Prof. Dr. Friedrich Schönweiss' Individuelle Förderung mit dem Lernserver, currently at the Department of Education and Social Studies at the University of Münster, implements well over 30 years of pedagogical experience. During this long time of consistent further development, a network of different fields of activities has emerged, first of all the Lernserver and its individual orthography program for school children.
Beatrix Loghin is the author of the workbook Learning Tenses With Cindy. She was a teacher at the ‘Oberstufenkolleg’ in Bielefeld and developed this inspiring soap in order to innovate the way English is taught, and, especially, the way of learning and refreshing the tenses. She currently teaches English at the University of Bielefeld as an adjunct lecturer.
Read why she felt the need to create a new kind of English class material and discover which aims she tries to achieve with her motivating soap.
Beatrix, why did you write Learning Tenses with Cindy?
Beatrix Loghin: I wrote this book out of necessity – I looked around at the textbooks that were available for refreshing English grammar and just didn’t find anything suitable.
What bothered me most was that I needed to find a way to repeat the tenses in a motivating and stimulating way – in other words, I needed texts that would involve, engage the students to communicate – to get the students to want to speak, listen, read and write in English! Because I didn’t find those texts, I decided to write them.
I actually got the idea for Cindy by listening to my students talk one Wednesday morning before the class started - they were discussing what they had seen the night before on Desperate Housewives! And the amazing thing was that not only the female students, but also the male students were really interested in this soap opera! That’s when I made my decision to write one, too – but with a big difference! Teenagers are a group at risk – in the U.S.A., the level of teenage suicide is really high. I wanted to write a soap opera that would give the students working with it a sense of self-worth, self-esteem. I wanted them to be at the center of the interest, not some silly characters from Hollywood.
Do you identify with any specific character in the book?
Beatrix Loghin: Well, to a degree, yes. While I can identify with aspects of all the characters, the one closest to my heart is Susie. I, too, have an older sister…Today we are best friends, and she is the greatest teacher of my life. But growing up around her was not always easy – she seemed so perfect to me when I was small. Also, I really love Susie's stand for social justice - it is so needed in the United States!
So far, what has been your experience with the book?
Beatrix Loghin: Working with Cindy in my own courses at the Oberstufenkolleg in Bielefeld and at the University of Bielefeld has really been a fun experience for me! Instead of running around looking for good texts, and then running around photocopying grammar exercises to use, I have everything I need in one text. I am much more relaxed, and the students have shown me that they really enjoy working with the book, too. Also, the CD really helps the teacher – it’s just plain important – and motivating - for the students to hear different voices, varieties of English and different accents – and while the students are listening, the teacher has time to catch her/his breath. Also, teachers at other schools who work with the book have reported that it is extremely easy to use and that their students like it.
Where did you get your ideas for the book – with regard to the characters, but also the teaching methods?
Beatrix Loghin: The ideas for the characters came from everywhere – my life, my friends’ lives. The ideas for the teaching methods came from my deep conviction that school has two jobs: I would like to quote Hartmut von Hentig here, the founder of the Laborschule and the Oberstufenkolleg: “Menschen stärken, Sachen klären” – translated loosely, I would say that our job as educators is to “Make people stronger, make things clearer.”
What are your wishes for this book, for this project?
Beatrix Loghin: I wish that the people using it are inspired by Cindy and her family and friends to want to learn English, to experience that it can be fun to learn a new language. So many of my students have been badly hurt at school by teachers and fellow students. So many want to learn English, but are afraid of trying again. And so many feel despondent, because no matter how hard they seem to try, they just end up with bad grades.
So I guess my wishes are really very simple: to make the people working with the book stronger as human beings, and to make the English language (and especially the tense system) clearer for them.
How was it possible for you to write stories that were so close to the real world in which young people live today?
Beatrix Loghin: I’ve spent the last 38 years living with young people – my children and their friends. For example, a couple of years ago a seventeen year old boy from Brazil lived in my family for 2 years. He listened to Tupac every minute of his free time – literally! His first act in the morning was to turn on the CD player and listen! That fascinated me. Tupac, for him, was a best friend who accompanied him through the day. So we had a lot of talks about that, about what young people need in order to get through the (school)day and their lives.
What feedback have you received on the book – from parents and other teachers?
Beatrix Loghin: I haven’t received any feedback yet from parents – but I am very much looking forward to hearing from parents whose children are working with the book. Other teachers have been very positive so far in their response to the book.