teaching unplugged – in brief

Archive for Reflections

On noticing

Mum was a teacher all her working life, and her varied career ranged from voice training at Central School of Speech and Drama to remedial English in secondary education.

I only recently learned that her first teaching experience, in London in the 1950s, was in ESOL. Recalling an occasion when only a few students turned up and class was cancelled, she described how her delight at the thought of an evening off turned to sadness when she noticed an elderly Egyptian man walking away in disappointment. She said she never forgot it.

I wonder whether, if she hadn’t noticed, she would have gone on to become a teacher? Or whether her orientation towards teaching led her to notice?

Either way, this kind of noticing is just as important as the language kind.


In the i of the Storm

Sometimes my mind feels like Google – without the search engine. Trying to make sense of a week’s thoughts for the blog, I find myself looking frantically in books for things I read online, and searching a thousand tweets for a link to something I read in a book.

How to make sense of all this information, all this interconnectedness? The more I use Twitter for professional development, the louder the buzzing of my mind at night, humming and murmuring, clicking like tram lines in the city.

I guess we need to be able to say: enough. One blog piece that sticks, a couple of tweets that really connect: these are riches enough for a single day.

Note to self: start a scrapbook, and learn to relax.

Ups and downers

OK, how are you supposed to sleep after a big conference? I’m still buzzing like summer and casting round for a sedative that won’t interest the government’s drugs czar.

Is herbal tea the answer? To nobody’s surprise, it turns out it isn’t. If I take something with valerian root in it, the least I expect is to enter a Keatsian nether region of semi-oblivion, not to feel as if half a temazepam has gone down the wrong way. So it’s back to the drawing board marked ‘blended whisky’.

The IATEFL comedown starts when you get to the station, scanning the platform for branded hessian bags and friendly faces. It gets worse when you arrive in town, scanning the streets for friendly faces. And you realise you’ve hit rock bottom when you start embracing randomly branded hessian bags. Well, till Brighton…

When conversation strikes back

Amazement and delight when Teaching Unplugged won an ELTon, especially as both the awards announced before our own started with ‘Teach …’, sending emotions at the Delta table soaring and plunging in swift order. Irony afterwards when Scott, Lindsay and myself went for what we hoped would be a celebratory drink in an adjacent bar; no sooner had we sat down than a sociable but very wired couple attached themselves to us. They were no more able to grasp the concept of ELT than they were the notion of someone coming from Canada, and patience wore thinner when they confused New Zealand with Australia. Thus were the authors of a book devoted to promoting conversation reduced to doing everything in their power to end one. Eventually we were forced to admit defeat and have the drink at home.