Each school year works like an hourglass. When there’s no sand left, there’s no sand left. If you want to go on, you need to turn it over.
This metaphorical sand obviously stands for time, i.e. 10 months here in my teaching context, but also for energy and motivation. It’s as if students (as well as teachers) constantly keep an eye on the hourglass and when there’s only a little sand left, everybody starts switching off. The process of switching off is clearly intensified by the rising temperatures. In the middle of June, it can be over 30 degrees here in the Czech Republic – outside as well as inside – so there’s no point in doing some ‘serious’ teaching and learning anymore. Summer is in the air and you can do very little about it since it seems that from now on, the student’s brain refuses to absorb new stuff. Besides, grades have been sorted out so you can’t make the horse drink anymore.
Still, you are at school and you are the teacher and your job is to do something relatively meaningful. But is there anything meaningful you can do at school apart from teaching and learning? Well, it’s a perfect time for the teacher and the students to chill out together. At last, you can introduce silly games and fun into the classroom without feeling guilty. However, you may find out that language games only work with young learners at this time of year. So, while you can play Battleships or Naughts and Crosses with 12-year-olds, the 17-years olds may appear a little fed up with anything teacher-generated which, in addition, they only see as teaching in disguise.
I’ve always thought we English teachers are a bit better off than the rest of the subject teachers in this respect because we have movies and songs – two things that almost everybody loves. So, at this time of year, we can easily switch roles and let our students entertain themselves. I ask them to bring movies or TV shows in English which they like and we watch them with English subtitles. I like to hope that there is still some learning involved but there are no specific tasks or goals written down – we just sit and watch. I’ve come to realize that this is extraordinarily liberating for me as a teacher – to have no goals, aims, lesson plans, agenda, whatever. I just am in the classroom and engage in something very natural that people normally do together in their free time.
Sometimes students bring films I know, such as the Harry Potter series, of which we watched three parts with one class over the previous week. Sometimes I learn about new stuff, such as the Young Sheldon series, which is a great hit here it seems, or this amazing animated movie called Coco, which I will definitely recommend to my ten-year-old son.
We sometimes just sing along with YouTube videos and I’m grateful to my students as I can add some new hits to my Spotify playlist.
I mean, it’s great that we can finally chill out a bit together. If somebody wants to read their favourite book, I let them do it. The only condition is that all smartphones must be switched off because smartphones and headphones drag people away from now and here.
Anyway, that’s how things are at the moment but I think that I’ll soon be looking forward to things starting over again.