Training

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Image courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I completed my initial TESL certificate program. A lot has happened in that time, but I remember it so clearly. At that time, I was going to school in south-central Manitoba (that’s in Canada for those who don’t know) and I was taking the last of my TESL courses including a practicum training course. I was young and carefree, so I don’t think I was paying much attention to the information that was given me in class. All I cared about was getting this thing done!

It turned out that I was going to be teaching at Red River Community College in Winnipeg, about a one hour drive from the college I was attending. A girl from Cambridge, England was also doing her practicum there, so we decided to carpool. The first day came along and we drove into town, sharing how nervous and excited we both were to get this started. For the days leading up to this, we had been talking about our classes and the time was finally arriving. We drove up to the school and jumped out since we only had about 15 minutes before class was to start. I ran to my classroom and introduced myself to my practicum instructor who was not pleased that I was arriving so close to the start of class. I sat in the back and waited. The teacher introduced me and then called me up to the front. I was to teach a 30 minute portion of the class and I figured I had more than enough material to cover it. I started off and started to notice that the students seemed to be finishing the activities much faster than I had anticipated. In fact, I ran through all of my planned material in about 5 minutes leaving me wondering what to do next. Thankfully, my instructor jumped in and took over.

So what was the problem? Continue reading Training

Shuffling

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Image courtesy of Steve

A number of years ago, I decided to convert an audio book on CD into MP3 files so I could listen to them on my iPod as I walked back and forth from work. This was a great idea, except that somewhere in the process, the files got shuffled around and the only way I could figure out what order to put them in was to listen to the start and end of each file. Through that labourious process, I got the idea that this might be helpful in the language classroom. I did a little test on my own to see how it might work in a lesson and then I located a file that lent itself to being played out of order. I wrote up some questions and ran it in class. To be honest, it didn’t work that well. I had chosen something that was too difficult for the group I was working with and from there, the lesson went downhill. Since then, I’ve tried it a few times in class using different listening material and with each attempt, things seemed to get better and better as I adapted and changed things for the next time.

Fast forward to last Friday and my latest attempt at a shuffle listening. For some reason I can’t comprehend, I decided to do it on a day when I was being observed as part of my work at the college. Usually I would play it safe, but instead I created a whole new lesson based on a listening I hadn’t used before. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have done that. Thankfully, it worked, or at least it seems to have; I’ll have to wait to hear the comments from my colleague who observed me. Continue reading Shuffling

Selling

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Image courtesy of Josch13

In the fable The Vain Jackdaw, Aesop tells the story of a jackdaw who is determined to make himself look better by attaching the feathers of other birds to his body. Initially this works as Jupiter chooses the jackdaw to be the “sovereign over the birds” due to “the beauty of his plummage”. The other birds, seeing through the jackdaw’s colourful facade, remove the false feathers, exposing him for who he truly is.

Social media is full of jackdaws, strutting around trying desperately to gain the attention of others. While this may seem a bit harsh, in reality it happens far too much for my liking. Continue reading Selling

Celebrating

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Image courtesy of Becky Snyder

Two years. One hundred posts. Over 10,000 visits. I never thought this blog would ever make it this far. I normally don’t try to get caught up in numbers. It can be dangerous. But from time to time, it is can be healthy to look back over what has happened, giving you insight into where you are heading. In this case, I thought it might be good to spend some time sharing my thoughts about blogging, social media, and my growth as a teacher, learner, and person over this time. Continue reading Celebrating

Discriminating

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Image courtesy of Christopher Carfi

I have spent the better part of today mulling over a response to some comments that were made on a Linkedin post regarding the discrimination of non-native speaking English teachers in job ads. I tried making a video, but I started to rant and that went downhill from there. This is my third and final attempt at writing this out. If you are reading this, then somehow I’ve managed to articulate something that I felt was worthy of posting. Here goes nothing.

For those who are wondering what I am talking about, here is a link to the post and comments. I want to make something perfectly clear, this is not an attack on the commenter. I do not know her, nor do I understand why she feels the way she does. Because of that, I will refer to some of her problems with this debate and attempt to address them in a civil manner (which didn’t go so well on video). Continue reading Discriminating

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