Tag Archives: teaching

Profiting

money

Image courtesy of Images Money

The other day, I read this post about a photographer named Kris who posted a prize-winning photo of the shadow of Mt. Fuji on Reddit’s subreddit /r/pics only to find his joy for getting a huge amount of upvotes to be taken away by his photo being shared without his permission or attribution on various social media networks. I won’t get into the whole story since you can read about it on his post, but one of the comments on his blog regarding this story really stuck with me. The person wrote, “Your image was not “stolen” yet. Nobody is turning a profit on it.” There are two distinct things that came to mind after reading this:

  1. For most people, the inherent value in something is in what you can get in exchange for it.
  2. For most people, profit refers to monetary gain.

In this situation, the commenter believes that the photographer took the photo to make money. Since other people are not making money from it, there is no problem with those individuals sharing that photo as long as they are not making money from it. My problem with this is that the notion of value and profit are not just about physical items such as cars and computers, but intellectual properties such as writing and ideas. Continue reading Profiting

Starting

coffee cropped

Image courtesy of Cloud2013

One of my first jobs I ever had was working in a camera store in a shopping mall as a salesperson. Every morning, my boss would come in carrying a tray of coffee from McDonalds for everyone who was working that morning. One of the guys I worked with would smile, take the coffee, thank her, and then promptly put the coffee on the back counter. After a few weeks, I started to notice that he never actually took a drink from the cup, but the cup would eventually disappear. One morning, I watched to see what would happen. He grabbed the coffee as per usual and put the cup on the back counter. About an hour later, he took the cup with him to the photo lab and dumped the coffee down the sink. I asked him what he was doing and he simply said, “I don’t drink coffee.” He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t want to hurt our manager’s feelings, so he never told her. This went on the entire time I worked there and I suspect that it continued on long after I was gone.

For the manager, she thought she was being helpful and for the most part she was. I am sure all of us appreciated the gesture, but if she had taken the time to ask, she would have found out that most of us didn’t even like the coffee that much and would have appreciated something else instead. I am not trying to sound ungrateful, I am simply showing how a simple question could have made a difference in this situation instead of continuing to carry on in the way it had always been.

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the things I do in class that I believe to be productive / helpful / important for learning a language. Continue reading Starting

Growing

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Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli

One of the unique things about becoming a teenager in the Canadian province of Alberta is you can get your learner’s driving permit on your fourteenth birthday, and that is exactly what I did. Just as with most young people, the opportunity to move behind the wheel is a thrill and one that you can’t wait to do on you own. In order to obtain your learner’s permit, all you have to do is to pass the written part of the exam. I remember the first time behind the wheel. My dad took me to a remote parking lot in a empty city park and had me start and start in first gear (I learned to drive on a manual transmission car). I loved it, but I desperately wanted to get out on the road. That opportunity came weeks later and only around some residential streets. Then the big day came. My parents and I were going to be driving to another city about 3 hours away and my dad was going to let me drive the whole way. The day was overcast, but clear and the start of the journey was fairly uneventful. Slowly, my dad nodded off in the front seat while my mom clung tightly to the door handle in the back seat. Then it happened: construction. I had no idea what to do. There were people holding signs, orange cones all over the place, trucks moving in and out of traffic, and to make matters worse, gravel and rough roads. Meanwhile, my dad continued his afternoon nap. Eventually we made it through and on to our destination. Once we pulled over and stopped, I realized that my hands were cramping as I had been clinging so tightly to the steering wheel that my knuckles had turned pure white. I could hardly take my hands off of the wheel.

I learned a lot from that experience, but in hindsight, it would have been better for me to have read a bit more on the subject and possibly even practised it a bit in on a smaller scale. Also, it would have been nice to have someone with more experience guiding me along the way, pointing out potential problems along the way (sorry dad, I know you were tired and it all worked out in the end). This is what it was like for me as I was handed over my TESL certificate back in 1995. It was like someone had handed me my driver’s license without the process of a learner’s permit. Sure, I had had a practicum with an experienced trainer, but it was fairly short and couldn’t possibly have prepared me for what was to come next. Over the years, I have grown a great deal with a long way still to go. I thought I would share some of my thoughts about how I have learned to become a better teacher for my students.

So, you have your TESL certificate in hand, what’s next? To me, you are like a young tree that has been planted in the ground. Here are some things that can help you grow.

Continue reading Growing

Waiting

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Image courtesy of Kate Mereand-Sinha
This post is in response to Anne Hendler’s blog post challenge to share one thing that happened today and post it with #OneThing on Twitter. I decided to write it as a short story instead, something I’ve never really done before. Thought it seemed appropriate. Don’t worry, I won’t give up my day job to become a writer any time soon!

With the sun straining to appear through the blanket of grey, I shoved my hands in my pockets and started my way towards the college. “At least it isn’t raining,” I muttered to myself. I’m not really a morning person, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to get used to the morning commute. I was careful to walk around a small snail creeping along on the sidewalk when I almost stepped into the line of car climbing out of the underground parkade. “Thanks for stopping!” I thought as he squealed his tires, launching himself over the curb and onto the road. The driver leans on his horn as he swerves around a truck backing into an a building parking lot. “Patience, please!” I growl. Oi. And I’ve hardly gone fifty paces. I begin to wonder what this day has in store for me. Continue reading Waiting

Changing

change

Image courtesy of Nick Page

Have you ever had one of those days where a certain topic keeps coming up over and over again in completely different situations? Yesterday was like that for me. The completely random topic? Critical pedagogy. Not sure why, but I’m not complaining. This is a topic that I have really started to sink my teeth into, even if I am still working out all that it encompasses and how it plays out in my language classroom.

For those not entirely sure about what critical pedagogy is, here is a really, really simplified (perhaps oversimplified?) version. In the beginning, there was Paulo Freire, a philosopher and educator from Brazil who wrote this amazing, albeit somewhat dense, book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. By the sounds of the title, I am sure you can probably start to guess where this is going. Freire believed that education should allow those who find themselves oppressed and cut off politically to gain a voice and be given the tools and space to transform their situation. Freire also fought against the traditional dispensing of knowledge by the teacher, instead giving the students the means to direct and create their own learning especially through social interaction. Basically, critical pedagogy levels the playing field by stripping away the hierarchical structure so prevalent in education. Students take what they learn in the classroom and transform their world outside of the classroom. There is so much more than that, so if you would like to understand it better, go here.

Okay, before anyone starts blasting me for missing important components of critical pedagogy, the purpose of this post isn’t to be a treatise on all things critical, but I simply want to provide a foundation to explain what I have been thinking about. In this case, three different things arose from the conversations and texts I read. Continue reading Changing

Contemplating

bench

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

Exploring

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

Rebuking

finger_pointing

Image courtesy of J. E. Theriot

Okay, time for a confession. Despite what anyone might think, I’m not perfect (actually, anyone would be crazy to think that). I make plenty of mistakes on my own and I shouldn’t be digging around in anyone’s life. That being said, I felt it necessary to take some time to discuss a concern I have about how we are treating one another as professionals and simply as human beings. I’ve seen an alarming trend of being overly negative when responding to others online and even face to face. The media and entertainment certainly aren’t helping things either. It seems to me that we have lost a genuine respect for one another as fellow human beings. From internet trolls to late night talk shows, social media to general conversations, it seems that it has become acceptable, maybe even ‘cool’, to mock others or become highly critical of others who don’t think or do things the same way as we do. Even those who are calling on others to be more accepting of others become dismissive and negative towards those who might not feel the same way on certain issues. Do we have to agree with them? No, but we don’t need to be so insensitive and nasty.

Since this is a teaching blog and not meant to be a platform of more general topics, I want to bring this a little closer to home and focus on how we treat other teaching professionals who believe or think differently than we do. Continue reading Rebuking

Collaborating

construction

Image courtesy of jphilipg

For those who don’t know, I grew up in a small town in northern Canada. Until my early teens, we didn’t have much of a shopping centre other than the Coop Mall which had a grocery store, a hardware store, and a clothing store all of which were part of The Cooperative. I had no idea what that meant until much later in my life. You can understand then why I found it amusing that my television idol at the time, The Friendly Giant, talked about cooperation. I had no idea why he would be discussing groceries on TV. Weird.

Much (much) later in life, I found myself in a very collaborative MA TESOL program working through the differences between cooperating with others and collaborating with others. It seems so simple on the surface, but the nuances of working through material with two or three other people certainly helped refine my definitions of those two terms.

For the sake of this post, I will oversimplify my understanding of what these two terms mean. I will use the building of house to illustrate my point. Continue reading Collaborating

Guiding

tours

Image courtesy of Marcin Wichary

Yesterday, I was reading over a discussion happening on the #AusELT Facebook page about students’ perception regarding games / activities in the language classroom. I don’t think I am alone when I say that I have had similar discussions with students about teaching methodology in my classroom. I haven’t had it happen in a while, but that doesn’t mean that students haven’t been thinking it. I would agree with some others here in saying that I probably don’t do that many activities or games in my class anymore, but my approach to teaching is still quite different from what many of my students are accustomed to.

Language teaching is one of those things that most people have an opinion on how it should be done. Even those who have never stepped into a language classroom already have a mental picture, rightly or wrongly, about what that looks like. There is no way that we can please all of the students all of the time. Someone in the classroom is going to think that things should be more serious or fun or something in between.

Upon further reflections regarding this discussion on Facebook, my mind started to wander in a somewhat different direction (anyone who knows me understands that this is completely normal). One of the comments from Mike Smith was in regards to how to best use the time you have with the students in the classroom. He suggested that there is work that is best done by the student on their own leaving more time in the classroom for more interactive practice. I think Mike is onto something here. To flesh out his point a bit more, I decided to break down the various components of language learning into two camps: teacher guided or led and individual work. There really is two parts to the teacher guided or led, that is one-to-one tutoring and group or classwork, but for the sake of this post, I will clump them together into one inseparable group. Continue reading Guiding