Doing and being

I have been sending mails to other organisations to set up distance entry for our Module One candidates. I find signing off those mails hard (I very rarely send unsolicited mail, so this doesn’t often come up). The centres need to see easily that what I am saying is legitimate, so just signing off Sally (as I usually would) doesn’t seem enough. After some faffing around with combinations of Delta … Modules … ITI … and responsibility job title words, I remembered there was an academic staff section on the web site and realised I should probably check what ITI calls me. It turns out I am the Delta Programme Coordinator. I wrote that and it still didn’t feel right. I changed it and signed off by writing in I run the Delta Modules for ITI, which on reflection doesn’t sound official enough (though is how I describe my job if asked) and having slept on it I think I have to bite the bullet and write Delta Programme Coordinator in the next one. Why am I worrying about this ? I don’t think it matters what I am called. You could call yourself manager, director, coordinator, chief, assistant, executive … any or all combinations of those things – in an organisation like ours that has grown organically and that doesn’t have any job descriptions I can’t see what difference it makes what you are called. What matters is what I do. I’m only as good as my last session (I rewrote some bits of the Module Three course design sessions last week and the hit rate was about 50-50 for what proved to be effective and what didn’t, but now I have to remember to tweak them while I can still remember that or in 4 months time they won’t be any better), my last language lesson (Thursday evening was a good one, though that too can be 50-50 .. on Thursday though I managed to finish on a game that built on the focus, but the last two minutes was feedback from the game so they could see that while they didn’t want to stop playing there was a language point underlying what they were doing – question formation even at upper intermediate still being ripe for some noticing and accuracy), the quality of the Delta programmes overall (so many things I want to add, so little time, but take one’s own advice, break things into achievable bits and keep doing things and what is there works, it is just that I can always see more things that could make it work even better), the last thing I read (I’ve been reading a lot about EAP this last month or two – a sort of loop intent as I both have a lot of teachers working in that context and am also trying to support them in finding their own academic voice in assignments ), the last thing I wrote (and that is why I am back here, other projects do feed into professional practice, but this pushes me to find my own voice in a different way – maybe I could promise myself once a month, whatever else is happening…). But my feeling that a job title is irrelevant if I can’t see what I am doing that makes the job real matters only to me and not to a centre I am contacting for the first time. They need a more conventional, short ‘this is what I am’ marker, not a this is what I do description.

Why think about this ? I need a new term (new terms ?) and maybe it is also about the difference between doing and being. I want to be able to articulate the difference between professional development driven by interest and curiosity and professional development driven by knowing you should do something to develop, but not knowing what, which often results in looking for frameworks to achieve that. I see both of these terms as positive (as there are people out there who have no interest in doing either and any active development is  good) and also it is not impossible that they overlap (perhaps  like Krashen’s acquisition and learning, though I’m not saying one can’t become the other – frameworks can create habits that become a way of life / way of learning and over time push someone into curiosity driven development that no longer needs an external framework). Indeed one reason I like the R&A assignment so much on the Delta is that when it works well, it stops being about the assignment and becomes things the teacher will carry on doing indefinitely and independently. Maybe that will have to do for now for terms, curiosity driven development and framework driven development (or should that be course driven ? it is almost always a course). It isn’t exactly internal and external as the thing that provokes your curiosity is usually something external to you, a desire to find an answer or find out why and frameworks aren’t usually externally imposed (well, sometimes they are, but I’m thinking about people who want to develop (language or teaching skills or training skills), not ones who have been told they have got to.
It manifests in other ways too – the difference between a draft where someone has responded to the comments specifically and literally (and only and exactly to that) and the drafts where someone has understood the overall tenor of the comments, how the specifics of one question or request for more information or more rationale relate to the content entire and their approach and has been able to shift their perspective as a result. Not to say that tutors never put in comments which actually do only amount to ‘why is this comma here ?’, but that I hope in any draft I return there are only occasional ones like that. Most of it is about approach, overall outcomes and what the person has managed to do in the whole (not the specifics). So look at the fact that you have put in these two quotes and tell me why you want both, what is the same or what is different about them, what having the second adds, bring in more evaluation and more of your own voice as you present what you have found – and I hope they see that I mean throughout the essay, not in that one place and only that one place (though I have learnt also to say this in some kind of summarising note just in case they don’t see it). Is that the same ? The ability to look at a thing globally and see how particular elements of it contribute to the whole and an innate curiosity about how things work, fit together, why they are where they are and what they do ? The other side of that coin seems easier to set out: doing things and doing them well, but only doing precisely what you have been told to do and not seeing how it could or should be continued, generalised, used as a base to leap forward to somewhere or something else. Or if you have been told to go on and apply the same to other instances, not being able to see where those instances are.
In my new language class I have two students who have leapt into the resources I set up for them on their web site and have run with different elements of it. One sent me a recording of herself trying to the mini class presentation over again and better. So I sent her back a list of things I thought she was doing well and things she should focus on more (based on the recording). Another has signed themselves up into Quizlet to make their own lists (as opposed to just using the occasional Quizlet sets I supply). Some of the others do their homework, some don’t, but the curious ones should not need me in the longer term (though all of us like a framework now and again, so I don’t think it completely shuts down the idea of needing a teacher, it just changes how often and why). In the longer term they could learn on the strength of their own curiosity (especially at this level and with a few more techniques).
With teachers I marked a batch of R&As recently, some of which signed off with a series of real, time bound, concrete actions that continued to focus on something the teacher had become interested in and could see the long term potential of, but there were others that listed classic next steps (rather large ones usually), such as do a Masters, become a CELTA trainer, that are not things they are curious about, but things they want to be or have (they will involve doing, but the doing will come in the form of a framework set by others). One thing I read frequently is the desire to become a tutor (usually a CELTA tutor rather than a Delta tutor). If it is mentioned as a long term intention (rather than a point in an action plan, then it would help direct some of the things you should spend your time doing now (perhaps more teaching and peer observation and less managing teachers and timetables if there is a choice), but writing it down and waiting till there is an opportunity to be ‘trained’ through a framework for it, while not impossible is a lot less effective than doing things now (making materials and sharing them, setting up peer coaching in your school etc etc) which will (a) add to your skill set and (b) mean people come to you to ask if you have thought about tutoring. When people say they want to be Delta tutors, my reaction is usually, great – what is it you think you will bring to that ?’, but the ones I would really like to train are often very much occupied with their own interests, busy doing.
And with me. Last year, the last time I was at an ELTER meeting, the group I had volunteered myself into were trying to articulate a new research focus. We were interested in the fact that the more of this kind of work you do, the ‘higher’ (for want of a better word) you move in the training establishment, the less there is in the way of external frameworks to use, so how do you ensure you are still developing ? Sadly I failed to follow through on that as part of the group (too many other plates spinning and sometimes you have to make choices), but as long as there are always new things to do, to try and make work and as long as some of those things leave you slightly unsure and out of your comfort zone, then it all feeds back into the core of what you do. I learnt a lot from working with ELTER. I wish there was time to keep doing everything, but this – I should keep writing things of my own. It feels like an important kind of doing (even when I have run out of time and still not really nailed my idea).


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