Great expectations

I got some great mentoring and advice from Andi White, Evan Frendo (whose professional development group at ELTABB I’ve joined) and Vivienne Arnold, and have decided to take the plunge and do the Trinity Diploma in TESOL. After an initial talk with Duncan Foord, I’ve just had my interview with Nicola Meldrum, and am very happy to say that I’m in. I  have to run off in a few minutes to go to Berlin and do a written task to prove that I can indeed write in longhand. Let’s see if I still can, after so many years of using the computer, mainly!

I’ve waited very long to take this step. Over the years I’ve had second thoughts about being an English teacher without a license to teach at public school in Germany. Also, having done my Magister in Germany in other fields that I found very rewarding (history and political science) I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go the academic route again, and hadn’t seen any shorter courses that gave me the impression that they’d help my professional development, until this one.

What I like about it is its balance between providing structure and being open to development. The course tutors are really great. And the coursework portfolio will include:

  • observing other teachers (10+ hours, which is really quite a lot!): I might have to ask my friends at the LMU if they’d let me come round. And/or perhaps I can work with some of the teachers on the Cornelsen book project
  • developing an area of your choice (15 hours in a group of at least 6 students): This might be trickier, as I’m doing skills training at the moment. I could use my Management Circle compact course for this project, or perhaps ask to teach students at Potsdam Uni for this. I’d really like to focus on pronunciation, so an internationally mixed group would be ideal.
  • doing a written research project: I think I’d like to explore corpus linguistics with regard to the English needed in academic coursework.

Then there’s a written exam which covers a lot of ground, which will make up a large part of the Moodle course, which begins on 1 February and goes through the end of July. There’s also a huge section on phonology, which is pretty good, because it’s an area I need to develop. And finally there are 5 lessons that need to be planned and assessed on site at the school, OxfordTefl, in Barcelona, where we’ll be for the entire month of August.

Eamonn Fitzgerald and Andi kindly wrote a recommendation for me, and Scott Tokaryk is going to help me do this written task. So, I’m out the door, full of great expectations.

First names? Last names? No names?

I’m just roughing out something on how students and professors/ lecturers at college talk to each other, and am using the VOICE and MICASE online academic corpora for guidance. Dialogues will hardly contain the names of the two partners. You won’t necesessarily need to use the name of the person when you first address them. At the outset, usually it’s some sort of an interruptive noise or phrase or body language signal to get the other person’s attention. As the dialogue progresses, one of the two might reinforce a thought by using the other’s name, as in “You know, (name),..”, which has quite a strong attention-getting effect. But how often is it really used by the student?

It’s different in three-way conversations, when participants refer to what someone else in the room has said, so they use names all the time: “As (name) was saying…”.

So how do students refer to their professors? Wouldn’t that depend on the situation? Is the student signing up for a course? Wouldn’t they then ask the person at the desk whether Professor Whatsit’s course was already full? Are they in a big seminar or lecture? In class, wouldn’t there be some leftover strangeness in referring to what a professor has said using a phrase like “But the point Peter was making…”? What about deference, is there still any left at college, or has it been driven out by some agenda to turn conversations at university into those between peers to differentiate them from those at school? And how do students who have bought into that concept handle conversations with their peers from other countries and cultures in which deference plays a larger role? I wonder whether this varies very much from campus to campus. After all, some are more rarified than others, and you’d think that using first names would then create a rather exclusive sense of intimacy.

In related musings: Isn’t it funny how we refer to published authors sometimes just by their last name (more academic), sometimes by their full first and last name (more popular), and sometimes – for example if they are present and we’re in a discussion among peers – just by their first name?

And what about the many strategies we use to avoid using names altogether to cover up the fact we’ve forgotten them?

Eric Clapton/Lil’ Son Jackson: Travelling alone

In his new album, Eric Clapton has interpreted a wide range of great roots music. Jamie Keddie has just created a lovely lesson on his relaunched lesson site, Lessonstream, built around a song that Clapton reinterpets beautifully on the album, How Deep is the Ocean, and which Jamie uses to teach questions with.

In the song I’ve chosen for you here, Clapton adds electric grit. It’s alongside the original recording by Lil’ Son Jackson.

My question for you: The lyrics are rather mysterious:

I ain’t gonna tell nobody what that Santa Fe have done for me
If you want to know baby, you sure have to come and see.
81’s in the yard, 82’s out on the road
81 makes you a living, 82 puts you out the door
Nobody knows my trouble but the good Lord above
Well you know just how I feel if you ever have been in love.
You know I can’t go down that big road by myself
If you won’t come with me I can’t take nobody else
(or Clapton’s version: …I’ll carry somebody else)

Who or what do you think 82 and 81 are? Your speculations are welcome!

Eric Clapton’s version

Lil’ Son Jackson’s original:

englisch lernen mit liedern :-) learning english with songs

Refocussing with the BCG Matrix

I’ve given up one of my very favorite jobs, writing for Spotlight. It was a very sudden decision. I was spending too much time on each article and found that my love of writing was keeping me from dedicating enough time to teaching, which is my essential profession, to which writing is ancillary. It forms the basis of a project I’ve committed to, co-writing a book for college students, my focus in the coming months.

At junctures like this in professional development I find it helpful to go back to the Boston Consulting Growth-Share Matrix with its stars and cash cows and dogs and question marks. What began as a star 3 years ago and became my cash cow – writing – turned out to be costing me too much time and energy to develop new stars. My actual cash cows are translating and my Back Office compact courses for Management Circle and the Akademie für Sekretariat und Management Assistenz.

My new star is the area of specific skills academics need. This is not the same thing as running extensive courses in giving presententations and writing, which I did in Munich. These are compact skills training sessions, targeted and concise. The extensive side of things, I hope, will emerge over time, building through subsequent workshops, and in collaboration with other advisors, thanks to the LMS that we’ll be using as a moderated communication platform. I would have loved to work with Confluence, which Christian advocates, but the uni already has Moodle.

I’ve got a question mark, too: Coaching and training professors and assistant professors to give their courses in English.