Saturday, October 19, 2013

Give them hope

Enemy at the Gates is a film about the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 when the Red Army fought desperately with the Germans to hold the city bearing the name of their leader Stalin. At a scene, the newly arrived commissar Nikita Khrushchev summons all political officers asking them to come up with ideas of boosting morale. Besides shooting deserters, court-marshaling retreating generals, and deporting their families, a young political officer Danilov makes a bold suggestion by shouting “Give them hope.” He further details his idea of portraying a sharpshooter as a soldier’s model to let fellow comrades know that the Soviets are on the winning side, so they will have the will to fight for their survival and the motherland.

Indeed, having hope can have such tremendous empowering effect that will elicit one’s potential to fight on under any circumstances. If a leader of any organization can diagram hope for his subordinates, the goal can therefore be reached. Similarly, if a teacher can help build his students’ hope to learn, then nothing is impossible.

In our education system, students are often judged by the final results they have acquired. They are praised for having passed difficult entrance exams and admitted to topnotch schools. However, few things have yet been done to encourage those who try but fail.

In fact, learning a language is nevertheless a long and challenging process which would easily frustrate many. The final result is accumulated bit by bit with words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs here and there. What a language teacher can best help his students is to give them sense of achievement piece by piece when any amount of vocabulary, phrasal usage, or sentences is acquired. When such sense of achievement is considerably accumulated, the students learn.

To give students hope that they will learn the target language and to help them learn well is always my philosophy of pedagogy. The practical approach is to diverse the assessment of their final grades, which would be calculated by as many homework assignments and easier quizzes instead of single final examination. I believe, in due course, students of any levels of proficiency would be benefited from it.  

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