I know this English teacher. Let’s call him Caesar. He self-identifies as a CLT person, maybe even a strong version one. He talks about the importance of tasks for deeper learning. He has flirted with learning styles. He has been known to rail against the evils of the dreaded teacher talking time. In pubs and staff-rooms he articulates his belief that English classes should be learner (or learning) centered. He is a firm believer in inductive learning.
Yet, in the first class of the term all bets are off and there he is at the front of the room telling. So much telling. Telling students about all the info on the syllabus and more. Telling students about assignments. Telling students about his expectations. Telling students classroom rules (though he might refer to them as norms they still sound pretty much sound like rules to my ears). He tells students about the weekly schedule. He tells students about his views on his class. He tells them how the course relates to the latest theories in SLA. He tells students how student-centered the class will be and how this might be different than their previous experiences. He stands at the front of the room and goes on about the grading schemes and how this is a good way to do things and will help students chart their progress. He tells students about the appropriate behaviors and attitudes required to succeed in this class. He tells students how valuable the class will be for his students. He also gives suggestions for students to maximize their learning outside of class.
I come here not to bury Caesar, nor to praise him. I want to understand him. Are the logistics of the course something that need to be covered and told about? Are these things somehow different wholly other? Do they thus require different treatment? Is he unaware of other ways for getting students to walk away with a clearer idea about his course and how it will be run? Does telling provide a clearer understanding or convey a better sense of professionalism and knowledge from the teacher? What am I missing? If I am not missing anything, what is he missing? Are there other ways of familiarizing students with key course information? What have you done and had success with? In a future post I’d like to share some of my ideas and experiences related to avoiding telling in the first class but I wanted to tell this story first.