I wrote this text for our Cultura Inglesa Teachers’ Portal editorial for the week between 01/11-7/11. However, as our Portal is undergoing some changes and we’re unable to invite comments and so forth, I decided to share the post in my blog as well.
I have to say that, on reading the text a week or so after having written it, I’m struck by how very “political” it is. But that’s how I’ve always seen teaching and I think that’s what’s always appealed to my ever-so-non-conforming nature.
A week or so ago Jeremy Harmer wrote a challenging blog post about change agents and added his own thoughts on the people who exerted a degree of influence in his own professional development. He also invited all of us to reflect and share through comments their own thoughts.
Who would have thought that such a simple question could generate a fascinating thread of comments on the issue. The best thing about all this was that it was clear how people have such differing points of view, yet they all share the following in common: the power to reflect, express opinions, reformulate ideas and ask new questions.
But they share another aspect in common: they’re all teachers.
You see, it’s long been my belief that those of us who chose to become teachers chose this profession because there is, deep down, a feeling that “things cannot continue the way they are.” We chose a profession in which we are at all times playing the role of “agents of change”. Our understanding and view of agents of change may not be the same as Steve Job’s (although I would agree that death and even the prospect of near-death can significantly change our outlook on life), but we certainly have no naïve ideas about how we can stimulate, or for that matter, restrain a learner’s potential.
Yet, for change to minimally have the chance to happen, we need to ensure there is dialogue and interaction. We need to ask difficult questions. We need to be ready to hear challenging answers. We need to be ready for learners to subvert the activities we have set up in class. And this will happen.
For each and every activity we implement in class, learners will bring their own goals and motives in order to carry out the tasks. This is when the intersubjectivity and dialogic interaction established between a specific group of learners will mean that no same activity will ever happen the same way with another group. This is also what allows learners to construct new Zones of Proximal Development and create completely different learning opportunities from the same activity. Learning will happen in different ways with different groups. Change also follows the same “rule”. But at least we know that SOME change will happen.
The bottom line is: education is about change. Change does not maintain the status quo. So, education is highly subversive in nature! So, we’re all rebels at heart!
Or at least we could be.
Last week in a revolutionary and innovative move Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clanfield shared via TheRound a pdf sample of their first publication entitled 52. The idea of this activity book for teachers is to engage teachers and learners in discussion and language work which deal with real-world issues. The activities do not lend themselves to pastel-colour responses. They stir things up a bit. They remind us that education and English language teaching is about CHANGE!
Ultimately, a belief in change and the agents of change is the best option we may have. In one of the most inspiring projects for social change, El Sistema in Venezuela tries to introduce poor children into the world of classical music through the formation of orchestras (watch the 60 Minutes documentary to learn more about El Sistema). One of the great talents to come out of the project is Gustavo Dudamel, who now is the Music Director of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and is also the Music Director of the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra. When you listen to the Simón Bolivar Orchestra it is clear: the potential for change is within all of us and change can be contagious.
Standing on the cold, wet sand we leave footprints. The flow of the tide covers them. As the tide ebbs we only see faint footprints or perhaps nothing at all. But we know, nothing is ever the same again.
A mark of change has been ingrained somewhere.