[wisehat] Wise Hat News #13

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  • Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 20:42:56 +0900

Wise Hat News #13
10 October 2005

The online version is available at:

1. The Road Not Taken (Yet)
2. The House That Jack Bought
3. The House That Became A War Zone
4. Passion Fruits!
5. What's New?
6. Democracy Defined?
7. Administrivia


## The beginning is always today. ##

Hello, there.

Sometimes things get mixed up. Sometimes things are a hodgepodge. At the
beginning of this year I made a plan. I thought it would be good to lay
a path through the year and set up some stepping stones to see me to the
end. I imagined I'd be able to look back at the end of the year and see
the way I'd come illuminated by the glory of my fulfilled
accomplishments. Well, the year is three-quarters gone and my earlier
desires threaten to turn into millstones to bow my head in shame. I
think I'm going to be very busy - get ready for a flurry of activity and
a little less sporadity. I've miles to go before I sleep.



## From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned fountain,
most of the evils and vices which render this world such a dreary scene
to the contemplative mind. ##

It's here. The trailer home has arrived, weeks later than expected.
There's no cow with a crumpled horn, though a cupboard door fits the
description. There's no malt and no rat. There is, however, a wonderful
wooden floor and the windows have curtain boxes which make great display
platforms. One thing that I certainly didn't think about is the
suspension. Sitting down on a sofa at the front end of the trailer one
really notices movement around the room. It's almost enough to remind me
of being in a ship. Curiously when standing up or moving the suspension
isn't noticeable. I wonder if the suspension will effect how classes can
be conducted. A bit back I was in correspondence with someone who was
contemplating using a London Double-Decker bus as a school building. I
wonder what the suspension is like on one of those.

After so many years of teaching for other people in various locations it
feels strange to finally have a space that I can use as I would. What
will turn out the same, what will turn out differently, and how can I
make it so? Do I even know what it is that I want to make? I can write
words - here are some:

âDemocratic English Schoolâ

But what does this mean in practise? I'm still finding out.


##  It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. ##

Insight can come from any direction - when you let it. Just this morning
I read an article about a house that was occupied by the Israeli army.
If you like, you can read the article for yourself:


This has got me thinking about the way I intend to conduct lessons in
"my" new school.

The article describes how the house was divided into three zones. In
zone one the family could maintain control, in zone two the family would
require permission to enter. In zone three the family would be shot.
This meant essentially that the family were confined to the living room.
To cook or use the toilet they needed to ask permission. Upstairs was
off limits. Without realising I had been intending to create a similar
division in my lessons with children.

My idea was to divide a lesson into three parts. In the first part I
would introduce new material. In the second part children would choose
which material from past lessons to review. The third part would be a
kind of overlap. What happened would depend upon the mood of the group
on the day and what was appealing at the time.

I guess this approach may have merits over a lesson in which everything
is decided by the teacher. As compulsory education stands at the moment
children are required to show interest in what the teacher presents
whether it is interesting to them or not. Tests are used to encourage or
manipulate (depending upon one's point of view) students to comply. The
curriculum may include some space for student initiative but this is
largely a by product. Essentially the students must fit in with the
curriculum rather than the other way around.

This is clearly undemocratic, but how to throw the model away? Very
young children tend to respond to adults but are also gloriously
self-obsessed, they are usually determined to do whatever they have a
mind to do. In a way, older children, especially those who are schooled,
are less self assure. They may not want to follow the teacher, but they
expect that the teacher will be there to be followed. Also, with
learning a language, how else can new material be introduced if it
doesn't come from the teacher?

Given that classes at the trailer-house are not compulsory and that
children really need to want to be there, I think the model I outlined
has merit, provided it also includes the concept of teacher as partner.
This means that rather than having a prescribed curriculum, a body of
material to get through in a particular order, the teacher should be
careful to note and respond to direction from the students. For example,
I have a couple of new students, one of who is interested in fruit. So
we did some activities with a stack of fruit cards. Being able to
recognise the difference between a cactus fruit and a prickly pear might
not be the usual fare for a first lesson but we ended up working with
some exotic fruits.

I think it is not what we know that is important, but how we know it.


## A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind. ##

One of the dilemmas of working with children is that they may be unduly
influenced by parents. A parent may have desires for a child and the
child may unable to separate his or her own desires from those of the
parent. Sometimes it is obvious that a child is being sent to learn
English and the child has no interest whatsoever. In such circumstances
one must side with the child, refuse to teach and counsel the parent
that they should not take the child elsewhere but be honest and take a
more child centred approach. But what to do about the child who is
ambivalent or passively disinterested?

From the point of view of being economically viable it seems to make
sense to accept child with little or no passion. Those who actively
dislike lessons are another matter. They can end up driving other
children away so even on tawdry economic grounds it makes no sense to
accept them.

However, I wonder whether accepting the ambivalent is truly worthwhile.
In my experience children who make the most progress at learning
something are the ones who are passionate about it. I think the same
goes for adults as well. Moreover, I think that the world would be a
much better place if the workplace was filled with passion. Too many
people accept jobs that they dislike and I think it can be argued that
this creates a kind of universal malaise. Perhaps a school should refuse
students unless they can demonstrate enough passion to get in?

Alternatively, perhaps passion is something that rubs off. A child who
is ambivalent may be inspired by the passion of another. Perhaps a more
important task is to figure out what, if anything, encourages passion,
and what works against it. Is it possible to create an environment that
encourages passion? I aim to find out.


## Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating
out of void, but out of chaos. ##

The site now has its Autumn look, and judging by the table below quite a
few new pages:

Co-operative Quiz - A co-operative quiz structure

Find The Penny - A game of bluff

Halloween Up And Down - A variation of Snakes and Ladders

It's A Job - An article on teaching occupations to children

Maze Challenge - A Co-operative Logic Game

Mr Kangaroo -A non-competitive jumping game

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #01 -    A little on game design.

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #02 -    Bits and pieces on Christmas.

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #04 -    A little on lesson planning.

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #05 -    Young Learners and more

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #06 -    Toilet Escape

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #07 -    Competition Revisited

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #08 -    NLP and The Flashcard Game

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #09 -    NLP and Jenga

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #10 -    Enola Gay

Now's Co-operative Newsletter #12 -    Halloween Ideas

One Step Forward - A form of trigger tag

The Time And The Place - A Think Tank Article on Politics and Religion

Now's Co-operative News was the forerunner to Wise Hat News - for some
reason issues 3 and 11 never got made.


## Every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of
evil. ##

I wonder to what extent a lesson conducted in a foreign language can be
democratic? Especially with children. There seems to be a contradiction.
On the one hand I think to maximise language learning opportunities the
class should be conducted solely in the target language, i.e. in
English. But given that Japanese children have very limited means to
express themselves in English this does not seem conducive to democracy.

Another difficulty is that everyday school experience for children has
them submitting to the teacher rather than working together as equals.
If it quacks like a duck and smells like a duck it probably is a duck.
Similarly if it looks like a school and smells like a school then it
probably is a school.

One reason for conducting classes in a trailer-house is precisely
because this does not look like a usual school space. I came up with the
idea of dividing a class into three parts to further erode the usual
concept of a lesson. There is no substitute for children being able to
make their own decisions. One thing I am going to do to help them do
that is to provide a graphic for each game and activity. In this way it
will be possible to plan a lesson by choosing cards. It will be a little
like making a storyboard for each class. Actually, I was recently
advised on the AERO listserve to avoid thinking in terms of lessons and
perhaps to use the notion of sessions. This was something I, myself, had
written years ago in an unpublished book/CD set, What's Next? It was odd
to have my own words returned to me in such a fashion. Perhaps the idea
of story is even better than that of session. It sounds more communal.
Perhaps democracy is a shared story that we all take turns in
contributing to? This concept of a class as a story is something that
has just occurred to me. I can see me returning to it again.

More soon?

## Nothing contributes so much to tranquillise the mind as a steady
purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. ##


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## And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart. ##

(## Quotes this issue by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley)

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