ELT Podcast “ListeNotes”: The TEFL Show talks LPs, Obs, and PD with Anthony Ash

I’ve created a new genre of blogpost: podcast “ListeNotes”. What? Well, I listen to a podcast (here), take notes, clean them up a bit, and post ’em on up! That’s it. Let’s see how this goes…

*Reading back, I’m afraid to say that I’m not so sure there’s really much there there…but it was fun. 🙂

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Love the jazzy intro tune, Marek.

I think Anthony Ash is a cool name. People must say so now and then, right?

(Using this ‘cool name generator’ I have now re-christened myself “Seth Endtimes”…but Anthony Ash is cool AND real).

Anthony: “I’ve been working in ELT for about five, six years…”

Young strivers in ELT! Five, six years? And similar is true of Marek? You guys are still in your late 20s, right?!?

Impressive!

I like to think I’m still a relative spring chicken at 37, but I’ve been in ELT for 10 years and I can’t hold a candle to what you guys have achieved in this field (see Anthony’s bio here and some background & interview with Marek here and tell me I’m not right to be like “whoa, nice work, peoples. Nice work”). My career and my understanding of more than the general management of my own whiteboard marker ink mess was just picking up some casual momentum at six years in. So…godspeed I say!

Marek: “The idea for this episode was triggered by one of [Anthony’s] posts…”

Anthony says that post was inspired by a question he’d asked a trainer of his, “why do we get observees to produce very detailed, lengthy lesson plans?“. Apparently this trainer sent Anthony away to ponder this profound inquiry until he came back with a good answer. Like some kind of zen master giving a koan to an apprentice monk! Well, I do like that image.

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The answer was…

such a thorough LP reflects & records the thought process and decisions made in planning, and makes it possible to compare & contrast the plan to the lesson itself, generating lots of questions for some darn good reflection-on-action. 

^ (that’s paraphrased by me).

First, that’s a really good question to have asked! Duuude.

Second, I think that’s a good answer…it echoes what I constantly tell course participants on the courses I work on. I should be more zen about it though, start sending them away into the valley to ponder in a more profound way. There’s just no time for the valley-walking, alas! Perhaps the CELTA course should insert a mid-course walkabout. Hmmm…such a thing might just be “too SIT“.

It’s also not a final answer, and it’s not entirely satisfying. It’s one of those Rilke “live the questions” question, maybe.

(Please forgive me, ahead of time, for reposting quotation memes on the internet, here they come!)

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Anthony: “After I finished the CELTA I continued writing detailed lesson plans in my first year of teaching…I was lucky…my teaching was maybe like 2 lessons a day…I had the time to write out lesson plans and found that very useful…to develop my teaching and make sure I know what I’m doing in the classroom”… 

Marek and Anthony go on to talk about how that’s not typical, esp. when people go on to a full-time job in which teachers have absolutely NO TIME to plan in the CELTA style.

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I certainly didn’t (have time). I think I tried for about a week. But I came right off the CELTA and immediately started teaching classes of Thai teens all day, meeting once or twice a week per class. I had to plan, but not just like THAT! I quickly developed my own shorthand for the basics of my procedure, quicknotes of language analysis, and scribbled this and that. Plus the classroom management aspect quickly became the main concern…and not the kind of classroom management I got trained for on the CELTA. No, I needed to come up with a disciplinary system that could replace the one in place: a local assistant lining up the students and THWACKING them on the back of the knee (this old-school school was connected to the Thai Navy).

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I do see the planning I did on the CELTA as the mother of what I would write in that red notebook (sadly lost, I think I dropped it in a “klong” – a Bangkok canal – where it absolutely was NOT to be fished out (that water ain’t exactly fresh). So, perhaps it’s a kind of functional extreme which, by it’s very extremity, makes the mark it needs to make, as deeply as it needs to make it (sounds trauma-like).

In fact, what I see is a glint of imagined trauma in the eyes of the occasional trainee who innocently but incredulously asks “is THIS what we’ll be doing out there“?

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Marek: “I never diverged from the plan [during the CELTA/DELTA]…whereas in a normal class, you need that flexibility…you know your goals, but at the same time if something comes up…you will go with the flow, at least I will…”

I’m really trying to think over how I affect the trainees I work with on the CELTA courses I’ve done…do I/the course materials give a strong impression that DIVERGENCE = DEATH? Of course I don’t want that to happen – while at the same time I can’t make expert improvisational decision-making an expectation on a short initial teacher training certificate course. Well…I should try to be extra intentional about this on the course that begins on Monday (in a few days). Yeah, this goes on the mental list.

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Marek: “[In formal in-service observations at a school, at least once per year] you have to produce, usually, that 5-6 page CELTA-style lesson plan. What do you think of that?..useful?…why?…”

Anthony notes that Ts need to produce such a thorough plan quite far ahead of the lesson, and hand it to the observer a day in advance…in the meantime, you’ll probably have taught the class at least once…thus making the planning itself unrealistic…having a “basic structure” or simply talking to the observer would probably suffice. A good observer would likely produce a type of LP out of their notes which is what it reflected on anyway.

That’s right on, I’d say. What’s up with all this superstructure around what really ought to be, if teacher development itself is prioritized over ‘basic quality control’, a very human event, something that connects a teacher with (what we hope might be) another teacher in the management position, etc.

Marek mentions that a lot of times you get observed and don’t get much post-observation value at all. All you get is…avoid getting put on someone’s ‘don’t hire this bloke again next summer’ list. I feels ya, Marek. Really pointless in terms of development, but in the meantime comically stressful for the teacher. Comically!

Anthony: “The person in charge of PD…[should, like a good teacher would with their learners]: look at what the [teachers] can/can’t do and then develops the program based on that, even drop an entire unit [which] doesn’t apply. Why don’t we do the same with teachers?…” 

Some do. In my personal experience, some I’ve seen have. But I agree that it’s probably just as common to find PD “on a schedule” and rigid, less responsive and (hence) less motivating.

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We’ve all been in THAT in-service. I might have even given one of those…recently…:P

Now Marek and Anthony are sharing some inspired ideas for more responsive, ‘differentiated’ PD approaches – including GIVING SOME HOMEWORK! 

Another GREAT QUESTION ALERT!:

Anthony: (following up on Marek’s ideas) “Why isn’t there homework in PD programs more often?…” 

I’m off into the misty valley to think about that.

Marek: “I hope you enjoyed this episode…”

Me:

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Right. You can find more blog links etc. via both Anthony’s post and Marek’s post cited above. Here are two three more links to things that all of this reminded me of:

Chia Suan Chong’s Devil’s Advocate vs Anthony Gaughan on Lesson Aims & Plans in Teacher Training

Jason Anderson’s ELT Journal article Affordance, learning opportunities, and the lesson plan pro forma (and video of the author talking about it here).

Oh yeah! And Mike Chick’s The Facilitation of Reactive Tecahing During Pre-Service Teacher Education

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