Lessons of the Outlier

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“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” M. Proust

Travel is not new to me. Travel as a newly minted ESL teacher is.

I am in the middle of a month-long TESL internship in Poland, arranged through Algonquin College, as an optional extension to the TESL Program. Though culturally quite similar to Canada, I am plunked in a community where I do not speak or read the language. Continue reading

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Smart Phones in the Pronunciation Class? Yes!

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Sometimes students come up with great ideas for learning!  When I taught a couple of pronunciation classes at our local community college a few years ago, I was struck by the students’ use of their phones in class – not so much as a distraction or a deterrent to learning, but as an aid to help them produce accurate speech.  The primary advantages I observed are that the phone can provide individual feedback at the touch of a button and that it is available for practice outside the classroom as well. Continue reading

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On Leaving

Image by Sanjeevan SatheesKumar on Unsplash

The position was meant to be something new to try out, to add some freshness into my PD experience. Fast forward three years, and the job of Twitter Manager for TESL Ontario is much more than that and still interests me. Why am I leaving?

It has been a challenging couple of years, and the reason I need to leave Continue reading

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Teaching in Mexico

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

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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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I (Don’t) Understand!

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Have you ever explained a task to your students, checked to make sure they understood, and then let them go to work – only to realize as they stared blankly at their work, that they actually didn’t understand?  In my first years of teaching, I was so puzzled by students telling me they understood when they clearly didn’t.  Even when I would ask directly, “Do you understand?” the answer I was given was often “Yes, teacher” before it became clear that the opposite was true.  This was frustrating!  It seemed so obvious Continue reading

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Culture Is a Verb

Vertical Culture versus Horizontal Culture

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Shavitt, Torelli, and Riemer (2010) distinguish between vertical culture, which emphasizes hierarchy and horizontal culture, which values equality. According to them, individuals who come from vertical- individualist cultures (e.g., the US, the UK, France) focus on how to improve their status, hence the emphasis on competition, achievement, and power which allow them to stand out. People who belong to horizontal- individualist cultures (e.g., Denmark, Norway, Australia) Continue reading

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