Posts Tagged ‘Dogme’


January 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Being prepared to teach

means not needing to prepare a class.

The teacher who is ready to work

is ready for whatever happens.


So the best teacher

remembers who they are.

Though the staffroom shelves are sagging

All that is needed is to be found within the classroom.

By doing you are being.

Not knowing how to do, you don’t know how to be.


* My original commentary on Chapter 26 can be found here.


December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

To be the very best teacher

you need to follow the path, not build the path.

“But the path isn’t clear!”

True, but look carefully and you’ll see the signs.

“But the signs aren’t obvious.”

True, but they can be seen.

“But not very well! I might be mistaken!”

True, but look again and you won’t be;

look again and the signs become so real

you won’t think twice about trusting them.

And this trust will give you the confidence

that the path is present in every class.

“How do you know this?”

Because I know this.


Original commentary on verse 21 can be found here


October 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Abandon your need for professional development and watch how your troubles will end.

Newly qualified, vastly experienced – where’s the real difference?

The bright and the dull – aren’t they the same?

Do you really aspire to be the best teacher?

What a waste of your time!

Everyone has the answers, but I don’t have any.

I know nothing. Really! I don’t have a clue.

The others are confident, everyone’s bright.

But I doubt everything, there’s no light from me.

Their right turn of phrase and their incisive thought

outshine my dull and confused foolishness.

I continue to drift in all directions and none

while they plan and notate the lessons to come.

They’re so busy! I sit here and wait for my lesson,

drawing strength from my ignorance.


*My original commentary on verse 20 can be found here


September 26, 2015 Leave a comment

A professional approach and kindness

are the opposite of the best type of teaching.

Valuing intelligence and understanding,

you miss the point entirely.

The teacher who rules the class and directs the learning

will be plagued by obedient and respectful students.

When nothing is clear and it all seems a muddle,

materials will arrive to help you lose your way.


*My original commentary on Chapter 18 is here.


August 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Your many materials stop you from teaching;

Your carefully constructed plans ruin your lessons;

Your teaching ideology fails your students.

A busy, busy classroom leads to lazy, lazy students.

Learning outcomes mean you never come out learning.

To be a good teacher

Do what feels right, not what seems right.

Focus on this; don’t look at that.

*My original commentary on Chapter 12 is here


July 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Teaching and learning have been happening for ever.

Why have they been happening for ever?

They are synonyms for living, that’s why!

Because life persists, teaching and learning persist.

The smart teacher hangs behind and lets them proceed as they are going to anyway.

By not insisting on any particular approach

The smart teacher discovers that any approach works well.

Leaving things to follow their path results in things turning out as well as they can.

*My original commentary on Chapter 7 is here

*My commentary on this paraphrased version is here


July 12, 2015 Leave a comment

When learning something new,

Prepare for frustration and tears.

The best teachers are not gentle parents;

They will leave you frustrated and tearful.

What has to be learnt does not exist without you,

Yet until it is learnt, nothing else exists!

Choose the teacher that says the least.

Stay focused on your goal.

*My original commentary on Chapter 5 is here

*My commentary on this paraphrased version is here

Categories: Tao for teachers Tags: , ,


June 28, 2015 Leave a comment

There’s no need for heroes in teaching. They just lead to disagreements.

You don’t need to go round cherry picking the best bits.

When you don’t know what you’re missing, you’ll probably be quite happy with what you’ve got.

So, if you want to be a good teacher, stop telling students what they’ll be able to do

And help them do the things that they are doing right now.

When students are just doing rather than just thinking,

theories can be thrown out of the window.

If plans are never made, then everything will turn out just right.

*My original commentary on Chapter 3 is here

*My commentary on this paraphrase is here.

80 – The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

April 4, 2011 2 comments

Once again, Lao produces a turn of phrase that I can only envy. Chapter 80 calls for a pre-method “state of grace” – when all there was was a room with a few chairs, a blackboard, a teacher and some students, and where learning was jointly constructed out of the talk that evolved in that simplest, and most prototypical of situations. OK, that was Thornbury Tzu. Lao Tzu called for a society where technological tools exist but grow dusty through disuse. People are happy with what they have and don’t feel the need to add to it. Even writing is left in favour of the use of knotted ropes (not some sort of flagellant society, but a precursor to writing in ancient China). Oh lawks! I can hear you thinking, He was some sort of mad anarcho-primitivist. Another Unabomber. But this is to miss the point.

Lao doesn’t advocate a return to the Stone Age just because he thinks technology is bad. He wants a life where people are happy, contented, and able to rediscover the pleasure in the simplest things that their worlds have to offer. Why? Well in a verse that I am going to quote in full because I think it’s so damned beautiful, he explains that if we obsess with the need to fill our life with ephemeral junk

The next little country might be so close

the people could hear cocks crowing

and dogs barking there,

but they’d get old and die

without ever having been there.

Phew! I’ve referenced Tolstoy’s view that the kingdom of God is within you and here we have the same. If we divorce ourselves from the simplest delights and experiences of this world, we will be oblivious to the fact that the promises of Paradise are already with us. This is all there is. So, for language teachers, we can extrapolate, Lao is telling us once again that all we need to do a grand job can be found in the room that we teach in. Teachers’ books, DVD guides, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Wordles, Word Magnets, Hot Potatoes, talking avatars – all may carry the echo of dogs barking and cocks crowing, but if we rely only on tracing the echo to find the real thing, we will grow old and die without ever finding our goal. A chair, a blackboard, some students and a teacher.

I am reminded of a poem when I read Scott’s “some chairs, a blackboard, some students and a teacher.” The poem was written by Yannis Ritsos and goes, “A man, before going to bed, put his watch under his pillow./Then he went to sleep. Outside the wind was blowing. You who know/the miraculous continuity of little motions, understand./ A man, his watch, the wind. Nothing else.”

This is a critical update

December 5, 2010 5 comments

In an inspired move, Karenne sets up the critical aspect of dogme for Dogme Challenge Number 9. I don’t know if she was saving this for my 40th birthday, but if she was, allow me now to say thank you – it was the best present I could have been given. This is what most turned me on to dogme back in 2001. I’d been reading Freire and spending hours trying to decipher just exactly what he was on about. Bells were chiming everywhere (I lived in a bell tower) and purpose had been delivered unto my life. Dogme seemed to be fertile soil for my emerging plans to destroy capitalism through the teaching of English as a foreign language.

Relatively recently, Scott Thornbury became the boy who kicked a hornet’s nest when he wrote a blog entry for the British Council entitled, “Dogme: nothing if not critical.”  The article provided, as usual, a lot of food for thought. In true critical style, the question that it asked was whether or not dogme had a claim on the title of critical pedagogy. I argued that it was not.

Like Sergio Ramos, this is going to get messy. Read more…

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