A bibliography of 13 posts that got me this year
At the end of the year, I like to look back on a year’s worth of blog posts, both my own and those that caught my eye by others in our community. It gives me a broad-picture perspective on the breadth of sharing, insight and dialogue that has occurred throughout the year. I’d like to congratulate everyone who puts their ideas into a public forum, for their courage, their wisdom and their contributions. So as I’ve done for 2011 and 2012, here are just a few noteworthy posts from others that provided me (and probably you) with ideas to consider (click on the headers to go to that post).
Beyond the slight gasp let out by all those who autotweeted this post (that was classic, btw!), Willy brings balance to the discussion (something we all should have had before scoffing) about Brazilian prostitutes being offered free English lessons by their association in preparation for the World Cup. Best line: “Do people condemn language tuition to executives of tobacco companies? … Are they doing any better to society than prostitutes? Well, they’re all fucking someone in their own way, but draw your own conclusions.”
A third of Mike’s blog title is “rants”, so you can expect a certain amount of discussion involving annoyances, yet done so in ways that don’t come off entirely negative, but more in a ‘right-on-brutha’ fashion. In this post, as you can imagine, he aptly lists of 13 (just a coincidence, folks) industry irritants from webinar pre-registrations to Scoop.it links on Twitter to people not bothering to Google something before asking for help (ok, those are the three that irk me the most from the list). So stop the madness!
It wasn’t difficult to agree with Li-shih’s commentary about the divide between researcher and practitioner. Throughout my ELT career, research has seemed like this impenetrable haystack of academic-ese that wasn’t worth sifting through to get to the useful needle buried within; what practising teacher has time for that?, I thought. More and more, however, I’m swayed to the side of evidence-based practice, beyond simply my anecdotes and intuition. However on spot these two may actually be, it’s always thrilling to see validation somewhere else, and a growing acceptance to admit you might be wrong. Li-shih, here, addresses some of these concerns in response to Penny Ur’s recent articles and keynotes on the subject.
Ann Loseva is a beautiful writer, though she may not admit it; and this is is one post she did in her blogathon for the British Council that opened my eyes to this truth. She craftily weaves together a commentary on “the tyranny of limits” through the example of Twitter, written assessment and the platform of the blogathon challenge itself. Since then, it’s easy to notice this craft on each post on her blog, many of which I’d likely include in another list.
To be honest, through my current incarnation as MA student, research has been this omnipresent dark cloud looming over me; that’s why it was difficult to choose between many of Divya’s posts on research (others here and here) as each has shed new glimmers of hope, both through commiseration and inspiration. I chose this one, however, because of Divya’s ability to both criticise and suggest how ‘research’ is used by those in our industry. If interested, you may also want to check out Russell Mayne’s Evidenced-based EFL blog, like this talk posted here, for example.
Luke’s one of my favourite people, as are a number of the people who commented on this post about how Pearson is on its way (or continuing its way?) to infiltrating all sectors of education on the grounds of measurable outcomes and transparent reporting. Correct or not, where this post rang home for me was the concern that one day coursebooks would find their way into the higher education EAP curriculum (have they already?), like they have through most private language school curricula. I prefer the autonomy of the teacher, myself.
It’s valuable to read blogs outside ELT circles for the perspectives I get on struggles, triumphs and attitudes in other areas of education as clarity in my own thinking about our own industry often comes. Dr. Mewburn talks about a pervasive culture of dominant, aggressive and jerk behaviours among academics to those under them, suggesting it gets them further in their work environments and an (unfortunate) perceived relevance to being expertised. She, however, remarks that for this to change, it has to be rejected, where it currently isn’t. This post gave me perspective on my own career trajectory, in terms of keeping my ego in check.
Though quite a short post, Sandy’s concern about what ELT educators do when they retire provokes a hearty discussion in the comments section from many of us struggling in the same boat. It’s a topic I’ve never seen directly discussed so openly on a blog, but one which we all know is a huge worry in our industry of low wages and insecure contracts. I say we all unite, open a massive joint investment account to contribute to and share it when the time comes.
Remember before that horridly overshared fox song, there was this wonderfully infectious public service announcement from Australia featuring cute characters setting themselves on fire and slicing themselves in half? If you don’t, check out this lesson from Allatc, complete with video, handout and teacher’s notes, which came at a time I kept wondering how I could use it in class.
One post I needed to read at exactly this time (you may notice a theme emerging from some of my chosen noteworthy posts), Laura shares some major lessons learnt through the process of completing her MA in ELT & Applied Linguistics. She talks about the use of literature, real research, effects on her outside life and a couple other things one truly should consider before taking on this enormous task. In the end, it helped me feel like I wasn’t abnormal in my confusion.
Saskia is a colleague of mine at New College and starting blogging this year with an academic bang. In this post, she refers to how her children creatively negotiate the rules of games and ‘hack’ the way a toy was initially meant to be used in an attempt to thwart their own boredom, which she instead refers to as “an extended amount of time to do nothing and be free to explore and create out of the resources that surrounded them.” It prompted me to consider how if students were given this time, what unexpected (and perhaps valuable) learning they may do together.
I cannot relate to why anyone bullies, let alone bullies someone so thoughtful, cheerful and supportive as Shelly. In this raw response to cyberbullying tactics of which she’s been at the receiving end, it hit closer to home that the Internet has the potential for giving a perpetual voice of attack to public personas. And yes, it gave me pause, but Shelly shows through attitude and action how you can’t let it defeat you.
During an era where a vast number of posts and articles nearly entirely focus on the learner, the learning process and how to engage all learners, Ken’s post lauding the teachers themselves and their efforts was a refreshing read. He doesn’t argue that ultimately what it comes down to is the learner, but compares much of the attitude and effort of learners with that of the teachers they (may not) engage with. Hear, hear.
Other notable contributions to ELT blogging in 2013 who deserve a mention:
Nathan Hall on ELT Reflections –
a tireless string of single-word titled posts that relate outside experiences to ELT topics.
Kevin Stein on A Whisper of Gratitude –
part of a trio of recent JALT conference-goers who touched me with how they connected.
Vicky Loras & Eugenia Loras on The Loras English Network –
very proud of the continued dream-seekers on their new, meaningful ventures.
Scott Thornbury on An A-Z of ELT –
an era came to a close this year with Scott ending his run on my favourite blog ever. Sad days for me.
Joanna Warden on Teacherpants –
a colleague of mine who is jumping into blogging this year; great things are to come in 2014 I’m sure.
Beyond all of these were the ELT posts not written during the uprising in Turkey in midyear. I was deeply affected by the numerous social media updates from my ELT friends teaching across Turkey, too numerous to mention throughout this bibliography. It’s the first time I really felt thoroughly touched by the power an event like this from across the world, thanks to the internet and how media can and CANNOT be controlled. It was during this hiatus from blogging that Facebook and Twitter proved to be the avenue for first-hand accounts of the tragedies that the world wasn’t seeing through traditional media and demonstrated how vital these avenues are for the transmission of information. I worried about my Turkish students, who’d returned to their country for the summer break; my friends and colleagues like Dave Dodgson and Adam Simpson; and all of the citizens who stood up for their beliefs. I admired them and tried my best to support from afar.
2013 has been quite a year for the ELT blogging community. Cheers to all for a happy, healthy and safe 2014. I look forward to compiling the list of 14 for next year.