Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Word on Your Blogs

Just a word for everyone. I enjoyed the pop culture artifacts on your blogs. Please bring your artifacts to class next week-- we'll most likely be using them to begin brainstorming potential lesson plans in the next class. Also... I will be checking the blogs weekly, so anyone who has not posted (and particularly anyone who has not set up a blog) please begin doing so (i.e. points/grades/final scores) and if your blog address is not posted below, send it to me as soon as possible. Happy Reading

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quotes for Today

"The teacher does not always have to be more knowledgeable than the pupil; and the pupil is not necessarily always less learned than the teacher."

"Among any three persons, there must be one who can be my teacher."

-- Confucius

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Can popular culture subvert anything?

This is a tough question... and it's one that we'll begin to address in class next week. I think it's worth asking if this sort of expression can be or is subversive or oppositional(via the perspectives of the Frankfurt School). As English teachers, I think this is worth thinking about for a lot of reasons. Not least of all because our students' contact with English and with English speaking worlds occurs via the channels of popular culture- and many of the attitudes and beliefs that sit just beneath the surface in our classroom interactions- are intertwined with representations found in pop culture. Anyway, here's a video I've enjoyed/thought about quite a bit.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great Sandwich

Thanks Chris, that was a fantastic sandwich....

I enjoyed class last night. I think that I could have been clearer about what I was looking for in the first task- but I think that good conversation was happening and so I saw no need to interrupt to ensure small group discussions conformed to my 'plan'. That said, in my experience discussion based classes need a bit of variety in order to 1) stay fresh, and 2) ensure that we don't limit ourselves to one or two ways of expressing ourselves. In fact, my goal for the class is to conduct a large group discussion where I (as the instructor) am not positioned at the center of the conversation (in other words, where I would not call on people to contribute and where members would speak to one another rather than to me). This is something that I have found to be quite difficult in any teaching context- and it probably carries its own set of pitfalls.... but I'm definitely interested in the possibility of class conversations where I could be just another participant.
Small group work has been effective at instigating discussion between class members (where I am not playing a mediating role). But again... I think I'll have to keep considering alternatives.

My question of the week:
In what ways do particular classroom formats favor certain kinds of participation and certain voices? To what degree is the form of the conversation as important as or more important than the content of the conversation?

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments and questions....


This is part one of the documentary I was talking about in class. Though there is always room for critique... for analyzing subject positions, etc, this made me feel warm and fuzzy....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another free online journal, a free documentary site, and "do-nothing teaching"

First, I happened upon another free online journal that focuses on progressive English education. It's called English Teaching: Practice and Critique
You can download free pdf files on a ton of different topics.
The May 2009 issue addresses the divide between English teaching and communities. You can find a list of the individual articles here.

I also found a site which gathers all the best sites full of free documentaries. This could be useful for teaching or just for personal interest.

Finally, I met someone this weekend who is keeping a blog and developing an idea he calls do-nothing teaching. Interesting stuff. He's currently engaged in teaching and teacher training in Korea. So have a look! We may look at some of this when we discuss Dogme teaching practices later in the semester.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

OK.... So What?

It was perfect timing.... a friend of mine is writing a paper on perceptions of Native English speaking teachers in Korea. Part of his project involved an analysis of a song that I wrote some time ago. It was a rather bitter song called "white professors in the R-O-K". He did a great analysis and he asked me some pretty difficult questions. I have attached my response below- in part because I felt quite uneasy about the Critical Pedagogies class last night. For those who don't wish to sort through my rant below, the short version is: I don't think that me standing up in front of the room preaching about the systematic problems with our education system is a very good use of our time together. I doubt that it makes any of us feel more empowered and more hopeful about our work. It likely does quite the opposite. While I think it's important to question what we're doing as teachers- questions may only take us so far. So, it's up to me (with your help) to work out the best use of our time together. Below is the long version of my response to my friend. Enjoy if you have the time and the desire:

thanks for the thoughts....
i really appreciate them today as i'm in the midst of a bit of an existential crisis. i don't disagree with anything you're saying. and during my past two years in korea i've begun to lose faith in higher degrees.... after all, i met plenty of people at penn state who struck me as less than thoughtful. moreover, i've met plenty of white guys out here who are clearly better teachers than i am. more education is not the solution. neither is blaming white guys who are probably good teachers. the truth is, i thought i had worked through all this before coming back to korea. apparently not.
last night i had my first critical pedagogies class. it didn't go well. class participants were quite engaged, they got what i was trying to say. they debated a bit, questioned the readings, they were very thoughtful.... but i'm left with a knot in my stomach. (more on that later).

as far as the song...
the point of the song was not so much to question white guys' ability to teach or to suggest that white guys need to read henry giroux before they are effective teachers. my beef is that for every white guy teaching english (even if very effectively) there is a korean/ filipino/ indian/ nigerian/ tanzanian/ etc/ who is not teaching english who may also be a very effective teacher-- and whose mere presence in a korean university would change the ways people see the english speaking world (and subsequently the ways students see themselves in an english speaking world). my problem never was with the white professor per se. my problem is with the way this whole game has been set up. if one is an effective teacher then one gets the better job, higher pay, professional success, but very few people that i've met are willing to discuss what exactly they're trying to achieve. as english teaching becomes a profession, then 'being a good teacher' becomes a goal in and of itself. great, but to what ends? for what 'real world' purpose? i see a lot of people who want to get 5 months off a year- and a lot of people who want to make english education in korea more effective, efficient, and maybe even fun... all fantastic goals, but i guess my feeling is that historically, all education has really done is reproduce what was already there. people sent to the top... people left behind. as the world has become 'more educated', the global problems have increased. strange. i think the real 'problem' of education has little to do with white professors. it has to do with the way the whole game is set up... very few people playing the game are doing anything to change the rules. why should they? the people who are leading the profession are the people who have been served well by it. those who haven't don't have much say.

all that said...
the reason for the existential crisis that i mentioned has nothing to do with all that. it has to do with the fact that i'm not sure i believe that questioning the value of education in a broad sense is actually relevant. after all, what really matters to people is feeling good, having a good day at work, connecting with a student or colleague or friend, coming home to someone, eating well, and having a good night's sleep. learning a few more tricks to make work go more smoothly is quite an asset. elaborating on the injustices perpetuated by education does little to make anyone feel more empowered, more effective, and more hopeful about their work. so if that's all true, what can a course like "critical pedagogies" actually offer? i guess i'm still waiting to find out. i have my reading list, a load of activities, and a basic sense that i would like to 'stir the pot'. but exactly what all the participants in the class can take from this experience... i'm not yet sure. what i do know is that i don't want to stand up in front of the class every week preaching about the systematic problems in our education system. i don't think that is very helpful to any of us.
the up side is that the class is just starting. it's obvious that as the course instructor, my learning has just begun. so far, i've learned that for some reason, i have a lot riding on this one single class. it's the first time i've been able to teach pretty much whatever i want. and it's a chance for me to discover what exactly i want to teach/ what i want to say/ what i feel is relevant. the class is full of very bright and very thoughtful people who are willing to engage. i feel lucky. i feel like it's a fabulous opportunity to more fully understand my goals as an educator (lesson one: i don't fully understand my goals as an educator). i hope students feel they have this sort of opportunity as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meeting for Reflective Practice this Sunday

I thought I would post this in case anyone is interested. KOTESOL has formed a reflective practice group that plans to meet once a month on a Sunday to discuss reflective teaching practices. I have not been yet, but plan to go this Sunday. Anyone interested is welcome and you can see the note below for details.

Hello everyone,

Thank you for your interest in our new Reflective Practice Special Interest Group (SIG). We have the full support of KOTESOL and will be working closely with Professor Thomas Farrell who is a well known reflective practitioner. Our main aim is to get teachers talking constructively about teaching in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. The backbone of our plan is not in workshops or teacher training sessions but instead lies in the arena of teacher development. Our vision is to get groups of teachers throughout the country to get together and engage in dialogue about what is happening in their classrooms and then to support each other in finding constructive ways to make meaningful changes to their teaching practice. Along these lines we will be having a "reflective rendezvous" each month in Seoul with the hopes of building a model that can be reproduced nation-wide.

Last meeting we had a great time discussing how to define reflective practice. This week Manpal Sahota will be guiding us as we dig in and get our hands dirty by actually doing some reflection on our teaching. So, bring your classroom experiences, your active listening skills and an open mind to our second reflective rendezvous on Sunday March 13th (2-5pm).

Check out our blog (password: reflectyourself) to see what we did last month :)

Where: Meeple Book Cafe ( near Sinchon Subway station. Get out at exit #4 and head straight. It's just a little ways and on your left. If you've gotten to "On the Border" mexican restaurant you've gone too far. The room will be reserved under the name RP SIG.

How much does it cost? For members of KOTESOL the meeting is free. If you're not a member of KOTESOL it will cost 5,000KWN which includes a tasty beverage.

Hope to see you all there,

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One View on the Spread of English

How would one approach these comments from a 'critical' perspective?

What does the speaker leave out of his description?

How does his speech position various people involved in the global spread of English?

A Short Article on Korean Teachers Union Rights

The courts are reviewing Korean teachers' claim they have a right to join anti-government organizations.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week Two Discussion Questions

How do the various orientations to a literacy curriculum imply different perspectives regarding the purpose of education? What are some of these different views of the purpose of education?

What is the teacher's duty according to each perspective?

At what point in this reading does Shannon reveal a critical perspective regarding these orientations to curriculum?
How does he do so?

What are the two different senses in which Pennycook asserts that language teaching is inherently “political”?

Pennycook makes a rather rash sounding claim in saying that the very notion of “language” as conceived in linguistics, is a political concept. How does he believe this is so?

On p. 597 Pennycook connects the notion of “method” in language teaching with a Western enlightenment conception of scientism (via Descartes). According to Pennycook's argument, how do methods in language teaching parallel the general scientific notion of discovering and discerning truth?

Pennycook offers a historical perspective on teaching practices which opposes positivist and progressivist readings of history. These could be read as a sceintist versus a historicist reading of methods? What is his purpose for incorporating a historicist reading and why does he believe it is important to do so?

What is the 'methods boom' and what groups have been empowered by it?

On page 598 onwards the author describes the socio-political conditions of various language learning contexts. Describe the Korean English learning context using Pennycook's descriptions as a model. In other words, briefly summarize the socio-political context in Korean English education.

On page 600 there is a brief allusion to the notion of 'traditional' language teaching methods. What are traditional Korean teaching methods?
How would Pennycook answer that same question?