Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Park Wisdom

I was in a spa last week. One day, my son and I took a ride in one of those old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages. I took out my camera and aimed it at my son's face. I put it down, irritated. His face was too close and I couldn't make a nice picture. Soon after that the carriage started. I decided to make a video clip and upload it later. I raised my camera again. The carriage was shaking too much (really, those horses), so I put the camera down. I finally paid attention to what was going on. The name of the spa is Vrnjacka Banja and it is really beautiful, especially if you are in a carriage. I was beginning to feel like a princess from a fairy-tale. Then the driver took out his mobile and the magic was gone. I thought how interesting it would be to tweet this. But I didn't have enough money on my mobile account. The driver put down his mobile and broke into a song. He had a good singing voice. I was immediately transported back to the time I was 10 and sitting in a gondola in Venice. Naturally, I desperately wanted to tweet this. I checked my mobile account. No, definitely not enough money on it. So I finally gave up. I had no choice - I had to enjoy the ride, the beautiful spa and the fact that I was there with my son without tweeting, you-tubing or facebooking about it.

Ruled Red Notebook - Pocket

I like to write my blog posts sitting in cafes and parks. There is something romantic about pen and paper. I always use beautiful notebooks and I really love my little red Moleskine notebook. I always carry it with me, just in case. Also, I concentrate better if I am not on the Internet. Today I sat in a park, a large iced latte by my side.


I didn't write today. This wouldn't be so strange in itself, as there are a lot of situations when I don't write (you will notice that my last post was a month ago). You see, I wanted to write. I started this post yesterday and I hoped I could use my time in the park to finish it. Instead, I decided to sit there and focus. I watched the children playing, a young couple eating hamburgers, a girl sitting in the grass reading a book... Everything was so beautiful and so there. And I could have missed it as I so often do.

Don't worry. I am still an Internet addict and a notorious multitasker. I am not going to go to Tibet and start meditating. And I am not going to tell you to turn off your computer and get a life or to focus and live in the present. That is not the message I am trying to convey.

So, what is the message I am trying to convey? Your guess is as good as mine. It is obvious that I am enjoying my holiday and it is equally obvious that it is having a disastrous effect on my blogging style. I'd better put some TEFL in and quickly.

Most teachers are notorious multitaskers and they often lack focus. They say nonsensical things, wear shoes of different colour and walk into buckets of water. They write something on the board while listening to four groups of students at the same time while answering a question while worrying whether they are going to finish everything they planned to do...

What would happen if we just let go? Do you think the class would fall apart? Or would those four groups of students go on with their discussion, blissfully unaware of the fact that the teacher is not trying to control them any more? Maybe we could do what I did in the park today - observe our students, admire them, even learn from them. After all, are we really in control of their learning process?

Letting go would definitely be beneficial for us - we would be more relaxed and we might even never walk into another bucket of water as long as we live - but could it be beneficial for our students as well? Would they take more responsibility for their learning process? Let's face it: we do not make the Earth spin, we do not make the Sun go out every morning and, no matter how hard we try, we cannot learn instead of our students.

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Nina Liakos said...

I laughed reading this post. Natasa, you are a very funny person! I loved the part about how you had to give up informing the online world about the carriage ride, the cell phone, and the singing driver, and just enjoy it. Haha! I understand how you felt. Even though you eventually did blog about that experience, at least you succumbed to being in the moment at the time!

I also wonder what would happen if I (teacher) let go and let my students take more responsibility for the learning.... but I am usually too fearful to try it. Wouldn't they think I wasn't doing my job properly?

Natasa said...

Glad I made you laugh, Nina. I know you understand how I felt.

As far as I am concerned, wondering what would happen if I let go and letting go are two different things.I keep trying to control everything that happens in class (even when I pretend that I am not doing it).

Dennis said...

Hi, Nataša.

I also laughed when I read your post, but at the same time I realized that there were some important points to ponder. I guess the most compelling was the question of which is more important--to react to what's happening à la Web 2.0 or simply to experience it.

I also wonder what it would've been like to "let learning happen" in my classes instead of trying to direct and choreograph classroom activities (including group work). I'm sure that, like Nina L., I would've been concerned that if I'd let my students take free rein in their class work, at least some of them (and probably most of them) would've thought I wasn't doing my job.

However, I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote your last paragraph, that "what would happen if I let go and letting go are two different things."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the way, I could see you and your son, in my mind's eye, as you moved along on your carriage ride, and I must say that during this mental video, I chuckled at your antics with the camera and video recorder! I also loved the beautiful photos of the spa.

Very best wishes from Phoenix!


Natasa said...

Thank you, Dennis. You really write lovely and very constructive comments.
Yes, I had to laugh at myself during that carriage ride. 10 years ago I would have simply enjoyed it, but now everything has changed. I guess the best thing would be to record and reflect at the same time and maybe the new generations of digital natives will be able to do that. Actually, I am glad I was "forced" to enjoy the ride.
As far as letting go is concerned... I don't know where that came from. Personally, I am a control freak and I find the idea really scary (yes, I know it was my idea in the first place). However, I guess I should teach what I preach, so I could try this out. If I do, I'll let you know.


I love this post Natasa... of course what you're describing (in the TEFL bit) is dogme-styled teaching!

I've written a couple of posts on the subject: Any given dogma and The dogma of dogme - but basically it's all about student centered learning: and the world doesn't stop revolving when it's practiced ;-), honestly!


Natasa said...

Thanks, Karenne. I am quite fond of Dogme. I think it is a great thing, especially if you combine it with ICT.

飯糰夾蛋Karen said...
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