted to find that all the people I met with had attended Dr. Gattegno’s seminars when he visited Buenos Aires in 1959 and 1961. Unfortunately, in the public schools very little of his contribution could be seen. This is mostly due to continuous changes in government and, therefore, in educational policies, and also to an almost total lack of funding for educational projects. But at the Escuela Argentina Modelo, one of the most prestigious and progressive private


Our Impact Here And There

schools in the country, they use the “Gattegno color” — as some of them call it — to teach reading in first grade, and Gattegno mathematics through third grade. The Escuela’s Primary School principal told me that before winter vacation starts — schools in Argentina open in mid-March and winter vacation is during the second week in July — first grade children already know how to read. I also learned that at the Instituto) Superior Docente — a graduate teacher training school that is part of the Escuela Argentina Modelo project — mini-courses are offered in the “metodo Gattegno.” To my great surprise, they were not aware of the existence of materials, books or methodological developments for Leocolor and they had never heard of The Silent Way. As for mathematics, lack of exposure, feedback and information had turned the use of the materials into a very rigid and stale approach. I spent long hours talking with administrators and teachers of these private schools and found them open and anxious to learn. At this time administrators from the Escuela Argentina Modelo, the Instituto Bayard and Marymar publishing house are uniting their efforts in order to be able to invite Dr. Gattegno to teach seminars in Buenos Aires and to have some of his books published there. To that purpose Dr. Ratto spent ten days at Educational Solutions this past February talking with Dr. Gattegno and trying to absorb as much as he could in such a short period of time. While I was in Argentina I was invited to teach a seminar on The Silent Way for forty public schools teachers who are teaching Spanish and other subjects to Indochinese refugees. Argentina is in the process of integrating five thousand refugees arriving monthly in groups of one hundred to one hundred sixty each. Before being sent to their final destination these people are put through a ten day orientation program during which they are supposed to learn Spanish, “Western customs,” Argentinean folk music, agricultural skills. etc. The teachers I worked with were about the most committed professionals and compassionate human beings I have ever worked with. They were very aware that what they were asked to do was 28

7 Planting Seeds In Argentina

impossible, but they wanted to use the time they spent with their students as effectively as they could. These teachers found in The Silent Way an answer to the many questions they had had about language learning and teaching. As soon as the workshop was over they were anxious to apply what they had learned and, when I visited them a week later at the refugee camp, I found them full of stories of “miracles” taking place because of The Silent Way. During this visit I gave a two-hour demonstration with a group of 160 Cambodians, Laotians and Hmongs. My class was made up of families, mostly young parents with their children. This experience provided an opportunity to show the teachers how a person who is illiterate in his own language can learn to read in a language he does not understand. This happened with a young Hmong woman whom I called to the board to tap out a word on the Spanish Fidel. When I did this, one of the teachers ran to me and whispered in my ear that she was totally illiterate, the implication being that she would not be able to participate. Shortly after that I heard the 40 teachers and several administrators gasp when she tapped out not only words but sentences, such as: la regleta roja está aquí tome dos verdes y póngalas ahí She had learned to read in Spanish in two hours! During the feedback session the excitement of the teachers was touching. A new awareness had been brought to them and they were sensitive enough to see it as an opening to a whole new world of discoveries in teaching and learning. I left with them my complete set of Spanish Silent Way materials: charts, rods, pointer and all. They left with me their promise to try to move the Argentinean authorities into taking some action in terms of making available to public school teachers Dr. Gattegno’s contributions to education. 29

Our Impact Here And There

It is too soon to tell how successful they will be in their efforts. Strong governments and large bureaucracies do not respond well to requests for change. Nevertheless I do feel that certain seeds may take a long time to germinate, but that they do so sooner or later. When a teacher becomes aware of the meaning of the subordination of teaching to learning he may not have at hand the materials that facilitate this process, he may not be in a position to implement the approach to speed up learning, but the awareness will remain with him and will bring about change both in himself and in his students. Maria Gagliardo at ESI, NYC


News Items

1 Dr. Gattegno’s intensive courses in Barcelona (February 16-24) involved a relatively small number of people, except at one showing of the math films where more than 400 people attended. The four intensive 20-hour courses were on The Science of Education. The organizers chose to have the first on The Mind Teaches the Brain, the second on Facts of Awareness, the third a learning of Russian via The Silent Way and the last on What to grant and what not to take for granted. It is not easy to say what participants took away from each of these seminars, workshops and courses. The various feedback sessions did not reveal it exactly. We must await the papers that some of the participants were asked to send to New York to assess some of the impacts. Generally speaking attendance remained high and involvement in the sessions also. The difficulty of the subject matter was more an incentive to work hard than a hindrance. For some it was an exhilarating experience equivalent to years of work at conventional places of learning. For others it was a beginning that needed opportunities for further study. The Russian class had one person who had studied for two months before coming and twenty exposed for the first time to the language. Although all were kept very busy for four evenings (from 6 to 11) the only relative measure of progress was provided by the one student with previous experience. He stated that almost all he had met at this course had been new and very involving and, in extent, much


Our Impact Here And There

greater than what he had learned in the previous two months (not expressed in hours of work). Essentially, students learned to read and write the two Russian scripts, pronounce properly a large number of statements and maintain a good pronunciation all through. They learned numeration, time (asking and telling), and the social vocabulary associated with time and days, weeks, months, seasons, years (calendar) were made part of statements. The singular and the two Russian plurals (2, 3, 4 and beyond) were practiced as well as the generic plural and their declensions as met in statements involving the rods and the verbs “to take, give and put,� the persons, singular & plural, as subjects and objects (direct and indirect). Of course, the awarenesses and the ensuing facilities involved, were variable and the group as a whole may have gained far less than some of the more alert learners. Still almost all felt they got some grasp of how that language behaved and were fascinated by it, wanting to pursue their studies of it. One event of the last workshop is worth putting on record for all teachers of English. Four of the participants had a great deal of fluency in English although some of their speech sounded still strongly colored by their local Spanish pronunciation. After making them work for an hour on the Fidel and eliciting from them statements that were pronounced more as English than before, Dr. Gattegno asked the group whether they wanted to see him teach pronunciation from scratch to anyone brought on from the street, to assess whether a proper beginning may have a better effect on future performance. Fifteen minutes later two teenage girls were ushered in who had had no intention then of learning English but had been intrigued by the offer and the fact that it would be fun and cost them nothing. In one hour they produced statements that the seminar people admitted were distinctly more accurate than those of the first four students, although the youngsters had heard no word of English and had only interpreted suggestions made to them by Dr. Gattegno in Spanish. At the feedback session this event was repeatedly referred to as a highlight of the 20-hour course. 2 During the weekend of February 29th - March 2nd, a preTESOL ‘80 Conference seminar in San Francisco brought together about sixty educators from many parts of the United States and


News Items

overseas to work with Dr. Gattegno on The Silent Way. Because of the varied levels of prior involvement of the participants, from first exposure to several years of acquaintance with The Silent Way, it became necessary to work in a manner that would challenge everybody while leading to new awarenesses for everybody. This was achieved in three ways; one, by making the group learn to use the sound-color Fidels of several languages almost simultaneously; two, by involving some of the participants as learners in a class within the class and, three, by involving the group as a whole as a large class of about sixty in acquiring some facility in a very short time with two languages that are often considered hard. The four languages used were French, Russian, Mandarin and Japanese. On no occasion did the students hear anyone but themselves, and they managed a level of mastery of the flow of words which struck the knowledgeable people present as rarely obtained even after a long exposure to the language when taught in other ways. The point had therefore been made that learners, by by-passing the auditory model and concentrating on what is voluntary in them, can more precisely modulate their voice and produce a flow of words which indicate that all one’s gifts are at work on acquiring the spoken aspect of the new language. That students are intelligent, sensitive, reflective, retentive, rather than a memory in which to store information handed out to them by their knowledgeable teacher, was so clearly illustrated by the way of working that no one had any doubt that to do what had been done was far more beneficial to the students. One day was devoted to the study of English and its teaching The Silent Way. Native teachers of English need imagination to know what foreign students of English go through when confronting the idiosyncrasies of that language. Thus it became possible to show them what a foreigner like Dr. Gattegno encountered in his studies of English as a beginner, as a more advanced student and as a user of the language in being a writer and public speaker. The participants were given exercises which led them to discover how much language can be extracted from the vocabulary in word chart # 1 and word charts # 1 & 2 taken together. It really seemed endless. This produced both a special insight into what the creators of English did with their language that


Our Impact Here And There

did not require a constant widening of the vocabulary, and a real enthusiasm for The Silent Way materials that reveal so much of the language from so little vocabulary. Generally speaking, as was expressed in the final feedback, everyone at the seminar acquired a great deal more than had been their expectation. 3 The one-day workshop at the TESOL ‘80 Conference was attended in the morning by over 200 registered participants and in the afternoon (after a downpour) by half that number. Although the topic was about investigations on teaching and learning made possible since The Silent Way came into the field, many of those registered needed an introduction to The Silent Way to comprehend that a possible change existed. The last 3 hours were much more a presentation of the techniques and materials slanted in such a way as to let people with experience gain from it. Still the first 3 hours, in the morning, were somehow addressing the announced topic and Dr. Gattegno presented some of the problems that had not been studied in the field but were found essential in the history of The Silent Way, and to which some contributions have already been made. These were only mentioned briefly and possibly therefore not very effectively.

The June issue of this Newsletter will be the last of Volume IX. The September issue will be sent to you if you renew your subscription before then.


News Items

Copies of Newsletters still available (Single issue $1.50 — Double issue: $3.00)

Vol. II


Mathematics (March), Bilingualism (April) Reading (June)

Vol. III


The Silent Way (October)

Vol. IV


ESL, The Silent Way (February), On Early Childhood (April), Affectivity and Learning (June)

Vol. V


Teachers are Made (Dec. -Feb. double issue), On Literacy (April), On Knowledge (June)

Vol. VI


Back to Basics and More (September) On Mistakes (Dec. -Feb. double issue)

Vol. VII


Aspects of Language Learning (September) Further Insights into Learning Languages (Dec ember) The U.S. and the World: on Education (February) On Feedback (April), In Favor of Bilingualism (June)



Storytelling and Storytellers (September) Problems and Solutions (December)



1 Entering the World: Early Childhood (February) 2 The Elementary School Years (April) 3 Adolescence (June) 4 The Child in Every One of Us (September) 5 Knowing: Epistemology or Psychology?(December) *** Mathematics: Visible and Tangible (February)


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

Our Impact Here And There  

Newsletter vol. IX no. 4 April 1980