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17815Re: [dogme] Re: Using a Dogme lesson with a difficult General Director

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  • Amanda Chapman
    Jul 20, 2014
      Phil and Dennis,

      At my school we are definitely working directly for the students in the traditional capitalist sense. The students evaluate us every three weeks (some will only have been at the school for 2 or 3 weeks) and if our average evaluation is lower than 4.2 out of 5 we get fired.

      I have no problem with working for the students but they all have different needs and expectations and most of them are already disappointed with other aspects of the school. My classes include students who need a lot of grammar, reading, and writing because they want to attend US graduate schools and tongue-tied students from Asian countries who just want to be able to speak English when they are traveling.

      There is no way I can make all of them happy all of the time except by being a supremely confident juggler who makes friends with all of them while still projecting the image of a "real teacher." I need them to "buy" me from early on.

      Part of this does require bringing my own teaching style to the room and part of it requires channeling the teacher voices that permeate our culture. Sometimes I get to bring some of my ideals in too and sometimes I have to accept that they are mostly on hold.

      I think most students learn grammar best through learning model sentences and phrases and I try to foreground this aspect of it rather than breaking it down for them. I also try to emphasize practice that is not minutely corrected but students are always asking us to jump in more.


      On Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 8:22 AM, Dennis Newson djn@... [dogme] <dogme@yahoogroups.com> wrote:


      Along with your remark about grammar, I was struck by this comment:

      "Professionally, I think it is sad that we don't all get the opportunity to develop our own style due to constraints and just doing set courses."

      I've begun to wonder if there is a generation gap experience here.  It SEEMS to me (I could be way off course) that far away and long ago when I did what would today probably be classified as an M.A. course in TEFL in Peter Strevens' Leeds University Department, all those on the course - one had to have done a few years' relevant teaching to be accepted - were, how shall I put it:  mildly obsessed  at least with Applied Linguistics and the effective teaching and learning of TEFL. I guess most people on such courses were nerds. They were searchers after pedagogic Truth, the holy grail of the most effective ways of learning English as a foreign language.

      And I believe that people who attended and successfully attended such courses found posts afterwards where they could try to spread The Word.(I'm referring to the end of the 60s and 70s). It was assumed they were "up to date" and were considered a valuable entity.

      Increasingly since then - heavens, I'm writing of 40 plus years on -  is it a truism to observe that the world has changed a great deal. And in the field of TEFL (TESOL etc.) I wonder if it has come to be the default situation that the "real world" is far less tolerant than it was of "seekers after truth". The market place these days , I get the impression, has little time for idealists. He who pays the piper not only chooses the tune  -the underlying pedagogy - the role of translation, grammar, immediate correction etc. etc. a etc. has to be  the choice of the person who picks up the bill. The teacher or trainers' point of view is of little consequence. The customer (often not even the learner) is always right.

      Is this so, or is it a distorted caricature of your working environemnt?


      PS  Grammar... I just wrote this on another list:  

      I still remain deeply sceptical about attention to the minutiae of "grammar." "Grammatical accuracy" is largely, though not exclusively, about conformity to certain rules  in certain social, language-using communities. Of course there are occasions when focussed attention on the use of a tense, a preposition , word order can be relevant  - but always for a relatively small number of  learners. And even then, whether
      the explanation will bring future correct usage is highly questionable. Incidentally, Stephen Krashen calls this kind of attention to "grammar" editing, refering to   the main area where grammatical "correctness" has a conventional priority for e.g. in academic  or business writing. But how many learners of English are future academic writers in English? Some, of course, but hardly the majority!  I'm afraid I remain convinced that the belief that "grammar" must be attended to in foreign language learning is a pernicious old wive's tale. Learning the grammar just is not learning the language and belief that it is is deterimental to effective learning."


      On 20 July 2014 14:39, philawade@... [dogme] <dogme@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      Sounds interesting Amanda.

      I am very against dull grammar but very into investigating language which involves grammar and vocabulary work. When I started along a Dogme exploratory path back in 2011, I saw what I believed to be the standard dogme lesson structure which had speaking followed by language a focus. The danger was that some students would just think the speaking part was a test to look for errors. This troubled me for some time. I tried correcting and 'scaffolding' language throughout the conversation, giving help before and after and even the next lesson. The problem was and still is that the tempo and atmosphere can change significantly when you go into 'teacher' mode and start writing grammar on the board. Students mentally slip back into primary school mode and listen. Now, with an eager class, this is great as they start asking questions and you work together on it. In these situations, I found a moveable whiteboard or ipad useful. However, with some adults who just want speaking, it isn't what they paid for and want the least amount of work possible even if it will help them.

      So, for me, part of it is gauging students to see what works with who and when. Without sticking to any standard plan, structure or approach, in my opinion, can we really deliver an engaging lesson that has the other person or people at the centre. Note that I don't say 'student' here.

      An obvious argument is then that what is the point of studying all these methods just to eventually do whatever fits. If that is the goal then we don't need a CELTA and anyone could teach well. The other is that we have to learn options and create our own approach based on theory and practice. I have personally seen good teachers who had no degree or any TEFL qualification but they were limited to what they were doing.I have also seen very qualified people teach similar lessons.

      Professionally, I think it is sad that we don't all get the opportunity to develop our own style due to constraints and just doing set courses. I have at times put my own development ahead of following the syllabus and been warned not to. I no longer work for those people as they just wanted a factory worker. I honestly believe that a good teaching environment needs to be one that nurtures staff to reach their potential and involves the students in that journey.




      Dennis aka Osna (Newson), M.A. (Cantab), PDESL (Leeds)
      Self-employed (unpaid)
      Formerly (now retired): University of Osnabrueck, Germany
      Joint Coordinator  IATEFL YLTSIG with Kalyan Chattopadhay
      Committee member IATEFL GISIG
      Committee member IATEFL Associate ELTA-OWL(Germany)
      Moderator old-fashioned IATEFL YLTSIG email discussion list
      Second Life/EduNation: Osnacantab Nesterov
      ELTON 2005 ELTeCS member innovation team winner
      Personal website: www.dennisnewson.de


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