It is hard to describe these classes with words, so we thought we’d get our students on camera to help convey a better sense of these classes. The following is an entry from Ben Slavic‘s blog. Ben is a world-class French teacher and teacher trainer/mentor. Here is what Ben had to say about the video:
Look At Their Faces
My new mission statement about our work is: “Look at their faces. It will tell you everything that you ever needed to know about what they are learning. They learn because they want to. It has nothing to do with thinking.”
Watch this video by Elissa (Express Fluency)
In this clip, watch, in particular, the lady nearest to Elissa in the black and white stripes. At first, she is all about what she learned language learning to mean in school: sit down, pay attention, take notes, think hard, and be a good student. You can see her trying to take notes right in the first ten seconds of the clip. But as the discussion goes on, she gives up the being-a-good-student thing and taking notes and that mindset in favor of the fun Elissa is laying down as the foundation of the communication in her class.
It’s an epic moment, really, and signifies a brand new way of doing everything in language education. Millions of moments like that in millions of classrooms around the world will signify the end of something that should have died a long time ago – thinking about the language vs. just experiencing it and focusing on its meaning.
I see more evidence of learning in this video than any research/testing I have ever personally experienced. I exhort the viewer to see deeply into the students being included in what is going on in this class. I would like to be in that class. Watch the faces of the adult students in this video – they are being included in a social process. They are being included socially and they are not being excluded intellectually. We teach at our own peril unless we consider the truth of that last statement.
It is not the pedagogy that I want to highlight in Elissa’s video. We could call the pedagogy anything we want. What is important is that Elissa’s welcoming expression and the corresponding reaction by the students contains everything I have ever wanted to do as a teacher and the hope of reaching my students in this way has driven me forward through countless classes.
The expressions in the faces of the students contain priceless feedback to me as their teacher. To me, what those faces tell me is more important than all the research in the world, and far surpasses as a pedagogical goal all the wonderful and snappy teaching that some teachers think they do on behalf of a small percentage of the students in the class.
Again, I don’t care what it’s called, what research it’s based on, or any of that. I just want my students’ faces to look like that when they are in my class, because if their faces look like the faces in this video, then I am certain that they are learning the language and that good things are happening in my class. Elissa has them focused on the message and not the language – that is everything.