Which 5 Weeks?

A major downfall of my 5WC has been that it ignored the rhythm of my life.  I started it without regard to the monthly visits I have with my long-distance boyfriend.  This was silly of me.  I basically set myself up to fail.

The great news for me is that he’ll be visiting in just a couple of days.  The good news for my self-directed professional development is that I’m looking to change the 5WC structure starting when he goes back home.

So, I’ll be back late next week with some proposed changes.

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Quick Report

Happy Snail by davey-boy on Flickr
Happy Snail by davey-boy on Flickr

Although I’ve been slacking with the blogging, I wanted to let you know that I’m still inching along with the 5WC about teaching.

I had an “interview” with one of my volunteers who’s an experienced adult ESL teacher.  It ended up going much differently than I’d expected.  We both teach Advanced at my center, so we ended up talking a lot about that class specifically.  It was fantastically helpful, I think for both of us, and I think it will result in some positive changes that will benefit our students.

I was surprised that I was able to give back during our chat.  She asked more about the 5WC with the idea of bringing it to a group she’s involved in.  I was also able to give her helpful tidbits about Macs and social media.

So I’m really glad the 5WC spurred me to actually take the time to talk to people instead of just saying, “yep, that’d be a good idea someday.”  The 5WC made “someday” become a “today.”

I have to admit, I’m not doing so hot with my reading.  I also have no idea where I’m at in the five weeks.

But for now I’m still going (at a snail’s pace, but still going!) and finding that every effort I’ve put in has been rewarded far more than I’d expected.

Spring Break!

Airplane Wing by Zoagli on Flickr
Airplane Wing by Zoagli on Flickr

Spring Break snuck up on me.  As a result, it’s looking like radio silence from me and my blog till Monday, March 23rd. I’d been hoping to not to disappear for over a week, but some things came up and I’m not prepared to keep talking.

The fact is that the 5WC and blogging about it are medium-priorities for me.  I’m enjoying it and learning from it, but family, work, and my need to sleep are higher priorities.  It’s refreshing to not have to pretend otherwise.

I’ll be packing my physically smallest 5WC book to (theoretically) read en route, and I’m still hoping to watch some Cleese/Child demonstrative videos during the trip… and I’ll let you know how it went a week from Monday!

Practice and the 5WC

Memorial Day Practice by Sister72 on Flickr
Memorial Day Practice by Sister72 on Flickr

Mary Jane left a comment that I didn’t have time to properly reply to this morning.  I don’t really feel I have the brainpower to properly reply right now either, but I should at least try.

Basically, she encouraged me to not forget about actually practicing what I learned from Renner.  And, despite all my reading about experiential learning, I’m wondering whether practicing things I’ve learned fits into this project.

It all comes down to this:

  • I wrote learning objectives while I was unlearned (they focus on gaining a broader awareness of the field).
  • MJ’s advice is in line with the reading I’ve done so far, but would divert me from my stated objectives (by pursuing more depth than I’d planned to).
  • I still like my objectives, but I’m only marginally more learned than when I wrote them.

My current compromise:

I think that right now, or rather tomorrow, I can go back through what I learned from Renner and select a few promising tidbits that might be particularly useful to me in the near future.  I’m looking to go beyond activity ideas to other points I might work with less directly.  It would start a short-list for what to put into practice when the opportune moment arrives.  Maybe that moment will be this Thursday, or maybe not for a month or two.  Either way, I’ll be ready.

Future considerations:

I would like to build intentional practice into future 5WCs, and I think it would be well-suited to a relatively narrow topic.

I’d also like to learn more from books and other teachers before deciding what to subject my students to.

Also, after a slightly strange conversation with a long-time business manager today, I realized that I do act upon very clear  priorities: students first; volunteers second; administration/accountability/curriculum third; everything else if I have time.  5WCs would end up being in the “everything else” category at work because they’re not directly and immediately focused on the students.  I’d have to be strategic about when I decided to implement a practice-based 5WC or else it would just be another good idea I didn’t have time for.

Other ideas for what to do are welcome!  I won’t necessarily act upon them, but I would enjoy the chance to consider them.

Done with Renner – Now What?

I have to say, I’m happy have finished Renner.  Knowing that I’ve kept up with my project and that I have solid notes to use just makes me feel good.  A minor accomplishment, but I’ll take it.

I’m also liking that the blog holds me accountable to my 5WC.  Most of my readers seem to be people I know (my grandma is one of them!), and they comment on the blog and in person.  I also can’t just passively skim and call it done – I’m posting my notes for all to read, and they’re staying posted and public for a good long while.  Who knows what other readers will happen along?  I have to follow through, and I have to follow through well.   This is good for me.

Next up is to figure out where I am and what’s up next.

First let’s figure out where I am.  I’ve been vague about the dates up till now to give myself wiggle-room, but it’s now time to nail it down.  I’ll call my official start date the date of my first 5WC post: Tuesday, February 24th, 2009.  I’d been thinking on it before then, but I think the general start-up time can be considered outside the course itself.  That puts me at slightly over week and a half in right now.  I have about three and a half weeks left.

Something to consider: Spring Break.  I’m going on a ten-day trip to the East Coast starting this Friday, and I’m not sure how it and this project are going to function together.  I could mimic school and just be on break, with maybe one reading assignment?  Or just totally take a break.  Or take no break whatsoever and hold myself to the same standard of a post a day by hook or by crook.  If I choose a break or partial break, how will this affect my five-week timeframe?  Opinions are welcome, and I’ll let you know what I decide.

Something else to consider: I’ve set up one interview with an experienced teacher for the middle of this coming week, and another teacher has agreed to talk to me at some point but we haven’t hammered out the details yet.  Preparing for them, talking with them, and writing up what we talk about is going to take time, so I need to not go crazy with the reading list.

Now, to the syllabus.  Time to organize and set priorities for the end of this week and at least part of the next..

“The Art of Teaching Adults” – Overall

The Art of Teaching Adults from Worldcat.org
The Art of Teaching Adults from Worldcat.org

I spent about a week going through “The Art of Teaching Adults” by Peter Renner.

I picked it up because it was available at my local library and because the title was pretty spot-on with what I was looking for.  I was expecting a nice overview of the field, and I pretty much got one.  Renner defines “the field” a little differently than I do – he doesn’t relate anything specifically to English Language Learners, or even to remedial education in general, but his discussion was still useful to me.

As Jen mentions in two comments, Renner seems to go back and forth between “educational miopia” and “practical and helpful ideas.”  (Jen, I’m not 100% sure I know what you mean by ‘educational myopia’, but I’m about to go off on my own interpretation.  Feel free to hit the comments to add your two cents as it was intended.) I see him as myopic in two ways – in that he doesn’t really seem to say anything new or see beyond his time, and in that he’s looking closely to dissect but not necessarily at the big picture.  These limitations worked pretty well for me – I needed some reflection of the time and some small bites of methods and techniques. And Renner does a great job of citing some big-picture people his work is derived from.

RI - Newport: The Breakers Gateway by wallyg on Flickr
RI - Newport: The Breakers Gateway by wallyg on Flickr

In fact, I’d say that one of the chief values of this book for me was that it was a gateway. Renner introduced me to other authors’ work, noted his discussion pretty thoroughly, and I’ve been able to identify and include works on my syllabus that I want to peruse.  I’m considering making note of his whole bibliography for future reference – we’ll see.

You should know that I’m going to have frustrations with pretty much any book I read.  I’m picky.  One of my chief frustrations with this book was when I felt his content to page-space ratio was page-space-heavy.  At times I also found myself wondering about his editor – why was Renner allowed to write fluff (i.e. his discussion of Kolb’s learning style inventory), include “classic concepts” where they made no sense (i.e. an overview of underlying assumptions of adult education at the end of a chapter focused on overhead projector how-tos), and focus on silly content (i.e. when to throw out markers) while glossing over key content (i.e. how to plan an effective lesson)?  Aren’t editors there to help authors avoid these kinds of things?

Despite some frustrating moments, this book was valuable to me for its introduction to the field, its bibliography, and its concrete ideas for running an adult class.

I Apparently Can’t Spell

Oops by estherase on Flickr
Oops by estherase on Flickr

I’m pretty embarrassed because I just caught three spelling errors in my last post.  These ones weren’t even like mixing up “cite” and “site” – they were just flat out wrong.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more I didn’t catch.

I’ve corrected the errors I found, but I know the corrections won’t show up on people’s RSS feeds or emails.  Sorry about that.  I do re-read and edit, just probably too soon after I finish writing.  I’ve definitely got it earmarked for improvement.