Columns on View All Columns
Visit ELTBOOKS - all Western ELT Books with 20% discount (Japan only)

Humanistic Teaching

An approach to learning English

January 17, 2010

New Year Resolutions

Did you make any New Year resolutions for this year? If you did, are they still alive, or have they already started to push up daisies in the wayside? I gave up making them long ago, although I often think about them as each New Year rolls around. One thing I do do off and on with my adult students is get them to make weekly or monthly resolutions. There's a page at Wise Hat about it. Basically it's just a way to get students to think about how they could be doing more English at home.

The problem I have with resolutions is that I like to change my mind. For a while now I've been thinking about changing how I approach this blog. When I started it, something just over ten months ago, I decided I was going to make an entry every week, no matter what. Apart from some holidays I more or less did that. I must say that I had hoped for some more feedback. Right now I'm thinking of relating my entries to the amount of feedback I get. I'm wondering about just going for mini entries and only writing long pieces when I get some comments. Life is only so long.

Life is only so long. If I were to make some resolutions for the year then what would they be? Here's my list in no particular order:

  1. Make sure students have real choice in every class.
  2. Get students to make resolutions to improve their English.
  3. Focus on developing passion rather than teaching.
  4. Fade into the background in class.
  5. Forget about results.
  6. Create a range of materials children will want to use at home.
  7. Complete a DIY phonics course.
  8. Get children to know why they are doing English
  9. Help children who are less than ambivalent about English to quit.

What would your list be?

« Partied Out | Main | Quitting »


Why would you want to help students quit?

What type of message is that sending to them about life? If you are less then happy to do something it is ok not to?

I can understand a break maybe, but to just quit?

Thanks for the question, Robert. I do agree that perseverance is an important quality to nurture. But if something is making you unhappy, why do it? As A. S. Neill wrote in "Summerhill", "All crimes all hatreds, all wars can be reduced to unhappiness." Children sometimes end up doing things they don't really enjoy just to please their parents. If that is the case then it is far healthier to quit than to continue.

I don't bother with resolutions because they are usually things I try to do in class anyways and remind myself weekly if not daily to do or if more personal I will more than likely break earlier than I had hoped.

Chris, I don't know it feels like that kind of thinking is just an excuse not to do something or anything that is unpleasant. I hate shovelling snow and it makes me unhappy so I will just quit doing it. That isn't a great message to send anyone, especially a child. There are a lot of things I don't and didn't like doing but I am glad I continued and of the things I didn't I regret quitting immensely.

I am not sure the connection between your quote and allowing a child to quit because something makes him/her unhappy. There appears to be a disconnect between the quote and what you are saying.

Hi Robert, sorry to be slow with this reply. I think there is a big difference between shovelling snow and taking English lessons. One is a temporary annoyance, the other could be a recurring nightmare. You seem to be defining unhappiness as a temporary feeling. I feel A. S. Neill was seeing it as being more permanent and pernicious. I agree that there are all kinds of annoyances and disturbances in life that we have to deal with but learning a language doesn't and shouldn't fall into that category. I would agree, however, that it is important to examine what a child is experiencing. Quitting because something is difficult is not a good reason. Quitting because of lack of interest, I think is more than valid.

I disagree; learning English can be a "temporary annoyance" if the teacher is someone who can adapt or at least make some effort to.

Okay, so A.S. Neill was seeing it as permanent and pernicious but what you quoted is talking about crime, hatreds, and wars not about learning a language. Hence, the feeling there is a disconnect in the quote and what you are writing about.

Sure, there is a big difference between shovelling snow and learning a language but they can appear to be equally as hard if it has to be done on a daily basis and one has back problems to begin with. Just because shovelling snow is a "menial task" does not lessen the amount of "annoyance" one gets from the task. To me snow shovelling IS a recurring nightmare. However, I think if I quit it would be sending entirely the wrong message to those around me especially my children.

I do agree strongly with your final two sentences but I think you have to tread carefully on the later sentence and that is not something a teacher should "help" with, in my opinion.

I think we should be telling them they can do it, showing students that they can, making every effort to find ways to help them achieve success, and be supportive when they DO make the final decision. Stay well away from anything that smacks of your final resolution.

By the way, Chris, I wrote shovelling snow post and my name is Steve not Robert. But I am grateful you replied! ;-)


Winners never "Quit" and "Quitters" never win. If you are a winner, I know you are not a quitter.

I don't believe I'm the same Robert Sieveking listed above, but I sure have to agree with my counterpart. It is never OK to teach someone that it is OK to quit because they don't enjoy doing something. Mastery of the English language is one of our most important lessons. Communication? Is the study of our native language an option? For some, it appears to be drudgery.

Nothing in life is easy. But, we must stay the course. How about "playing the piano," or "painting a beautiful scene?" It is necessary to "do diligence," if you are to succeed. ......... at anything.

It is never OK to "quit."

Recent Columns

Recent Comments




World Today