Dorothy Hoddinott — an example to us all

Ignore those paranoid “patriots”, the dwindling supporters of Pauline H, the moaners about consideration for others — sorry, “political correctness” — gone mad. The best way to go has been before our eyes for years now, and one shining example has been just retired school principal Dorothy Hoddinott. What a positive influence she has been on so many lives, and for harmony in our country! As a former teacher myself I am humbled by what she has achieved, with her colleagues. The best thing is realising the ripple effect of her example.

Dorothy_Hoddinott_IMG_0414

Dorothy Hoddinott in 2014: see my previous posts Refugee success stories, Islam and so on… and Iraq, Downer, Rudd, and a really positive story to end on.

In that last post:

Dorothy I met through ESL circles.  There is a great story on her in today’s Herald.

One morning earlier this month, Dorothy Hoddinott left Wollongong at the crack of dawn to drive back to Sydney. The Holroyd High School principal had been attending a conference but was determined to make it back in time to see one of her former students graduate from university.

Zainab Kaabi finished high school 11 years ago. But her personal accomplishment was also an exceptionally proud and significant moment for her mentor and former principal.

Not only did Hoddinott once willingly add $9000 to her personal credit cards to secure her student a place at university. But the young asylum seeker inspired her to set up a trust fund in her name, which has since expanded to support refugee students studying in public high schools and universities across the state.

The Friends of Zainab trust fund was established when, in her final year of high school, Zainab Kaabi told Hoddinott she would have to drop out because, as she was now an adult, she would no longer be eligible for her welfare payments under the conditions of her temporary protection visa.

Hoddinott recalls telling her ”I’m not going to let you leave school, you’re too good. Sorry but you’re a scholarly girl.”

She contacted everyone she knew for donations and set up the trust fund, allowing her to remain at school.

The donations continued to support her through a bachelor of medical sciences at Macquarie University and a bachelor of pharmacy at Sydney University…

So I was very pleased to see 7.30 during this week:

GEOFF THOMPSON: After years of travelling and teaching in Australia and in Europe, Dorothy arrived at Holroyd High in 1995, where about half of the students have a refugee background and almost 90 per cent speak English as a second language.
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: There was an educational Apartheid in the school. There was a ‘them’ and the ‘us.’ And so one of the first things I had to do was to actually extend all of the facilities of the school.
There were lots and lots of rules and a lot of the rules were overlapping each other and they weren’t common sense.
(Shots of kids at Holroyd High)
So what I did was I threw out all of those rules and we operated on common sense for a year, while we negotiated a new
way of doing things, and we came up with respect. And so we had to make that sort of suitable for kids: respect for myself, respect for others, respect for the school and community.
GEOFF THOMPSON: It worked. Just ask Bashir Yousufi, whom 7.30 first met in 2012 when he came to Holroyd High as a 15 year old… He had just fled Afghanistan after his parents were killed by the Taliban.
BASHIR YOUSUFI, FORMER HOLROYD HIGH STUDENT: I didn’t go to school so I didn’t think I would ever have this opportunity that I have at the moment.
GEOFF THOMPSON: This week Bashir travelled to Sydney to thank the person that he now calls his mum.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: She is more than principal to me and she is my mum and she adopted me, which is a great thing and I love her and I really, I respect her.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Bashir is now in the final year of a business degree at ANU.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: How are you?
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: Oh, how wonderful to see you!
GEOFF THOMPSON: Dorothy helped Bashir through school and into university with her Friends of Zainab Scholarship Program, named after the first student she helped to get to uni using her own credit card.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: Without your help, it would be – I wouldn’t be studying at ANU right now.
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: You decided to learn English while you were in detention. You decided to learn 15 English words each day.
(LAUGHS)
That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t had the motivation. It was a happy combination of your motivation, the school supporting you and so on.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: Yes. Holroyd High became my favourite place and you will be my favourite place for the rest of my life.

Says it all, doesn’t it?

Advertisements

Looking back 20 years: the Japanese surfer

Back in 1998 I became a student again, part-time, at the University of Technology in Sydney.  A one-year course gave me lots of letters after my name: Grad Cert TESOL (UTS)! While I had been among other things ESL teacher at Sydney Boys High from 1996, I actually had no formal qualification in that field, other than the in-house training — and it was good too! — that I received at Wessex College of English in 1990.

One thing I haven’t mentioned publicly before is that Michael was so pissed off at my attracting a HECS debt that he insisted on paying the fees for me upfront — neither the first nor the last example of his generosity. He’s travelling in Vietnam right now, by the way, but you may recall we had lunch together in Surry Hills on just about the hottest day on record for Sydney.

WIN_20180107_13_02_21_Pro

One highlight (of many) in that 1998 UTS course was a learning journal: My year with a Japanese Backpacker. You can read the whole thing there. Here is part:

19 August, 1998

I first met ‘Hiro’ a month ago at the Flinders Hotel. He had just finished an eight week English course and had to move out of his home-stay accommodation the following Saturday, or so I gathered after a very tortuous conversation. A few days later he rang to let me know he had found a place in an Eastern suburb near the Harbour. I did not hear from him again until the night before last when he rang to arrange a meeting. After sorting out that Neil was my name and not the name of the hotel, we managed to make an appointment for Tuesday at 6 at the Flinders Hotel. Our communication obviously succeeded as he turned up at the appointed time.

His English pronunciation is clear. The text of his talk is heavily reliant on content words (in the right order) but very weak on inflections and grammatical words. His strategic competence is highly developed. Conversation required intense concentration on both sides with (at stages) frequent recourse to body language, paraphrase, repetition and a Japanese-English dictionary. The month spent living with an English speaker, looking for work, and generally going about town has led to some advance in his spoken English.

He had mentioned at our earlier meeting that he would like to practise his English with me. Since he is a very handsome young man, and since I had met him in a gay bar after all, there were dimensions to this situation. I determined to explore the situation tactfully, but I have not seen any analysis of the appropriate registers and genres for dealing with such a cross-cultural situation with someone of very limited English.

His family grows flowers, he told me, and he himself wanted work in photography, art or floristry. In the context of Australian culture one might by now have been drawing probably false conclusions about his being in a gay bar. (It proved to be a false deduction: he was unaware he was in a gay bar. The delicate matter of sexuality was successfully negotiated at our second meeting.)

From the age of six he had wanted to go overseas; an uncle had been living in America at that time, and it was to America he first wanted to go, but the pictures in an Australian travel brochure persuaded him to come here. He was drawn by Australia’s natural beauty and the surfing. So he sold his car (a Subaru) and came last May.

He said he wanted to experience all things. He wanted to meet Australian men. He wanted to learn English. Most interestingly, he wanted ‘a big heart’; eventually I worked out he meant an open mind–he found Japan too narrow.

Our conversation turned to religion. Having heard a sermon at a funeral he began practising Zen meditation. Asked what he got from it, he said ‘Nothing. Nothing is good.’ In the context this made perfect sense. We looked up dharma and Tao in his dictionary and discussed them wordlessly, as is appropriate.

At the end of the evening he proposed we meet again in a month or so, hesitant to be too demanding as I had been telling him how busy I was. In parting, we thanked each other for a very pleasant evening, and the best English lesson he could have had.

His real name was Kyohiko, from Sendai, a place much affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Yes, I have wondered, but I don’t know.

Sequel: 23 March 2000

“Hiro” returned to Japan at the end of May 1999. In the last six months of our friendship we met monthly to go to a jazz bar near my home. My Shanghainese flatmate was a bit dubious about “Hiro” at first, but towards the end, as he was planning his own 12 months overseas “pilgrimage”, he and “Hiro” found they had a lot in common! The other nice thing about “Hiro” was that, while straight, he did not have a homophobic bone in his body! Makes you feel hopeful about the world

Aspergers, English-speaking and Senator Revenant

To supplement my post Testing for English competence? read Annabel Crabb in today’s Sun-Herald.

The policy – proposed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton with all the mellifluity of a man who has spent nine years in the Queensland Police – is currently under consideration by the parliament…

It’s drawn immediate support from Pauline Hanson.

Asked by Channel Seven what she thought of the proposed test and its associated Australian residency requirement extension from one to four years, the Senator declared: “It’s a start in the right direction.”…

The last minor mangle is a small sample of Senator Revenant’s somewhat loose connection to the English language. What price her IELTS score, I wonder?

7c309bc2781159b9a27651b9a67ce146
Interesting: If you can’t speak English, you don’t deserve to call yourself a Senator, Pauline Hanson.

SHE wears her love of Australia like a badge of honour, but a leading speech expert says Senator Pauline Hanson should consider learning how to speak our language if she wants to inspire the nation.

Michael Kelly, a body language and speech expert gave Ms Hanson’s maiden speech in the Senate barely a pass mark of 5.5 out of 10, blaming her poor pronunciation and “clunky” delivery for creating an “amateurish” first impression.

Putting aside her controversial politics, the 30-minute oration was “not up to the standards Australians should expect of an inspiring member of the Senate,” Mr Kelly said.

Stumbling over basic words like “custody” and “integral,” Ms Hanson gave the impression she had not rehearsed the much-anticipated speech, which “lacked impact,” was “monotone” and at times was “twee” and “juvenile,” Mr Kelly claimed.

“It was like she was completely unprepared. She hadn’t worked out her phrasing, it was monotone and she struggled to read parts of it out,” he said.

“She was mispronouncing words like “custody” which she delivered as “cus-dy” and that just leaves an unprofessional impression,” he said…

The lowest point were her remarks offering to drive migrants to the airport herself, Mr Kelly said, immature and unbecoming of a senior parliamentarian….

To be uncharacteristically fair to the Revenant of Oz. I suspect that much of the trouble she has brought on her own head over the education of children with disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum, stems from her own intellectual and linguistic incapacity.  Rather than being taken out of context, her remarks had been typically garbled and ill-considered, but she does have a point. There should be better training and resourcing for the education of children with disabilities in the mainstream. I have a little experience here as in my last three years of teaching one of my duties was to support one-on-one some students with Aspergers. I had a couple of successes and one not so successful. At the time (2003-2005) this was all rather new to us. Glad to say one of the students concerned is now a friend on Facebook.

Many years ago — 1970 in fact — I taught at Dapto High School, south of Wollongong. In those days we had no idea at all — I do not exaggerate — when confronted, if we were, with students with such things as Aspergers/autism. Today is so different, as this excellent page from Dapto High attests. Do visit it if you want authoritative information on the subject.

I looked that up because of an item in today’s Sun-Herald by Peter FitzSimons — someone whose writing at times annoys me. But not today…

Even for Pauline Hanson, her attack this week on kids with autism – maintaining they had no place in “our” class-rooms – took the breath away. As ever, her polarising politics is divisive, driven by a mean-spiritedness that has set post-war records in Australian politics, and entirely ill-informed. In fact, the inclusion of students on the autism spectrum and wider Special Needs students has been successful across our brown and pleasant land, and some of it I have seen up close.

TFF’s brother, Andrew, is Principal at Dapto High School, where they have run a stunningly successful integration program for students on the autism spectrum for the last nine years, and they now have no fewer than 28 of them.

“These students enrich our school and this community every day,” he told me on Friday. “Students are encouraged to participate in the full range of activities: sporting, cultural, academic etc. Participation in mainstream classes is accommodated when ever possible; often playing to particular strengths; Art , Music, Engineering etc. It works. Never had a single complaint. It is inspirational and heart-warming on so many levels for so many of our Dapto students . . . and wonderful for those on the spectrum, and their families, too.”

Great to hear!

Testing for English competence?

On Facebook yesterday I posted with reference to Could you pass the proposed English test for Australian citizenship? The author of that, Misty Adoniou, is Associate Professor in Language, Literacy and TESL, University of Canberra. I was from 1990-2010 for much of the time a teacher of ESOL or ESL in a private language college, at a state high school, at an Anglican school, and as a private tutor, so I have had a professional interest. My post:

This is outrageous! If this had been the case twenty years ago my friend M, a very successful citizen indeed, would have failed, as would more successful citizens than you could poke a stick at, including quite a few Anglos born here! IELTS Band 6? A stupid suggestion — and as a retired ESL/ESOL I know that test well. “Aspiring Australian citizens will need to score a Band 6 on the general stream of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, the same score as those seeking entry to Australia’s top university” This requirement MUST NOT pass. Stupid Dutton!

I am marginally less excited this morning, but not much…

The Australian government has been proposing among other things a strengthening of the English Language requirements for those aspiring to be Australian citizens. (That link to a PDF currently works, but typically as with any government discussion paper could disappear at any time.)

English language is essential for economic participation and social cohesion,
and there are certain standards that must be met, especially for those
who are seeking to become a permanent resident or Australian citizen.

There is strong public support to ensure aspiring citizens are fully able
to participate in Australian life, by speaking English, our national language.
Aspiring citizens are currently required to possess a level of ‘basic’ English
to meet the requirements for citizenship. This is tested when an applicant
sits the Australian citizenship test.

Aspiring citizens will be required to undertake separate upfront English
language testing with an accredited provider and achieve a minimum
level of ‘competent’.

People currently exempt from sitting the Australian citizenship test, for example
applicants over 60 years of age, or under 16 years of age at the time they
applied for citizenship or those with an enduring or permanent mental
or physical incapacity, will be exempt from English language testing.

The test most people will confront is the internationally respected  IELTS test.  I have worked with this test in the past. This SBS page summarises well:

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also outlined in a press release that the English test that applicants will be required to pass involve will involve elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking. This is thought that it will therefore make it equivalent to IELTS level 6.

What does “competent” mean here?

Let’s see how the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is scored as a comparative benchmark to define a “competent” English level.

IELTS measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. The test assesses areas including listening, reading, writing and speaking – in less than three hours.

According to the IELTS official site, there are two types of IELTS tests: Academic and General Training.

The General Training type, which focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts, is normally considered easier than the Academic type, and is already a requirement for migration to Australia.

It is therefore more likely to assume that Government’s citizenship test will look at the standard of the General type….

Currently, for international students in Australia hoping to study full-time in a recognised education institution, they need need an overall IELTS score of 5.5 for Academic type.

However, most universities set their English proficiency requirement at an overall score of 6.5. For University of Sydney, many faculties and courses actually require an overall band score of 7.0 or better with a minimum score of 6.0 in each of the components.

It is therefore quite hopeful to assume that the new English requirement shall not be a significant obstacle for those young people who successfully manage to accomplish a degree, migrate and live in Australia before applying for citizenship.

ilets1_0
Labor is exaggerating when they say the test is “university level”, but I still feel the proposal, even if it refers to Band 6 on the General IELTS in listening, reading, writing and speaking, is setting the bar unreasonably high. As Misty Adoniou says:

I prepared students for the IELTS test when I lived and taught in Greece. They needed a score of 6 to get into Foundation courses in British universities. It wasn’t an easy test and sometimes it took them more than one try to succeed.

My students were middle class, living comfortably at home with mum and dad. They had been to school all their lives and were highly competent readers and writers in their mother tongue of Greek.

They had been learning English at school since Grade 4, and doing private English tuition after school for even longer. Essentially they had been preparing for their IELTS test for at least 8 years.

They were not 40-year-old women whose lives as refugees has meant they have never been to school, and cannot read and write in their mother tongue.

Neither were they adjusting to a new culture, trying to find affordable accommodation and a job while simultaneously dealing with post-traumatic stress and the challenge of settling their teenage children into a brand new world.

I strongly suspect that if I were to spring a battery of IELTS tests on the usual clientele at City Diggers in Wollongong a rather alarming number — all of them citizens and many born here, including “Anglos” — would fail to make Band 6 in one or more of the skill areas. Of course they are all nonetheless competent as citizens.

A curious justification for tightening English is some apparent connection to resisting terrorism:

Recent terrorist attacks around the world have justifiably caused concern
in the Australian community. The Government responds to these threats
by continuing to invest in counter-terrorism, strong borders and strong
national security. This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open,
inclusive, free and safe society.

In the face of these threats, there is no better time to reaffirm our
steadfast commitment to democracy, opportunity and our shared values.

The English Test is after all part of that package, and on those grounds alone I feel Labor has been justified in sending it back to the drawing board.

As far as I know I have not met any terrorists, but I have been up close and personal with a well-known member of  Hizb ut-Tahrir, as I recount here and here.

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students; 7.30 Report: The Mine and the Islamists; The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar [still there at 9 Oct 2014] referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)

05shs

Stills from the video.

Mine students often show initiative, of course, and these particular students were very bright indeed and participated in all aspects of school life to the full. An earlier generation some ten years before promised they would have Barry Crocker and Kamahl at their farewell assembly. We thought they were joking, but on the day, there they were! The Tamils were especially happy. So were the office ladies.

What I can say is that Wassim and company would have had no trouble passing IELTS at a very high level, so what is Mr Dutton actually doing?

peterdutton_potato_0
You know who…

Related: it is worth taking the challenge of this article from 2015. And also along the lines we are freaking out rather more than we should, read Londoner Stephen Liddell from 10 June 2017: Talk of Terrorism is all hype. He posts this, figures relating presumably to the UK:

img_4158

Do check my other posts tagged “terror”.

Body language, cross-cultural communication, Trump etc…

I see Tony Abbott has gone into bat for The Donald. That figures…

Mr Abbott defended Mr Trump’s policies, which include building a wall between Mexico and the United States to repel migrants, as reasonable.

“Many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough,” he said.

Mind you, I don’t entirely disagree with what Tony Abbott says there about T’s supporters. It is worth reading David A Hill Jr, I Listened to a Trump Supporter.

She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.

She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes.

Hat tip to Alex Au in Singapore for that article.

Meanwhile The Donald himself lately does seem to be verging on the barking mad:

Florida: Donald Trump has denied a slew of new allegations of sexually predatory behaviour in an angry diatribe of speech in Florida, accusing the women who made them of fabrication and the media outlets that published them as being party to a conspiracy against him…

Mr Trump claimed a variety of forces including the Clintons and the media were seeking to rig the US election.

“Their agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it’s a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds,” he said.

“This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.”

Sorry. Did I really say “verging on” then?

OK, back to that second debate. I found myself riveted all through – yes I watched the whole show – by the body language, especially The Donald’s. What a study in proxemics!

Trump-Behind-Clinton-Second-Debate-e1476064001366-620x433

donald-trump.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x628

Pure monstering. The stills barely capture the effect that the pacing and scowling communicated. Not a nice man.

All that had me thinking again of what I learned from the 1990s on in my ESL studies and practice about cross-cultural communication, and the topic in fact came up earlier this week in conversation at Diggers with someone who spent considerable time in PNG and S-E Asia. A summary directed at business people is Different Cultural Communication Styles.

Factoring in personal space expectations between cultures enhances communication in any social or business setting. While Northern Europeans and European Americans feel most comfortable at an arm’s length away in a social interaction, Hispanics would consider that distance unfriendly. Knowing what is expected is helpful. Eye contact and touch etiquette also vary dramatically in different cultures. Asian cultures do not believe in touching in public settings, and they don’t favor direct eye contact. Like the Asian culture, Hispanics also view direct eye contact as a lack of respect. One significant difference between these two cultures is the way touching in public is perceived. Hispanics are a “high touch” society. Before meeting with a different culture, it is best to learn about these etiquette considerations.

That’s just one aspect. Oriented to schools is Communicating Across Cultures from the Victorian Education Department.

Interpretations of verbal communication can be culturally based. Misunderstandings can easily arise. For example in some cultures:

  • It is impolite to speak without being specifically asked by a superior, thus some students will not say hello, will not volunteer answers and will not answer generally directed questions.
  • It is not appropriate to refuse a request, thus saying ‘yes’ may mean ‘I am listening’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘no’. Avoidance behaviour rather than contradiction is used i.e. not doing what is requested is the polite response, as opposed to saying directly ‘no’.
  • Direct confrontation is to be avoided. It is more important to maintain the relationship, then to find an answer to an immediate disputed issue or problem. This contrasts with the anglo-Australian approach of trying to resolve issues by frank and open discussion of the disputed issue, clearly stating personal needs and preferences and direct bargaining tactics focusing on an immediate solution.
  • Asking questions when you already know the answer, which is a common teaching technique in Australia, can indicate a lack of intelligence in some cultures.

Then at the levels prom personal to international relations see the course Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts, particularly Michelle Le Baron, Cross-Cultural Communication.

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make — whether it is clear to us or not — quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. In this module, cross-cultural communication will be outlined and demonstrated by examples of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors involving four variables:

  • Time and Space
  • Fate and Personal Responsibility
  • Face and Face-Saving
  • Nonverbal Communication

As our familiarity with these different starting points increases, we are cultivating cultural fluency — awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

In a multicultural society in an even more multicultural world these are areas we all need familiarity with. Back to proxemics:

The difficulty with space preferences is not that they exist, but the judgments that get attached to them. If someone is accustomed to standing or sitting very close when they are talking with another, they may see the other’s attempt to create more space as evidence of coldness, condescension, or a lack of interest. Those who are accustomed to more personal space may view attempts to get closer as pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive. Neither is correct — they are simply different.

Mind you, Trump was being “pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive”!

Related: My 1998 UTS Grad Cert TESOL assignment A Japanese Backpacker’s year in Australia may even amuse you.