Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies!

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A while ago British Council – Teaching English posted a question on fb how the teachers use role playing during the classes. Well, it took me ages to write about it, but it’s quite an important issue for me and explains a lot of my teaching attitude – you may try it too and have just as much fun as I do, especially with children and young adults.

First of all I have to explain that I’ve been enjoying role-playing games (RPGs) for more than half of my life and it’s – no surprise – one of my favourite pastimes. I can say, basing on my own experience, how well RPGs develop imagination and creativity, so I had tried to put some of this fun into my classes – it didn’t go exactly as I planned, but… well, you never know, eh?

Ever since I remember, a teacher and a student were at the opposite sides of everything: learning process (teacher wants student to learn most unnecessary things and not the ones student wants to learn), life (teacher shows only theory, will poor student use that knowledge in real life?), fun – literally every area of life! Poor students 🙂

Teaching young adults I came to realize that most of them study English not because they want to, but because their parents make them. I will never forget one of my students, who bitterly commented my idea of brightening the classes with a grammar game. ‘Grammar games are like playing with the devil’ – said Ania and little did she know how inspiring her words were.

Since I was to be a person who makes somebody else do what I want, I decided to take a ridiculously exaggerated role of the Evil Teacher. The Evil Teacher is not a usual kind of a teacher, of course, but somehow it turned up to be fun both for me and my students – as soon as they realise I’m pretending and not likely to skin them alive (too much blood anyways, really…). It’s pretty useful when my students whine over homework – I usually explain calmly that their pleads will not soften my black and rotten heart. They say ‘right, I forgot your heart is made of stone’ and… stop whining. Yay 🙂 Plus, they don’t expect me to prepare easy tests, allow them to use dictionaries all the time or make their lives easier – we save a lot of teaching time by avoiding those silly discussions which I’d win anyways.

Being the Evil Teacher requires making threats, but then again no proper teacher would threaten a student, unless… the threats are elaborate, absurd and funny: if you don’t stop chatting, I’ll rip your head off and plant a cabbage in your neck! It’s quite important to make the students realise you’re only joking, but since I’ve been doing this for years and no angry parent came to talk to me – it works.

I don’t believe any child would take me ripping their head off seriously, but it’s always good to be on the safe side and explain it’s just a play.

Now, the only thing that didn’t go just as I had planned was… well, of course – the students themselves. Somehow they didn’t seem to be attracted to take roles of some superheroes who defeat their evil enemy by smashing her test. Instead, I’ve had cases like Nastusia, who came to me once and announced: ‘I asked my mum if I could be your minion and she agreed’

And that’s how, instead of superheroes, I have a bunch of minions. So: let’s take over the world…

…in English, please 🙂