Action enquiry: Becoming a better one2one coach

I’ve been asked to do a workshop for Cornelsen to promote Up to Speed, a Business English coursebook written by Carole Eilertson and Louise Kennedy which I had the honor of being an advisor to, as one of a team. The two authors have other things going on and can’t do it. I really like the book, so if it helps it get more publicity, I’m in. This will be at BESIG this coming November, so I’m going to Posznan, Poland – wow!

A workshop should be more than a book PR event, it needs to contain interesting approaches that stand on their own. The book focusses on one2one language coaching (Einzelcoaching), so I’ll make that my main project focus for the next half year.

I need to reflect on my teaching practice and do some “action enquiry”: redefine and refine my didactic approach in one2one, find students willing to go down that road with me and then evaluate what we have done to see whether the approach translates to effective learning. A nice project. It will bring back those great discussions we had with Louise and Carole. I’ve focussed on one day workshops lately and have longstanding company courses, but have taken a break from one2one. One of the things I’ll be rethinking now is how to keep one2one courses on track; after all, they are often more chaotic and less regular  due to my clients’ complicated schedules and very limited time and ad hoc problems to be solved. But when we get sidetracked and lose track of where we’re going there is less progress. Focus is so important, so defining small steps to achieve small gains is essential.

PS: My four categories for a small gains spreadsheet:

  1. Goal and purpose
  2. When
  3. What and how
  4. 360° feedback

This is a rough scheme. Not sure how to break down bigger goals into smaller ones visually – I probably should put them on a separate sheet. Especially with one2ones the agenda changes so quickly – this is the problem – because I’m an immediate resource, and there is always a pressing need for something right here and right now. I have to be able to document what goal we have been working on for the 360° feedback. – I wish I could get all of my one2one students to set up a blog, to reflect and extend the lesson productively. You know, maybe I should make it mandatory…. Hmm… Anyway, a few of my students are starting up again.

If you are a teacher, how do you monitor whether you are still on track in your one2one courses? Or do you feel you don’t need to? If you are a project manager, how do you visualize and monitor small gains or “wins”?

Jenny Holzer

I first saw Jenny Holzer‘s art at the Kartause Ittingen in Switzerland in the mid-90s, where she created an installation that combined human bones and running text in LEDs. The topic was ghastly – “Lustmord”, about violence against women in Bosnia – but the effect in the beautiful monastic surroundings was so peaceful that I found I could really allow myself to think about it.

She created a monument to Oscar Maria Graf at the Literaturhaus here in Munich. His language is everywhere, even on the tableware. A soup bowl reads “Hingabe, Hingabe bis ins Letzte!” (“Devotion! Devotion unto death!”) . Or how about a cup that says “Mehr Erotik, bitte!” (“More eroticism, please!”) along with a saucer reading “Mehr Sexualität, die Herrschaften!” (“More sexuality, please, ladies and gentlemen!”) This frivolity is nice but unusual for Jenny Holzer, whose work is so thoroughly political and serious.

Jenny Holzer finds it hard to research her topics and to write about them. Yet her art is completely textbased. She disappears into her art, the opposite of a diva, saying “I like to be absolutely out of view and out of earshot.” In these videos she speaks about “PROTECT PROTECT”, her most comprehensive exhibition in the United States in more than fifteen years (at the Whitney until May 31).

Watch the excellent video tour of the current exhibition by Whitney Museum curator Donna De Salvo: “Jenny Holzer’s pioneering approach to language as a carrier of content and her use of nontraditional media and public settings as vehicles for that content make her one of the most interesting and significant artists working today.”

How do you feel about her art?

Alison Krauss: Take me for longing

She’s the one we’re listening to these days, her voice is the one rocking me to sleep. This is one of my favorite bluegrass love songs, straight from the heart. I stand in awe of the musicality of this band, their clean picking and close harmonies. If you’re new to bluegrass, a style that became popular around 1945 but has roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English traditional music, as well as in jazz and blues, I warmly recommend the live album by Alison Krauss & Union Station (on Rounder, 2002).

Lyrics and chords here

Don’t choose me because I am faithful.
Don’t choose me because I am kind.
If your heart settles on me, I’m for the taking.
Take me for longing or leave me behind.

I would be for you a fire in a rainbow,
I would be for you an opening door.
Time and hard lessons are one kind of wisdom.
Try to forget them or love me no more.


I’m not asking your heart to believe me.
I’m not asking for promise or pledge.
Whatever the answer, it’s yes that’s the question.
I am the fool dancin’ over the edge.


Don’t choose me because I am faithful.
Don’t choose me because I am kind.
If your heart settles on me, I’m for the taking.
Take me for longing or leave me behind.

englischlernen mit liedern 🙂 learning english with songs

Question: Heroes or victims of circumstance?

It’s Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday dedicated to the soldiers who have fallen serving their country. By definition, that makes them heroes. Or are fallen soldiers victims of circumstance? Soldiers have a very important job to do, and we ask them to do their duty for us. Does doing that duty make them heroes? What exactly are we celebrating here? This is an issue I admit to being very confused about, as you can tell from my muddleheaded podcast.

What do you think: Are we right in asking soldiers to do their duty? Are they heroes or victims of circumstance?

Please post your response with a link to this question post, or comment.

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You’re invited to the Island Weekly Question

Writing clears and frees up the mind. It’s also a great way to improve your language skills. So I’d like to invite you to join a blogging group.

Each week, you’ll find a question here. Respond in your own blog and link to the question post, so that others can find your response. If you don’t have a blog, add a comment here.  But it takes just a minute to set up your own free space, which is good for all sorts of things. Isarblick recommended – you just write an email with an attachment and ping! you’ve got a blogpost that you can edit. If you’d like to see what a Posterous blog looks like, have a look at mine: Or, where Google helps readers find you quickly. Or Or use Facebook or StudiVZ or or wherever you and your friends are communicating anyway. Just remember to write your link in the comments section below my question post so that other readers can find you.

Write in German or English – if you’re not a native speaker, you’ll find practice makes perfect – or with a picture you draw or take or a video or podcast you make. This is an open project. Just an invitation to bring something to the barbecue. Oder am Stöckchen teilnehmen. Come to the BYOB party (bring your own beer). Come as you are.

Island Weekly Question Day is Sunday. Respond any day of the week.