Have been blogging for three weeks now and have been thinking about how you introduce yourself to the blogosphere and whether it is any different from the way that you might introduce yourself in the staffroom of a new place that you start working in. Initiation into a community usually involves some sort of social get together with people where new colleagues can begin to understand you and see where you are coming from both literally and in the way in which you see yourself as a teacher and vice versa of course.
Without this, it is difficult to see how an atmosphere of collegiality can develop, a pre-requisite for good co-operation and teamwork in general. Misunderstandings between colleagues usually happen because we don’t understand or try to understand what underlies other teachers’ motivations for doing what they are doing and I guess this is no different when you are online.
Over the last few weeks, in thinking how to organise the blog and what to focus on, I’ve spent some time looking at how people introduce themselves in the “About Me” section of the blog or whatever equivalent there might be on one’s home page. There you can often find personal interests, people’s qualifications, the work people are involved in, what they are passionate about, the specific focus of the blog, if there is one, where they have worked and where they work now.
Some people use pictures and illustrations and some people also add their educational influences and approaches to education in general. Others don’t have anything at all there or very little or don’t create this page in the first place. Sometimes people introduce themselves as just “I” informally, others use their own name in a more official way.
One of the things that I really like in this growing online community is the way in which people retweet things, give people room to voice their opinions on their blogs and take the time to comment on other people’s work. Am still unsure about some of the etiquette of tweeting and blogging and am sure I “make mistakes” with things but it’s a good learning curve to be on and to be on it with so many altogether decent people. It’s also nice to see those who are more well-known in the ELT world, whether they are new to the blogosphere or not, giving encouragement to those people who are not.
One thing I have decided that I’d like to add to my “About me” bit is something about my own educational influences. I always enjoy reading what motivates people to do what they do and particulary like the way that Sara Hannam, Marisa Constantinides , love the pics Marisa, Barbara Sakamoto and Anne Hodgson introduce themsleves on their blogs. Anne does it in German as well!.
On a more personal note, one thing I’ve realised more and more is how much my father influenced me and in some way I want to add a little bit of this to my “About Me” part of the blog. This is also to say hallo to those in the blogosphere who I have already hooked up with in the last three weeks and an introduction to one of my major influences in becoming a teacher, my dear, kind father.
Dad worked as a teacher trainer too, but not in ELT. His first big break came at Wolverhampton Technical Teachers College which opened in 1964, a great time for experimentation in education in Britain.
The teacher training process involved regular visits, long distance travel up to North Wales and down to London to observe teachers and supervise student teaching placements. Teacher training staff all had teacher training qualifications. Wolverhampton, of all places, was chosen, due to its geographical central location, as the national centre for natural resources vocational education training in Britain.
So we are on the map for not only Slade, Robert Plant and pork scratchings and are not the fifth worst place in the world! It was when we moved from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, for my sins, at the age of 7 that I became a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter!
Looking back it was great that Dad was involved so much in vocational training, in the British Council projects I worked on later in Eastern and Central Europe, vocational schools were very much neglected as sadly, they still are today.
Dad became head of Curriculum Studies in that teacher training college and was responsible for general pedagogy. Amongst the students he taught were car mechanics, hairdressers, flower arrangers, and farmers. His role was to help them teach the technical subject they were so knowledgeable in, but had never taught to groups of learners before.
I recall him travelling round the country going to observe teachers and our house was full of books devoted to education including all those wonderful Penguin Education Special issues which came out in the 1960’s.
After I had worked as a language assistant in Bavaria at the age of 18 and at the University of Rostock in the German Democratic Republic after studying Eastern European Studies, Dad encouraged me to do a 1 year full-time TEFL course at Manchester University. Without his constant nagging, I’d never have done it, he was similarly helpful with getting me to go to Lancaster to do the MA in ELT and when, in 1996, he saw an advert for a job in Budapest with the British Council as British Studies methodology adviser in the Guardian, he sent me the cutting of the job advert.
I didn’t really understand how much he must have influenced me until I put together a speech that I wrote for his funeral nearly 12 years ago which captured the educational values that were at the core of his teaching. These were some of things I read out in the chapel.“In the early fifites, Mike taught shorthand and typing before deciding to go to Bolton College to train as a Secondary School teacher where the Director had this to say about him. “ He has a pleasant and friendly manner; he is confident and at ease in all situations and he has a ready wit and sense of humour. He has justifiably been popular with his colleagues, who elected him President of the Students’ Union, an office which he has held with great distinction and wholehearted endeavour.
He speech is clear, his fluency is good and he expresses himself effectively. He is keen, thoughtful and has a freshness of outlook on educational problems. He could be relied upon to stimulate discussions in tutorials and contribute sound ideas. He is undoubtedly fitted for responsibility in the work of a technical college where his sense of values and strong belief in the worthwhileness of technical education will be invaluable. He has outstanding qualities of leadership and a firm sense of responsibility. His work in college has been consistently of a high standard; he writes well, in a free and lucid style, and he has kept excellent notes of the lectures he has attended. His practical teaching during two periods of practice in technical colleges was regarded as excellent by his tutors and the university examiner. He received a distinction for his efforts; it was obvious that he had a natural flair for teaching as well as having a high level of executive skill. His preparation was marked by thoroughness, his exposition was well ordered and lively, his illustrations apt, and his attention to the needs of his students showed that he was well aware of the need to treat them as individuals within a group.
Former colleagues had this to say about him:
He was always interested in my EFL work and recently I came across an old letter he sent to my sister when she was teaching English in India in an SOS children’s village after she left university. He ended the letter with this little question and answer technique.
If this is too small to read, click on the letter, or here it is typed out: ” Try and develop question and answer technique with your children. Try question – pause – name. In this way they all have to think. If someone isn’t attending or is passive, use name – pause – question. Lots of love, Dad xxx”
He came to see me in Budapest shortly before he died and always wanted to know why it was that the British Council only ever gave me one year or two year contracts and wanted to know what was going to happen to me in the future. I wondered that too, and after 12 years with the BC I moved on to different things.
Thanks Dad for all your support, advice and encouragement. I hope your work lives on in the work that I do now and I’m sure that you would have got into the blogging community in some way or other long before I have!