At the last count, there were almost 7.5 billion people in the world according to www.worldometers.info. Perhaps while you are reading this, that number has risen. Among us, there are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, atheists, red heads, brunettes, disabled people, executives, students, children, waiters, classical musicians, famous people, homosexuals, heterosexuals, scientists, babies, refugees, artists, Americans, Nigerians, mothers, uncles…. and we all see the world differently! Thank goodness, there is so much diversity. Some say that the world would be boring if we were all the same.
The way we perceive the world can be based on a number of factors including background, personality, upbringing, where we were raised, role model influences and life experiences, among many others. In Revell & Norman´s book In your Hands, the authors introduce an activity whereby English language students are asked to think about different views of the sea. The instructions of the activity are: How would the following people experience the sea? – a fisherman, a mermaid, an artist, a child, an ice-cream vendor and a computer scientist. Students may be baffled about the computer scientist as there does not seem to be a connection between the profession and the sea. The authors state that “no doubt all of them experience the sea differently at different times and similarly a computer scientist is likely to feel differently about it depending on whether she´s on holiday, writing a poem about it or fighting for her life in a capsizing boat.” It is often the case that an individual may assume that just because he/she had a great time at the beach, for example, it is a positive experience for everyone else. However, it may not be if you were close to death in an upturned boat.
As language teachers, we are required to cater for a wide range of tastes. We may have a group of students made up of individuals of varying ages, who like different kinds of music and who identify with a certain multiple intelligence such as kinesthetic (moving around and not sitting down for long) or logical-mathematical (reason, numbers and critical thinking). I believe it is part of our job as a teacher to motivate our students and maximise their potential. Perhaps one of the ways we can do this is by understanding what drives each one individually. As a teacher, I have often found myself giving songs I love to a group of students, however some may not share the same interest as me. I have also been guilty of neglecting the logical reasoning side of some students asking them to create stories. Developing creativity is one of my favourites, but some people feel safer in their comfort zone of numbers and equations.
According to Bandler and Grinder, who created Neuro Linguistic Programming in the 1970s, we experience the world subjectively, thus we create subjective representations of our experience. Most people are aware of what takes place in the world through their five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Although there are a number of things that the 7.5 billion people living on planet Earth have in common, such as some, if not all, of the senses and basic needs (food, water, shelter, clothing), each one of us is completely unique and inevitably sees things differently from each other. In the challenging times we are experiencing in the world at the moment, it is worth remembering as educators that each student is one person on his/her journey through life. We may be able to hitch a pleasant ride on some of the students´ trips by respecting who they are and finding out about how they see the world. Students can learn from teachers, but teachers can also learn a tremendous amount from their students. Jane has a blog for English language teachers, which includes activities and teaching tips. You can access it at: http://www.janeeltblog.com.br