Image courtesy of USFWSmidwest
It’s amazing what I can learn on my drive to work. This semester, I am working on two campuses which are about a thirty-minute drive from each other. During my daily commute, I listen to CBC Radio and I am always surprised how interesting some of these topics are. The other day they were interviewing a professor from the University of Saskatchewan regarding the flooding that was occurring in central Canada. He mentioned a study they had undertaken regarding the draining of prairie wetlands for farming and the effect this has had on spring and summer flooding. This study shows that this natural prairie watershed system was instrumental in dramatically reducing the flooding downstream. By allowing farmers to drain these small and seemingly insignificant ponds and marshes to provide more space for growing crops, water had no natural barrier and would eventually accumulate and overflow the natural banks, flooding farmland and municipalities downstream.
This got me thinking about teaching and how we are much like those individual farmers working on our small plots of land. Our actions, no matter how well intentioned, have an affect on our students and can cause problems further ‘downstream’. Continue reading Flooding
In support of the Bell Let’s Talk day today, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts and concerns in regards to what the English language education community is doing, or should be doing, to support both the teachers and their learners dealing with mental health issues. Continue reading Healing
Image still from the movie Entre les murs
This weekend, I made the exceedingly long journey to Vancouver for the BC TEAL Lower Mainland Regional Conference. I had a great time and I will certainly blog about that soon, but that isn’t the purpose of my post today. On the plane back from the conference, I watched the movie Entre les murs, an intriguing movie about a teacher and his middle school class in Paris. Even though I am not a K-12 teacher, I found it to be a fascinating and quite convincingly realistic voyage through a typical school year. I think the thing that caught my attention the most was that I felt like it wasn’t contrived, a compelling story without the need of a storyline. Unlike many of films on schools put out by Hollywood, this story didn’t have a hero or villain, blatant agenda or mountain top experience. Instead, this story left me with more questions than answers. In the end, I didn’t find myself really liking or detesting either the teacher or the students. I felt a variety of emotions throughout the film, but none stayed consistent. Instead, it got me thinking about my classroom, my approaches to teaching and how I can learn from this situation. Here are my somewhat scattered thoughts: Continue reading Watching
Image courtesy of Ben Grey
I grew up in a small town in Canada before moving to the ‘big city’ of Calgary when I was 14. One major difference I noticed right away was the disparity between the haves and have nots. Sure, there was rich and poor in the town I had grown up in, but I don’t remember seeing it displayed in such a noticeable way as I did in Calgary.
For the most part, my parents never made any remarks about a person’s wealth, but there was this one friend of my parents who had a lot of money and owned property in various places including a cabin in Montana. She drove a nice car, but nothing flashy. She didn’t act rich, but she certainly was. One day, she was over at our place and the topic of skiing came up. She mentioned that she had this place in Montana and that she was more than happy to have people stay there for free any time we wanted. It wasn’t one of those ‘I’ll make the offer so that I can show you how much money I have’ type of statements, it was a genuine ‘what’s mine is yours’ sort of thing. After she left, my parents remarked that it wasn’t good or bad to be rich, it is what you do with what you have that makes the difference.
Another story comes from an offbeat British fellow named Jamie McDonald who is currently running across Canada to raise money for various hospitals for sick children. He doesn’t have a support team or even a real plan other than to get across Canada before his visa runs out! He is a genuinely nice guy who would give someone the shirt off his back if need be. Don’t take my word for it, read his posts on Twitter and Facebook and you will see that he doesn’t have much, but he is giving all that he can to help others.
I am starting to realize how important it is that we share with others what we have in terms of our experience and expertise. Continue reading Sharing
Image courtesy of Jeff Fenton
In January, I moved across Canada to start work as an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) instructor for a university in Northern Ontario. The program was still really new and had, and is still having, a difficult time bringing in new teachers. It isn’t that the school wants to bring in outsiders, but the lack of local, professionally-trained teachers is posing a real problem. There is a push from the university to raise up teachers from within the local area through the creation of a teacher training program.
The TESL certificate program was in the design phase when I arrived and in April, I was a approached about possibly designing the material for the program as well as teach it. At the time, I was the only one who was qualified to run the program under the guidelines set out by TESL Canada. Full confession here, I hadn’t even considered being a teacher trainer, let alone help design a run a full program, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. May rolled around and I found myself on my first day standing in front a group of eager students waiting for the class to start. It hit me. Here I was about to teach others on what it means to teach. Me. I started to think, “What am I doing? These people think I actually know what I am talking about”.
The course set off on its five-week journey followed by a seemingly endless stream of practicums. It was during my observation times that I noticed students making similar ‘errors’ (or as I would define them, anyway) which we had covered in class. I couldn’t figure it out. Why was there such an issue with these things and not in other areas? What did I do wrong? How could I avoid this in the future? I started to reflect on my own first few months as a novice teacher and realized that I had made a number of those same choices even though my instructor had covered them. The problem was not in the instruction, but in the implementation. Bridging the gap from training to teaching was more difficult than I had anticipated. Continue reading Bridging
Image courtesy of Ethan Lofton
In some of my previous posts, I have talked about how I would like to explore some of the things I have discovered through the use of an action research (AR) study in my classroom. For those who are not exactly sure what AR is, I have decided to do something a little different and have compiled some of the AR books and articles I have read on the subject that I have found helpful for me as a language teacher. Think of this as a pseudo annotated bibliography. It isn’t extensive by any means, but I hope it gives you a better picture of the use of AR as a form of professional development (PD). Continue reading Problematising
Image courtesy of Alexander Baxevanis
Note: This is in response to the post I did yesterday about the ELT Research Blog Carnival. Some of you asked about another option rather than blogging since some of you don’t blog. I wanted to respond to that and to provide some options. Also, I recently read a post by Rose Bard about her blogging experience. You can read it here. I also read a post by Vicky Loras about PD and blogging. You can read it here.
In January 2012, I made a resolution that I was going to start a blog as well as join Twitter as a way of sharing what I was learning and to learn from other ELT professionals. Knowing how successful resolutions tend to be, I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but I was at least willing to make an effort to try and make it work. I was pleasantly surprised (and still am) that so many people would be open to reading, commenting, and sharing what I wrote. I was also able to meet some amazing people who have added to my growth as a teacher. With the amount of information that was out there, I never expected to be noticed. All of that is great, but what does blogging do for me and for those I keep in touch with? Here are some reasons to blog as a teaching professional: Continue reading Blogging