Teaching the four C's and a lot more.

There is a saying in my country: teachers are the people who continuously sow the Sensible, the Good and the Eternal. And then of course we reap what we sow. The four C’s announced in our May-June topics sound like something worth sowing, reaping and developing. In an ideal world we would teach our students how to communicate in a foreign language, how to establish cooperation, how to collaborate on projects and how to enhance everybody’s creativity. All these C’s presuppose the existence of certain factors. Teachers should be able to teach and to evaluate, to encourage learners and to promote the positive ideas. Students of all ages and levels should be able and willing to learn, to carry the good seeds to their community. Children’s parents and families of adult learners should be supportive of the teachers’ efforts. All together we should foster the community spirit and become one big happy worldwide family.

But we do not live in an ideal world. Rather we live in what is aptly formulated in an ancient Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

We do live in interesting times. One of the most prominent features of the present era is perhaps the incredibly fast development of ICT, of all means of communication and connection. We now watch the news almost before things happen. A teenager slipped out of the gondola in an American amusement park; while she was hanging on precariously and some brave visitors rushed ahead to save her when she fell, the whole world saw it all unfold in real time via the internet. A giant gator strolls along a golf course in Florida, anybody who happens to be nearby can catch it on video with the help of any device and share it with the planet at once. Unfortunately every day brings in dire news. Horrible, unheard of previously means of committing terror attacks; senseless acts of violence; innocent lives lost… Sometimes I despair. How are we teachers supposed to work, to function? Each time I see something on the news I contact my colleagues in the UK, the USA, in Europe to check that they are OK. Are we supposed to ignore the real world, to stick to the national curriculum and go on with our lessons as if nothing happened? What do we say to a young child whose friend or relative was brutally mowed down or who became a victim of an attack directed at someone else, who suddenly turned into “collateral damage” instead of the familiar human being?

I believe the four C’s are actually a great concept; they provide a focus, and they may act as a real teachers’ aid. Communication presupposes reciprocity, the ability to produce a comprehensible utterance and to understand the reply or any reaction. It includes the ability to build up dialogues and thus the desire to listen and hear each other. Cooperation means that students who have completely different backgrounds can work together once they learn how to express their ideas and how to understand their peers. Collaboration is perhaps a somewhat broader concept. Once people learn how to cooperate with their classmates they may continue into collaboration, learning how to integrate various subjects into one coherent whole. Creativity I believe involves paying more attention to every person’s individuality and talents. Quite often when we only start on a project neither we teachers nor our students may have a clear idea of who can do what, who excels in which area. We may gradually notice that while someone likes to draw pictures, somebody else is already quite good at describing things while yet another one may turn it all into a wonderful IT presentation.

If our students are new to the whole four C’s concept our evaluation may be formulated quite simply: never criticize; always encourage. I would add a few ideas to the four C’s. Compassion, Understanding and Tolerance are the things that should be explained and taught today. No man is an island entire unto himself. When people become victims of violence something is taken away from all of us. In order to sow the good, the sensible and the eternal and to later reap the fruits of our labours we should all learn how to use the four C’s and the whole alphabet in our daily life.

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