A final assessment
The final week of camp has come and gone. With days from the end approaching there was a chance to reflect on the work, the experience, the relationships and the summer. Teachers are fortunate to have these summer months for themselves. I can’t speak for others because quite frankly I don’t know what most do during this time. The truth is I have been working at summer schools since 2009, so no summer break for this cat 😉 It’s been quite a ride and probably the most valuable aspect of it is the people you meet and work with. It’s important because sharing ideas, experiences and lessons in class or in life is so valuable for all of us in any profession. I understand the hesitation in this. When we work a lot the last thing we want to do is talk about work some more, and then a bit more after that. However, there is a means to an end here. No matter people’s experience there’s always something to take and learn from talking about the work we do. You never know what someone has to offer in your profession, there is always insight there.
Camp offers a break from the system everyone likes to criticize and curse. Kids and teenagers have plenty of time for fun, and then, the lessons that compliment that. There are no course books, tests, quizzes and homework assignments. Hard to imagine school not having all that huh? But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we need to use our imagination a little bit more and encourage our students to be more imaginative as well. Just because the system is archaic doesn’t mean we need to stand idle and compliant. Maybe we need to ask ‘What if..’ questions more often. What if there was no homework assigned to students? What if there weren’t so many tests, quizzes and exams? What if….
It’s not hard to imagine if you try. That’s where creativity comes into play. I mentioned it in an earlier post how much more valuable feedback can be when it’s given immediately, in the classroom, rather than a week later from a written assignment. Students have probably already forgotten about that assignment, and just look at the grade before shoving it into another pile somewhere. What if we asked our students to create more, based on knowledge and discovery, rather than answer quiz/exam questions and testing memorization? There are so many innovative tools at our disposal for students to utilize, that can facilitate learning through doing, not just listening to a teacher or reading chapter after chapter in a book. I’m sure you teachers know what I am referring to. It’s not so hard to brainstorm the different ways of getting students to be active learners. Some cynics might argue that the government just wants compliant, obedient students who will then become the same type of workers later on, like a factory, churning out more cogs for the industrial complex, robots of the future. Why do we have to follow the rules?
Breaking the rules
One of my Polish students, a business woman, once said in our lessons: ‘If you try to follow all the rules in this country, it will break you’. I’ve never forgotten it. I know, from living in different countries, that this applies not just in Poland but in most places in the world. We have been raised to follow the rules and do as we are told, so I guess it’s no surprise that we tell others to do the same. It will break you. Yea, I believe that. It’s not hard to imagine, as long as you encourage imagination. When young kids and teenagers pick up their mobile phones their primary goal is to kill time. But technology, if utilized right, can bring out imagination and creativity, not suppress it. We need to stop worrying about the rules so damn much and just be a lot more assertive and do what’s RIGHT. What NEEDS to be done.
The knowledge is out there for everyone to access. The internet has made it possible to get information by voice command. So what do we do? Sit and criticize bad mobile phone habits? Assign fifty pages of a textbook to read? What does that do? Kids don’t know how to utilize electronic devices, but we educators can show them how to be responsible digital citizens. It’s up to us, it’s up to you. Change or die. If you don’t know how, then start learning. No student of mine is going to read a power point slide in a presentation, ever. I am not training robots, I’m guiding humans to a better future. Think for yourself, create, collaborate, network, fail, fail again, get up, try something new, listen, I’ll say that again, LISTEN, be disciplined, be curious, question stuff, imagine.
Working with others
Whenever I had a class to cover this summer I organized a running dictation activity in which students, in pairs, have a partner write what the other partner dictates to them in English. They are working here, and I monitor and help. What I see, is stronger students get frustrated, annoyed, even angry because their partner is not pronouncing words clearly or dictating the sentences slowly. You see what’s happening? These kids may have a lot of Facebook friends but they can barely collaborate in pairs through a dictation exercise. This happens a lot. I have to remind them how important it is to help each other, and listen to each other. It is highly likely that when they are professionals they will be speaking English with someone like their partner, not me. So be patient, be tolerant, work with people don’t compete with them, well, at least not all the time….. be accountable.
Summer is slowly coming to a close, and a new school year beckons just around the corner. When it starts, you’ll hopefully have some new ideas on how to proceed. The learning never ends. Change or die. Imagine that….
I got a lot more to say so this blog isn’t going anywhere. Sorry to disappoint, the rants are here to stay. If you enjoy them, sing up for the newsletter or share with someone you know.