Monthly Archives: May 2014

Helping

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Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

The summer after I turned thirteen, my parents encouraged me to get a summer job. I had no idea how to get a job, so I wandered down to the local student summer employment office for some advice. During my meeting with the job counsellor, I was asked if I would be interested in working at the courthouse for a few days doing some landscaping. I was so excited. My first job! Of course I accepted, so she told me to report to the landscaping office at the courthouse the following morning. Being thirteen, I didn’t take any notes, so I completely forgot the name of the person I was supposed to meet at 8:00 AM. Oh well, I would figure it out.

I wasn’t much of a morning person at that time, but that morning I was up and ready to go. I was so proud to have a job and I looked forward to getting paid for my own work, not some errand I had done for someone I knew. I jumped on my bike and rode off to the courthouse in search of the mystery person I had already forgotten. Upon arriving at the back parking lot, I locked up my bike and headed into the first door I could find. After some wandering around some back hallways, someone in an office came out and asked me if I was Jason. “Nope, Nathan,” I replied. “I’m sure it is just a typo,” he mumbled as he ushered me into his office. “You’re smaller than I expected,” he chuckled. I didn’t laugh. Continue reading Helping

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Building

words

Image courtesy of Taryn

A few days ago, I posted this ‘challenge’ on Twitter:

Project #444ELT: Helping ELT professionals connect with ELT research

  • Read 4 journal articles every week for 4 weeks (a total of 16 articles)
  • Each week, write a blog post that has:
    • a reference to each article
    • a short summary of each one
    • your remarks or thoughts on the content
    • a list of questions raised after reading each article.
  • Share your post on Twitter using the hashtag #444ELT
To be totally honest, I thought it might catch a few people, but instead the response via retweets and favourites has been really surprising. I mostly did this to keep myself accountable, but I was secretly hoping a few people might join in as well. It is a little different than a blog carnival in that the person joining in can do it at any time instead of setting a deadline. This is meant to be ongoing as a means to promote the use of ELT research in the classroom. By forcing yourself to participate in this short challenge, it is hoped that this will create a routine of sorts that will carry on throughout your career.

I decided to choose a theme for each week. This week’s theme revolves around vocabulary learning/acquisition and the use of intentional and incidental means. Each study is different in many ways, but the common thread shows amazing continuity in the results with some solid applications for the language classroom.

So, without further delay, here is my first entry: Week one of #444ELT Continue reading Building

Growing

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Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli

One of the unique things about becoming a teenager in the Canadian province of Alberta is you can get your learner’s driving permit on your fourteenth birthday, and that is exactly what I did. Just as with most young people, the opportunity to move behind the wheel is a thrill and one that you can’t wait to do on you own. In order to obtain your learner’s permit, all you have to do is to pass the written part of the exam. I remember the first time behind the wheel. My dad took me to a remote parking lot in a empty city park and had me start and start in first gear (I learned to drive on a manual transmission car). I loved it, but I desperately wanted to get out on the road. That opportunity came weeks later and only around some residential streets. Then the big day came. My parents and I were going to be driving to another city about 3 hours away and my dad was going to let me drive the whole way. The day was overcast, but clear and the start of the journey was fairly uneventful. Slowly, my dad nodded off in the front seat while my mom clung tightly to the door handle in the back seat. Then it happened: construction. I had no idea what to do. There were people holding signs, orange cones all over the place, trucks moving in and out of traffic, and to make matters worse, gravel and rough roads. Meanwhile, my dad continued his afternoon nap. Eventually we made it through and on to our destination. Once we pulled over and stopped, I realized that my hands were cramping as I had been clinging so tightly to the steering wheel that my knuckles had turned pure white. I could hardly take my hands off of the wheel.

I learned a lot from that experience, but in hindsight, it would have been better for me to have read a bit more on the subject and possibly even practised it a bit in on a smaller scale. Also, it would have been nice to have someone with more experience guiding me along the way, pointing out potential problems along the way (sorry dad, I know you were tired and it all worked out in the end). This is what it was like for me as I was handed over my TESL certificate back in 1995. It was like someone had handed me my driver’s license without the process of a learner’s permit. Sure, I had had a practicum with an experienced trainer, but it was fairly short and couldn’t possibly have prepared me for what was to come next. Over the years, I have grown a great deal with a long way still to go. I thought I would share some of my thoughts about how I have learned to become a better teacher for my students.

So, you have your TESL certificate in hand, what’s next? To me, you are like a young tree that has been planted in the ground. Here are some things that can help you grow.

Continue reading Growing

Choosing

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Image courtesy of Steven Mileham

I hate shopping. If I was to describe my experience as a shopper, for clothes especially, it would best be summed up in one word: survival. I am not one to go from shop to shop to find the best deal. As a result, I’m not terribly picky. If the clothes generally fit and they don’t clash too badly, I’ll get them. Therefore, my closet is a terrible mishmash of things that don’t necessarily go together, but I try to make it work. This shirt is blue, these pants have blue in them, and this tie is greyish-blue so they must go together. I have gotten pretty good at finding combinations that ‘work’ and I just grab those ‘sets’ in the morning. No wasting time checking to see if something else might work better. It’s “good enough”.

I sometimes wonder if we are like that with words. We grab stock phrases and throw them together as collocation ‘sets’. They are “good enough” for what we need to accomplish. We rarely stop to think about what we are saying and how it may be interpreted. It often takes someone bold enough to speak up to help us better understand the consequences of our words. Continue reading Choosing

Reviewing

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Image courtesy of CameliaTWU

One year. On May 17, 2013, I started this blog as a way of creating a separate space for me to reflect on what I was doing, learning, and thinking about as an ELT instructor and educator. What I didn’t expect was that anyone would actually read it. Seventy(!) posts later, here I am wondering what it is I have accomplished over this time. Did I really learn anything? Did I actually help anyone else along the way? Is it what I expected it would be or has it evolved into something different? Am I better for having taken the time to write these posts or could my time have been better served elsewhere? Lastly, if I was to close the virtual door on this site, would anyone actually care? Would I care? So many questions. Continue reading Reviewing