Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

Getting there


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's one of those cold, dull, drizzly days when you just want to curl up with a book, and having done the ironing, washed the dishes and got a load of various vegies, fruits and fish, along with a bike basketful of loo paper, tissues, shampoo and whatnot, I have been reading Jennifer Coates (ed.) (1998) Language and Gender Blackwell Publishing with a lot of relish and not a jot of serious gotta write an essay focus...

hit on Women's Ways: Patterns in Research Teams by Marie Wilson Nelson, about a researcher who is training Teaching Assisstants to lead writing teams or something, and just flying with her. For instance:

"To encourage classroom interactions from which TAs could learn about learning, I modeled from the first day of class the kinds of interactive processes that would help them experience first hand the rewards of collaborative work. I knew that if they had experienced the motivation collaboration brings (Kohn, 1986), they would be more likely to use it in their own teaching. I therefore modeled the kinds of oral and written reponses to writing that research has shcown encourage developing writers at all levels. I shared ...writing of my own. ...I revealed problems I experienced and asked for their suggestions...I examined inconsistencies between how I write and how I teach...
I also praised or otherwise focused classroom attention on the kinds of behaviors I expected of students. [ This reminded me, Renata, that I praised students in class yesterday who had brought in dictionaries] I praised well-thought-out experiments, even when they failed, reinforcing students for taking risks and illustrating that classroom fialures help people learn from mistakes. I focused team attention on strengths in what students were doing by pointing out thoughtful responses they gave to each other, saving time for talk about "breakthroughs" that followed risks taken with writing or teaching...I also modeled the process of dealing with negative feelings that emerged to reveal how doing so could help students work through common resistances to studying writing..." (p. 355-6)

Something that also interested me about my reading was how i noticed how Ms. Nelson validates her approach: "...because former students and friends had noted that they felt happier and more productive working in supportive, collaborative women's groups. Another motivation, however was that such a group was professionally important to me."p.357

Like, do I always acknowledge how important my students are to me, as a validation of my thought and creativity I don't get in my partnership, a place to experience directly how my efforts translate (hopefully) into happy hearts and growing minds, where I feel sure of my purpose and my intent, and so for this reason every time i'm in class is in a sense divine? When I say acknowledge, I mean does that sense of the divine, and being blessed to be with my students, do i let it come through in class, so that all is well, or as zosia pointed out the language in my blog used to describe my charges, do I tense up into a sense of me and them and metaphors that speak of tension, distrust, power? Hmmm.

"On the assumption, then, that conditions that helped me learn might also help others, I tried to create for the TAs and to meodel for them as tutors the kind of supportive, collaborative groups in which I am most comfortable and productive...
...non-hierarchic, context-dependent, shifting, lateral structure in which skilful group members (with neither position nor rank assigned) help less proficient groupmates develop skills as the need arises ...I chose the interactive style with which I was most at home..." p.357-8

I actually like learning on my own a lot. I find the emotional stress of juggling all the things happening, the people in the group actually distract me in some ways, almost distressing. Witness me crying a lot in Uni seminars in Hiroshima, and feeling exhausted and unable to learn...although learning about me, in that way...I guess I'm always juggling, as a teacher you are always juggling...But by inference that means I like to also give students access to the study in your own space, separate out, with them and the paper one to one, and giving it a go on their own. Not always group group group. But then Karen has also pointed out that i love groups and learn a lot in groups/from people...

It's interesting that Ms. Nelson's justifications for her choice of teaching approach is based on her private needs, personal learning preferences and recommendations of friends. Reasons we would normally kick out the window as unprofessional?? They sound good to me, and match up noticeably with Doernyei. ( I notice she uses a lot of the word risk-taking, which is actually a concept i do not quite understand...i think it means feeling safe to make mistakes...) I think it's great to feel safe to justify your teaching based on yourself and your personal experience in this way. Is this a different kind of professional discourse than the one Bham is trying to make us speak as "professional" teachers/researchers? Or am I just too insecure in myself, and imagining Bham is trying to make us anything, and I could use more of my own voice now?