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Archived Content from Conference Held in May 2001 

Building on our Strengths:
Second International Conference on Language Teacher Education

 

Summary of Presentation:
"Build It and They Will Come"

Julian Edge, Aston University, England · May 19, 2001


In advance of our meeting together in the Twin Cities, I am happy to send ahead some opening thoughts and some data, all of which will reappear, duly made coherent, in my talk. I look forward to meeting you in May.

Teacher education is one of the ways a society has for passing on to the next generation the values that it holds to be important. Other mechanisms already exist to emphasize our deep cultural commitment to:

  1. sexual exploitation as the basic underpinning of commercial enterprise,
  2. power as the final arbiter of what is right,
  3. money as the most important criterion of worth,
  4. winning as the sole purpose of engagement, and
  5. self-righteousness in all the above.

What is left for teacher education to commit itself to that would not, at the same time, make it appear ridiculous? I believe that we might try something along the lines of: Freedom, Equality and Community.

Not original, I admit, and also in need of a little glossing -- we need no Russian ghosts translated in Texas to tell us that these words have been used before, and that they come saturated with the meanings of other people at other times.

So, as trans-national capital gears itself up to devour the democracies that made its emergence possible, let us risk reminding ourselves of what we believe these words to mean, even if we do risk at the same time making ourselves look ridiculous. After all, in the age of the dimpled chad, the term ridiculous itself seems to be retreating before us.

To be continued . . .

 


Example 1: Theorizing classroom practice

Speaker

Okay, talking about feeling annoyed and frustrated, I face a problem lately with giving instructions in class. For some reason, the children just don't seem to take any notice. I try to carry out the lesson in English as much as possible, and then when it comes to the, let's say, homework, comes to the point of telling them what to do for homework . . .

Understander

Just to get this straight, you mean the Junior classes?

Speaker

Yes, the problem is worse with A Preliminary and B Preliminary, the first classes.

Understander

The first classes, yes, and you've got a problem because they don't get the instructions . . .

Speaker

Yes, it seems that they don't understand what is said, or they don't listen to what is said - I can't decide what is what.

Understander

And you say that you speak English to them?

Speaker

Ah, yes, I try, as much as possible, I could say, to speak in English, though lately, to save time, I suppose, I explain their homework in [the pupils' L1]. But even in [L1], if I say, 'Chapter 35,' as soon as I say that, someone says, 'Chapter 34?' Or, 'I didn't hear that, say that again!'

Understander

You mean there is a problem here with the class . . .

Speaker

Yes, they just don't . . . however clearly I say it.

Understander

You mean in [L1]? Even in [L1]?

Speaker

Yes, even in [L1] they don't, they don't follow. There's something I'm not doing right here, I think. I find this such a waste of time and I end up shouting, Can't you understand? Listen!

Understander

So, you think it is you who is to blame?

Speaker

Well, funnily enough, we have another teacher and I wanted to watch, to observe her, and at the end of the lesson she explained in [L1] very clearly what the homework was, and from my position at the back of the class I saw the same thing. Immediately she said it, the children said, What have we got?'

Understander

Did this give you any thoughts? I mean, did it make you think of any other ways to do that?

Speaker

Mmm, maybe it's a question of classroom management really, that we need to establish some rules, perhaps: 'Right! Now we're going to give the homework instructions, everybody must pay attention!' Mmmm, or perhaps if I could write it on the board and say, 'This is what you have to do.'
And then, they could, they could follow, they could write it down, they could copy it down, yes, maybe that's a good idea, to stop the confusion caused by the oral explanation of the instructions.

Understander

So, you think the confusion is caused by the oral explanation of the instructions?

Speaker

Eh, it certainly is a part, a major part, yeah, I think it is. I think that's right. I need to try it. I do write on the board sometimes, but I'm not consistent. Mmm. Maybe that's the problem, then, I am not consistent about it and they don't know what to expect. Mmm, that could be a discovery there! (laughs)

Understander

Good! (laughs)

Speaker

Yes, children of that age especially need consistency . . .

Understander

You mean, every time, the same thing . . .

Speaker

Yes. OK. So, five minutes before the end of each lesson, they know, 'Now the teacher is going to tell us the homework so I must pay careful attention.'
Maybe that's the way they see it. And maybe I could ask how they do it at their regular school, the [national] school, and see if there's anything I could learn from that situation.

 


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