Muhahaha. Let’s get the skeletons out of the pedagogical closet. These are the prompts Natasha gave us this month:
Ghostbusters! (It is Halloween, after all!)…Are there are demons in your teaching and learning closet? Any fright-nights to share? Maybe a trick or treat in your curriculum? Play with the ideas and themes associated with this season, and think about how they can help to explore or explain your teaching practice.
Hm That is actually a tricky one, no pun intended. I don’t really have any fright nights. Only bumps and hiccups. But nothing really scary. So maybe it’s more about a story of dark time and change.
13:30 a dreich day. The shadows are way too long already. It feels later. It feels like closing down the email client and crawling under a blanket. We are entering the darkest period of the year. And somehow an opaque memory tells me I should be lighting a fire, make hot chocolate, and tell stories. 17:00 and it is pitch black outside, the rain is relentless. Maybe I ought to add blanket and woollen socks to the list. The question is: what stories to tell on a dreich, dark, windy day?
Things that go bump at night
So I don’t really have fright nights, but things that go bump at night stories. One of which is: I had started out teaching, and one of the last things to get a hang of in an additional language is humour. Imagine, a big lecture hall, I am in the flow, story telling, the students are with me, I make a joke…suddenly crickets. Dead ☠️ silence. Didn’t know what went wrong, in my German language Brain I just said something funny, but I can’t even remember the joke. Now that I am more confident when things go bump I address these head on but in this particular situation, I didn’t know what to do and bumbled my way back into the teaching.
Another bump was: you know one of these days when your energy isn’t quite right, and you stand in front of a room with well over 100 students, and you try to get their attention, get the teaching going, but completely flatline. After 5 or 10 painful and dreary minutes. I just stopped. I said to the room, this isn’t working is it? Some hesitant embarrassed shrugs, eyes pointed at the desk but nodding reaction. Well, it isn’t working for me either. So why don’t we stop? I could physically feel the mutual relief in the room, and you tell me what you need. What is it for which you need some advice, information, chat about? Surprised expressions, turning to friends, and embarrassed silence. Well, if there is one classroom management strategy I can do; it is sitting with silence. After a while, when the realisation dawned that I was serious, hands went up. Questions where thrown, worries expressed, and we had a long and very engaged chat.
Tricks and Treats
One trick and one treat story.
I was preparing my tutorial class of trainee teachers for their oral presentation assignment, and the class had asked me to give them an example presentation. You should have seen the faces. Instead of preparing a PowerPoint I brought a Mindmap and gave my presentation with the Mindmap. Since these were trainee teachers I build in reflections on learning and teaching activities in each session. So I asked outright what they made of the Mindmap and I loved my students for their honesty, a couple admitted they were shocked and had hoped I would bring a PowerPoint. So I laughed and said: so you could write down the structure of the presentation. They laughed and said yes. One admitted they were ready to note down the structure and use it for their own presentation. We ended up having a good discussion about the assessment, which went really well in the following week. And instead of getting variations of my own presentation, they were all unique and build on the strength of each student one even used a Mindmap.
As a non-native English speaker one thing that always tripped me up was that the exam period is called: exam diet. So my inner stand-up comedienne always runs weird and wonderful diet stories. One year I decided to create a series of exam preparation workshops all themed around food and dieting. I made menu cards, and diet restrictions with exam tips. The drop-in sessions were set up like a take away buffet with handouts at various food stations and I bought sweets and fresh fruit for the students to take with them.