The other day, I vanished from my classroom.
So there I was, with my students holding their homework in their hands, eagerly awaiting their next instruction… were we going to go through the homework together, as always, or was I going to try something else, which I was terrified was going to “epic fail” before I’d even made it to the end of said instruction?
Background: for homework the students had looked up five words (from a text we’d been looking at) which they were unfamiliar with, and then put them into sentences. Wow, Alastair, very clever… yes, yes, but it does get better, don’t Alt + Tab to Facebook yet.
I thought to myself – no, come on, don’t be Mr-Star-Of-The-Class-Attention-Whore again… (or I think Expert is what we TEFLers are supposed to call that role) who acts as judge, jury and executioner on every word that timidly peeps out of a student’s mouth.
I asked my students to sit in groups of three, show each other the words they had looked up and the sentences they had written… and er… that’s it. Then something weird happened.
My students started kind of… TEACHING each other. I don’t mean that in any kind of a coy way – really, it surprised me. They just did it and there I was thinking “how can I elbow myself back into this lesson?” I shouldn’t have and I am relieved to say, I didn’t. At one point, I snuck off to get dictionaries for those students who were having trouble with explaining, and the rest they did themselves.
Believe me, it was pretty painful for me! Where were the questions? Where was the dependency? Where was the attention I normally get?! I guess for one class I’d moved from “Expert” to “Facilitator”.
At the end, we went through any still unclear meanings and I praised students who gave good examples/definitions with their words.
And they loved it. I suppose I did too – a few hours later, when the swelling on my bruised ego had started to calm down.
But is this a good way to “teach”? Was I irresponsible?