Too many interests, too little time

I’m only on the 3rd of 6 modules but my interests are quickly piling up. Being a type 7 on the Enneagram, http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/, it is no big surprise to me, but I’d better keep on top of things or else…

For anyone who golfs, the following tip I heard should be analogous:
Standing on the first tee, with driver in hand, ominously looking down the fairway, we are advised to, “Stay focussed on the ball and try to keep less than 300 things from racing through your brain at once.”

I can clearly see that I’m evolving as a teacher through this MA TEFL. I find that trying to stay “practical” while piecing together the many potential components that will form both my own theory of learning and the English program at my school can be overwhelmimg at times.

In Japanese high schools, there is a big difference between ‘learning’ English and ‘studying’ English. The former works best through a holistic approach to the language (like TBL) whereas the later centers on a rigorous and grueling mental study of English in order to pass university entrance exams. At the high school level, it feels almost impossible to convince JTEs to adjust their grammar-translation (GT) methods into a more holistic TBL approach. There are many universities that have recently been implementing TBL into the university setting and this seems like a very good idea according to many experts including, among many others, Nunan and Ellis. I think TBL is a reasonable approach because the focus can be on ‘learning’ English more than ‘studying’ English. I don’t know how many JSHSs have found a way to use TBL within the current world of “Juken Benkyou”.

I’m very interested in finding a way to “sell” the idea of TBL to the average JTE (who hasn’t got an MA TEFL) so that JTE and NT goals can be more aligned and their students can enjoy English more and be more successful in English as well.

Personally, I am determined to find the right mix of approach, based on theory, to lead me to my goal. Here’s where I am or my “recipe” at this point:

  1. I’m trying to wrap my head around understanding TBL in order to implement a TBL approach into my classroom.
  2. I’m starting an Extensive Reading program for both in-class and out-of class. I want to expose my students to a large amount and wide range of English.
  3. I’m evaluating how to give “Vocabulary” its proper place in my lessons.

The weeks seem to be flying by, with readings from the MA TEFL modules scheduled towards a weekly SKYPE session (online FREE conference call format, http://www.skype.com/helloagain.html) on Monday nights at 10 pm. If you are interested in what we are doing, skype me via bluesteed. We discuss, compare, clarify and try to understand the implications of what we are studying. We also laugh.

This week I joined TESOL http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/index.asp and renewed my membership to JALT http://jalt.org/. I figured that for the duration of this MA, I would like to open as many avenues to new ideas, interesting people and new opportunities. I think both associations are worthwhile for my professional development.

The following link is a wonderful, up-to-date introduction to TBL. Thanks to Mark for sending it to me. http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/September_06_home.php. The editor’s introduction to some 8 articles is wonderful and the first short article by Nunan offers a variety of clear definitions of ‘task’. Check it out.

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2 thoughts on “Too many interests, too little time

  1. Hey Steve,

    I’m in the same boat as you, 10 years of teaching in Japan, and now with a full program in place it is suddenly hard to walk into a classroom and teach PPP. I try my damnest to somehow rearrange the textbooks so that I don’t go the PPP route and if I start to, well, I get this really uneasy feeling that I am doing something wrong and I should somehow give the money back to the students who have paid for this PPP stuff for all these years. Saying that though, I have had resistance from some parents who feel that they still want PPP and when they se what is going on inside the classroom, they wonder, What the heck is Mark doing? My 5 year old should be studying grammar and should be receiving homework. But Mark is having my child communicate! I think I should go to a different school!

    Actually with the Vygotsky and TBL link zooming, one of these students is one of my test students and his level of English from doing these sorts of activities that get him to communicate and use the English he has learned, is unbelievable. I think within the 40 minute class I have with him, we might use less than 5 minutes of Japanese. His ZPD is small, he requires very little help from me to acquire new language and he is a useful student in the classroom to help teach the others. A perfect class for a Thesis.

    I would love to reform the education system in Japan and with an MA it is hard for those Board of Education gurus to use that ‘chotto muzukashii’ crap on you. Suddenly I have a voice and the BOE guru’s are listening a little. I have the chance next year to infiltrate a grade school with a whole bunch of task based learning stuff and well as the Borg have said; Resistance is futile.
    But the best thing is that the students love it! They have been freed!

  2. Hey Steve,

    Just a quick note. Last night’s discussion about post-tasks. I think for a TBL and Vygotsky link, the talk about having the students not only discuss the task itself in the end, but also identify the person they acquired the language from. I think that will be a key step to identifying the idea of social interaction embedded in TBL as well as the issue of feedback (where ever it might come from). Students in an ideal setting might positively reinforce or assist each other in their learning. Thus amplifying the scaffolding effect and helping other students through their ZPD through social interaction. I think this could be the basis for a TBL book.

    I didn’t sleep much because of this. So it better be good.

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