Thursday, 17 September 2009

More on the Scary Subject of Letting Go

Rain drop

In my last post I wondered what would happen if we, the teachers, just "let go" from time to time and, instead of trying to control our students, we just observed them. Something like that.

I was merely trying to be clever, you see. However, some people took me seriously, as you can see in the comments area. Thank you, Nina and Dennis, for very constructive comments and for making me think. I even promised I would try letting go in class from time to time.

Then I remembered that it had already happened in one of my classes. Before I go on, notice the word "happened". You will see that it is very appropriate.

It was quite a while ago. I was teaching a group of upper-intermediate students (adults) and they were really nice and cooperative. One girl worked in the German Embassy and she said she often played Taboo with her colleagues. She thought Taboo would be a great game to play in class. I agreed and promised to do someting about it. To my surprise, she brought the game to our next class. It was the original game, not one of those activities we, the teachers, create when we want to recycle vocabulary. And it had originally been in German, so she had single-handedly translated all the cards.

She literally took over from the beginning of the class. She took my place and I suggested I should be one of the students that day. She divided us into groups, explained the rules, timed us... When it was my turn to explain a word, I got a bit confused, which made the students rather pleased.

The reason I remember that class so well is that I have always felt it was one of my best classes ever. And, as you can see, it hadn't been planned by me at all.

I do wonder what the students thought about it, though. I wish I had collected some feedback.

What do you think? Should I have done what I did? Or should I have stuck to my lesson plan?


Anonymous said...

You absolutely did the right thing. The difficult thing is that there are very similar situations where letting go wouldn't necessarily be the right thing! E.g. if the other students were already annoyed with that student being too dominant, if the culture of the country or class meant that that would be seen as you not taking the responsibility you should, or if the activity they chose wasn't useful

TEFLtastic blog-

Natasa said...

You are right - I listened to my instincts and it turned out fine, but there are so many ways in which the class could have gone wrong. Students who are willing to do something like this are often extroverts who talk too much and might annoy other people in the classroom. That's not how I remember this particular student. She never tried to dominate my class again.
There are so many situations when the teacher has just a couple of seconds to make a decision. Though no one will die if we make a mistake, it is still scary.



These are the golden moments - do more like this! You thought it was one of your best classes and I'm willing to bet your students did too.

Even though you didn't collect feedback that day, just think how much more your student did that day and the impact on her learning that night - willing to bet a good few vocabulary words she worked on have stuck!


Natasa said...

Thanks, Karenne. You know, I have never really thought about the impact this has had on the student who organised the Taboo game. Yes, she has learnt a lot, I guess. Not to mention that her instruction-giving technique was better and clearer than mine:(


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