miércoles, 17 de marzo de 2010


TESOL was brilliant... lots of things that I saw were really practical, things that teachers could bring into class the Monday after the convention. Met Steve Starry of Madridteacher.com, and a lot of people interested in making cool things happen.

There were some great workshops with speakers: like...

Elaine Gallagher: talked about CLIL, Bloom´s taxonomy, and gave candy for good answers. What energy... exactly the teacher you would want your child to have.

Micheal O'Brian: I thought AR was "augmented reality" not "action research" but despite the fact that my inner geek was whining, the Action Research workshop was interesting and worth staying for.

Elspeth Pollock: Personalizing technology was an interesting workshop on using tech tools to make personalized classes. The neat thing in tech workshops is how people whip off urls for different tools.

Charles Goodger's workshop on action songs got oversold to me by someone, it wasn't that it was bad, just that it wasn't as dead killer as the "ad" I got for it was. (With the help of "Band in a Box", I think I could do similar songs... by next month I hope to convert Swans Practical Grammar into 45 country music albums.)

Graham Stanley (you can read his blog at http://blog-efl.blogspot.com/ )My head got stretched a tad entertaining the concept of 2nd life language teaching, aside from the fact that Mr. Stanley is exactly the kind of person I enjoy hanging out with. Graham and I were mutually following each other on Twitter and it was nice to meet each other F2F. (He also re-tweeted the esssentials of my conference talk, and I felt like a celebrity...)

Graham talks briefly of the British Council Island in this video:

Talking with him also brought up a topic that is very web 2.0: what to do when you run into a troll that spams about your hashtag and can put your state funded project in jeopardy? (negativity can threaten grants for renewal, or just "street creds".) While it hasn't happened to me (that I know of) yet... one's competition could easily flame anyone throughout the net, and affect ones credibility. What can you do? (any ideas?)

Jamie Keddie, of teflclips.com did two workshops that were excellent as usual, and I missed a "Theatre of the oppressed" workshop to see one. Not just those "Robbie Williams" good looks, he always gives practical ideas...

looking for a Jamie Keddie video with him in it, I found him entering my "magic show territory":
(Jamie, if you want me to take this off, I will!)
I thought it was dead cool for teachers to learn.

Russell Stannard did a Jing.com workshop, and I missed Elena Bañares' moodle workshop to see it. It was good, and many good ideas that are directly usable came out.

Then I did mine on Making your own Interactive whiteboard. I was all over the place, but the audience was there with me, so big fun... we got the basic ideas covered, and I think that there will be some whiteboards made.

Paul Seligson who has another youtube series on classroom management. Paul wrote "English File", and did a great workshop on "the four skills." I found some videos on classroom management, (from a conference in Brazil) so I thought I'd put them up here to give everyone a taste of Paul...

It would be really great to have a TESOL Spain youtube channel. (hint, hint.)

Next year the conference will be in Madrid... English Teachers, come!

miércoles, 10 de marzo de 2010

Five ways to respect your high school audience.

Hieronymus Bosch: The Conjurer, 1475-1480.Image via Wikipedia

I work in the corporate market as well as for schools, but I am focusing most of my energy on the school market.

There are few magicians who will do magic for high schools, let alone magic in English. It is a more difficult and lower paying market than tipsy executives, but it is a brutally honest public that will eat you if you are boring, arrogant, or just plain bad. It is a market that makes you work.

Work at what?
I work hard at treating them with respect, which for me means:

1. Don't insult their intelligence.. or yours.

You can PRETEND (en inglés pretend es "haz como" no "try") to insult your audience. You can PRETEND to insult their intelligence. But if you really do talk down to them, they will destroy you. If you make a show that sets up an ego conflict, or puts you up as a superstar, you should know that they are genetically designed to go for your jugular. I also try to avoid easy humour (sex, ca-ca/pee-pee humour) which allows me to do adult shows for EOI, or native English teachers and above all, be natural and consistant with who I am.

By knowing what kind of laughs I want, I don't get lazy and do a MAQ (minimal acceptable quality) show.

Minimal Acceptable Quality is an actual business strategy that means you do get an "acceptable" product which is easy to reproduce. You can make a new one with minimal effort after customers consume the first product. Hardly a noble undertaking... but apparently it is the most profitable. (¿Big MAQ?)

2. A magician has to surprise.

Nobody knows what will happen next because they haven't seen my tricks before. (I write, rather than buy, my routines, building them around objectives, or using routines that are open to various objectives. (Magicians will hate me for this if they don't see me... it is seen as a type of selling out, but I don't think I do.)

It also means that I can't do obvious things everyone knows will happen even if they haven't seen it before. As they say in commedia del arte, you have to be a little bit "dangerous" in the sense that anything can happen... and then deliver by making crazy things happen.

A surreal situation is a memorable one.

3. No card tricks.

Enough said.

4. I take everything about the performance seriously... except for me.

Stanislavski said "love the art in you, not YOU in the art."

That means removing good ideas that don't fit the show.
That means looking at goals and seeing the audience as being more important than my ego.
That means being able to laugh at myself, and being flexible onstage, to be able to listen to what is happening... and enjoy it.
Know your goals, but recognize new priorities when they suddenly surface in "teachable moments" (Was it Scrivener who said "Plan for the teacher, teach for the students"?)

5. Take risks...

Allow the volunteers to be thenselves and to play. LISTEN TO THEM. Give them space, and focus when you can.

I often take kids that are problem-makers in class, who never speak English ( If I had a dollar for every time I heard "¡Has eligido lo más macarro de todos!").
I don't often have problems. (It´s all about psychology: a mixture of respect and high expectations... although "control" must be mastered,(it is dreadfully easy to get someone to hold a rope if you push them in the water first...) but when they are active participants, very exciting things happen.

Giving away control is a beautiful risk that the audience recognizes and respects. (You can always "throw them in the water" later if you need to get back on track as long as you have built a good structure to go in and out of.)

Catalan clown/super-genius Leandre Ribera said when you take a risk on stage, you never lose... even if it doesn't work out, what you learn from it makes it worth it.
The confidence that this gives YOU allows the volunteers to take risks too... and if you do your job, they never lose either.

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