The new year is bringing many exciting challenges. First of all there was the ‘Dogme debate’ at the IHWO DOS conference which was extremely enjoyable. @Luke Meddings gave a wonderful, gentle (but passionate) account of why unplugged teaching (that is working with – and in reaction to – the language that the students bring into the classroom rather than with materials) mattered to him – and why he was so committed to it. This was in reply to my own critique of the book that he and Scott Thornbury have written on the subject. You can read follow-ups and comments about all this from @mcneilmakon here and from @jemjemgardner here.
Talks in preparation are about multi-tasking and focus – a development from the enquiring blog I wrote about it. I wanted/want to know how we can ensure our students’ attention – and what they should pay attention to,. The best way to tease out thoughts (perhaps) is to try and put a coherent session together about it, and that’s why I am working on this one. Making new sessions is a great developmental tool. Planning teacher training sessions is, maybe, the best way to learn about/reflect on teaching.
I have to re-work and amplify a session on how people can best collaborate and share both within schools and institutions, but also in the wider world. I love the wide world we all swim around in via our PLNs, blogs, conferences, meeting etc, but in the end (I want to argue), the most important communication and collaboration exists within institutions.
Talk preparation is nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time; a bit like doing the CELTA teacher training course is for many teachers in training.
Perhaps the most exciting (and genuinely scaring event coming up) is an evening presentation called ‘Bent and Broken into a better shape’ – a celebration of the life of Charles Dickens, perhaps England’s greatest-ever writer of novels. With musician Steve Bingham I was asked by the British Council to do a show to celebrate his 200th anniversary and so we have been wracking our brains to find a way of conveying his genius in a 60-minute presentation. A lot of wracking going on! How do you convey the sheer ebullience of those 19 novels, countless short stories, fiery polemics – not to mention a whole busy chaotic, involved, complex life.
In the end we have gone for 9 short extracts interspersed with comments about the great writer and the contexts in which his novels were written – all (well some) of this will be enlightened by Steve’s extraordinary music. We are doing some tryouts before the event is filmed (and live-streamed) in the great hall of The British Medical Association on Tavistock Square, London on February 9. This is appropriate since Dickens lived on the site for ten years. As you can see from the poster, you can come along and watch/listen, or watch the live stream. We’d love to have you along.The big fear is whether reading from a writer’s works is the right way to celebrate his or her achievements, especially a writer as prodigious as Charles Dickens. And yet what other way is there, in a short time, to convey his amazing character descriptions, his scary and wonderful stories, his ability for comedy, his romanticism and passionate reforming zeal? Answers on a postcard, please.
In the meantime, it’s off to conferences in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, Dubai etc. Perhaps 2012 should be the year where we/I reconsider the benefit – for participants – of such parachute visits. I wonder.
Oh, and there’s a new book. But that’s another matter.
What about you? Big challenges for 2012?
What would you like to prepare a new talk about in order to have think about it seriously?
What new talks are you working on?
If you had to present a show about a great writer who would it be and how would you do it?