On October 19, I am boarding a plane that will take me to England for the first time. I've been to the US (4 times), Japan (17 times), Indonesia (about 4 times), New Guinea, the Philippines and India, but never England.
I'm going on Gramatica business, though, not as a tourist. I'll be meeting with a group of highly talented academics, businesspeople and ESL specialists who would like to partner with me in promoting Gramatica around the world. These meetings will take place both in Cambridge and London, and I'm looking forward tremendously to meeting these people, presenting Gramatica in person, hearing their questions and hopefully developing long term business alliances.
I'm also keen to see places I have only ever seen on paper and screen. I'll have a few days to play tourist, and Cambridge and London have some beautiful places to see, so I'll take many pictures and share them here.
Shoebox is going out into the world! I've been in discussion with trade commissioners, university professors and presidents, teachers and others to take Shoebox into a variety of countries in Asia, the UK and the Middle East.
Quite a few people in Japan, Korea, Thailand and the Middle East are very interested in what makes Shoebox different, and most have asked for a demonstration lesson to show how Shoebox works in a classroom. I'm working on that at the moment, and hope to have it filmed, edited and sent within a fortnight.
There is also the possibility of a large public forum for Shoebox next month in South-east Asia, and this will be open to university presidents, deans, professors, teachers, department heads and interested parties.
Following that, I imagine I will be on planes a lot. It's an exciting time!
Today, my time at Edith Cowan University came to an end, possibly for a season, but possibly forever. I drove to Joondalup, took my final tute, farewelled students and remembered the last six and a half years of teaching there.
It was an excellent time. I met many interesting people, guided undergraduates along their paths to the classroom, learned a lot about teaching, learning and assessment and made some strong friendships.
However, my heart is with Shoebox and its time has come. With a kind of adventurous but cautious excitement, I'm going to take Shoebox out into the world to see what the world thinks.
I've just been accepted as a speaker at the South East Regional Conference for TESOL in New Orleans in late October!
I will be presenting a 45 minute workshop called Grammar = LIFE to a group of TESOL teachers from Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Florida and Virginia.
More info soon.
Starting tonight and every Thursday evening for the next eight weeks, I pack up my bag with all the cards for the workshop participants, put on a warm jacket, and walk the ten minutes or so down the road to the local community centre where we hold Shoebox ESL PD workshops. It's too close to drive and I enjoy the walk.
Tonight, we are a small group of four, with participants from Australian College of Applied Education, Kaplan, Perth International College of English and Central Institute of Technology. They teach a range of levels from Beginner to Upper Intermediate and all of them want to see a different way of teaching.
Tonight, we covered the Three Houses, Main Clauses, the different types of Nouns and Verbs and the basic principles that hold the English language together. There was some eye-opening stuff, but tonight we just laid the foundations so that we are all on the same page and when I refer to a present participle (the Action Shape), we all know what I am talking about.
Ninety minutes goes VERY quickly! They all took notes, received their cards and asked some thoughtful questions. Then we all said goodbye and I walked home through mist and a clear night sky.
I've just spent the Easter long weekend away in Denmark (the town, not the country), one of the most beautiful and relaxing South-West towns I know. It helps that my parents-in-law have a house down there, so accommodation is not an issue, even for the weekend when the 5000 population of Denmark swells to 25 000! One shop owner told me that she does a great deal of her annual budget over the weekend.
Anyway, with little desire to do any sightseeing, I spent the weekend writing all the ideas about teaching that buzz around in my head and, when I had finished, I realised not only that what I was actually doing was writing a training system for ESL teachers around the world, but that, as far as I know, there isn't such a system.
CELTA, the intensive four week program that gets people ready to step in front of an ESL class, trains teachers in methodology, but not content. Teachers pick up the content as they go, gleaning tips, tricks and resources from Murphy's, Swan, the university presses, websites and their colleagues.
But what if there were a single document that provided teachers with everything they needed to know about how the English language works? I started to get very excited! Such a system would take a teacher from words to clauses via punctuation to sentences, including tenses, conditionals, modals, gerunds, infinitives, noun and verb types, sentence structures, articles, phrasal verbs, common verbs and their forms (work, get, have, take, make, go), prepositions, relative clauses, conjunctions and everything else.
Of course, it would cover structures, not necessarily vocabulary, although there would be some included.
I'm rather overwhelmed. I've just finished my workshop, and the room was jammed with 64 people, sitting on the floor and standing in doorways. I was rather amazed to look up from organising my computer to see so many! I asked them if they knew they were actually there to see a presentation on grammar. Anyway, they were enthusiastic, engaged and receptive, so I think the Shoebox message was well received. One lady came up afterwards and said she and others wanted to bring me back to run a weekend Shoebox PD, which would be wonderful.
After the workshop, as I was waiting in the rain for my taxi, Cassandra (one of the teachers who came) pulled up and offered me a lift into the city to save on taxi fare, so I enjoyed a great chat with her about methdology, teacher training and different teaching styles. Thanks Cassandra!
I'm at the airport, waiting for my plane and thinking I could handle this conference gig.
I'm here in Brisbane! It's ridiculously humid, and the locals agree, so after my 1.6km walk from my motel to the University of Queensland, my shirt was seriously wet. (Air-conditioning is a wonderful invention.) The skies were grey, the air hot and still and the storms approaching. I envy the locals for the beautiful locale of UQ, right on the river and with some lovely scenery.
At the PD, I met some great teachers, mainly from Brisbane but others from further north and some from Sydney as well. At the introduction, I was surprised and pleased to learn that international education is the fourth largest export industry in Australia! (after iron ore, coal and natural gas.) What's even better is that our industry is eternally renewable, non-polluting and much more fun!
Flights are booked, hotel is confirmed and I'm off to Brisbane on Friday evening for rather a whirlwind tour. Depart Friday evening, arrive midnight, up at 8, conference starts at 9, give my presentation at 2, finish at 3.30, and fly out at 5.30. Back in Perth at 9pm. And then to sleep. The handout that will go to delegates is below for your download.
I finished the third and final session of their workshop today and I must say that I was sad to do so. We tackled the application of Shoebox principles and structures to student writing, one of my favourite subjects since I loved writing so much in primary school, and I was thrilled to see the way that the staff engaged with the content, practised it (with reference to unicorns, nuns, the smell of Venetian canals and running through New Zealand!) and discussed how they would use it in their classrooms.
To Kevin, the principal, and the Collier staff, bravissimo! I applaud you and wish you every success.