Change is a process. Change is the hardest thing we can choose to do. That’s cause people don’t like change. They like what’s comfortable and familiar, if you force them to change then they will resist and maybe even protest. But it is necessary, we must evolve or die, adapt to the changing times. Just remind yourself that it is a process! It doesn’t happen overnight, instantaneously without warning, no! We introduce it in small steps, little by little, and then as we progress we find that change has taken place. Little by little, because as we get older, we are even more set in our ways, even more stubborn, and it’s even harder to change. Little by little. Step by step. One activity at a time.
Education needs changing. The system, the approach, the culture, the attitude. All are connected, and if you start with small steps you inevitably change the system, little by little. How can we change the culture and attitude in education? We have to lead by example. Teachers must lead by example. I am amazed at what my younger students know these days. These thirteen-year-olds know a lot more than I did when I was their age. They have the internet to provide them with all the knowledge you could seek. When I was a kid I just went out and played sports and didn’t have access to such an abundance of information. It means that the rules have changed. Because even if we are 20 years older than our students, there is a very strong possibility that they will have knowledge on topics that will surprise us teachers. So, just like our students are required to learn and study, so should we teachers. Learning doesn’t end when school ends. We are lifelong learners and we must continue to learn all the time. Learning for us teachers means seeking new approaches and methods to teaching as well as understanding our students. It means building relationships so we can learn from others. Most importantly though, we learn from trying new things. Even if we fail, we have learned what works and what doesn’t or what adjustments we need to make the next time we try. Nobody is perfect and nobody gets to be great without practice. By exploring new ideas, approaches, techniques and methods we learn what our students prefer, how to be better teachers and gain important experiences in the process.
Share what you know
Experiences, that’s what young people lack. They have the knowledge but not the experience. It’s the experience that teaches us the most valuable lessons of all. As adults that’s what we have that is crucial to students. Our experiences. We must share the lessons of our experience, or use it as a basis for what we teach. I know that sounds abstract so here is an example. When I meet a class for the first time, and give them a speaking activity I demonstrate to them how I want it done. I emphasize that they should try and use full sentence answers, to make eye contact, and show interest in their partner by asking questions. Most students forget that a huge part of language is our body language. If they can’t make eye contact and ask questions to get more information and hold a conversation, how are they going to be able to do it in real life when they meet someone new? English lessons are not only about present simple and the third conditional, it’s also about your behavior, reacting to what is said appropriately and if students don’t feel comfortable doing that, then they need to become uncomfortable. I tell them that. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, but only at first. Little by little, it gets easier, and after twenty tries or fifty or whatever, it’s not difficult anymore. Learning a language is not memorizing, or doing exercises, learning a language is communicating. Period. I know, from experience. You need to be able to communicate effectively, not just with words, but with body language and confidence.
Teachers need to make students responsible for their learning. Get them working. I see teachers come out of classes absolutely exhausted, I used to be one of them myself. But if the teacher is putting in so much effort, then students are probably not putting much in. As teachers, we need to give students the tools to take responsibility for their learning and only then do we see the miraculous results.
That’s change, that’s effort. That’s progress, little by little. It’s our experience being adults in the real world and passing it on to our students that makes a difference. You probably thought I’d go on an innovation rampage huh? Not necessary, just change the approach. Remember, experiences, are who we are. It’s what makes you, you! People want to know what you are like, so show them, tell them.