Last weekend I was in Paris for the annual TESOL France conference. It was a fantastic experience, such a great atmosphere, an impressive line-up of talks and so many people to meet. Back home again and in class, there have been so many echoes of so many moments and so many conversations. Here are a few.
teaching in rows
On Tuesday morning as I taught a class in a room with fixed chairs and tables, laid out in rows facing the blackboard, I thought of Willy Cardoso and his comments on space and environment and emergence – the emergence of a group dynamic where conversation flows and learning is nurtured. And that lesson flowed, for the first time we seemed to be working with the rows, between the rows, not against them. I think I’ll come back and explore this further when I’ve had time to think it through.
turning your back on the board
Today I was teaching in a circle, with a table at the centre, our backs to the board. The only thing I’d written on the board was “please work in pairs”, for the rest of the class we worked with bits of paper moving around the table, from pair to pair, from me to student, from student to me and I remembered an exchange in Valentina Dodge‘s session about teaching without boards. I remembered someone mentioning how his students write on the windows when there is no board. It made me think how liberating it can be sometimes to improvise with your surroundings, do things a little differently, shake up the physical shape of the lesson.
reflecting on reflection
Before I headed into class today I was thinking back to last week’s classes, remembering the problems, the challenges, talking through a new approach with a colleague and my mind was flooded with echoes from Dale Coulter‘s thought-provoking session on reflection. And reflections on reflections. It heightened my awareness of myself as teacher, as presence, as person, as I went into class. The focus really paid off. I felt in tune. Thank you Dale!
back at the chalkface
And as I thought back over today’s classes, I remember how I felt at the beginning of the day. As I’d walked down to my classes I’d felt drained, stressed, worklogged (thank you Tyson for giving me such a wonderful word!). You know that feeling when there’s so much to do, so many things that need your attention, that the mere thought of the workload paralyses you? But once I was in class it all melted away. Today was one of those good days. One of those days when things click and the lessons flow. And it felt that all the echoes from the conversations and the reflections and the sharing and the learning from last weekend fell into place.