It’s been twenty years since I started teaching English. I’ve had countless pupils, aged 11-16 when I first started, aged 15-18 now. I’ve also known teaching reforms; reforms which affect the way we are supposed to teach. Some are useful, some not quite as much. Some are presented with modesty and hope, others with arrogance and scorn.
The new and current trend is task-centered teaching. To put it in a nutshell, the idea is to conceive a project which will end with a task for and by the students. The people behind this change believe that if the pupil is made to do something (usually practical) in the foreign language he/she is learning he/she will be more likely to remember what we try to teach them. Therefore I went to several training courses to refresh my practices.
As I was listening to the teachers who were presenting what they had been doing with their classes, an idea started to take shape in my mind. At the time I was rereading Rochelle Krich’s novels (the Jessie Drake and Molly Blum series), in the right order this time.
The project was to introduce the students to a few extracts from Now You See Me (Rochelle Krich’s latest novel to date) which deals with troubled teenage girls – one girl runs away with a man she met on the Internet – and to information about the dangers of the net. The final task would be for the students to conceive a leaflet aimed at parents and/or teenagers with safety tips.
I had discovered Rochelle Krich’s site and joined her mailing list. When I joined the list I got an answer from Rochelle thanking me for joining. I then thought it would be nice to write a short mail of introduction in reply. I also discovered that, prior to being an author, Rochelle Krich had been an English teacher so I imagined how wonderful it would be if my students could interview her by mail. I wrote to Rochelle and she kindly agreed to answer any questions my students would have.
When I first told my students we would email Rochelle, I am not sure they actually believed me. I handed out photocopies of the bookcovers of Rochelle’s novels so that they could discover who the main characters, themes and plots were. We then concentrated on Now You See Me and the some of issues involved in the novel. In the end they designed their leaflets and I reminded them that they would be writing to Rochele Krich. I clearly remember one girl saying: “So we’re really going to write to her! And she’ll answer us.”
With the help of our language assistant, this small group of nine (an unusually small number) came up with a list of 31 questions. These kids are nice but sometimes they despair me because of their poor level, however this time I was really amazed at the quality of their work and their perceptiveness. I then sent the questions to Rochelle who, of course, wrote back and congratulated the kids for their terrific questions.
When I gave out the answers to my students I could see they were concentrating on the text, trying to understand as much as possible without my help. They also commented that Rochelle seemed nice, passionate and that she must have a great sense of humor.
Later on, when I asked them for some feedback on this year’s work, they all mentioned this special project and the mail interview. But the most important for me was that they seemed proud and felt valued. I can’t thank Rochelle enough for this wonderful act of chesed (kindness).
P.S. You can email me (see the about page) if you would like me to send you the interview.