To Sir, with Love Questions and Answers
by E. R. Braithwaite

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How did Braithwaite's students respond when he tried to make the lessons more interesting by relating them to the students' daily lives?

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In To Sir, With Love, Mr. Braithwaite’s students respond favorably to his attempts to make their lessons interesting and relevant to them. As a new, untrained teacher, he struggles to find a way to connect with his students. He is upset when they are not engaged in his lessons, noticing that his initial sharp remarks to them had gotten under their skin, and, in return, “their silent watchfulness was getting under mine.” He takes full responsibility for connecting with the students. “It was up to me to find some way to get through to them.”

He decides that his approach to his students must mirror the way he would like them to behave once they leave school. He insists on a certain standard of politeness, asking the students to refer to him as “Sir” or “Mr. Braithwaite.” The students, while skeptical at first, ultimately like this style. “They were very pleased to be treated like grown-ups, to be talked to like equals.” He also strives to find ways to connect to them by relating lessons to their daily lives, and his approach leads them to become more engaged in their learning. When measurements are related to dress lengths and weights to food and fuel, the students “could see the point of it all, and were more prepared to pursue the more abstract concepts.” By relating the lessons to the students’ daily lives, he increases their engagement in their learning, opens up their minds to more abstract concepts, and helps prepare them to make the transition to life after school.

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wordnerd | Student

I don't know that I would characterize Braithwaite's approach as an attempt to make lessons "more interesting". That's a rather shallow interpretation of his motives. He realized that in order to educate them, he needed to gain both their attention and their respect which, so far, he'd been unable to do.Following an incident that caused Braithwaite to lose his temper with the class, he realized he needed an entirely new approach. His new approach was to treat his students like adults. After all, he realized, they would soon be graduating and be expected to get jobs and shoulder other adult responsibilities. The habits and behavior they were currently exhibiting would do them no good as adults. So he set standards for classroom behavior, such as addressing him as "Sir", the girls as "Miss", not interrupting one another, no swearing, name calling, etc. And by re-setting the classroom environment, he made it more conducive to learning. When he taught math, he did so in the context of everyday problems like shopping for food for a family. He took advantage of their natural desire to be taken seriously, their longing to be grown-up. They came to realize he was showing them respect by educating them to function well in the adult world. A trip to see a costume exhibit at the V&A was an opportunity to discuss how their current fashions were derived from an earlier age. Like most teenagers, they were avidly interested in current fashion and his lesson helped them to see it in historical context. The core of his new method was finding a way to connect with his students and their needs. They wanted and needed respect, and they needed an education that would prepare them for life. He found a way to give them both.