I got tagged by Jason at the wonderful English Raven as a part of the “It’s worth taking a look at this blog”  thing which is doing the rounds. It’s quite a timely initiative, with the ELT blogosphere a little bit tired and emotional recently. Nice to share the love again. Had I decided to do this straight, Jason’s blog would certainly have been in my top ten… but I am pretty sure that anyone who is reading my blog is reading his. I really do recommend all the blogs in my blogroll – none are there for show, they are the ELT blogs I regularly read, and often comment on. So my list is made up of the twenty one blogs in my blog roll. Can I call that my ‘trad’ list, and then give you something a little more wonky?

Here is a list of ten blogs you probably don’t read…

I’ll kick off with the two who are blogging most specifically about ELT. What I like about them both is that they are writing fairly specifically about the minutiae of classroom activity. A lot of ELT bloggers like to address the ‘big’ issues, but I love to read about the daily concerns of practising teachers. Eisensei is working in Japanese universities, like me. This post is an account of his experiments with dogme, part of a journey which I am really enjoying watching and (to a small degree) participating in. Rich is in Spain, and his writing is quite affecting. I love this pithy piece about online community.

Now three bloggers who teach English, but don’t really blog about it. ELT does seem to attract the creative, or perhaps it makes one creative? Maybe once people realise that the life of a TEFLer is a precarious one, they invest more in their lives outside work. There are plenty of us who do it because it’s all we can do, because it enables us to live where we want, because it offers us little and expects little in return, leaving us free to pursue our passions. For every one of us who defines themselves as a teacher, there is another who ‘teaches’… but is actually a writer, a photographer, an entrepreneur…

I am sure that all three of these bloggers are committed and talented teachers. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to read about the other things they love. Pig Sty Avenue is currently learning the piano, but also writes a lot about football and photography. This is a rare piece about teaching, and an initiative which needs to get off the ground. Scribe of Light is an incredible photographer working mainly in China, who I first came across via Flickr. This piece, about itchy feet, will resonate with many of you world travelling teachers out there. And finally, I have actually had the pleasure of meeting the author of Troutfactory Notebook, another brilliant photographer and writer, based in Osaka. This piece on the soapbox derby is a dazzling example of his thought-provoking writing about art and ideas.

There are a few news blogs I read regularly. The first is Mashable, which you may be familiar with, collecting techie, social media type stuff. This one on David Letterman’s Twitter Machine is a lot of fun. For an alternative take on the mainstream news, for the stuff that falls through the cracks, Global Voices Online is a great resource. I enjoyed this recent post about the new company recruits here in Japan. And speaking of Japan, Education in Japan does a great job in gathering stories together without editorialising (and without the awful, awful comments you often get on Japan News blogs). Everything you need to know about the collapse of the GEOS language school chain is here.

I have long been an admirer of George Siemens, and he is a very prolific blogger about education and (of course) connectivism. His blog is like a fat twitter. Libraries is a nice spot to start. And if you like that, there are about eight years of archives, updated several times daily….

I have now idea how to categorise the last one, but I love it. Pull Up the Roots bills itself as “a visual essay exploring teaching, learning, and society”, and it utilises the tumblr platform perfectly. My first blogging experiments came via tumblr, when I noticed a lot of my flickr photos were being linked there. If you can imagine a twitter for visual artists, designers, and the painfully young and hip, that’s tumblr. Even though I am none of those things, I love tumblr!

So, thanks Jason. And it’s a nice idea, but can we shake it up a bit? I am pretty sure that the ELT blogosphere has been sufficiently mapped. I’d like everyone to do this again, but actually surprise me 😉

I have three interviews scheduled for next month, and I am inviting questions.

The first interview is at the PanSig conference in Osaka, with Kip Cates. Kip has been active in promoting global issues in language education for many years, and I am looking forward to talking about his work with the Asian Youth Forum, JALT, the Peace Boat and other socially aware associations.

The next two interviews will take place at the JALTCALL conference in Kyoto. The first is with Joy Egbert of Washington State University. I am especially interested in the book she is bringing out this year about CALL in limited technology contexts. Looking forward to hearing about how we should engage our students.

I will also talk to Larry Davies, mainly about Learning Management Systems. Are they old hat? Are institutions living in the 1990’s whilst the students move into 2020?

The abstracts for both Larry and Joy’s plenaries are available here.

So, this post is a bit of a taster, but also an appeal for questions. I have actually been invited to JALTCALL in an official capacity this time around, so I feel a greater responsibility to make the interviews the best I possibly can! Cheers all!

As a classic symbol of Japan, and a dying breed, the geisha is a skilled practitioner of her art. She is elegant, highly trained. Unfortunately, this is not the parallel I am going to draw between ‘Geisha’ and ‘Teacher’. Let’s skip ahead to the modern era.

There are now said to be about 2000 professional geisha and maiko left. If you bump into one on the streets of Kyoto, she is probably a tourist costumed for the photo op. However, the spirit of the geisha remains, the need which created her continues… indeed, grows more fervent. *

All over the country, ‘hostess’ clubs thrive… places in which a tired salaryman can sit and relax while pretty young women pour his drinks, laugh at his jokes and engage in him in light conversation. And in progressive new Japan, there will be a place around the corner in which pretty young men provide the same service for hardworking women.**

Is this, perhaps, how some students see their teachers? Is this how schools are set up? Let me ask you these questions.

Have you ever been required to attend after school social functions with students?

Have you ever been brought in to meet a prospective student and clinch the deal?

Have you ever taught a lesson without a textbook, not a a dogme-ist, but because the student ‘just wanted to talk’?

I don’t doubt that most native speakers who have taught in a foreign country have experienced such situations. Many NNESTs too. And the younger, more attractive and more affable you are….

The question should be, I suppose, ‘Do I care?’ Does it matter that the student is not here to learn, but to have fun, and that I am getting easy money for entertaining him? Do I mind, effectively, working as a host or a hostess? That’s a question I can’t answer for you individually, but as a profession we ought to be a somewhat concerned. I’ve had this particular post on the back burner for a while, but having just read the Marxists I thought it was time to get it out there….

*No, not sex. Whilst some geisha or maiko may have had physical relations with their clients, there is not a direct correlation between prostitution and the geisha system. Likewise, some hosts or hostesses may take on ‘patrons’, but it is far beyond the remit of this blog to get into the murky world of Japanese sexual politics. I’ll make one thing clear though. I am not using prostitution as a metaphor for teaching.

**Ironically (?) many of the host’s clients are hostesses. They have the money, and the free time… but they have no one to listen to them talk.

Too tired to write anything thought provoking or challenging today… the new semester has started and I am full of the joys of actually TEACHING.. meeting new students, putting into practice all the improvements I’ve been dreaming up over the last couple of months. I’ll tell you more when I get time, but for today, just to tide you over, something I’ve been saving up for a rainy day.

Blogging is a wonderful thing, they said. You have to do it, build your PLN, make connections, be the teacher you can be, they shouted. What nobody said was “Spend hours cleaning out spam”. But, for health chuckles, here are a few of the ones I actually enjoyed.

The Non-Sequitur

Money is so intangible, its almost like a promise and a piece of paper

Its all in the manual they make you read before they download your being into those tiny bodies in those dark wombs

Hi First time skipped here on your site, found on Google. Thank you for the advice, I spoke with my girlfriend, and she agreed. We have spoken about it now, and it is slowly getting better

The Back-Handed Compliment

Good post, however only some of the points were actually treated really good, I think digging deep for the topic to make it more informative will really help, will be looking forward for more informative post than this. Will suggest some points which are to the best of my knowledge. This might help you bringing more information for all of us

It sounds like you’re creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place

Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn’t express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

Happened across your post while searching through yahoo. I understand the very first paragraph and its fantastic! I don’t have time to finish it now, but I have bookmarked your web page and will study the rest tonight

I was searching for a solution to my problem. This doesn’t solve my problem but it helped me somehow

The Odd Request

Could you please translate your site into Italian since I’m not so comfortable reading it in English?

I like that, (or rather, those bits I could easily read). I am afflicted with color blindness (tritanopia to be exact) and a lot of your web page is a bit of a strain on my eyes. I know it is my problem to deal with but it would be kind if you would take into account color blind visitors while doing the next web page re-working.

The Superlative

Simply, the information is truly the greatest on this worthwhile topic. I with your conclusions and will desperately look forward to your upcoming updates. Expressing thanks will not be sufficient, for the exceptional clarity in your writing.

Got any favourites of your own, my fellow bloggers? Or, even better, some teaching ideas to put them to work?

And just in case you don’t know why spam is called spam….

To paraphrase David Letterman, the teacher switch has no off position. Everything is fair game… newspapers, in-flight magazines, menus, tv commercials… all squirrelled away with the thought “Hmmmm, I can use that!”

I had just such a moment yesterday, meandering through youtube. But as I tucked it away, I had another thought… why not get other people to make something of this for me?

There are a number of great philanthropists out there giving us ready-formed and excellent lesson plans (props to strictly 4 my teacherzTurklish TeflBreaking News English and Tefl Clips to name but four). But let’s say we are moving away from the knowledge transmission method to a more learner-centred model, web 2.0 of course, in which we all have a hand in what we create.

I have been thinking a lot recently about my Personal Learning Network, about the amount of time I spend on professional development, and about how much of that work has a direct effect on the things I do in the classroom. Maybe, just maybe, I think too much about the bigger picture. Perhaps, just perhaps, I should get back to basics. And it might be a good idea to get my PLN to work for me, more efficiently. So here is my plan. I give you a clip, you tell me what you would do with it, who you would use it with, what you would use it for, and if you have used it, how it went.

If other ELT bloggers would like to join in by posting their own ‘found’ raw materials and inviting collaboration, I think we can make something interesting. It needn’t be a video… snippets of text, pictures, whatever.

So, here is my first offering. I think it will be a familiar to any British readers… the Two Ronnies were an incredibly popular double act in the seventies and eighties, and Ronnie Barker (the big one who did more of the writing) was a huge fan of word play. In this skit, a shopkeeper is having trouble with his customer….

script here

What do you think? Pick anything out of that?