Tag Archives: random

No blog no more, I think I know why

I absolutely love it when reading academic articles takes a sudden turn, hits just the right cord – and I see in a new light what I was struggling to see or explain for a long time.

Reading Sarah Mercer’s article on the complexity of learner agency. Slowly, I get to understand that learner agency is a system of factors related to and determining  the learner’s capacity to act, language learning wise. In short, what makes me the learner that I am, at any given time, is a complicated universe of its own. Of my own parameters, that are, inconveniently for researchers, always changing. “Everything within the system is in the constant state of flux.” Mark that.

Page 52, the place of self-beliefs in the system. That’s when I am struck by the memory of a certain summer about 10 years ago, an experience I always, without failure, give to my students as an example when I want to address the importance of constant language practice.

It was too obvious but I was too young to see it coming. For the whole of the summer I did not touch a single English book (or textbook). I did not use the Internet in/for English back then so social media, movies, news was out of the question. As a result, the memory of my first class back in the university that September is still very fresh. Well, the excruciating pain of it. I could not make a sentence come out of my mouth! All the words I needed – and I knew I’d known! – were all but gone, just a faint trace left behind to tease me. I simply could not remember the vocabulary I had used in classes 2 months before. I felt humiliated, tricked by my own conscious.

Since that summer, I can safely say I made sure I’ve had English in my life every day, in this or that form.  So what, you might ask?

Here’s where this is going. Since I moved to Japan a little over 2 years ago, I have lamented my deceased blogging not once. The feeling of unfulfillment, failure to reach my own standards, inability to string myself up to WRITE… in general, being unhappy with both my writing and non-writing. These have kept me a prisoner in my own mind. And now reading the article, it struck me. The fundamental, unspoken reason why I blogged so feverishly and passionately was that it was my English practice. The practice channel that I could sustain independently. The language companion I could rely on at 2 am in the morning, my typical writing time of that life I had in Moscow. While I had a few hours of English classes to teach on most weekdays, my reality was all but English. So I unconsciously created my own self-regulated syllabus. It was an all-skills course:

  • extensive reading – always a book by my side;
  • watching movies, shows, and TED talks;
  • speaking in the classes I taught – and in the tweets, blog comments, Facebook threads;

Finally, there was the much loved writing. This blog.

So why did it all have to change in Japan? It didn’t all change, in fact, just the writing part somehow. My shallow self-analysis tells me that what would otherwise be the content of my blog posts, became topics for easily available discussions at my workplace. Suddenly, my colleagues are speaking English to me. The particular concerns of the class and the day are poured out on that same day. And then, the vessel is emptied. The mind is relieved. The hand pushes the laptop aside and takes to the coloured pens.

C’est la vie.

 

A book hoarder that I am, I keep buying the titles about writing. Books about the struggles of writers, their personal styles of managing and shaping the creative process and making it work, these fascinate and draw me in. They fill me with hope and excuses. Remember, everything is in the constant state of flux.

 

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[I] Don’t resolve.

Just like Malu Sciamarelli this year I’m not writing resolutions.

I also feel significantly rebellious. Not much linguistically, but rather in regards to the perceptions about teaching I’m gathering from various sources online. Maybe this year I will have the will, spirit and intelligence potential to get a little closer to seeing the picture clearer, to having more understanding, to shaping understanding into thoughts which I’ll then learn, through practice that I’m planning, to put down as less confusing sentences. This is not a resolution as it is so tough to even promise it to myself.

I know I haven’t replied with due respect to all of the taggers for the 11 challenge. I mean to say I haven’t replied or reacted almost at all and only very few (=a couple of) people know why or have been informed that I care a lot about their tag. I use this chance to say so to all of the educators who thought of me in their hectic pre-NY time. Thank you, I appreciate the thought a lot and every tag I got gave me a reason to feel needed, if only for the challenge. As for the grounds of my denial, at the end of the year I had a sudden pang of self-reproach in egocentrism and this challenge did not look very helpful. However, RANDOM is one of my favorite English words, so if you read my posts which I might be writing this year with some new meaning for myself (explained a bit at the bottom of this post), you risk finding random facts about me. Let’s think of it as a really lame way to attract visitors, improve blog stats and also develop your readers’ observation skills. This is not a resolution because of the sheer meaning of “random”.

Unlike my ordinary self this year I cringed at the thought of and detested my routine of meticulously writing up a list (a format so much loved) of achievements of all kinds for the past year. Instead, I let the mind and pen loose which resulted in a one-page something. I didn’t press myself to structure that page and think thoroughly. I now can share with you a random achievement that has just sprung to my mind: I clarified some points regarding punctuation. However, I fear you may find examples of non-compliance to the rules in this very post and many others. It’s all the mind and pen on the loose. At this point I feel I can finally pull the post to the ELT side of it in an extremely random fashion and maybe question myself and you:

How important are the rules in the language we teach? This is actually a real question to you and I’d appreciate your ideas, which are surely better than mine.
I can say I will likely be very serious about spelling mistakes my students make. Pronunciation and twisting of basic grammar patterns make me almost shudder, too. I’m very demanding for ideas and their logics. I am not keen on excessive comma usage so typical of Russian students. And that’s may be it.
I think, I am sure, my being a “connected” teacher with quite a bit of various language exposure online has spoilt me. I’m more relaxed about certain things than I ever was, and that is especially obvious when I overhear some conversations in the staff room – and hold my tongue. I’m afraid this term in particular LAX has been the word to describe both language and discipline in my classes. This is not (though could be in fact) a resolution to do otherwise. But maybe something I would like to muse about: reasons, consequences, impact, for myself and my students.

And finally, there’s the idea which lands here from outer space of my mind.
What’s in a blog for a teacher? A million things depending on who the teacher is and what’s in their head. And possibly it is good if your view of what you need your blog for is strong and standing firm. And possibly it’s just about as good if your answer to the “why do I blog?” does not remain the same as you blog on. My current *momentary* view suggests this space is the space to talk for me. I’m sorry if it’s not always ELT-related (but you may also notice there is nothing in the title of the blog that hints at ELT). Now THIS is a resolution. This year, as I see it for myself now, my blog is to zoom in on some things and zoom out on others. I’ll bring in the focus or have it blurred. So maybe through the planned practice of conscientious reading, reflective thinking and steadfast writing I’ll be a bit more of the type of a teacher and a person I want to be.
You as my community are the source, nudge and support factor. So stay with me, please. Thank you.

Now this is almost over and for those who made it till the end there’s a prize. Last year I did resolve to read certain blogs – and without specifically remembering it I actually did just that (on almost, almost all of them)! A bit of an achievement, too.
Here’s the list of reading I’d include in 2014, in addition to those from 2013 which I am not going to desert.
Unwrapping the Education Box by Divya Madhavan
EFL Notes by Mura Nava
Authentic Teaching by Willy C. Cardoso
Livinglearning by Anne Hendler
AlienTeachers 2.0 by Alex Walsh
The Breathy Vowel by Alex Grevett
Lauraahaha by Laura Patsko
mikejharrison ESOL teacher by Mike Harrison
Anything from Chia Suan Chong that will maybe appear here or on the pages of ETprofessional.
And iTDi Blog quite obviously.

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