Photo by Mikey. Under CC by 2.0 licence.
Back in the summer of 2015, I started working for LISTN, an organization that supported LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) instructors in British Columbia. It was a short-term contract that involved finding ways of helping these teachers by finding and creating resources and providing face-to-face and online consultation and training. It was at this time that I had the idea of creating a Twitter chat for LINC instructors as a way of connecting teachers from all over Canada, especially those who work in areas with limited access to resources and training. I wanted it to be an online ‘staff room’ where teachers could come and meet another and share ideas and challenges in a safe, supportive environment.
I started putting the idea of #LINCchat together, but I knew I would need some help in getting this off the ground. It didn’t take me very long to come up with someone I knew who would be perfect for the task, Svetlana Lupasco. I met Svetlana in person in October 2013 at a conference, but we already had crossed paths on Twitter. She was teaching in a LINC program and was not afraid of a challenge, so I sent her a message, hoping she would join me on this journey. It didn’t take long to hear back with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Continue reading Following
Note: For a while now, I’ve wanted to do a series of posts for TESL certificate students and recent graduates. This is the first of what I hope to be a series of articles focused on some foundational skills needed in being an English language instructor.
When I was nine, we got our first computer at home. My brother ordered a Sinclair ZX-80 from the UK and it was a beautiful thing. This thin, white masterpiece of British engineering had 1KB of RAM and no internal storage. Instead, it used cassette tapes for loading and saving programs, which could take up to an hour to load.
I loved it. I was determined to write my own programs and make my millions as a computer programmer. I read through the manual on Sinclair BASIC and played around with simple programs before setting off on my ambitious plan of writing a computer game I could sell. After thinking about it for while (probably 10 minutes), I settled on the name Tank Wars. I wasn’t sure of the details at that point, but I knew it would involve tanks moving around the screen and shooting at one another. Yeah. A winner for sure.
Fast-forward a few years later and Tank Wars still hadn’t gotten off of the ground. I had made some progress, but due to a number of issues, I just couldn’t make it work. Eventually I gave up. Thankfully, it wasn’t a complete loss. I learned a good deal about programming and realized it wasn’t the path for me. I also learned a whole lot about careful planning. Continue reading Questioning
I was in the car today driving home after dropping my parents off and I had the radio on, listening to a talk radio show on CBC Radio. The show was a special follow-up to some of the investigative stories they had covered recently. One of the stories was about a 70-year-old man here in Canada whose wife was taken to the hospital and then on to palliative care before she passed away in October 2013. Shortly after that, he received a $5000 bill in the mail for the ambulance services since it wasn’t covered under insurance. For him, this was far too much. He couldn’t even pay the $30 per month minimum required by the province.
At this point, I was already thinking about how poorly we treat our elderly and how tragic it is that someone at this age can’t even afford to pay $30 per month. Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. Continue reading Caring
Image courtesy of Roo Reynolds
Hi. It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed you. I hope you are all doing well. Me? I’ve been busy with new jobs, none of which are in the classroom. I’ve also joined the board of my local association for English language teachers and I’m co-chairing the next annual conference. But even in all of that busyness, I haven’t forgotten about you. Alas, you’ve probably moved on though.
Not being in the classroom for the past six months has been, well, interesting. I miss it. A lot. So if I miss it that much, how come I’m not teaching? Well, it has a lot to do with seniority and available positions. Needless to say, I’m itching to get back in there. Sort of.
To be honest, I’m going through one of THOSE times. You know, self-doubt and all. I hear from teachers in person and online and I begin to doubt my abilities. Those little whispers in my brain attempting to convince me that I’m not good enough, not smart enough for the job.
This may sound like a pity party. But it isn’t. Stick with me here. Continue reading Doubting
Image courtesy of Presley Perswain
When I joined BC TEAL back in 2012, I had just completed my MA TESOL and I was looking to connect with my local English language teachers association. What I didn’t know was that I was gaining a family. That sounds really trite and maybe a bit idealistic, but the longer I have been a part of this association, the more that has become true.
In a short period of time, I made a number of friends with my teaching colleagues and I grew as a teaching professional through my interactions with each one of them. That was all nice and good, but I was not in it to join a club. What I wanted was to see lives changed if that could even be possible through something like this. Continue reading Climbing
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
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
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
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
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