learning by experience – the only way to learn?

 We are usually convinced more easily by reasons we have found ourselves

than by those which have occurred to others.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) [Pensees]

When I read an inspiring or insightful quote, I often wonder what circumstances in the writer’s life led to that insight. You see, it’s my notion that compelling, succinct insights that exude truth have got to be rooted in experience. (Which is often the experience of not having done that which the quote cautions us to do.)

That’s why they are compelling and true. Because the one who learned it, learned it “the hard way.” Or as I think is often truer than we like to admit, “the only way.”

Here are just a few of the lessons that I learned not from a teacher resource book or a workshop but from and with my own students in my classes:

  • An activity that works with one class might fail miserably with another class.
  • It’s best to confirm instructions in more than one way – even if you think everyone has heard what the homework is, it’s a good idea to write it on the board too.
  • Meeting your students where they are at means accepting that some of them aren’t interested in studying English.
  • It’s all right if students aren’t interested in learning English.
  • “English only” policies in the classroom don’t always serve the needs of the students.

What insights based on experience have you had recently?

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