A Janus–like View

In order to continue along the path that I have chosen, it’s
necessary to adopt a Janus-like view. My aim is to document the
good lessons we had; enhance to lesson-readiness those which
were not quite ready in time; and throw in a few other similar
ones for good measure. More than that cannot be done in the
holidays, without live participants: who are always one’s essential
point of reference…
I’m basing myself – as I have stated – on what might be defined as
the ‘Observe, Listen and Understand’ premise of the Oxford
Bookworms series (not made explicit by OUP or anyone else,
however…how English is supposed to be imparted remains a
considerable professional mystery…!)

The idea has however – and luckily – a wonderful built-in
impetus. It’s as old as the hills, but it’s surprising how widely
people have forgotten one essential truth: kindle your students’
interest with something gripping, and thereafter learning becomes
automatic, because desired. I’ve excised some of the dross of the
lessons I’ve given, retaining only the finest flower, chiefly two
representative lessons about Scotland; along with a handful of
other things.
A bit in the manner of the Italian language institute, the
Accademia della Crusca, whose symbol is chaff, winnowed from
fine corn… (See Lesson Five….) Chaff is what’s left after you have
removed the good part of the crop. Here is a room in their very
fine villa in Florence.

So, guided by the summery French composers Francis Poulenc
and Gabriel Grovlez, let us retrace our footsteps to The Old Man
of Stoer in Sutherland, north-west Scotland, where a class and I
adventured a few months ago, fortunately indoors, and without
having to swim in the sea or risk our necks climbing a pinnacle.

It is a lesson which tells us some encouraging things about the
learning progress, and I have recorded and analyzed it in detail…
Here is the lesson transcript – the document itself incorporates
my notes aimed at discovering where difficulties for the students
may lie; but since these do not present themselves on Scribd, I
make use of them in a different way shortly – and begins with a
short ice-breaker about Easter (unrelated to Scotland). My edited
version of the film we watched can be found by clicking this link.
The second text, which we then studied as an appropriate follow-
up to the film, is given below, with one or two appropriate images;
it may be glanced at before exploring the links. Our thanks go to
the writer of the blog from which this extract is borrowed, and for
the two photographs accompanying it; as well as to the makers of
the film. These creators together, pursuing a similar theme, have
allowed my students (and I hope others) to set out on a related
learning journey in their turn…

When I arrived at Stoer Lighthouse it looked like I had made the right
decision: While there was still a lot of mist in the distance it had
brightened up and looked like the sun might break through. But my
hopes were soon dashed, with more mist rolling in again shortly after I left
for the walk. As I was already on my way I decided to continue anyway.

Walking over the western flank of Sidhean Mor I spotted the Old Man of
Stoer through the mist. Someone in a yellow jacket stood on the cliffs
above it, taking pictures. While the mist created a certain spooky
atmosphere it wasn't exactly helpful when trying to take pictures of a sea
stack. But luck was on my side again: suddenly the mist lifted and some
hazy sunshine broke through, giving me a great view of the Old Man of
Stoer. I even had some unexpected action:

While I was taking pictures I suddenly heard the sound of a helicopter's
rotor. Looking up I saw a helicopter approaching very low over the sea,
flying quite close to the stack. As the Old Man of Stoer is only 200ft
(60m) high it probably wasn't flying much higher than 150ft. It all
happened very quickly, I only managed to take the two quick snaps of the
helicopter below.

From the Old Man of Stoer I continued northwards towards the Point of
Stoer. I found a nice rock on a cliff overlooking the Point of Stoer where I
sat down and had my lunch, enjoying the mild sunshine. Refreshed I
walked past the Point of Stoer for a view north and east, but the mist and
low clouds pretty much prevented any good views. With more mist and
low clouds coming in again I decided against walking back over Sidhean
Mor and Sidhean Beag and returned along the coastal path I had walked
out on.

A last view of the Old Man of Stoer from the north before the mist closed
in again, reducing visibility significantly. I had timed my walk almost to
perfection, having been at my destination for the short time the sun broke

Armin Grewe’s images of Stoer and Tony Grist’s fabulous ‘Janus’

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