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Don’t let your students run away!

Things often make me feel quite nostalgic nowadays. Today I remembered the time I was into learning English. It was in 1980’s (It’s like ages ago. Wow I’m getting older!)  and unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to learn English at a private school in Turkey or abroad. We had English lessons at our school which was a state one and those lessons were our screaming, jumping and fighting time in the class where there were no English teachers.

I was eager to learn English. The variety of English books was limited and we didn’t afford to buy them. I remember my dear mum collecting the newspaper coupons to get English practice books and cassettes for me. The smell of those books and the sound of the speaker in those cassettes are still fresh in my memory. I used to read, listen and repeat a pile of stuff full of mechanical drills, but nothing was changing. Whenever I tried to speak, I failed and fell into deep depression. I was waiting for someone to tell me “I can swim.” so I would immediately start to make a long list of drills such as “You can swim. He can swim. She can swim. Blah blah blah” Even though I was making tons of drills desperately, nothing was changing. Speaking in real life wasn’t like that.

I loved listening to Madonna. While I was listening to ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ I was desirous to sing from the loud noise with Madonna. Although I didn’t understand any of the things in the songs I was repeating them after the singer and at last I managed to memorize my favourite songs. Finally my mum did the best (like always) and decided to send me to an English course.

Things didn’t go well. After I started the course, I was close to despair. All we were doing was to translate English sentences into Turkish and Turkish ones into English. “Learning English can’t be such a freak process” I was thinking (very philosophically!). Just then I won a scholarship for İSTEK Atanur Oğuz where I had millions of English lessons. At the end of the first month I decided to be an English teacher just like my beloved English teacher, Jennifer Woodward (Hope she will read all these one day).

After I became an English teacher, I thought about her teaching style many times. What helped me while I was learning? Role playing, which was my favourite part of the lessons, made me feel in the middle of life with a different role each time. Everything had a meaning. Though I didn’t make perfect grammatical sentences, I could express myself and share my opinions. By the end of the term I could understand what my teacher was saying, I could response, I could sing Madonna’s and even Phil Collins’ songs, understand them and write to my pen friend. That was not all! I was also able to write my diary in English.

Miss Woodward used and made us use the language in real or real like atmospheres so we were all active participants in the learning process. She took us out of the classroom by selecting, creating and planning meaningful activities.

Although there are great teachers like Miss Woodward today, there are also some teachers who only use drill work, grammar rules and formulas with great insistence.

Psychologists claim that boredom in school is turning students to crime and drugs. A troubled, run – away girl, when asked what was wrong with school, said: “You just have to sit there. I don’t know. There ought to somehow be more action or something.” (Wilkinson, 1939)

So do not let your students run away. Just like a prayer, make them hear your voice. Let them fly and feel the power of learning.

Don’t forget it’s like a dream but IT’S NOT A DREAM!

Wilkinson, J.A. (1993) The Symbolic Dramatic PlayLiteracy connection, Ginn Press, USA

  1. Whenever I think about how unfair the education system in Turkey is, I feel so sad. Some children have the best of everything whereas others have very little. In some schools (like our babysitter’s daughter’s school) they often don’t even have an English teacher! I don’t know if this is because they can’t find one or if it is because they don’t have enough money to pay for one?) Every so often I am approached by kids in our neighbourhood who need help with their homework or who just want to learn, they also seem to have received very limited instruction. In spite of the troubles, some people – like you – manage to learn against all odds. It is fantastic that you decided to “give back” by becoming a teacher. You inspire me! Thank you for this lovely post!
    :-) Karin

    1. Hello Karin,
      thank you for your sincere comments. I’m sure there are still lots of poor kids just like that babydsitter’s daughter. Luckily things are changing slightly in a positive way. Today we have many foundations and organizations such as TEV, ÇEV, TEGV, AÇEV and so on. I don’t need to mention the individual support in person from all over Turkey but it’s so sad to see the unfortunate results. Luckily foreign language education in Turkey has been developing day by day even it is a bit slow. As educators who are aware of the problems we have to support people around as much as we can and try to help just like you do. Let them know about the organizations I mentioned above will help as well. That way the students can have scholarships and continue their education.
      By the way it’s such a nice manner that you help the children around as a foreigner in Turkey. Thank you very much.

  2. [...] Don’t let your student run away! by Merve Oflaz TAGS:  Bogazici University, giving students responsibility, hidden mum in teachers, students taking responsibility, teachers are mothers, the people of the future, the power of collaboration, the teachers of the future, The Third ELT Conference, thethirdelt, turning from theory to practice in ELT This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 at 12:35 and is filed under All posts, Blog Carnivals I joined in, Conferences & Workshops – My Point of View, Featured Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave a Reply Cevabı iptal etmek için tıklayın. [...]