One question during our writing activity today was particularly illuminating. We write and talk a lot about what students enjoy about English classes and how they are helpful in their lives. After talking about the multitude of reasons students like English classes, we asked what they didn't like about English classes. Here were some of their answers:
- Coming to class late
- Sharing a paper with my partner while reading because I can't see
- Waking up early in the morning
Testing was by far the most popular answer. Many students said that they felt like an hour was not enough time to complete it. Others said they didn't think the tests accurately reflected their level. This provided a nice venue for my teacher to have a candid conversation with the class about the importance of testing as related to school funding and to answer questions students had about testing. I'm sure all students are told this when they enter school, but from their reactions, the light bulb went on for some learners as she spoke.
I was impressed that the teacher had the foresight to include this question in the exercise; it was productive to receive feedback from the students. The conversation retained a positive note for the entire time, and I think the students went away feeling like their voices had been heard, even if not everything could be changed. The teacher offered solutions for things that could be adapted, like providing a paper for a learner who has trouble seeing. Inviting suggestions and allowing frustrations to be listened to in a respectful manner really sets an attitude of reciprocity in the classroom and works to debunk the traditional hierarchical student-teacher relationship.