I met with the delightful staff at Aranmore Catholic Primary today for the second of their Shoebox workshops and was delighted to see how much they had remembered and how keen they were to apply their new knowledge in class. Tomorrow, I'm meeting with some app developers in Subiaco to talk through my ideas for the first of the Shoebox apps (oh, there are going to be a whole family of them for both primary and ESL students)
This semester at UWA, I got to do a subject I had been looking forward to for some time: Old English. It might not sound exciting, but this was the language of Beowulf, Tolkien, Middle Earth and a great deal of legend, history and exciting stuff. Theoden, the King of Rohan in Tolkien's epic, is simply an Old English word for lord, prince, ruler or king, so Tolkien quite deliberately wove Old English language, culture, myth and story into his classic.
Tolkien used to gather with his cronies and read Old English texts fluently, debating words and interpretations. There is a story that he used to open his lectures with the word Hwaet! the first word of Beowulf, and one that his puzzled undergraduates thought was their famous professor telling them to be Quiet.
For me, though, it is not so easy. There are declensions, genders, cases and various subjunctives, indicatives, partitives and various other ives to learn, although sometimes there are delightful little links between our modern English and its ancient ancestor. More later.
We started the first workshop of this, the second Shoebox Course for 2015 and it was wonderful to have it in my house instead of the George Burnett Leisure Centre, where it is normally held. Because the group was so small, it was easier that way, so we rigged up a whiteboard on a chair and started.
It doesn't matter where, we run a workshop, though, as the principles of grammar still evoke the same 'Aha!' moments in participants. Through all the new information, there is a sense that everything is simpler than we thought, not more difficult. Traditional grammar teaching forced us to look through dim, scratched lenses. Shoebox wipes those lenses clean so that we see clearly.
It's always good to see and hear teachers in a workshop discussing how they will use Shoebox techniques in their classrooms, so I was thrilled to overhear several teachers planning declaring how the Shoebox cards would benefit their next grammar and writing classes.
At the close of the session, some were excited enough to request that they receive their login details to website immediately instead of after the third session, as we normally do.
I've just completed a delightful PD with the Pearsall Primary staff in what would have to be the most scenic location I've ever had the pleasure to visit. Gary Payne, the Pearsall principal, organised the PD at the Marmion Aquatic Club, which has a panoramic window overlooking the Indian Ocean. Standing at the window, it was easy to get distracted with people paddle-boarding, boats passing and the constant wonder of the vastness of the ocean.
Congratulations to the Pearsall staff for their determination to get through six hours of grammar. They discovered that much of what they learned about grammar at school was either false or incomplete, so the learning journey had to begin with quite a bit of unlearning. Well done to Gary, not only for the fantastic venue and the great lunch, but also for his engaged and enthusiastic staff. I trust Shoebox makes a difference at Pearsall.
The day after school finished and the day before my 27th wedding anniversary, I had the great pleasure to drive down to the foothills west of Bunbury and give a PD for the combined staffs of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dardanup and St Michael's School of Brunswick Junction.
My congratulations go to the teachers who engaged with grammar even after the school year had ended and the school was empty of the laughs and chatter of children. As the day went on, it was clear that the nods and smiles of teachers were showing that the principles of grammar were becoming clearer to them as true and unchanged and less a matter of individual preference or judgement.
Brava, teachers! I trust the rest of your holidays will be free of PDs!
I had the great pleasure today to meet with Roger Plumb, one of the advisors at the Innovation Centre in Technology Park, Bentley. Roger has been appointed to provide advice and guidance for the development of the Shoebox family of educational apps, something I have been dreaming of for a long time but didn't know the way forward. After discussions with my accountant and several patent lawyers, I found my way to the Innovation Centre and Roger.
We now have several meetings to plot a way forward, including details of marketing, financing, building the apps and taking them out to the educational community. An exciting journey.
Some time ago, Nicki Blake, my Director of Studies at Kaplan Perth, invited me to speak at the first joint PD conference for WA ESL teachers. While these events have been going on for some years in Brisbane and other eastern seaboard capitals, this was the first such event for Perth schools, and quite a few schools gathered to learn and share their experiences: Lexis, Curtin, Kaplan, ACAE, Navitas, PICE, CELT and others.
I only had 20 minutes, which was far too short to go into detail, but it was a tremendous opportunity to share my passion for the language and some basic Shoebox principles.
After it finished, I got into conversation with a teacher who said that the market in South Korea for ESL is enormous, particularly for apps, so perhaps I should start work on the Shoebox app I have been dreaming of for some time. I also had the chance to catch up with some dear friends, including Luisa Maestri from ACAE, where I spent many happy years.
I usually enjoy sharing Shoebox principles with other ESL teachers, but today was rather different as I ran a mini PD with my own colleagues in a Kaplan room. Not only was the audience my colleagues, but there were, quite a few of them, including those who had been teaching for many years. I felt a little under the spotlight!
Coogee Primary has the distinction of being the fastest turnaround (less than 24 hours) for any school from demo lesson to PD booking. Barely had I finished the demo lessons in their delightful Year One class with a group of teachers standing at the back wall watching when their order appeared on the website and they had made their dates for the PD.
Today, this enthusiastic, engaged staff completed their training with some practice exercises on applying their Shoebox principles to writing. I wish you well, Coogee! Certainly your students will benefit from your keenness!