(Read while listening to: ‘I want it all’ by Queen)
Phew, what a semester. I am proud to say that each and every goal I have set for myself was met and even surpassed. But still, there was one I wasn’t able to achieve, perhaps I was afraid to take the first step. I say there was, because I could happily achieve this goal a couple of weeks ago. Come with me and I’ll tell you about it.
I have already mentioned before, in one of my past texts, that only recently I could indeed invest time, money and stamina (not necessarily in this order) in my Professional Development. I was extraordinarily lucky to count on a number of amazing role models who held my hand when I doubted myself (if you are reading this, you know who you are, and I thank you for that) and celebrated my wins as if they were their own. However, I still felt there was something missing.
Everything changed when I was able to participate on the last BrElt on the Road on September 7th. Different speakers led me to the first steps on the path of developing Critical Thinking, and I could finally understand how I should go beyond teaching the language to start helping students develop their awareness of the 21st Century Skills. That was when I came across an amazing article written by Lee Watanabe-Crockett on the blog Wabisabi (Global Digital Citizen Foundation). According to it, there are 12 strong strategies for teaching Critical Thinking skills effectively.
The very first step seemed like a simple one to take. “Begin with a question”!. He says, “this is the simplest foray into critical thinking. What do you want to explore and discuss? It shouldn’t be a question you can answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. You want to develop essential questions here, ones that inspire a quest for knowledge and problem-solving. They’ll support the development of critical thinking skills beautifully”.
That quote sparked a question for my next class! The topic of the lesson was leadership, and I could lose momentum. I knew students would be opened and welcoming to my proposed discussion, but at the same time I was afraid of how my suggestion would be received, due to the recent heated debate on politics. Nevertheless, I went on to deliver what I had thoroughly and carefully planned.
The day came, and I couldn’t be prouder. After a great amount of language input, we started brainstorming the characteristics of a good leader, and also if there was such a thing as a born leader. One of the main traits my students raised was ‘being powerful’. Everything was running smoothly, and to take the debate to a new level, I have shown the following picture:
Silence in the room! My question? What are we doing to empower our kids to become leaders, and are we offering the right role models for them to look up to?
My students semblants changed, as if I was asking a question they had never thought of. At that moment, I set a couple of ground rules, as I wanted the debate to be a healthy one. Firstly, I wanted them to be kind to others, using their best language to make their opinions heard, and secondly, I wanted them to actively listen to their peers, in order to construct a strong argument. The idea was not to convince each other, but to voice their opinions on such a relevant matter.
Words cannot describe the amount of valuable insights my students came up with. There was even one of my students who came to me at the end of the lesson and said that class made him reflect upon his decisions as a parent of a boy and a girl. He even asked me for recommendation of good books he could buy to his kids, with examples of female leaders. I was over the moon with the positive impact of one single question, and it showed me I didn’t need to be afraid, if I had the right question in mind.
With an open heart and a mind full of ideas, I know this was only a tiny step towards the development of Critical Thinking, but I do feel it was an important and impactful one. I do not have any kind of political agenda hidden within this message, and neither do I have the intention to undermine the valuable contribution of men and women in society. I just believe that if we really want to shape the future of our children, we also need to empower the parents of these children to educate both boys and girls to the best of their abilities.
Really looking forward to knowing your ideas on this topic.
If you want to look into Critical Thinking: