A LETTER TO THE TEACHERS OF ENGLISH: 26Writing autobiographies enhances self-esteem [Archives:2003/668/Education]

September 15 2003

Dr.M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
Sometime ago I wrote about the importance of the learner’s self-esteem and why the teacher should respect it and do everything to keep it up. A learner whose self-respect is high learns willingly and well. This is what the humanistic approaches such as the Community language learning, the Suggestopedia and the Silent method are preaching: don’t do anything in the classroom which hurts the learner’s self-esteem; do everything to reduce his/her anxiety, fear, tension for better learning. Isn’t it natural that his/her anxiety and fear for the examinations will result in lowering his/her performance?
There are several ways to foster the learner’s self-esteem, the foremost among which is to give him/her a patient hearing when he/she wants to say something in the class. He/she may make mistakes but what he/she wants to convey is more important than his/her mistakes and so you can be patient to hear his/her message.
This is necessary in higher classes, where the learners are adolescents and adults and their expectations are high. They are in a stage when they expect others to take them seriously, to respect their views and their pride will be badly hurt even by an insignificant event. The teachers teaching these learners ought to have more patience and greater concern for them. Most of the problems between the teachers and learners happen at this stage.
The books on ELT, especially the ones which recommend the humanistic language teaching, have a number of suggestions in this regard. One of the suggestions is to practice writing autobiographies, writing about himself/herself. This can be practiced in early classes as well as in later classes. In the preparatory classes, the learners can be asked to write a paragraph about themselves, using simple sentences such as ‘I am Hytam. I am Yemani’ etc. In higher classes the sentences can be complex such as ‘I am Fiqri. I come from Yemen. My village is on the Ba’dan mountains’etc. It has been found that writing about themselves makes the learners feel proud about themselves. I have tried this myself in my classes in the college for using certain grammar items and I have found interesting results; some of them are honest to point out their negative qualities. Some of them write ‘I get angry at silly things’, ‘I envy my close friend when he gets more marks’ (these are the corrected versions of their wrong sentences). The point here is that learners enjoy writing autobiographies and this will certainly enhance their self-esteem.
Moreover, this is another way of bringing them closer to you and develop a liking in them for the English classes. I am sure you have your own activities like the one suggested here. Try them. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,