Thursday, May 26, 2011

Association of Teachers of English Lebanon ATEL 2011 14th Conference

The holiday was overshadowed a bit by being interviewed for summer work teacher training in Manchester, which I got (hurray!), and preparation for the Association of Lebanese Teachers of English conference. I didn't manage to prepare before leaving for Beirut, to my shame, and it took a while to re-jig it into a 30min workshop. I wasn't really switched on.

30mins it turned out was no where near long enough. I got things a bit wrong and my workshop turned into a fairly unstructured talk, apologies if you were there. Some teachers left. It was embarrassing. However, I think I know where I went wrong. I planned to do this:

1. Warmer GTKY – you in cultural terms

2.Introduction to context and problem

3. DMIS outline

4. Teachers apply DMIS to my problem and feedback

I did this:

1. GTKY as above

2. Talked for 15 mins about intro and problem

3. Introduced DMIS

4. Panicked as I was running out of time

I should have done this I did

1. DMIS – what does it stand for? Or Inter-cultural aspects, your approach

2. Given hand out with DMIS and mini-descrptions

3. Given sample tasks (my tasks) for teachers to rate on scale (check understanding of DMIS)

4. Asked them to respond to my problem/issue

That said I am not 100% sure that 30mins would be enough, at least with the third version, above, teachers had hands on DMIS early and were engaged in using it. Another problem was my lack of context knowledge about the attendee teachers and Lebanon, particularly culturally.

This sensation of flopping was a strange experience as just a month ago I did a very similar workshop for ISTEK that went really quite well. I was confident I would soar like an eagle. The ISTEK one was longer, 45mins instead of 30mins, my spot was better, rather than at the end of a long morning's professional development, and these may have been one of many contributing factors. Anyway, it didn't go according to plan. The plan was ill-conceived, though well intentioned.

Another noteworthy point is that, the rationale for my workshop was produced for a 60min slot, do I slavishly stick to the advertised contents (what I tried to do). Or do I, adapt adapt adapt, yet perhaps disappoint some who thought they would get something different.

My most recent MA assignment has been about the need to re-imagine conferences and workshops, perhaps this had an influence too. Either way, the process of trying to work out and improve for next time (?) has been useful, as always. What I don't have this time is any participants to keep in touch with. Last time I collated emails to continue the conversation after the event.

There were a number of positives to the trip. I got to meet some of the Levantine teacher trainers from BC and IH. I also had some nice words from someone at UNWRA. The lady also said that as a Palestinian in Lebanon she frequently suffered discrimination and racism. I also got to meet Bill from AUB, whose blog I have linked to below. He talked about an Intercultural Exchange facilitated by CMC (computer mediated communication).

I am still proud of my work on this and I'd like to do a full day training teachers in how to use the DMIS to approach intercultural aspects of their teaching, but who has a full day for something like that? Where can I do that kind of thing?

A you know what in Lebanon

My focus has drifted well away from learning Arabic, all my pals from my course have left, or are about to, apart from E, the North Korean, who intends on staying. I have regressed massively, I make little effort, and can't remember the word for goodbye (not M'salama, the other, just remembered that it's illeleka...still the word doesn't pop into my head and I say Istiraha, meaning break instead).

My focus has been on the MA stuff on teacher education, which was great, and a happy distraction from what may or may not have been happening here. Today I was introduced to this song on youtube, which sums things up quite nicely:

the lyrics are:


CHO: Whatever you say, say nothing when you talk about you-know-what.
For if you-know-who should hear ya, you know what you’d get
They take you all to you-know-where for you-wouldn’t-know-how-long,
So for you-know-whose sake don’t let anyone hear you singing this song.

You all know what I’m speaking of when I mention you-know-what,
And I fear it’s very dangerous to even mention that.
For the other ones are always near, although you may not see,
And if anyone asks who told you that, please don’t mention me. CHO.

You all know who I’m speaking of, when I mention you-know-who,
For if you-know-who should hear you, you know what he’d do.
So if you don’t see me again, you’ll know why I’m away,
And if anyone asks you where I’ve gone, here’s what you must say: CHO.

Wel,l that’s enough about so-and-so, not to mention such-and-such,
And I better end my song now. I’ve already said too much.
Well, the less you say, the less you hear, and the less you’ll go astray,
And the less you think, the less you do, and the more you’ll hear them say: CHO.

Video here

Needing a break from the you know what, we headed to Lebanon which was great. It was painless to do the shared taxi ride, though the drivers nearly came to blows for our custom. It was 2.5 hours door to door both ways. We stayed at the famous but not great Mayflower and Le Comodore (prestigious yet smelly). Beirut was crazy, felt very young, seemed hugely affluent, was certainly showy, a bit racist, and highly image consicous. Was great to have Sushi and beers.

We also stopped at Anfeh for a few days which was a lovely Mediterranean fishing village. We stayed with a nice family b& b. I got to swim. See beautiful water above :O)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The elephant in the room

What elephant I hear yee cry. What could be sillier, I ask?
Well, we are fine, can't see any elephants and are not threatened by any elephants. That said our room is an upper-middle class, capital, room. The room is tense, as if it knows that there is something there. The room reverberates and shakes. I sweep ignorantly. Elephant is weeping.
On Friday the door is locked down, all day. Even with nothing inside it's kind of scary.
Silly Sillier.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Language Education as Intercultural Practice

I wanted to introduce the fact that I have learnt something. Well, a couple of things. The first thing I think I know is, that what seems like summative feedback can in fact be formative feedforward, it just needed acting on. I got some feedback on an essay in January and I was a bit disappointed with my grade. I then prepared a workshop version of this essay for ISTEK in April and sought feedback on my project from the teachers. I now have an opportunity with ATEL (Association of Teachers of English Lebanon), they asked me to lead a workshop for them in May in Beirut. This opportunity comes with the added bonus of them hosting my paper on their website / newsletter. Hurray! These various steps have been crucial stimulus for me to rework the original paper. The process of doing so has meant that the learning from that module has spread over nearly nine months. I imagine that now intercultural aspects of language education have established themselves in my praxis, they will stay.

My second point is, redoing, and rewriting is a powerful process that has left me with the sense of pride and a wish to share again my essay and materials. Warning, the following may be dull if you are not interested in:

a. Interculturality
b. Bulgaria
c. Roma
d. One teachers attempts at world peace

The link for my MA essay is here.

Now, I just need to get back into an educational context (i.e find some work) to trial and implement my new intercultural understandings...hmmm...