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Sit down. Have a cup of tea and we'll talk.
About everything and about nothing at all.

Hypothetical Ends of the World

In language teaching we often make use of the hypotheticals particularly the "what would you do if…" kind. These can be both a fun tool to practice speaking and open up conversation as well as an easy way to get the imagination going. Most of them are not considered more than flights of fancy but just occasionally they can throw up a serious issue worth thinking about a little more deeply.

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Decontexutalised Knowledge

Working in English language education in Japan for the last 8 - 9 years, but not as an ALT, I have often wondered about what goes on in the English classrooms of Japanese high schools and why they are so obsessed with teaching grammar. It is fairly clear that whatever teachers are doing in Japanese schools there is little improvement in learning outcomes despite government pushes to improve English language education as well as extend it by starting it earlier. In some senses if the English language education in schools was adequate there would be little need for the once booming eikaiwa industry that has grown up since the 1970s. Eikaiwa schools are supposed to follow the communicative approach. The very name means conversation school, so the emphasis ought to be on communication, and by and large this is true, eikaiwa’s place more focus on communication, but it is still very much enslaved to a grammar based curriculum and limited by the confines of a usually irrelevant text book. The problem is that in both cases grammar is an easy option, but it highlights the dangers of decontextualised knowledge.

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Five Books for Teachers

if you are anything like me, then you are no doubt a busy teacher, but one thing that is essential to being a successful teacher and, if you believe Warren Buffet, a successful businessman, is reading a lot and reading widely. Whether you are an English Language teacher, a school teacher, a lecturer or something in between, having a broad general knowledge is as important as having a deep specialist knowledge of your subject matter. The problem is that with the pressures and workload of the job it is often difficult to know what to read outside of your main subject area, let alone find the time to discover new reading material. So I would like to suggest some books that could provide you with some new ideas, inspiration and guidance to take your teaching and your knowledge base to a new level.

 

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How many musicians can an orchestra hold?!

Thanks to Facebook I clicked through to an article shared by a highly admired musician, educator and former tutor on the theconversation.com by Peter Tregear. I had absolutely no idea who Peter Tregear was, or is, but among other things he is a music academic and the Head of the School of Music at the Australian National University, so not insignificant in the world of music and education at least in Australia. The comment attached to the Facebook post suggested that his arguments about the state of music education in Australia could just as easily be applied to the UK; the old country rather than the new one, but having read the article and associated comments on the crisis in university level music education, it was clear that all involved were unaware of the wider systemic problems. It might be that music and humanities are at the sharper end of the squeeze, but the discussion misses a wider point - university education is a business and therefore subject to the market forces of supply and demand, yet in almost all areas of university education these days, and particularly the humanities, there is more supply than demand, which is resulting in a glut of graduates waving degrees. It’s not that tertiary music education needs to change its tune, it needs to change concert halls.

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On How I Failed; A Warning to Dreamers

Perhaps I haven't actually failed yet, perhaps I am still in the process of failing. When you get to a certain point in life, you start to realise all that has past, looks at others and sees their successes, recognises your own missed opportunities, start to have regrets that were never present when you were younger and comprehends that many dreams that are held in the heart will never, can never, actually be achieved. You asks yourself, for all that I have done, what have I actually DONE?! Maybe nothing. Perhaps that discerning moment is marriage, that willing loss of freedom that means you can't chase dreams in quite the same way, or fatherhood, that appreciation of your mortality that youth doesn't see, or perhaps it's just getting old, and understanding the pressure of passing time. So I thought about why we have dreams and  why we often fail to realise them.

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On Moving Ground

Living in Japan one always lives with the knowledge that there will be earthquakes, it sits on the junction of five tectonic plates, yet they were easy to dismiss, despite wonderings about the "big one" coming up in conversation now and again. Occasionally the ground would shake and one would say, "it's an earthquake", but it would pass and life would continue on much as usual. It was just another part of living the Japanese life.

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