Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Power of We

by AJ

Typical classroom: Teacher is the boss (me) and students are the subjects/employees (them). Teacher decides curriculum/lessons... students follow. Teacher grades students, students kiss ass to get a good grade.

However friendly such a class may seem, there is always an I/them division. This, to my mind, is one of the greatest evils of traditional education.... and one of its greatest weaknesses.

Nice progressive teachers readily recognize the toll to students who are in such a system. But what we rarely talk about is the toll this system takes on teachers. The command & control arrangement is incredibly inefficient. A teacher in such a system has to work a lot harder for much smaller results. Such teachers often bemoan their students lack of enthusiasm. They feel they must push, cajole, coerce, bribe, or trick students into making the least bit of effort. They must also generate every lesson themselves.... toiling in isolation.

No wonder such teachers rely on textbooks. Textbooks are time savers. The first hour of my class is a no-brainer for me... "turn to page 102, exercise 3"... and so on.

When you break down the me/them barrier, something amazing happens.... your job actually becomes easier. The more you collaborate, the more you cooperate, the more you work together as a team... the less you must do alone. Suddenly, students are helping to create the curriculum... and feedback processes... and learning goals. Students start bringing materials.

It starts slowly, but eventually momentum builds. Working with them, winning them over one at a time... you create incredible synergy. Teaching becomes MORE effective AND effortless.

The power of "winning students over" struck me today. During our lunch break, I wandered into class to grab something. A few students were having a discussion. But not an ordinary one. Rather, one of the students was earnestly trying to sell another on the benefits of "our" effortless approach. He outlined the benefits of the approach... he discussed the ways it was helping him improve. He was enthusiastically encouraging the student to participate... to give the approach a try.. to commit to it.

I realized at that moment... this was no longer "my" class, and the methods we were using were no longer "my" methods. Through numerous and lengthy process discussions, we had fashioned an approach together. We'd developed and agreed to a daily regiment.

Because of that, it was no longer my sole responsibility to see it through. The more enthusiastic students are taking ownership. They feel just as committed to success-- not only their own.. but everyone's.

In the past, I expended great effort to encourage a struggling student. Today, I walked out of the room.. and let her peers help her.

San Francisco, CA