Do you share your values in the classroom ?


Erepromotie Churchill

Winston Churchilll receiving a honorary doctorate in 1946



Well… do you ?



I actually do and I’m giving a talk on it for #RSCON3 next month, so I’d love to have your thoughts after reading this post (which will help me brainstorm in a multi-perspective manner) !


I share my values, but do so without preachin ‘em.


I ask questions and wait.   I challenge their views without giving my own— always more Qs.

Call it the “hmm… devil’s advocate approach w/o an ounce o’ emotion” for which I’d thank my FAVORITE sociology professor, Ken (i forget his last name !)

Ken taught S340, Social Interaction and it was an amazing class.  It was one fascinating group discussion after another, and every now and again, a student tried to pin down what the professor thought, but alas… Ken was there to challenge us… and not to give his own opinions.


Every final class, I ask my students these questions:


Where did the clothes you’re wearing come from ?

What did you eat for breakfast ?

How did you get to class today ?


With each of these answers comes a certain diversity, but each answer is further explored.


My Polo shirt came from a such and such store.

…but where was it made ?

In a factory

Where ? How many people do you think work there ?

Somewhere in China probably… thousands

What about the cotton and the dies to make each shirt ?

From the farmer…

Do you think he picked it by hand ?

No way ! He uses a tractor

Where does the tractor come from ?


It’s endless and the students catch on REALLY fast without my ever “pinpointing my message”, which is of course that —-   we are all inter-connected, and every element in our modern globalized life has been touched by thousands, if not millions of hands.


I also like to push the biological limits of “me” and “you” with other “silly” questions:


So, are you the milk you drank this AM ?

Am I the skin that I’m now shaking onto the floor (rub arm vigorously)

Are you the air you breathe ?

EXHALE DEEPLY… so are you breathing me ?

Where do I start and you stop ?

I’m a hippy and I love to share that philosophical “epiphany of interconnectedness”. Sometimes it explodes, sometimes it flowers only a little… sometimes they can feel I’m trying to get something out of them, but for me…           I feel the need to share what I think is a rationally evident fact, though culturally forgotten.

It’s one of the most amazing gifts of a teacher— to affect learning… to share a bit of yourself ?  Is it not, or am I being selfish and pushy with my world views… hmmm…


Dear reader… what do you think ?

Do you share this way in class ?

Do you feel it has a place in ELT ?


Look forward to hearing from you.  ;-)   Cheers, Brad


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  • Anonymous

    Hey Brad, 
    I love the questions you ask your students! And thanks for sharing the bit about your sociology teacher. If all teachers shared a story like this, we would all be better teachers! Yes, this stuff has a place in ELT and in every classroom. I try to give it a place in the materials I write too, because we all know there are teachers who don’t ask enough questions. Instead of finding a balance between TTT and STT maybe we should be talking about finding a balance between asking Qs and givings As. :)  

  • Brad Patterson

    Good point.  PLUS, i always say to myself… no one wants to be TOLD anything, especially values— that’s for them to discover and decide, so obviously it must come from personal reflection, and most often through questions.  

    Thanks T ! ;-)

  • Anna Varna

    I also share my views in classroom and there are many dilemmas I have to face teaching young learners. The most sensitive topic and one I constantly struggle with is the one of religion. How do you keep teaching without being betraying your own values and without shocking your young learners? Especially in a country like mine with deeply embedded traditions of orthodox christianism, a country where until recently we had Jesus icons in our classrooms. 
    Very complicated, but very challenging as well! 
    As you say I try not to preach. I don’t feel I know the ultimate truth one way or another and I don’t want to impose but I want to shake their certainties a little as well…

  • Brad Patterson

    Thanks Anna, and I agree wholeheartedly with the way you’ve put it-  ”shake certainty” to better find our own certainty.  

    “how do you teach w/o betraying your own values” ?   

    This must be hard, especially when you might disagree with your class.  The questions above I asked in China where “environmentalism” is present, but far from a hippy perspective, so I was almost on a mission to introduce that way of thought, but it was never “save the world”, but “what is the world really like”

    shake certainty… i’m gonna use that expression.     ;-)

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Cary.  Thanks 4 stopping by and taking the time 2 leave a comment.

    I imagine we all do in some manner… it’s that “how” that interests me, but that makes a huge impact on how we’re viewed as educators, and how well our message gets through.

    “the other side’s view” is the devil’s advocate approach I always try to get them to do on their own.  Nice website— love “bringing chaos into the classroom”   Cheers, b

  • Naomi Epstein

    Isn’t that the best way to learn a language – learning while discussing meaningful things, things one can argue about and ponder upon? I’m sure the pupils are much more focused when such discussions are being held – all in English!
    Wish I could attend the conference – I’ll  be away on holiday! Please post about it so I won’t miss it all! Sounds fascinating already!

  • MariaKaz

    Of course I
    do, is there anyone who doesn’t? Well, now that I think about it…yes! People
    who engaged themselves in teaching because it just happened, but it wasn’t
    exactly their choice to become teachers. There is still the generation that
    enters class and says:”Open your books, Maria read!” and “What time is it? I
    have to go home and cook”. This was the case in Greece (not anymore!), to
    become a teacher and teach in a public school, a position they were certain to
    keep until the end of their days… It didn’t matter if they were suitable for
    the position of an educator, a word that in Greek contains a powerful and
    flexible meaning. This is the end of this long and terrible tradition, since
    cutbacks in the public sector make these people to have second thoughts about
    becoming teachers… It makes you think, everything happens for a reason!

    each and every single one of us has their own way of expressing their own
    beliefs. I am very careful with my students, because the morphology of my
    classroom has changed a lot during the last decade. Not that I wasn’t careful
    before that! But now I have students coming from practically everywhere, mostly
    Europe, but I have also Turkish ones and an Indian student as well! So,
    regardless of my personal beliefs, I have to be extra careful when talking
    about a sensitive subject such as religion or politics in class. This diversity
    though, offers me the opportunity to teach a topic, such as racism for example,
    in a much more exciting and interesting way.

    absolute rule in my classroom is one: respect; I respect my students, their
    lives, their beliefs since I am the teacher and I have to set a good example
    for them and I expect them to respect me back. There are some times though that
    I think I’m a little oppressive especially with topics such as the environment,
    or their involvement in something else other than Facebook… Oh my, stop me!

  • Hainesrm

    Hi Brad, sounds like you and I have similar styles. It’s the values we share unconsciously, without intention, that fascinate me. These ‘messages’ often come back to me through the students, and I have to reflect and consider what I’m getting across without conscious effort. It is just as important to effect as it is to affect learning, in my opinion. Sounds like you’re doing both.


  • Brad Patterson

    Thanks Naomi.  I would certainly agree that it’s a great way to focus language-learning in the classroom— critical thinking, argumentative role-playing, though as always some SS won’t participate as much.

    Will keep u posted on the conference !  ;-)   HOLIDAY, huh ?  whereabouts ?

  • Brad Patterson

    not going to stop you ;-)

    This is exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping to hear— the “how” in your individual context.

    Hope the austerity program isn’t too hard on you personally, Maria.  You have my empathy, but as you said, “everything happens for a reason” … it’s the cause (of the effect) that’s just as interesting too.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Rob !

    yes— there are both and they’re so intermingled…  

    might seem odd, but it reminds me of the horse that was said to have learned simple arithmetic, and they found that it was the horse trainer that was sending “subliminal” messages through facial features that gave the horse a way to “count” or respond in the way the trainer non-verbally requested….

    LOL… oh the connections that can be made.   Cheers, b

  • Petra Pointner

    Dear Brad,

    Your question is one of the most stimulating I’ve seen in a long time on an ELT blog. Yes, I do share my values with my students. I do it all the time, but not because I want them to adopt my views. It’s my way of keeping my students alert, of making them think about their own opinion on a certain issue and of bonding with them since, if they know more about me and my life, they may be more willing to give authentic, sincere answers to the questions that I try to raise in the lessons that I teach – be that lessons on business ethics, educationals issues, social problems etc. Daring to share your own values makes teaching more interesting and more engaging for all parties involved.  It will eventually lead to more passionate, heated discussions, which, to my mind, are the spice of life and make language learning so much more fun.

  • Brad Patterson

    I was sitting with my parents when I saw your comment.  They always like to know what I’m up to and I showed them and they said “wow.  what a great comment”.   I agree.

    Glad it was a stimulating question.  For me, to be quite honest, it is among the biggest reasons I teach.  It’s great to help someone improve/learn/master english, but to challenge their perception of the world, to make them dig a bit deeper.  THAT’S amazing when it happens.  It is the spice of life as you’ve said, and yes it can happen in certain ELT classes, especially the university ones I’ve taught.  

    Thanks so much again for stopping by… looking forward to hanging at T-E-S-O-L france… or maybe even earlier in Germany !   (cross my fingers )       cheers, b

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  • Dale

    Hi Brad, I like that question “where does the tractor come from?”… it’s so spontaneous; keeps students thinking on their feet! I enjoy sharing my values in class, as long as everyone is sharing, otherwise I’d feel a bit like a dictator. On the other side doesn’t it seem a bit false if everyone else is sharing theirs and the teacher is in silence?If there’s a discussion, I take my turn just like anyone else does, approaching it with an open mind and curiosity. It encourages them (and me!) to reflect on their beliefs – Having just turned 24, I’ve learned a lot about life from my students. Last year I received some feedback saying “I want to hear more about what YOU believe in class”. It’s true, If you expect them to invest their opinion in the classroom you need to give them a return on it. I sometimes wonder though about where to draw the line though? Do they think “owh, Dale’s at it again”… I hope not. 

  • Petra Pointner

    I think we should share some of our core values with each other asap ;-) )) Come over to Germany so that we can talk properly. I will be in Paris on the 24th of September as Pearson have just booked me for a conference. So we might be able to meet on that weekend too :-)

  • Brad Patterson

    I like the sound of your values already ;-) Catch u sooner than later !

  • Katja

    can I just ask this: How teacher centric is what you’re doing? The reason for asking is that even though you don’t give them your opinions, the stimulous for discussions still comes from you. When people, especially teachers, ask questions students often answer with what they think the teacher might want to hear.
    I like the idea of being an educator, not just a language teacher, but I prefer working with texts as stimuli for discussion, as then I can make it possible for students to speak in a group, or with a partner, rather than in the more hierarchical (like it or not) relationship, the student/teacher one is. I’m fortuneate enough to work in a multi-language learner classroom and group students from different parts of the world when talking about controversial issues. I’ve had the situation before that when i instigated discussions on human rights, Arab or Chinese students did not want to say much. I guess because they felt I was expecting a certain answer, or maybe even thought the “playing the devil’s advocate” role was a bit patronising. I don’t know. When it’s a text whose author is someone other than the teacher, it’s easier to say to your partner “I think that’s rubbish. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” From this much more meaningful conversations have evolved between students that I only listened to and hardly ever commented on. It’s much less threatening for some.  I have some anecdotal evidence that this kind of approach opens eyes as we recently did a whole school writing competition where students had to get together and write about each others’ culture. The results were impressive. there was a real need to communicate opinions, correct misconceptions and say “Hey, I never thought about it that way.” And teachers were not involved other than to be on the periphery, helping with vocab here and there.

  • paco gascón

    Hi Brad,
    I see you provide your students with food for thought…
    I’m of the opinion that no text (in the broadest sense of the term) can be completely objective. We  always manage to make recipients aware of what our view of the world, our values or even our ideological standpoints are. These can be just hinted by choosing the right word, pausing at the right time, using intonation… or one can simply go right to the point. 
    It is no good trying to keep your class away from real life by building an aseptic classroom discourse so that nobody’s sensibility is offended. It is impossible to strip off our values, opinions or ideology as we come into class and we can’t ask students to do so. As a matter of fact, it is around controversial topics that the  juiciest dicussions arise. I’ve seen some really shy students feel the urge to give their opinion in the middle of one of these “hot topic” dicussions
    However, not anything goes: I always avoid turning lessons into a manifesto (either my own or someone else’s) or letting conversation grow offensive.
    I like the way you raise awareness of real life issues and unravel the thread by firing questions at students

  • Eva Buyuksimkesyan

    Hi Brad,
    Great questions. Yep, I do share my views and values trying to lead them to their own. We, ELT teachers or any language teacher can help them to percieve the world from different angles, can’t we?

  • Tyson Seburn

    I love the way you go about it and share in your enthusiasm for the philosophical tangents class discussion can go down with a bit of guidance.  We’re taught in our training programs here not to impart our values on to our students, but rather let them hash things out with their own opinions and I always found that hard.  In the end, it’s how you do it rather than whether.

  • Tyson Seburn

    As a footnote, the reasoning behind this point in our teacher training courses is actually because students may regard us as experts and authority figures so that holds a lot of influence, especially with immigrants who rely on us, to a large extent, to acculturate into Canadian society.

  • Katja Thornton

    Sorry, should read ‘stimulus’.

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Dale !   Thanks so much for sharing.

    Glad to hear what your  ’values in the classroom’ experience is like.  I think many of us dogme-oriented-thinkers understand how to “feel” sharing in class, and when students would enjoy hearing our point-of-view.  As you’ve said, there’s also the questiion of ”drawing the line”. Jason Ravenshaw blogged a very interesting post on “how ok is gay in ELT”.  I know I had a number of homosexual friends in China who taught english and had made a very clear choice to not share that considering the cultural context.I wonder how many times my students have had “Owh, Brad’s at it again” moments.  Like you, I hope not much, as I’ve become a more confident, skilled, and student-centric teacher I feel it’s probably decreased.  I hope ;-)

  • Brad Patterson

    Hi Katja and a very warm welcome to a journée in language !  

    Thank you for your wonderful and well-thought out comment.  I think we probably see pretty eye-to-eye on this issue, and I’ll explain a bit more here.

    In general, doesn’t it just depend so much on the group— what culture (or mixed), what numbers, what kinds of personalities.  As I mentioned in the comment above to Dale, I think it’s a real “feel” kind of thing.

    I like your perspective of using an outside text to introduce these issues too, and at times they may free up students to disagree with a point-of-view we teachers might have.  Lastly, because english is not our students first language, it can be difficult for them to express their opinions about something they really care about, and that can be frustrating, so again, we just have to feel it out.

    From the personal context of the lesson I mentioned in this post, the “dig deeper/devil’s advocate/we all are connected lesson” is definitely teacher-centric.  I don’t see anything inherently troublesome with that, as long as it becomes student-centric through discussion.

    More precisely, I introduced this quite a bit in china because I found it was a perspective I wanted my students to consider.  In the end, it was often more of a brain-storm that lead into other activities, and if the “storm of the brain” wasn’t coming from them, then I moved on.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to share your perspective, and I wish you continued success in your classroom !    Cheers, Brad

  • Brad Patterson

    I’ll steal away the typo for an etymological interlude.

    Stimulus has fascinating roots… 4500 years ago it meant to pierce, being “tei/ti” in Indo-European.  It often had an S prefix— stei/stim— which gets it closer to our “stimulus” .  In Greek, a cognate is stigma (or the mark that a piercing instrument leaves).  In latin it’s the same stimulus/stilus—- “goad” and a pointed instrument.  

    The coolest by far though is TIGER !!!  Yes tiger has the same root as stimulus, tigra is old Persian and lost the S prefix from Indo-European whereas Greek/Latin kept the S.

    So stimulus and tiger are “piercing” in etymological nature… I guess it’s that prick/push that gets us going when need to !

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Paco !    Thanks for stopping by, bud ;-)

    I think we see pretty eye-to-eye on this one, and yes no matter what the material is in class ( a text, film, just students and teachers chatting) there will always be “values”— a value is simply a way of being or choice in lifestyles.  JUST the clothes we wear shares values (though you can’t judge a cover by its book!)               Cheers, b

  • Brad Patterson

    We can… and they can too !   

    It is such a gift to have other’s attention, and using it wisely seems only fair.  Tough to have such high expectations for ourselves as educators, but at the same time, it’s part of what makes the profession so rewarding.    Cheers, Brad

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Tyson— the authority figure idea mirrors what Katja was saying above, and I know for a fact that in China students RARELY countered their teacher’s opinion.  If  an educator was to carelessly throw their values out there to students that weren’t receptive, or weren’t encouraged to analyze them (through a good HOW /  interactive manner), then that educator would be simply wasting time, and creating a divide between them and their students.

    Merci for ze commentarieeee  

    (actually it’s commentaire in french but it does sound as frenchy)  LOL

  • Tyson Seburn

    Yes, I see that.  In Korea, I was young and idealistic.  I thought it was my role not only to educate in language but also in social values.  Sometimes it worked out and students were swayed to my side, but more often, my ‘westernised’ ideals grew subversive negative feelings towards me.

  • Saeed Mubarak

    Yes, I do share my
    values in the classroom. Nevertheless, I don’t believe to impose them on my
    students. I usually make it as an open discussion and allow them to freely
    express their views and then I make known them my view. Also, I agree with you
    to use questions while teaching. This can be very effect as a brain storming
    tool instead of just spoon feeding students with

    information you can
    give them chance to think.

  • Brad Patterson

    Hi Saeed

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and sharing your views.

    I too like to let students develop their own views, and then test those views, or push them, and get them to defend them logically.  Sometimes I let them know what I think, sometimes I leave them guessing.  It just depends on the “feel” of the classroom.       Cheers, Brad

  • Bethany Cagnol

    Eeegads I’m late commenting on this amazing post.  Everyone’s comments are just incredible! Plenty to chew on before, during and after your #RSCON3 talk, Brad. 

    It reminded me of the summers I spent at a science and nature center in Virginia: Nature Camp. Some of the happiest 7 Julys of my teenage life.  One class came to mind as I read your post: a two-hour debate my classmates and I had with the teacher on “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  The teacher played devil’s advocate. We really stretched it to the limits and came to the conclusion that no matter how hard you try, someone or something eventually pays.  As a teenager, having this debate really helped expand the limits of existence of the world around me. 

    On another note: your comments about your experience in China (re: not countering the teacher’s opinion) rings a very loud bell here in France.  Sometimes, at the very beginning, I have to teach my students (adults included) how to counter my opinion, my thoughts, even pedagogical approach. In short, I ask for it! I say, “Hit me with it!”  I want to give them that opportunity because I think it contributes to their own self reflection and aids their memory of the lesson. Come to think of it,  I’ll never forget the “Free Lunch” debate I had with the teacher at Nature Camp.


  • Brad Patterson

    tardiness is permitted for great comments like this !

    isn’t it wild to look back on those quick moments that last a lifetime.  I can remember a number of walks with a best friend in high school where questions of existence and truth surpassed most of the hours and weeks and months of #highered classes I would ever take.

    Love how you give your students the lesson on how to counter you.  Great way to create space, and a more interesting dynamic for great discussions later on.    NICE… and “note to self”.

    Bee zoo

  • Julie raikou

    Hi, Brad,

    Late on responding to this, too.  Pls appreciate that your posts are never deleted without reading!  Enjoyed reading many of the comments & Bethany’s was the one that encouraged me to respond even at this late date.

    One of my strongest memories from primary school is of Mr Barker.  To illustrate how the Romans built their roads, he suddenly stepped onto one of the pupil’s desks and strode diagonally across the classroom.  It could have been misinterpreted, ie. diagonally..his point was straight.  However, we never stopped listening to him attentively after that! The unexpected & the extraordinary are powerful tools.

    Referring to Anna’s comment, it’s STILL difficult to introduce controversial topics eg. human trafficking, gay rights, disability in Greece but we’re here and will continue to do so.

  • Ana Luisa Lozano

    Hi Brad,

    Every time I reflect on my teaching, I try to realize whether I’ve taken advantage of certain topics to work on values before, during and after my lessons. As you well said people – in general - DO NOT like being told about what to or not to do -especially teenagers! I have been teaching English to children (from 4 years old), teens and adults for more than 10 years. And that situation has helped me a lot to analize my students’ behaviour, needs, interests,  accordinly. Therefore, sometimes I can ”plan” what to do, even though I have to recognise I prefer spontaneous teaching/ learning. During all this time as a teacher I have learnt that every class MUST be centered on Ss, even more than on a task, content, or my teaching itself. Each learner has his/her own style of doing things, different behaviour, interests, ideas, etc. Considering that, my teaching should suit their learning expectations. Developing critical thinking in our Ss help them being aware of things around them, be less selfish and care about meaninful things for their life. We – teachers – should remember we can influence positively or negatively on their life itself.

    Nice to read your blog posts … keep up!!! :)


  • Brad Patterson

    Hi Ana !  I’ve enjoyed getting to
    know you a bit better on twitter, so now it’s a real pleasure to  exchange here

    We of course influence our students- be it in small or big ways- and this is a very unique
    role to have.  If we don’t show that we value
    them our SS, their own unique style of learning, or way of seeing the world, then we lose this amazing privilege.   


    That’s why I’ve always
    enjoyed forming a discussion that is based on their perspective, their responses, their past.
     Questions can be great for that, but in the end, I think the most
    important thing is teacher awareness and SS trust/openness.  It depends so
    much on context, and I know you’re certainly aware of this as you’ve taught
    more than 10 years and so many different levels/ages/individuals.


    Lastly, thanks for your
    kind words about the blog.  I hope we can keep it interesting ;-)  
    Cheers, b

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Julie !  Thanks for taking the time to share.

    What a cool image— a teacher walking across desks.  Yes, I’ve always been a fan of “stunts” in class to gain attention and ignite a bit of interaction.  Beth Cagnol drank blue gatorade out of a windex bottle for April first this year… hilarious.Controversial topics are tough, and I would rarely address them in a large classroom space.  Unless the mood is very ripe for it, it is just too risky— possibility of losing SS confidence/respect.Cheers, b

  • Adam

    This is a really great blog post, Brad. Adrian Underhill recently said, at a conference I was attending, ‘what you teach is, at the end of the day, you.’ I believe that’s quite true, and as such, we all bring our values to class with us to a certain extent.

    One thing I want to mention here is the degree of caution we nonetheless need to exercise here. For example, 40% of Turkish people believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted on the Earth 10,000 years ago.  While a lot of these people don’t make it into the university where I teach, some of them most certainly do. That represents a significant number of people who discard evolutionary theory. Furthermore, I’ve had students complain about having been given a topic such as evidence that life may have evolved beyond the Earth for religious reasons.

    Never forget that people have drastically different values from yours and that you have to respect their choices.

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Adam—- just got back from the states, so took me a second to reply.

    Love the Underhilll quote, and you’re absolutely right— I think context is the most important thing to keep in mind as we share our views, or challenge others, be it friends, family, or class.  

    I fairly openly avoided ANY political discussion in class while teaching in china because I knew it could upset some students, or change the way they perceived me.  Not worth it.  A few times I chatted personally with students, but in a bigger class the context just wasn’t right.

    cheers, b

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  • Eric the sceptic

    The Socratic method, a traditional way to push students to examine their assumptions and question conventional wisdom, can create lively English classrooms. Like you, I’ve asked students to examine where a piece of clothing comes from and imagine the lifecycle of the item from conception, manufacture, shipping, sales, present, and potential future. (Sometimes students describe their favorite possession and sometimes they write product reviews to post online.) Your classes sound like fun and you’re obviously enjoying leading the discussion.

    You clearly live out your values in your classroom. I would, however, often three observations.
    1. Identifying yourself as a hippy invites creating misunderstanding and distance from your students. Many, if not the vast majority of English students, pursue English to improve their material lives and professional prospects. Respect their material aspirations and career ambitions.
    2. We’re teaching English, not philosophy. So while I consider myself a humanistic educator more than a language technician, I’d suggest keeping the focus on expanding student  knowledge and use of English. Raise questions, organize conversations, and avoid the temptation to dominate discussions or enlighten souls.
    3. Find out the last name of your great sociology teacher! We remain strong role-models for our students, and showing them how to hunt, gather, and distill information is  among our most important duties. If you don’t remember, track it down. If you’re being polite and don’t wish to use his last name, just mention his role and the institution and drop the first name.

    Despite these slightly critical comments, I enjoyed reading your revealing post. Thank you for sharing your lively teaching technique and some philosophical questions with us.
    Your students are blessed to have such a dedicated, enthusiastic language teacher! 

  • Brad Patterson

    Hi Eric-

    Thanks for joining the conversation, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.  Likewise, it’s nice to see that another teacher takes the same approach to the following the path of a single consumer item to demonstrate material connections.  I think it’s something that’s easily taken for  granted these days, and I like revisiting it.

    In response to your three thoughts, I think we actually see more eye-to-eye than you think:

    1) “Hippy” would be a new word for 100% of my former students.  I think I could’ve enjoyed sharing that word with them with considering all the interest/history/etymology it holds.  So, it’s not a word they knew or would label me with.  I use it here to share with my audience because we are adults and we can self-label if we choose to better transfer a message… which makes me wonder why why you’ve chosen “Eric the sceptic”?  Is that the label you want us to know you as primarily ?    

    2) Very true !  And there are two real powers we have as teachers — a) right to introduce material b) right to be the primary speaker.  Now, my choice of topic in this instance is teacher-centric.  It’s something I’m personally interested in, but it’s also a topic that always created discussion, just as any number of “Hmmm…” philosophical questions or controversial topics do.  More importantly, this was a student-dominated conversation, and there was no “enlightening of souls”, as my whole drive was to get them to find their own answers— so i wasn’t exercising the right to be a primary speaker.

    3) I actually had looked for Ken’s name.  Sad story is he was dismissed from the faculty because he didn’t perform enough research— he was so focused on his classes and teaching that research and tenure seemed to take a back seat.  So, Ken hasn’t taught there in 10 years and it would’ve been difficult to hunt down his name.  I kept the name in this post because it provides a human quality to the story, though I agree 100% that motivating our students to be hunters of information is right on.

    Hope it makes more sense now.  Enjoy the weekend ;-)

  • Brad Patterson

    Hi Eric-

    Thanks for joining the conversation, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.  Likewise, it’s nice to see that another teacher takes the same approach to the following the path of a single consumer item to demonstrate material connections.  I think it’s something that’s easily taken for  granted these days, and I like revisiting it.

    In response to your three thoughts, I think we actually see more eye-to-eye than you think:

    1) “Hippy” would be a new word for 100% of my former students.  I think I could’ve enjoyed sharing that word with them with considering all the interest/history/etymology it holds.  So, it’s not a word they knew or would label me with.  I use it here to share with my audience because we are adults and we can self-label if we choose to better transfer a message… which makes me wonder why why you’ve chosen “Eric the sceptic”?  Is that the label you want us to know you as primarily ?    

    2) Very true !  And there are two real powers we have as teachers — a) right to introduce material b) right to be the primary speaker.  Now, my choice of topic in this instance is teacher-centric.  It’s something I’m personally interested in, but it’s also a topic that always created discussion, just as any number of “Hmmm…” philosophical questions or controversial topics do.  More importantly, this was a student-dominated conversation, and there was no “enlightening of souls”, as my whole drive was to get them to find their own answers— so i wasn’t exercising the right to be a primary speaker.

    3) I actually had looked for Ken’s name.  Sad story is he was dismissed from the faculty because he didn’t perform enough research— he was so focused on his classes and teaching that research and tenure seemed to take a back seat.  So, Ken hasn’t taught there in 10 years and it would’ve been difficult to hunt down his name.  I kept the name in this post because it provides a human quality to the story, though I agree 100% that motivating our students to be hunters of information is right on.

    Hope it makes more sense now.  Enjoy the weekend ;-)

  • Alastair Grant

    – I know I’m coming in late to this discussion but nonetheless I wanted to say
    how great it is to have a teacher who is asking such questions of their
    students. Why? Well, this isn’t mere “reciprocal blog writer flattery” – as I’ll

    learning context is a very well-to-do area of Buenos Aires where there is very
    wide gap between rich and poor. Really, there is a very poor area not far from
    where I am sitting now typing this blog post on my new laptop, where they
    collect cardboard to return to the supermarket for 20 pesos that the supermarket
    gives them as “salary”. And despite the “on-the-doorstepness” of the poverty, there
    is still very little interaction between the two communities, and certainly among
    the younger generation, little or no awareness of the daily lives of this poor
    community, apart from their being a bunch of thieves, crooks and murderers.

    is (finally…) that during my teaching time I am ashamed to say that I
    frequently let pass such comments as the ones above, feeling that this is my
    students’ city…what do I know… etc. But deep down I know I shouldn’t and that
    it would be better to challenge my students’ ideas (prejudices). I’m going to

    more divorced we are from the process of production in consumer society, the
    more we encourage ignorance, class divisions, and hatred. As teachers, we are
    more responsible than we know. More power to ya, Brad! I’m your fan!

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Alastair-

    Nice to have you onboard a journée in language, and thanks for sharing your experience so humbly. I’ve been there too— letting our ego or “need” to be right, or “preach” take over.

    And, I think that’s part of what I’m digging at here…  it shouldn’t be about us, the teachers. It should be about them, the students.  In the same vein, I try to make my blog about the discussion, OUR interaction, and not just about ME. 

    As the leader of the classroom, we have the POWER to send a message.  This is a power that just like any power if misused, is diminished. For me, this is pretty close to what you said about “As teachers, we are more responsible than we know”

    If we tell our student what to think, instead of letting them discover for themselves – be it a language, value or philosophical question- then we’re:

    1) Developing a relationship of power, where we deposit knowledge (à la Freire).

    2) limiting the effectiveness of our class because we’re deACTivating them and possibly endangering their view of us— who likes to be told how to think, anyhow!  I can still remember the “outrage” I felt as a child when I was told how to think… even if in a loving way.

    Hope what I’ve said makes sense.  For me it’s at the very core of how I live in the world, and certainly how I teach.  It works for me, and I wrote this post to see how it was for the great teachers I know online.        

    And thanks for being a fan, Alistair. Haha ! In chinese to say “flatter” they say 拍马屁, or pat your horse’s butt— can u see the image— 2 riders passing by each other “oh what a beautiful horse you have… i always loved this one. Kind of today’s “Nice car, man” LOL

    So, thanks. I’m flattered and for what it’s worth, I’m a fan of yer blog too. Lastly, your comment about “divorce” from the consumer process is point on. I could go on, and on… but that’s what I always wanted my students to wonder about [without TELLING them ;-) ]

    Catch u here or there.     Cheers, b

  • Alastair Grant

    I know this was hardly the point of your message but the residual image is still a horse’s butt being patted. Gotta love language – what a window in to cultures it can be :)

    I think the ego has more insidious effect on me sometimes – it can lead me to shamefully say nothing when I hear a slur of some kind because I don’t wanna put myself in opposition to the class. I want to be “part of the gang” – I’m getting over that, but it’s a strong drug to beat.

    Also, I’ve found that there are those students who are so used to what Freire describes as this “banking” system of education, that, especially with one class I have at the moment, anything else, anything more communicative, is intimidating or just seen as “a pain in the butt (horse’s or otherwise)”.

    But I know that’s it’s only be leading that said, sometimes stubborn old nag to water, that we’ve any chance of making it… you know what I’m saying. :) Next class, I’m going to ask them about where they think their Blackberries are made anyway…

  • Brad Patterson

    I can totally identify with the ego struggle.  I think we all can. In any case, I applaud your honesty and strive to move forward with those challenges.  

    In regards to those students that are “banking-oriented”, I’ve seen a great Dogmesque post on Dale’s blog.  Check it out :

    Cheers, brad

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  • Marisa Pavan

    Hey Brad!

    An amazing reflective post. I feel I cannot teach without being myself. I do my best to be encouraging in class and to teach students something else than a language, to transmit values, respect and critical thinking.

    Just yesterday I received a comment on Facebook from a former student of mine that really moved me and it was: ‘You’re such a good teacher, but a better person.’ I don’t want to be praised but that shows I manage to share something apart from knowledge with my students.

  • Brad Patterson

    That’s an awesome compliment, and from all the interactions we’ve had before, Marisa, it doesn’t surprise me one bit! ;-)

    Thanks for the comment.