Comment on Spurs 2 Everton 0 on Spurs Community

11 01 2012

http://www.spurscommunity.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=82545&page=5

So pleased with Livermore’s performance this evening. He was playing a crucial role at a crucial time, what with Parker and Sandro having just got injured, if he’d not played well and we’d dropped points a few heads in the dressing might have dropped and the belief might have started sapping (as it did back in ’85). 

But he kept it simple, kept it moving and put a challenge in when needed. He didn’t quite seem to always be where he should be, but that will come with more experience and more training with Parker. in fact, Jake’s performance tonight can probably be credited somewhat to Parker’s influence and therefore Redknapp and Levy buying him. 

Younes seems to have come in for some criticism tonight, due to a lapse in concentration in each half. But I thought otherwise he was excellent and his driving runs forward keep the momentum going and lift the spirits at times when some of the fans at least may be getting a bit restless. And playing with Daws for the first time this season was always going to mean imperfections along the way. And one other player who deserves a special mention again is VDV. I criticised his inclusion quite often last season because I felt it unbalanced the team and affected our strikers form, but in the last few games he has really worked his socks off for the team, as well as providing those glorious cross field balls that make your mouth water. Maybe he’s just fully fit at last and his body is finally letting him do so, or has the title charge moved his game up to a more responsible level? 

After the Swansea and Chelsea results made me think we were short of challenging for the title, the last two results (accompanied by some wild ones elsewhere) have made it startlingly clear that until one of the top two should pull a long way away from us we are definitely in the hunt. Long may it continue. 

But please let’s not start thinking about the city game yet. We’ve got another very tough game on Saturday first and we may well need another excellent performance from Jake in the middle to keep the run going. Come on you Spurs. We’re gonna win the league!





A good long run and starting to think again

8 01 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/140178720

Having had a lump of fat chopped off the top of my head on Friday I was torn between running the long I like to run on Sundays and taking it easy again with the excuse of not wanting to risk an adverse reaction.  Once I got going, the adrenalin of this morning’s blog post and the litre of Mate I drank this afternoon while correcting IH DoS Skills and IH CAM homework assignments kicked in and long it was.  

A pleasing long it was too, since I managed to keep the pace up, enjoyed weaving in and out of the throng you get at the Palermo lakes on a Sunday evening and I was even able to do a little thinking too while I was at it, which makes a change on my previous post injury runs.  

Thoughts centred on the Delta Intensive course starting tomorrow and how I would reply to the comments on the blog post:

Should the Delta course be more Dogme oriented in teaching style?  Well, it will have plenty of Q&A opportunities and I’m happy to let the candidates lead what they want to discuss during the sessions I lead.  Time will tell how free and easy things become since it depends a lot on the candidates and their learning styles as much as anything.  

When replying to the blog comments I should be as thankful and conciliatory as possible – I don’t want to get myself a reputation for being a gruff critic now, do I?  But at the same time I’m still amazed at how so many Dogme supporters feel the need to comment and use overexaggerated examples to protect their darling (Who would ever take five course books into one class?).  This is the thing that really grates about the whole phenomenon.  There I was trying to convince myself that Dogme might be quite a useful reflective tool after all and then they go and get my goat up for no reason.  Are all revolutionaries like this?  Is it because it won’t be televised?  

Perhaps my next step will be a follow up blog post on my second year of teaching – The Prague School.  I was lucky, very lucky indeed with the teachers I had around me, the people who came to watch me and the students’ responses to me as well.  Time to pay tribute to all these people?  Might be readable.  

No running tomorrow, but the three Ds lie ahead – Delta, diet and (hopefully) more Dogme debate. 





Who needs Dogme?

8 01 2012

Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones?

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.

Dogme is dead.  Long live Just Good Teaching.





From Dogs to Elves – My fave tweets from #ihdos 2012 Day Two

6 01 2012

The IH Directors of Studies Conference takes place every year in London and unfortunately I can’t be there this year, so I’m following it on Twitter and avidly waiting for the videos to be published on ihworld.com after the conference.

Day Two of the conference is External Speaker day, where guests are invited to come and talk to the IH DoSes about anything and everything.  The programme looked like this:

0900 – 1000 Jeremy Harmer
Teaching unplugged beats acquisition? What to teach who, with what, and why
1000 – 1100 Luke Meddings
1130 – 1230 Nicky Hockly
Digital Literacies
1400 – 1500 Robin Walker, OUP

Teaching pronunciation for English as a lingua franca

1500 – 1600 Chia Suan Chong, IH London
My ELF Conversion – An exploration into the Pragmatics of ELF
1630 – 1800 Panel discussion

moderated by Nick Kiley

19.00 Quiz night (dinner and drinks provided) – SPONSORED BY THE IH TRUST


And these were my favourite tweets from the day: with my reaction to them. Looking forward to your reactions to the tweets and my reactions! 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@Harmerj clarifying for Dogmeticians that doing #dogme doesn’t mean being lazy,but on the contrary requires teachers2be v attentive. #ihdos Yes, it’s very hard work this dogme business, which makes me wonder how many of us are up to it?

@Harmerj asks: Are the three pillars of dogme structurally sound? #ihdos He thinks there might be a few cracks I’ve seen Jeremy’s talk before, in Buenos Aires, so apologies for the lack of tweets chosen on it. 

@Harmerj on what happens 2 sts who don’t function well on conversation& interaction&prefer2get their knowledge in other ways? #dogme #ihdos Yes, both learner styles and teacher styles mean any one approach, Dogme or not, is probably not enough.  What’s wrong with the context approach? 

@Harmerj says the magic moments where teachers work with what sts want to talk abt is simply good teaching, not #dogme #ihdos Gotta agree with this.  It’s called going off at a tangent and a good teacher knows when to do this and how to take advantage of it to provide learning opportunities.  Using a course book well can provide as many tangents if not many more than only student input…

@LukeMeddings on Grammarbks & gr exercises being like Coleman’s mustard. You slap on too much but never use all of it. #dogme #ihdos I’d never do that with my Coleman’s! Not after smuggled it out here in my suitcase.  Seems like the debate is swaying from good teachers to bad course book writers (or perhaps better said, editors and publishers)

@LukeMeddings : our sts r coming to us with their English and not for English. What sts want is 2 engage with it. #dogme #ihdos Nice emphasis, but we’re coming to you for answers, not with answers, so where are they? 

tgscott00 Tom Scott

#ihdos Materials-light now means bottom-up… ? LOL, I always wondered this too.  Language emerges at the beginning of a ninety minute lesson, so we jump on it and analyse it to bits and get students to use it everywhichway – the lack of materials can push us towards overanalysis perhaps?

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@LukeMeddings -the need to change how see teacher training&writing of lesson plans, which encourages people2teach the plan. #dogme #ihdos This is definitely an idea I’d like to develop were I ever to have the time. 

jemjemgardner Jemma Gardner

RT @phil3wade@chiasuan @LukeMeddings I do far more grammar and lexis in a dogme lesson – Same here – so much more to work with! #ihdos For me another concern.  Skills work and decent input seem to take a back seat…

aClilToClimb Chiew Pang

#ihdos #dogme is actually difficult to pull off bc you’d need a good knowledge of #grammar! Correction – knowledge of language.  Much more important to be able to feed in language that improves the clarity and concision of the student’s message

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

Ooo there’s a term ‘synoptic learners’ and ‘ectenic learners’ #ihdos  One to look up and then use on my DELTA course next week. 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@LukeMeddings Ectenic learners prefer control of their learning. Synoptic learners go with the flow & isn’t systematic. #dogme #ihdos

@LukeMeddings quoting Kat from Madrid how added space&organic interaction can spur inquisitiveness & bring class together.#dogme #ihdos Any more on this anyone?

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

“Its about being independent, creative and asking questions, we need to be truly communicative” #ihdos Sounds more like doing Communicative Approach properly rather than Dogme

timjulian60 Tim Julian

@LukeMeddings says dogme has a social dimension for a questioning world #IHDOS Is he trying to say Dogme introduced Critical Thikn ing to ELT?  I hope not.  CT has much more of a future than Dogme, which let’s face it, is dead.  Long live the king!

aClilToClimb Chiew Pang

@antoniaclare @chiasuan cnt coursebook based classes B conversation-driven 2? #dogme #ihdos >Of kurs! But how many tchrs do that oftn enuf? This is where Dogme debate doesn’t help.  We need to train teachers to do more with the students and their coursebooks, not worry about trying to introduce radical and catchy new methodologies / techniques. 

tgscott00 Tom Scott

@Harmerj was about to reach for a copy of “teaching unplugged” then he came to his senses… #ihdos Bet this got a laugh or two.  Although was it clear from his talk whether or not Jeremy had read the book or not? 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@TheConsultantsE Nicky speaking about how we can save the tree octopus! #ihdos Shame it didn’t exist in the end. 

@TheConsultantsE : sts need to be taught how to analyse the veracity of the information found on the web. #ihdos Critical Thinking rears its beautiful head once again. 

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

if you want to see the definitions of the literacies Nick is referring to go here bit.ly/d7i4hu #IHDOS Very useful link, thanks Nicky

louisealix68 Louise Alix Taylor

@antoniaclare: dogme debate btwn @lukemeddings & @jharmerat #ihdos conf in London | should be on telly ;)” I wish! It will be on IHWorld.com very soon!

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

RT @LukeMeddings: any #dogme colleagues got thoughts/tips on teaching low-level, unmotivated older teens in Oman -unplugged? #ihdos #eltchat I thought the whole point of Dogme was it magically motivated everyone to come up with topics and texts for discussion, even low-level teens in Oman?

nickkiley Nick Kiley

#IHDOS Using literal videos and parodies, some great ideas… What’s a literal video and please share the ideas Nick. 

The #IHDOS conference is good for your elf (badum tish – I’m here all week…) LOL, miss you and your humour Nick – wish I was there all week too!

timjulian60 Tim Julian

360 million English speakers in the “inner circle” 150-330 million in “outer circle” #IHDOS Up to 1,500 million in “expanding circle” I’d like to hear more about these circles. Is inner NS, outer NNS and expanding those learning but not really speakers yet, perhaps? 

emilyvbell Emily Bell

#IHDOS Robin Walker suggests ‘native speakers’ need to learn how to be intelligible in international meetings. Perhaps teacher trainers like myself could set up shop in NS contexts teaching NS to grade their language like teachers do?  How to market this need and make my millions from it?

timjulian60 Tim Julian

Consonants critical to ELF, with the exception of TH #IHDOS Again, I’d like to hear more.  Maybe I need to read Jenny Jenkins? 

Consonants, consonant clusters, vowel length and sentence stress key to intelligibilty #IHDOS Exactly what we preach on our CELTA courses at IH Buenos Aires (and Delta as from Monday)

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

Robin Walker :Assimilation, coalescence, schwa and weak forms in fact are damaging to intelligibility in ELF communication. #ihdos Shame, I’m a big fan of the schwa…

Robin Walker- a good analogy of using ballroom dancing and breakdancing to show the diff between NS-target English and ELF. #ihdos Very helpful analogy indeed, helps to convince not a lowering of standards…

timjulian60 Tim Julian

A lot of NNESTs avoid teaching pron as standards are intimidating #IHDOS And therefore we need to do something to change the standards – ELF does this nicely

emilyvbell Emily Bell
#IHDOS Ts can use Ls’ L1 to help teach pron by showing links rather than seeing L1 as an issue to battle with Indeedy

#IHDOS would you rather have a rally driver or instructor teaching you to drive? Pedagogy needs to be dominant factor Another excellent analogy for the NS / NNS misnomer.  I need more analogies in my conference talks…

Harmerj Jeremy Harmer

@emilyvbell @chiasuan yes I think NS are often less ‘charitable’ than NNS when dealing with NNS ‘politness’?#ihdos Same here Jeremy.  More opportunities for training for NS from us English teachers there then. 

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

@emilyvbell tweeting for @shaunwilden for the next hour while he runs around with the mic for panel debate #IHDOS Idea of Shaun running around with a mic like a roving reporter is my visual of the day

mcneilmahon Neil McMahon

RT @chiasuan@Harmerj on benefit s and inevitability of CLIL. #ihdos > Not in institute contexts where they already get it at school though Am only including my own tweets here to save me re-reacting to the great original tweets.  Hope you don’t mind. 

RT @Harmerj: cloning’= taking model speaker (e.g. Penelope Cruz in Spanish) + using as model 4 lang learning #ihdos > Bet her model was NS!

RT @Shaunwilden@harmerj – the need for organisation & planning for managing difficult classes #IHDOS > which goes beyond the classroom

RT @Shaunwilden@chiasuan – dogme doesn’t mean hippy rule free classrooms! #IHDOS > Not at all, they can be samey due to need 4 structure

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

RT @mcneilmahon: So #ihdos panel say niche teaching, project work, pron, CLIL are the most important developments in EFL? >yes & no. Not all new developments but all relevant > Surprised Critical Thinking didn’t make an appearance here > agreed @mcneilmahon #IHDOS

Fighting almost breaking out between @harmerj & Robin Walker! #IHDOS – can NS examiners switch from accent to intelligibility? Can imagine these two rising to each other’s baits…

@TheConsultantsE – setting up a blog is an easy way of including digital literacy in ELT while also teaching skills & language #IHDOS Simple, but excellent point

@LukeMeddings – importance of critical literacy also includes digital literacy #IHDOS

Robin Walker – there is no ELF relevant coursebook yet. Need to train Ts pre-service to promote ELF so that ideas can change #IHDOS I’m open to offers if a publisher needs an author…

mcneilmahon Neil McMahon

RT @Shaunwilden: Experience of learning has been that coursebook can bring Ls together + dogme #IHDOS > Tasks are key to success, not texts

From tweets, sounds like @Harmerj / @LukeMeddings dogme debate at #ihdos was a draw, but @alastairjgrant outshone them both yesterday?

So that was Day Two of the IH Dos Conference 2012.  Lots of Dogme, lots of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), lots to think about and lots of great tweets from some great people.  Many thanks to all who’ve contributed and kept us up to date through #IHDOS.

Looking forward to your thoughts on the day’s events…





Easy Kneesy

4 01 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/138985578

A quick and easy 5k today since the back of the right knee felt tight and after humming and hahing for a while about whether to go at all I decided to just run an easy and see how I went.  I went fine enough, once I got going the tightness loosened up, although the knee is very tight now as I cool down.  I’m really enjoying the atmosphere of these balmy summer nights down at the lake though, so I really didn’t want to miss out, although I really don’t want to get injured so I miss out even further. 

Thinking wise I was running through my talk at the IH DoS Conference tomorrow morning, which I’m really looking forward to as it’s the first time we’ve done an online link up and we’ve got lots of interesting ideas to share.  Let’s hope the tech holds up, especially my computer which with its dodgy battery is able to turn itself off without warning at any moment – and I’ve left the netbook at work so no back up to rely on!  Let’s hope it goes well so that the focus is on the ideas and plans rather than tech hitches.  Time will tell. 





Easy start to New Year of running

2 01 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/138485417

First run of the new year and the easies just got a little bit harder.  Which probably means I’m increasing the workload too quickly and will no doubt pick up another injury soon.  But after the walk home from work, even though it was getting on (and was already dark) I was really in the mood for a run.  Couldn’t decide wether to do hills, fartlek, fast or easy, so went for Easy, which is a concession to slowly, slowly at least. 

I ran a bit further than I’d intended though, since I ended up going out the other wat down Dorrego and then back up the hill again to finish, only because it was very windy and dusty so I was trying to keep the debris out my eyes by hiding behind the car park between the hippodrome and the small lake. 

A good solid easy run, not as quick as last time out at all, but sets me up for some hills or fartlek on Wednesday hopefully. 

Thinking focused on all the work I should have been doing as IHWO coordinator over Xmas, some of which I was scrabbling to put together to deadline this morning and more of which remains undone with ASAP as a deadline (so why am I writing this you might sensibly ask).  I also spent rather too long relishing Arsenal’s last gasp loss today, which makes up for their win on Saturday (thereby gaining two points on the Mighty Spurs) and gives us a great opportunity tomorrow once again to show we are more title credential nurturers than competitors for fourth place.

Happy New Year everyone!