Teaching in Mexico

Old black leather suitcase with books on the floor. Retro stile. Vintage accessories for business. Checkered suitcase. Summer vacation
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After a seven-year hiatus, I am teaching ESL again. I am in Los Cabos, Mexico and this morning’s class will be at a non-profit college aimed at giving underprivileged kids an opportunity for higher learning.

My sister K., who lives here half the year, instigated this.

I’ve been looking forward to it. I even managed to fit in a few of my old ESL books from my teaching days into my suitcase.  Continue reading

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Seeing Through My Students’ Eyes

The topic for this post has been on my mind for a while. It is more of a question arising out of my experience with multi-modal text, specifically students’ work when transducing words to image. Perhaps you can help me answer the question:

Whose images should students be required to produce when asked to analyze the author’s writing: The visualization of what they read or what the author intended?

I ask because I have found that controlling what students visualize while reading might be just as controversial as asking students to think in English. Continue reading

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Reflections on the implementation of PBLA

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“You have to get your SBA’s, SUA’s, T’s and A’s in order to have an organized portfolio, Sridatt,” said the Lead Instructor of Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) implementation. “You also have to get,” continued the official, “peer evaluations [PE’s], learner reflections [LR’s], and inventory checklists [IC’s], all in order to have a good, organised portfolio.”  The order and presentation of the portfolio, not the teaching of the language itself, seems paramount. I welcome myself to the new world of English as a second language teaching, even though my new teaching practices are not aligned with my educational philosophy.

By the time the individual was finished, I was beginning to see a sort of preoccupation over skill building activities (SBA’s), skill using activities (SUA’s)  tasks (T’s) and assessments (A’s). When the individual was gone, it didn’t take much reflection to conclude that Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) seems to be a faulty assembly line approach to education.   Continue reading

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The apprenticeship of observation

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An interest in languages, combined with a few stints living and working overseas, has meant that I have played the role of language learner more than once.  These experiences have greatly informed my practice as a language teacher.  Famously, this is called the ‘apprenticeship of observation’. Teaching is a unique profession in this sense; teachers have their own experiences as students watching their own teachers teach, which influences them when they become teachers. Here are a few of the things I have felt and thought as a learner that have influenced my teaching…

I don’t care if there are some things my teacher doesn’t know. Continue reading

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Teach Writing with a Web Design Project

image source: John Allan

One of my courses specifies that students create a presentation on an educational resource and present it to their peers.  The following is a model I’d like to share with you as a potential means of using a common theme with a final presentation as a way of promoting inquiry, research, collaboration, communication, planning, and writing within one term of instruction. The project comprises eight separate activities.  Each activity involves the students practicing language and social skills in a variety of ways.  These steps are detailed below in the section, Project Process. Continue reading

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Board Moments: How a Meeting Opened Up Pathways

Diverse people teamwork on meeting table
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ESL instructors often ask about favourites to get conversation started. What is your favourite sport? food? movie? etc. Well, if you were to ask me, “What is your favourite board meeting?” (and surprisingly, no one ever has) I’d have to say the annual joint meeting with the TESL Ontario Affiliate Chapter Representatives (ACRs) and the Board of Directors.

My First Joint Meeting

The first joint meeting I attended was back in 2013 when I was neither a Board Member nor an ACR. I had agreed to Continue reading

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‘Fake News’! Helping Students Navigate the Web

There is a lot of misinformation out there. How do you help your learners find the facts?

The idea for this lesson started when Ontario introduced the new Sex Education Curriculum in 2015. My students wanted to talk about it and everyone had a different idea about what was in this curriculum. I was shocked to find out that their information had come mostly from Facebook. Continue reading

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Teacher Training in Iran via Skype: A Tale of Technological Woe Gone Good

Close up portrait of happy smiling confident experienced qualified young professional operator of call center she is sitting at the table and answering questions online using computer
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In the early summer of 2017, I had the privilege of being asked to make a trip to Tehran, Iran to train a group of teachers for the TESOL Canada Certificate Program. When political events made the trip too dangerous an undertaking, I was crestfallen. I had already “met” the Iranian teacher who would be the primary facilitator of the program on Skype, and we instantly made a strong connection. I tried to console myself with the notion that I would make it there – one day – to meet her in person.

Then a different opportunity presented itself when the Iranian teacher asked if I could do a Skype train-the-trainer session with her and two other teachers who would be running the program. I was thrilled to be a part of the process in any capacity, so I happily agreed. The training sessions went Continue reading

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Reading, Reading, Reading. Why it’s so important!

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I was talking with a colleague, Lisa, during lunch break the other day. At our school, the students have a  1-hour class with a pronunciation instructor once per week. Lisa was suggesting  the merits of having a similar intensive lesson every week on reading.  After our discussion, I began to consider the importance of reading versus the other skills. I am beginning to wonder if reading is the key skill to developing English proficiency.

Don’t get me wrong – Teaching pronunciation is one of my favourite classes to teach. I guess I like the focus of language use and playing with the sounds, the stress, intonation and inflection. Many students have expressed that it is important for them, as well.

Anyway, back to reading.  Continue reading

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Board Moments: 2018’s New Start

Teamwork, team connect hands togetherness concept, show connection and alliance. Teambuilding in the office, young businessmen and women in casual unite hands for teamwork and cooperation
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2018 has arrived with a lot of new energy and enthusiasm. At our first TESL Ontario board meeting of the year were 3 newly elected directors: Lara McInnis, Art Rekhtin and Amy Yani. Adding to that, David Hazell sits as the new Chair and I’m adding my efforts as the new Vice Chair. Other board members include Brett Basbaum, Alex Harchenko, Geoff Lawrence and returning secretary, Cheryl Fretz. The board is a great mix of experienced and newer members; with such diverse backgrounds, I am reminded of our vast membership.

TESL Ontario’s small staff has been hard at work since the conference in November 2017 and has been busy preparing many of the items raised at the AGM. It will be posted soon on our website. As for the board, planning has already started for the year ahead. We’re eagerly anticipating our joint meeting with the local Affiliate Chapter Representatives in early March. We only have the opportunity to meet twice a year, which is why it’s always a meeting we look forward to.

Having sat in on these meetings both at the affiliate and board level, the landscape of ESL in Ontario is clearly represented. To confess, as a LINC of many years, I often forget the thorny issues faced by my peers teaching in colleges and universities or the demands and challenges of those in administration and coordination. We’re all working towards the same goals of preparing our students for success. The joint meeting is also an opportunity to hear about what is happening in all 12 of TESL Ontario’s affiliate chapters.

My own affiliate chapter, TESL Ottawa, is showing such ambition in organizing new and innovative professional development opportunities. Our first “Ed Tech Jam” was inspired by what was happening in TESL Toronto’s annual T4T conference. TESL Durham tried out their first remote presenter from Ottawa a few years ago. Did you know that TESL Niagara has an “Eat, Talk, Learn” event? Or what about TESL Hamilton’s trivia nights? There’s so many creative opportunities happening at local levels and when we are able to come together, we can really share what works and what was learned.

It’s also an opportunity to come together to share what concerns we are seeing. PBLA seems to the newest acronym across most affiliates, but it’s old news in Ottawa. While international students seem to be dwindling in one area, another area has seen a surplus. One region has received federal pilot funding and another is facing job cuts. Our industry, it seems, is cyclical in nature. It’s either feast or famine. Every affiliate has faced this, and every affiliate has found a way to best handle the challenges.

The attitude at the board and at all local affiliates, I’m sure, is one of collaboration and teamwork. We’re here for each other as friendly colleagues and professionals with questions, suggestions, complaints, compliments and sparks of new ideas.

With the start of 2018, what questions and suggestions do you have for your local Affiliate Chapter? What new ideas would you like to share with the board?

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