Follow by Email

Sunday, 4 May 2014

FROM THREAT OF TEACHING TO PLEASURE OF LEARNING

TED talks on education make me yearn for a brave new world, apparently the opposite of Huxley's negative utopia. I don't like the idea of McDonaldized, homogenized world with hedonistic materialism on top of all values, so I don't quite agree with nowadays educational systems which try to standardize absolutely everything, rising the level of bureaucracy and minimizing the creativeness.

What is more, I feel simultaneously thrilled and horrified with the idea that kids don't even need the teacher to perform greatly with hard science, as you can watch in this TED video based on a simply yet perfidious experiment. It shows that all what kids need are free time, lack of threat, 'granny motivation' and broadband Internet...

'There is evidence from neuroscience. The reptilian part of our brain, which sits in the center of our brain, when it's threatened, it shuts down everything else, it shuts down the prefrontal cortex, the parts which learn, it shuts all of that down. Punishment and examinations are seen as threats. We take our children, we make them shut their brains down, and then we say, "Perform." Why did they create a system like that? Because it was needed. There was an age in the Age of Empires when you needed those people who can survive under threat. When you're standing in a trench all alone, if you could have survived, you're okay, you've passed. If you didn't, you failed. But the Age of Empires is gone. What happens to creativity in our age? We need to shift that balance back from threat to pleasure.'


 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

FLORENCE IN FLOWERS, Cracow 10.08.2013

Flo – Fascinating Lovely Object gave a unique and unusual concert in Cracow, one summer Saturday. I won't forget being there! As well as other 40 000 people, all ages, not only Polish, male and female – true fans what we proved by singing along every song...



Florence became FLOWERence after she was surprised by Polish Fanclub action spread via Facebook: lots of participants wore wreaths on their hair and when the vocalist ran from the stage to the audience she collected many of them. Going back to the microphone she willingly used the garlands to decorate herself and the stand... That was touching and impressive, exactly like her reaction some minutes later – while Florence was singing What the Water Gave Me first row of fans unfolded banner ‘What Florence Gave Me?’ and hundreds of people raised up slogans answering that question...

We learnt that this beautiful and phenomenal British singer is not ‘stiff upper lip’ at all but very emotional, rather spontaneous and even impulsive. Some hours before, at the backstage, she and the whole Machine met young Poles who had started the Fanclub and got a very extraordinary present from them – a bag of glitter. Flo didn’t resist using that during whole concert – on her skin, rest of her band or nearest spectators... Unfortunately I wasn’t close enough but somehow after the concert, emerging from the mass of audience I did catch a grain of this ‘stardust’ on my clothes:)

18 days after the gig FLOWrence celebrated her birthday and from Polish fans she received this enormous poster – I really appreciate imagination, organisational skills and creativity of young organizers responsible for the event:

 
What Florence and the Machine gave me? Well, I'd say mental freedom when I hear Shake It Out and feeling of psychic unity with my best friend while sharing emotions, admiration, ecstasy coming to us with that music...


In Galaxy of the Lost I wish you Cosmic Love, which gives you Breath of Life Between Two Lungs, All This and Heaven Too... I wish you Bird Song about Bedroom Hymns... I wish you Gravity of Love so Heavy in Your Arms, that Never Lets You Go... I wish you Lover to Lover in No Light at night... I wish you Addiction to Love in Your Best Dress, Pearls and Roses...I wish you Falling and Swimming and Howl...


Friday, 28 June 2013

HOW TO BECOME A TEACHER IN ONE MONTH and survive…;)

We have been warned that the CELTA course is intensive. We have been supplied with pre-course information about timetables and requirements. We have researched it's a level 5 qualification equivalent to the beginning of the second year on a university first degree course based on the Cambridge franchise and compressed into 20 days. Yet we didn't believe it all until the very first days... I personally planned a lot of appointments for evenings; one coursemate from abroad wanted to learn Polish in the meantime; another one chose couchsurfing as the free of charge accommodation and had to move every couple of days.

But there was no meantime. There was no spare time. In fact there was too little time for maintenance of vital functions like sleeping or eating. Some of us slept 2-4 hours per night. Some of us lived mostly on coffee and cigarettes. Agreed: it is NOT possible to imagine the CELTA course until it becomes your reality! But what a satisfaction you get when it’s over! And... somehow right after the last day you start missing it... That’s why I decided to press on a slow release button in my memory and write down these:

 CELTA survival know-how tips from a May-June 2013 participant:
·  Choose the right place – I don't know how many British Council institutions around the world are located like the one in Cracow, Poland. It’s situated in the Main Market Square, facing Adam Mickiewicz's monument, in the middle of Royal Way from Matejki Square to Wawel Castle, literally in the heart of Old Town. The building itself is magnificent, historical and antique with spectacular wooden ceiling and opera-style chandelier. As a Pole I was proud to present the best of Cracow to foreign colleagues (sometimes probably to bore them with bits of history and architecture;) every day just while stepping out from the shadow of BC gate to the sunny square full of life and music.
 
·  Choose the right time – we were this lucky group which had one additional free day on 30th of May as it was the Corpus Christi holiday. It gave us some extra time to catch a breath of life’ and overcome the workload shock at the pretty beginning...
 
·  Prepare for challenging weather – due to worldwide climate change it's not foreseeable anymore. We had two weeks of very English weather with cold showers or niggling drizzle all days and nights. Then tropical sun started shining and burning so that all non-residents experienced the full amplitude between 5 and 35 degrees Celcius.

·  If you are a teacher in service – prepare for elimination of your worst habits and ‘throwing some of your sacred cows out of the window’. To me it was one of the most valuable teaching experiences: interiorizing that freer practice (fluency) is just as important as restricted practice (accuracy); that echoing is no good at all and that IWB is soooooooo useful!

·  If you are a native speaker – you may feel pressure that you should know your mother tongue better... prepare to hear from your Tutor statements like this: sometimes you think you know something but in fact you don't know. Don't use your brains – use a dictionary instead;) 

·  Decide in advance if you want to sacrifice some of your healthy lifestyle for fun and socializing. I stayed in a place with no Internet access thus I managed to sleep 6-8 hours per night, completing all my coursework in British Council's computer room. But I missed a lot of night chats, f.ex. when at 4 am one of the trainees posted a question where is word stress in this sentence? and received four totally different answers… I also almost regretted my non-smoking when during last week it occured to me how much relieve a quick ‘group cigarette ritual’ can give...

·  Cooperate, not compete I got the impression of a very unique group which every single member enriched so much! I felt the support and inspiration at all times: lessons, sessions, inputs, lunch breaks, evenings, mornings... On the last day we all managed to have farewell dinner together; then we all met in a night club again – even people leaving on Saturday morning! It was a special night of summer solstice, at which we gained our post-course catharsis by relieving all stress and pressure... I'll remember forever the moment when T. chested, mapped out and did demo of pole dancing or, after we drilled, backchained and practiced club's name (quite difficult to pronounce for non-Polish), A. asked me if the two apostrophes indicated word stress. The answer was: Yeah, and this line below shows intonation pattern!’ 

·  Trust your Tutorsall of Cracow Celta Trainers are simultaneously charming while requiring the highest quality – and that’s what I call teaching mastership. I entirely admire their ability to follow every single lesson minute by minute while taking accurate notes and not only skimming but also reading the lesson plan for detailed comprehension... That's not only multitasking, that's extreme long and divided attention span! ‘Verba docent, exempla trahunt’ – I experienced plenty of good examples in this theory-practice-reflection CELTA cycle thanks to them.

Wake me at midnight and I’ll tell you with no hesitation what PPP TTT TBL or ‘thru-textmean. I feel I got it all: self-awareness, firmness and flexibility. Now I know: no pain = no gain; no suffering = no satisfaction! CELTA was worth it!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

SHAKESPEARE SHAKES IN HIS GRAVE...



I’m a faithful fan, huge admirer and loyal lover of British and American method ‘how to make high literature more teenager-friendly’. This trick is easy, simple & plain: films, movies, TV versions, adaptations. With very significant ending ‘S’ emphasising plurality, yes, especially for title Shakespeare. According to Wikipedia source this England-born king of tragedy is ‘the most filmed author ever in any language’ with around 500 film versions of his plays produced until today.



Dramas are meant to be watched not read. Mostly by adults not adolescents. Yet the obligation of school is to introduce classic belles-lettres to underaged, usually by teachers of mother tongue. As a schoolmistress of Polish I do know something about it... Since the moment I saw Romeo/Leo di Caprio and Juliet/Claire Danes in 1996 I’ve felt jealous of this wide range of screenings to which my English or American analogues can refer during their lessons. Not only the eternal author of Hamlet is honored this way. At least every decade new versions of evergreens by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens are made. There are 15 Jane Eyres (I watched 5), 10 Pride and Prejudices (I saw 3), 5 Emmas (I viewed 2) but the absolute record-breakers are Oliver Twists in the number of 20, including also musicals, cartoons, miniseries and animated films.


My first and beloved Jane Eyre was Charlotte Gainsbourg, again in 1996, happy time of my Cracow studies:) I found everything so ideal and perfect in this movie that I completely couldn’t understand why on earth some other director attempted to create another one only a year later? Now I know: it’s a constant challenge for crew and cast; it’s a good way to make the drama or novel everlasting for younger and younger audience; finally it’s looking for – finding – presenting universal content in contemporary form.

Back to title William, prince of comedy. It’s such a pity that most Polish students connect him only with bloody Macbeth, a must read at their age of 16! OK, maybe also with Romeo & Juliet, an all-time archetype of unrequited love... Why not Midsummer’s Night Dream with the conventionality of marriage discussion? Why not The Taming of the Shrew with the possibility of feminist discourse? Why not Twelfth Night, or What You Will with timeless qui-pro-quo theme?  Why death and murder instead of fun and laughter? Especially since there are teenage-targeted adaptations which I recommend all language-learners, both before and after 18th birthday.


 

If you never heard of She’s the Man or 10 Things I Hate About You, just read the poster and watch the trailer. Long-lasting but also life-teaching laughter is guaranteed! I wish we had similar screenings of Polish classics too...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

SMART IS SEXY! SEXY. SEXY.



Brainiac, nerd, geek, freak, oaf, awkward – these words are no more insulting in the global universe of mass culture and entertainment. How did it happen? Who caused that? Well, that would be producers of The Big Bang Theory TV series, as they created six former victims of school bullying, characters now-aged-around-30 and made them most popular sitcom protagonists in this century. Plus one former female bully, who very quickly felt the need to adjust to the genius of her neighbours. Highest intelligence versus common sense; gender, racial and scientist stereotypes taken to their extremes; warm caricature of Generation Y connected with osmotic integration of its values into modern society – these are my reasons to watch and adore ‘Big Bang’.

Not only mine! Adolescenting teenagers and philosophy doctors, feminists and conservatives, middle-level educated housewives and busy computer specialists – around 20 mln people worldwide watch new parts of 6th season week by week. At present at least some percentage of this six zeros number can’t wait to a 134th (!) episode. I’ve done some research on that matter and found out three most popular adjectives used in description of the series.

HILARIOUS

What exactly does ‘bazinga’ mean? Urban online dictionary explains: A catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks. This word belongs to Sheldon, the funniest character in all ratings/surveys of both viewers and critics. Perfidiously, he’s the one who doesn’t understand sarcasm and is totally unable to laugh wholeheartedly. That’s the contrast effect! On YouTube there are tens of ‘Sheldon’s Best’ shots as well as Penny’s, Leonard’s, Howard’s, Raj’s and so on. Honestly, each particular scene which I had remembered as tremendously entertaining, I could find cut and uploaded there. For instance that one. Only a minute short but provides you with full-health portion of laughter:


SO TRUE

Whether we call them theoreticians or practitioners, Big Bang characters are just who they are, not pretending to be someone else, someone better. Self-assured as scientists, lacking some social skills in outside world but also trying to find solutions in harmony with themselves. That way they also popularize mental self-knowledge about sources of various psychical problems. Wide audience learn about Oedipus complex, selective mutism and Asperger's syndrome thanks to these ‘role models’. Thinking about it I paid attention to their mothers and fathers’ figures – yes, loads of food for thoughts...

What else? Fascinating fact that the actress playing Amy in real life holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience too. She truly is a woman with big brains! Thanks to her ‘serial colleagues’ I discovered I’m sapiosexual and that’s a nice feeling;) Sapiosexuality is a behavior of becoming attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use. Example: Me? I don’t care too much about the looks. I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay. I want someone who sometimes makes me go ouch due to their wit and evil sense of humor. (…) All the ‘i’ words from that definition greatly correspond with ‘Shamy’ & ‘Lenny’, don’t they? One small flaw: as a female I just pity the directors present mostly girl-hunting... Where could I find any clues how to pick up a male nerd, if not there?

TRENDSETTING

OK, I don’t insist that this sudden, inexplicable fashion for thick rimmed glasses had its beginning in ‘Big Bang’. Still, I believe the series helped to popularize some games: floor, board, RPG or computer and also created new ones: 3D chess, ‘paper scissors stone spock lizard’, ‘element quiz’. I’ve also read that more and more students choose to study Physics in the USA nowadays with Pasadena and California Institute of Technology on their minds. Therefore I feel entitled to make the statement: as Big Beat changed the music world once and forever, such is the current influence of Big Bang on western population. Authentic and jolly when describes reality, inventive when creates new trends for both VL and RL. So... It’s all FYI, KMN, I’m AFK!