Mmmm…this one is gonna get me in trouble, again…ain’t it?
But, not sure with whom…this time!
Recently, I’ve been thunking a lot about “successful language LEARNing” – you might have seen a couple of the recent posts I have been doing… “bouts of bloggery” that I have been trying to squeeze in between my bouts of “ferry-hopping” with my big, little girl (and her mummy) here in big, bad Istanbul!
Yes, I am a “rovving blogger” for a couple of weeks!
When ELL professionals think about these things – “SUCCESSful LEARNers” that is - we tend to turn to the “experts” – experts like Jack Richards:
…BTW, this is a “video-based” post (sorry, should have said this before)!
So, bookmark it - if you do not have around 35 minutes to check out all the lovely videos I’m planning to use…and “share” in this post.
I love Jack…I do! He LEARNed me so much when I was a young(er) TEACHer… despite his matching “shirts n’ glasses” (Sorry, Jack…read that first sentence again)!
If you listen (and watch) very carefully…he says a lot of very smart things. Smart things he LEARNed from one of his students. A lot of smart things that (even more) smart TEACHers “know“…but sadly do not always “apply” to their classroom TEACHing.
Watch the video again…go on (it’s not that long)! Ask yourself:
How many of the things that Jack’s student “does”…do you “effectively” (that’s a key word here) build into the classroom LEARNing opportunities YOU develop for YOUR own LEARNers?
…and, I do not mean what you simply “tell” your students is “a good idea”!
Essentially, what is at the heart of Jack’s “advice” is the BIG idea in Lauren B. Resnick’s seminal article “From Aptitude to Effort: A New Foundation for Our Schools” - or her “Third Possibility“:
“…that EFFORT actually creates ABILITY, that people can become smart by working hard at the right kinds of LEARNing tasks – has never been taken seriously in America or indeed in any European society, although it is the guiding assumption of EDUcation institutions in societies with a Confucian tradition.”
(Resnick, L. “From Aptitude to Effort: A New Foundation for Our Schools.” Daedalus, Fall 1995, 124(4), 55-62).
As Lauren pointed out (almost 20 years ago – WTH will we ever LEARN to listen to folk?) - the “secret” to LEARNing (LEARNing languages even) is really all about the “EFFORT”.
…not a TEACHer’s effort…the LEARNer’s (own) EFFORT!
OK, and to be fair, Lauren does tell us that “expert instruction” (along with clear expectations; fair evaluation; payoffs for success; the time needed to meet LEARNing expectations) and “the right kinds of LEARNing tasks” - are all very important!
The thing is…me (still) thunks…we TEACHers so rarely ask LEARNers what the “right kind” of LEARNing tasks are!
And, while the voices of experts, like Jack and Lauren may be good for TEACHer LEARNing – we really need to ask why it is that so little seems to “change” in the way we TEACHers (and our institutions) “do” the “business” of LEARNing.
I have said before:
…it still is!
Maybe, and this is just a shot in the dark here, we need different ways to promote both TEACHer and LEARNer LEARNing – and maybe “expert” instruction from “experts”…is not the way…for LEARNers!
For example, take a look at this little video:
Wouldn’t you just LOVE to have 20-25 “clones” of Alex in every class?
Maybe not! We already have enough TEACHers on poor salaries, 11-month contracts…and no benefits!
And, if you have a bit of time on your hands, this one, too:
Yeah, I get suspicious of these “promo-type” videos, too!
BUT, there’s a lot of food-for-thought in there…a LOT of food-for-thunking!
I’m guessing…students might “feel” more…about these types of “materials” – the “trick” is for classroom EDUcators to turn them into “REAL LEARNing tasks”!
I’ll be honest (when am I ever NOT?), as an EDUcator…some of these things still scare the beejeebers out of me!
You mean I have to forget all “my” years of “TEACHing experience”?
Wot? I have to discard all those “masters” courses I took (and am still paying for)?
You mean I have to re-thunk my “perspective” on TEACHing?
OK – maybe NOT totally!
…but, considering our “success” levels (not just in Turkey…around the globe) – guys, we have to “do” something “different”. And, more importantly, we have to help our LEARNers “detox” and “head into the LIGHT” (no, not “that” light – the light of “REAL LEARNing”)!
We just have to LISTEN more!
Last week, I was introduced to a young Turkish guy – named Alpay. He was a student a few years back – studying American Culture and Literature. He got so frustrated that his “high school” and “prep school” experiences were just not doing it for him…he could not “speak”…and his TEACHers…were just not helping him…at all!
He couldn’t (like Alex) travel around the globe with his parents. He did not have a great deal of spare cash (he also had to do a 2-hr commute to school everyday – and another 2 hrs back)…but he came up with his own “solution”.
He managed to scrape together enough dosh to get himself a second-hand iPod…not an iPad…not an iPhone…an iPod! He began downloading…music, TV shows, movies…and “dedicated” his 4-hrs on the bus to watching and listening to his “collection”!
The results “spoke” for themselves…when he chatted with me and my friends.
I was impressed! VERY impressed!
His “efforts“… his “wants” and “needs” were met through an iPod…and a bit ‘o time on an Istanbul bus – not a classroom!
OK – I can hear some of you mumbling (under your breath): “He’s special, Tony – don’t be so naive”!
Every LEARNer is “special”!
This morning…I showed all these videos (and the rough draft of this post) to my big, little girl…she is a student and is getting ready to graduate this year.
I trust her “thunks” in matters of allthingslearning…like most students (as opposed to her TEACHers) …she is the only one that truly “knows” about “her LEARNing”.
I asked her to “rank” the videos in terms of the “impact” they might have on Language LEARNers. You know what she said first?
I want to “meet” this Alpay guy…I want to “talk” to him!
LEARNers do NOT LEARN because they “STUDY” a lot…
…they LEARN because they “WANT” to!
The (classroom) TEACHer’s “job” (then) is…to “co-create” a classroom environment that places this at the very forefront of LEARNers‘ minds…and not by (simply) “telling” them that “study” and “hard work” will always “win out“…
…or coming up with “systems” that “force” them to do what they do NOT “want” to do!
There…I said it!
Students are sick to death (they are, you know…just ask a few of them) of TEACHers “preaching at” them (from the “pulpit” at the front of the classroom) about the virtue of “study”.
“Tell me. I may not get it, I’m sure to forget it.
Show me. I may get it, I’ll remember it for a little while.
Have me do it. I’ll understand it, it may stick for awhile.”
I found this “upgraded” version of that old Confucian chestnut this morning (Thx Mohan) – my big, little girl wanted to qualify this a wee bit:
Let me “TALK” to someone that “knows”!
Could we, as TEACHers, “do” something “more” with these thunks – a New Year’s resolution or three, perhaps?