1) What is something I/we did this semester that you liked?
Now, I was planning to move on to the second question's answers, but I can't let what a particular student said to me go unspoken. For the student's sake, I'll name her Cicy. I've known Cicy to be a student in class that's hilarious, random, smart, cunning, and able to lead the class in discussions. So when it was time for us to meet, I was excited to hear her 100% honest opinions.
As the bell was ringing to officially start class on that day, the Chinese teacher popped her head in and reminded the class that, if I as the foreign teacher was going to show a movie or TV show, they needed to fix their mistakes and let her check them. Mind you...the last couple weeks for our students leading up the midterms and finals, starting in 2nd grade and on through high school, are hours full of lectures, worksheets, fixing mistakes, homework, fixing mistakes for homework, passing periods spent on homework or fixing it, taking practice tests, fixing them...you get the drift.
I called Cicy back, and I first wanted to check on what the teacher said when the bell rang. I asked Cicy if it was right for the other teacher to do that. "No, because we have time to work, and we have time to play. It's not right that the Chinese teacher said to work during your class." How could she know what research has stated time and time again about work and play? She knows what she needs in order to succeed. She is growing and learning how to think, not how to listen. She is intrinsically motivated to learn English (while I'm not sure about her other classes) and has a priority to improve her ability with no carrots necessary. Shoot! She even keeps another notebook, other then the one for my class, for new words in and outside of class as well as for work on application of those words in various forms. I'll let her roll with that any day.
I acknowledged her brilliant thoughts, smiled, and moved on to the first question. I had no idea what she was going to say because, to be honest, Cicy was at times hard to read. Little did I know. "I like that when you teach, you make learning fun." Interested, I prodded for something more substantial. She replied, "You make learning fun. We play games and learn. You're not like other teachers who are boring." Okay...what makes them boring, I wondered. "They teach for tests, and it's boring. It makes us not want to learn."
Whoa! With the majority of the end-of-semester meeting left, Cicy already delivered the mic drop. I went speechless. What could I say? I was planning to only listen, but I really wanted to jump for joy and continue chatting. Instead, I typed her words onto Evernote because I had to get this. I had (and have) to tell the world, educators, and people like you. What makes students (let's be honest, anybody) not want to learn? Teaching to tests. That's what. The students know. In elementary, they know. If it is for the test, less motivation and even thoughts as far as Cicy's for some. I say "some" because Cicy is one girl from a grade of over sixty fifth graders, but she's brave enough to speak her mind and give teachers in China and the world a glimpse of what students think and what the future of education should (with)hold.