Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Great Student

by AJ

Teachers must change. That's the theme of many of my posts... and its absolutely true. But there is a flip side to that: Students must change too. Forget being a passive student. Forget doing what you are told, taking the exams, worrying about grades. Those things won't help much after graduation.

No... we need a new breed of student to match a new breed of teacher. In my BAS class, I have the perfect example... a great student who is taking charge of his education. His name is Hiroshi... a student from Japan studying at Thammasat.

In class and in recent emails, Hiroshi let me know that my vocabulary notebook assignment was worse than useless to him. For him, it is a waste of time. Hiroshi is also disgusted with the traditional lecture-memorize-examination system at Thammasat. He's posted some fantastic essays on these topics on his blog. Want to get a hint regarding how student's view you and your class? Read his blog!

But Hiroshi does more than voice direct and constructive criticism. He creates his own plan. He emailed me today, for example, and told me he would not be doing the vocabulary notebook assignment. Instead, he's decided to write two, three, four, or more long blog posts every week. He's also decided to read lots of books on topics HE is interested in... and then write reviews/papers/posts about them.

He wrote to me, "From my own experiences, I realize that writing a paper is in the long run still more beneficial to me than exams and vocabulary note I dislike, for my approach to life is start with the whole."

Absolutely fantastic! I shouted when I read his email... "YES!!"

This student is designing his own learning experience. In doing so, he will, in fact, be working harder than most of the other students. He will be reading far more than most, and will be writing FAR more than most. Because he will be reading and writing about things HE is passionate about, he will also acquire much more language and enjoy the process more.

Amazing and EXACTLY what I would like to get all of my students to do.

But here's the sad part. Imagine for a moment what reaction Hiroshi would get from most (traditional, boring, asinine) teachers if he emailed them and said, "I don't like your assignment so Im not going to do it... Im going to do this, this, and this instead".

Would most teachers welcome his initiative? Would they be excited by his enthusiasm? Would they encourage him and egg him on? Would they see this as a fantastic display of passion and interest and learning potential?

I doubt it. Most would have their petty little egos bruised. Many, I'm sure, would react with anger. Most would shoot him down with the favorite phrase of all bureaucrats... in all countries around the world, "You can't do that!"

How I despise that phrase.

But here's the most important point. Five, ten years from now... who is going to be more successful (define that however you like)... a student like Hiroshi, who takes initiative and gets things done on his own; or an obedient, passive, uncreative, straight A student?

The answer is obvious to me.