The Road to Enlightenment is Paved with Mirrors (and Journals)
I’ve spent today reading a range of wonderfully inspiring and thought-provoking blog posts from the likes of Jeremy Harmer and Dale Coulter on reflection, action research and development. These posts come at a time when I have been slowly beginning to build a picture of what I want to work on in my professional life as a teacher/teacher trainer next. Amongst all of the hundreds of things I want to focus on, I’ve come to rest on the idea of control in the classroom and also its existence in my role as a teacher trainer.
This is a new role for me (I’m working on my second course as a Celta tutor as we speak) and so, just as I did when I began teaching, I want to do some action research to help me see how I can increase my effectiveness as a trainer. Action research, active professional development and reflection (both formal and informal) have mean that I’ve learnt so much since first stepping into the classroom in 2007.
Here’s a quick overview of a few of the ways I’ve gone about this:
One of the first things I did once I finished my Celta and began teaching was start to systematically observe my colleagues, who I found were all so inspiring and taught me so much. I remember seeing one colleague use the smallest bit of a coursebook to create a whole 90 minute lesson from. I saw another teacher do a writing lesson using reported speech and nothing but the board and some coloured paper. I was amazed at how little material they used, but how much they seemed to cover in their lessons. I guess this was where my unplugged seed was planted (if only I’d been wise enough back then to nurture it!).
I love learning by reading, and so I soon started to borrow books from my DOS and other colleagues. Often these were linguistics books by David Crystal and other such writers, because I was thoroughly interested in language for language’s sake. This gave me even more desire to develop my language awareness and ability to share my passion with those I taught. I was often overwhelmed by some of the books, not really having any idea what they were about, but forcing myself to read them anyway. I remember one train journey when I was in battle with a book on contemporary linguistics and my brain literally kept shutting off and putting me to sleep. Not my finest hour as a linguist, but I do still have that book on my bookshelf!
By the time I began studying for the Delta in March 2010, I had developed a huge interest in classroom methodology, which was lucky, as I had to spend a lot of time reading and writing about such things for my Professional Development Assignment and the Module One exams. During those 9 months of Delta-ing, I immersed myself in the process of analysing, observing, reflecting, journalling, reading and attempting to change. My approach to teaching changed dramatically over the course of the Delta, and not through learning more about the noun phrase (although that certainly helps too), but through attacking all the issues I had been ignoring or glossing over with a smile and a laugh. As I am sure some of the people who know me would tell you, I am certainly someone to face a challenge head on and not let myself get away with shying away from a weakness. The Delta gave me the last push I needed to look in the mirror and begin fixing all the things I’d been letting slide.
So, now I am here today at yet another point in my career when I want to tackle head-on some issues that are niggling away at me. Namely, control and the way it manifests itself in my role as a teacher trainer. I am to be materials-light. Can I also be control-light?
The first questions I want to answer are:
- How do I actually take control of trainees in relation to teaching practice??
- What results in my doing this and doing it in this way?
- What changes can I make to this approach to increase my effectiveness as a teacher trainer?
- Keep a journal on teaching practice, preparation and feedback, ensuring that I record the way I deal differently with the different trainees and how this is a reflection of their input and previous lessons.
- Ask my trainees to write to me/discuss with them the notion of control and how they think it has affected them throughout the course.
Can you help me with any research tips you’ve used in your development, or can you recommend any useful reading material for me to get my nose stuck into on the aspect of control? I’d really appreciate some help here.