The Invisible Button

The Invisible Button is located just below the emergency button.

Recently I found a nice trick to welcome my students to my CLIL-art room. While standing at the doorway I make them pound the wall next to the entrance. “Do not forget to push The Invisible Button!” I have explained the meaning of this silly ritual to them: “It will remember you to change your mode from Dutch into English.”

In theory no Dutch word should be heard in my classroom. When addressing their teacher my students use English only, as they know that I will not even react to Dutch, if there is no life at stake. When they are communicating amongst each other I frequently catch them out at speaking Dutch though. It is a nuisance, and I lambaste them about it to no avail.

Even my colleagues of the tto-stream find it difficult to express themselves while we have our regular meeting, which we have agreed to do in English. Every so often some one has to resort to Dutch while expressing his emotions or ideas. The colleague is not jeered at as we all know how difficult it is to limit ourselves to our second language. The result of the meeting is more important than just a rule we committed ourselves to. Also it is quite clear that the level of English amongst our teachers differs a lot. As a team we can not afford to ostracize any colleague by sticking to the rule too rigidly.

In the tto-forum a colleague asks for English materials for the tutor lesson next year when his school will start a tto-programme. This doesn’t seem a good idea to me. It is all okay to demand English from your students in the normal school subjects. I like to hear them grappling with meaning and grammar while talking about their work of art. But when it comes to really solving every day problems about learning strategies, how to do your home work, mutual respect, emotional problems, all those sensitive subjects that are dealt with in a form tutor lesson, students should be allowed to express themselves freely in the best language tool they have: their mother tongue. For that reason tutor lessons at my school are Dutch spoken.

It goes without saying that in the art room the school’s yearly fire drill is performed in English until every one has left the class room according to the prescribed routine. But in case of a real emergency I will push The Invisible Button straight away and swap from English into Dutch mode.


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