She calls out to the man on the street
Luke started his presentation with pair work and encouraged us to look at role-play in the context of the present hard times. What is our role as teachers? Should we constrain our teaching to mere language instruction or should we move to the world outside the classroom and prepare our students for all kinds of difficulties they may encounter or observe out there?
The answer is not as simple as it may seem. It turns out that the degree to which we should involve ourselves with social or political issues can be controversial. The springboard for this part of the discussion was a video projection of a performance by the NO Project that closed the 35th TESOL Greece convention. The NO Project is an initiative that combats modern-day slavery, focusing mainly on human trafficking. Through dance, arts, music, social media and EDUCATION, the campaign raises public awareness and empowers young people to make just choices. This is a noble cause, and TESOL Greece is a strong supporter of this initiative, but still voices can be heard claiming that this kind of effort should be left to social workers and activists, whereas teachers should remain… teachers. During his presentation, Luke argued that ELT is connected with the real world and our role as educators is to raise awareness of the issues that may concern the society as a whole.
In this context, is there room for role-play? Role-play is an activity based on communication. Group work, exchanging information, use of authentic material and realia, or jigsaw reading can be listed among the activities associated with the Communicative Approach. Students like role-play and their positive responses to role-play range from "Role-play offered us nice moments", "We learnt a lot about our fellow students", "The tasks made us cooperate", "It was fun" to "I felt free". What more natural than taking advantage of this positive reaction and incorporating role-play into a social context, or social context into communicative activities?
The times are hard and the opportunity to take real action is out there. Education can bring change and our role is not only to teach a foreign language, but to raise awareness of global issues. Once we, teachers, believe in this power of education, we can help our students change the world. It is the domino effect: kids with positive educational experience influence others and eventually make an immense difference. With our empowering practices, we can help our students make sense of the world and believe in the principles of justice.
By Margarita Kosior