Bits and pieces

Funny how half a year can slip by…

It is with some shock and no small degree of shame that I realised it has been that long since my last post here.

So I thought I would give you all a quick update on some of what I have been up to and what I’ll be doing in the near future,  additions to the site and things I’ve written for others elsewhere (click on the images below to view the pages.)

IH World DoS Conference 2015

It was a great honour to be invited to give a talk at this event, held in Greenwich, UK last February.  As far as I could tell, my talk on the Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT went down well, and provoked some robust debate as well.  Thanks to Shaun Wilden for asking me to be part of this event.  One of the fun challenges of the weekend was in Shaun’s and Niki Fortova’s own workshop, where the team I was on managed to film, edit and publish the following short movie trailer in a stupidly short period of time – great idea for class work.  If I manage to get permission from all those in the film, I’ll post it here later.

IATEFL and all that…

I’m also honoured to be part of the TDSIG Pre-Conference Event at IATEFL Manchester 2015, kicking off this coming Friday.  The theme revolves around sharing and solving problems and issues we are encountering in our teaching, and revealing and reveling in the rewards of our work.  Come along if you can – I think there are still tickets available that you can get early on the day if you are lucky.

I’ve contributed two posts to the IATEFL Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TDSIG) website:

link to a post for TDSIG by Anthony Gaughan

link to TDSIG blog post on top ten teaching books by Anthony Gaughan

In other news…

I’ve also updated my site a little, firstly by repairing a lost welcome video on my who’s behind all this? page:

link to welcome video

I’ve also added a short Q and A video with me about Celta that we filmed a few years back.

Link to Anthony talking about Celta

There are a few more housekeeping chores I plan to do shortly, such as repair broken links to some video content, and try to make available again the video of my and Izzy’s talk at IATEFL Harrogate back in 2010. The British Council, understandably, have mothballed that year’s IATEFL Online content, and so the video of our talk and interview have disappeared. I want to see if I can get permission to upload it under my own steam, but we’ll have to see.

taking a blogging busman’s holiday

Instead of writing anything for my own blog this month, I’ve had the honour and the pleasure of writing a guest post as part of the ongoing “10 Books that Shaped my Teaching” series initited by TDSIG, the IATEFL Teacher Development Special Interest Group.

If the idea of finding out what kinds of books have influenced me as a teacher, and if you want to find out what lessons I drew from writers and books ranging from Douglas Adams to Everyday Zen, then follow this link!

PS: if the link doesn’t work for you, then copy and paste the following URL into your browser: http://tdsig.org/2014/09/anthony-gaughans-top-10-teaching-books/

who are grades for?

Grades have become so closely associated with education these days that is is quite easy to forget that they are – historically speaking – a relatively recent phenomenon.  They were unheard of in the days of Socrates, and would have seemed alien to Comenius.

Unbelievable as it may sound, we didn’t always bother with grades while going about the task of educating and becoming educated.

This being so, it is natural to ask the question “what are grades for?”

If you search the internet using this question as a search term you find at least 37,000 hits, and the hits generated are interesting reading for those of us working in education.

I suspect, however, that these answers are not really important for the simple reason that they are answering the wrong question.

We shouldn’t be asking what grades are for; we should instead be asking who grades are for?

Continue reading

3 things beginning with E

cartoon of judge awarding 10 points

I spend almost all of my professional life doing one of two things: observing the work of trainee teachers on Celta initial teacher training courses, or observing the work of Celta tutors in my role as an appointed Assessor for the Celta award.

Both of these jobs present various challenges and raise many questions, but in the end it boils down to this:

“Is what I am looking at any good?”*

Answering the question of whether or not a lesson being taught by a trainee teacher is any good, or whether or not a training course being run by a team of teacher trainers is any good, is obviously not as straightforward a question to answer, as it is to pose.

Continue reading

Where are all the unplugged teacher trainers?

Dogme ELT has been around (in the sense of having a name and a movement of people who recognize it as a legitimate and defined approach to teaching languages) for the best part of 15 years at this point of writing; what this means is there are a significant number of teachers working now who never experienced a world of ELT without Dogme – for the simple reason that they entered the profession, were trained, and developed their careers after the emergence of what has been termed the Dogme collective.

However banal this observation may appear, its significance is worth exploring.

Continue reading

Dogme is not “just good teaching”

Zen
Photo taken with thanks from Craiglea123’s Flickr photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/craiglea/4806744754/ under a creative commons CC BY-SA 2.0 licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Usually when (it) is so simple we say, “Oh, I know that! It is quite simple. everyone knows that.”But if we do not find its value, it means nothing. It is the same as not knowing.

– Shunryu Suzuki in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” –

I am not sure when exactly it started, but at some point recently a strand of debate around Dogme ELT arose (or was resurrected) which basically can be summed up in the following statements:

“Oh, but that’s what I’ve always done.”
“That’s what we’ve always done.”
“That’s what good teachers have always done.”
“That’s just good teaching.”

I have heard these phrases used many times when responding to the suggestion by others of new ideas or practices.  I have said such phrases myself in response to such suggestions.

But notice what is happening here. Continue reading

balance isn’t everything

Movement is the destruction of balance.

I don’t know who I originally heard this from, but it was in the context of running theory.

The idea is that in order for a physical body to move in any direction, it cannot be in a position of balance. That is to say, it cannot be maintaining a given position against the pressure of gravity.

For movement to occur, this balance needs to be destroyed, if only momentarily and if only slightly.  In order to run, all we need is a very slight forward lean from the ankles, and gravity takes care of the rest.  We realign ourselves with gravity by bringing our feet up fast enough to catch ourselves from toppling, and repeat the process.

This got me thinking about learning.  It made me realise the following: learning is the destruction of knowing. Continue reading

to andi and scott, with love, anthony’s students

IMG_1192

A couple of days ago I taught a short (35 minute) lesson to the teaching practice students on the CELTA course we are running in Hamburg at the moment.  I had used a personal story to introduce the structure “used to” and, while setting up some controlled practice, I had told the students that I used to have long hair.

Several of the students didn’t believe me and demanded to see photographic evidence.  This demand led to one of the most enjoyable lessons I have ever been part of.

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is teaching child’s play?

Q: When is a train carriage not a train carriage?

A: When it is a classroom.

This is the substance of a conversation I heard on the train recently.

Initially I only vaguely listened while trying to concentrate on my book, but the conversation began to grip my attention and I transcribed it.

Names, while overheard, have been omitted in the interests of privacy.

This conversation was one of probably hundreds of similar conversations between parents and children going on throughout the UK at the time.

Scene: a train carriage in the UK

Protagonists: a mother and male child, late nursery or early primary school age.
Child is reading aloud, mother is encouraging the child to continue and is engaging the child in conversation about the book he is just finishing. Continue reading