Wednesday, 28 April 2010

not dead

Hello! Sorry, finishing the book wiped me out for... blimey, three months. Eek. And I'm still not back - I'm marking - but I just read a post on Ballastexistenz I really wanted to link to. It's here, and it's about art and creativity and rules and elitism, but in particular, for me, it's about teaching and learning. I'm teaching languages at the moment* (in fact, I should be marking language tests right now), and the comment about language teaching resonated with me, because I'm trying to figure out - at the moment, and always - how to figure out the balance between rules-based, rote-learning stuff and just going in and reading and making stuff up. The balance between perfectionism and just-give-it-a-go-ism, I guess. (I posted about similar stuff before.)

But the thing I really wanted to repost, and to pass on to my students and indeed to everyone I ever meet, is this, again from a comment on the post:

A lot of my fear about this stuff came from being taught the only way to do things was a way I couldn’t do.

Which rings so many bells with me, in relation to students having an idea that you have to write essays by mind-mapping, then planning, then redrafting, or that you have to state a thesis, then a contrary point of view, then put your own point of view in the end. What gets lost is a sort of messiness and creativity, a sense that the essay is theirs and that they can just jump in and see what works for them. Or, as Amanda Baggs goes on to say in the same comment:

I’ve become a lot more relaxed since I started painting lots of cats. Because at least even the worst ones were done in a way that suited me and not the way people taught me.

*I should say that I teach Latin, and I don't have any active language skills in Latin (though there is a conversational Latin group at my university), so I'm only talking about reading here.