Archive

Archive for the ‘The teacherless class’ Category

MacDougal and the Machine

May 11, 2016 Leave a comment

THE KOAN
Numbers are lower than hoped for. The boss determines that it is time to offer students more hours for more money.

“Absurd!” cries MacDougal. “It’ll never work!”

“I hear your cries,” spoke Big Chief Little, “but work it must and I trust you to deliver.”

To build support for the initiative, all existing students are offered free upgrades.

MacDougal stands enlightened, but dejected.

COMMENTARY

What makes a student underachieve. MacDougal thinks he knows, but doesn’t know what can be done. The boss knows what can be done, but doesn’t know what makes a student underachieve. Students know that underachievement is the bane of their lives and this makes them underachieve even more. They sign up for the extra hours, but never attend their classes.

Does more work work? Do students do more work when they need more work? Is more work ever the answer? Is language learning work? Will this bold initative work? What does work mean? Is teaching work? Just what makes Rihanna an expert on work, work, work? Is twerking working? For you? For me? Would shaking his hips make MacDougal feel less dejected? Is enlightenment ever a good thing?

THIS BE THE VERSE

You took my heart and my keys and my patience
You took my heart on my sleeve for decoration
You mistaken my love I brought for you for foundation
All that I wanted from you was to give me
Something that I never had
Something that you’ve never seen
Something that you’ve never been!

Categories: The teacherless class Tags:

Placement testing

January 28, 2016 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

The new students edged into the room gingerly. MacDougal was waiting for them. The protocol required that they undergo a test to see what level they had reached in their long exploration of language learning.

“Where is the cat?” he barked.

The irony was not lost on Shou Mi. He went into the top level group.

“Which is the bigger garden?” he probed.

“My name is Monday,” said…errr…Monday.

Monday went to level 2.

“And you,” shouted MacDougal, “why do you say nothing?”

“I’m the new teacher,” said Mr Landfill.

“Then it’s Level 1 for you.”

COMMENTARY

Why are koans never bloody simple? What is to be gained from sitting around trying to uncover the hidden meaning that lies within? Within what exactly? EXACTLY! And suppose the whole universe was nothing more than a typo.

What makes Monday any better than Shou Mi. Was MacDougal wrong about his new pedagogical partner? Perhaps Mr Landfill should have protested more? But he was a Canadian and far too polite.

Can you be too polite?

Ask a Norwegian anarchist.

THIS BE THE VERSE

Looking back, it’s so bizarre
It runs in the family
All the things we are
On the back seat of the car
With Joseph and Emily
We only see so far
And we all have our daddy’s eyes

Categories: The teacherless class Tags: ,

What do I do?

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

At the dinner party the guest to his right turned to MacDougal. “So, tell me. What do you do?”

“Err…I’m a teacher,” he guessed.

“Great! What do you teach?”

“Humans,” he replied, only slightly puzzled.

“That’s amazing! Can you teach me?”

He wasn’t even on the clock. And here they were…always scrabbling around for whatever they could get from him. He laughed.

“What do you do yourself?”

COMMENTARY

What do you do? How do you do? Does a man have to do what a man has to do? Are you really damned if you do and damned if you don’t? What do you do? What? Do you? Do you do? What a to do!

THIS BE THE VERSE

Zou bisou bisou
Zou bisou bisou, mon Dieu qu’ils sont doux
Zou bisou bisou

Categories: The teacherless class

How to teach CELTA – a koan

January 13, 2016 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

The start of the CELTA training class. The trainer gives the students the koan, “So, how do you teach?

The students assume that this is a rhetorical question.

So much to learn at the start, in the middle and at the end.

HOW. DO. YOU. TEACH?

I’m waiting.

COMMENTARY

So many people with so many questions. Write a book, for chrissakes. Oh. You have? How do you write? Is it even writing when you bang it out on a keyboard? You know, Socrates was not entirely off the mark when he gave the mike to Thamus. Don’t know what I’m on about? GOOGLE IT AND READ THE BOOK. Oh.

The best answer is always mind your own business.

THIS BE THE VERSE

Because I’m easy come, easy go
Little high, little low
Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me,

to me

Categories: The teacherless class

MacDougal ruins the weekend

September 18, 2015 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

MacDougal woke from a heavy slumber. He saw how his slobber had leaked onto the papers and he felt more connected to them than he wanted to be.

He ripped his flattened cheek from the desk and looked ahead. The faces of the students were staring at him. One of the students looked just like him. He rubbed his eyes. The student rubbed his eyes too. MacDougal started to speak, “Sor…”. The student started to speak too. MacDougal clamped his hand over his mouth. The student’s hands both stayed where they were. On the ends of his arms.

“What shall we do today?”

COMMENTARY

Oh, you recalcitrant readers! Where now your thoughts? Where now your questions? Where now, more bloody importantly, your answers? Only you can provide the insight that opens the koan. When is a koan not a koan? When it is ajar. So open it, my gatekeepers!

What kind of teacher is MacDougal, sleeping on the job? Should we sack him?

Does he have a twin in the class? Who is that mysterious student? What’s wrong with his hands?

Who asks the questions? What is the answer?

THIS BE THE VERSE

Wake me up, before you go go

Cos I’m not planning on going solo.

Wake me up before you go go.

Take me dancing tonight.

Categories: The teacherless class Tags:

MacDougal and the coursebook

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

Mr Gowan plugs his way methodically through the coursebook. After exercise 1, the class do exercise 2. After page 3, the class do page 4. After Unit 5, the class do Unit 6. End-of-unit tests are administered faithfully. Laughter can be heard from the classroom on an enviably regular basis. Students are desperate to join the class.

Across the corridor, in Mr Meedle’s class, the students never use the coursebook. Mr Meedle doesn’t approve of such things. He works like billy-o, the prolific worker, to make sure that he has materials that are up-to-scratch and relevant to the students’ lives. His efforts are not always appreciated. Students stare wistfully at the class on the other side of the corridor where the doors are always open.

Miss Gille never uses the coursebook either. In fact, she doesn’t really know how to use a coursebook. In fact, it is never that clear what she does use. The students aren’t much help in finding out. They shrug their shoulders and say they just do the usual. Nobody asks to move into her classes. Nobody from her classes has ever complained.

Which one of them should we keep on for next year?

COMMENTARY

Ah, life at the top. Big decisions are always hard to make and all decisions are big. What will you have for tea tonight? Is ha-ha more important than ho-hum or are the big prizes reserved for Huh? Caught between Scylla and Our Graham, the choice is yours.

THIS BE THE VERSE

Will it be chips or jacket spuds?

Will it be salad or frozen peas?

Will it be mushrooms?

Fried onion rings? 

You’ll have to wait and see!

Categories: The teacherless class Tags:

MacDougal and Shoujin

August 17, 2015 Leave a comment

THE KOAN

MacDougal told the class to turn to page 78 of the book. It was his first ever effort at being an ELT author and he had gone the extra mile to make sure that the product was different to all of the usual dross on the market. Page 78 marked the beginning of Unit 5, a highly innovative unit that looked at the role of fruit and vegetables in language learning. In space. Into it his editors had shoe-horned a grammar focus on relative clauses, both defining and non-defining. There was a smattering of interest shown in the passive (nothing fancy, just the basic construction). The lexical focus was on adjectives of quality.

The publisher had insisted on each unit being given a rigorous test drive prior to publication and this was precisely what MacDougal was doing. Never before had the material been trialled on a class of students. His heart beat slightly faster as he directed the class to, “Look carefully at the high-resolution picture on page 78, which is the start of a new unit, and talk to each other in pairs about what makes the picture which you can see there different to other pictures that you have seen before.”

He settled back to watch them. Five seconds later, Shoujin put up his hand. Shoujin, the student who had started coming to the class yesterday. Shoujin the investment banker from Shanghai.

“Yes, Shoujin? What is it?”

“Sorry, teacher. We’ve already done this.”

COMMENTARY

The students have already done it. So what? Does that mean that they shouldn’t do it again? Says who? Oh yeah? You and whose army? The students pay the piper, but the piper calls the tune. Isn’t that how it goes?

Have the students already done it? How do they know? And just where does Shujin get off by interrupting the class in this fashion?

If the other teachers kept meticulous records of work, this sort of thing would never happen to an innocent cover teacher. Would it? Or perhaps that should read, “Or would it?”

THIS BE THE VERSE

Struggling hard to make

An innovative lesson

Condemns you to fail.

Categories: The teacherless class Tags:
%d bloggers like this: