Resonating Kindness in Language Classrooms
These last 6 months in my life have been fascinatingly fulfilling with a new rewarding adventure. I’ve been going on a joyful ride with my students, looking and exploring a new pathway: a new perspective on our language learning that allows us to evolve to find our true self to be what we want to be, how we should be; a better person and a better friend to each other. And this route has taken us to a changed nature in our language-learning atmosphere – a more favourable one.
Before I take you further on this journey, let’s take a look at a few questions. Please answer them silently…(thank you for doing so:)
- Do you like being respected by others?
- Do you like to have friendly friends?
- Do you like getting help when you’re in trouble?
- Do you like being encouraged and motivated each time you’re feeling down?
(To all the questions above, I suppose no one says ‘no’)
And now this is the last one:
- How would you feel if you had all the above things?
(yes, me too! 🙂
By spending a little time responding to these questions, we all realize that we want and need such kindness and positive support from our family, friends and all the community that surround us. But not only us, they also need just the same treatment from us towards them. And the same analogy goes with what many religions and philosophies in the world similarly call their Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”
I imagine if all the people in the world could really resonate this kindness among each other regardless of their nations, ethnic groups, or religions, we would all live peacefully side by side and thus it would make our world a better place to live in. (Don’t you agree?)
Hence, this is the perspective I’m trying to embrace into our language-learning context.
Now, let’s get on board and let me start taking you to where it all began. This field of study has captured my attention since I watched a YouTube video by Tim Murphey (an author and professor at Kanda University Japan) that he shared on April 12 last year on his FB timeline, titled “Ideal Classmates and Reciprocal Idealizing.” I was inspired by how Tim and his colleagues’ research on this study could bring a powerful resonating influence in their classes by simply asking their students a question, “How would your ideal classmates be?”
At that point, I thought this positive influence should go viral not only in Japan, but also in Indonesia and all over the world, and I could start with my classes. Next, I emailed Tim asking for more details on the procedures.
Then, in October 2013, at the beginning of a new term, I set myself and my classes off (with Tim as my navigator) on a journey exploring what we call ‘Ideal L2 classmates’. I began by asking my students these questions:
“Please describe a group of classmates that you could learn English well with. What would you all do to help each other learn better and more enjoyably?” I collected their feedback, typed them and put them all on a class sheet anonymously. Then, I returned them in class so they could read what their classmates said. Here are some of their responses:
I want a group of classmates that speak English with me in this class. Because this class is my only chance to speak English as much as I can. A group of classmates like that will improve my ability in speaking English. I’ll help them by answering their question. But if I don’t know the answer I’ll suggest them to ask the teacher.
We should make speaking English as a habit, especially when we talk to our friends. We share more grammar and vocabulary and help each other to improve our English skills
By reading these responses, students were then aware of each other’s expectations allowing them to reflect on what had been happening so far in class. Some questions that arose were: Have I tried talking in English with my friends in every class and made the most of every opportunity to help each other in speaking? Have I been helpful to my friends when they needed me to tell them what I knew about the lesson? Have I been an ideal classmate for my friends? All of us, as a class, agreed to improve the situation, to fulfill these expectations and bring change to our language learning atmosphere.
To support this, for my adult classes, I made a summary of their responses on Wordle and made a word cloud out of it. Then I created some posters from this wordcloud and put them on our class walls to serve as a mirror or reminder for them of their reflections. For my childrens’ class, I made their reflections look more obvious to them in a poster that included their photos as well.
I also took a really close look at their interactions with classmates in class and helped remind them when they seemed to forget things we agreed to improve.
From my daily observation, I learned that these students now spoke in English more in class and tended to help each other in lesson more – despite the differences in their gender and age groups. This positive energy and their kindness spread harmoniously among them and were continuously resonating in each and every meeting. They enjoyed the change they brought in class and they became a great English team!
Eventually, this was confirmed by the results of a survey I distributed at the end of the term. In this survey, students were asked to give their opinion about this ‘Ideal L2 classmates’ research, and below are some of their comments:
– From this survey, now I know the importance of creating a fun class during an English learning. By making the class fun I think it’s easier for us to enjoy the study. And this survey is quite good for me so I know what I should change in me to create a better atmosphere in my class so the learning will be more fun for us. (Dewi)
– After this research, I think I’ll become more interested at learning English. Especially at speaking English with my classmates. I’ll also get motivation to be the ideal friend for my classmates. I hope that after this research, all of us will become better persons. (Putri)
To conclude, invoking their ideal classmates made students recognize the good things that their actual classmates were already doing, at least to some extent, and reciprocally made them want to be better classmates themselves in the present and future.
Finally I should take you to the end of our tour but this is not the end of the journey. This is just the beginning of the next journey for I invite you all to collaborate and sail together to explore new possibilities and to resonate this humanity and kindness to your classes, to your school and to the world.
(I will describe more detailed procedures and the results of this research with Tim Murphey at JALT Conference 2014 in Tsukuba, Japan). You can also look for our article to be published soon by the English Teachers Association Switzerland Journal at http://www.e-tas.ch/services/downloads/103
Murphey, T. (2012). Ideal classmates research notes. PeerSpectives #9 pp. 24-26.
Murphey, T. (2013). Ideal Classmates and Reciprocal Idealizing through Critical Participatory Looping (CPL) in Socially Intelligent Dynamic Systems (SINDYS) [.mp4 file, pdf file] (NFLRC Video #25). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i, National Foreign Language Resource Center.
Murphey, T. & Iswanti S. (2014). Surprising humanity! Comparing ideal classmates in two countries. ETAS Journal, 31(2) Spring, 33-35.
Murphey, T., Falout, J., Fukuda, T., & Fukada, Y. (In progress). Socio-Dynamic Motivating through Idealizing Classmates. (Accepted by) System.
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