What my students really think of school

Since in my EFL classes we are studying a unit called “Education” I decided to ask my advanced students what words they associated with their lives as students. I gave them markers, cut papers and asked them to post words they associated with Student Life.
I was flabbergasted by the results. I asked them to classify the words they had posted into positive or negative categories. This is what they came up with:

Positive words:
party, intelligence, learning, party, having friends, conferences, really caring about learning (I love this student), vacation, fun.

Negative words:
responsibilities, books, junk food, projects, hunger, headaches, hard work, exams, more exams, studying, homework, tests, reading, writing, paying attention, studying, more homework, stress, questions, reading and not understanding, homework, no social life, sacrifice, tests, no sleeping.

putting the cards up

the cards on the wall
As I read their cards, my students noticed that I became more and more interested in their point of view. They quickly reassured me that they were referring to their life in general and that their class with me was the first time they had ever been able to express themselves with the truth.

My students have mostly been schooled in traditional settings in which the teachers own the knowledge and “transmit” this to the students in little controlled chunks.

Many traditional teachers (the majority) believe that our students in Mexico are accustomed to the traditional passive receptive learning model and that we should not change. What my students expressed voices just the opposite. I have been making baby steps towards change in classrooms in my area through this teacher training course, but we definitely need to spread the student’s point of view. We are no longer teaching them effectively. It is time to change.

student centered learning

Be active. Stand up. Create a real life context which begs answers.


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  1. #1 by Laura on January 13, 2012 - 5:06 pm

    It is a sadness they made you feel bad, but the worrying thing is that they find learning a negative aspect. Nevertheless, that is what the majority of teachers are showing. They said that learning is fun, but they are not doing it really fun. It´s almost always the same boring thing. The learning method hasn´t changed at all. Of course, there are new resources or aids we can use, like internet, projectors or electronic things that make a class more interesting. But what happens with people who don´t have access to this. It is something to ponder.

  2. #2 by I can do this on January 14, 2012 - 3:08 am

    Laura, I believe that any tool, even technology, can be used in any circumstance. That is scary. Many of us have sat through boring lectures which were accompanied by PowerPoint. All right, so we have visuals. But the passive receptive traditional approach to learning is still in place. Unless we change the approach to students learning, and take the emphasis of tools we can use while teaching, we will continue to keep students passively receiving. As you say, it is something to ponder.

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