I thought that maybe we’d get some sense of community to work through problems we face in society, it looks like the status quo is still very much alive and well. Instead, so many people crave normality. Normality was unfair and rubbish.
The tools are there to be had in our little corner of English language teaching. We’ve got pay-what-you-want services, open source software, and even beyond that, we have exchange of services and knowledge. We should be more open to this if we truly believe that teachers can learn from students and that it isn’t just one-way transmission of knowledge. Yes, I know I have a Patreon; am I not allowed to be paid for things I write?
Anyway, talk costs nothing. Deeds matter. I am going to try a low-stakes experiment. I think that starting in September or October, I have time to mentor about two people, probably a mixture of email and video chat, or even Discord, for about four months. Let’s leave it open at the minute to see what happens. It costs nothing. All I want is permission to blog about what I learn from the experience over that time. You get my 17 years of experience working in education, and I get what you bring.
I don’t know whether many teachers are really concerned about what goes on in other teachers’ classrooms. I am, but then I’m nosy. I want to know what their cool ideas are. I want to steal!
That said, I’m not indiscriminate. I want to steal good stuff that I think will work with my learners. In that case, why do I have people in my personal learning network (PLN) based in across the world, when I’ve said before that learning can’t be generalised?
Because I want to get ideas about flow. Because an idea that won’t work for me makes me think about why it won’t work and what I need to do in order to make it work. It’s part of the reason I set up the Tokyo Lesson Jam, which is way overdue another meeting (December, when I finish my DipTESOL?), so that I could steal other people’s cool stuff.
For those of us who never get to do peer observations, reading lesson plans on blogs is like a glimpse into another teacher’s classroom. You get to say ‘I wouldn’t do that, I’d do this‘ (in a nice way, not a smart-arsed way). You might even say it in the comments of the blog. You might also see how somebody else solved a problem that you’re working on, or tried unsuccessfully to solve it. The internet is the easiest way to join a community of practice and people are welcoming. People will still say that your stupid ideas are stupid, but they will often say so nicely. They will then give you a better idea. If an idea or method should be rejected, you’ll be told why, and if anything usable can be salvaged from the wreck.
So, yes, even if my stupid lessons wouldn’t work for your learners, it can still be useful provided you give the reasons why it wouldn’t.
Jesse Ewak demonstrated a bit of Voicethread, which is something I might use in the future after I have a bit of a mess around with it and find out what it can and can’t do.
I wish I had gone to see Vanessa Armand‘s presentation because after seeing her slides I realised that her ‘fishbowl’ idea might be useful for a reading class that I teach. Rob Lowe‘s presentation on integrating a blind student into his classroom was a presentation that he gave at the Tokyo JALT/TEDSIG Teacher Journeys conference a few weeks ago. There were four of us in the audience and basically what seemed to come up was that:
institutions need to provide a bit more notice when assigning students with special needs to teachers;
there is next to no information about integrating blind/visually impaired students (or any student with special or specific needs) into the EFL/ESL/ESOL classroom.
To this end, I decided to set up a Google Plus community, SEN in ELT as a place for teachers to share information.
My presentation was quite full, probably because my title was quite simple and something that most teachers need to do (‘Teaching Listening‘). I felt almost clever by involving a bit of research that I had done and using some unusual listening material choices. It seemed to go down quite well and I felt relieved because I feel a bit like somebody’s going to point out that I’m talking through an unorthodox orifice whenever I start new classes never mind presenting in front of people with PhDs and publications and stuff.
To cap it all off, I have ideas about discourse-level language teaching and JQuery-based web apps in my head, a lesson jam to schedule and publicise and other stuff too.
Everybody I met at the conference was lovely, including the mother of one of my former junior high school students, and it was rather a festival atmosphere throughout, except I had convenience store rice balls and canned coffee instead of cold beans and a bottle of vodka for lunch.