Day 2 – the new cohort

Friday, February 3rd

Today was our first proper class. We kicked off by discussing an English teacher who had stuck in our brains be it negatively or positively. The students discussed in pairs what it was about this teacher that they remembered. They then wrote a brief anecdote of something particularly memorable about said teacher. Afterwards I asked them to think about what it was about the teacher that they remembered and then try to link this to the 7 competences determined by the Dutch Government as being the essential ‘skills’ Dutch teachers must have (interpersonal, pedagogical, subject-specific/didactic, organisational, collaboration with colleagues, collaboration with other parties, reflection and research).

            By this stage we had reached the 45 minutes section and it was time for a break. After the break I gave the students a pile of textbooks and some students had brought the textbooks they used at their own schools. We took a look at the online support material (I was given a temporary free account by a local publisher) and then I sent the students off with the following questions:

  1. What do you think of the books (general layout etc)?
  2. Would you like to have been taught with these books?
  3. What do you think of the exercises the pupils have to do?
  4. Look at the eindtermen (final aims/curriculum) – do you see how the authors of these books have worked towards them?
  5. What do you think about the eindtermen havo (general secondary) and vwo (university preparatory) and CEFR levels? Did you achieve them before leaving school?
  6. Do you think the levels are too high or too low for the pupils?  
  7. Do you think these levels could help you when compiling appropriate tests?

The students varied from moderately enthusiastic to somewhat disdainful about the books in front of them. There was a fairly clear-cut division between the opinions: the girls found the materials bright and colourful and the ‘pop-culture’ idea appealed to them. The boys generally found it very busy and distracting and would have preferred to see simple exercises telling them what to do without all the nonsense around it.

So I’m curious if other teachers also notice this sort of difference? There has been a certain amount of research done in the Netherlands into the differences between what girls/boys (men/women) prefer and or need in education. I’m not 100% sure but am fairly certain that there hasn’t been specific mention of the appearance of textbooks and the influence that has on learning/motivation. If anyone reading this has proof to the contrary then I would be thrilled to hear from you!

As a ‘homework’ assignment (this whole lesson was a form of backwash – teaching to the test as the students’ first essay is on their vision on good MFL education and their own influences) I asked them to write a short piece on the problems and/or possibilities around the ‘eindtermen’ (the final aims of secondary education)


As for my new students, well, my opinion of them has not changed yet much. Elaine wasn’t there so I have very little to add to my knowledge of her. Lisa arrived a bit late and, to be quite honest, I didn’t hear her say much – note to self: the group is made up of individuals! Jade was fairly quiet and actually sounded better than during the first class (nerves?). I’m not sure what I make of Jim and my opinion of Anne is unchanged. I heard from a colleague that Anne had previously done a ‘minor’ with us a few years ago and was considered very good – so I’m pleased that my initial idea of her matches that of my colleagues.

I’ll be seeing the group again on Friday as today they had a general introduction to CLT from a colleague and I see them for an English specific CLT class on Friday. So far so good – the class seems to work hard and they are certainly an amusing bunch. I think we’re going to have a  lot of fun over the course of the next twelve months!

For more information on Dutch education:


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