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‘I don’t know why!’

Years ago the ESL program at Brock University welcomed a cohort of remarkable students on scholarships to pursue graduate studies in Canada. All of them were optimistic and highly motivated, but one – let’s call her Marianna – stood out for her exceptional diligence. She was a geneticist, and perhaps that academic focus promoted her extremely methodical approach to studying English; in any case, she wonderfully exemplified the self-aware style that often characterizes successful adult learners. One of my experiences when teaching her was especially memorable.

But first, the background: Guided by theoretical findings that were emerging at the time, we required every ESL student to read one entire easy-reader per week. We offered a large bank of fiction and non-fiction texts, and students could freely select whatever title and difficulty-level they wished. Continue reading

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Reflections on Canada’s 150th birthday – creating unity in diversity

Over the years, I have always found it interesting that the first three words many of my students have seemed to master by day one are peace and safety. Oh, the third? – double-double, or so it seems. I’ll get back to that in a moment. Most of my students come from places where conflict and corruption create an environment that lacks peace and safety, two things that we as Canadians often take for granted. So, when asked why they come to Canada, these two words form a neat summary without needing much grammar. Sometimes they say or write: Peaceful and Safety, or Peace and Safeful, but we get the idea.

And though they certainly did not come here for the double-doubles at Tim Horton’s, considering many left behind the delights of Turkish coffee and various forms of baklava, or real tea brewed in pots, this is the comfort Canada offers them so they take it. Continue reading

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Connecting and learning at the ISTE2017 Conference

In June, I attended the ISTE2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is a non-profit organization serving over 100,000 educational stakeholders.  ISTE is at the forefront of educational technology, driving change and offering professional development throughout the year.

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How A Rubric Changed My Classroom

Proofread checklist and checked boxes next to the words spelling, grammar and accuracy
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

I always attend conferences to try to improve myself as a teacher, and sometimes I come away exceptionally motivated.  This was the case a few years ago when I attended a great session on rubric creation.  At the time I was working in a private language school and also doing some part-time LINC teaching.  I kept wondering how I could mark student writing in a way that was useful to the students but also less time-consuming for me.  This session seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Continue reading

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Getting on Board: Giving Back to ESL

group of people around a table
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

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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Language Proficiency – How much English does a teacher need?

The issue of proficiency is always at the forefront for English language teachers. As English language teachers, we need a certain level of proficiency in the language to teach it so we can serve as models for our students, and provide them with valuable language input that can help them learn. However, there is still no agreed upon level of proficiency that an English language teacher needs to teach effectively, and there may never be. Continue reading

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2017 TESOL International Convention – A Recap!

The TESOL International Convention is always an enormous event with thousands of participants and presenters from all over the world. While at times overwhelming, it can be a thrilling and invigorating few days surrounded by some of the biggest names in our profession. The convention was held in Toronto a few years ago and it gave many the opportunity to go the conference for the first time. This year, the conference was held in Seattle, Washington from March 21st to 24th, and I was lucky enough to attend. The conference serves as an excellent way to discover some of the most current research, teaching ideas, and new resources in the field, but also, discuss and reflect on the most pressing issues in our field.

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It’s Raining PD!

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Last week, we welcomed the first day of Spring – hello Spring!  Maybe you’re like me when Spring arrives. My mind begins to think of that very North American task of Spring cleaning.  However, my Spring cleaning list rarely has anything to do with cleaning up the house. Continue reading

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Self-Efficacy and the ESL Teacher

“Whether you think that you can or you can’t, you’re usually right” – Henry Ford

“People’s level of motivation, affective states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively the case” – Alberta Bandura (1995, p. 2).

The above two quotations, for me, highlight the importance of researching teachers’ beliefs, and importantly, their self-efficacy beliefs. Continue reading

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