I like to cause trouble. Or at least that is what some people think. It’s because I enjoy change and improvement and also developing my own teaching and understanding. One situation where this was a problem was at uni when I had to write a mini essay on:
What is the best age for children to start learning a language at school?
Now, the reading had included the basics on the Critical Learning Period which states that after 12 L2s are harder. This was the reading but I didn’t agree. Why? Well, because there is also evidence, my own education and teaching experience too, that children are psychologically aware enough to become ‘good learners’. Yes, they may have the capacity to soak up 2/3/4 languages but they may also just end up with a mess of all of them. Not to mention the fact that kids shouldn’t be spending their time learning how to say the limited things they can say in another language and so ending up learning and knowing different words in each.
Anyhow, 12 years old is when kids go to high school and then 2 years later select what they want to study for GCSEs and then A Levels etc. In my opinion, yes I agree that some kids can learn lots of languages before but having the choice at 12 to start formal language training is beneficial. By then they are mentally aware and have opinions and things to say, they also have study tools and won’t get bored like someone who started Spanish at 5 and by 12 still can’t speak well.
And so in my mini essay I put what I thought and justified it. The response? Fail, please rewrite using the course reading. Translation: Just repeat what it says in the book and you’ll pass!!
This isn’t my idea of fostering thinking, reflection, critical ideas and mature teachers.
After this event I stopped causing problems and jumped through the hoops. I kept my opinions to myself except in group discussions but I’m convinced that this isn’t what we should be doing as teachers or students.
In my own classes I try to avoid closed questions and finite answers. Any answer is valid IF it’s supported. Any opinion is allowed and praised if it is substantial and honest. Any criticism is taken on board if it is worthy and there is an opportunity to refute it. It is this battle of ideas and arguments that I find fruitful as eventually the truth or an understanding emerges.
It’s my opinion that too many exercises and classes focus on restraining students into doing certain things and giving certain responses. This creates a sense of safety and allows measurable objectives to be met.
This is not what I want. I seek dynamism, exploration and action. Jumping through hoops doesn’t foster it.