I’ve been incorporating students ideas into my practice, experimenting and testing their ideas and my own since 2011. Ever since I decided to do so, teaching has been a roller coaster experience. Despite other blogger(s) might think, bloggers like me do not only share success stories. If you take a closer look at each post, you will spot a desire to get it right, attempts, trial and error approach.The only difference is that I don’t do that alone. I take students onboard. The journal is a journey of much of the struggles as they are about things that have worked out as everytime we are experimenting, we are actually trying to solve a problem too. Maybe I don’t feel them as fail because I understand that it’s part of the process of adjusting learners’ needs, interests and wants to my own teaching goals.
Many teachers find working with teens extremely stressful, and it can be if much of we do is to make them conform to our ways of thinking and doing. Although by now I’ve learned my lesson and I’m fortunate enough to work in a place where I have created the space for my own autonomy, I still struggle to get along with some teens. So, in spite of my efforts to work in ways that are motivating for them, they still find it hard to work differently from what they are used to. They are used to the system that is based on rote learning and it’s kind of shocking for them to learn that they are expected to have an active role.
Participating in this class is very different from our normal classes. Don’t come to this class thinking that you will only see the teacher writing on the board and talking about time tenses. In this class, you will participate in games, projects and it will be very dinamic. But don’t worry. At the end of the year, you will see that you have learned much more than if you had spent your year just attending boring classes.
The quote above is from a student who were engaged from the beginning, he knew how to make the most of our classes. He never struggled and used every opportunity for his own benefit. This is the perfect student that every teacher loves! I’m thankful for his words but still I wasn’t expecting such positive notes which reflect so well what I was trying to achieve all year around.
So since 2011.. every year I collect feedback and at the end of the year I ask students to evaluate what is good to keep in the program for the following year and what I am supposed to let go and we discuss why. Then, in the following year, I tell the new students that the program was shaped by the previous year students. This is usually very motivating as most teens perceive that as their opinion counts. But not everyone buy it from the beginning and it becomes a long journey. This year, I decided to ask students to write direct messages to next year students which will be reproduced for every student at the beginning of next term.
But, I did not see this particular message coming. Although I didn’t have much expectation from this request, I thought it could be a great way to start next year. So, I asked them. And the student I argued with the most during the year, dropped out of the course and came back wrote this:
One thing I can tell you is that you should make the most of your English class in the 9th grade, because we work a lot on vocabulary and in different ways through comic books that have funny stories, and also zombie stories. Well, it’s really cool. It’s also cool because we have the support of memrise and it helps a lot. You can practice with what was worked on in class and it helps reinforce your comprehension!
I can say that when I got here I was a sort of dumb, let’s put that way, and I’m leaving this class knowing a lot thanks to the teacher because she made me see that things weren’t the way I thought it had to be. She changed my way of thinking and helped me understand English better.
We had our fights, but I’m really grateful to her. And my message to you is don’t give up. Believe in yourself because you are capable of doing anything. All you need is to believe and have a will.
Can you imagine what happened as soon as the students left and I had a chance to read his message? Yes, I cried. I cried of joy because despite all the anger, confusion and frustration he showed toward me, at the end WE, me and him, won the fight. WE both changed a bit more. I learn with them, as much as I hope they can learn with me.