One of the most rewarding experiences for a teacher is to witness how students take responsibilities for answering the questions that emerge in class and then redefine the course of the inquiry that was originally planned. When this happens in my class, I see it as a sign of providence; and while a few times this web of questions and answers does not take place in the target language (Spanish), I find that this is a sacrifice I am willing to make for it is the substance of their debate what will allow me to maximize the meaningfulness of the unit.
As we were unwrapping our statement of inquiry for our unit entitled ‘Manners’, someone asked: “so how can we use international mindedness as a tool and not as an idea in this unit?” And then the best part came when I asked if anyone could answer that. Volunteers in this kind of requests are never rare in my class, and since their interventions were flavored with humor, wits, dense ideas and personal opinions, I could not possibly ask for more.
Not only did students’ exchange of ideas launched the unit in a powerful way, but also generated a great context for us to start locating and mapping the explorations that could be made. Thus, from manners at the table, to the difference between manners, rules and prohibitions, how manners depend on place, culture and time, every idea that arose automatically became an item in our project.
As a result of this standup internationalmindedness-omedy, students agreed on researching the spectrum of manners in a variety of countries and to write a brief manual with key information on how the country each of them chooses regards ideas such as punctuality, stress tolerance, the idea of ‘good behavior’ and the flexibility of rules. We are now hoping to find schools in the countries that were chosen in order for students to receive feedback on how thorough and accurate their research was, and after that they are hoping to write a few pointers for people traveling to those countries so that they live the culture in that particular country whenever they are there.
… And then there is that lucky moment when a DP business management student enters the classroom and adds: “that information can actually be helpful when we discuss case studies from those countries.” Again, I just enjoyed when students asked, “do you think we can also talk about that?”