It’s not what I do, it’s what the students do.

provoWhen it comes to language learning, years ago I remember hearing, “It’s not what you do as a teacher, but it’s what you get the students to do that results in learning.”  I’m sure that every program in teacher training has some similar statement.

This picture was taken in Provo, Utah last week when I accompanied three of my students (from left to right: Ebony Jackson, Eduardo Gonzalez, and Kyle Averack) who participated in a Portuguese language Business Case Competition.  For weeks I had seen how focused they were at preparing their presentation, fine tuning their powerpoint slides, practicing their lines, and debating over strategies.  Of course business schools traditionally use case study method in teaching, but it’s less common among language learners.  (I should add that these students won third place in the competition, also received a nice cash prize, and enjoyed some great hanging out time while playing in the snow in the mountains of Utah).

The reason for making this post is because of a comment that Kyle made while we were waiting for the shuttle bus.  Basically he was talking about how much Portuguese he had learned as part of the case competition.  Readers might be interested to know that this case competition was not part of their course of study, they got no academic credit for it, and it wasn’t part of any grade at all.  Yet, they were motivated to do a good job because of the satisfaction that comes for learning new things.  After the first round of the competition, even before they knew if they would advance or not, they were already back to a practice room, preparing for the next phase.  It was cool to see.  Kyle’s comment stayed with me for days.  As a language teacher (and learner) it has reinforced once again that it isn’t as important what I do as a teacher, what’s important is what we get our students to do.

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