Why I Joined

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Having worked in various ESL/EAL sectors in Ontario over the past 20 years, I decided to apply for the TESL Ontario Board in 2015.  I had thought of applying to the Board for years before, recognizing the important role of TESL Ontario to support and advocate on behalf of our profession, its members, and the increasingly important role our profession plays in building bridges in Ontario/Canadian society.  As I had worked in the private, LINC and college/university EAP areas, I thought I’d be able to share perspectives from these complementary experiences to help shape the direction of the organization and the future of our exciting profession.  So in 2015 Continue reading

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Getting on Board: Giving Back to ESL

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It was nearly 5 years into my teaching career before I cautiously attended my first executive meeting for TESL Ottawa. I’ve attend conferences, lectures and workshops religiously from the very beginning. It was the best opportunity to meet and get to know other colleagues away from the photocopier. It was energizing to end the day with new tips and tricks for my own teaching toolbox to try out on Monday morning. It was also a chance to Continue reading

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PBLA: A Need for Task-Based Needs Analysis and a Study in Task Differentiation

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Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) is here to stay. “Teachers cannot opt out” (p. 58) and it is “an expectation of employment” (p. 71). Once implemented the way it was meant to be, the evidence suggests, it is an academically sound approach to teaching and learning. The PBLA programme, now being implemented in all ESL non-credit classes that are funded by Citizenship and Immigration, has two critical shortcomings which I have encountered Continue reading

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Lessons learned in an ESL Literacy Class

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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

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A Clash of Technology and Needs

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The age of technology has arrived. It can be integrated, according to its pundits, into every stage of teaching the four basic skills: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. Better yet, nothing beats technology for enhancing both teaching and learning, the pundits add. It’s the new transformative tool and game changer in the domain of education.

Selected studies on specific target audiences suggest that one particular app or another has indeed enhanced reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. On the whole, however, years have passed, and test scores and outcomes have not gotten any better with most technology assisted learning and its various applications. No one, especially me, seems to know which technology is best suited to a teacher’s goals and outcomes. There are, and I think everyone would agree, too many apps purporting to enhance both teaching and student learning. At the same time, studies on the efficacy of technology and second language learning are Continue reading

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Looking at ESL from an International Perspective

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I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ACPI-TESOL National Conference in Costa Rica earlier this month.  Although it was a relatively small conference (under 60 participants), the organizers were able to attract presenters from the U.S., Panama, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and UAE (and me from Canada).

I believe as teachers, we can always learn something new no matter how many years we have been teaching. This conference was no exception in that there were many take-aways from the presentations.  However, before I provide some of the conference highlights, I wanted to talk about my experience trying to navigate in a Spanish-speaking country as a non-speaker of Spanish.  (I did take some lessons a few years ago, but I didn’t even have enough language skills to function.)  I forgot how it feels to be unable to communicate – even a simple request!  The last time I experienced this kind of powerlessness and vulnerability (not to mention feeling dumb) was when I got lost in Hong Kong; I actually got lost 3 times in 3 different taxis in Costa Rica!  There is certainly nothing more meaningful for a language teacher than experiential learning and appreciating the daily challenges for many of our students!

Here are some of the conference highlights: Continue reading

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Come Again: You Said What?

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Imagine if someone said something overtly sexual or crude to you. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Now imagine that the speaker is your ESL student. Of course, your response has to be different.

Sometimes because of pronunciation or improper word usage, ESL students inadvertently say or write the most shocking things. A while back, one of my students wrote this in a peer review (a student response to a student assignment, in this case an essay): “Your hooker is not very appealing and is unlikely to attract the reader.” Of course, he meant hook. What a difference two letters can make. This situation was easier to deal with because the student had not uttered this sentence aloud to the class. I took him aside and explained the meaning of the word, resulting in him blushing quite a bit.

Sometimes students mispronounce words such as sit, beach, can’t etc. I deal with this issue Continue reading

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Supply Teaching – A Positive Experience

Some of my students working in a computer lab

I was recently assigned the role of a full-time supply instructor in an English as a Foreign Language department of approximately 70 instructors. “Take this on as a new challenge” was my first thought, and I haven’t looked back.  Our EFL department has two divisions. These are the academic and the technical preparatory programs. I had not yet taught in the technical program and was interested in these students with different needs. I had always been curious about the technical program and was anxious to jump right in and teach.

We have just completed midterms and I have had a generous sampling of most of the courses that our department offers. I have benefited from this experience in more ways than I had anticipated. I have continued to learn about my peers, technology integration, institutional facilities, and most of all the students. Here is a brief overview of the things I learned:

Technology integration

Our college supports education technical technology through an environment of well stocked and supported digital learning options. It is interesting to see the varying degrees to which technology is being used by the staff and students. Student behaviour often reflects their instructor’s education technology routines. When I direct the students to use some technology, their efficiency indicates whether or not they use technology on a regular basis.  I have been very impressed by those teachers who have integrated technology seamlessly into their instructional practice.  Continue reading

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Field Tripping ESL Learners in the Community

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What happens when you take ESL learners outside the classroom?  There’s a peak in interest in the class and in the lessons, a growth in connection among the class members, and an increased sense of belonging to the wider community.

Over the past number of years, I have taken adult learners in small, mixed-level ESL classes on field trips in the community.  We have visited the public library, a farmers’ market, a curling rink, the local fire station, a nature park, our city hall (including sitting in on part of a city council meeting), an outdoor nativity play, and a maple sugar bush.

On every one of these outings, we found that our hosts were Continue reading

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