The 30 Goals Challenge, no 6: Invite them In!

After a prolonged absence from the world of blogging and from #eltchat discussions on Twitter, it’s time to make a trip into back into the blogosphere. Unfortunately my schedule currently prevents me from joining the Wednesday #eltchat discussions, which take place at 7pm and 4 am Indonesian time. However, I shall have a new schedule after the Christmas break, so here’s hoping I will be able to contribute and benefit again then!

“Invite them in”: Ways to invite a teacher, parent or administrator to see the learning taking place in your classroom.

Is this an important thing to do? Why? The stakeholders in question here are all very different and the benefits of greater transparency of the classroom process would, I believe, vary accordingly. For a parent, the desire to know what their son or daughter get up to for the x hours a week they are entrusted to your care would be the driving factor. Especially in a private language school, as a substantial sum of money is given in exchange for classes, so parents are likely to seek reassurance that they are in fact getting value for money. For a fellow teacher, perhaps the desire to learn would be the primary motivator. Being given a window onto other teachers in action can be a valuable learning tool, if it generates curiosity, reflection and experimentation. Ideas can be discussed and shared. For an administrator, perhaps it depends on the role of that person. Are they primarily involved with the business side of things or marketing? Or is their main focus customer service? Greater awareness of the classroom process, while perhaps not essential, may be helpful, to varying degrees, in dealing with client enquiries or planning a marketing campaign or making a business plan. Of course, this is from a private language school slant. This post will focus on the private language school slant, as my experience in EFL has thus far been entirely in this type of environment.

From the perspective of an EFL teacher in a private language school, I would like to explore the value of developing a school magazine/newsletter, as a method of creating greater transparency of the learning process. This is a project I have piloted, in conjunction with the then-school manager of my current school, but that certain untenable events, which occurred at this school, prevented from materialising. However, there are plans in place for this project to be started anew, hopefully working alongside the same manager but at a different school.

A magazine/newsletter is an effective means of communicating what takes place in the classroom to all interested stake-holders with a minimum of disruption. This is achieved by using the magazine to showcase student work, to present interviews with staff, students and administrators, to report on past events and increase awareness of events planned for the future. In addition to being an effective communication tool, it may also foster a sense of community amongst stakeholders.

Students will feel proud to see their work or their voice (in the case of interview) in the magazine, as well as giving them something extra to strive for, as not everybody can feature in every magazine.

Parents will appreciate the chance to see work that has been produced in the classroom, by their son/daughter or his/her colleagues as well as enjoying the perception that they are getting something “extra” from the school.

Administrators can use it as a marketing tool and as a convenient way to show prospective clients tangible evidence of what the school has to offer. We plan to bring out the magazine every two months, as that seems frequent enough to maintain evidence while spaced enough to allow time for production.

Enabling the production of student work for a magazine gives teachers an added opportunity for collaboration and sharing of ideas, as they will regularly have the common goal of producing content for the magazine. Classes can be brought together, shared themes can be generated and a variety of methods for reaching the common goal can be shared and explored.

Finally everybody is regularly given a physical reminder of what the school, and the learning that goes on its classrooms, is all about. Such a physical reminder will engender further discussion between various stakeholders in a variety of settings. For example, students may have discussions with teachers or parents. Parents may have discussions with teachers or administrators. Teachers may have discussions with other teachers, students, parents or administrators. These discussions may of course take a wide variety of paths, depending on which stakeholders are having the discussion.

Thus, as well as being a tool of communication itself, the magazine can bring about further communication, inviting all stakeholders to engage with the school and the learning process that takes place there. This would hopefully help lead to higher quality teaching, greater student numbers and a healthier learning environment.

Watch this space for an update on the effect that starting a school magazine/newsletter will have on a small franchise private language school! Here’s hoping the reality bears out my theory…

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