The first term has flown. During the last four months I have enjoyed writing a few posts on my library blog (about book recommendations, one collaborative project), and an article for the school online magazine.
At the end of September I observed an experimental (bilingual) class dedicated to Shakespeare’s 400 year anniversary. The experimental class (Hamlet – the characters) was prepared by my two colleagues: Jelena J.M., an English language teacher, and Ksenija D., a Serbian language teacher. The main aim of the class was to make this difficult topic easier and more interesting for the 4th year students by creating a correlation between the two subjects. The class was enjoyable, the speaking activities and video clips were perfectly chosen, and the students were engaged and interested. I shared my impressions about the class later with my colleagues, and I told them I was going to write a post about that on the library blog.
The library blog posts and my school e-magazine article ‘All the world’s a stage and all the people in it merely players” (on some phrases coined by the Bard), were aimed at encouraging our students to use the Internet for learning on their own, and to motivate our teachers to collaborate and share their good practice, thoughts and ideas.
Our school library is bright and almost always packed with students reading books and magazines, tapping away at the computers, chatting, playing chess… I am really happy to have met Anne Hendler (my PLN friend) in October – she was my guest at the library. You can see Anne in the first picture above. Anne blogs at livinglearning and is @ on Twitter
The beauty of the job of a teacher-librarian is that it is never boring. You have some stimulating (or semi-stimulating) conversations with your colleagues, students, school managers, and parents each day. By listening carefully you gain insights into the teaching/learning process at school, and so you have an overview, a bigger picture of the school life and learning.
Here are some issues I have been pondering lately. I hope my thoughts and suggestions are useful:
1. Teachers are compelled by the school managers and curriculum to devote most of their time to testing and grading students (i.e. preparing formal lesson plans and tests, and doing some unnecessarily bureaucratic work). Students cram for tests in order to get the highest mark and then they forget all they have memorized soon after the test. The tests have a considerable backwash effect on the lessons and made them insufferably boring.
Teachers deserve a better teacher training
Teachers must advocate better teacher training. Most teachers lack knowledge and skill in reflecting on teaching/learning, candid lesson planning, providing monitoring and feedback on their students’ understanding, formal and informal assessment, classroom observation, etc.
“Excellent teachers display a deep representation of pedagogical subject knowledge [the ability to present key concepts to suit the prior learning and ability of the target students]. This is much more than straightforward academic subject knowledge; academic subject knowledge is certainly essential but it does not distinguish expert teachers.” [For more information please read: What makes an excellent teacher by Geoff Jordan on CriticELT]
Geoff writes in his article The lose-lose folly of coursebook consumption about the detrimental effects that using coursebooks in ELT has on both teachers and learners:
“Coursebooks pervade the ELT industry and stunt the growth of innovation and teacher training. The publishing companies that produce coursebooks also produce exams, teacher training courses and everything else connected to ELT…”
Students must be proficient users of the Internet
2. We often assume that because young people are fluent in social media, they are equally savvy about the news and information they encounter online. In my experience, the students are not skilled in finding relevant information online; they are not discerning in evaluating digital content; they do not recognise acceptable and unacceptable behaviour; they struggle to separate fact from fiction online (they don’t know when news is fake).
The skills like digital and media literacy have to be taught at schools as an element of a broad, challenging and comprehensive computing curriculum (and not as a vague part of the 21st-century skills*). It is very important for students to be able to understand ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely. Students also have to be able to judge whether or not a publication or an internet site is trustworthy. They have to know whether a scholarly article is regularly cited.
Some useful links to help you judge information:
*“21st-century skills” (any digital learning or use of technology, thinking critically, solving problems, communicating and collaborating effectively) has become a buzz term in ELT today.
I have really enjoyed a series of Mike Griffin’s blog posts on “21st-century skills” buzz entitled ‘Please teach them English‘. The form of the post is very inventive – it was written as a series of emails and diary entries. The post was prompted by an initial post written by Mike (as a series of emails written by an imaginary language school manager) and then continued with the help of a few guest writers (an imaginary English language teacher and two students with different views). Michael Griffin’s blog is another ELT blog I highly recommend because of Mike’s always interesting, fun and thought provoking posts.
Reading makes you smarter
3. According to the library statistics (the number of students at the library and the number of books borrowed per year) I could write in my annual library reports that our students love reading books. Statistics, as you know, can be very misleading. Our students borrow the books that are on the (Serbian language & literature syllabus) reading list because they are more likely to get a higher mark if they bring the books to class. They generally do not read them, they mostly read the book forewords or reviews before literature classes.
Teachers forget that it is not the pace that makes the classes great. Students should have more time to read, think and dream.. One of the most important goals of the literature classes must be to motivate students to read for pleasure.
Here are some useful ideas: get your students to do tasks/projects: e.g. recommending the books they have just read/enjoyed reading, making quizes about the books and writers, writing a reading diary, creating the reading lists for each school year (with the teacher and school librarian). The Perfect Classroom Gift: A Gift of Words by Jane Hancock is a lovely idea I tried with the students and we had a lot of fun. My gift of words for you – a quote by Emma Goldman:
Thanks for reading my blog 🙂
HAPPY NEW YEAR