Image courtesy of davidd
When I was in grade eleven, I took a foods class as an elective. Most students took a language elective, but due to a long story involving a move from one part of Canada to another and a teacher who really hated me (I need to tell this story in more detail some time), I ended up dropping French in grade nine. So, here I was one of the only guys in a class of about 20 girls taking cooking and nutrition. Needless to say, it was a great choice. I actually learned a lot from that class including a pretty solid understanding of nutrition and diet. At that time, the Rotation Diet and Scarsdale diet were in vogue as a way of losing weight and we took the time to talk about fad diets and the dangers behind them. What my teacher stressed was that there was no magic bullet to losing weight and staying healthy. Eating balanced meals and exercising regularly were probably the best thing you could do to being and staying healthy.
No, I am not changing professions to become a food economics teacher, but what I do what to address is the need to find that ‘lighting in a jar’ form of teaching that will make learning so much better for your students and so much easier for the instructor. Throughout the years, methods and approaches have come and gone with varied success, but what sustains learning is something altogether different. I feel like we put the focus on the wrong thing when we seek out that new and exciting way of teaching. Don’t get me wrong, I am one of the biggest advocates for staying fresh in the classroom, but it doesn’t have to overtake you like an obsession. There is merit in things like flipping or gamification (a blog post yet to come), but when we focus too much on the methodology, we lose the personal, individualized needs of each student. Just like the diets, if we only eat one type of food to the exclusion of others, there is no balance. Also, the ability to keep that lifestyle going is greatly diminished instead of finding a sustainable solution.
So it is in the classroom. Listening to the students instead of imposing things on them is critical. Not all students feel prepared to share their feelings about how things are going for them, mostly due to the sense of a power difference. What about the student who doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea of using competition as a teaching tool? I am the type of person who would do better with a fitness instructor pushing me to go harder and longer, while others hate that and, as a result, avoid fitness centres that revolve around that idea. That’s okay if you have another place to go to, but most of our students don’t have that luxury. As a result, we need to be willing to adapt to their needs. Applying something like game theory to everything in the classroom can be counter productive. So is requiring students to always do their learning at home and then practice at school.
Balance. That is what we are looking for and that can’t be found in one method or system or fad approach to language learning. Each class needs to be different. You are different. Your students are different. Stop making your class into an infomercial for the latest and greatest way to learn, because I’m not buying.