sábado, 12 de octubre de 2013

Reflection Seven

“The mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the great teacher demonstrates; the excellent teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

Sure, the ultimate is to inspire students. However, isn’t there a time and place for all these things? Aren’t each of the above important?  What do you think? Explain. Post to your blog.

Since my experience is in teaching English and in learning other languages I will speak from a language learning perspective. Language learning does not happen in the classroom. The best thing a language teacher can hope to do in the classroom is start students down the right path. Occasionally inspiration will happen to a student but I'm not convinced the teacher has anything to do with it.

From the age of 14 to the age of 21 I studied French in a traditional classroom setting. I did learn to use French somewhat but I never really spoke the language except for a brief moment while I stayed with a family in France. In spite of several years of studying French, felt lost navigating my little corner French society and I felt as if I was always missing something and as if no one really understood me. By the time I stopped studying French in college I could barely speak a word. The total failure in my attempt to learn the language was probably the result of being taught and of having grammar explained in the absence of any reason to ever put it to use. But my teacher was a great teacher. She helped me survive that period of my life between childhood and adulthood. French class was the reason I went to high school every day instead of running off and hiding somewhere. Had Madame found some way to inspire me to seek out French in books, and movies, and French speaking members of our own community I might still speak the language. (But really, that's asking a lot of her) Instead learning the language resembled piecing together a very complicated puzzle that never made a picture. 

I gave up French and took up German. I studied German for four years of college. I made my greatest advances in the language in the first year. I made a German friend, I made plans to visit Germany, and I checked out every German language movie available at Pick-a-flick. My teacher was a good teacher. He had a good repertoire of effective methods. He was enthusiastic and he had a good attitude. He gave me the foundation I needed to be successful in the language. However, I inspired myself. Over the next few years I visited Germany several times and found a job in Switzerland for one winter season. By the time I was ready to continue my university studies I was reading novels in German and speaking the language as if I were another person altogether. I entered the linguistics program at CU and I was optimistic that German would be a part of my life forever. By the time I gave up studying German (my senior year) I could barely speak a word of the language. 

So, I met a girl from Spain. Nearly a decade later I came back to my home town with enough Spanish to work as a medical interpreter and lead a weekly tertulia. Sometimes I feel like I am two people one who speaks Spanish and one who speaks English. The platitude is wrong. An excellent teacher does not inspire. A teacher cannot inspire. An excellent teacher points the way for others to find self-inspiration. My greatest language teachers are my ex-wife who lead me to Cameron de La Isla, Antonio Machado, Garcia Lorca, Juan Rulfo, Cervantes, Borjes and Almodovar. And my and ex-father-in-law who lead me to the mountains, springs and gardens of his home.

Teachers will do what they can to help their students avoid pitfalls and false paths and to help them down the right way to learning, and that's all they can really do. 

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