Tag Archives: tefl

Training

marine

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

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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

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

Assisting

little red hen

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

swimming goggles

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

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

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. Continue reading Spinning

Falling

migracija

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Here I was staring at Room 209 once again, wishing for something, anything, to happen. I can’t imagine the hours, perhaps days, my wife and I had sat on this narrow wooden bench in the second-floor hallway of the Klaipeda Migration Office, hoping that our application for our one-year visa was going to be approved. We had been told that our forms were incorrect despite the fact we had received it from this very office. We had been told of ‘new’ fees that needed to be paid immediately, only to be told the next day that we no longer need to pay this fee, so we could fill out a new form and bring it to Vilnius, a five-hour drive from Klaipeda, to get our money back, even though it would cost twice that to get there and back. Begrudgingly, we sign the money over to some mysterious recipient, likely in that office. Slowly, but surely, we had ‘played the game’ enough without giving into what we felt was unethical behaviour to the point where we were now the ones who had their names called out of the vast crowd, even though others had been waiting there much longer than us. We had finally ‘made it’! Continue reading Falling