Diarmuid Fogarty

Elusive, philosophical, witty, whatever adjective you wish to tag him with, ‘passionate’ is probably the first one you think of. Here’s a man who knows his mind, and speaks from it. And from his heart. After trying for as long as this blog has been alive, I finally managed to tear him away from his endless reading and research for his Masters dissertation, threatening to remove all his stocks of Earl Grey, and to sit him down in his cosy kitchen to probe his mind and his heart.

Spare some time to watch the interview in full, you won’t regret it. And, I’m sure Diarmuid would appreciate your comments!




Diarmuid currently teaches and manages in a large teaching centre in Manchester. He’s been managing for three years and teaching for seventeen. He began his ELT experiences in Piraeus, Greece, then moved to Athens. After two and a half years in Greece he moved to Bilbao where he taught at the British Council. Then prospects of work in Manchester emerged and he’s looked back ever since! πŸ˜‰

His professional interests include critical dogme, management and realigning ELT so that its parent discipline is education, not linguistics. The most recent addition to this list is action research. Education for Diarmuid is about creating thinking people who can teach themselves and others. Its long term aim is the creation of a society that is an improvement on the present. He sees himself primarily as a teacher who teaches EFL,which, heΒ believes, is markedly different from an EFL teacher.

He has a very entertaining blog, The Tao Te(a)ching, which is, as Lindsay describes his six things blog, ‘ a museum piece’. It still makes for very good reading, and your comments are still replied to. His other blog is called Diarmuid Fogarty’s Action Research Journal.

Diarmuid Fogarty on Chiew's Interview Blog iasku
Diarmuid getting angry with my heavy-handed persistence…!

About Chiew

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Posted on 25 July 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Lovely stuff from probably my favourite self-appointed critic of the ELT establishment. That reminds me, Chiew… I promised by the end of the month, didn’t I?

    • I believe you did, but it’s always negotiable πŸ˜‰

    • Lao The Younger

      My favourite part is the “self-appointed” bit. Well…actually it’s the “my favourite” bit. But the “self-appointed” bit is the bit that made me smile.

      I think I will spend the rest of the day humming Nik Kershaw’s execrable “Don Quijote, what do you say?” Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZgSpB_zP28 to find out what some of us had to put up with for a decade alongside Margaret Sodding Thatcher. As for which was worse, I think Mr Kershaw’s hair says it all.

  2. Chiew – thanks for yet another great interview!

    Diarmuid – as ever, some interesting points of view, well-explained. This may sound funny but I think I’ll read your future blog posts with a different ‘voice’ in my head now πŸ™‚

    • Thanks goes to the Druid, really.:)

    • Lao The Younger

      I think my accent is getting worse the longer I stay in this godforsaken country. My vowels seem positively antipodean despite me never having reached the southern hemisphere.

      When I listen to my children with their Derbyshire twang, I weep.

  3. First blog I’ve looked at for ages, for various reasons, very glad I did. Thanks Chiew for hosting an interesting insight into the mind of the druid!

    Diarmuid – interesting as always, but stop being so self-critical about your writing, most people probably didn’t know where to start commenting on the Tao blog because it is so damned clever!

    Totally agree about action research and your dogme description is good, but I’d say the problem people have is fitting it in to ‘lamentable’ institutional demands.

    • I feel privileged to know that, Richard, and am glad that you’re glad!

    • Lao The Younger

      Aw shucks. That would mean so much more if it was coming from the people who are due to mark this sodding dissertation. I say “this” as if it is written and I am holding it in my hand. It remains, of course, no more than the twinkle in my mind’s eye.

      How I wish that I could just submit the Tao Te(a) Ching as my dissertation. I dread to think how many words it must have sequestered.

      I think the first problem that people have with dogme is pinning it down. There’s a (natural?) tendency for people to want a clear description of something when they first get to know it. And so they go to an article or to the Yahoogroup and read to find out what dogme is. They find out that it’s a revolutionary vehicle for me, a conversation class for others, communicative language teaching for yet others, a load of bollix for some, hypocritical for a group of people, pro/anti-technology for others, etc etc etc. And this confuses them. Understandably, I suppose.

      Whereas it doesn’t need to if they come at it from an interpretative angle. Which means? Which means an acceptance that there is no objective truth. There are shared truths and individual truths. That may or may not be right! It’s incidental. They ARE right to the people who believe them. The interest comes in looking for shared patterns among the truths and exploring the dialectic between them. Dogme could help people by adopting a definitive stance that would exclude some and include others. For a few years, I thought it should. Now I recognise the strength that is to be found in not doing. But I also recognise that it is a weakness that turns people away from Dogme. Perhaps there’s an element of ying and yan here? Its strength is its weakness. Perhaps I should merit a place in Pseuds’ Corner.

      So, what CAN we say about dogme? We can really only say that it is born out of a dissatisfaction with the hegemony of blandness and outdated approaches to language teaching. We can say that it tends to take a critical line on most aspects of teaching. We can say that it is a community which is active in supporting each other. We can say that it is a very broad church. We can say that there is no definitive definition of what it is. The dialectics come from exploring the tensions arising from its attitude to books, technology, defining the teaching act, defining the purpose of education, defining the purpose of Dogme, defining its relevance to various people at different stages of their career, defining the role of a teacher, defining the role of a student, resolving its denunciation of coursebooks and the fact that it seems largely to be populated by coursebook writers!

      Squeezing it into lamentable institutions is the easy part. You make a decision, you go in to the classroom and you close the door behind you and you do what you can. Or you don’t.

      I too would like to praise Chiew’s blog, but fear that to do so now would be verging on narcissistic. But the truth is that it’s a fantastic format that offers what the media would undoubtedly refer to as Frontline Workers the opportunity to have their voices heard. I think it’s pure genius and only slightly tainted by my inclusion. I will be nominating Chiew for whatever awards come around!

      • Tainted, Druid? Quite the reverse, I’d say. I wonder if I’d now have a queue around the block of Frontline Workers…
        As for dogme, simple. Dogme is Tao. Understand Tao and you’ll understand dogme. Remember your referencing Bruce Lee…’be water, my friend!’ πŸ™‚
        So, when you finish your dissertation (if you ever do ;)), we’ll sit down for another interview!

      • Is dogme is a word to describe a thing that doesn’t really exist?

        As you know, for a while I was someone who really wanted to pin it down and define it. Recently I have been considering whether to answer the above question with a ‘yes’.

        However, your discussion of how important it is to be critical as a teacher is highly relevant and if dogme can exist as a ‘movement’ towards being more critical of methods and materials then that it something that I concur with – however, this leads us to the argument that dogme is a label for something that has always existed in some form with some people. I first started becoming more critical about materials when I read an Adrian Underhill article (that I now can’t find) from the early nineties (I think), which suggested that anything in a text book could be created by the students and that that should be the aim rather than delivering the material in the book. For example, instead of reading a text about holidays and working on comprehension, they could be guided to producing that text themselves.

        Another thing that bugs me is how people boldly stating that dogme is a way of teaching that can be replicated everywhere, particularly as I don’t suppose they have taught in everybody else’s shoes as well as their own.

  4. Thanks, Chiew for asking interesting questions and posting this video for me and others to enjoy.

    I really like the wood cabinetry, and I am curious as to why some chairs were turned upside down on the table. My mother in-law had those same tiles in her kitchen – no kidding! These questions and strange coincidences cannot of course be explained without further research, dare I say, action research.


    PS I was only able to watch part one up to the 7:22 mark. Then the camera angle shifts to Part 11 sans suggestive pestle and mortar on the window sill.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rob. Diarmuid was cleaning the kitchen floor when I got him by the scruff of his neck and sat him down πŸ˜‰


      Are you serious about not being able to watch the rest?

    • Lao The Younger

      Some very pertinent points, Rob. πŸ˜‰

      The stacking of chairs on tables is very common in this room as we sweep and mop the floor. As family are currently in Spain, I couldn’t be bothered to put them back on the floor. I also have a carpet of journal articles that extends from room to room. As Yeats might have put it, “Tread softly for you tread upon my rheams.”

      As for the tiles, what can I say? We bought them from a legitimate supplier. Honest.

  5. Looks wild and dangerous – a perfect teacher!

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