How much technology is too much?

Source: Quinn Dombrowski, creativecommons.org

I have taught exclusively online for two and half years. During this time, the number of digital tools in my arsenal has skyrocketed. I have been consumed by technology. I used to feel sorry for “computer nerds” who squirrelled away in their basements, rarely coming up for air. And now I am one of them.

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Daily Small Talk

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As a person and as a language instructor, I hear the words ‘small talk’ and I shudder. However, I have learned – after teaching online for nearly three years now – not to underestimate the opportunities and utility of focusing specifically on Small Talk in class. Focusing on Small Talk has always been successful. When surveyed, learners consistently report that they want more Small Talk rather than less. 

I started teaching virtually with a fairly small class (CLB 7) who really responded to Small Talk. For one thing, I found the class needed to deal with mental health issues – near the beginning of COVID – and needed to feel as social as possible in a virtual environment. That’s when I started to develop Small Talk as an integral activity. Most recently, I had a much larger class that also responded very well to the Small Talk activities. This activity is not a one-off lesson but rather focuses on best practices, routine, feedback, and refinement.

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Trauma in the Classroom (Part 2)

Guest Contributors: Allyson Eamer, Amea Wilbur, Katie Crossman, and Jennifer Allore

This blog is the second in a two-part series on trauma in the classroom. Part 1 discusses how teachers can better facilitate learning and provide support for students who have experienced trauma, such as refugees.  This segment focuses on vicarious trauma?

Vicarious trauma is a form of second-hand trauma. It is experienced by people in helping professions when they are deeply affected by their exposure to others’ trauma. The term was coined in 1995 by Laurie Pearlman and Karen Saakvitne, and originally was used to describe symptoms that clinicians experienced from working with clients with trauma experiences. Vicarious trauma has since been recognized in other fields. It can occur in various ways, such as listening to traumatic stories or viewing disturbing images. 

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Trauma in the Classroom (Part 1)

Guest Contributors: Allyson Eamer, Amea Wilbur, Katie Crossman, Jennifer Allore

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If you are a LINC or ESL instructor, there is a good chance that you have taught learners who have experienced trauma. Syrian, Afghan and now Ukrainian refugees, for example, have been arriving in Canada in large numbers and are increasingly part of our classrooms. Although you are not a mental health specialist, you are often the first point of contact for many students. They likely see you more often and for longer blocks of time than they see their settlement workers or other professionals in their lives. Your students undoubtedly view you as quintessentially Canadian and very much a part of “the system” that directly impacts their lives and futures in Canada. Because you work hard to be a caring instructor and to build trust in the classroom, you are likely to witness the effects of trauma on student learning, and/or to have trauma disclosed to you by a student. You are therefore an important, if unwitting (and likely unprepared, we will argue), key player in responding to trauma.

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Immersive Reader for Autonomous Reading Practice

Image taken from: Unsplash

Introduction 

In 2018, Beth Beardall posted that reading advances learner grammar comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills, critical thinking skills and speaking fluency in the post Reading, Reading, Reading. Why it is so important!  One way to assist your learners with reading is to encourage them to use the Microsoft Immersive Reader tool.    

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The Road to Community, Leadership and Innovation in the TESL Field 

I recently had the pleasure of delving into TESL Ontario’s past by reading through decades of annual reports, Contact magazines, conference reports and other historical documents. It was fascinating to discover this organization’s rich and remarkable history, and to uncover TESL Ontario’s role in the development of the TESL profession over the past 50 years.   

In a recent interview with some of TESL Ontario’s most influential members, (a project we are developing for our 50th anniversary celebrations at the conference), Shailja Verma stated “TESL Ontario has taken us from church basements to recognized institutions and buildings.”  

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Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Class through Critical Texts, Talks, and Tasks

I asked TESL Ontario educators to record their thoughts on the question “What are one or two ways that you incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion in your teaching practice?” This post shares their recordings (see link below) and synthesizes their responses, which highlight the importance of infusing criticality in classroom texts, talks, and tasks. 

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One of Us

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The Setup

We were three months into an online class and just past a spike of on-boarding new learners.  At this point, and counting the newer learners, about half of the class relented to turning their cameras on. It was Monday and I had a new grey tie.  I really wanted to show off my new necktie, so I wore – uncharacteristically – a black shirt.

Learners arrived and turned on their cameras, saying “Good morning.  How was your weekend?  Are you feeling any better?” and all that.  One of the first was a lovely woman, a retired teacher and a dedicated student – one of those learners who is, besides punctual and respectful, eager to please and who quietly but assuredly defends the soundness of the instructor’s pedagogical choices. Let me call her Harmony. 

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New Job? No Problem

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I recently began a new role – a coordinator position – and it got me thinking about what I need to do to get off on the right foot.  Here are three suggestions I came across in my research that will be useful in any TESL work environment. In this blog, I want to discuss 3 keys to a successful transition into new employment.

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