I haven't gotten around to reading any Van Lier yet, but these
snippets that keep popping up on the dogme list are pure poetry. I
must get hold of the real thing sometime soon.
I referred, a few posts ago, to something which I think I called the
scary ordinariness of much of what (still!!) goes on in many
language "teachers"' classrooms. Y'all know what I mean. Lots of
performancy nonsense (such as in Rob's Van Lier excerpt). Tons of
transmission-based irrelevance. Oodles of surrealia and immaterials.
And worse, teachery condescention abounds. All in all, the norm is
what I like to call Dragging learners to English instead of
delivering English to learners.
All wrong wrong wrong, of course. But nonetheless, it seems to be the
norm. Which makes it "our" daily bread and butter (inasmuch as we
associate ourselves with what so many of our colleagues do in the
name of English Language "Teaching").
Someone around here mentioned teacher training recently, too. On
teacher training courses that I've worked, I've not felt the
slightest bit uneasy about telling novice teachers that they have to
be REAL with the people in the room. I've felt no obligation to
instruct them to go along with the ELT flow of having learners do
bizarre nonsense in the name of "motivation". I've directed them to
Harmer's sober analysis of what really motivates learners to want to
come on language courses in the first place, and I've asked trainees
to connect with that motivation within the people in the room, and to
deal with that motivation appropriately rather than to do all the
false stuff described by Van Lier, which so many novice teachers get
told to do (and which many of them never unlearn: they go on doing it
for the rest of their ELT careers as if it had some merit or other).
And I've handed out photocopies of Kumaravadivelu's comments on topic
nomination and on encouraging what he calls "metaprocess questioning"
(i.e., lots of "why" questions, making students explain the reasoning
behind what they've said. The outcome of metaprocess questions, of
course, is so personal and real that it simply can't be predicted on
a lesson "plan").
Written lesson plans are a requirement of the courses I've been
involved in. But I see some worth in having novice teachers go
through the *process* of thinking about how one planned activity
links to others before and after it; and to learners' needs. And it's
that thought process which is much more important than the extent to
which they actually stick to the plan or stray from it. And I tell
them so. I tell them that they're free to stray from the plan, but
that they must develop the mental discipline of justifying (to
themselves; to me; to their peers) their reasons for straying from
it. "What do you believe the students gained from that improvised
activity that you did? On what basis can you justify that belief?".
[Trainee replies]. Then, "Oh, so that's ok then. It's good to see you
thinking on your feet so well, and responding to students' on-line
needs." / "Ah, I see. Actually, I think you're wrong about that
because[...] . You'd've done much better sticking to your plan, which
would've met these peoples' needs much more accurately, because[...]."
Timing [Hi Diarmuid!] is never adhered to at all by my trainees.
Sometimes that's an issue that I have to pick them up on, but usually
Lesson plans are not always useless, particularly for novices. (I
hope that's not diametrically opposed to anything I've said recently,
though it might be!).
And so teacher training / teaching does not have to be about "playing
the game in order not to be rebuked by our superiors" (although,
Wendy, I acknowledge that this is not true in all contexts - yours is
probably one of the many exceptions).