Spinning

woodcut_woman_spinning

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

I’m sitting here staring at my screen, a blank screen, hoping that inspiration will come. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, I have lots of things floating around in my head, it is that I am literally at a loss for words. Somehow, my creative juices have dried up. I want to write, but I am stuck. I have topics, ideas, thoughts, but no words. They are all jumbled up in my head and refuse to come out. I’m not sure why, but I felt I just needed to start writing, even if it doesn’t make sense. If you are reading this now, somehow I have managed to transform myself into Rumpelstiltskin and have spun gold out of the hayloft in my head.

Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case in my classroom as I transition once again into a different course with new objectives. While my previous students and courses revolved around getting students into the regular college courses, this course is a bit of a hybrid of settlement and academic language. I am still working as a contract faculty member within the college, I am working alongside settlement teachers teaching immigrants and refugees looking to get the certification and paperwork needed to get better jobs in Canada. As a result, there is no summative assessment such as grades or marks and exams in this class. Everything we do is formative based and is ongoing. In many ways this fits me better, although I still love teaching EAP in the college. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not complaining at all. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I am relishing the chance to do things differently than what has been expected of me since I left Lithuania in 2006.

At that time, I was working for a ferry shipping company as an English language instructor and customer service trainer. Pretty much everything was handed over to me to figure out and accomplish on my own. I loved it. Some of my students were with me from the day I started to the day I left, four years in total. I had no idea at the time how unique the situation was and that I was probably never going to find anything else like it again. Students moved up when they were ready and the goal was simple: learn English to use at work and at home. We used material from their everyday work mixed in with some workbooks and other material. Things changed as we went along and we never felt the need to do something we felt we didn’t need to.

It wasn’t all wine and roses (although that also happened from time to time), but it was the perfect situation for me at that time. Leaving Lithuania was extremely difficult and painful, but it was for the best in the end. The economic crises forced my wife and I to leave due to visas restrictions and shortly after that, the company made a number of changes that likely would have left me without a job anyway. Upon returning to Canada, I started and finished my MA TESOL and found what I really want to get involved in, that being EAP.All along that way, I have been working with education technology and that continues to this day, but there has been an interesting twist to that part of my career. This is the very first time that I haven’t had any technology per se in my classroom (okay, we can borrow a laptop and projector as long as it isn’t being used somewhere else) and my students have mixed access to technology on their own. Some of my students don’t even have cell phones or computers while others have a little of everything. The tech access disparity really shows through in this course. Some have a great deal of experience with technology, while others don’t even know where to begin. All of them have the option of taking a computer course, but not all of them can due to schedule conflicts or other responsibilities. All of this has led me to re-evaluate what I feel I need and what I can do without in regards to technology in my instruction.

So where does that leave this post? Well, there are a few things that I am thinking about/working on at the moment and I am using this post as a place to put them out there for others to share their wisdom and to keep me accountable in reporting what I have accomplished or done, especially in these areas:

  • how to give students access to material outside of class time without requiring them to use technology
  • how to give students who do want to use their mobile device access to material without give them something more than those who don’t have equal access
  • how to build in more collaboration into the coursework without the use of technology (this is primarily where I use technology in my classroom)
  • how to keep giving ongoing feedback to my students without relying on technology
  • how to work with material in class without the use of books or computers, but not relying on too much ‘paperwork’

There are other things currently lost in the vortex of my mind, but I will try to retrieve them at a later time in a future post. In the meantime, share your thoughts. Please. I have ideas, but for those who have been down this road a few times, please share your wisdom with me and others. Together we can get that spinning wheel going.

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