Almost Genius

on Wednesday, 27 January 2010

There is unfortunately a common trend among the students' work. It is not about comprehension. It is neither about their tardiness nor their level of competency when it comes to English. There is unfortunately a favoured style of learning. When I was doing my project paper about learning strategies of different students, I was very clear about the different strategies employed by young learners of different competencies. The different strategies mentioned by Oxford (1990) were indeed very useful in determining the different strategies employed varying from direct to indirect strategies. WOW! imagine my blog having such a high-end referencing format... Oxford (1990)... hahaha... can't believe I wrote that down again. It's just been too long since I did that...

... anyway...

It doesn't take too long for me to notice that my students all favour one style of learning when they are trying to finish my work. Honestly, I don't like to say finish my work. I prefer solve my work... yeah, that's better. No matter what the competency level of the students, they love to copy ideas from books. That's right COPY IDEAS FROM BOOKS - just in case I wasn't clear enough.

I always push my students to produce their own answers and come up with their own ideas through either scaffolding or using other meta-cognitive strategies. (WOW!!! AGAIN WITH THE LINGUISTIC TERMS... I'm just so proud of myself... *pat myself on the shoulder). I discourage (almost preventing) students from looking at reference books and copying the answer from the reference book directly when I know the task does not require them to.

Let me get this straight first. I am not against referencing. My previous 2 accidents of such cool academic-esque writing is a testament to that. In fact, being a TESL graduate, half of my assignments deal with referencing and the importance of making sure whatever I take from others is duly noted. I want my students to refer to books and try their best to seek for clues and answers from all these areas. It is commendable without a doubt that they take their initiative to refer to their favourite reference books to enhance the credibility of their answers. However, we must clearly point out about it enhancing their answers. It shouldn't be the answer.

Questions that do require for them to research and find out from books are off the hook in this perspective. Questions that are in question (cool... questions that are in question~) are like:

What do you feel should be done to improve your school?

Is there something you are not happy about your environment. What would you want instead?

If you were given a chance, tell me something you would change in your life.

Clearly, such questions require opinionated answers. It is these questions that bring out the best in students. These are my favourite questions as these questions require students to think and present out their ideas. Nothing that they read from books, nothing that they can refer to and copy down into the answer slot. It comes purely from their brain-bank. I love listening to their original ideas and watch them pen down all those brilliant opinions that are unlike any opinion I can give - tainted with all sorts of input I've gathered through the years.

A child's opinion is always one that is completely superficial but honest. It is not rationalised in its finer details. It isn't as well-planned and is therefore something that is pretty general. They do not over-analyse and therefore are capable of generating myriads of ideas - incomplete but creative as always. Unlike me: an adult who is so obsessed about analysing, getting into the specific information, rationalising things again and again before finally accepting an idea to be valid. As much as this is important in life, I personally feel this stumps the creative process sometimes. Therefore, it's nice to sometimes look at students generating their own ideas. It's nice to see that I am giving them an avenue to think for themselves.

However, it is difficult to get them to change. It is so difficult for me to convince them to:

"Generate your OWN ideas! Think about other ways you can tackle the problem!"

"Think out of the box! There are so many options you can choose from! Do not limit yourself to what you can find in books!"

My students are sometimes almost completely unwilling to let go of their books. They are so dependent on what is written, they forget that the best ideas come from them. They feel that it is impossible for them to outdo the suggestions in the books. They have lost the confidence to think unconventionally. They forget that almost all the time, the genius is always the one with the wildest of ideas. Let us not forget how Galileo was shunned by his people when he talked about a spherical Earth. Let us not forget how people laughed at Howard Gardner when he predicted cameras need not use film one day. Genius in his/her time, is almost always misunderstood. We have lived long enough to learn from such cases. We do not immediately cast aside ideas so casually now. Neither do we judge the source of such ideas nor the outlook from whence they came. *hint: cosmic-theorist-genius is still going strong in a wheelchair.

I want so desperately for my students to develop that change. I want so desperately for my students to cast aside the dependency of books to generate creative ideas. I want them to refer to books for academic literature and of course to enhance their already brilliant think-tank to it's limits (or even beyond that). Again, the word is enhance - not copy.

This has nothing to do with their level of competency. I know that some students tend to copy because their competency levels are low, and therefore they need to refer to certain information to jump-start the sentences in English. This has nothing to do with the thought process whatsoever. This has nothing to do with their generation of ideas. The referencing to create a sentence in English does not at all require them to suddenly be uncreative. Sometimes, the best ones think about everything in their native language (some even pen it down) and then slowly pen it out in English. This does not stump their creative process as time is always allocated for them to ponder and translate those ideas from their native tongue (which is open to a whole different issue about getting them to think in English).

After a while of teaching, it is clear that almost all my students can emerge from that turtle shell and become a vessel of ideas; a genius in their own right and the capacity to become someone with important and creative ideas. Though the common trend among them right now is imminent from what I've mentioned, it is even more important that the teacher does not continue to nurture that dependency. It is time to take charge! I am going to strip away that comfort pillow they hug on so tightly.


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