Real-life stories that involve Stephen Krashen (Volume I)

Nah, this is not another post about extensive reading. Nor is it much of a rant or an attack on Dr. Krashen or his theories. There is actually not a whole lot about ELT here, so I will understand if you come back for the next post.

I just wanted to share two things (the other one is in volume II) that I have been thinking about for a long time. It all started when Dr. Krashen came to South Korea for the 2011 KOTESOL International Conference.  This is one on of the blog posts that has been on my mind since the moment I started this blog a year ago. I have been thinking about posting about these stories for a while but this post from Marisa Constantinides coupled with a bit of free time was just the push I needed.
[This perhaps slow to load link from KOTESOL’s TEC magazine has a piece by Dr. Krashen on compelling input which is related to the above blog post.
I have also recently discovered Dr. Krashen’s site which offers a great deal of resources]

Without any further ado/links, here comes Volume I of my “Real-life stories that involve Stephen Krashen series.

(It is always a challenge to describe “you had to be there” type moments but I am feeling particularly brave).

It was the 2011 KOTESOL International Conference and some of us were milling around in a courtyard enjoying the autumn air. It was before the opening plenary, maybe about 10 minutes before.  I knew I’d be missing Stephen Krashen’s  plenary because of some other pre-determined duties. I’d heard it would be online (the plenary itself is linked below) so I wasn’t all that worried. I’d already had my quick brush with Dr. Krashen earlier that morning as I actually literally brushed up against him in the presenters’ registration line. He seemed like a nice and courteous chap as I eavesdropped on his conversations waiting in line.  Anyway, so there I was in the courtyard relaxing, knowing that I didn’t need to race or fight for a chair to see the plenary. I had just introduced two educators/friends assuming  they’d have a lot in common and a lot to talk about. I think my guess was right because they seemed to get along from the start. Meanwhile, I was chatting with another friend. This friend is someone I consider a deep and free thinker and someone not likely to be swayed by expectations or opinions from others.  He has been described (possibly by himself) as a Jewish-looking Mel Gibson, which is neither here nor there.  He is about my age and is working on his PHD dissertation. He is a committed professional who is devoted to professional development.  As we were chatting a colleague of his raced past us. She said, “Aren’t you going to see Dr. Krashen?” in a tone that sounded to me half accusatory and half swooning as though she was talking about seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He answered back in a sort of sing-songey but direct “No” that struck me as hilarious. I could barely keep my laughter in. I had to look away from my friend but I had a huge smile that I couldn’t contain.

(I do realize explaining why something is funny is probably just as bad as describing “you had to be there” moments but I will bravely continue)

Why was this so funny to me? Part of it was the relationship between my friend and his colleague. She is very experienced in the field and had been teaching at a prestigious university for quite a long time. I had met her previously and she struck me as the type of person that can only see one way. Her way. In the moment where my friend said he wasn’t going to see Krashen I imagined that this was something that just wouldn’t compute.  I don’t think she imagined a world where someone would willingly miss out on the chance to hear Dr. Krashen speak. It was just split-second, nothing-really-happened-at-all moment but for me it was huge. Was it an example of a generation gap? A values gap? Some kind of gap? I really don’t know. I also don’t know why my friend chose not to see Krashen. Maybe my friend was just hungry. Maybe he doesn’t like plenaries. Maybe he feels he has read enough from Krashen. Maybe he was meeting someone at that time.

That’s it. Kind of a non-story that still makes me giggle when I think about it.

Interestingly, I met my friend last week and we talked about this story but I didn’t ask him about his choice.
Perhaps I should.

Here is the talk we missed: 

(More on this next time…after I finally watch it. ) 
(Your homework is to watch it too. See you next time.) 

[You can skip to Dr. Krashen @ 3:10 in the video]


  1. eflnotes

    great post mike and u described the moment well indeed, was trying to think of an apt saying regarding personal heros being different for everyone but cant seem to think of one. then i was thinking of who i would be rushing to see at an ELT conference and chatising anyone loitering outside, probably would be Noam Chomsky 🙂


  2. Scott Thornbury

    I could name one or two luminaries I would choose not to see, but I won’t. 😉 The reasons vary, from ‘not déja vu again!’, to ‘if you’re going to read aloud I might just as well stay in bed and read your book’ to ‘I so disagree with you that it’s bad for my blood pressure’.

    • Tyson Seburn (@seburnt)

      I’m familiar with those remarks, particularly the second. I’m not particularly sure if I have a list of those I wouldn’t see (again) per se, but it often comes down to the topic and whether there is something else I’d rather do at the time.

      • mikecorea

        I like your emphasis on choice, Tyson. I think this might be getting to what was so funny about this situation to me. The woman (in my imagination at least) just couldn’t understand how someone could willingly miss Krashen.

    • mikecorea

      I like the blood pressure excuse! 🙂
      You reminded me of a time when I missed another plenary at KOTESOL, and was happy for it when I head that the speaker kept banging on about “backpacker” teachers, as I don’t think that term is particularly helpful (especially when much of the audience is probably recovering backpackers). Oh and the reading aloud…I can’t believe that still happens. I mean, didn’t they ever feel bored to tears when someone else read aloud? Didn’t they ever read about how reading aloud is decidedly not awesome? Strange.

      Thanks for the comments and well-earned laughs.

  3. mikecorea

    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Hopefully the next post will a be a bit “meatier.”
    I like your idea about the different person we would all race in to see (while chastising the loiterers)!

  4. Rachael Roberts

    This post reminded me of one of the very first conferences I went to, years ago, In Buenos Aires. Henry Widdowson was speaking and in the Exhibition Hall, you could queue up to have your photo taken with him! Just plain weird.

    • mikecorea

      Haha, that is v. interesting/funny. Though I suddenly remembered talking quite a few pictures of people with a certain famous ELT person(ality) at the recent KOTESOL conference. It kind of reminds me of sports card shows of comic events or something where the real geeks go to fly their geek flag.

      New Idea: collectible cards of Elt people.
      ok… maybe not.

      • Josette

        Very much enjoying this imagery. I think I see a future project coming along. 🙂 Great/fun post Mike. Can’t wait for the commentary on the video. 😉

      • mikecorea

        I am glad you liked it and glad you “liked” it. I wonder if you can remember that moment? You were an extra (or perhaps supporting actress?) in that scene. 🙂

        As for the fivver project, I can’t say that I am thinking along the same lines. Is there more to say on that?

        Thanks for building the excitement for volume II. I have been thinking about it for ages. I hope I can do it justice.I won’t give any spoilers.

  5. philchappell

    Lovely story – I felt I was there in the courtyard watching! I must admit I’ve done the same (missed a super-ELT star) a couple of times and then recently decided to give the same chappie another chance. Lo and behold, he came out with the same-old same-old again, and even worse, set up some of the major researchers in the field as straw people just to knock them down. Having said that, I’ve seen so many inspiring presentations in our field that I know we’re the lucky ones.

    • mikecorea

      🙂 Thanks for the comments Phil! I am glad you enjoyed the story! As I said on Twitter I think this idea of missing out on big names/plenaries hit home for some people. I guess it is best to see it as a choice (and one that is sometimes rewarded and sometimes not rewarded so much). I remarked to friends this year that I am getting much better at not being disappointed in presentations. They said it is because I know what I am looking for and I think there is something to that.


  6. gotanda

    I missed al the plenaries at JALT last year doing other things. It was very odd being introduced to Jeannette Littlemore and immediately telling her “Sorry, I’m going to leave as soon as you start speaking”, but she was very nice and immediately understood why without needing a big explanation. Someone else attending the conference was far less charitable and scolded me a bit when I said I’d missed Jeanette’s talk. The worst part is, I would have really liked to have seen her talk.

    There is always next time….

    • Scott Thornbury

      The worst is when people say ‘I was going to come to your plenary, but then I remembered I’d seen it on YouTube’. Actually, that’s not the worst. The worst is when they add ‘…and I didn’t like it very much THEN’.

      • mikecorea

        Hahha.. That is pretty bad. I guess thick skin is a prerequisite of giving talks all over the world.
        The youtube era surely makes things different. Speaking of which, I need to get going on finally watching Krashen’s plenary!

    • mikecorea

      Hey Ted,

      Semi-related: If you would like a “pirated” version of Canagarajah’s amazing plenary from JALT, I know a guy.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I think you raised a point about others’ expectations about what we should be doing at conferences. You were obviously very busy and Dr. Littlemore understood how it goes. I don’t think I would have appreciated being scolded for making choices that I had to make. It is all very interesting when people impose their values. Good times. Thanks again for the comments!

      • gotanda

        Maybe “scold” was a little strong, but the other conference attendee seemed to think it was kind of irresponsible of me not to have taken advantage of the chance to see that plenary. Oh well. Can’t worry about it. But if you can hook me up with your supplier, I’d take one Canagarajah, please.

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  9. Rose Bard

    Hi Mike, I thought that sort of thing only occured with POP stars.
    I was never a fan of any sort of uhmmm “celebrity” and could never understand the girls publishing on their bedrooms walls posters of cute faces or buying stuff with their faces on it. Go to a concert just to be closer to them, even worse, no way! So, you know how I feel about celebrity thing. Now an educational setting with this same sort of uhmmm “celebrity”, I find it pretty non-educational. :s As the person may watch the celebrity with their mouth wide-open… you get the picture, right? How can you listen critically to what the other person says if you have such an attitude. That is why I love books, I can skip the ego part of the deal and have all the time of the world to really think about what I am listening to/reading technically. Not refering to Mr. Krashen or anybody in particular as big-headed of course. But as I am so talkative, I can picture myself like Nicola’s friend approaching the big-headed without knowing of course he was actually a jerk and trying to talk to him about something I found really interesting and blah blah blah just to get a cold response, like he really cared. But again, he is a writer, so many people, how could he talk to them all. I get that. Then, again the trouble may be with the those who put them in higher places and godfy them somehow? I really don’t get it.

    I will check out the video when I can. I have wanted to get a bit deeper on his ideas, but never seem to have the time for that.
    Thanks for sharing the story. Interesting point.

  10. Ben Naismith

    Had been meaning to comment for a few days now, especially since just finished watching a number of teflebrities at the IH conference. Have to admit that I would be one of those sheep going to see certain people (including Krashen) just to see the live show or to put a face to a name/book, no matter whether I was particularly interested or not. Saw some great talks on Demand High as well as some others that were pretty cringe-worthy. Once in a lifetime was definitely enough for a few of the speakers…

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for commenting, Ben. It’s always nice to hear from you. One thing I am taking away (from your comments and lots of recent experiences) is that presenting is not necessarily for everyone and that a big name doesn’t always mean much when it comes to presenting. That said, I feel pretty lucky to have seen some great presentations in the last year or so. Look at me, keeping it all positive.

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    • mikecorea

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I was laughing to myself as I was writing it about it being pretty much a non-story but I am very happy you thought it was cool! Thanks for the support!

  13. Ebefl

    Enjoyed this!

    I once saw Krashen. His bio said he was a tae Leon do black belt and can bench press 250lbs. (?_?)

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