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The Sustainable Teacher

Free professional blog for English teachers

Life-long learning with sustainable teaching from The English Classroom

 

What is Sustainable Teaching?  

 

This is a new term, which means there is no agreed upon definition yet. 

To some, Sustainable Teaching is a way to support teachers in their own professional growth, which in turn improves the education they provide. For others, Sustainable Teaching means to teach in a way that protects the natural resources of the planet and sometimes Sustainable Teaching is used interchangeably with Teaching Sustainability.  

The thing that all definitions agree upon is that this is a long term solution in order to improve both the education we provide and our world as a whole.  

At The English Classroom, we define Sustainable Teaching as: 

Sustainable Teaching is the practice of giving students the skills they need for life-long learning outside of the classroom. We do this through teaching issues of sustainability as well as soft skills such as critical thinking, research, collaboration, and presentation skills. 

 

Why is Sustainable Teaching a good thing? 

 

We are bombarded with huge amounts of information at a pace never seen before. This requires constant development, adaptation, and analysis of the world around us and our place within it. For example, by the time a University student graduates from a three-year degree, the reference material used in their first year is already out of date.  

Therefore, standard secondary school education is no longer sufficient to educate students for the rest of their life. They need to be able to navigate the information available to them and keep their skills up-to-date in an ever-changing world. In the post-truth age of social media and advertising, deciding where to educate oneself is no easy task. 

We develop students ‘toolbox’ of skills and practice them over the course of their secondary education, so students can continue to learn long after they leave the classroom. Through Sustainable Teaching, students learn the ability to make informed decisions and analyse the credibility of information they are exposed to. They learn to work in collaboration with others, using effective communication skills to express ideas. In short, Sustainable Teaching prepares students for the modern world. 

 

How can you implement Sustainable Teaching in your lessons? 

 

Sustainable Teaching is a focus on skills and processes rather than knowledge and facts. The content of lessons is important, of course, but through all lessons should be the red thread of critical thinking, research, collaboration, and presentation skills. 

 

Critical thinking: 

  • Give students an opinion and ask them to argue for or against it. Only respectful arguments are accepted. Encourage students to listen to other opinions and be open to changing their minds.  
  • Ask, where does this information come from? Who wrote it? What is their agenda? 
  • Can this idea/ opinion/ invention be improved? How? 

 

Research: 

  • Have your students shown an interest in a topic or concept but there is no time to expand upon it? Give them homework to read about this topic in English.  
  • Find 5 facts on a given subject for the next lesson. 
  • Encourage students to back up their opinions with facts and figures. Encouraging research for existing opinions will engage the students in their work. But remember to stay open-minded! 

 

Collaboration: 

  • This one requires lots of practice and consistency. Create an environment in the classroom where students are curious to meet others, there is no judgment and all students are valued.  
  • Mix different abilities, genders, religions, or friendship groups together but give them a goal or competitive incentive to work towards. For example, the first team to write a list of 10 words on this subject wins or a group must argue for a set opinion and the goal is to persuade the rest of the class.  

 

Presentation skills: 

  • Every time we go to a job interview, meet a new person or offer an idea, we are presenting ourselves. These skills are invaluable in today’s digital world.  
  • Stand up and read/ present/ argue/ record and playback/ explain for a group/ sing - whatever it is, practice this skill in all lessons. Build confidence so students can speak in public and clearly express their ideas and opinions.  

 

We build Sustainable Teaching practices into all lessons at all levels of English, from A1 through to C2. All Sustainable Teaching methods are already built into every lesson so it is no extra work for the teacher but the students will benefit for the rest of their lives. Isn’t it time we adapted our teaching methods for the modern world? We think so! 

 

Made for teachers.  

 

 

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Written by Jennifer Gardner

Owner of The English Classroom

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