Apologizing

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Image courtesy of Butupa

It’s been an interesting day. Actually, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. About two weeks ago, I took on an intersession class (one I have never taught before) a day after I had committed to writing the curriculum for a course that is due in a few days. On top of all of that, I have just finished up teaching and marking a TESL course. Needless to say, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied.

All of that sets up what transpired this morning. Continue reading Apologizing

Registering

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Image courtesy of r2hox

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not think there is some global coverup or that the sky is falling and no one knows it, but there is one area in which I do think we need to be more careful; that is the area of personal data. This is a contentious issue and one that needs to be addressed in the classroom. Before I begin giving my reasons why, let me set the scene first.

I am an avid user of cloud-based services. I have used so many different platforms and tools that store my data on online servers that I can’t even keep track of them all. Even this post was written using OneNote and synced with my other devices using OneDrive and then was uploaded to WordPress.com and shared via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. If you search for me online, you will certainly find me in all sorts of places. You could probably get a good deal of information about me without even trying very hard.

Some may find that scary, but I have weighed the benefits and the potential losses and have decided for myself that this is the price I am willing to pay for the use of these services. I have been using online tools even before the advent of the internet as we know it now. I used to be a part of a BBS (bulletin board system) using my dial-up service on my 2400 baud modem. Even then, I was aware that some of my personal data was being shared with complete strangers and that was okay with me.

If that is the case, why am I such a staunch advocate for registration-free online tools? That’s simple; it’s not my data that is being shared. Continue reading Registering

Banning

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Image courtesy of David Romani

For my last two years of high school, I attended a boarding school in central Canada, about 7 hours drive from my parents. This school had some pretty strict rules, especially when it came to the dormitory. We weren’t allowed to have any televisions in our rooms; we had to be in the dorm on weekday evenings by 8pm and in our room with lights out by 10pm. We could only come out to use the washroom, otherwise we were in there until 6 at the earliest the next morning.

For the most part, we followed the rules, but there were times we needed to get some homework done or we just wanted to let loose for a while. That would be when we would pull out the black garbage bags for the windows or we would sneak out the windows dressed from head to toe in black and then drive out of the parking lot with the headlights off until we got to the highway. It was all pretty benign stuff: going to movies (which was also against the rules), heading out for a late-night pizza, or just a drive in the city. We never broke any laws and, at least to me, we kept it clean and fun.

I understand the reason why the school had those rules, even if I still disagree them, but the problem was in how they were implemented. They were responsible for our well being as minors and this was a way they could make sure they kept us out of trouble with a limited staff. They didn’t want us watching shows or movies that the parents wouldn’t approve of, so they cut out the option of watching any at all. They wanted to make sure we would do our homework, so they made us stay in our rooms from 8-9:30 each night. There were reasons for their rules, but the rules themselves didn’t actually work that well.

Instead of keeping us from those distractions, we became fixated on them, or more accurately, how to get around them. When they figured out how we were circumventing the rules, they made new ones, which led us to find new, more inventive ways to break them. We didn’t want to follow them, because we weren’t part of the solution; we had no reason to follow them other than “we were told to.”

I just finished reading an article about banning laptops in the university classroom. I’m still shaking my head. I can’t stop shaking my head. The logic is baffling. Here is how I understand her reasoning: Continue reading Banning

Meeting

Image made using a photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by Roseli Serra, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Preface

Introducing

This has to be one of the hardest posts I have ever written. It isn’t that I struggled with the subject matter or that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it was the execution of the idea that was so difficult. Let me backtrack a bit.

This post is a “summary” (it’s actually a bit long) of an #ELTChat completed way back in October on the subject of writing in the language classroom. During the chat, I had this “great” idea that I would volunteer to do the summary, but I wanted to do it in a story format. We had discussed during the chat that it is important that teachers model what we want our students to do and since I don’t often teach classes on story writing, I thought it would be good for me to do something as practice. I also thought it would be fun to rethink the twitter chat as if we were actually meeting together in person. That got me thinking about the personalities of each participant, the place, and even the atmosphere in which we engaged in our discussion. I envisioned us sitting together in an exotic location, sitting in a coffee shop, having a few laughs and even some short disagreements, but in the end, a really fun night out. To be honest, I haven’t met any of these people in person, so I took some artistic license with describing them and their characteristics.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how long this would take for me to do. Going over a transcript and trying to suss out the key points without leaving anyone out is a tricky task. The discussion goes in so many directions and it isn’t always easy to try to figure out who was talking or responding to what. In the end, I tried my best, but I may have left out some important points. All in all, I hope you enjoy it and learn from it as well. In the spirit of the discussion, feel free to add your feedback in the comment section below. Just don’t leave any red marks. I don’t like them.

One last thing, the style of writing with the quotes done they way they are comes from one of my favourite books, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I loved the way he did the dialogue in the story and I tried to copy it a bit, albeit somewhat poorly. I enjoyed how he made it feel like you weren’t always knowing exactly who was saying what, making the story a bit different each time you read it. I hope you can appreciate it in this context. Continue reading Meeting

Accommodating

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Image courtesy of Or Reshef

Preface: Be warned. This is a long(ish) true story, but I promise, there is a point at the end of it.


 

It was a spring day in 2009 and I was at my desk doing some last minute preparation for class when the phone rang.

“Hello, Mr. Hall?”

     “Yes. Speaking.”

“Hello, I am Irina from the bookstore. Cambridge University Press is giving a seminar today and I was wondering if you may be interested in attending our fine event.”

     “That sounds interesting. What time is it at?”

“It is half past ten in the morning.”

     “I have class until 10:20, so it would depend on where it is at.”

“It is located at the Russian high school in the auditorium. Do you know where that is?”

     “Is that the school close to Manto?”

“Yes, that is the same one. If you are interested in attending, you may come without registration and you do not need to pay.”

     “That sounds good. I may be a few minutes late, but I would love to come.”

I hung up and grabbed my stuff for class. It was now a few minutes before the start of class and I wouldn’t have time afterward to come back up to my office, so I grabbed my coat and headed up to the fifth floor. Continue reading Accommodating

Pondering

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Image courtesy of Joe DeSousa

It’s been a while since I last blogged and it isn’t for lack of desire. There are a number of things that I have been reflecting on and considering writing about, but none of them have really developed into a full blown post as of yet. Actually, they are a bit muddled in my mind really, floating about, bashing into one another, but nothing coming from it as of yet. I felt I just needed to get in front of the keyboard an start typing, hoping that something will spark and lead to a post. This is the result. So, if you are looking for a coherent, well-structured, focused post, you might as well walk away now since this is probably going to be a bit messy.

Here are are some of the things that I have been thinking about in no particular order of importance or with any logic whatsoever: Continue reading Pondering

Assisting

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Image courtesy of lolaleeloo2

When I was a kid, my sister bought me a copy of Aesop’s Fables and I immediately fell in love with it. I had heard some of the stories before, but this was a gold mine! Even at a young age I was able to see how these short, simple stories could teach life lessons in a easily digestible way.

As I grew older, I came to appreciate cultural fables from around the world, but I also started to notice that some of these stories were teaching ideals that I don’t agree with. The obvious one’s are related to stereotypes, but there are others that teach messages of revenge, judgement, and intolerance hidden beneath the surface. Continue reading Assisting

Swimming

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Image courtesy of EvelynGiggles

Three years ago, I decided, scratch that, my wife convinced me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed to start exercising regularly. Of course, she was correct and I decided on taking up lane swimming. To me, this seemed like a nice way of exercising that didn’t focus on one area of the body and also was more interesting to me than running.

I went down to the local pool and got a multi-visit pass to motivate me to continue going since it was already paid for. My first visit started really well, but it didn’t take long before I ‘ran out of gas’ and I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy. I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of all of the other swimmers who were lapping me multiple times, so I got out and went to the sauna for a bit. That made me feel even more lightheaded and I realized I was needing to get out and get something to drink.

Due to my dehydration. I was incredibly sore and tired once I got home. I learned my lesson and I made sure I was properly hydrated before and while I was swimming. Even with that, I continued to struggle as I soon noticed how poorly I swam. My technique was awful and I eventually lost interest in swimming and quit once my pass was used up.

Fast-forward a few years to present day and I am just now finishing up my first five weeks of swimming lessons. I have really, really enjoyed myself and I have learned so much. I had taken lessons as a child, but that was so long ago, I have forgotten almost everything about proper techniques and strokes. I am not afraid of the water and I certainly can keep myself from drowning, but I would never progress if I didn’t take the time to restart my learning by backing things up to almost the very beginning. This process really helped me think about my language teaching and what my students are going through. These are some of my reflections. Continue reading Swimming

Forgiving

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It was my first year of college and I was anxious to find out who my dorm roommate was going to be that year. I had been in this dorm in a previous year for high school (I attended a boarding school on the same campus), so I felt like I was in my element. That was when Greg* walked in. He was big. Really big. It turns out he was a weightlifter and even though he was wearing a fairly puffy jacket on this cool fall afternoon, I could tell he would be able to snap me in half if he really wanted to. I just hoped he didn’t want to.

It turned out that Greg was a big softy. While he was dedicated to his weight training, he was a pacifist and as kind as he was muscular. He kept his side of the room in immaculate condition and kept a rigid schedule of going to bed early so he could get up early to work out, doing his homework before going out, and reading a book in the evening. I could set my watch to him; he was that dependable.

I, on the other hand, was having too much fun to worry about such trivial things as studying, cleaning, and exercising regularly. Actually, I was pretty much the opposite of Greg. While he was studying, I was out with friends avoiding my work. While he was working out, I was sleeping. When he was reading, I was playing games on the computer and cranking my music much too loudly.

I liked Greg. Something about him intrigued me and made me feel a bit guilty about my attitude towards work and exercise. Continue reading Forgiving

Judging

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I am sitting here staring at $2.15 in change in a pile on my desk. It might seem like a fairly insignificant thing, but it actually has had me thinking about a great deal of things over the past hour or so. In fact, I still don’t quite know what to do with it. You see, it isn’t mine, but the person who owns it didn’t want it. Let me rewind a bit. Continue reading Judging