Many of the articles in this issue are concerned with our students – and that is, perhaps, understandable: without students, teachers would be out of a job. But what does it mean to ‘cherish’ our students, to go beyond regarding them merely as vessels to be filled with knowledge, or a necessary, if sometimes irritating, feature of our chosen careers?
In our main feature, Glenda Demes da Cruz argues that to become a great teacher one needs to put the students centre stage: to address their many and varied needs, celebrate their differences, as well as their similarities, and to take steps to involve them in their own learning
Sinéad McCabe and Andy Gaskins go further in ensuring their students’ engagement by encouraging them to become involved in the planning process. They recommend a negotiation procedure which allows the students some input into the syllabus, the materials, the skills and the language that will be taught in the coming week.
Stephanie Hirschman believes that it is the students who hold the key to their own academic success. For her, the equation is simple: do the work and get the results. It is how to encourage the students to do that work – much of it necessarily outside the classroom – that occupies her thoughts. Her solution is through more explicit feedback and identification of the language areas that individual students need to work on in their own time, to ensure they make the progress they want.
In a similar way, Mark Heffernan and David Byrne also use student involvement to achieve student satisfaction. They propose ‘overt teaching’, by which they mean sharing with the students not only precisely what will be covered in each lesson, but also why and what the desired outcome will be, in terms of what they will be able to do at the end of it.
Enda Scott is another contributor who finds merit in getting the students more involved in their learning. He suggests that having the students personalise course materials themselves is a good way to increase their motivation to study things that, at first glance, may not capture their interest at all. His ideas should be particularly welcome to teachers who have to work within the confines of a rigid syllabus or follow a prescribed coursebook.
As Plutarch said, ‘the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited’. By encouraging our students to become more involved in what and how they learn, we stand a better chance of getting enough of a flame going to enable them to achieve their goals.