Echoes of Paris


Paris by 60mls on flickr

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.

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15 Responses to Echoes of Paris

  1. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Ceri!
    Thanks so much for writing such a beautiful post about the influence TESOL France had on your teaching this past week. It was so great to see you and attend your talk! Hope to see you soon : )


  2. Sometimes it does flow and click away and merge into something that feels like a whole- it’s great when it happens, isn’t it?

    And good to feel that some of that flow came from talking and sharing ideas. You expressed my feelings perfectly, Ceri.


  3. Pingback: TESOL France |

  4. Hi Ceri,

    I really enjoyed reading this!

    I always return from conferences feeling energised and inspired, and it’s great to take in other people’s reflections and see what they took away from the sessions and the general sharing of ideas that happens over the course of the event.

    I’m already looking forward to the next one 🙂


  5. Sounds like everything a conference should be – informative, fun and reenergizing.
    Heard your talk was great!

  6. DaveDodgson says:

    Hi Ceri,

    Thanks for this great post. It’s great to hear not only about the sessions from TESOL France but also about how you have incorporated some of the ideas into your teaching and thinking already.

    I wish I could have been there as well!!


  7. seburnt says:

    Haha – you’re very welcome for my improvised lexis (it’s so useful, isn’t it?). I appreciate how you’ve taken some of the ideas and applied them or at least alluded to them, in your classes this week. One thing actually struck me – writing on the windows? I was only once in a classroom without a board because my regular room was so unbearably hot. We went to a boardroom that actually had no board and only exposed brick walls, where I first attempted to hang foolscap–bad idea, since the surface was rough and tape did not stick to it. I instead decided to do a charades game for pronunciation instead. Fun, but I wouldn’t want to live without a board each day.

    • Ceri Jones says:

      I found the idea of writing on the windows intriguing too – dry markers wipe off fine it seems, so I don’t see why not – the novelty factor would certainly work for a one-off class – as for working without a board, with small classes it’s fine, paper can work just as well (though obvioulsy not as tree-friendly) but with bigger classes the central focus on the board – no matter who’s there, teacher, student, students – is something I think a lot of us teachers rely on.

      • seburnt says:

        It’s a very important tool in the classroom; it’s understandable that we use it. Plus, so many are visual learners, at least in a secondary sense, so relying on the board isn’t a bad thing.

      • Ceri Jones says:

        I totally agree and was in no way advocating that we abandon the board! The reflections in the session were on how to overcome difficulties such as having to teach in a classroom where there was no board. I was just reflecting on how, in that particular class, moving the focus away from the front of the classroom, focusing it instead on the table the students were working around, mediating communication and the task through paper and pen (very much a substitute board) helped to foster collaboration and discussion in a group that is very much used to the chalk and talk teacher-fronted classroom. It was a physical shift in focus that enabled a shift in the communication. I kept the paper from the lesson and we’ll look back at it again tomorrow – much as we would with images from an IWB – no doubt we’ll be using the board to extend it 😉

  8. Pingback: Great city, great conference: TESOL France 2011 | The Teacher James

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