19 December 2006


The Truth about Learning

I've started to get annoyed with one of my classes recently, and the worst part is that it used to be my favorite class! My advanced class has always been the high-light of my Monday, Wednesday, Fridays because they can actually communicate their ideas in English and they seem really eager to learn. I've noticed, however, that they've begun to complain like Kindergartners about every little thing we do in class and how they don't like it because they're not familiar with it. For example, I've been doing this listening exercise where I give them the lyrics to a song with some of the words left out and they have to listen to the music and fill in the missing words. It's been a real challenge to find music that is class-appropriate and understandable, but I think I've done a pretty good job. The students, however, just want to hear music that they already know and like, and don't want to hear anything else. I keep getting requests for crap like Avril Lavigne and the Backstreet Boys...and I can tell you that there's no way I'm gonna sit there and listen to songs by these "artists" 4 times while the class tries to figure out the lyrics! I've given them more recent songs, like stuff by John Mayer and Boyz II Men, and oldies, like Cat Stevens and Eric Clapton, but they still just want Avril and the Backstreet Boys. More accurately, they want music from this CD called "Ballads Forever," which is a compilation of crappy, melodic love songs in English. Of course, they know all the lyrics to every song on that CD already and have even sun some of the songs in class, but they still want this as their listening exercise! The point of the exercise, obviously, is to strengthen their listening comprehension skills; if they already know the lyrics, they're not going to be listening, just regurgitating! I've been giving them 2 songs a day, one that is slower and clearer for a warmup, and another that is faster and usually a bit harder to understand. I had one student, who is an English teacher, complain during the first song that it was too easy and that he got all the lyrics on the first listen. During the second one, however, he complained that it was too hard and that he didn't know the song and couldn't understand. First, I accused him of being Goldilocks and then I told him that if he listened instead of complaining during the song, it might be easier. Ok, I wasn't THAT mean, but I sure wanted to be!!

I've also realized that many of the students will say yes yes to what I say and as soon as I turn away they'll ask their classmates, "que dijo?" (What did she say?) It really pisses me off that they don't ask me to repeat or to explain again. Also, nobody asks questions and instead they just gets things wrong or confuse things. I have 5 out of 31 students who actually ask questions and they're the ones who can speak the best. These guys actually want to learn, while the others just want to feel good about themselves by acting like they know everything. I really feel that many of them are in the class simply to reassure themselves that their English is already good, so when I challenge this idea by giving them something they aren't familiar with, they automatically reject it. Of course, it could just be that I'm a shitty teacher, but I have to say that the progress many of them are making, despite disliking my activities, is tremendous! Some of them can really speak now and they joke around in class in English. I'm really proud of them. But I wish they'd quit complaining!!

I'm REALLY ready for winter break...

Hey Mel-
I have many of the exact same problems in my classes. And I completely understand your frustration. I don't have any super ideas for you to make it better, but I wanted to let you know that their actions are not uncommon....
I wrote the last one- Em
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