“What’s New and Good?”

Marshall Brewer, Admissions CounselorMarshall reflects on his Admissions work and his MAT classes.

Besides my Admissions work — introducing SIT to language teachers around the world — I am myself working toward the MA in Teaching. Why? As part of my Admissions work, I stay in touch with alumni. Over the years I heard so many compelling and varied stories about the value of alums’ SIT educations, that I persuaded myself to join them.

Today was the final class session of the most challenging course I’ve ever had at SIT, Second Language Acquisition. Taught by fellow alumna Radmila Popovic, also a professor at the University of Belgrade (Serbia), I was challenged to absorb, understand, and use a variety of theories about acquiring second language. I was excited by this because what I was doing was learning to talk about something I use everyday: language. It gave me a larger way of describing my experience.

However, it was the teaching methods that grabbed my attention. Classes were conducted in the manner of the theories they described. How cool is that? As a student of teaching, it was magnificent experience. Maybe I’ll write more about that experience another day.

Anyway, the title of this posting is a quote from the days our focus was on the theory of learning termed “Interactionism.” Not surprisingly, the premise is that learning occurs when people interact. To begin the class, we all sat in a circle and Radmila asked each of us this question. Each student in the class was able to state something about themselves, about their life, about whatever they wanted to.

There were several interesting effects of this simple question.

  • Students felt connected with each other.
  • A positive, happy tone was set for whatever followed.
  • Students and teacher created a momentary, public exchange with each other.
  • The teacher assessed trends that effected that day’s presentation. Were students well-rested? Were there personal interactions among students that would help or hinder their learning, in general? Was there a trend of feelings or situations that could help or hinder the class that day?
  • These momentary, personal exchanges helped to demonstrate how interaction — the content of the day’s lesson — can stimulate learning.

I loved this class. The teaching was academically invigorating, relevant to actual teaching, and reliably fun. I look forward to my other classes, all of which focus on the practice of teaching, and which build on the theories introduced in this course.

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