This is the second of a series of blogposts focusing on some of the best songs of the last fifty years and looking at how we can use them in the classroom and how they can help us as teachers to remember how we can survive in the classroom and reflect on our practice.
You can read the introduction to this series here.
One of my fave songs of the sixties (just as International House Teacher Training was getting in to the swing of things) was ‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore.
We have already looked at how we can use this song in the classroom, so now let’s have a look at what the song might say to us as teachers and how it inspires us to reflect on our teaching.
It’s not our party! and We shouldn’t cry in class!
What this means to me in reality is:
•Put the students first, don’t talk about or plan ‘your’ lesson, plan theirs!
If you have a problem class or student for example, you might find it easier to deal with them if you have them in the forefront of your thoughts when you are planning ‘their’ lessons. This simple change in attitude / approach to planning, can help you to focus on what they need rather than what you (or your course book, perhaps?) want to do. Which brings us onto:
•Do what the students want to do and need to do
It’s their party, so always have their wants and needs in mind when you plan your lessons and as you move through the class, don;t set the agenda yourself or be led by your institute or an anonymous course book writer who’s never met your students, if it’s going to be to their detriment.
•Listen carefully to what your students are saying
Make sure you respond to them as human beings first and language learners later. Make sure you listen to how you can improve the language their using – and also the language they’re not using – are they avoiding using any more natural or better ways of saying something and so need to focus on it?
•Always be in a good mood
Your job is to also be positive and to ensure the students are provided with entertaining and challenging classes that allow them to learn and motivate them to do so too. Don’t bring in any downsides to your life (be it an argument with a colleague just before you go to class or your grumbling about your lack of a pay increase) to the classroom. The students want and deserve a happy teacher in a good mood. If anyone cries in the classroom it should be the students’ tears of joy.
The third of these four points inspires the observation task that goes with this song – you can either use this to self-reflect on your own lessons or use to observe a colleague during the peer observation process. We use this task each month on our CELTA courses at IH in Buenos Aires.
Continuing my obsession with all things Olympics (see previous posts Olympics Use of English and Opening Ceremony Reading, not to mention I’m wearing my Olympics t-shirt yet again as I write…), I even have an observation task for you with an Olympics theme.
First of all, while watching one of your peers teach, make a note of all the positive things you can discern about each stage of the lesson, breaking that stage down into it’s constituent steps as suggested by the menu column (instructions, examples, monitoring, feedback) as well as any other aspects that occur to you. In this way, each stage is racing against the other stages of the lesson, trying to be the most successful.
Then, after the lesson, you can use the sprint grid to reflect on what you saw, electing the best three activities to go onto the podium. The gold medal activity is the most successful, and you should think of the three most convincing reasons why it was so successful. The second gets silver and only requires two convincing reasons why it was successful, and then the bronze comes in third with a single reason.
This combination of while watching and then reflecting lets you combine both ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ reflection on a lesson and the theme of the observation makes it a little more fun but also ensures you focus on the positive. This is good news for the teacher you’re watching and can be good news for you as an observer, since it’s often much easier to see what could be improved and focus on that rather than compliment the teacher on their successes.
Of course, you can also use these worksheets to reflect on your own classes, using them both as cold reflection tools, especially for those times when you’re feeling a little down about your classes and you need a shot of positivity. Enjoy!
At #IHTOC50 (International House Teachers Online Conference) on Friday May 25th, up to 500 IH teachers from around the world came together to share their experience, knowledge and love of teaching, as well as to celebrate fifty years of teacher training at International House.
I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in organising the whole conference, in my role as Academic Coordinator for Resources and DoS Support, but I also gave one of the plenary sessions on the day.
I then gave a slightly different face to face version of the session at the Anglo conference in Montevideo on Sunday 19th August, with the kind support of Macmillan Uruguay. This session included the observation tasks you’ll find below, but I left out Ask by The Smiths as the song of The Eighties and left that up to Just Like Heaven by The Cure.
The idea behind my session was to give some sound advice to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) about how to survive in their early years of teaching, based on my experience as an NQT myself back in Prague in the late nineties, and then as a senior teacher and DoS helping new teachers settle into their new careers, and most recently as a CELTA trainer sending new teachers off out into the wide world of ELT, and also as a DELTA trainer, welcoming not-so-new teachers back into the fold for further teacher development.
Since we were celebrating 50 years of International House teacher training (the first teacher training course took place at IH London in June 1962 and would later develop into what we today know and love as the CELTA), I thought it would be fun to look back over the best music of the last fifty years to find some inspiration. Then it occurred to me that using song was a great way of ingratiating yourself with your students in your early years of teaching, so why not pass on a few ideas about how to use my chosen songs in the classroom at the same time?
And then during the planning stage and with some great input from people (mainly my former IHCAM and DELTA trainees) commenting on my previous blog post ‘Turning CELTees into successful NQTs’, I realised teachers may also appreciate some help with reflecting on their own teaching, both through self-observation and peer / DoS observation.
So I ended up with a song from each decade of the last fifty years and one for luck. And for each of these fab songs, I had advice for new (and not so new!) teachers, a lesson for using the song as listening practice and as a springboard for speaking or language activities, and also an observation task that can be used to help teachers improve in the area inspired by the songs.
To go through each of them here would make for one incredibly long blog post, so instead I’m going to try and post about one song/decade/idea on a regular basis over the coming weeks. And as I do so I’ll add links to each of the posts here below so you have an index to all of them in one place.
With the second IH Teachers Online Conference approaching rapidly (Friday May 25th), as well as trying to arrange all the sessions and get the speakers up to speed, I’ve been mulling over what to talk about myself on the day. Since we’re celebrating 50 years of teacher training around the IH World (the first four-week course was held in June 1962) and as I’m an almost full-time CELTA trainer, I think what I’d like to discuss is how CELTA trainees can transition from the intensity of the course to a full-time teaching position, maintaining all the good habits they’ve formed on the course, while continuing to develop into more rounded teachers.
Which is where you come in! Thinking back to your early days as an NQT (Newyl-Qualified Teacher), what helped you most to get to grips with a full timetable, a wider variety of coursebooks, completely different types of students, the need to inspire and motivate your learners, not to mention the paperwork this all entails? And what would you change looking back over your first years of teaching. What did you need that you didn’t have? What would you like to take back and do over again?
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences and also what advice you’d give to today’s NQTs coming off CELTA courses and starting off in the wide world of ELT. And as a little incentive, all contributors will receive an invite to the session on May 25th, so get commenting!
On May 25th International House World will hold its second online teachers conference as part of the ongoing celebrations for 50 years of IH Teacher Training.
As part of the celebrations we intend to make aspects of the conference open to all, so watch out for details of that. We’d also like to have a running theme throughout the day based on the number 50.
Following this theme, we will be sharing 50 Tips with teachers and teacher trainers and this is where we need your help.
It doesn’t matter if you work for an IH school or not, teach in a state school or a private language school, whether you love dogme or a coursebook – what we need are your ideas!
To make it easier we have come up with five categories for suggestions
Tips for new teachers
Best tips for classroom management
Tips for CPD
Things that make a special teacher
Materials-free, student-centred tasks
Between now and the week of the conference we are hoping to have hundreds of your suggestions pouring in by the sack-load! We’ll then look over the suggestions and choose 10 for each category. These tips will then be presented to you at the online conference.
After the conference we’ll share them all on a blog and in the IH Journal. We may even have a vote to decide the best tip of all.
So do you have a few minutes to spare? Please go to this link and enter a suggestion. You don’t have to give a suggestion for every category and you are more than welcome to go back again and again to add more suggestions – the more the merrier!
Thanks for giving us your time. Tune in to the social media channels and conference on May 25th to find out what was suggested.
On Wednesday 29/2/12 I had another go at No Man’s Land at the Macmillan Montevideo Conference 2011 held at the Anglo. It was interesting to see how the talk changed as a result of having a different dialogue with a different audience – Montevideo was much less impressed with Dogme than Buenos Aires was and quite a few members of the audience were brave enough to call themselves Textbook Traditionalists at the beginning of the talk, although we all ended up as Dog-maurauders at the end. The talk was also shorter, so I focused more on the ten key principles and had also summarised 10 key Dogme-rauder principles which the audience were happy to accept and take away to consider. Let us know how you get on!
Many thanks to Nicolas from Macmillan for organising the day, my impressive fellow speakers Aldo Rodriguez, Phil Hanham and Gustavo Gonzalez and, of course, the anglo for hosting the event – although it was the great audience that made the day such a success.
Pro-T Buenos Aires
Here are the slides from the talk at Pro-T 2012 on Thursday 16th February 2012.
Many thanks to everyone who came to the talk on Thursday and to @lcamio and the Pro-T team for inviting me and organising everything so smoothly. I really enjoyed the talk and discovering much more about the principles of Dogme ELT through the process of researching, planning and writing the talk and sharing it with you on Thursday. It was exciting (and empowering) to put the decision about whether or not to ‘convert’ myself into a Dogme-gician in your hands, and participating in that Dialogic Co-constructionof knowledge to see what emerged was an enlightening process. I hope the talk has helped some of you to look at your classrooms from a slightly different angle and gives you some ideas about how to ensure our students are at the centre of everything we do.
If you feel you are a Dogme-gician, it would be great to hear how you have managed to incorporate your Dogme teaching style into the confines of the educational context where you work.
Dogme-gician's believe in all the magic of Dogme.
If you’re a Dogme-rauder, it would be great to hear which principles of Dogme you have particularly pillaged and which ‘emergent’ tasks and activities you have used successfully or are going to try out.
Dogme-rauders have a soft spot for the 10 key Dogme principles, but prefer to loot and pillage the best of all methods
And if you’re a Textbook Traditionalist, then it would be great to hear the reasons why.
Textbook traditionalists start their planning from the next page of the course book and feed their students grammar mcnuggets
The ones that came up during the talk were pressure from above (Principals getting in the way of principles?) and the necessity to prepare students for exams.
The first problem is going to take time and persistence in order to convince principals, parents and even ministries of education, that the syllabus can be covered and students can learn English and prepare themselves for exams without having to faithfully follow a course book step by step.
And exam classes can easily prepare through a less materials dominated approach. Students choose the texts they want to work with (be they authentic, course book, test book or whatever). Students can construct test activities for each other from these texts, empowering them to discover much more about the tests and the strategies needed to complete them successfully. Students can decide which tasks to work on when, depending on mood, trending current affairs topics, previous classes, perceived weaknesses. Students can design the course syllabus, selecting the test materials to use, the balance of test types to focus on, writing proposals at the beginning of the course, progress summaries during the course, reviews of the course as it progresses and reports on their progress towards the end of the course. Obviously, the students will choose to use Practice Test materials during the course (I imagine), but this is all part of being a good Dogme-rauder – letting students choose, allowing the syllabus (as well as the langauge) emerge through a dialogue involving the whole class.
Al, Vicky and Susan enjoying the talk – laughing in the face of Dogme?
I seem to have burst into song – lyrics a-merging!
Looking forward to hearing where you stand and I was relieved to find out I can continue to be a Dogme-rauder at the end of the talk!
Many thanks for such a measured and thoughtful rise to the challenge, which really helps me to move closer to my own understanding of what Dogme is and how it can help us to keep improving as ELT teachers. (Although I wish you’d linked back to one of my ‘real posts’ such as ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ rather than my post-run ramblings like ‘Plodding and Pondering’ ).
On first reading, your post almost convinced me that perhaps Dogme was, in fact, an Approach, but closer reading, especially of your Richards and Rogers quote, leads me, personally, closer to a conclusion that Dogme is, if anything, a Method. But certainly not ‘just another’ Method, Luke, don’t worry!
In order to be an Approach, Dogme would have to ‘refer to theories about language learning…’. I take this to mean that it suggests theories, or expounds theories, or borrows theories from other areas of academic research and applies them innovatively within the language learning field. As you admit later in your post ‘these theories are not original’, Dogme doesn’t do this.
On the other hand, if we read on and examine Richard’s and Rodgers understanding of Method, we find it…
“…is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure” Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T (2001:20).
For example, a behaviourist approach to learning theory helped to pave the way for the Audiolingual method, which then gave rise to such practical techniques as drilling being used in the classroom.
Within this framework, I now feel Dogme is closest to a Method. It is theoretically related to socio-linguistic approaches to learning, communicative approaches to learning and, perhaps it could be argued, emerges from an eclectic approach to language learning.
It is organisationally determined by a design, since it reacts to the ‘overdesign’ of course book dominance of course content and syllabus design and seeks to place the responsibility for design firmly in the laps of the students, perhaps scaffolded by the teacher. Your further comment about Dogme utilising process syllabi is another very helpful suggestion, although it also adds to the feeling that Dogme’s not the most original of methods.
And it is practically realized in procedure, which can be evidenced by all of the mind-opening and technique-honing descriptions of Dogme practice that you so deservedly praise.
Indeed, Bartolomé’s definition of “effective methods” in a given “socio-cultural context” (2003, p. 411) seems particularly close to how I understand Dogme’s raison d’être:
‘‘The informed way in which a teacher implements a method can serve to offset potentially unequal relations and discriminating structures and practices in the classroom and, in doing so, improve the quality of the instructional process for both student and teacher.’’ (2003, p. 412)
And Larsen-Freeman’s assertion that:
‘’As teachers gain experience, they come to understand a particular method differently ‘’ (Larsen-Freeman, 2005b, p.11).
also fits in with your point about the similarities and differences between how teachers implement their understanding of Dogme in the classroom.
Perhaps it’s in the distinction between whether or not Dogme relates to learning theories in an original way, or combines by now ‘unoriginal’ theories into an original method, or does neither, that our views differ (I don’t share Jason’s view that looking at it as all three is very helpful).
But whether Dogme ends up being an approach or a method or something else, and whether it actually matters, as you hint it’s time to move on. Even if we disagree on where Dogme is coming from, we share a vision of where it should be going. As you say, only through continuous experimentation, description, debate and a little bit of debunking (mostly by sheep in wolves clothing such as meself ), will it mature into either an approach or a method. And this is where it provides excitement and where we all need to continue experimenting along with our students and trainees in their classrooms and where I’ll get amusing myself on my blog once I’ve had another run…
Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bartolomé, L. (2003). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 408-439). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
Larson-Freeman, D. (2005). On the appropriateness of language teaching methods in language and development. ILI Language Teaching Journal, 1 (2), 1-14.
Thanks, Neil, for coming on board, and in such a measured and well-informed manner.
Thanks also for raising the ‘method’ issue. You may have noted that I carefully avoided the term in my original post, mainly because the term now seems to have out-lived its sell-by date (see my video blog M is for Method for a brief overview). This is because (pace R & R) there seems to me to be no stable, identifiable and autononmous entity on the trajectory from ‘approach’, on the one hand, and the way that that approach is actualised in particuar contexts, on the other. In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook. But, of course, Dogme has no coursebook. It doesn’t even have a syllabus. It is simply an idea that has accreted practices, and out of these practices something recognisably distinctive seems to be emerging. But it’s not a method, any more than CLIL is a method, or task-based language instruction.
As for Dogme’s lack of originality, I wish i could count the times that I’ve said that there is nothing new about Dogme. Except the label. Just as there was nothing new about America. Until Columbus named it that way.
I really should be doing other things, Scott, but had to respond to this bit:
‘In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook’
…because in the contexts I’ve worked in over the last 15 years, there has always been a range of methods for teachers to choose from depending on which learning theories they believe in and which approach they therefore take. As I’ve said elsewhere (Who Needs Dogme?) perhaps this is because I’m one of the lucky ones. Encouraged to take an Eclectic Approach, I explore different methods (including Dogme and even a bit of Al or GT when the context suggests it), and practice a range of techniques that have evolved from and outlived those methods.
But I do find the idea of method helpful and persuasive, even if, as Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi puts it in his conclusion to a fascinating article on post-method language teaching:
”Method is a strange concept, old and new, meaningless and meaningful.”
And he goes on to conclude benefits of methods that I imagine all Dogme-gicians would find heart-warming?
”With all systematicity it bears and the order it creates, method swings back and forth from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. At times, it deals with and leads to well-defined patterns as realizations of coherent thoughts and informed practice. There are also times when method equals chaos, especially when in the hands of unimaginative users, unreasonably insisting on sticking to their dogmatic principles. Methodic patterns as they emerge, though, are the quintessence of excellent harmony. However, when dictated and followed blindly, patterns would lose their context-sensitive meaning. Prescription of contextually isolated patterns would, then, impose limitation and this limitation will result in fossilization of practice. Teachers with dynamic minds would never let that happen, struggling to create coherence and meaning as they discover, perceive, interpret, implement and modify methods.”
(Reza Hashemi, ‘(Post)-Methodism: Possibility of the Impossible?’, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 137-145, January 2011
By the way, just in case anyone isn’t sure, I see slavishly sticking to a course book as ‘unimaginative use’ and most Dogme-gicians I know as ‘teachers with dynamic minds’.
And this is why I see Dogme as a method, but not ‘Just another Method’. Because most other methods that are fondly remembered on in-service training courses such as the IH CAM or DELTA, have been outlived by the techniques within in that have been shown to work, while the method itself has been shown to be flawed. Dogme is different in as much as it is alive and vibrant and is showing us at the moment that it can work. The real question is whether or not after a lot more debate and description and debunking it stands the test of time in the way most other methods don’t – it would be very exciting for all of us and our language learners if it does.
Time, as always, will tell, and it’s high time I was doing something else…
A successful and satisfying 10km yesterday, after a full day’s work, which had begun with lots of blog work, continued with coordinating and finished up with the run and Lorenzo’s OIl. The run was the first time in a while that I’ve left the security and proximity of the small lake of Palermo and extended my run out to the big lake. This is my classic 10k route from home out to and round the big lake and then down to and round the small one. There was actually a lot more pondering than plodding during the hour and pico that I was out as I was going at a pace of 6:30/km for mostof it and managed to keep it going throughout the 10km. Unbelievably, I managed to distract myself so much with thoughts of blogging and commenting on all things Dogme so much that I missed my turn off and got a little lost around the small lake – ridiculous behaviour.
The thoughts that distracted me so much were:
Why is it every time I get close to accepting Dogme someone annoys me with their ‘overeagerness’ for the cause? Is it something about them, the disciples of dogme, the Dogme-gicians as I’ve decided to call them, or is it something about me? Am I too unforgiving, too eager to criticise, too cynical?
What is Dogme? Noone, even among the Dogme-gicians, seem to be able to agree on whether it’s an approach, a method, a technique, a tool, an attitude, a lesson type or an irrelevance. And does it matter? I think it matters if people are passing it off as something it’s not (e.g. an approach), at least to me. I don’t like people exagerrating the cause. Am I close in my idea of it as a reflection tool? How do I go about deciding? Discussing each possibility in a blog post?
Which took me onto the last main thought – how do I reply to everyone’s comments while continuing to blog and while doing the rest of my work etc. Yesterday morning I ‘wasted’ two hours blogging and commenting on various posts, which I should have spent doing my coordinating work. But it was fun and stimulating and I got my work done eventually. Perhaps I should settle for using my comments on other blogs as printing press posts on my own blog, and perhaps a post summarising the main criticisms of my recent posts and my reactions to them, although it will have to wait until next weekend…
I certainly overdid it today, no doubt about it. Having done hills on Wednesday and planning a long one for Sunday, today was obviously easy day. Nope, not for Neil. I decided to do some fartleks, which as far as I’m concerned means running fast for a short period of time and then running very easy in between. I ended up doing a km easy, 4 x 400m at about 90% speed (probably my target 5km race pace?) with 100m ridiculously easy (but not walking) in between, 1km very easy, 4x400m again, but not so quick since I’d already outdone myself (proabably at about 70% speed?) and then after 100m walking a very easy almost 2km back home again.
I survived and even enjoyed it, but could feel many a twinge as I hobbled back up Santa Fe to the flat. Lots of ice now and let’s hope it feels good tomorrow with lots of swimming. There wasn’t much time for thinking with all that change of pace going on, but I had a few random thoughts as the blood pulsed through my brain:
I could try writing a workshop called ‘Being a Dogme DoS’ about how to encourage student-centred, materials-light and emergent language-aware classes from your staff, without smothering them in course books and assessment etc.
Polls! I’d forgotten about polls. I should have stuck some polls in the Who needs Dogme blog post to see who thinks they do. Is it worth adding one now? Or should I do a whole new post based on different polls?
I’m going to do a Dogme-stylie Delta session next week on classroom management – they’ve all managed classrooms for a couple of years at least so they should be well aware of the issues. Let’s just have a clinic to fine tune our weaknesses once we’ve celebrated our strengths. My experimental practice as a trainer…
My Delta IT session is going to take place completely online, with the instructions and tasks going out through twitter…Could be lots of fun or it could be a shambles, but learn through doing and all that. Time for my PLN (do I actually have one?) to stand up and be counted…
This weekend at the IHWO DoS Conference there has been a lot of debate about Dogme and as usual I’ve been on the outside looking in. While I agree with a lot of the ‘principles’ Dogme and its followers espouse, I just can’t whip up the enthusiasm to cry its benefits from the rooftops and, if anything, I tend to cringe at the evangelicism of it all.
This weekend’s debates, and particularly @jemjemgardner’s response to my above summary of the debate, have made me wonder why I react like this to well-meaning people with sound ideas. And the conclusion I’ve come to is – maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones.
‘They’ say 90% of the impression we have of someone is made in the first ten seconds of meeting them (at least some such startling fact like this is the basis of reading texts in many course books over many years). My first meeting with Dogme was Scott at his Borgesian best (lots of clever quotes and little meaty passion) – so perhaps that’s where my rejection comes from?
I also think ‘they’ say that the first year of a baby’s life is even more influential than we give it credit for. The quality of the nutrition given is paramount for the intellectual and physical development of the child. The quality of the interaction with the environment, the parents and other humans around is vital for developing socially. And this makes me think that instead my underwhelming reaction to Dogme goes back to my initial experiences of teaching 15 years ago (long before Dogme reared its ugly head).
Daniel, my Trinity trainer at Oxford House College in the barmy summer of 97 wasn’t very impressive to be honest (most of his sessions were very much ‘do what I say not what I do’ and he failed one of my mates without any prior warning) but his comment on my final certificate (see pic) ‘Neil needs to ensure that his learners are not too material-based’ has stuck with me throughout my teaching career. First of all, cos it doesn’t make sense and secondly, because throughout the course we were encouraged to lift the language off the course book page and make it our own through designing our own materials (I was particularly proud of a lesson where the controlled practice was students designing their own ‘Frankie says’-style t-shirts) so it seemed confusingly hypocritical. But all the same, it was the area of my teaching I felt I needed to work on.
So the day of Princess Diana’s funeral I left London at it most surreal (I think I was the only person without a bouquet of flowers in my hand as I got the tube to Heathrow) and headed out to Prague for my first teaching job at Gymnasium Ceskolipska, a secondary school nestled in the housing estates of North-East Prague. The next morning I turned up at the English department office to be told I was teaching in 20 minutes. My first question once I’d recovered from the shear dread I was experiencing was ‘Where are the supplementary materials?’ There weren’t any. The course book was arriving in a week if we were lucky. I was teaching six classes of 35 minutes that day with teens ranging from 11 to 17 and Elementary to Advanced. Needless to say I felt the first lesson was awful and I was ready to run all the way back to grief-stricken England and give up on this TEFL lark before I’d even begun. But as the day wore on and I fine-tuned the delivery (obviously I did the same two getting to know you materials-free activities with all six classes) my confidence grew and I found out a lot about the kids and they found out a lot about me. And thankfully they didn’t find me out.
I doubt I dealt with much emergent language during those early days, but hopefully I corrected their errors and told them what I’d say in that situation. And the kids told me a lot about themselves and a lot about their country and a lot about their future plans etc. And they asked me a lot about me and my country and my murky past. And we learnt English together. And when the course book did finally turn up two weeks later my relief was surprisingly tempered and it was greeted with a groan by most of the kids (and probably their parents who had to fork out a week’s worth of crowns to pay for them). And so I sought to find a balance between covering the content of the course book and allowing the students space to talk and to ask and to enjoy themselves. And, to be honest, it didn’t seem so difficult.
Looking back on these early, vital days in my teaching formation, I discover an answer to @jemjemgardner’s question comment on ‘Dogs and Elves’ – ‘Have you used Dogme much? Or had the opportunity to observe it in practice? I’d be interested to know if the reservations you express are because you have experienced them first hand?’ Yes, I have used Dogme much. I was born using it. And perhaps that’s why, like a rebellious teenager who reacts against their parents’ best intentions, I am sceptical of the need for Dogme. And I realise now it’s because I was lucky. ‘Dogme’-like principles and techniques have always been part of my teaching, and so, like @Harmerj suggested at #IHDOS, I’ve always seen it as ‘Just good teaching’.
Now, I realise there are many other teachers out there who weren’t so lucky in their formative years. Perhaps they grew up in a prescriptive, test-obsessed environment and know no better? Perhaps their teaching personae were formed in Tsarist monarchies where course book was king and unquestioning loyalty was demanded at all times? Perhaps there are teachers out there who needed a Bolshevik revolution to wake them up from their teacher-centred slumber and wrench them away from the misconstrued comforts of published-materials paradise? Perhaps.
But Dogme therefore leaves me feeling like a February revolutionist. Change was happening long before the Dogme revolution came along. Teachers were realising course books are fallible, students are at the centre of learning, tangents are learning opportunities, grammar is but one of many important areas of language, making tasks authentic is motivating, fluency leads to accuracy etc. etc. And I see Dogme as a Bolshevik revolution. And we all know what happened after that.
So my reservations about Dogme come from trying to avoid a cold war. Trying to avoid a split into camps. Dogme V Course book. Luckily for me, I just don’t see the need. So let’s declare the revolution over. Let’s do away with the propaganda and the class struggle and the fighting and the stand-offs. It does none of us any credit and doesn’t help our less lucky colleagues. Let’s start looking for the middle ground now. Let’s continue to train our teachers and encourage our colleagues to be eclectic, to teach the context, to use a course book selectively if they and their students / institute want to, to encourage students to negotitate the syllabus and select texts, to structure classes with logical stages that achieve aims and to leave that structure when the context suggests it, to balance the focus on skills and language, to develop critical thinking skills, to encourage learner autonomy, etc. etc.