Saturday, September 14, 2019

Welcome Back Day Conference - An interview with David Gibson

Our Welcome Back event is just around the corner and we couldn't be more excited to start the new academic year with three inspirational speakers who will take us on a magical journey in the world of storytelling. 

David Gibson began teaching in 1964 and retired in 2008. Throughout his long career, he taught 15 years in Elementary and Secondary schools in England, 8 years in Frontisteria in Xanthi and Thessaloniki, 8 years as teacher/trainer at the British Council, Thessaloniki and 13 years at Pinewood International School, Thessaloniki, teaching language and literature, coaching football, running guitar clubs and school bands. 

  • What do you hope participants will gain from your session?
It is my hope that participants will leave the session with, if not a new, then a deeper, understanding of the fact that we are ALL storytellers. We live by stories and we are made by them. Stories form the basis not just of language teaching but of the whole of human communication and interaction. We cannot live without stories. I am not talking just about stories that are put in books or on the stage or on film -- although these are also vitally important to any cultured society -- but about the stories of our everyday lives which draw us together, bind us together, and help to keep human life moving forward, progressing, developing, and improving. I would like everyone to join me in believing that stories -- whether told or read aloud or silently -- are as important to us as food and drink and physical exercise. Stories are needed for us all -- and not just our students -- to visualise, understand, and share the world and our experiences in it. Storytelling should, and must, have a central position in ALL teaching and not just in the teaching of language. We all NEED stories. Where can we live but in stories? I hope that the participants in my session will go away agreeing with me, if only in part -- though the last thing I want to do is to preach! Just remember: some days you tell the story, and some days the story tells you.

  • How has storytelling changed or influenced your approach to teaching?
All through my childhood in our village in the north of England, our family were dedicated churchgoers. (It all changed during my late teens -- but that's another story!) My beloved mother, for whom I would have done anything, was a Sunday school teacher and one day when I was 16 she asked me if I could help her out. She was overwhelmed by the number of children she had to deal with and asked if I could take half of them from her. What could I do? Tell them Bible stories! All my friends in the village laughed at me as I went to the church institute every Sunday afternoon in my tight black jeans and Beatles haircut (it was 1963) to spend a couple of hours with a bunch of "daft kids" instead of hanging around listening to the latest pop records. But I loved it. Of course, I couldn't actually read to them from the Bible as they were too young to understand the language. But I knew most of the stories anyway, so I just told them (like Jesus did!) Later, I got the idea of making models out of paper and cardboard with them; we made different types of churches, and what we called "Jesus houses", and in this way I discovered the power and potential of storytelling in all it can lead to and achieve. A year later, at the age of 17 (when I was kicked out of my Grammar School -- Beatles haircut, etc ...) I became a "real" teacher (yet another story!) and after that storytelling became an essential and integral part of everything I did for the next 44 (and more) years.

  • How do you feel about the role of technology in storytelling? 
"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.
  The world will have a generation of idiots".

       (Albert Einstein)

Technology might have a role in storytelling, but I believe that it is small and slight. Powerpoint might be used with large groups for displaying illustrations in picture-books, say, but from what I have seen of so-called "interactive whiteboards", for example, there appears to be very little actual HUMAN interaction going on in their use. The technological revolution has very definitely taken place, and while the genie cannot be put back in the lamp (or the toothpaste in the tube) there are still a few pig-headed souls like me who struggle to resist the ever-growing tsunami of devices and gadgets. Nothing can take the place of the intimacy that exists between the teller or reader of a story and the audience, as well as among those who listen and share the experience. Reading aloud to a group (or even to an individual) is a delightful activity for all concerned and one which is too precious to be overlooked, let alone abandoned. Other means of reading (and storytelling) can be dismissed as being no substitute for the real thing. Every book feels and looks different in your hands. Every Kindle download or e-reader looks and feels exactly the same. Electronic books look as if they contain information and very little else, while real books look as if they contain knowledge and wisdom. A storyteller-teacher is a communicator and transmitter of the latter two essentials of education --- and it won't happen through the use of gimmicky gadgets.
p.s. I've just decided that the title of my next TESOL presentation will be "Back to Books"!

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