Contemplating

bench

Image courtesy of Simon Powell

I woke up this morning and this was spinning in my head. As I write this, I have a feeling it should have stayed in there where it made more sense (at least to me). Oh well, I will give it a go.

17th May 2013. That was the day that I started this blog. I had bold ambitions to share my thoughts on issues that mattered to the ELT community and how they were being played out in my classroom. I never ever intended for this site to make me rich or famous (and for the record, neither of those actually happened anyway), but my hope has always been that it might help others to reflect on their own teaching and possibly start a conversation as I learned from those who read my posts.

In part, that has happened. Continue reading

Archiving

Over the past few years now, I have been working on and refining my use of e-portfolios in my classroom. For those unfamiliar or only knowing a bit about what they are, e-portfolios are essentially an electronic archive of things the student does in the course of their learning. It can be made up of projects from inside or outside of the classroom and is primarily divided into two parts: the sandbox and the showcase. Continue reading

Recollecting

back to the future

Image courtesy of Mooshuu

Yesterday, I saw a tweet along the lines of, “If you could go back in time to your first year as a teacher, what would you say?” Good question. At first I wasn’t entirely sure what I would say, but the more I thought about it, the more it kept coming back to one thing: it’s not about me. Well, if that was all I would say, the younger me would probably say thanks and then move on. Also, if that is all I wrote today, you would be fairly disappointed in this blog post and might never return. For the sake of the skinnier Nathan and all those who dare enter this blog, here is what I could say in more detail. [Note: this was also sort of covered by Mike Griffin, although his was primarily about conferences.]  Continue reading

Motivating

reward merits

Image courtesy of Marion Doss

This is one of those posts which started off with one idea and then ended up following the rabbit down the hole. Welcome to my Wonderland (it isn’t actually that wonderful, except in my mind).

Yesterday, ClassDojo announced the addition of messaging to their service. Being that I am not a K-12 teacher, I haven’t really looked at ClassDojo that much since I am not in their target market. After saying that, I decided to take a closer look at ClassDojo, not because I am interested in using it, but because something about the concept doesn’t sit right with me. Instead of me making a rash judgement based on a few morsels of information, I decided to dig a little deeper. That led to me to something else, which led to something else, and eventually to this blog post. I hope this make more sense once I have finished writing this. Stick with me. Either this will be something interesting to read based on the brilliant things I come up with, or it will be a train wreck where no one gets injured (except for my pride, but that happens often enough that I am used to it). Continue reading

Exploring

Trench sign

Image courtesy of  Danie van der Merwe

Teaching is a strange career choice. Think about it. For almost the entirety of your young life, your goal is to get out of school. You finally graduate from high school and you willingly choose to endure anywhere from 2-8 more years of formal education just so you can go back to the classroom. Why? What drives a person to return when they have the opportunity to run away and be free? I was never the best student and I certainly had my fair share of difficulties with bullies (I was almost always one of the smallest students and I certainly wasn’t one of the “cool kids”). My parents were both teachers and I swore I would never become a teacher. I saw the amount of extra time they had to put into their job at home and on holidays (anyone who says teachers have a free ride during the summer needs to have their head examined) and I thought, “Who would want to do this job?”

Well, here I am in my ninth consecutive year as an English language instructor and I still love my job. I love the fact that I get to meet so many amazing people, students and colleagues, and I selfishly enjoy it when someone leaves my class feeling they have grown in their language ability. Was it only because of me? Of course not, but I do hope that I was able to help in some way.

Continue reading

Considering

thinker

Image courtesy of Keith Kissel

I have a feeling this is going to be a rather short post, but this thought has been taking up space in my brain for too long and needs to get out. I also have a feeling that this isn’t going to be as clear as it seems to be in my head at the moment. Here goes nothing.

I think we have become lazy when it comes to preparing lessons. Okay, that is a bit harsh, but I think there is at least an element of truth to that. When I became an English language instructor back in [date as been removed to protect the age of the writer], we didn’t have the internet; we had to make our lessons from scratch! Actually, that isn’t entirely true, we did have a shelf full of books with some lesson ideas and photocopiable activities (thanks, Jill Hadfield!). I remember spending hours planning, prepping, cutting, glueing, copying, stapling, etc., just to get ready for the next day (I even used stencils and clipart!). I wouldn’t say that my lessons were anything fabulous (actually, I shudder in horror at some of the things that I did), but I did attempt to tailor my lessons to the group I was teaching.

My fear at the moment is that we have become so reliant on the what and not on the why. Continue reading

Studying

online learning

Image courtesy of Ted Major

I finally caved into all of the MOOC hype and signed up for a course, although my reasons are purely selfish. To be honest, I’m not doing it because it is ‘cool’ or I am interested in the inner workings of a more social style of learning. Nope. I am doing it for the information. Last night, I watched a great workshop on YouTube given by Zoltan Dornyei on designing and analyzing data from questionnaires. It got me interested again in statistics, even though I dreaded the course during my MA TESOL program, and I felt compelled to find out more. Why? Well, it is just plain interesting. I am not one for just taking things at face value very often. I want to know why and how things occur. I have been reading a lot of journal articles lately and I find my eyes starting to glaze over when reading the data charts and various terms used to explain them. As my dad would often say, I know enough to hurt myself, in this case when it comes to stats. On top of all of that, I want to know more about the use of statistics for when I start to get into research myself.

To make a long story a little less boring, I ended up looking at free MOOCs and decided on a data analysis course from Duke University through Coursera. Despite my lack of time and a little bit of apprehension, I signed up knowing that I wouldn’t lose any money in the deal and should end up learning at least SOMETHING in the process. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to sign up and get started when the sheer enormity of the task started to hit me. There are readings and videos, assignments and exams. When am I going to get this all done? Well, I might as well continue forward was my oh so enthusiastic cry. Continue reading

Rebuking

finger_pointing

Image courtesy of J. E. Theriot

Okay, time for a confession. Despite what anyone might think, I’m not perfect (actually, anyone would be crazy to think that). I make plenty of mistakes on my own and I shouldn’t be digging around in anyone’s life. That being said, I felt it necessary to take some time to discuss a concern I have about how we are treating one another as professionals and simply as human beings. I’ve seen an alarming trend of being overly negative when responding to others online and even face to face. The media and entertainment certainly aren’t helping things either. It seems to me that we have lost a genuine respect for one another as fellow human beings. From internet trolls to late night talk shows, social media to general conversations, it seems that it has become acceptable, maybe even ‘cool’, to mock others or become highly critical of others who don’t think or do things the same way as we do. Even those who are calling on others to be more accepting of others become dismissive and negative towards those who might not feel the same way on certain issues. Do we have to agree with them? No, but we don’t need to be so insensitive and nasty.

Since this is a teaching blog and not meant to be a platform of more general topics, I want to bring this a little closer to home and focus on how we treat other teaching professionals who believe or think differently than we do. Continue reading

Acquiring

scrabble

Image courtesy of Premshree Pillai

I really enjoy being a language teacher, but I make a terrible language learner. When I was younger, I barely scraped by in my French lessons, but when we moved to another province in Canada when I was in grade nine, I found out how far behind I was in regards to the other students. One of the biggest things I noticed was how small my personal lexicon was compared to my classmates. Sure my grammar was bad, but since I didn’t have the words to put together meaningful sentences, no one really noticed.

Fast forward a number of years to when I had moved to Lithuania and was taking Lithuanian language lessons while working as an English language instructor. There was this initial rush of learning as my vocabulary grew while taking lessons and living my day-to-day life shopping, working, and socializing with others. My confidence grew as did my vocabulary, but it was somewhere around the six month mark that I started to notice a levelling off in my lexical growth. I decided I needed to take action, so I bought myself a set of CDs that promised to help me learn a pile of new words. I transferred the audio files to my iPod and listened intently as I walked to and from work each day. It was at that time that something hit me. The words I had learned in my first six months were sticking in my brain much better than the ones I learned while walking. At first I thought it was the fact I wasn’t seeing the words, so I wrote them out to look at as I walked. That didn’t really help. “Okay,” I thought, “what else could it be?” Then it hit me — context. That is what I was missing. Continue reading