Monthly Archives: August 2013

Cheating

cheating

Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski

Here I was, a young, eager English teacher fresh out of college standing in front of a group of students at a business college in Lithuania. We had been together for 3 months and now the time had arrived for me to hand out my first exam as a language instructor. I had been warned that Lithuanians were masters in the ‘art’ of cheating (obviously a major generalization that comes from a negative cultural attitude) so I was prepared to not be ‘outsmarted’ by my students. It was me against them and I was ready to show them who was boss. The exam was carried out in the evening and with the bright lights in the room along with the darkness outside, I planned on using the reflection in the window as my secret weapon. And it worked. I managed to catch a woman redhanded as she pulled out a cheat sheet as my back was turned. I bolted over and grabbed her exam and told her to leave immediately. The class was in shock. She started to cry as she ran out of the classroom. In that moment, my heart sank as I realized what I had just done. I felt sick. To be honest, I still feel terrible about it. Sure, she had cheated, but what does that actually mean? What could I have done differently to avoid this situation? How should I have handled that moment to the betterment of the whole class? Continue reading Cheating

Giving

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Image courtesy of Tim Green

One of the tasks I was assigned while working for a shipping company in Lithuania was to read over and edit various documents that had been translated (I use that term loosely here) into English. While some of the documents had been done by a trained specialist and were quite good, there were others that were handed to me that were ‘translated’ by someone named Google. You can imagine the difficulties I faced trying to decipher what was trying to be communicated and I would often have to ask for the Lithuanian version as a comparison. Even though my Lithuanian was weak, I could often piece together what was ¬†written and then edit that into something that understandable in English.

I noticed something interesting after doing a few of these documents. While I wouldn’t say that I was make great strides in my acquisition of the Lithuanian language, I was able to piece together some common phrases that I could use in my everyday life. It was this process of deciphering and interpreting the language that I was able to make connections in the language for myself. It also helped me find places where I could help my students in their language learning process.

I came across an interesting journal article the other day on the role of the ‘giver’ in peer-editing. Continue reading Giving

Burning

Fire Growth

Image courtesy of Ian Barbour

Many, many years ago, I spent five months travelling around the beautiful country of Australia. Of that time, I spent six weeks in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney in the small town of Katoomba. At the edge of town were The Three Sisters, a rock formation that towered over the vast and dense forest valley. I had the opportunity to meet a man who worked as one of the forest fire fighters in the area and he was telling me that there was a concern that the area hadn’t experienced a fire in many years. I found it odd that a fire fighter wanted a fire to come, but he explained that the longer it went on without a major burn, the larger and more difficult it would become to extinguish once it did. He also stressed the importance of fires in helping the forest regenerate and experience new and better growth.

It makes me think about how we control things in the classroom. Are we so worried about students ‘failing’ that we end up stunting their growth? Continue reading Burning

Preparing

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Image courtesy of Calsidyrose
Note: This post is my submission for the 1st ELT Research Blog Carnival. If you are interested in knowing more about writing one yourself, please go to the ELT Research Blog Carnival website.

I was barely 16 and has just moved to the ‘big city’ when I started looking for my first job. With a fist full of resumes and a dress shirt and tie on, I wandered up and down the shopping mall looking for help wanted signs when I spotted a notice in the photo store window. Having grown up around photographers and my dad having a photo shop and studio when I was younger, I thought this would make a great fit. I strode up to the counter and asked for the manager. She came out and I politely introduced myself and handed her my resume. She took a minute to look things over before spinning around and grabbing a semi-professional camera off of the shelf. “Sell it to me,” she exclaimed as she handed the camera to me. I was stunned. In that moment, I was caught completely off guard and didn’t know what to do. I took the camera (which was a new model for me) and looked it over. My brain was whirling. I was panicking. All of those things I had prepared myself for before walking into the shop fell away. I knew about photography and cameras, but that sudden disruption to my plan took me off guard.

Now, think about your students at the moment just before you press play on the class CD that came with your textbook. Are they ready, or are they slipping into panic mode? Do they know what is expected of them or are they just left to figure things out as they go along? Compound the problem by making the listening a high-stakes test such as an exit exam. How do you think they feel now? Continue reading Preparing