Teach English in Gecheng Jiedao - Chongqing

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The Importance of Empowering StudentsTeaching is a profession which requires much more than just academic knowledge and skills. I always believed that motivation and devotion are of utmost importance in such a caring vocation. Lately I managed to confirm such a fact during my six week teaching practice at a secondary school which is considered as rather difficult and challenging. Most students who attend this school come from a rather difficult background. Some of the students belong to broken families; others don?t even know their own family whilst some suffer from varied social problems such as poverty, drug and alcohol abuse. This particular school is also labeled as one of the worst girls? secondary schools in Malta. Thus one can imagine how these students feel about themselves and their potential in achieving what they want in life. The behaviour of most of the students I taught was very challenging. I couldn?t understand the reason why some of them got defiant from the first day and resisted any kind of order even to participate in activities during the lesson. As time passed by and I got to know the students better, I realized that their negative attitude was a cry for help, care and understanding. Before improving academically, they needed to be empowered in order to be able to believe in themselves and their capabilities. Even though I took a particular case as an example, I believe that empowerment should be the aim of every teacher regardless of the subject being taught. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary empowerment means ?to give strength and confidence to? (Oxford University, 2009, p. 302). Thus as educators, we need to invest a lot of time and effort in involving students, giving them responsibility and ownership of what is being taught and even encouraging them to fully develop their potential in that particular area. As noted in the book Empowering students versus Controlling students ?empowering students results in greater power for the teachers.? (Martin & MacNeil, 2007, p. 2) Apart from an improvement in the learning process, empowerment also enhances classroom management. If students are encouraged to reflect upon misbehavior and are even given responsibility for such behaviour this will definitely help the students feel more involved and treated as mature individuals. For instance in the beginning of the year the teacher can give the students an opportunity to set up their own ground rules and even decide upon appropriate consequences for every kind of unacceptable behaviour. This can be done in the form of a contract that everyone needs to sign. This surely increases the students? self esteem and sense of belongingness to the group and also improves the teacher-student relationship. Such ground rules can be revised every now and then and when someone goes against any of the rules, he/she knows what consequence he/she has accepted to follow. (Olsen and Cooper, 2001) As Panitz and Panitz (2004) point out ?the empowerment of students produces an environment which fosters maturity and responsibility in students for their learning. The teacher becomes a facilitator instead of a director and the student becomes a willing participant instead of a passive follower.? From my own experience, I noticed that passiveness is one of the worst detrimental factors which impedes learning and reduces the effectiveness of any lesson. Such passiveness might be due to the culture that these students were brought up in. For instance in Malta the traditional mode of teaching in which the teacher lectures and the students listen passively has reigned for years. Thus this results in passive citizens who just grumble about everything but rarely act in order to improve things. This shows that in the long run empowering students is also essential for an enhanced society in which its citizens are active, not afraid of being assertive and capable of engaging in discussion in a prudent, convincing manner. Throughout this article I tried to highlight the importance of empowering students whilst pointing out the varied reasons why any teacher should do so. Even though such an act may require the teacher to diminish his/her role as the ?expert?, empowerment should improve the situation of every involved stakeholder. Bibliography ? Harvey, L. (2004/9) Empowerment retrieved on the 26th April 2011 from http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/empowerment.htm ? Martin & MacNeil (2007) Empowering students versus controlling students retrieved on the 26th April 2011 from http://cnx.org/content/m14654/latest/ ? Olsen, J. & Cooper, P. (2001) Dealing with disruptive students in the classroom, London: Routeledge ? Panitz, T. and Panitz, P. (2004) Encouraging the Use of Collaborative Learning in Higher Education retrieved on the 26th April 2011 from http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/encouragingcl.htm