How Do I Get Some Feedback?

Slice of Life Day 18

The post from svalter today about hearing an encouraging word like “Good job” when things are not going so well, got me thinking about just how difficult it can be to get any kind of feedback, let alone a supportive word, here in India.

Children are just not encouraged to have, let alone give an opinion. Their world is quite drab and very routine. So when ten new five year olds come into my school every January and are met with bright colourful paintings on classroom walls, see movement and dance and hear songs, shouts and laughter, (mostly in a language that they barely understand)  they are quite stunned.

For the first few weeks they look as though they’ve stepped out onto a new planet. Which in some ways they have, as they are from nursery schools where everything was recited and chanted and repeated and repeated and repeated….. You might have up to 50 to 70 students in one class with just a couple of teachers and no room to be an individual or have an opinion.

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As the weeks pass, they sparkle with a new found confidence and their faces blossom when they begin to realise it’s possible to learn to understand stuff and how to answer questions by thinking things through in a new language….. and even to have your own opinion (which starts off with your favourite fruit or animal or colour!)

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I was once asked to teach an English conversation class here by a local NGO organisation. I agreed to give it a go and on the first day a group of about eight or nine older students gathered. I insisted they sat in a circle with me as part of it. They were slightly perplexed by such unorthodox behaviour. I was meant to sit on a raised stage while they sat below me.

I tried to initiate a conversation. Environment is a compulsory subject that is studied in India up to matriculation, so I asked them, “Do you think it is a good idea to chop down so many trees?” The hills around here are (were) covered with trees which are being rapidly decimated and sent off to sawmills.

Arms crossed, they just stared at me. No one volunteered a word. I then tried to ask individual students, but with little success. Finally I asked them what they thought an English conversation class meant. I explained that conversation needs to be a dialogue… No, they understood they were there to take notes and I was supposed to be the sole speaker. After a few weeks, I stopped taking the class. It was simply too hard.

Let’s start them young! has become my motto.

Even when I have a weekly staff meeting with my five local staff members who are currently being trained by me to teach, using very different methods from any other school around, I am still the only speaker. In vain, I ask them if they have anything to add (please, please, even just a tiny, tiny comment). Week after week they smile at me warmly and politely shake their heads. Apparently I am the boss and I have all the answers….!

Even if one of them just said, “You’re doing a great job,” it would make such a difference!!

8 thoughts on “How Do I Get Some Feedback?

  1. Yes… it does make a difference and is so powerful to inspire you to keep trying. The looks of joy on those children’s faces tell it all. There is something making a difference. Maybe feedback will be contagious the more you model it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I so empathize with your situation. The closest I ever came to this was when I taught in Bulgaria and got a whole raft of plagiarized essays. One of the students pointed out to me that they were very good essays… I’m not sure there’s a special magic trick that you’re not trying, but I do have one thought: I once attended a webinar by Garfield Gini-Newman. He showed many movie clips and had us analyze them. I wonder if you could try that, especially with your staff members. You can’t exactly model this on your own, but movies can show it. Also, I wonder if a think-pair-share activity would give them a little more confidence to speak up? Finally, I keep thinking about when I was teaching French. At the end of the first week, after we had done nothing but speak in French all week, one of my students stopped on the way out and said, “When are we going to start learning?” I was flabbergasted, but I realized that I needed to cater a little bit to their expectations. So… I gave them some worksheets. I did my best, but the initial worksheets were meaningless to me; their only purpose was to calm the kids (and their parents) down so that they believed they were learning. Then they actually learned better from what I was already doing. How can you meet your (adult) students halfway? And finally, from the other side of the ocean, sounds like you’re doing a good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plagiarised essays, I can empathise with that one, from when I taught postgrad students in South India, they cheated and plagiarised. When I said (this was a long time ago) “in your own words”, they took that to mean ‘in your own handwriting!” A whole other story!! I have also been visited by students with a rose, “Just one more mark, ma’am, I need to pass your class to pass my course’.!!
      I guess some students only think they are learning is if something is written down (referring to your French story?!)
      Thanks for your suggestions and taking the time to write as well as your encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like you are doing a great job. I can understand the strong desire to engage in meaningful conversation about a passionate topic. Do you ever engage in Twitter Chats? This might be an opportunity to engage in these kinds of conversations. They have helped me to spread ideas and have quick, real-time conversations that have re-energized me when I needed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I haven’t used Twitter, I usually get told my husband that I use social media too much, but it’s difficult to get feedback without it, quite apart from keeping in touch with family members. Thanks for the suggestion, I will give it a go!

      Like

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