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Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE…(Pt 03)

This little image "captures" the one we looked at yesterday...

...the "pacing" dilemma that many "subject" or discipline teachers face. As I mentioned, many of these maths, biology and social science teachers often feel that they "get stuck" between these two "choices" - the only two choices many of them feel their curriculum and pacing guides offer them. Getting stuck between a "rock" and a (very) "hard place" in this way is never a good feeling - it stresses us out, impacts our levels of self-efficacy and generally takes the "fun" outta TEACHing... I also noted that while so-called ELT and ELL "experts" were aware of all the problems related to pacing systems and guides, they still decided to "import" them into the world of language learning and teaching. The thing is, to date, we only have blog postings like Dave's "The Song Remains The Same" to tell us how ELT teachers might be feeling about these - and we know how anecdotal and unreliable those bloody bloggers can be. So, and because I liked the idea of the "image" above - I decided to run a little research project to see what these teachers thought. I asked a few teachers (all the ones I knew that had not gone on holiday) to take a read of Part 01 and Part 02 - and use the same kind of image to "summarise" what they thought I was saying and how that related to the "rocks" and the "hard places" they had experienced. Yes, I know...not very "scientific"...not entirely "best practice" in terms of "research practice"...but I wanted to try and get at some "gut reactions" that illustrated the feelings ELL teachers have about "pacing guides". Besides, you know you have to take everything I say with a pitch of salt - I is a bloody blogger, too! Besides...what came out of it was really interesting.  These four responses ("read" them clockwise) were pretty typical of what my pals noted:

Hey, nobody said this blog was an easy read! I thought it was interesting that all the teachers focussed on "ME" (not "me", as in Tony, but "ME" as in "the teacher") - they clearly see the core pressure of pacing guides from their "own perspective". This is pretty normal - they are the ones that have to interpret these guides, come up with ways to breathe life into them - and take them into the classroom. They are, sadly, also the ones who get "cracked over the head" when too many students "fail" - or worse, when the school drops a rung or two on the "stats" - or league tables we so-oft fabricate! Now, I did not specifically mention "tests" as such in the posts - so it was surprising to see that 3 out of 4 highlighted them as a "pressure factor" (and perhaps, more interestingly, did not use the term "assessment"). But, I'm thunking that this means some teachers see a very clear link between assessment and curriculum (and pacing guides)! Mmmm - think about that more shall I! OK - I did mention no surprise that half of them note this...what did strike me (in the last one) is that textbooks and tests were "combined" as a "double threat". I didn't worry about that one too much - because that 4th image also had something a wee bit unexpected, too...and something that was pretty common in many of the responses to my little "survey"! If we look closely (and as I suggested in Part 02), we do also see something else starting to "creep" into some of the feedback from my respondents...

The little buggars - as bad as those "evil" administrators and "damn" curriculum and testing units! OK - my little "experiment" was fun! I had gleaned a better idea of what ELT people felt "the rocks" and "the hard places" were all about. But, this "feedback" left me feeling a bit like....well, you can see the picture!

  1. Keeping on racing through their textbooks...without exploring their themes or relating them to students' lives

  2. Revertingto traditional forms of teacher-centered "spoon-feeding” and "grammer practice activities"

  3. Dropping "topics" ("speaking" comes to mind) because they are not on the "tests" Again, these "choices" are typical of another phenomenon we also introduced in Part 01:

  1. How had students "LEARNed" this stuff - these attitudes?

  2. What happened to them? Most of us already know the answers to these questions - SCHOOL happened to all of them...CURRICULUM happened to all of them...ASSESSMENT happened to all of them - so they must have also LEARNed this stuff from "us"...their TEACHERS. Gulp! So, what we end up with is a pretty dire situation. "Rocks" and "hard places" all over the bloody show! Everyone feeling as if they are the ones who "get stuck" or "squeezed". Everyone blaming everyone else for what's going on. More importantly, if teachers and their learners are BOTH making the types of "choices" we see here, doesn't that show us that they are truely missing the point...

LEARNing, especially Language LEARNing, is not something that can be “packaged up” and “paced” into LEARNers – is not “ekmek” and cannot be delivered along with the morning newspaper by a cheerful “kapıcı” (yes, and Google Translate is still as dumb as ever)! Could it be that SCHOOL, CURRICULUM and ASSESSMENT (or a "specific version" of all three) had also "happened" to teachers - at least here in canım Türkiye?

I need a Part 04, don't I?

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