Before I came to Glasgow, I wondered what the city would be like. I wondered whether the weather was going to be too cold. I wondered what kind of people I would meet. I wondered about a lot of things…
But I never thought of getting the chance to listen to so many inspiring and intelligent teachers, who turn language teaching into a breathtaking journey that lasts for a lifetime. One of these teachers is J.J. Wilson who held the plenary talk yesterday. For me, his talk was the highlight of my stay in Glasgow. He reminded me why I decided to start the teacher training education a couple of years ago.
The topic of his talk was social justice. You might ask yourself right now: “What on earth does this have to do with English language teaching?” – well, let me explain it to you. During this whole week, we have heard numerous times, that the most important part of language teaching are the pupils or students themselves. Creating strong relationships to them, which are based od trust, honesty and respect is fundamental to any kind of teaching and learning. If we do not want to engage with our pupils in the classroom, well, then no learning will take place and we will not fulfill our job. This means, that if we do show interest in them and connect emotionally with them, we will not only achieve better results in their learning, but we will also learn with them and share positive feelings and experiences.
Once we have managed to do that, we can go one step further – we can adress problems that exist thrughout the world and try to find solutions for them together with our pupils. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that we have to solve the worldwide problem of water shortages in our English classes – no, but we can show our pupils that it does matter what we do in this world and that we can change it, step by step. We have to start in our own surroundings, our own lives – first, we have to change ourself, before we step out into the world and make it a better place. Given the fact that we, teacher, actually have the future in our hand, sitting in our classrooms, it would be a shame, if we did not use the opportunity to change the world together. If we start with changing the world from our classroom, one day our pupils will step out and change the world on their own.
J.J. Wilson showed us in a very fascinating manner that this is not difficult. We do not have to look at rich Hollywood stars, who donate millions of dollars to charity organisations. We simply have to act regionally. Think about where waste is deposited in your town – are there maybe better ways to re-use the waste? Have you seen people being oppressed in your town because they look different, because they think differently or because they have an alternative lifestyle? Address those issues in your class and make your pupils aware of these problems – they might surprise you with their opinions and solutions!
Communication involves much more than simply talking to people in a certain language. It also includes living with them, sharing concerns and ideas and beyond everything interacting with each other and with our world. Therefore, I am convinced that addressing the problems of our generation should have a fixed place in language classes.
Now I wonder how many teachers like J.J. Wilson there are in the world? I say, there can never be enough of them!