Tag Archives: learning


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



Image courtesy of Simon Powell

I woke up this morning and this was spinning in my head. As I write this, I have a feeling it should have stayed in there where it made more sense (at least to me). Oh well, I will give it a go.

17th May 2013. That was the day that I started this blog. I had bold ambitions to share my thoughts on issues that mattered to the ELT community and how they were being played out in my classroom. I never ever intended for this site to make me rich or famous (and for the record, neither of those actually happened anyway), but my hope has always been that it might help others to reflect on their own teaching and possibly start a conversation as I learned from those who read my posts.

In part, that has happened. Continue reading Contemplating


Trench sign

Image courtesy of  Danie van der Merwe

Teaching is a strange career choice. Think about it. For almost the entirety of your young life, your goal is to get out of school. You finally graduate from high school and you willingly choose to endure anywhere from 2-8 more years of formal education just so you can go back to the classroom. Why? What drives a person to return when they have the opportunity to run away and be free? I was never the best student and I certainly had my fair share of difficulties with bullies (I was almost always one of the smallest students and I certainly wasn’t one of the “cool kids”). My parents were both teachers and I swore I would never become a teacher. I saw the amount of extra time they had to put into their job at home and on holidays (anyone who says teachers have a free ride during the summer needs to have their head examined) and I thought, “Who would want to do this job?”

Well, here I am in my ninth consecutive year as an English language instructor and I still love my job. I love the fact that I get to meet so many amazing people, students and colleagues, and I selfishly enjoy it when someone leaves my class feeling they have grown in their language ability. Was it only because of me? Of course not, but I do hope that I was able to help in some way.

Continue reading Exploring



Photo courtesy of  Piotr Bizior

Growing up in a bilingual country such as Canada has some real benefits. Oh sure, there is the vast spaces and the diverse landscape, but most of all, I love our culture. I love the fact that we embrace our linguistic diversity and, even though it can be difficult at times, I love that fact we have access to so much in two languages. I always find it odd when I visit the United States and find only English on packaging, signs, and announcements. I remember as a child sitting at breakfast and reading the cereal box, comparing the English to the French and seeing how word order and word choice was different between them. Even though I was required to learn French in school, I never was able to ever learn it properly (it’s a long story involving moving from one province to another and getting a nightmare of a teacher) which is really sad. There are so many times I wish I had stuck with French and had practiced it more. Ah, c’est la vie.

A number of years later after finishing my university degree, my wife and I moved to Lithuania and I started work as an English language instructor for a shipping company. During that time, we made a commitment to take Lithuanian language lessons from the university in town. We had started with an intense summer language course and then moved on into the regular program in the fall. Our teacher was extremely nice and very knowledgeable, but her experience in teaching was primarily focused on historical linguistics, especially the history of Lithuanian as an Indo-European language. Her approach to teaching us involved a great deal of time learning word lists and memorizing charts for declensions and conjugations. Over time, I was able to define a large number of words, mostly nouns and verbs, and I could spout off the declensions or conjugations for those words as they were laid out in the chart. The problem was I couldn’t speak. Someone could talk to me and I could mostly understand them (although, that took time and practice on my own) if they talked a little slower and didn’t use a lot of colloquial language. Funny thing is, I couldn’t answer making it a fairly one-sided conversation. I couldn’t even call for a taxi, but I knew all of the endings for house!

As an English teacher, I have often thought about how I can help my students increase their productive skills. It is the balance between learning and acquiring a language [see Earl Stevick’s comments on this here pp. 29-30]. In my case, I learned a ‘whack sack’ of vocabulary (or is plethora more appropriate here, Dean Shareski?), but couldn’t make the necessary connection to real life, that is, being able to acquire the language. I knew the definitions for words, but not the application of them.

Continue reading Defining