Wise Hat News
1st April 2008, #19
Without freedom from the past, there is no freedom at all, because the mind is never new, fresh, innocent.
Here, in Japan, the start of a new school year is just around the corner. This is the time of year, I think, when big chances slip away. What I mean is that it is the time of year when I think about making big changes to the way I teach and the way I don't teach. I look at the raging gap between what I'd like to be doing, what I think I could be doing and what I'm actually doing. I draw up plans and start working on them and then like the cherry blossom they fall and fade away in a breath. The break is never as long as I think it is, and my plans are invariably larger than the time available to ready them.
The real problem is of course, is that I'm trying to make plans for my students rather than with them. But still, I feel the need to create a starting point as, if I am the one with the map, the one who can point out the clear trails from the false ones, the clover from the briar patches and the way forward from the way back. What value, then, is the experience of the teacher. That's the topic I 'd like to dabble in this time around.
When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely-- the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears- when you give your whole attention to it.
Roll up, roll up! I'm doing a presentation for Hiroshima ETJ. Here are some bare details:
Choice in The Children's Classroom
Date: Sunday, April 13, 2008
Time: 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: David English House, 3F Polesta Building, Nakamachi 7-5, Hiroshima
Admission Price: ¥500
Because I feel it is important to match being with doing I've made a choice selector for the workshop. This will allow participants to have some say in what activities get presented. You can check it out here:
In obedience there is always fear, and fear darkens the mind.
In NLP, Neuro Linguistic Programming there is something called Parts Analysis. I've long forgotten how to do it but one thing I remember is that people can hold contradictory beliefs at the same time. In his novel, 1984 George Orwell described this as doublethink. On a large scale this can lead to such horrors as bombing people to bring them liberation and democracy. On a smaller scale, it can lead to education systems that propound student self actualisation and equality of opportunity and then suffocate teacher and student choice with national curriculums and standardized testing.
One reason I think that democracy in the classroom is so important is that I think that it is the best defence against doublethink. Children who get the practise working together and thinking for themselves when they are young will be more immune to manipulation and less sheeplike in the face of authority. There's a greater chance that they will be able to ask the right questions at the right time and take action accordingly.
But I don't know this from my own experience because I've never worked at a democratic school. The children who come to Wise Hat English basically come just once a week. Far too little time for anything much. I can give them all the choice I like and that is only a moment, it's little more than nothing. Thinking I am making a difference is wishful.
And then there is the extra complexity of parents. They have their own expectations, their own beliefs. And they pay the bills. It's a mess folks!
Truth is a pathless land.
I think this is a first - the first time I've put out a newsletter without adding any new pages. Actually, there's one, but it isn't a game or a song or an article. Rather it's a clone of the Presentation Choice Selector mentioned above. It offers the opportunity for people to preview games as they would be presented when I teach and then to make requests about what goes up on the site. Any way here's the link
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It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
In my own experience I know that the less competition in the classroom the more children can focus on learning. I also know that most children are constantly making comparisons with each other.
In my experience I know that children like getting stamps and stickers and just about anything else they can get their hands on. I know these can be used to entice them to do things I consider useful that perhaps some of them wouldn't think of doing voluntarily. I know that for most children learning English with me can be enjoyable but that doesn't mean they have a burning passion for English or even any real thought as to why they are doing what they are doing.
In my experience I know that to become competent at something takes time. I know that to be really competent at English children need to devote some time to it every day. I know that few if any children will do that naturally without any prompting. I know that the only methods I know to prompt are based on behaviourist carrot-and-stick coercion-and-candy approaches that I think are making the World sick.
And the cherry blossom petals will soon blow away.
END OF PART ONE
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If you leave the pool you have dug for yourself and go out into the river of life then life has an astonishing way of taking care of you, because then there is no taking care on your part.
(Quotes this issue by Krishnarmuri)