Fellow TESL Community, whether you’ve benefited from workingwith a professional coach or not, join me in raising a proverbial glass in honour of coaches.
In March 2020, like some, or even many of you, I found myself suddenly unemployed. The private language school I had taught at for the two years prior was unable to keep its doors open to welcome local and international English Language Learners due to the swift pandemic measures that came into effect that same month. My experience, sadly, was not unique.
I have been an English Language Teacher for 20 years. When I started my career, I didn’t think it would take much effort to teach others something I had learnt during my childhood and teenage years. I could even make some “easy” money while I was at it! “How hard could it be?” I thought to myself.
Language ego is a real phenomenon. A concept coined by Guiora (Brown, 2000) “language ego” is a learner’s second identity as they come to see themselves picking up a second language. One of the most vitally important responsibilities of an ESL teacher is to ensure that students’ language ego is well protected.
Conventionally, in physical classrooms, due to the existence of face-to-face communication, learners might experience more fragility and defenselessness with their peers. I have personally experienced the sheer fear and anxiety that the physical interaction and presence of others with their eyes placed all on one person can create. However, through online platforms of teaching and learning, I have noticed that learners feel safer and more secure about their language ego, and I have seen improvements in learning.
On October 23, 2020, teachers from Ontario and other provinces gathered on Twitter to discuss representation in ELT (English Language Teaching). This #teslONchat was a joint event with the popular #CdnELTchat. The hour-long chat was guest moderated by Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) while Vanessa Nino (@vnino23) kept the questions coming, and Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), and Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) from the #CdnELTchat team welcomed participants and kept the conversation flowing.
What can EAP/ESL/EFL instructors do if they are laid off or have much reduced hours during COVID-19? This question concerns most of us. Like many others, I was laid off. I believe that with persistence and creativity we can stay positive. As examples to stimulate discussion, here are several things that I have found beneficial.
When I first started out as a teacher, I was terrified, as I’m sure anyone would be. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but the way I’d imagined the experience wasn’t exactly how it turned out to be.
I’ve worked in after-school programs teaching English as a Second Language and I’ve been a substitute teacher, but when I got my first college teaching job, it was intimidating to say the least. I was going to teach adults in a more formal environment, and that word, “adults,” had always scared me because although I was a 22-year-old adult at the time, most of my students were older than I was!
I have been lucky enough to work with students from a myriad of cultures over the years. Had anyone asked me if I promote intercultural skills in my students, my response would be swift. Yes, of course!
After all, I have initiated plenty of culturally themed discussions, readings, presentations, digital narratives, and other activities. But after reading more about Intercultural Competence (IC) and, more specifically, Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), I realize that I am not going far enough.
What is ICC?
Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) derives from Intercultural Competence (IC). Both refer to the ability to interrelate with people from different cultures. According to Byram (as cited in Bickley, Rossiter, and Abbott, 2014), being interculturally competent means you can communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures in your own language. ICC, however, focuses on the “additional knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities” to do so in a second or foreign language (p. 138). For EAP, obviously, this distinction is important.
Many teachers who have questioned portfolio-based language assessment (PBLA) have been wrongly described as “resistors” by PBLA administrators (for a discussion, see Desyatova, 2020). The students in my classes are not resistors: They are keen observers who have seen something that has not been raised before about the portfolio. In one particular class, my students have observed that the “culture of assessment” inherent in PBLA (Desyatova, 2020, p.11) has features reminiscent of their lives under rule by the former Soviet Union, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).