Getting the most out of…

By Indra Gunawan

Looking and staring, then looking and staring at the mirror, again and again just to make certain whether the look is beautifully covered or not or else maybe gently dusting it with fluffy brush or puff on the complexion for hours in order that the appearance looks sunnier, more glowing, and more beautiful to the last brush then saying “well, I am looking great now” is what commonly women do with their “secret weapon”-powder compact.

For women powder is one thing. On the other hand for teachers, powder is another. Applying powder for the sake of teaching-learning process in the classroom might be varied according to the need and purpose. Either for punishment or for something else whatever we might call it does really influence the use of method. Getting powder realized in the class really plays as an important role to bring about the outcome, be it positive or negative.

Long ago I once used powder to alert students who preferred to chat with their friends using their mother tongue instead of English. The rule was quite simple if they spoke non-English they would get the powder as punishment. At first everything seemed to go well. The students who communicated in their mother tongue were decreasing significantly. On the other side the students felt distressed and discouraged to speak. As time went by they continued to have no words at all in the class since they thought if they got powder on their face, feeling humiliated was waiting due to the taunting of their friends. And the same time the teacher kept reminding them to put on their face for having spoken non-English. In addition when they, not only students who got the powder but also the others, regard the teacher as “The Angel”, the one who never made any mistake-who never said a single word but English words, it did set them in horror to say non-English words. “The Angel” was ready to give them scary punishment at any time. As a result the class slowly but surely turned to be a threatening class.

So then, what’s next? What to do? First, try to use the key word “reminder” rather than “punishment”. I tell my students “we want to try to speak English most of the time, and then if you forget it I’ll remind you with this powder”. In the beginning, remind them when they speak non-English, they have to put on the powder by themselves. Therefore you won’t get the blue of your face to remind them all the time. Secondly set the model. Teachers should not be embarrassed to look ugly before their students. I apply powder on my face like an army to let the students see there is nothing to be ashamed to wear powder. So the students will do the same as the teacher does. The next is providing them with “enough equipment”, the so-called classroom language in order that the students can apply them to interact either with their classmates or their teacher. The following step is by giving them strategy to speak English in spite of having inadequate vocabulary. Consequently the student might try the best to use their English no matter how hard that is. Finally, always tap their shoulders and back them up with their effort. The students surely need the teacher’s hand to stand on their feet.

So far having used this, I don’t have to remind them or need to raise my voice just to get my objective done; they automatically grab the powder by themselves as they accidentally or not speak on their mother tongue. Their classmates become “the police officers” who always keep their eyes on them. I have used this technique this term for almost all levels, Intermediate, ET and EC Students and so far it worked well as expected except for one student whom I considered the need of special treatment.

To bring down the curtain I hope, certainly for everyone who is concerned, that the students might constantly use their English not only when they are in the classroom but also some time in the future when they are no longer in the classroom. We yearn they will say “I am not afraid of powder. I need powder to help me, so I can speak English better.”

EC student

ET students

Intermediate students

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