18 February 2013

Un peu de ménage.....

Salut ma co-bloggeuse,

It occurs to me (again) that responding to posts with 'comments' runs the risk of things slipping under the radar. I've just been back through the comments and see I've missed yours because I don't seem to get any notification about comments, so I thought I'd bring them back from the dead and combine them with some of mine in a housekeeping post. Well, that's the plan but you know me...... Here goes. Your comments are in italics. Mine are as is. I'll put my responses to your comments in blue.

Loving the new found discipline, secretly wishing it was going to be a constant as it is really a huge bonus for our conversation here! It is all very coherent Ruth and highlights the need indeed for a "method to our madness". 
In my case the discipline is entirely generated by hedonism!! You know me well enough to realise that if there were any sense of obligation or duty associated with this undertaking then I would be off like a rocket. I'm doing it because I love it. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION PAR EXCELLENCE. You couldn't coerce me into blogging previously because I would've derived no pleasure from a one-sided conversation. I'm an interactive dude!! Actually, although I often claim to be ill-disciplined I think I may be motivated by a deep underlying discipline driven by perceived needs or wishes to go down a particular path when the time seems right. Synchronicity. I also prefer to have things ordered in my mind rather than on a piece of paper that I may not refer to. You can't escape your own mental order. I spend a lot of time just thinking about things. I've discovered about myself that I have to be very careful not to impose too much obvious order on what I do as it tends to elicit a rebellious response in me. If, for instance, in a fit of uncharacteristic efficiency I decide to plan my day in an orderly fashion, I can almost guarantee that I'll end up doing something else (unless the plans involve others). It'll always be something worthwhile as I'm not a time-waster, but it just won't be what I planned to do. That's just me and it's something I've come to understand about myself. I'm a great believer in the old Delphic oracle tenets 'Know thyself' and 'Nothing in excess', both of these help to keep my life in pretty good balance while still leaving scope for risk-taking and exploration. Having said that, I can be highly disciplined in certain spheres where there's no margin for error, such as planning for our school France trips. I could almost have been described as a control-freak. They went off very smoothly due to meticulous dotting of 'i's and crossing of 't's.

None of this above is very practical for "la rentrée" I am afraid. We need a list of classes (year group) and a list of key ideas to tackle the diversity with gusto! I have a couple more ICOT posts to add to the smorgasbord, I know you dont do recipes. Or can this too evolve?
I'm sure it was practical, whatever it was. However, I now have a list of classes but I'll have to wait until I've got to know the students a bit before making too many decisions on how to tackle the diversity. I have a number of things that I'm interested in trying, for example designating at least one lesson a week for completely student-directed study where they're identifying their needs (a la Ewan McIntosh) and devising their own strategies (with my support) for meeting them. There remains the question of harmonising with the departmental goals and I can't walk in with hob-nailed boots and presume to change the world, if indeed it needs changing, but I envisage making incremental changes, some of which will involve quite a mind-shift for the students who, I suspect, have been fairly spoon-fed and exam-prepped. I'll be teaching in optimal conditions, for teacher well-being, anyway, as my largest class has 20 students. The others are in the 17 - 20 range with the smallest being a Year 10 of 11 students. Given that they all have laptops and the classroom is well equipped and supported for IT, there should be scope for integrating IT creatively. Yesterday I was planning with Ostiane Amigues Mathon, who has a CM1/CM2 (as well as her teacher training) to see if we could get an exchange going with my youngest Year 4 group. Her class has both a Twitter account and a blog. That's what's generated my latest appearance on Twitter. Will it last?

Yep. (re ICOT) It's certainly great to be able to benefit from others' synthesis and analysis of such events. Even though I would love to have been there, I feel that I haven't missed out, thanks to the conversation we're now having and reading of the links.
As far as Twitter is concerned, I can see you've missed your calling as a super saleswoman. I have never doubted the value of Twitter for creating a sense of community and sharing of great stuff but for me it's just too fast. I'm a bit like Mainland Cheese and take a long time to mull over things. I find Twitter vaguely unsettling, as though I can never quite catch up with it. You're a speedier person in every respect. So I rely on other ways of accessing great ideas. As you know I'm somewhat of a Facebook junkie and following various pages and belonging to various groups, as well as exploring links suggested by friends from all over the world, in areas other than education, is about the right pace for me. As far as developing a following is concerned, it would be nice to think that whatever I write could be of potential value to someone else out there but it's mainly a reflective tool for me at this stage, as I undertake a major challenge. The other thing about Facebook I really like is taking part in educational conversations in the threads and having random real time chats with Art teachers in Lithuania, English teachers in Turkey, friends from closer to home that I don't see often enough. Since I joined Facebook I find I feel connected and think about my friends more than I did before. I've tried Twitter 3 times and failed to get hooked. It's just the way I am. I'm a long-winded and ruminative old carthorse rather than a thoroughbred racehorse. We both get there in the end.

Would love a job with Twitter :-)! Yep I find Twitter hugely unsettling too (and horses too by the way!)and it needs some taming to extract the goodness. And also if I am not careful it is very easy to follow and read from people that sort of think like me, and that does not make me progress in my thinking much. One can only take so much affirming! I get my head out of the "education" thread. I am enjoying following a range of tweeps, who keep me real: fashion, activists,journalists, businesspeople etc. People I am unlikely to meet in real life.
I would not go as far as envisaging to develop a following and making the buzz, but you and I have friends and colleagues whose awesome contributions would be very beneficial to help us in our thinking. Lesley is very keen on "Starting with the end in mind", Kheya teaches in an inquiry school, Simon has huge experience and expertise in language teaching, at that is just to namedrop a few! I would like to think that we could at times invite their feedback. 

Yep, it's great to get inspiration from outside the educational sphere. Things that you can mull over and perhaps incorporate into your teaching. Important, as you say, not to limit your reading/viewing to those already of your persuasion. Broadens the mind and opens you up to new possibilities. It would be very good to share ideas with Lesley and Kheya. 'Starting with the end in mind' is a logical modus operandi, as long as the end isn't too set in concrete. There has to be room for flexibility. As my colleague and friend Simon put it 'If you know exactly what it's going to look like before you arrive, what's the point of going there?' Likewise, it's helpful to know what the objective is (preferably an open-ended one) but maybe you don't need to map out the entire itinerary, which could be different for each traveller. It might be convenient and tidier for the driver or tour guide that everyone travel together by a predetermined route but possibly less interesting and rewarding for the travellers than if they had more autonomy and input into the process.

"The heart of our problem is indeed in the task design..." Yes indeed.
I'm thinking a lot about the affective element of learning and Ken Robinson's 'exile of feeling'. I couldn't agree more.
As far as a more scientific approach is concerned, it isn't really a method that I warm to. I know it might unsettle some of the students not to know at every step of the way where they're going but isn't this a more accurate microcosm of life? I may in the short term be obliged to stick with some of the tired old material but together we can devise ways of making it relevant, in some wider, more open-ended context.
 As far as the key attributes that I would like to help my learners develop, we need look no further than Guy Claxton's Magnificent 8 Qualities. I've internalised them in the same way as I've internalised the Key Competencies and Ellis' principles and am trying to internalise Newton's Intercultural Principles, so that they provide a constant filter through which I pass my pedagogy. What is this activity doing to help develop .....?
I've just had another look at Ewan McIntosh's Problem Finding Ted Talk and that has also reassured me that I don't need to map my methodology out in advance. I need to follow my instinct and intuition, honed over the years and trust that my experience both as a linguist and a teacher will be equal to whatever comes up. I have a few doubts about the German for precisely the reason that my lack of depth here won't allow me to be such a flexible resource as I can be in French or Spanish.

My prompts worked: you did "list" your principles! Yes step by step and back to the drawing board if needed I would be happy to devise materials with you as the need arise. All to be revealed when you meet your students, discover the learning environment and take stock! 
Indeed, indeed. It'll be great to incorporate you in the process. In particular your e-portfolio expertise will be invaluable. I haven't had an answer to my question regarding the school and Google. We'll see.

Wow I am very awake! We indeed learn and process information really differently: I enjoy getting the info "second or third" hand from a respected "intermédiaire" before going to the source. Not necessarily the most adventurous way but... I had secretly wanted you to tell me more about your take on Guy Claxton for a long time and here it is. I am also glad that you have an opportunity to consign to the page what you stand by, clearly and loudly. I have heard you before and this has been at the heart of many conversations.I know you will tell me how to go about acquiring the first chunks of language learning to enable this interaction, in TL, happen. I look forward to your post on the NZC now. Surely there is going to be something about formative assessment...
We have a point in common: I am well used to the concept of sharing good ideas which after polite enthusiasm are relegated to the too-hard basket too: the relative slow uptake of eportfolios by our language colleagues is leaving me perplexed. I am convinced that developing an eportfolio is an awesome way to develop and strengthen Key Competencies in language learners but I have obviously not done a good job at selling it to them... I did throw in NCEA many times even...
To your relief I am sure, I have nearly "emptied my bag" about ICOT apart from a couple of things I will add. I never envisaged when we started talking about this blog a couple of weeks ago that I would actually be able to write anything. I have put it all out there as it may be something I/we would want to revisit/refer to at a later stage, who knows? I don't pretend that any of it would be of any influence as you are about to go and meet your many students (name tags, does it still work :-)?) In a couple of weeks I envisage that our conversation here will have slowed right down, in frequency and quantity, as you will be otherwise engaged. I ll ensure to probe and poke, such is my curiosity as getting to know your learners alongside you. Eh, are you still awake?And yep conversation in a post is the way to go! Loving it!
I'm hoping our conversation won't slow right down when I get started in a couple of weeks. It'll be a privilege to have your continued support and input as I negotiate my way around this new challenge. It's bound to be a re-learning curve from the structural point of view. I can well remember the uncomfortable feeling of being on a mouse-wheel, at the mercy of bells and time constraints. About things which offer no choice, it's best to go with the flow.

Yay!! Problem solved with a modicum of tinkering and fine-tuning. (in response to posting photos and comments directly from a smartphone) This is a perfect example of working things out by trial and error. Text, although written above, appears below on the blog. :-)
That reminds me.... did I ever tell you about the great 'distance' plumbing lesson that François Muller gave me when I was staying at their place in Bagnolet? The bathroom shower tap was on it's last legs and had a habit of shooting off and flooding the bathroom, however, with careful adjustment it could be coaxed back onto the straight and narrow. Well, I was staying there by myself when the family were down in Tarbes, and the tap did the dirty on me. I knew where to turn the water off but didn't know the 'astuce' for fixing the tap. I texted François and he tried to contact his brother (you know, first response - get a man in) but when that failed I suggested we might try a virtual repair lesson. First he sent me off to locate a set of allen keys (or was it a phillips screwdriver?) (I can't remember the translation for allen keys, and who the hell was Allen anyway?). Then, armed with the requisite tools, I effected a magnificent repair following François phone-delivered instructions. Difficult to hold a phone and grapple with a defective tap but we got there.(You'll immediately notice that I didn't think of putting the phone on speaker!!) François observed with satisfaction that it was a perfect example of peer collaborative learning. It was even more satisfying, from my point of view, as it took place entirely in French. 

Voilà pour le ménage.
^. .^


1 comment:

  1. Great to read you have details of your classes to be. Communication with a French class with someone like Ostiane who seems to be "sur la même longueur d onde que toi" is a very interesting thread to explore. Can't wait to receive your comments arises from meeting your classes.
    About the peer collaborative learning you describe about your plumbing adventure, I then commented that the learning actually took place not only thanks to the collaboration but also because you were learning by doing and that there was a genuine need (or else there will have been flood!)


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