Monday, 16 September 2013

An open letter to my new students

Dear new student,*

Hello and welcome to my class. I will be your English Skills teacher this year and I hope we will have a productive and fun year together. We will work on not only your ability to communicate in English but also reflect on how you learn and learn a lot about the world around us and life in general too.

I’m writing this because there are a few things I want to draw your attention to before we begin - about me, about you and about our lessons. If we can discuss and think about these things now, I’m sure everything will go smoothly and we will have a positive shared learning experience.

Hoping for a golden year… Image by @purple_steph via eltpics

  • I’m not your old teacher

Maybe your English teacher last year, or another English teacher before that, was an insufferable bore or an angry cruel fire-breathing dragon. Perhaps your previous teachers were soft like a big fluffy teddy bear and every lesson was playtime with optional work. Or maybe, your old teacher was highly energetic and entertaining or really kind and loveable. Well, whatever your old teacher was like, I am not her/him. I may seem nicer, or perhaps stricter. I may demand more from you in the classes or I may give you a lighter workload. Perhaps I will appear funnier than your old teacher or you will sigh and miss the in-jokes you used to have with whoever was there before. Please, don’t judge me by your old teacher. All of that doesn’t matter. If you give me a chance, you’ll see that my lessons are different and that I will give you a voice in my class as much as possible.

  • I am your teacher

I have worked at this school for over ten years now. It’s quite possible that I may have taught your elder brother or sister in the past, or your cousin, or your neighbour or your friend from the school bus. They may have said my lessons are great, fun, interesting, boring or awful. That’s all in the past. I don’t teach them anymore. I teach you and every class I teach is different. I change what I do depending on what you and your classmates respond to. I don’t go seeking out your old teacher’s opinions about you and, even if they do tell me something good or bad, I give you a chance to show me who you are with an open mind. I just ask that you do the same.

  • We can have fun and work hard at the same time!

We will read stories in my class. These stories are exciting and enjoyable but you will still need to work hard to understand the plot and complete the tasks I set you. We will discuss things and speak a lot in my class. These discussions may be interesting and/or funny but they are also important for improving your ability to communicate and express yourself and that requires more hard work. We will write in my class. You may think ‘oh no!’ but writing can be fun too! We will also watch videos and play games but not just for fun. We will do these things because they can help you learn better. All of these things go hand-in-hand. When we have fun, we also need to work hard and when we are working hard, we can still have fun, as long as you have a positive attitude.

  • My lesson is assessed, just like all the others

My lesson might be different to your other ones. Perhaps your other teachers will lecture more and give you more notes to copy and worksheets to complete. I will try to get you involved in presentations and discussions as much as possible, I will not ask you to write reams of notes in your books every lesson and I will give you some different tasks to do such as projects, posters and videos. However, this doesn’t mean my lesson is in some way less serious. You will still have exams based on my classes and assessed projects to complete. I will also be assessing your speaking skills as that is one of the main things we focus on. And all of this goes on your report card with the exact same weighting as grades for your other lessons. So please make sure you study for the tests and work hard for the projects and speaking tasks.

  • A little effort goes a long way

Maybe that all sounds quite tough but it is never as difficult as it seems. You may worry that I speak English much more than any other teacher you have had before or that I always ask you questions with no clear cut right or wrong answers… but there is no need to worry. With a little effort, you will realise that you can converse with me and express your own ideas in what is for you a foreign language. Just be patient, give it time and don’t worry about being able to do and understand everything the first time we try it. Life isn’t like that, so my lessons won’t be like that either.

Our journey is just beginning. Let’s get started together. Smile

 

Your new teacher,

Mr Dodgson

*Of course, I won’t actually be handing my students this letter to read but it provided a good outlet for what I am thinking at the new teaching year begins!

**And, in case you had forgotten, I should point out that these students are 11-12 years old in the 5th Grade of the Turkish schooling system.

5 comments:

  1. Can I be in your class? :)

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    1. Sure Sandy. I think we have room for one more at the back ;)

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  2. Great idea! I think I might actually write something like that and give it out to my adult B2/C1 students! They can write back about their own expectations towards the course and there you go...I could assess their writing and have their profiles completed in this memorable way from the very beginning! Thank you so much for this wonderful idea!;-D Kasia

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    1. Hi Kasia,

      Sounds like you have a great idea for an introductory activity there. Did you try it out? How did it go?

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  3. Hi, Dave! I should've done this with my high school students. Good idea to manage their expectations. Students compare me with their previous English teachers. I hate that. Next time I would write them one.

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