Global Citizenship: Everyone has the right to fly

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.

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9 thoughts on “Global Citizenship: Everyone has the right to fly

  1. I love this post, Rose! There are so many great sentiments in it. I particularly like that you “see all of them as talented in their own ways and able to learn and develop always.”

    Lucky students to find themselves in your class!

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    • Thanks Carol for stopping by and reading.

      I feel blessed for having my eyes been opened to them. I don’t feel it is an easy task to understand and atend to everyone’s needs, and it is also true, I will not be 100% successful because there are other things that counts, but I will always do my best to do so. That is all I can do really, keep learning myself and being open to them.

      There was this 13-year-old kid last year that he hardly ever spoken in class, never seemed excited with group work or games, or ever smiled spontaneously. He lives on a small farm. His mom came to see me couple of times last year and at the end of the term she asked me if it was worth investing on him. I told her it is always worth, and I asked her what he was like at home. I was especially curious to find out if he smiled at home for example and what kinds of things he liked doing. Well, his favorite thing was to run around the field freely. So, you can imagine how hard was for him to sit in a closed space. She decided then that was not worth forcing him to take the English course. He was also having trouble at regular school. 😦 Poor kid. I am sorry I could not do more for him. I wish I had noticed it somehow. I wish I could have done something that felt close to what he liked. I did ask questions during lessons, but he never shared anything about him, only did the controled practice. Because of this experience, last Tuesday I took my teens to open space to work on and I plan to do more things outdoor.

      🙂

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  2. I REALLY love this post Rose and you touch on a lot of points that I’ve become familiar with over the past 2 years. One of my biggest challenges I’ve had here has been trying to encourage and show students that just because they did ‘badly’ on the test they still have the ability to learn English. I used to assume these students weren’t motivated but actually they just didn’t have any confidence in themselves. Seeing these students improve just a little and get involved in my classes has been the most rewarding part of my job.
    I agree with Carol – lucky students!
    Gemma,

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  4. Hi Rose,

    A wonderful, heartfelt post. I love the idea that what we do is provide learning opportunities and that we need to be thinking about what kinds of opportunities will allow our individual students to achieve in the classroom. I used to think this was an impossible requirement. How could I make dozens of different learning opportunities in each class? I haven’t exactly gotten good at it, but I’m trying to do it more often. And your post, specially the idea of heading out of the classroom, has me excited to push it a bit further next year.

    Thanks,

    Kevin

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    • Kevin thank you so much for your comment. 🙂

      You care so much about your students Kevin that I am sure you will keep growing just as I am too. The more we care, more we learn on how to help them achieve their goals.

      Providing learning opportunities for me means that they will learn something and always, not just exactly what we want them to all the time. And that seems one of the biggest mistake of education in my country – to assume we can actually control what students learn just by providing them with exposure to it. There is no garantee that they will learn exactly as we want all the time, but they will surely learn something, and maybe not always language related. We were trained to believe that learning goals are so tangible, but they are not. It takes a great deal of time and manipulation of language to learn language points we plan, right? What about the other things they keep developing and learning?

      This post is more of a rant about those teachers who want the ideal student that seems to learn what they want to teach every class and have good grades at the end of the term. And what about the rest of the class?

      Keep up the great work Kevin. You inspire me so much. 🙂

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    • Thanks Servus Clementis for reading the article and watching the video. It is very inspiring and urge us to really look at our children as potential learners. I don’t get tired of watching it.

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