Category Archives: encouragement

A Summertime Teaching Adventure

image source:

One highlight of my ESL teaching career was when I taught in the Black Forest of Germany at an English Summer Camp. I taught Local German teenagers who wanted to practise conversational English. Our mandate was to introduce them to North American English since they were being taught British English in the German school system. I was the only Canadian on our team; the others were all from the United States.

A typical day was spent teaching in the mornings and then having workshops, such as cooking, in the afternoons. On Wednesdays, we took the whole day for field trips. For one fieldtrip, we went to this amazing waterpark in Lorrach, Germany. It was huge and the indoor pool flowed right into the outdoor pool with a view of the Alps. There was a totally awesome waterslide that was so long and steep that they actually had a traffic light to tell you when you could go! My six-year-old daughter really wanted to try it, but she couldn’t go alone. I was a little less eager, but certainly didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So up we climbed. It was definitely worth it. The experience was great for group discussion the next day as campers were excited to talk about how their terrified-of-heights teacher was convinced by a six-year-old to climb all the way to the top and then go flying down.

I found teaching overseas enabled me to be far more vulnerable since nobody knew me. There was simply less reason to worry. After all, in two weeks, I would likely never see these students again. It was a very different perspective to approach the class with. To be honest, it was kind of fun and sometimes scary at the same time.

The other great excursion was the End of Camp picnic on the banks of the Rhine River on the German side. Right across from us was France and to our left (as we sat eating) was Switzerland. Yes, this was one awesome teaching gig! I commented to the students around me, “You just can’t do this in my country. Have a picnic lunch and look at three countries at once.” My students, who could eat breakfast at home and zip through at least one or two countries by noon, were quite surprised. That led to a good discussion about the size of Canada compared to Germany.

Perhaps one of the best features about teaching internationally is how easy it is to find things to talk about. Obviously, I highly recommend it! Here are a few tips for you to think about.

6 Tips for teaching overseas

  • Start planning at least 8 months before you want to go. Six months is okay, but you’ll need to really keep things moving along.
  • Read your contract very carefully. What does it cover, what does it not include. (Flight, accommodation, etc.) Also, if you’re going for longer than just a summer, check out their payment schedule and sick day policy.
  • Be sure you know who your contact is in the destination country. If possible, start communicating with them directly by email or phone at least 2 months before you fly. Many organizations also have a North American contact person. My experience is that the communication between those two is not always what it should be. There were one or two key points where the information we were given by the North American representative was not exactly how the destination representative wanted it.
  • Be flexible. This is an amazing opportunity for you personally and for your teaching career. But you’re the newcomer. I quickly found out that even though I was very open to whatever came my way during the camp session, I still had unspoken assumptions and expectations about how this was all going to work.  It’s important to remember this is a work situation, not a vacation. (in the summer, it can be a lot harder to make that distinction). The reality is your site supervisor is running a workplace.

Above all, Have Fun!

Please share your overseas ESL adventures in the response section below. We’d love to hear about it!

Ramona Brown Monsour has taught LINC, ESL and EWP (English in the Workplace). She currently writes and publishes a digital newsletter App for ESL students called About Canada: Culture, Immigration & Lifestyle. She has also served as newsletter editor for the Waterloo-Wellington chapter of TESL Ontario.




Bringing holidays into the classroom: Ramadan

image source:

I often think about newcomers to Canada, and specifically those coming from challenging circumstances who are building a new life in a new land. How are they settling into their new environment? Are they adjusting? Managing? Dealing? Healing?

Many of these newcomers are from the Middle East and are observing Ramadan, a holy month that’s observed by millions of Muslims around the world, where the central focus is fasting. Continue reading


ESL Myths Debunked

image source:

I was browsing the web the other day (what else is new!) and I stumbled upon a great article by Rusul Alrubail.  She answers what she calls the myths of ESL learners.

The 5 myths she addresses are:

  • Students can’t use their L1 in class
  • Students need to be corrected when they’re speaking English
  • All learners are immigrants
  • A student must assimilate with the North American culture if they want to learn properly
  • All learners share similar backgrounds, status, and culture.

Continue reading


National Volunteer Week: Let’s Make a Difference Together

image of people putting hands together with the word volunteer in text box
image source:

I tried to scour the Internet for motivational/inspirational quotations to start this post. I wanted to really capture the essence of my intention and put it into words using a famous quotation or an iconic figure that would resonate with you. I read quotation after quotation, visited page after page, and no string of words truly said what I wanted to convey today.  Why is today so special? Why am I trying to find just the right combination of words? Continue reading


English is the worst!

image source:

We’ve all been there and heard it – “Why are these two words spelled the same but sound different?” or “Why do I need a comma there? You might have answered, “Because you don’t want to eat your mom; it’s “I want to eat, mom.””

I came across this humorous article Continue reading


Lessons learned in an ESL Literacy Class

image source:


During the fall term, I was privileged to teach a group of 10 ESL Literacy students. Although in the past I had volunteer-tutored a literacy student and had taught various computer literacy classes, teaching a whole class of beginner ESL students with literacy needs was a whole new challenge. I have to say it was thoroughly rewarding Continue reading


Mid-term blues – Keep Going!

image source:
image source:

I find myself asking this question often, but in all seriousness, where has the time gone?
I can’t believe November is a week away!  It’s fair to say that some of us don’t have that drive we once had at the start of the school year to get up first thing in the morning, eager to start the workday. And honestly, no one can be blamed for feeling run down already. Our profession can take a lot out of us. There’s no
denying that. And with the influx of newcomers – due to what’s been happening in the world – it hasn’t lightened the load any. So teacher burnout is a real possibility.

So much demand is placed upon teachers, and the needs of the students can really affect your will and drive to stay motivated. Especially around this time of year, it’s easy to Continue reading


Back to school: First day jitters for students and teachers

Learn it's cool! Joyful teacher showing thumbs up. Photo adult teacher near blackboard education concept
Image source:

While many of you may already be going into your 2nd or 3rd week of classes, we  wanted to share some ideas to get over those first day jitters that so many new instructors and students may be feeling.  For more ideas on get-to-know activities, please click on the link to read Cecilia’s blog posted previously: Get-to-know activities in the language classroom 

I don’t know about you, but I find the first days of class can be a little scary, yet exciting at the same time. Students probably wonder what the teacher will be like and how they will fit in with the other students. Thoughts such as, “Will everybody be at my level of English?” or “I hope I’m not at the bottom of the class!”  are likely common.

But what about us – the instructors? Continue reading


Kate’s Top 10 Secrets: How to Succeed in Canadian Culture

Image Source:
Image Source:

Over the next year, I would like to share what I consider to be some of the 10 most important unwritten social rules in Canada that newcomers and their families need to know to succeed in Canada. In this first post, I’ll give you the list of all 10 secrets, as well as the first secret.

How am I qualified to know these secrets?

Keep in mind that these are what *I* consider to be the most important secrets.  I am drawing on a lifetime of experience in Canada as a mother of 3 and as a worker in education, banking, computers, and employment counselling, but that doesn’t mean these social rules are cast in stone or true in every community across Canada.

Okay, so here is the list of the 10 most important secrets I’ve learned for succeeding socially, as well as in Canadian schools and workplaces:

Continue reading


Can’t handle the truth?


Something that I have struggled with for the last ten years as an ESL teacher has been whether or not to properly inform my students about the implications of studying a new language. There seems to be a prevalent preconception among many ESL students that learning to speak English is easier than say, learning the subjects in a college level math course.

To many, abstract subjects like theoretical mathematics or computer programming are obviously more difficult than linguistic subjects. There may be some truth to this concept. However, these courses are often very specific in scope, last anywhere from thirty-two to ninety hours, and require students to simply “remember” and maybe “apply” what they learn. Even though it is a common practice to segment English language programs by level of ability, say levels 1 to 5, or like the CLB, 12 levels in total, these courses are often far from adequate in providing enough time to properly “learn” the content of these levels. Continue reading