The topic of schools, schooling, and education is one that frequently comes up. The reason is simple: education is of the utmost importance and many agree that our school systems do not provide a positive environment for learning. The whole structure is unnatural and forces kids and adults (the teachers) into a strait jacket that might fit some, but most it doesn’t.
There have been many educators who tried to fight for better educational concepts, better schools, for approaches to education that consider the psychological nature of humans and cater to our minds and nurture our brain’s fascinating capability to figure things out, to recognize patterns, to be curious about our surroundings – and enjoy the whole process.
Being nice and treating each other with respect does not mean only saying what others want to hear. Harmony and cooperation is created by honest communication.
This post is about constructive feedback, and how important honest exchange is in every aspect of our lives. Avoiding open disagreement, hiding things away or pretending to be on the same emotional and intellectual plane when you are not, causes tensions and hurtful feelings; the opposite of what we actually intend.
In the short video below, the speaker, Bo Seo, argues that openly disagreeing with each other instead of pretending to be on the same level leads to richer human relationships.
This topic can be supplemented by pages from the chapter on candor in the book about Netflix’s company culture: No Rules Rules (summary of the book’s main points under link).
The word(s) of the year, sometimes capitalized as “Word(s) of the Year” and abbreviated “WOTY” (or “WotY“), refers to any of various assessments as to the most important word(s) or expression(s) in the public sphere during a specific year from: Wikipedia)
The pages below are from Louise Penny’s Gamache series book 16. It plays in Paris, France. The exerpt is an exchange between the wife of the main protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache from the Canadian Sureté, herself a retired librarian who worked in top position at Québec’s Bibliothèque et Archives nationales, and the Chief Archivist of the Archives Nationales in Paris.
The page below is from a very recently published novel. The author has written a large number of highly successful stories, many of which have been adapted to movies. He likes experimenting with different genres from science fiction, magic realism, fantasy, crime and suspense, to name just a few. His books often relate to current topics of social or political relevance, and frequently, though not always, include supernatural elements or twists. All stories evolve around human relations and conflicts. His strength lies in creating atmoshere and drawing the reader into the story – you feel you are there. He creates complex characters and a vivid sense and atmosphere of the locations or places where events unfold.
The article and quiz ‘Are you an extrovert or an introvert (and why it matters) (link below) is related to a TEDtalk from 2012 by Susan Cain; Quiet: The Power of Introverts. This issue has forcefully come up again during corona times in connection with how people feel about having to work alone from home.
In relation to this, the BBC article Why introverts excelled at working from home deals with the question what kind of personality types are supported by which kind of work. Or in other words: do ‘traditional’ office jobs favor louder, more visible and extroverted people at the expense of introverts – whose time has now come?
Guess which ‘classic’ the following text passage is from.
The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood on its own and looked out over a broad spread of West Country farmland. Not a remarkable house by any means – it was about thirty years old, squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as well, tall, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio, which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they probably thought. It was, too – most of his friends worked in advertising.
During the pandemic, the topics of work-life balance, healthy work environments, satisfying work etc. came even more into focus than they had before. Work environments underwent dramatic changes in various lockdown situations. Whereas in many jobs or professions, employees and workers had no choice as to continue going to their respective work places, others, especially office workers, experienced working from home as a new normal.
Towards the end of the pandemic or the emergency situations, discussions intensified about how people wanted to work in future: which changes induced by the pandemic situation would they like to keep, where would they like to go back to how things were before – if at all – and what was truly missed.
Check the texts below. Tip: Before you start filling in appropriate forms, note what kind of text you are dealing with. Is it a technical text, non-fiction, opinion, part of a novel etc. Certain text types tend to be structured and written in a certain way. In a novel, for instance, a narrator tells a story mostly using a past tense form. Nevertheless, the story-telling feels immediate or present, which is why you would find something like: All was quiet tonight – ‘tonight’ suggesting present time. For this reason, some call the past tense form in stories ‘literary past tense’: though using the past tense, the story still feels as if it is unfolding ‘now’ while you are reading (see also: Tenses in fiction writing).
Below you find an adapted and abbreviated version of an article from the New York Times reported by Andrew Higgins. He describes the situation of many young Russian men who are trying to escape their home country in a desperate attempt to evade being pulled into a war they do not support.
In the UK and several other countries, research institutes and companies are trying out different ways of working. One such project is the trial run of a four day week instead of the traditional five. Below you find an adaptation of the text from The Guardian, supplemented with a little gap-filling exercise.
One of the research institutes involved in this project is the thinktank Autonomy. On their website you find a little video titled Change the Week.
I’ve been going through my collection of material – something I do every once in a while – and came across these little film synopses you find below. In the past, each of my course participants would get one to read out loud and for the others to guess. Simple little exercise, but I’m always relieved that there is at least a little common cultural ground we share, even if only some classic movies we all seem to have seen.
Tolerance for uncertainty does not seem to be one of humanities biggest strengths. We sometimes seem more willing to believe lies when asserted or claimed strongly (and grammatically) as facts (thereby becoming truth) than live with an answer like ‘It depends’.
With one of my groups, we never got past the warmer question that asked us to put a list of six cities into a ranking order of ‘greenness’. The discussion triggered by this task was about why these cities had made the list, who had come up with the ranking and, most importantly, what were the criteria for being considered a green city.
Very often, the verb system of English, and maybe also of other languages, is described under the aspect of time. In German, this even finds its expression in the grammar term ‘Zeiten’ for different verb structures. Though not completely incorrect, this creates a focus that places too much emphasis on ‘time’, thereby giving learners of English a distorted perspective on the various aspects and/or meanings of verb structures.
Do you know what a finial is? In one of the Spotlight issues from 2020, Judith Gilbert, writer, editor and translator, wrote a little column titled ‘Words for Nerds’. Here she lists a number of words most people probably never heard of, and which demonstrate that it is impossible to know all the words of any language. They are all nouns denoting special little items of everyday life. See if you can find out what they are with the help of internet images. Do you know the term for the thing in your own native language?
I always like going through the Oscar nomination ballot sheet that lists all categories and films. It offers great general vocabulary practice, not just specifically film related. Going through the titles, finding out if anyone has already watched some of the nominated films, looking at trailers and synopsies of the films – all this I always find quite enjoyable even if – in most cases – we haven’t seen so many of the films.