Friday, March 16, 2007

To Negotiate or Not?

Bruce Horner ends his chapter "Re-Thinking the 'Sociality' of Error" by saying, "But we can encourage our students to make such attempts by teaching all aspects of writing, including editing, as negotiations in which they can play a role and in which they have a stake (165). I've always like the idea of negotiation in the classroom because, after all, it is the student's education. Shouldn't they have some say in it? On the other hand, I'm the teacher, the "expert," to use that term VERY lightly, and hopefully know what's best for my students. Wow, that sounds pretentious! However, I have a good example to back me up! Just yesterday in my Level 1 Speaking and Listening class at the English Language Institute, one of my students, who often tries to “negotiate” with me, argued about the way I wanted them to take notes. Now, this is level 1, which means they’re at the very beginning of the program at ELI. Having taught other levels, I know what’s in front of my students if they stay in this program and therefore am trying to prepare them for future levels by giving them foundational tools. This student didn’t like that I wanted them to take notes WHILE they were listening to a monologue. He said that he lost focus while writing and so couldn’t hear what came next. This is a perfectly legitimate argument and makes perfect sense. However, when he gets to level four and the lectures they listen to are fifteen minutes long, it will be impossible for this student to wait until the end and then write down everything he’s heard. Knowing this, I tried to explain to him, but he didn’t want to listen. Now, taking this even further, if this student eventually goes to MSU and is sitting in a lecture hall with 100 students listening to a professor speak for an hour and fifteen minutes, how in the world does he plan to take notes then? So you see, my intention is to prepare him for what’s ahead. Maybe right now listening to a simple two minute monologue is easy to remember, but later that won’t be the case. My point… yes, sometimes negotiation is good, but sometimes teacher knows best.

2 comments:

Amy said...

I figure it's always a negotiation. It's just that the teacher usually wins.

TW said...

Maybe explaining why they are going to need the skills is a part of the negotiation in that situation. Either way, I agree with Amy here: the teacher has to come out on top of the negotiations when student success is at stake--because let's face it they are ultimately negotiating for less work not so much for what will benefit them academically.