Tag Archives: rewarding

A Summertime Teaching Adventure

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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.




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


How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter

Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)
Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)

Last week, just before my webinar on using Twitter for Professional Development and Developing your Personal Learning Network (PLN), I came across a tweet from @danielmccabe, quoting Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), in Teach Like a Pirate , that said:

The negative teachers aren’t on Twitter…the people you see there are trying to move forward and help others move forward. (Burgess, 2012)

Truer words…

I am fresh off a third webinar for TESL Ontario and am basking in the glow of my PLN. This webinar was the second in a series of three that TESL Ontario has supported me in presenting. I had the pleasure of telling some stories about the important connections I’ve made on Twitter with teachers who offer me support and necessary dialogue. My Twitter PLN is the best sounding board for developing and tweaking ideas I have.

One of the challenges for educators active on Twitter is to bring more lambs into the fold. My favourite quote is from @AcademicsSay:

“You’ll have to show me how to do this Twitter thing sometime.” – Every colleague ever.

Over the past twenty years, I have met and befriended many teachers, but don’t even need all of my fingers to count the ones active on Twitter. It’s a shame, really. So many teachers are missing out.

I had lunch with a former colleague this week who was surprised and shocked by what I’ve been able to do Continue reading


Why We Do This


I went to my last class this past Friday expecting my entire class to be present. Well, of the 13 who normally attend, only 5 showed up! I didn’t know how to feel about this. But no matter, I carried on with the lesson. To stay positive, I thought it was great that I could focus more on each individual. We had a lot of fun despite the lack of attendance that day.

The feeling in the room was certainly bittersweet. On one hand, I was happy to have my Fridays back to spend with my little girl, but on the other hand, it was kind of hard for me to leave these special individuals, whom I’ve come to respect and appreciate so much throughout the course of the past seven weeks.

If you remember from my last post when I discussed WorkPlace ESL (http://blog.teslontario.org/workplace-esl/), classes run Continue reading


Life Lessons (for Me) Through Education

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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”   —John Dewey

I love this quote.  It’s so simple but, at its core, it embodies the vastness of what it means to be “educated”.  In its essence, education is so much more than desks or books or technology.

As the Winter/Spring term of my EAP classes at CultureWorks dashes to the finish line, I reflect on the ‘tidbits’ of wisdom that my students have imparted unto me.  I “teach” mostly young adults mostly, from many parts of the globe.  To be honest, teaching to an international audience is only part of what I do.  The bulk of my days are spent amassing an “education”.

My vocation is unique in that it inspires an environment of ‘give and take’, conducive to the search for truth.  Although there are countless aspects of my career that are fulfilling, I am most grateful that it allows me to be a lifelong learner, where the students are the teachers.

I’d like to share a couple of “truths” fashioned by two of my students recently.

Truth #1:  Experiencing life requires a good sense of humour.

We’re human.  We make mistakes. Foreign students like Lu will naturally commit a faux pas of the “cultural” kind.  A simple task such as grocery shopping can prove to be incredibly confusing.  For example, grocery carts in this city come in a few different sizes–small, large, and motorized.  Generally speaking, loading a small or large grocery cart with newly purchased edible goodies out to the parking lot will attract little, if any, attention; however, climbing Continue reading


“And when you finally fly away, I’ll be hoping that I served you well”

Young pretty businesswoman sitting on top of building with color
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A great song lyric from Rod Stewart’s Forever Young

 Listening to Irfan’s voicemail message, my mind darted back to a November morning in 2007 when he and his older brother Arman walked into my class.

They stopped, stared, and smiled. They said hello and sat down. They pointed to their names and addresses on the paper they carried. They had barely made it to level 1. As a novice teacher in the first year, I was more nervous than they were in the multi- level classroom. At 22, Arman was shouldering the responsibility of caring for his widowed mother and younger brother. At 18, Irfan had moved to Canada with no knowledge of English. They had worked in a factory for a few months before they’d been laid off. He wasn’t even aware he was entitled to Unemployment Insurance (EI now). Continue reading


Do we have an Impact on Students?

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Learning a language is tough. Period. And if English is your first language, count yourself lucky. Because truth be told, English has to be one of the more difficult languages to retain, especially if you had to learn as an adult. I know a thing or two about that (minus the adult part).  When my family made the move to Canada, I couldn’t speak a word of English.  In fact, I struggled to learn even at the young age of 8.  Based on my interview, the school felt I didn’t need an ESL teacher and decided to throw me in the lion’s den, unaided and helpless (or at least that’s how I felt at the time).

My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Eadie, challenged me mentally in more ways than I can describe. She never took it easy on me since I understood nothing of the language. Instead, she thankfully treated me like the rest, and if I didn’t understand, well I’d better read up! I welcomed the challenge, although I was quite frustrated at times.  But with the help of both my homeroom teacher and my English teacher, Mrs. Harley, who had me write in a journal every day at the beginning of class, I learned that making mistakes was the only way I was going to learn. I needed to fail a few times before I was able to see the light. Such an invaluable lesson I’d learned: you’re going to fall before you can stand, and that’s OK! Continue reading