Having a hard time dealing with unruled, unmotivated or low self-steem kids has more to do with our inability to understand and attend their needs than them not fitting in the ideal language learner image that we often as teachers, parents and local community make of them. Thus, It is often easy for us (teachers) to blame the kids/teens than looking for ways to engage them by modifying the approach, changing our teaching behavior, making small changes as John F. Fanselow would nudge us to do is what often comes to my mind after class during post-reflecting on lessons. At first though, It seems like a demmanding job. But it will always come down to the simple fact that all students are there to learn and whatever happens in the classroom, we are the ones orchestrating the beautiful melody that comes out of it. Foremost everyone has the right to learn and become a global citizen. So, it is up to us to make choices when comes to providing learning opportunities in the classroom, but I also found important to share power by involving them in the process of reflection, discuss responsability and make sure that they understood that my main motivation is not to get my job done, but ensure that everyone of them learned English in their own way, respecting their own time, and that I was learning with and from them all the time as a teacher. Another point I think is important for them to understand is that learning means progressing, that means, we enter the classroom in one way, and make the decision to leave it every class knowing and doing more than we did before.
I realized also that it all comes down to our assumptions of how people learn. We incorporate modern teaching speeches, but we still believe that learning depends on the learner alone. Looking at the students performance and forecasting the difficulties they will have to learn the language without considering that they are looking up to us to help them overcoming them and above all, they should be seen not just as students, but as potential language learners. They know Portuguese, don’t they?
Dr. Feuerstein theory of mediating learning has impacted me in so many ways and before that while studying Didatics in university I found myself in the shoes of those teachers that want students to perform in the XXI century, but still saw it as something that will happen independent of me. Shame on me! Took me few years of studying and accepting my own need to develop to finally understand and see all of them as talented in their own ways and able to learn and develop always. My common sense blinded me to really understand who the kids I meet really are. Knowing why he/she is acting/feeling that way, the needs is part of the challenging of knowing what to change in my teaching behavior.
Autonomy, metalanguage, learn to learn is all part of my vocabulary and practice, but I also realized that I am the one there to formally ensure that students become learners in the long run and realize themselves WHO they are (potential learners) and how THEY learn ( What works and don’t work for them and why), and what tools are out there that can enhance their learning.
It is also my job to encourage them and help them notice the progress they are making every day. I see this issue as if the image that they make of themselves as a reflection of what we (means not only the teacher, but all people involved – the peers, the family, the local culture) think of them.
MY students fit in the above category – unruled, unmotivated and has low self-steem. It is a quite a challenge changing this picture, but I believe it is also a rewarding one when it happens.
We don’t teach only the ones that come ready to learn English, we ought to teach all that are there to learn, whether they seem interested, motivated, afraid or not. I love comparing the classroom to an orchestra and myself as the conductor because everyone there has a different talent, play with a different instrument and different roles in the group. Bringing out the best from each one of them in the classroom and orchestrate is not easy task and needs essentially first of all for the educator to believe that it is possible.