I set the timer and focus on my new goal: to grade a paper in twenty minutes. Everything starts smoothly; checkmark after checkmark, praise after praise. A quick glance at the rest of the paper reveals more of the same error-free, polished style. Hmm. I pull up the student’s writing diagnostic, previous assignments, and emails. All are riddled with errors and awkward phrasing. The plagiarism report, though, comes up clean.Continue reading
All posts by Jennifer Hutchison
First Day Back
As the streetcar lurched toward George Brown College, I gazed at the familiar storefronts, churches, and coffee shops that lined the route. How could everything be the same when it felt so different? I was nervous, panicked even. After all, I hadn’t taught in-person for close to three years. I berated myself for checking off the box to teach on campus. Wasn’t it easier to stay enclosed in my basement lair? I rechecked the supplies in my backpack and pulled out the instructions sheet for the tenth time. Offices have moved here, photocopiers are now there; do this if you need to print something, do that to access the computer system. Ughh.Continue reading
How much technology is too much?
I have taught exclusively online for two and half years. During this time, the number of digital tools in my arsenal has skyrocketed. I have been consumed by technology. I used to feel sorry for “computer nerds” who squirrelled away in their basements, rarely coming up for air. And now I am one of them.Continue reading
The surge in propaganda and disinformation is challenging for everyone, but none more so than our students. Many of them are young adults who are new to the language and culture. Not only that, but they are maturing and developing new identities. I can only imagine then how perplexing it must be for them when they look at their screens.Continue reading
Back to School
Well, it’s happening. My colleagues and I will be back at the college campus next session, and I can’t wait! Like anything else, you do not realize the full value of something until it is taken away. The outside air hitting your face as you rush to the streetcar, the smiles and good mornings in the staff room, the student banter as they settle behind their desks. I even miss the frantic line-ups in the photocopy room because they offer what is now liquid gold;
Despite the rush of excitement, there is also trepidation. Like my students, I have found security behind the screen. How confident will I feel standing at the front of the classroom in real life? Will I remember how to use the Smart Board? Will my building keys work? Where are they, anyway? Will I remember my colleagues’ names? Will they remember mine? And finally, what will my teaching look like? Will I have strictly face-to-face classes, hybrid, HyFlex? And that last one? How will that work? There are just so many unknowns. Continue reading
Are you feeling lethargic? Do you have more headaches than usual? Do your eyes hurt? Are you struggling with self-esteem issues, anxiety, or depression? If so, you could be experiencing “online fatigue,” sometimes called “zoom fatigue.”Continue reading
A Year in the Life
It’s been a little over a year since ESL campuses shut their doors. I can’t decide whether it has gone by slowly or quickly. In my personal life, the pandemic has lurched along, one depressing headline after another; endless days without family and friends. However, as a teacher I have been flying through the days by the seat of my pants!Continue reading
Haiku: a humble but mighty tool in ESL
Reduce, reduce, reduce. Make every word count. I repeat these instructions every day in my EAP classroom. Session after session, I hand out exercises to reduce wordiness and replace empty, abstract words with those that are strong and specific.
And yet, the students have a hard time going “beyond the exercise” to apply these skills to their writing. They continue to fill their pages with “in the event that,” “as a result of,” and “in our society today” as well as abstracts such as “the meal was good,” “the lake was beautiful,” and “the people looked happy.”
I needed to find an authentic writing form that would encourage rich, yet spare, prose. And then it struck me—the haiku. The Japanese poem is inherently concise and relies on specific, sensory words. A win-win!
So, I initiated a “holiday haiku” activity. First, I explained the basic form: one line with five syllables, the next with seven, and the third with five. Secondly, I divided the class into small groups to brainstorm specific, image-worthy words that evoked their celebrations back home. This second stage worked beautifully. Not only did the words flow, but also the students enjoyed sharing their cultural traditions.Continue reading
Building cultural awareness inside and out
I have been lucky enough to work with students from a myriad of cultures over the years. Had anyone asked me if I promote intercultural skills in my students, my response would be swift. Yes, of course!
After all, I have initiated plenty of culturally themed discussions, readings, presentations, digital narratives, and other activities. But after reading more about Intercultural Competence (IC) and, more specifically, Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), I realize that I am not going far enough.
What is ICC?
Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) derives from Intercultural Competence (IC). Both refer to the ability to interrelate with people from different cultures. According to Byram (as cited in Bickley, Rossiter, and Abbott, 2014), being interculturally competent means you can communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures in your own language. ICC, however, focuses on the “additional knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities” to do so in a second or foreign language (p. 138). For EAP, obviously, this distinction is important.Continue reading
Calling our students by their names
~A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But would it, really?
My name, Jennifer, comes from the Welsh Gwenhwyfar. It means “white wave” or “fair lady.” Although I don’t see myself as a “lady,” I do like the rhythmic majesty of “wave.” The tumbling, repetitive motion of it. But if it weren’t for the research I did, I wouldn’t have a clue what my name means. My parents certainly didn’t put much thought into it; they just liked it. Indeed, according to Ye Chongguang, “Chinese names are often chosen for their meaning, but English names are chosen for their sounds” (Lee, 2001).Continue reading