Sunday, 16 December 2012

Project #366 week 50

Last week at work for 2012. My students are lovely. There are only Alan, Rudy and I teaching, and Vanessa and Helen in the office. The weather has turned bitterly cold, although it is dry- and the forecast is for better, warmer, weather towards the end of the week.
Sunday 9th December 2012
Having allowed the tree to acclimatise- and the cats to get used to the strange thing from the garden in the house, I decided to decorate it. First of all I worried that I had got the wrong size! This is an annual worry as I always forget whether we should order an 8 or 9 foot tree!. This year I went for the 9-foot tree, which just fits the bay window, which is about 2-3 feet lower than the room itself. The room looks cosy all decorated for the festive season. I used my new room spray and put on some winter music- lovely!!
Monday 10th December
 I really enjoy watching the tradesmen joining in the fun at this time of year. When I finished work, I saw this taxi as I was walking home. Doesn't it look great? I've seen it around since the beginning of the week.

             Tuesday 11th
Jules on Saturday
Today is really really cold. The wind feels like it is coming from the Arctic. This is the time I'm glad I decorated the house and can light the fire, and the candles, and curl up. Cairis was offered a job in China today. She had an interview on Skype, and liked the sound of the job, so she will be off early in the new year. When I got to work today, I heard that my boss and his wife had become parents last night. The baby is a little girl called Penny. She wasn't due for another couple of weeks, but everything is good, so Julia will be pleased that it is over. On Saturday she looked like she had swallowed a beach ball.
Wednesday 12th

The French traders from Normandy arrived to set up their market at the old weighbridge. M, Cairis and I went down to see what they had brought over to sell, and decided to have an onion saucisse in a piece of baguette and some mulled cider -yum! The decorations looked very cool and elegant!
Thursday 13th
Late night shopping in town tonight. I decided to wander down to watch the street entertainment as M was doing Border Morris dancing in the centre. The lights were attractive, and the ambience was good, as the shops had all made an effort to be festive- offering mince pies, hot drinks, music etc. Cairis and I did a little shopping and then drove home leaving the Morris men to go to the pub for a music and drinking session:-)
Friday 14th
Last day of school, last day of work for the year:-) My French students gave me a gift of the NOEL  wooden letters which go well with the ones I had which say SNOW. I have put them on top of the cupboards either side of my tv.

I saw these cheeky chappies in town when I was looking for a gift for a friend's little boy. They are really cute, and I couldn't decide which one to buy- so I got one of each!

Saturday 15th

A busy, busy day today! As promised, the weather had really warmed up and is back in double figures:-) I went shopping with my friend this morning, although we traditionally give ourselves a whole day to do it. The band had promised to play for Durell ( The Zoo) when they had their
 'Meet Father Christmas' afternoon . We headed out in time to start at 2.30, with the plan to do an hour and then leave. Of course, things don't always go according to plan, and we were so well received that they asked us to keep playing, if we didn't mind! We stayed until they closed, and then had to rush as the Ceilidh Band members among us had a wedding to play at in the evening:-). This was the wedding of the daughter of one of our musicians, and we had been booked to play for months. It was a fantastic evening.The venue was somewhere new for us, and very elegant! I think everyone had fun- and the bride was amazed when her father got up on stage and joined in with the band. I think he just didn't want to dance!! 

Monday, 10 December 2012

project #366 week 49

I expected this to be a nice quiet week, as I had the week off, but their are always things that need to be done :-)
Sunday 2nd December
In the run-up to Christmas the shops are allowed to open on a Sunday.On principle, I try to do my shopping during the week, but as we were a bit disorganised, I went over to the supermarket near the house and,- to my surprise- the fishmonger was open! I decided to buy some of the mixed fish and try a fish pie recipe I had seen on the internet.  Miles came to dinner, as usual. The meal was a great success and I have been asked to make it again in the future :-).

Monday 3rd December
I don't have to work this week, but I need to go in to the college as we are going to clear the staffroom of all our things in preparation for a makeover:-) I have so much paperwork and so many books that I don't know where to start :-(
My plan  for my break is to marry-up my files and my boxes of material, and put them onto dropbox to share with my colleagues.
I drove past the town centre where they are erecting the marquee for the winter ice-skating rink. It should be in use by the weekend.
Tuesday 4th December
 Today I have to prepare some crib sheets for our Carol Singing Extravaganza. We are meeting at Carl's house to have a practice this evening. We go singing round the pubs each year at Christmas to raise money for the Christmas Appeal . Last year we made £850, which was impressive when everyone is tightening their belt. I decided to add a bit more decoration to the house, as my students will be coming for coffee and mince pies after their exam. It feels icy cold today- at this rate I'll be digging out my thermal underwear- a change from the lovely warm weather we had in Spain:-(

Wednesday 5th
 My ornaments and decorations are kept in the box seats of the bay window. When it was empty, Ebony- who cannot resist a box, bag or hole to climb in- went exploring. Cairis bought me a spicy room spray to add to the general ambience. It certainly makes the house smell welcoming!
Thursday 6th
Today was spent trying to write the #ELTchat summary with help from my cat.Every time I moved my hand she attacked it. She is so clingy since we went away that I can't go anywhere without her worrying about me returning. I started to look out a pile of books to take up to the college tomorrow in preparation for Saturday's fayre. I also made my own mincemeat for the first time. I wanted a vegetarian mix and I had promised to make some mince pies to sell at the weekend.
Friday 7th
I spent the whole morning making mince pies for tomorrow. I made a variety- my personal favourites are the ones with macaroon topping:-). In the afternoon I took them up to the college and helped move tables and chairs around and decorate the building. It looked nice when we were finished. I hope that lots of people come.... Went to the pub with the gang in the evening, everyone was tired, and the pub had a roaring fire in the grate, so we didn't play much.

Saturday 8th

Well, the big day has finally arrived. We have been planning this since JP died. We want to raise some money for the oncology unit at the hospital and for Jersey  Hospice Care. We decided to do a mix of things for children, a bring and buy sale, tombola, raffle, food stalls and an indoor car boot sale. In the student lounge, the teachers took turns to play music for an hour. The live music started at 10.00 and continued until 3.00 pm when the winners of the prizes were announced. My lot turned up for a spot at  12 pm  In the afternoon we had a visit from Santa and his elves and sleigh. They are members of the Rotary Club De La Manche who tour the Parishes in the weeks before Christmas, to the excitement of  all the children. And finally, when I got home in the evening, for a quick wash and change before going out to play for a ceilidh, I found that the tree had been delivered. It will spend 24 hours acclimatising to the indoor temperature and tomorrow we will be able to dress it to my satisfaction :-)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

#ELTchat ; Do learners learn because of, or in spite of, the teacher?

Do learners learn because of, or in spite of, the teacher?
 This was the question put to the #ELTchatters on Wednesday 5th December, in the second session of the day.
What an interesting question- and did we find the answer? Not exactly! But we had lots of conversation around the subject.  We also agreed that if the latter was the case we would all be in the market for a new job!

The question came about after pjgallantry noticed that some students made progress, regardless of bad teachers or unsuitable techniques, and wondered what the secret could be. ljp agreed that it was , thankfully, true in some cases! shaznosel took it a step further and asked what made some students much more effective learners than others.

cioccas thought that there was no answer and that because of and in spite of the teacher was a realistic way to look at what happens in a classroom.
naomishema thought that part of a teacher’s job was getting students to sit down and work and that even not very good teachers are able to do that.
 Could it be a question of motivation?
vmorgana asked how strongly motivation can influence language acquisition.
haniehak believed that the teacher provides persuasive motivation and helps the students to become autonomous learners. TailormadeEng and DRichW both agreed and said that it fit nicely with Krashen’s ideas about input.
It was mentioned that motivation can come from both positive and negative sources, making students decide to succeed at all costs. MoAmericanoid thought that teachers were in a strong position to add positive motivation to students.
It was suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that students might learn to spite the teacherJ mattledding

Do you ever feel that what your learners are learning doesn't really require a teacher? Could students just teach themselves?
shaznosel offered us a link to info about Sugata Mitra’s ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment  which many of us had already heard of, and which, according to theteacherjames, could have serious repercussions for us. 
It was agreed that students still need interaction to bring language to life, even though they can learn some things independently. The classroom is the place where interaction happens; is the teacher necessary?
Both feedback and interaction are needed.
Matt agreed about this but said that his interest lay in developing learner autonomy and feedback and interaction between the students.
KerrCarolyn asked: How much of our job is to help SS become able to learn alone whenever they can?

However, some students need guidance about how to learn.
This was reiterated by JoHart, who said: some students need help to develop independent learning skills and need scaffolding and guidance. Not everyone has the self-discipline to learn at home. The teacher is then necessary to motivate and guide the students. Teaching self-editing and self-evaluating skills increase confidence and allow them to become less dependent on the teacher.

KerrCarolyn quoted C Rogers (1961): We cannot teach another person directly, we can only facilitate their learning

 So, what is the role of the teacher?

theteacherjames suggested that our job is to create the conditions for learning; which some need more than others.
Sharonzspace: maybe we help with the emotional scaffolding that maximises learning.
shaznosel: we teach them culture
TailormadeEng: teacher’s job could be to ensure exposure to language. Teacher has a major role as a facilitator.
naomishema: and part coach! JoHart: especially with adults as they are often less confident than the young. It was said that adults need coaching more than the children at school, as they have more demands on their time and need  the discipline of having a teacher, set times for lessons, and someone with expectations from them.
SueAnnan suggested that teachers should demand more of the students than the students might of themselves, and are suitably placed in a classroom to do that.
MrChrisJWilson mentioned a study which showed that error correction had no noticeable effect, and James thought it would be interesting to compare the effect of teacher pointing out errors, against students being led to discover the errors for themselves.
Teachers know how to adapt to circumstances and can be flexible enough to suit the learning needs of the students.
TailormadeEng: skilful teachers know when to switch between the almost endless roles we are required to inhabit.

theteacherjames had the last word here: ultimately, the work has to be done by the student, without that they’ll achieve nothing.

 Does the teacher have more or less of a role on online courses or f2f?
This would appear to depend on whether the online course is synchronous or asynchronous. In the latter case, the teacher is automatically more distanced from the students.

Perhaps the fact that so many courses exist online, yet students still book face-to-face courses, suggests that there are many people who still consider a teacher necessary.

Have you ever had one of those students who never seem to do a thing in class, do little, if any homework, but still seem better other students?
This situation was one with which many of us were familiar, as well as the alternative where students make no progress, regardless of the best attention of the teacher.
These students upset the industrious, but less able, students in their classes. However, they do not generally continue to make progress at the same speed as those who engage and study, and ‘drop off’ when they reach a certain level. Naomi mentioned a student she is teaching who appears to have a natural aptitude for English, although the student is mentally challenged in other areas, and asks whether a ‘talent for languages’ could explain the apparent success some people have to learn languages easily.

There are also the students who expect the learning to come from the teacher. The question was raised about whether this was a phenomenon more common to private schools, or even outside the system, when teachers are paid directly by their students. Do the students have the right to learn nothing and make no progress? The consensus was that they did have the right, but that it was unhelpful in a system where the teachers were graded on the development of their students.

Are classrooms, in fact, effective learning spaces?
This could depend on how flexible the teacher is allowed to be in class.
Cioccas mentioned a 1-2-1 student who didn’t cope well in the classroom, but blossomed under private tutelage. She was an exceptionally bright student who was hindered rather than helped by the group. Some students prefer to work in a 1-2-1 environment, and some are motivated enough to work alone. This caused a division in the group: those who prefer to have a teacher and those who don’t think it always necessary. Taking on ownership of, and responsibility for, one’s own progress may help develop independent learning skills, which is something worth considering. It was suggested that spoon-feeding answers raised a class of students who became over-reliant on the teacher; to a certain extent the ‘Foie Gras’ system referred to by Carolyn which she considered to be unhealthy.

There was a study undertaken which suggests that students who take classes progress faster, although KerrCarolyn, wearing her cynic's hat, suggested that there are studies which will support or refute anything J
I, personally, have taught students who learned English by listening to pop music in the 1960s and ‘70s. They were able to use the language at intermediate level without any other input.

So, is there anything that a student cannot learn without a teacher?
As much of what we traditionally do in class can be found on the internet today, if students are self –motivated they will be able to do a great deal without a teacher, including working on pronunciation, which was always seen as the preserve of the teacher in the past!  However, some people need more help.
As Carolyn said: It’s like a driver without a map. You can drive but it takes longer to get somewhere without the directions. And some people need maps more than others! Another metaphor was the coach one- we kept returning to the coach idea during the discussion; Andy Murray can play tennis without his coach, but is better with his guidance.

Lesley said that she was always striving for the moment when students are learning, and you realise you aren’t teaching. It is not something which can be planned, or forced in any way, but it is a magic moment. One hopes that it shared equally by the teacher and the studentJ  Paul suggested that ultimately we need to make students believe that they have learned All By Themselves- without any effort from the teacher, which was seen as a goal worth pursuing.
These moments facilitate latent learning, where students engage, process and internalise information. The question is, how can we harness those moments and ‘sprinkle the magic learning dust on the others?

Neuroscience says that emotions are the key to higher processing skills. Teachers generally use some psychological strategies with their students, even though we do not have formal qualifications. At present, there is no App which is able to do this, necessitating the teacher for some years hence Here's a post on emotional connections with reluctant students
Passion is very important in all areas of life, and James provided a link to a  blog post which he wrote about helping students find their passion and using it to learn: 
And finally, a bit of seasonal frivolity: It was suggested that we call ourselves coaches, we could then join an entirely new industry- and would be able to increase our income! Carolyn suggested that we become EFL Learning Facilitators, or Elfs. BUT- these initials are used by E-learning facilitators, and English as a Lingua Franca, so becoming Santa’s little helpers could lead to confusion. An alternative of English Language Knowers was proposed – ELKs, also fairly apt for the time of yearJ

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Project #366 Weeks 46-48

Well It's been an amazing three weeks. The first one was a wrapping up of my classes and a packing of my holiday gear. The weekend encompased travelling and Tesol France ( see previous post) and then a lovely warm break in Spain, unfortunately finishing the trip with a return to cold, grey, wet weather in good old blighty.

Sunday 11th November
Armistice day. We remembered the 2 minutes silence at 11am. Most people were wearing poppies and the cenotaph in St Helier was cordoned off for a Remembrance Day procession. Fortunately it was a dry day, but windy, and the leaves were flying everywhere. It still feels like Autumn, but there is a nip in the air which tells us that Winter is not far away.

Monday 12th November

Hadyn, the school handyman is busy painting the window frames of the school. There are enough to keep him busy for weeks. His little framework for reaching up to the high parts is right outside the door, blocking the entrance, and the students are grumbling about having to use the other door- and it's only Monday!

Tuesday 13th November
 Couldn't resist this picture of the sun appearing over the top of the big tree in the car park.It is lovely to have dry weather, and it isn't particularly cold yet. I wonder what the weather is doing in Paris.

Wednesday 14th November
My students are doing an exam mock today, so I just have to invigilate and can make a list of what I need to pack. I am taking a small suitcase to Paris, leaving the very large one for M to bring when he meets me in London after the weekend. I wonder how many kilos the little one will carry, and I hope that M will be inside the limit for flying with the large one. He should be okay on BA, as the limit is 23kilos, but that would be too many for Easyjet.   I'm going to fill mine with Jersey fudge to share in Paris  with my friends.
Thursday 15th November
Last day at work for a while. I don't have to teach again until 9th December! I am all packed and ready to go. I must remember to buy some Euros and to leave Cairis enough money for food for her and the cats. She is pleased that she found some Christmas berry J2O in the shop.

                    Friday 16th
Up at sparrow-f*rt to catch the plane they call the Red-Eye. I can't wait to get to Paris, but I will spend a lot of the day travelling: Jersey to Gatwick, Gatwick to Heathrow, Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle, and then the RER to the venue. The rest of the time will be spent in airports. I finally arrived at my destination, and found that I have a view straight up the rue de la Butte au Cailles. Nice! The hotel is only a few minutes from the conference centre, so I have time to dump my bag and run down to catch up with everyone. Yaay!

Saturday 17th 
Conference, food, friends and fun. See post below for what I actually did during the day. The evening was an open mike session with all sorts of fun entertainment.                                         Brad should win a prize for his mouth music to accompany Sue Lyon-Jones.                             Igor managed to entice lots of people up onto the stage, where he taught them some  Flamenco dancing, and Carolyn had us all in stitches with her stories.                                                     Rakesh read out some Haikus and Luke played his guitar and sang.                                              All in all it was a good evening, which we ended by going for a very late night meal, and then Sue and I had a slight problem when we got back to the hotel and found that we had been locked out. Eventually someone came to our rescue and we went to bed about half past two, or thereabouts :-)
a fun thing to do with light sticks!
Sunday 18th
 It was great to see Mike, who had come racing down from the other conference to support Chia when she did her great plenary.  This is him chatting with Tyson, visiting from Canada with his lovely partner. Chia is chatting to Julie behind the men.

When the conference finished I had to head off back to London. I planned to stay in a hotel there for one night, and then meet M in the morning, when he flew in from Jersey. We are planning to stay in the same hotel on the return journey, so I was pleased that it seemed quite nice, and the bed
was comfortable.
Monday 19th
Today we're off to sunny Spain- y viva espana.... Actually, we'll be sitting around in the airport for a few hours today. I booked M's ticket for lunchtime, which is a civilised time, but we don't fly out to Spain until 5pm. We'll just curl up with our kindles and read, I think. We're flying direct to Valencia with Easyjet, which suggests that we could be in a little airport miles from the town itself:-(. We did book a hire car though, so we should be okay.

Tuesday 20th
 Well, last night was a bit chaotic, as I forgot to print off the car hire voucher!! We arrived at the airport, on the final flight of the day, and didn't know who we were booked with! Oooops! After phoning home and getting Cairis to start up my PC and email the info to me, we managed to work it out and arrived at our Apartment within a few minutes. The hotel is a block of private flatlets- very nice- which belong to the Best Western Hotel on the other side of the road. We woke up this morning to bright sunshine, and a temperature of 26 degrees. Our plan is always to take a tour bus to get our bearings, and then make decisions about what to visit and taoday was no exception. We did a tour of the historical sites in the morning, and another of the maritime part in the afternoon.This is a picture of the Bull ring in the centre. The season starts in March, so it was empty and quiet. Next door is the beautifully decorated Estacion de Nord, or Northern train station.    

Wednesday 21st
It's warm and sunny again -24 degrees today. We took the bus down to the beach area and walked along the coast, getting a feel for the maritime aspect. It was sad to see the buildings for the America's cup lying derelict. They also hold a Formula 1 race down there, by moving a couple of pieces of bridge and closing off the road. The building on the right was built to host the corporate events for the America's cup. It is really impressive, but falling into disrepair. It's a real shame that they don't have a use for it.

Thursday 22nd
Today we had a lazy day, and did a little shopping. Our complex is in the middle of the Centro Commercial, which gave us lots of retail therapy, without having to go very far. I love the fact that the streets are lined with orange trees. At the moment they are ready for harvesting, laden with fruit.
Friday 23rd
The weather is again sunny, 22 degrees in the sun. The River Turia has a dry water bed through the centre of Valencia. It has been turned into The City of Arts and Sciences, and architects have been allowed to design the most amazing structures. The girl on the desk suggested that we should only buy tickets for one museum, rather than the three we thought we would have. I managed not to roll my eyes, but could see me spending 5 hours in one museum. But I was wrong! We chose the Science museum to start with- it was amazing! 5 hours sped past, and I was engaged at all times. If you get the chance, it is really work a visit.
Saturday 24th
Back to the city of Arts and Sciences to another place. The Oceanografic is the biggest aquarium complex in Europe.The weather was again bright and sunny. I'm really enjoying the chance to eat outside, in a t-shirt. This was another day of hours in a museum! I loved the dolphin show, which was clearly something the mammals loved doing. The aquarium is the last in the line of amazing buildings.
Sunday 25th
Okay- this is Spain, and like home there is little to do on a Sunday. The shops are all closed, the bus timetable leaves a lot to be desired, and it is too sunny to stay indoors. We wandered down into town, where we came across a demonstration against Domestic Violence. Then we found a little tapas bar and did some people watching.
Monday  26th
Our hotel was just on the edge of the Albufera National Park, a series of wetlands and rice fields. We took the bus out to have a look, and I left M to go on the boat tour round the reed beds, as it looked a bit precarious to me :-) . I sat in the shade of the big orange tree and enjoyed the peace.
Tuesday 27th
Our last day- and we saw on the news that the weather back in the UK is foul:-(. First we had to go shopping to buy some gifts to take back. Then we checked out and drove up into the hills. After passing what seemed like millions of orange groves, we found a town called Lliria, which had the remains of a Roman bath house.
Wednesday 28th
flying above the clouds
I can see the water
Coming in to land

Time to fly home. I really enjoyed the holiday, but I miss my cats when I'm away, and I have a fair bit of admin to sort out when I regain access to my computer. I took these photos from the window of the plane, very discreetly:-). Oh my goodness- It feels cold!!! Time to put the central heating on- and find a warm pullover too:-)
Thursday 29th
 My little cat is following me around in a panic in case I disappear again! I have just about done all the paperwork which needed doing, and I will go up to the college to pick up the stuff which has to be on headed paper. I decided to take the turron which I brought back for my colleagues. Happy people! It was good to catch up with the gossip, and wish my students good luck with the exams they are taking next week.
Friday 30th
 Most of the money I left for Cairis to use for shopping is still there. She decided to eat what was already in the house and attacked my store cupboard. The result is that I need to do some shopping. I have too much to do today, so I have ordered my shopping online, and it will be delivered later this afternoon :-)

Saturday 1st December

Well here we are, into the final stretch. It has been fun doing the photo blog, and now there is only one final month to go. Today is the office Christmas party. The boss's wife is expecting a baby any day soon, and some of my colleagues are heading off on holiday, so this was the date that suited everyone. As it's only the first of December, it is way too early for the tree, however, I wanted to add a little Christmas cheer to the sitting room- but not enough to be messy:-) It was fun that our first card arrived today, too.