Thursday, March 26, 2009

Narcissus buds, and making the most of roleplay in the ELT classroom.

After some rather disappointing and frustrating efforts with the Inktense pencils, when I wondered if my competence was up to the medium, I'm quite pleased with this one. They really are more like painting than drawing, with the concommitent relative difficulty in controlling the result, and the unpredictable brightness and and intensity of colour and consequent risk of heavy-handedness are still a little unnerving. I still wish I could be more subtle and delicate and understated in drawing and painting, and indeed photography, and cooking, and probably everything I do, but there we are.

I was also quite pleased because I didn't use any photos for the picture, but sat down with a cup of tea after an afternoon's grass-cutting (I initially typed 'lawn mowing' there, but that is rather to glamourise the activity and our grass...) and drew the plants quite quickly. I find the buds of these late narcissus very attractive, with a touch of allium shapeliness about them.

I never draw or paint anything larger than A4, in order to be able to scan it.


Something rather good has happened with my students. We suddenly find they are capable of roleplays in class. Roleplay in language teaching can be dismal, if it isn't pitched right, if the right language isn't provided and drilled first, if the subject is unclear or inappropriate, or if the students simply lack the confidence or the desire or don't understand what they're supposed to be doing and why. So we haven't done a great deal before, but they must be making some progress as they are doing it and enjoying it now. And I enjoy it too, as it feels less like I'm having to pull them along all the time, and it's really quite entertaining sometimes to see what they come up with.

I find if I prowl around listening to try to help them while they are preparing, they become inhibited, or get distracted, so I tend to place my chair in the middle of the horseshoe of tables, and listen, and chip in occasionally when it sounds like they need it. It helps too if it looks like I'm purposefully occupied, rather than watching them or gazing into space. So I began jotting. It's a nice way of reclaiming a little bit of space and time for myself while working, and at the same time being engaged with people round me. Here are some results. I tidied them up and completed them a bit afterwards.


Head down listening
laughter in two languages
my eyes here, ears there.

Restaurant roleplay

Somewhere in the main course the appetite falters.
It's too late to ask for a clean fork,
and the table by the window proves to be draughty.
You wonder what the bill will be, and get ready to leave,
feeling that you could have chosen better, though
the starter and the sticky toffee pudding weren't too bad.


Outside, a tailless magpie flies
into a St Andrew's cross
of faded jet trails,
and the plane tree buds
chase on the tails
of last year's pompoms.


Raymonde wears beads
of cranberry resin,
and a scarf striped like a bee.
The antsy child spills out
from the busy, urbane woman
of a certain age. Beneath
the peppered-and-salted centre parting,
the odd black bob,
the mischief is infectious.

(Raymonde drove me mad for several years, then I realised how fond I was of her.)

A few more minutes

A few more minutes, another sip of juice,
striped socks with ballerina laces,
and Sunday will be a grasse matinée.


Julia said...

I think you found the right style for those pencils! I like the intensity of the buds that look like they are about to spring into bloom, the repetition of the leaves as they cascade.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh Lucy! What treasures in one post. Poetry and your lush picture. I love visiting here..... am never, ever disappointed.

jzr said...

Love the narcissus drawing!! Keep up your wonderful creativity!!

Plutarch said...

Your drawing has captured better than a photograph could the pregnant nature of buds, their fullness of promise.

Rouchswalwe said...

You've captured the movement of the leaves as though they are happily looking forward to the coming blossoms. Your wonderful description of roleplays in class and the Haiku have me fondly remembering my years teaching in western Japan. Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher, Lucy!

Barrett Bonden said...

There is more in the initial pic than I can decently handle in a mere blog comment. There's no point in my saying it's good because that's a given, I need to say why and that's too hard. I bounce like a ping-pong ball between Box Elder and The Prague Polymath, somewhat out of my depth. However, I can be decisive about one thing. I love the changed decor for your home page pic but it's time to reconsider the strap. I don't think the faux modesty works any more. If it ever did.

julie said...

Beautiful drawing and poetry, Lucy. Your students don't know what treasure is sitting in their midst!

marja-leena said...

I chime in along with the others... fabulous drawing and poems, the latter reveal a sensitive and excellent teacher. I agree with Barrett that you must stop being so modest, Lucy!

christopher said...

I just love your posts. I wish I had time to leave you a poem.

I saw you draw them,
couldn't believe my blue eyes:
Green magic boquet.

Lady Prism said...


So alive!! :>

Sheila said...

What fun, to imagine you sitting there in the midst of your class, doing this. I love it.

lola said...

oh Lucy - a fine renaissance woman ye are .... step forward out of the shadows! all these beautiful talents. if i happened by your narcissus, i would buy with no quibbling the cost. they are lovely! you will have to post something more .... 'wretched' with the inktense pens before i will begin to believe your doubts!

the poetry .... and the slice of life from class. i taught language arts in the fall for my student teaching. my favorite subject hands down. if i am fortunate enough to get a job in that department - i'll be knocking on your door for HELP! students have no idea what a treasure you are!

lucky them.


Crafty Green Poet said...

gorgeous painting! Interesting thoughts about role play too, as someone who has attended language evening classes full of role play, I'm aware of how problematic they can be

Barrett Bonden said...

Re belated aesthetic judgement on pic. I'd buy it.

Lucy said...

Well thank you very much for the nice comments.

I have no formal ELT qualifications but have done quite a bit of it. While I was away, both Tall Girl and Plutarch asked how much I enjoyed the work, and I was aware I was in danger of getting a bit stale, and needed to find a way of injecting some freshness into it, and make it more interesting for myself and the students. I don't know that I'm the most talented and dynamic of teachers; I find people on ELT sites on the web sho seem far more gifted and motivated, but it seems to have picked up somewhat lately.

Re the displaced dilettante. I am rather attached to the epithet now, and find no shame in either part of it. I am unquestionably displaced, coming from one country, living in another, and not feeling that I particularly belong to either, and not unhappy with this state. 'Dilettante' was not always such so perjorative; its etymological history resembles that of 'amateur'. Formerly it was simply a lover of things cultural and artistic. Its current sense is one whose interest in a subject is 'superficial not professional'. Unlike the Prague Polymath, since none of my talents extends as far as having made a successful career from any of them, (whether through their limitations or my laziness, and what's the difference anyway?) I am and will ever remain a dilettante!

While I am very flattered by the compliment, I don't think I'll sell the picture, but will happily e-mail it full-size on receipt of an e-mail address!

Barrett Bonden said...

I bow to your wishes. Without checking the word has always meant "dabbler" to me, and in that sense is self-libel.

The pic. Nah. I'd feel it had been soiled by passing through the guts of all those computers. But I didn't hint at a price. I have bought (even commissioned) several originals and my initial offer has always stopped up the mouth of the artist with pleasant surprise. Just because I have a nodding acquaintance with someone doesn't mean I trade on that to get a cheaper deal. Rather the reverse. However I admit it's difficult to overcome the double whammy of high ideals and independent wealth.

The Crow said...

Your drawing is beautiful, Lucy. My daffodills aren't up yet, so I will enjoy your art all the more until they do.

lola said...

well call me shameful, but i'd LOVE a copy of your narcissus via email:

should you be so inclined. good move. i regret giving away all my personal art ages ago ... now i have nothing to show for my long ago efforts. yours is a keeper, to be certain!!


Dave said...

I still wish I could be more subtle and delicate and understated
Some of us are condemned to be dramatic, I guess. I figure as long as it's merely drama and not melodrama, I'm doing O.K.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, you are so right about pretending to be occupied. I do that with my children all the time - I sit with my notepad and then they carry on chatting or playing as if I weren't there. If I just sat watching them they would probably wander off. I love to listen to them.

Michelle said...

Your buds are glorious, Lucy. It does look more like a painting than a drawing.

Raymonde is drawn so vividly. I love the "beads of cranberry resin", the "scarf striped like a bee", the "peppered-and-salted centre parting" and the "old black bob". She's so clear in my mind's eye.

marly said...

As for wishing to be something a little more this or that... you seem to be living a "larger" and more light-filled life than most, Lucy!

Bee said...

I have been bemoaning the fact that it is very difficult to capture the freshness and the beauty of narcissus in photographs . . . but your picture really manages it. Such delicious, vivid green!

I like your poems, too -- especially the one about Raymonde.

Beth said...

I love the drawing - and it captures the feeling of the daffodils so well. And the poems, especially the restaurant one - that feeling of disappointment and readiness to leave - and the one about Raymonde.

Laureline said...

A lovely and unusual drawing. I'm not at all surprised by its quiet intensity. We'll have fun sketching together in September, won't we? I booked my flights this past weekend, so with that and the house rented, I'm practically on my way!