So far this month, for pleasure, I have read a novel (Await Your Reply), a book about cognitive psychology (Thinking, Fast and Slow), and a book of short stories (The Return of Sherlock Holmes). In addition, I have read several articles for work mostly about, not surprisingly, teaching and assessing reading. I like to read for pleasure before going to sleep because it relaxes me. In general, I love to read!
My puzzle is: how can teachers inspire their students to love reading? For learning a second language, the research is clear: reading is key. However, here in El Salvador many students say that they do not like to read. They say that they do not grow up with a “culture of reading.” When I was a kid, I remember my mother reading aloud to me from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Talk about entertainment! Those Choose Your Own Adventure stories were captivating because as the reader (or listener in my case), you had to make choices in the story. For example, at the end of one chapter, the characters would be faced with a decision, like first going into the basement of the old house, or going up to the attic. Depending on what you chose, that was the page you would turn to.
In my opinion, one of the keys to inspiring students to love reading in real life follows the same principle: people need to have the freedom to choose something to read that is interesting and inspiring to them. The students majoring in English at my university here have to take an American Lit class and now they are reading Longfellow. No offense to Longfellow, but for English Language Learners in El Salvador, this is not very inspiring, to say the least. So what would inspire someone to read? Was there a book, or a teacher, that changed your attitude towards reading from something that you had to do for school, to something you chose to do for pleasure? What books have you loved?
A few random links about/for reading:
The summer solstice is here, the longest day of the year! The astrological event marks a natural time for pause and reflection. These days one of the things that I have been pondering is the nature of the teacher-student relationship. In particular, I have been thinking about where that boundary lies.
Often, when asked about a favorite teacher, people recall a person with whom they felt “connected,” “close,” or “friendly.” Of course, not always, there are other important factors too. But how much time and effort should teachers spend trying to forge connections and friendliness between themselves and their students? Obviously, there are clear extremes at either end that are inappropriate, like asking students out on a date, or the opposite, not knowing students’ names and looking down on them. What I am thinking about is that area in the middle. All good teachers certainly build rapport and trust between themselves and their students. However, do teachers feel, and/or act, like friends with their students, and vice versa?
No doubt the contexts play a significant role in informing any thoughtful answer to this question. For example, in a university setting, younger teachers may be more likely to be collegial with their students, especially if they were close in age. Some contexts just lend themselves to “friendly” relations between teachers and students. In my own experience, I can think of a few examples. For one, when I studied Spanish in Venezuela. There my teachers really were my friends, and a part of that small social world I inhabited. However, they never had to give me a grade or decide if I would pass their class because that was not part of the context.
Although I don’t think of the students I have now as my friends, I do feel strongly connected to them. I admire and respect them. I even “friend” them when they send me a request on Facebook (although for me this is more of a professional space than a social space; and yet, isn’t the very fact of Facebook evidence of the blurring of boundaries?).
In the end, it may come down to what each of us as teachers feel we need, and we believe our students need. Will our social and emotional efforts to bond help improve our students’ learning, or will it hinder our ability to give objective evaluation?
I’d love to hear your own experiences and beliefs about this puzzle. Were you ever friends with a teacher you had? Is it important for you as a teacher that your students “like” you?
Photo by Tim Green
_ What is the fount of your inspiration and love for doing what you do? I stumbled on this puzzle this week from two different directions. First, one of my students asked me for some recommendations for where she could find teaching activities. She is beginning her teaching practicum and will soon graduate to become a real teacher. She needs practical inspiration. Can you recommend books or websites that are good resources for EFL teachers?
The other direction from which I came to meet this puzzle is a bit more circuitous, more abstract. I realized this week that now it is February, when Valentine’s Day is celebrated by some. One of its celebrants is my wife, for whom it is her favorite holiday. Not for its materialism or Hallmark platitudes, but rather just for love and all its myriad incarnations. So I’ve been pondering love. In addition, I got to thinking: what brings, and renews, love and passion to your work?
In conclusion, I’d love to hear your comments for both or either of these puzzles: recommended resources for teachers and/or how you stay passionate about your work. In short, inspire us.
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