Sunday, February 15, 2009


Well, I have given 2 trainings and have one left in Tokyo. I will be nervous from Saturday, but until then, I will simply write about my experience so far. 

People always think I am not nervous. My pal Lisa said, "You have a combination of a calm demeanor, genkiness (spiritedness) to keep everyone excited, and a nice voice". Thanks, Lisa, but truth be told, my digestive system is whacked out completely from the night before, only giving me respite once I get on stage. 

Being up there in front of everyone makes you wholly committed. My sis-in-law's friend once walked off the stage as she was beginning a one woman show. Kathryn said, "She did what everyone wants to do." I thought this made sense, what Kathryn said, but actually, I don't want to walk off. I want to shine.

I also want desperately, to make sense. To be inclusive, to stick to my main point, to bring everything full circle, to make people say, "Oh, yes, I hadn't thought of that" or "Oh, man, I thought it was just me!" or "Yes, I can do that" or "I don't get it, I will have to ask her after". The last one is important for me. 

I got several important bits of feedback from participants. One of the most thought provoking was from a Japanese teacher, who said that she felt that what I had proposed for the parents to do (be involved in their children's English homework and to make comments about how their child did) was too much for parents. I agreed that it could seem this way, but thought for a moment, and said that if teacher could help parents understand that their involvement would make a difference, and that they can be of use, then maybe they would find their effort worth it. 

Parents need to be educated, and certain parents more than others. Speaking with my Longman colleagues, I had an ah-ha moment when one said it is precisely the "education mothers" who need to be educated about education. They are so ignorant, that they want their child to learn anything and everything, at any cost. This ignorance makes them total nightmares, pressuring their kids, making teachers crazy, and probably graying their own hairs. 

Parents and children should not feel pressured any more than they should feel happy to be learning. Learning should be fun, and if it is seen as having a grander purpose, say, having fun learning a practical thing, then the goal becomes a purpose. When parents and children learn together to achieve common knowledge (shared schema), using and sharing that in their everyday lives, they move into a practical purposeful life, where new meaning can be exchanged, and connections can be made. 

My personal experience of reading a story to my mother is always a reminder of this. In second grade, I read a book called, Bunnicula, about a vampire bunny. It was cute, engaging, and I hated to put it down. I read to Mom as she drove me 45 minutes to school everyday. We talked about that book a lot that year, and also over the years. It became a shared experience, something we enjoyed together. I learned about the joy of reading a good book, and received an A+ on my book report, which she saved. Learning together was fun, and the car was a shared learning space.

I tell parents to create an English space (I should tell my audience this...), to have a cushion or a corner that you use for English time. Then, use that English time language when you are doing other things. Simple things, like telling your child it is time to "sit down" at the table. Or, "stand up" so you can pick up something they sat on. 

My love of reading a good book started in the passenger seat of the car, but eventually I could drive that car, a metaphor for taking shared learning into my own hands. I hope that parents who embrace a role in their child's learning will see their little one drive, too. 

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