I have been working as a teacher of English as a foreign language all my working life, mostly in France. Starting out in 1981 with adult education, I taught English to people in industry and all my students were older than me. Then, in 1986, I started to mix that with higher education in engineering schools with students who were younger than me. Finally, in 1995, I took a competitive exam to become a French state school teacher of English, and began working with teenagers in secondary schools, where I feel I really belong and where I have taught ever since. I have also trained and tutored many teachers at various times in their careers.

Classrooms can be places which are teacher-centred, where shining knowledge is set out for students to assimilate via rules and principles applied to chosen examples, until these same students can prove their ability to work on similar, but previously unseen, problems on their own in limited time via tests and exams. We can call a place like this the objective classroom.

Maybe it’s because I’m an English teacher but, while meaning is often a focal point in class, I believe that the meaningfulness of the work we do is vital to maintain.

I have experienced the objective classroom as a teacher and as a learner; if it is all that is on offer, it doesn’t suit me. I find myself wondering why such activity is useful, beyond simply showing that people can learn to become good at doing difficult things. Maybe it’s because I’m an English teacher but, while meaning is often a focal point in class, I believe the meaningfulness of the work we do is vital to maintain.

I prefer the subjective classroom. There are still moments of teacher-centredness, and there is still required course content to be covered, but the approach is more collaborative. We think about the what but also the why of learning, because we try to also keep in connection with who we are in the real world. As a teacher, this involves seeking ways of engaging students so that the learning process brings them, not only more knowledge, but also helps them to grow as individuals in a community.

Once it is up and running, the subjective classroom is a busy place in which people are invited to contribute actively. The focus is on developing skills applied to meaningful content. Individual contributions are essential to the construction of what goes on in such a classroom, and people participate once they understand their voice matters. This is by no means simple for people more familiar with a more directive, objective classroom, but helping them change their perspective, even partially, is a mutually enriching process.

In this section of the blog I would like to gather and share thoughts, investigations and publications about how the subjective classroom works, its limits and how it can evolve over time.

As I write this introduction, I am aware that I already have publications which touch on this topic scattered in different places. Rather than simply reproduce these, I will try to reconsider what they say in a more contemporary light.

Other posts will be new, specially written for this blog, as a way of sharing something of teaching English as a foreign language as a daily activity in a connected world.

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