You may know British ESL teacher Sean Banville from his popular website Breaking News English, which features up-to-date ESL listening/reading activities based on current real-life headlines. Sean is also a newbie blogger who is always on the lookout for new ways to bring authenticity into the classroom. One of his latest projects is ambitiously titled 10 Ways to Change the World; he has so far posted three “ways,” with more promised in the weeks to come.
According to these early posts, the first world that Banville wants to change is actually an imagined one: the world as presented in our classrooms, especially through the textbooks we use and the issues we choose (or choose not) to discuss with our students.
Banville rejects the course-book-mediated world as a watered-down and whitewashed approximation of the real thing. As an antidote, he presents some straightforward ideas for bringing more of the real world – in all its diversity and complexity – into the classroom, by tackling relevant issues and asking meaningful questions, even if that means talking about “things not nice.”
And by changing the world inside our classroom, he suggests we might contribute to “greater understanding” in the world outside of it.
While Banville’s ideas, as he admits himself, may not be groundbreaking, his project presents a good opportunity to reflect on the assumptions and values teachers and students bring to the classroom, and to ask whether, as polite Canadians, we shy away too easily from issues that might be important or interesting to our students because they are concerned with “things not nice.”