Leap of faith

I have been doing a lot of reading recently of blogs and articles to do with Dogme and unplugged teaching. It was while reading Dale Coulter’s blog http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/category/learning-and-teaching/reflections/ that I saw his post about the parallels he drew between a Surfer waiting to catch the perfect wave and a Dale, himself, waiting for the perfect point to kick start a change in direction in his lesson. It’s a great read.

I had the blog swimming about my head throughout the week and it was ever present as I went climbing that very weekend. I have recently made friends with some like minded people who are all very seasoned climbers and I mentioned that I would like to start climbing again and so on Sunday I was promptly whisked away to an awesome climbing spot here in Cantabria.

After some easy warm up climbs I embarked on a slightly harder route and halfway up, after taking a quick rest, the blog popped up again and I began to think of how my experience with Dogme was very similar to that of my now very real climbing experience. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and completed the climb. But as the day wore on the similarities kept coming. If you don’t know much about climbing I will keep it very simple and the same goes for Dogme.

My experience of Dogme started earlier this year and has really changed the way I approach teaching and has ignited a passion for learning I didn’t know actually existed in me. Climbing is something I have always enjoyed and it helped me to conquer my fear of heights and continuously push me both physically and mentally. And here is where the comparisons start to begin for me.

I view a Dogme lesson as the route I’m about to climb. I take a look at it from several angles and get an idea of where I want to start. I consult my climbing partner, who could be seen as your colleagues, DOS, or even the Teaching unplugged book. I ask for their opinion and get some feedback. I tie in and start to climb. I enter the classroom and start to teach. My initial plan about the route I want to take, is taking some time but I persevere and suddenly I make some ground and have some good handholds and solid foot placements. The students are interested in the initial idea and begin to engage. I slowly make my way along the route, occasionally I can’t find the right move to execute but feel around and move when I’m sure it’s good. Everything is going well in the lesson, language is emerging and I’m dealing with it in the way that I feel is best. There is a feeling of excitement and fear that drives me on. Suddenly I come to a point in the route that I feel as though I can’t overcome. I have a good base to work from but not the handholds in which to pull myself into the final section. I don’t panic and breathe deeply, I think back to my climbing partners words of encouragement and advice. The lesson is stuttering a little and I’m not sure where it’s going now. The activity is slowly petering out and I wasn’t ready for it. Now is the time for a leap of faith. I push up steadily and under control, keeping close to the wall I slowly bring my arms and hands up the face of the wall feeling for the hold I need. A student says something that catches my attention, I ask them to repeat it and quickly turn it over in my mind. A slight panic at first but then,,,,,,, got it! The perfect hold and I steady, find another and I’m moving, pushing on to the end. Perfect I have a new direction for the lesson, “working with your partner I want you to……..”. I finish out of breath, exhilarated by the challenge and with the remains of the adrenaline still pumping through my body I want to climb again. Class is over, I’m smiling the students are smiling and we are all excited about the next class.

For me, on both counts, the most important part is being prepared to take a ‘leap of faith’. I imagine that for most people the above description is slightly over the top. But for anyone thinking of trying Dogme for the first time, or even climbing, take a leap of faith. Most of the time it will take you to places that you never thought were possible. Sometimes you fall. Be safe in the knowledge that if you do your climbing partner is there to back you up, give you some well needed encouragement and words of wisdom to see you on your way again.