Pearls of Wisdom (Part 2)
So, how can we empower our students, or how can students/learners empower themselves so that they can meet their goals? Let’s start with one simple definition, to empower is “to give official authority or legal power to (someone)” (Merrian Webster online Dictionary: www.m-w.com).
Then, the word empowerment refers to giving people the power to make their own decisions. As I speak of learning, this simply means not waiting for other people—and that includes the teacher—to tell them (students/learners) what to do to learn better, when to study, how to manage their time spent on Facebook, among other things. However, teachers have to motivate and help students to be self-reliant, that is, become confident in their abilities to follow their own path of learning. Ok. Let me be clearer, students are studying the Simple Past Tense, so what do they want to talk about using the Simple Past? A trip, an anecdote, last weekend, a scary moment in their lives, and so on. Students have to be able to choose what they want to talk about (maybe they have to get prepared and do it next class, depending on the complexity of the task). Then, students have to choose the words they want to use, things have to be more meaningful inside and outside the classroom. Students need to be able to govern their learning, so that’s Learner Empowerment.
Once many years ago, during one of my classes, a student came up with a new word and I got so surprised because he was a basic level student. So I told him—because I tend to get carried away speaking only English even when I’m teaching basic levels—“ I don’t remember teaching you that word…”, and then he smiled and said, “Oh teacher, you’re not the only one who teaches me words in English’. So, lesson learned (my lesson- because I thought I was the only one guiding his life with pearls of wisdom), I started thinking about what many years later I found out it is called Learner Empowerment. But, I’ll continue this ‘talk’ later because it’s very important to explain how we can empower our students. Then, you may have been asking yourself as a teacher or a student (intermediate level on since this text is in English), why the suspense? why not explain it now? Only because I want this to be food for thought for now!
Você sabe o que significa ‘Communication Gap’?
Sabe aquele momento no qual você pensa em tudo o que vai dizer, você ensaia todas as frases e, então depois de tudo pronto na sua cabeça, você fala o que tanto ensaiou, mas de repente, seu interlocutor diz uma coisa completamente diferente e você perde, momentaneamente ou talvez pra sempre, todos os seus argumentos? Quem nunca passou por isso? Então, isto também ocorre em inglês, com muita frequência em situações do dia a dia, em negociações, etc. Pois é, dependendo da situação a gente pensa “deixa pra lá”, e desiste de dizer o que queria… Chamamos isso de ‘communication gap’ na aprendizagem de línguas estrangeiras. No auge da metodologia audiolingual, cuja característica principal era a repetição e imitação, os alunos tinham que memorizar muitas frases, então estes ‘gaps’ na comunicação eram inevitáveis. Um caso engraçado foi de um aluno passeando em Minas Gerais que conheceu um ‘gringo’ e ao ouvir a pergunta ‘Where are you from?’, ele respondeu todo feliz a frase do livro texto tão ensaiada em aula: ‘I am from a little city not far from here’, e a pessoa prosseguiu, ‘Really? Where?’, e o aluno respondeu ‘Rio de Janeiro’. Então pergunto? Vale a pena memorizar, repetir e ‘papagaiar’ por aí?