Individual Differences Count (by Mike Harrison)

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13 Responses

  1. Barbara Barbara says:

    This is so important–thank you for giving such clear examples. It’s a useful reminder for those of us teaching monolingual classes that a common language doesn’t mean a common background.

    I find it also useful to remind myself that I have no idea what has happened in our students’ lives prior to class. Kids are sometimes bullied at school, or have problems with other subjects (the ones that count on tests, not English), or feel stressed about upcoming exams, or find out they’re going to move, or …. whatever. The point is that sometimes we forget that English class is part of a bigger picture for our students (as it is for us) and that we shouldn’t make assumptions about their behavior in class without knowing what’s happening outside of class.

    Thanks for an important reminder!

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks again for letting me write something for your site – it allowed me to revisit the task I had done while training, which was interesting to think back on.

      I’m glad you mentioned about not knowing what happens in our students’ lives outside the classroom. I was running out of space for the post! I’d also add that how a student performs/copes in a language class isn’t necessarily indicative of their ability or intelligence. People are also different in different spaces.

      All the best


  2. That’s a nice read Mike 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Amanda Wilson says:

    Great read Mike! It’s an excellent post!

    I know it sounds completely obvious but I try to learn my students’ names straight away and use them as much as possible as it seems a first step towards embracing individuality in the classroom. I feel absolutely dreadful, cold and emotionally-detached when I can’t remember someone’s name; I can remember some really easily but have to make a massive mental effort to remember others. If I’ve got a Christian and a Cristophe together in one class, I’m doomed and have to make up all sorts of funny stories to help me remember who is who.

    I say all this because I am aware of a teacher who does not know some of her students’ names or nationalities and …. I really cannot believe this ….. they do not know hers. Shocking! It seems that her students are a mass and not worth the effort of getting to know very well. Not much room for being an individual or having individual needs in that classroom.

    Once upon a time though, I did have a class of 80 who sat in different places every week – not much chance of being able to embrace individual differences then but I did give it a go and learned about 10 names ;-(

    • Hi Amanda!

      Thanks very much for your comment.

      Like you, I try and learn the names of my students ASAP. My biggest worry is whether I’m saying their names correctly – I always say in the first weeks (sometimes up to the first month!) ‘If I say your name incorrectly, please tell me!!’

      I find that really strange about the teacher you mention not knowing her students’ names and they not knowing hers – how odd! I can appreciate having students you might not want to get to know too well, though.

      Gosh! I can’t even imagine teaching 80 students!! For me, 20 is a big number, though I am aware that such big classes do exist. That’s the thing about individual differences – in some contexts it’s so difficult to get a handle on who the students are, and of course it brings into play the whole issue of differentiation (but that’s a post for another time!!)

      All the best


  4. Sputnik says:

    Excellent points, as ever, Mike. I always think it’s vital for the success of a class that students know you care about them individually and that the bigger the class the more important that is. Besides everything else, it’s just plain more enjoyable when you know and value the differences between your students. Teaching a mass doesn’t sound particularly interesting or inspiring. Having said that, I’ve never taught 80 students at once other than in lectures – the mingling activities must have been enormous fun!

    • I can only wonder at teaching 80 bodies – the mind boggles – but this is the norm in some places.

      I certainly agree with your point that teaching a class will go more successfully if you show you care about the students. I’ve always had the best times teaching (especially teens) if I’ve done that as much as I can.

      Thanks for the comment, Sputnik.

  5. maina joseph says:

    habari mike?,(how are you mike?) thats swahili greetings,i hop i have taken care of individual difference by translating my greetings to you,am realy geatful for your post because it has taught me how important it is to note and appreciate our learners’ diverse individual differences for effective teaching and learning.Once again bravo brother.

  1. March 17, 2010

    […] post for Barb Sakamoto’s Teaching Village website called Individual Differences Count. Click here to go to the post. Many thanks, Barbara, for allowing me to write something on your blog […]

  2. March 17, 2010

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