Online Teaching Reflections

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Some of my primary concerns about this current online world of teaching are the creation of community and how to effectively engage learners.

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Teach As If You Are Your Own Student

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A common expression I often heard when I first started teaching was “Teacher, I don’t understand.” I would, of course, ask them which part they didn’t understand, and then give them further explanation. However, I would still see confusion on their faces. It was my turn to be confused. I had done what I was supposed to do, explain, but still they repeated “Teacher, I don’t understand.”

I didn’t find the answer until I had the chance to observe a student teacher. I had my ‘aha’ moment. The teacher was explaining vocabulary and expressions perfectly. However, she had barely considered her students’ levels and their level of understanding for the “perfect” explanations. At that moment, I realized my mistakes: 1) I treated them like their English was at my level; 2) I taught English like I was an ESL teacher.

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From Day One to Year Ten

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When I first started out as a teacher, I was terrified, as I’m sure anyone would be. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but the way I’d imagined the experience wasn’t exactly how it turned out to be. 

I’ve worked in after-school programs teaching English as a Second Language and I’ve been a substitute teacher, but when I got my first college teaching job, it was intimidating to say the least. I was going to teach adults in a more formal environment, and that word, “adults,” had always scared me because although I was a 22-year-old adult at the time, most of my students were older than I was! 

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Adventures in Summer School

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Like many of my colleagues, I was teaching online this summer using Zoom. My adult ESL class (CLB 4) had about 14 regular students. By the end, we had become quite close and it was sad to see them go. Along the way we had a few adventures related to online learning that I’d like to share with you.

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To Video or Not to Video: That Is the Question

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Welcome to the world of Covid-19 and online teaching! Do you like teaching this way? Is it working for you? Are your classes synchronous or asynchronous? At the University of Guelph, we’re using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous EAP classes. This means that every week I meet my class online at a set time while they are located in Guelph, in Korea, in Japan, and in China. These students have never met me or one another face-to-face.  Is it ethical, therefore, for me to require them to turn on their video and show their face to the class?

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PBLA CHECKS AND RECHECKS AND RECORDS HAVE SHADES OF TOTALITARIAN RULE, SAY LEARNERS

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Many teachers who have questioned portfolio-based language assessment (PBLA) have been wrongly described as “resistors” by PBLA administrators (for a discussion, see Desyatova, 2020). The students in my classes are not resistors: They are keen observers who have seen something that has not been raised before about the portfolio.  In one particular class, my students have observed that the “culture of assessment” inherent in PBLA (Desyatova, 2020, p.11) has features reminiscent of their lives under rule by the former Soviet Union, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).        

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Effective Strategies for Distance Teaching

It is the third week of social distancing in 2020, and I am constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the number of best practices being shared by colleagues and other educators. It is 2020 and the number of platforms to learn from and to share information about is just too many. Even so, I thought it might be a great time for me to share some of the best practices I have learned for effective online teaching strategies with my TESL community.

Many of us teaching at Ontario colleges were given a week to transfer our courses to distance learning. Keeping in mind that one week is definitely not enough time to learn and plan to teach from a distance, here are a few strategies that I follow while planning my courses.

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Being a Skillful Teacher

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What does being a skillful teacher mean to you? Is it the same as or similar to being a powerful teacher? Are there any expectations inherent in unravelling any difference between these two perceptions?

Stephen Brookfield, a scholar in adult education, is someone I look up to because his focus is on helping adults learn how to critically think about internalized ideologies.  He believes that we teach to change the world and that being a sincere and reflective educator can be complex but that we need to be aware of those complexities in order to learn and empower our students (Brookfield, 2015). I have always enjoyed learning about his perspective and determining how I can use it in my teaching techniques.

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The Outrageous Refuse of PBLA

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If you work with PBLA, what does your program site do with the leftover Language Companion Binders?  What you are looking at in the picture are leftover PBLA binders at our location. Most are full of the quintessential “artifacts.”  We have tried to encourage students to take the binders with them when they leave the program, but the fact is that they are not wanted. Management and staff have discussed different strategies to facilitate binder departures, but so far most of our students just smile politely and say “no thank you” before exiting as fast as possible, lest we try to put it into their hands. Can you blame them? Who wants this huge awkward emblem of the past century filling shelf space at home, not to mention the weight when it is fully loaded?

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Reflections of Summer Teaching on a Snowy Day

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I’m looking forward to the summer months. Even though there’s still snow on the ground, I recall my adventures teaching ESL at a children’s summer camp. I learned a lot, as I do every year. I enjoyed adapting existing material and creating my own instead of working strictly from a textbook. It was challenging and time consuming, but I would argue better, more student-centered, and fun.

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