Saturday Night Fever

May 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

“Convince yourself
Convince your friends
Convince your enemies”

The Globe in Brighton has catapulted itself into top spot of my favourite pubs. It’s got a buzzing atmosphere upstairs where you have to shout to be heard, and a cosy cellar downstairs where on some nights you need only whisper. But on IATEFL’s Saturday night, dance fever took over: it was heaving with renegade teflers; the dance floor was rocking.

If you were there, like they say, then you probably won’t remember it, but it is me who you should thank. I’d nipped down to go to the loo, and the dj’s tunes had got my hips shaking. I stayed for a while, alone, the only groover there labelled with a name badge. A few recognised faces came and went on their way to the bathroom, but for some time I remained the sole representative of the funkier element of ELT.

That was until I got Heike. I’d raced upstairs to let someone in on my discovery, and she seemed like the best bet. Her all-nighter at the Virtual Round Table is spoken of in hushed tones by fellow party animals. She had pulling power, as did Shelly. Within the blink of an eye and the wiggle of an £$%&, the dance floor started filling up. Upstairs, the squares, or just those deep in conversation would at some point have noticed first the trickle, then the flood of colleagues descending into the abyss.

Over at Rick’s, where the four walls of the classroom are opened up by technology, Hend asks a commonly recurring question, namely how to get others engaged in what you believe to be good practice. Her question was in relation to twitter, but there have been similar discussions about dogme. For me, it’s language plants.

Just this weekend, I learnt of an activity that is promoted in UK schools to improve learner autonomy. I was attending a seminar at a conference for teachers working in independent schools. First, learners convince themselves of the proposition, such as who had the best claim to the English throne when William invaded from northern France in 1066. Then they convince their friends, working in small groups to strengthen their argument. Finally they are unleashed on their enemies, who mercilessly question their views and try to undermine them. If you are left standing after this onslaught, then you can be pretty sure you’ve got a good case.

Your enemies, those who are more questioning, or more conservative, or just less caught up in the maelstrom are not, for the most part, actively hostile towards you and your convictions. Most are just too busy doing what they’re already doing, and enjoying it, like the ones upstairs in the pub. They don’t feel the need that you do. But rather than seeing this mass as a solid, immovable and immutable brick wall, unshakeable and unyielding, some are just the slightest nudge away from taking a peek down the stairs to see what they’re missing out on. Actually, they’re not pushed, they’re pulled, drawn in by the Heikes and Shellys of this world. It must be their decision to come along for the ride. And it is. After all, we’re too busy dancing.

“The philosopher’s soul dwells in his head,
the poet’s soul is in the heart;
the singer’s soul lingers about his throat,
but the soul of the dancer abides in all her body.”
Gibran Khalil Gibran

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