As Karen Fletcher opens the door to the classroom, a faint snoring can be heard from behind the desk in the corner. Karen marches past the student table and shakes the portly teacher who fumbles for his glasses as he collects himself. This is Eugene Marchand, the latest teacher to discover “The Silent Way.”

“What the hell is going on?” Karen asks him. Immediately, he shushes her and points to the pile of cuisenaire rods on the desk. Looking no less annoyed, Karen takes a couple of rods from the desk and continues the conversation in rod-language.

“Why aren’t you doing anything?” she asks Marchand. He points to the whiteboard over his shoulder on which we can read Develop your own inner criteria as to what is linguistically acceptable.

“But they’re not-” Karen begins in irate tones before Marchand gestures for her to use the cuisenaire rods again. “They’re not doing anything!” she signs with a long yellow and a short pink.

Marchand shrugs and takes a couple of rods from the desk to answer her. “They have learner autonomy. It would be unhumanistic to force them.”

“You’ve got to do something!” Karen signs, shaking the rods violently.

“What do you suggest I do?” he asks with a short red and a medium blue. “Translation? Rote repetition? Not allowed!”

“You could at least wave your hands about! Correct the students!”

“I will if they say anything,” Marchand replies with an offhand flourish of his rod.

“Why the hell did you spend a whole afternoon making this if you’re not going to use it?”

Karen gestures to the wall next to the whiteboard, where Marchand has taped up a piece of A3 paper onto which are glued small squares of different colours he has cut from a paint chart.

“I just like the colours,” he replies.

With a silent scream, Karen Fletcher flings her rods to the ground and storms back to the teachers’ room.

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