A Shock to the System
November 30, 2011 § 6 Comments
“Every man can transform the world
from one of monotony and drabness
to one of excitement and adventure.”
The gas man came to call this morning. The water heater kept cutting out, the radiators would be nice and hot for a while, then you’d start thinking it’s a bit cold in here, touch the radiator and find it stone cold.
He tested this, fiddled with that, sucked his teeth and informed me what a botch job the cowboy before had made. Through a deliberate set of procedures though, he determined the cause and replaced the right part. My gloveless hands are testament to his success.
If only learning were that easy. We’re not machines, things go in one ear and out the other, and we have to do things again and again. We learn to add s to make plurals, only to start putting ‘s when we learn about possessives.
And on Monday, on a trip up to Halifax in the lovely Pennine Hills in the north of England, where I spent a fabulous day teaching and demonstrating, at one point I had to pull over to let an ambulance pass. The bright blue lights flashing in my mirror and the cacophony of wails and whoops and screeches are designed to catch attention. The good old days of nee nah nee nah are long gone. The trouble is, monotony is boring. We don’t even notice it after a while. We need a greater shock to the system.
This is one of the reasons that the ESOL learners at Calderdale College loved the activities we did with Language Garden so much. Seeing words bend and branch before their eyes, the text takes on a personality of its own almost. They didn’t know what was going to happen next, what was suddenly going to sprout out from the blank white screen, the visual equivalent of an ambulance siren.
And when I invited them to put the words back in in Puzzle, they were up out of their seats like they were burning their backsides on a scorching radiator. Like, I’m pleased to say, I can now do.
“The true art of memory
is the art of attention.”