Having been a gloomy bugger these last few weeks, it was nice to be tagged by both Steve Brown and Genevieve White on their blogs for the recent run of blog posts where you get tagged by a fellow blogger, write 11 random facts about yourself, answer eleven questions posted by that blogger, then tag eleven others to answer element of your own questions.
I’m going to cheat on the last of these, as pretty much all of the eleven bloggers I would mention have already been tagged and posted, as far as I can tell. So I’m going to finish with eleven questions, and leave it open to you whether or not you answer them. Or maybe you just think about them for yourself and never ask them. Up to you.
Right. Eleven random facts.
1. I am the oldest of four boys, all more or less two and a half years older than the next youngest, all with Biblical names, although mine is the only Old Testament one.
2. Never, ever say to me “help yourself” unless you really really mean it.
3. My reading swings between very real non-fiction and utterly unreal fantasy/SF.
4. Both my children share names with jazz greats, but weren’t named specifically after them.
5. Depending on brand of shoe, my shoe size is 12 or 13. I therefore hate it when a shop assistant brings me an eleven, “in case it fits” and consequently buy all my shoes online.
6. Drinks, if you ever meet me in a bar, in order of preference: interesting proper beer, Guinness, mass produced lager, grassy-lemony dry white wine, thick and dirty red wine. Thanks. But just wine if you come to visit.
7. I have a yellow front door.
8. I grew up in Banbury in Oxfordshire, but was born in Swindon. The former is famous for a nursery rhyme, the latter for…. for…. erm, well, I’ll get back to you.
9. My favourite country and only destination for emigration is New Zealand.
10. I am an atheist, although more of the live and let live sort than the radical “all religion is evil” variety.
11. I ride a bike mainly for fun and commuting, with exercise as the useful side effect, rather than the other way round.
So, Steve’s questions:
1 What motivated you to start working in education?
English. I like the language, I like doing stuff with it and, if I’m honest, it all really started as a way to make a living while I worked on my fantasy of writing a novel. I’ve still not finished the novel.
2 What is it about teaching that makes it a “profession”?
Hmm. Tricky. I know what it isn’t. It isn’t about being a member of professional organisations, or about managed professional processes, or about who you work for. Professionalism is a state of mind, and is reflected in the way in which you are perceived by people around you.
3 Is language a subject?
Yes. Is that too easy? It’s a subject especially when studied objectively as a thing to be learned rather than as a thing you need to use for a particular purpose. It’s the difference between knowing the way to do something and actually being able to do it. Cf. know-that vs know-how.
4 What can you not do that you would like to do?
Speak Turkish. It’s an agglutinative language with infixes, which is the sort of thing that excites me. I’d also like to be able to repair a bike beyond just the odd flat tyre and adjustment.
5 What do you do that you wish you didn’t do?
Eat too many sweet things.
6 What’s the best bit about your current job?
I’ll come back to you later on that one.
7 What “big idea” are you currently turning over in your mind?
Not so much of a big idea, but a big reflection. Are there universals in education, things which can be applied, consistently, effectively and without exception to all types of education? My instinct is no, but I think people would like the answer to be yes.
8 What’s the best place you’ve lived in?
Devonport, Auckland. I had to travel across the bay by ferry to get to work. The local pub served good food and better beer. There was a lovely second hand bookshop, super friendly library and a small local cinema. We could take a quiet evening stroll up the side of a long extinct volcano and see lovely views to a not so long extinct volcanic island. There was a beach five minutes walk from my front door. An hour or so’s drive in any direction, more or less, took you into places of stunning natural beauty. If there’s anything in that list which is unpleasant, do let me know.
9 Who is the most annoying person on television at the moment?
Television? Since the advent of iPlayer and similar on demand TV, I have started being deeply picky about the TV I watch, so I can’t think of anyone particularly annoying! Possibly some of the people on the very early morning Cbeebies programmes, the ones which are a bit dated, and with which I associate sitting with children and feeling guilty about being too tired to read or do something creative.
10 When did you last learn a new word, and what was it?
uhtceare and I read it in the Etymologicon, but properly demonstrated learning it, that is, formally produced it without looking it up or checking it first, the other week in my especially gloomy blog post.
11 Where would you rather be right now?
It’s the Christmas holiday, my favourite of all the breaks across the academic year, and I’m at home, and am quite happy where I am!
And Genevieve’s questions:
1 When and where are you happiest?
At the moment I’d be very specific and say in my front room, with my family, opening presents on Christmas morning!
2 What makes you want to cry?
All sorts. Any time children are being badly treated, in particular.
3 Do you think Scottish independence is a good idea?
For Scotland, probably yes, for the rest of the UK, probably no. But I’m quite happy, personally, for Scotland to be independent.
4 What is your unsung talent?
Tricky. I have none that I can think of…
5 What is your all time favourite ELT activity?
The NASA game (in Penny Ur, Discussions that Work) or anything like that. I really like that sort of free speaking task which generates lots of discussion and lots of language. I also like just walking in and seeing what happens, although that doesn’t quite count as an activity, really!
6 Where do you write your blogs?
Using an iPad, mainly either sitting on my sofa in the bay window of my living room, or on the train to work. (This is why, just for the record, some of my posts may appear in full 1000+ word form during work time, as they upload when I hit the work networks.)
7 With which literary character do you identify most?
Hmmm, tricky. I really thought about this, as a reader, and I couldn’t pin it down to one character. Depending on my mood and inclination, then sometimes John Wheelwright, the narrator in A Prayer for Owen Meany, sometimes Grady Tripp in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (a good novel, but his Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is awesome, as in awe inspiring, as in probably my favourite book ever in the history of books), and more often than not the Gruffalo.
8 If you were an ELT teaching approach which would you be and why?
Dogme isn’t really an approach, but it does reflect me in lots of ways, in that I haven’t planned my life, but tend to work things out as I go along.
9 What would your last ever meal be?
Cheese, bread and pickles. With beer.
10 Where do you think you’ll be ten years from now?
In ten years I’ll be balder and greyer with two teenage children, so who knows. I generally like where I am now, but I’d like to be writing more, maybe with my name on the cover of something. More for kudos than cash, but any money would be nice.
11 Who would play you in a film about your life?
I used to say Kenneth Branagh about the time when be made that version of Frankenstein, because we both had long bushy ginger blond hair and terrible beards, and my girlfriend at the time fancied him. Now, though, I’m not so sure!
To finish, then, my questions.
1. What is the best thing about teaching?
2. …and the worst?
3. What made you start blogging?
4. Have you ever said or done anything online which you regret? (Tell us more…)
5. If you were sent to teach in some remote, non-computer connected corner of the world, what book would you take with you? Why?
6. Do you think that in five years you will be a better teacher, a different teacher, or just the same?
7. What would you do if you had to stop being a teacher?
8. Which song or piece of music affects you most deeply? Why?
9. What is your worst habit?
10. Are there any specific experiences or events which have shaped you as a teacher?
11. How many students in a class is too many?