Learning, and IATEFL

April 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

“I saw the angel in the marble
and carved until I set him free.”

And so the endless summer continues. I’ve been sitting in the sunshine, reflecting on the myriad of memories from the wonderful weekend in beautiful Brighton, evaluating my hippiness, my business and geekiness. Cool post, Brad!

We’re all basking, it’s beautiful, but water is the secret of life, and I’ve answered the polite requests from my floral friends to quench their thirst, the brazen tulips, the private bluebells, the sky of sociable blue forget-me-nots with a proud yellow dandelion reflecting the scene above.

Haven’t we all just met so many great people and seen so many fantastic talks! I’m positively overflowing with ideas, and it’s as much as I can do to catch them and put them all down on paper lest they blow away for good. Catch them, and water them. As teachers, and last week as learners, it is our job to make these ideas take root and grow.

“Why are diamonds so valuable, dad?” said Freddie, looking at a diamond ring.

Freddie is Edward de Chazal’s 6-year-old son, and Edward told this story to a packed house as part of his IATEFL talk on critical thinking.

“Ah, good question son, diamond is the hardest element on earth, we use it to cut rock and glass, and can make all sorts of things with it. It’s really really strong.”

How we all just love a learner bursting with natural curiosity like this. In my talk, Johanna Stirling from The Spelling Blog, prompted by one participant, was able to enlighten us all as to why it’s “remarkABLE” but “invincIBLE”. “Remark” is a word in itself; not so “vinc”. Thanks Johanna, and to Vladka, Paul and Shelly amongst others for attending.

“Dad, why is that rock like that?” Freddie and family were down in Hampshire on the south coast of England, admiring the huge arches that the power of the sea had carved over millennia. His dad told him all this, no doubt slipping in a few dubious dates about the rocks and the epochs when such huge figures are involved.

Learning is about connecting new things with old. Just like the flowers who would soon start to wilt, we need to water and nourish all our new-found wisdom. I’m sure Jesus’ parable of the sower has not escaped some of your notice this Easter weekend.

It’s innate too, this desire, need almost, to search for associations and try out provisional rules. Children are prime examples, as are eternally youthful teflers. I say innate, because no-one forced us to endure five full days of mayhem. Just like no-one had forced little Freddie to be pondering away to himself as they were all strolling over the rolling hills next to the sheer cliffs, so that he’d blurt out:

“So dad, which is stronger, diamonds or the sea?”.


§ 8 Responses to Learning, and IATEFL

  • David-

    I love reading your poetic prose. The words follow each other down the way, like a cool river stream- humble, natural, alive.

    Your question “diamond or sea” hit a deep philosophical chord within me, and it has been a historical question, especially in the East. I’m sure you’re aware of Taoism. 道 is the Dao, and it is “the way”. Historically the part of the character that starts at the top left and slides underneath the other part was something like feet walking on a path… the way.

    To say “I know” in chinese is 知道… dao being the second character hence saying “i know the way” in a sense.

    SO all of that was to get to this.

    Taoism has a very famous saying, repeated often in martial arts circles, especially those that seek to empower both “allow” and “force”:

    “Which is stronger, a mighty Oak tree or a blade of grass?” And the answer is: “In a monsoon, the tree will break like a twig but the blade of grass will yield and remain standing.”

    So, I guess, the answer is… depends on the weather. LOL

    ps thanks for the mention above… and your beautiful language plants !

  • Anna Varna says:

    Dear David and Brad
    I recently discovered both of your blogs and it has been a great pleasure learning from both of you. This learning is far wider than ELT and far more philosophical and rewarding! Looking forward to meeting you in person sometime!

  • Ann says:

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil if you’d like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there when you have anything you’d like to share.



  • dingtonia says:

    Hi David
    What a lovely post – and as Anna says, much more far-reaching than mere EFL!
    We must get together sometimes – I know I keep saying it, but I shall email you and we can make date.

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