Summer Reading

by Lou Mycroft (PDNorth Digital Lead & Dancing Princess)

I’m only a year out of teaching in a college and I think it will take a lot longer than that to forget the brief elation then abject exhaustion I used to feel at the end of the academic year. I worked in a specialist college which basically offered community learning, so we ran the year round but there’s still that point at which you can take a breath and head off to the beach, the garden, the airport…wherever.

And before the new academic year starts to loom large, there’s usually a little bit of time for reading. I love a good thriller as much as the next Scandi obsessed person, but I usually have a few ‘work books’ on the go, too, year round. I’m studying in a very roundabout way for an education doctorate and there’s an expectation of this but I’ve come to really love it. I celebrate my ADHD ‘label’ for the energy and creativity it brings to my life, but despite my occasional drift into hyperfocus, I do find it hard to knuckle down to ‘difficult’ reading. The rewards, in terms of my self-belief and professional self-confidence, are immense. I’ve come a long way from the person who used to say to a close colleague, ‘Read this for me and tell me what it says…’!

Here are some guidelines I’ve come to adopt, which might interest you. At the end of the blog is a snapshot of what I’m reading this summer.

 

Diversify. A few years ago I realised I was only reading books by middle-class white people; most of them men. Of course, there’s a whole argument that ‘the canon’ was established at a time when only white men got published (have a look at Kay Sidebottom’s occasional blog Seeking Lost Women to find out how central Helen Parkhurst was to the work we think of as John Dewey’s). Things are different now, and there are some excitingly diverse writers out there. If you’ve a passion for teaching and you’ve not yet found bell hooks, you’ll love her!

 

Read two or three books at once, a chapter a day in rotation. Yes it takes ages to finish them all, but what happens is that you draw unexpected connections between them. I got this idea from Peter Shukie, one of the most creative and erudite educators I know. It also means I take time to reflect and process what I’m reading.

 

Mix up your media. ‘Reading’ doesn’t just mean books or journals. Watch a Ted Talk on YouTube or rest your eyes completely with a podcast. I love the Philosophy Bites series. You can even play them in the car on long journeys if the kids are asleep and you fancy a change from Peppa Pig.

 

Make notes. Whilst I’ll read a thriller on Kindle, or listen via the Audible app, I love a proper book when it comes to stuff I don’t find so easy to absorb. I use a nice set of coloured pens (really helps me focus) and I’ve learned to be quite sparing with what I highlight. I write notes in the margins too, and I always date when I got the book – and where. It’s lovely to pick it up again and remember being on a beach in Norfolk, or wherever.

 

Read with others. This doesn’t have to be a formal book club (though it could be). You could start a Twitter thread, or set up a googledoc or Padlet where a few of you could make notes and get into a dialogue. I always see deeper meaning diffracted through others’ perspectives.

Above all, enjoy it. It took me years to get into a reading mindset (apart from those Scandi thrillers) and it’s brought a new dimension to my life and work. I definitely tune more into the world around me and I have loads more new ideas. It makes me feel good about myself, to challenge and refine my thinking. It’s food for the soul.

 

Have a lovely rest, and I’ll look forward to hearing what you’re reading – please do tag me in on Twitter @PDNorth1720 I’m always up for hearing about great new thrillers too!

 

What’s in the pile for me this summer:

Unlocking the ESOL Mindset

Delivering a workshop at a national conference

by Colette Butterworth & Sue Primrose

This year the NATECLA (National Association for Teaching English and Other Community Languages to Adults) conference was held in Birmingham.  This national, annual conference is a huge event that is held specifically for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) practitioners.  This year there was a variety of workshops, a resources exhibition and an Ascentis Teachmeet.

Sue Primrose and I delivered a workshop called “Unlocking the ESOL mindset”.  This workshop looked at how to develop a learner’s mindset so that they can learn more effectively as they gain a better understanding of their own thinking and develop strategies to tackle internal and external barriers. Practical and interactive exercises were demonstrated to show how structured and deeper questioning in the ESOL classroom can guide learners to become more reflective and autonomous thus taking ownership of their progress.

 

Having never presented at or even attended a national CPD conference, we were unsure what to expect.  Would we buckle at the knees and freeze?  All these thoughts were flying through my mind so in a state of nervous excitement I began the seminar.  Fortuitously, we had provided 30 packs because instead of the 18 delegates we were expecting, there were instead, 29 attendees.

 

We came up with some ideas for our students to think in a more creative way to enable them to become more independent in their learning.  For a warmer exercise, we started with a competition.  The prize was a big bag of fruit to keep the winning delegate energised for the weekend.  The warmer allows the teachers to work out the students’ starting points and the barriers to their learning.  This then allows the teachers to encourage the students with barriers to become responsible for their own learning and think about how they can manage their time. We then moved on to a Padlet which included creative thinking exercises and reading images using ‘wh’ questions and ‘What if…’ questions.  The main part of the seminar was to deconstruct the goals of each student to allow them to think about what they want to achieve and how and when they are going to go about achieving it.  It allows the students to take personal responsibility for the work they do throughout the year to achieve their goals.  Some teachers were unsure how to apply the techniques. This was particularly at lower levels, where the students’ command of English is weaker. However, we were able to offer advice about questioning techniques and showing the value of students taking responsibility for their own learning. The sooner this is done the better!

The seminar was thought-provoking and it gave the delegates some ideas of how to encourage more independent study skills with their students. The feedback we received from NATECLA was tremendous.  Delivering at a conference and sharing ideas was a great experience.  We can all learn by sharing resources and ideas through conferences, teachmeets, blogging and Twitter.  I think these are all worthy ways to bring good practice together. We hope to present again next year and look forward to seeing more innovative teachers delivering at future conferences.