The vagaries of travel never cease to amaze me. First (as you can see from the picture) I was in my favourite part of the world – I mean FAVOURITE place, namely Trebetherick in North Cornwall (you can type PL27 6SF into Google maps to get an idea of where that is, but basically it’s down in the south-west sticking out bit of England)
On the train back to London (about 5 hours) they ran out of food. And then, on the way here (I’m in Buenos Aires) they left my suitcase behind somewhere in Europe. It makes you wonder, sometimes, why we travel at all. There’s usually a disaster or a crisis of some kind!
But of course the reason why we travel – well, the reason why I travel anyway – is to see lovely places (naturally) but also to be with people. More specifically, to be with teachers, working with them, hearing them, interacting with them, sharing their working lives and mine. That seems to be a good enough reason to swing crazily from one hemisphere to the next. Teacher development is, after all, the way we all stay alive and engaged, and while I hope I contribute in some way to the development of others, still the best part of all this travel, for me, is the way it helps me develop and grow myself. I have never yet been to a conference where I have not been entranced by the work of some teachers, challenged by trenchant views (which I may not agree with) or been charmed by the openness of the people in our profession.
All of which means that I am, of course, thrilled to be in Argentina (even though I am in mourning for my all-too-brief stay in Cornwall (see above)). But there IS a problem. Or at least a potential problem. I have come here to give talks in Buenos Aires and then to go on to FAAPI, a national teachers’ convention here in Argentina. The theme of the conference is ‘English and Art’ and I have liberally interpreted this for my own plenary . Art = plastic arts, but also music, drama, literature, right? And so I have planned a talk about the uses of poetry and music in language teaching. Pure self indulgence. For although I genuinely DO believe in the uses of both in the ESOL classroom (and hope to persuade the audience of this), still my main motive, in a way, has been to talk about what I want to talk about. And I will get to perform some poetry during the talk, and use music…all things I enjoy, but will the teachers?
(A quick aside: I have recently been performing – and have made a CD of – a show called Touchable Dreams with my friend the musician Steve Bingham. It’s a mixture of poetry and music and I have enjoyed doing it, and have been challenged by it like nothing else I have done for years. My FAAPI talk will, of course, draw on this. It will allow me to re-live the experience to some extent, and I am keen to do so!!).
What it has made me think is a question that has always rattled around my brain. It goes like this: we always talk about meeting our students’ needs and wants. We tailor classes to what we think will be appropriate for them. But what about us? Is it OK for teachers to talk about what they (the teachers) want to talk about? Is it OK to bring our interests into class? Should we be shy about this? Triumphant? Careful? In other words, what is the responsibility of the teacher or the presenter to his or her ‘audience’? Do we have a right to ‘do our thing’, or should we ruthlessly beat our egos down in the service of others?
Just asking! Do you have any views?