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The classroom agenda

June 30, 2005

Hello. It's early morning and I'm writing this blog before my office gets hot and sticky.

I talked recently about lesson content and expressed my view that teachers should leave their personal opinions outside the classroom. To be honest I expected a vigorous debate but I've had just one comment from a teacher who felt that her opinions were an integral part of the knowledge she brings to the classroom.

Now I have no wish for the classroom agenda to be bland and uncontroversial. I think political and topical material can form the basis for lessons. But the teacher, in my view, has to be careful. Our role is to expand the students' knowledge of English, not to influence the students' value system. By all means read and discuss issues but the problem comes if we try to exert influence to make students lean towards a particular point of view. Even if we believe something passionately, as teachers we have to respect the right of others to hold an opposing view. We cannot know the complexity of processes that has led one group to uphold one set of values and ourselves another.

I would say that if we go into an organization claiming to be language teachers, we should never have a hidden agenda to try to convert our students to our way of thinking. By all means say what you think but do so in a way that shows you respect that different people have different views. We can't claim to be upholders of tolerance if we don't ourselves tolerate opposing views.

Glad to have got that off my chest!


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  1. Michael C 1965 Says:

    Hi Patricia
    good to see such an interesting blog. Do you think this debate is about, as you say, creating stimulation or lack of discipline on the teacher's part? I asked on my CELTA course why there was never anything in the CELTA syllabus about the POLITICAL implications of a `global language' per se ( in that minority sensitivities remain untranslated in sense ). I think, that it depends entirely on the teacher's character - in that open debate on `sticky issues' ( classroom contract if needs be ) make great lessons. Of course they do. Lessons should never be about a single person's point of view clearly and the teacher should never abuse their facilitatory influence; students, however are not automatons. If the teacher is out of line usually they are sacked. Complaints procedures seem very streamlined these days - which is good, and bad as I get very worried about the streamlining of CELTA, or `assumed' CELTA sensibilities that may inhibit at least experienced teachers from bringing the world in to let it out. After much thought on your post ( !! ) I really think it is down to the `people power' of the teacher - to bring off debate in a human and open way. Guidelines should exist in class, where they are offensive, however the strength of English is by nature its connection to an, at least, defined system of free speech - why should we deny this our students because there are discipline problems in our industry every now and then. I think it would be a sad job indeed if we can't at least, inside lessons, and more importantly in planning, at least try to reflect ideas of objectivity in our work.

  1. Peter Says:

    80% of my lessons are topic and content based with 50% of hot political issues.

    Coontroversy rules, and my students love it.

    Michael, just a quick note on CELTA approach:

    It is too politically corect to be of any use... I dropped it after two weeks and it was the best decision I've ever made.

  1. deneglka Says:

    Cool site of course people!

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