Feb 18, 2009

long-distance interviews

I feel very aware of being about twenty-seven steps behind the times when it comes to the wonders of the web but I'm just about able to hang on in there. Luckily lots of people are pretty agile in these matters; one of whom has managed to find us from thousands of miles away in Indiana and whose curiosity prompted him into making contact, intially by e-mail, then by phone, later on (only a day or two) through a blog link-up with us and lastly in the context of a youtube video interview. It's great. It's great that this can all happen in the first place and it's great to get to know, in a virtual sort of manner, people with good intentions and open minds who you would never have had the chance to encounter without all this beneficial progress. George - a fine English name -seems to be a man with an active mind and his feet on the ground - just the kind of person teaching needs. On the youtube conversation he probably asks just the kind of questions a lot of other people would want to ask about what SpeakYourMind is all about. I hope you will take a look for yourselves and maybe even join in. The more the merrier.
George's blog: http//:myeslfriends.blogspot.com
For the youtube interview, search 'speak your mind english'


George Machlan said...

I am willing to bet that there are a lot of students and teachers using the SYM (speak your mind) method. Wouldn't some of you like to talk with the guru who started it all (Iain)?

Well, I think it would be soooooooo cool if you would get involved in one of these conversations (e.g. here in Iain's blog, or my blog, or have fun with a YouTube blog).

It is truly special to have the leader of a organization like Iain take the time to engage with the general user population. I dare you, no I double dare you to jump into the discussion with us. I am only just beginning to see how deep and knowledgeable he is.

In any case I just wanted to give you all a link to a follow on comment to my interview question #1 which can found here:

Keep up with your pursuit of English everyone. I hope to have a conference room up and running before to longfor some live interviews with people like Iain within a monthortwo.

Dragon Slayer (retired) and TESL hopeful in training.

P.S. Your opinion not only counts, it is of critical value to any community. Please find the comment button and share your thoughts and insights. It is my opinion that there is only one voice that must be heard more than the teacher, it is that of the person who would learn from him.

tokyog3 said...

Hello George,

What's your interest? Are you thinking of teaching English as a 2nd language?

George Machlan said...

Hi Tokio, please go to MyESLfriends.com to continue conversation as you have no link on your profile page.


George Machlan said...

I wondered where you went. I am happy to hear that your program is well received in Japan. I thought your comments were interesting, here they are:
"Japanese learners, who otherwise seem to be stuck with a choice between schools offering either grammar-cramming or largely aimless (and endless) conversation lessons."

Hmmmmm, could aimless be a code word for callan? I am going to post a few questions to you on Youtube as SYM3. It may be more desirable to conduct an interview via Skype one day one-on-one to create a more fluid conversation.

Separately I am inviting one of your schools to discuss your methods, I will be specifically requesting feelings about Callan method. While I understand that your site might not wish to reflect a strong negative opinion about an English method I feel it is time for me to get to the nitty-gritty. I will keep references separate as much as possible on my site.

I have also recently been tasked to do an extensive evaluation and implementation of the Callan method for a ministry in China. He is committed to Callan for at least one year but acknowledges that the final phase for his students who wish to become IELTS certified will take more than Callan.

I have spoken briefly about you but we must crawl-walk-run and SYM may come in at the walk or run stage.

Anonymous said...

Hi, George
Good to hear from you again: you sound like you've been pretty active in the meantime.
Just to qickly address a couple of points you make.
Firstly, 'aimless' was in no way a reference to the Callan Method; in fact 'aimless' is one thing it is definitely not, although how well-aimed it is is open to serious doubt. I think if you talk to students on EFL courses, one of the most common complaints would be a sense of aimlessness. I think this is largely a result of the wishy-washy thinking that seems to pervade the influential circles in EFL, especially among teacher-trainers. I don't want to tar everyone with the same brush but a lot of 'trained' teachers come out of their four-week course with a veneer of basic grammar which they sometimes think sets them up for life, and a set of superficiallly idealistic principles about teaching which are presented by their trainers as 'truths'. As far as I have been able to see, major practical issues are simply not addressed: they are trained to teach in a little bubble. Teaching mono-lingual classes is seldom given more than a brief nod, although it's where many teachers will end up. From what I can gather, the difference between teaching working students on part-time courses, rather than students on full-time courses is not an issue that is addressed but again, many teachers will be encountering this reality and are not prepared for the different demands or expectations. To cut things short (as you can see, this is an issue I think counts), many teachers' focus is on the 'single lesson' as a self-contained entity, whose success comes down largely to how much communication was prompted. How beneficial (or interesting) those communication acts were and how they fitted into a broader strategy of 'learning' are points that are often not in the foreground of the teacher's mind but they may be very much what the learners feel are important. This separate-episode approach that can, if things work out make for 'entertaining' lessons is what I mean by 'aimless' teaching.
While in Japan I heard about a very popular type of course (and very profitable for the organisations that run them). The student phones a 'school' and arranges a rendez-vous with a 'teacher' (often untrained and unqualified) at, usually, a cafè for a 45-minute 'lesson'. The 'schools' arrange it so that the student gets a different teacher each time. This assures that the student gets to talk to different people (good) but also allows the teacher to not have to teach anything, as with a bit of practice they become quite skilled at stretching the introductions out to cover most of the lesson-time. This is important because your student might ask you about some tricky point of grammar and that could be a place you don't want to end up going.
Teaching is often aimless because teachers like to think that learning is such an unpredicably personal and creative experience that imposing aims and frameworks and so on is for narrow-minded, bean-counting philistines. I have a feeling this is a topic we may touch on again.


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