What do you do when your students don’t seem to learn? Why do we take it so personally? Asks some great questions about who is responsible for learning in the classroom. It’s a wonderfully honest look at that awful question that we often ask ourselves when we see a student or group struggle – or perhaps look like they are not even moving on their journey to learn English. That question: “Is it my fault that they’re not learning?” And almost immediately we follow up with: “What am I doing wrong, and what can I possibly do differently if I’m doing everything I know how to do with all my energy?”
I like Cecilia’s identification of the stakeholders in this problem: The teacher, and the Student. Who is responsible for learning? And who is responsible when the learning doesn’t seem to be taking place?
When you’re sure you – the teacher – are doing everything possible to teach effectively for your students (shaping your message to be understood by YOUR students, by making sure your style matches what students are open to, by presenting just enough and not too much at a time, but not moving forward until everyone has caught up to you…what am I missing here? ) I think the focus shifts over to your students.
I don’t think teachers can make students learn. Students are responsible for that. Teachers are there to present new/complex subjects in ways that remove confusion. Students need to take it on board – similar to that old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. Isn’t it like that in education? Teachers help make the path to the subject material clear and easy to get to, but if the students don’t want to drink it, or if they’re interested in something different at the moment, there’s no way you (teacher) can force it in. It just doesn’t happen.
What do you think?
I wonder if what is happening is sort of a ‘tipping point‘ sort of experience. Sometimes it’s easy for both teacher and student to see progress. (Usually at the beginner level.) But as you move up, language development seems to slow down. The learning curve, once steep and climbing upward, seems to flatline. I wonder if this is what has been happening in Cecilia’s case?
I wonder if it’s just a matter of building, day by day, on the small little English experiences your class provides for your students. Those experiences are not being wasted. They’re building up. Sooner or later, they’ll tip – and that learning curve that was once in a flat line, will bump up again. Perhaps only a notch, and then maybe it will flatten out again for a time. Or perhaps the tipping point will spark a rush of forward motion. My point: maybe it’s about patience. I know in my own journey to learn Spanish, I hit a major flat line experience about 4 or 5 years into my time living in Mexico. I couldn’t seem to make any more progress, no matter how hard I tried. But little by little, that learning curve was going up – I just didn’t notice it.
If Cambridge University’s take on how long it takes to learn English is anywhere close to being true, and I feel that it is, perhaps you’re just stuck somewhere in the middle of one of those 300 hour blocks of time?
We all have experiences like Cecilia’s. What have you done to make it through? How have you helped your students? I know you have stories you can share – so hit that comment button! I’d love to hear from you!
(Photo by Untitled blue)