How I got my Compassion back!

Uncategorized May 29, 2017

In my last blog post several weeks ago,  I talked about going back to classroom teaching this month but at the last minute, lost my workload due to low course enrollment. I was grateful for work in the second half of the semester but then lost that workload to another teacher with more seniority (that's what I get for taking 18months off).  The good news is that I did get work in the end thus no weekly blog posts this month.

I can't say that much has changed at the college but I know that I have changed.  If you have been reading my blog posts for the last several months, you may have seen this post where I talked about burning out as a teacher 

It is great to feel compassion towards my students again.  I feel like the teacher I used to be and it feels good.  (To be honest, during the last several months of teaching at the end of 2015, I was grumpy and impatient).


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Precarious Employment - The "new normal" for ESL Teachers

Each week for the last 18 months, I have written a blog post on a teaching and learning issue.  In last week's post, I talked about writing monthly blog posts instead of weekly because I was going to teach an EAP course starting this week. Unfortunately, the course was cancelled due to low enrollment. My workload as a part-time instructor included just this one course for 8 hours a week. 

Precarious employment in Canada is real and is now referred to as "the new normal".  It is unlikely that this will change anytime soon and even our government officials tell people to get used to “job churn” – jumping from “job to job to job.”  

Many teachers I know work at more than one college/school in order to make ends meet. Take a look at the most recent stats for faculty at colleges in Ontario, Canada  - 70% part-time and 30% full-time!  I was one of the 70% and look what happened to my workload!



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Jigsaw - an interactive approach for reading

Have you used a "jigsaw" with your students?  If you aren't familiar with the term, it is a strategy that emphasizes cooperative learning by providing students with an opportunity to actively help each other build comprehension. It is commonly used for reading groups of all skill levels.  In a nutshell, each group member is responsible for becoming an "expert" on one section of the assigned material and then "teaching" it to the other members of the team. The best part is that students are not passive!

Steps for using a Jigsaw for Reading

1. Select coursework or resource material for your students to work with that can be divided up into several parts.

2. Students can read the material in class (if it is brief) or outside of class (if it is lengthy).

3. Count the number of students and count the number of learning segments (I usually do this in advance of the lesson).

4. Give the study groups a reasonable length of time to complete their learning. Let them...

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7 Habits for New Teachers

This week`s blog post looks at forming good "teacher habits" as I prepare to teach two online courses in a TESL Training program.

Did you know that on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic? This is why it is so difficult to form new habits.

There are many habits that contribute to good teaching but at the risk of overwhelming new teachers, I have prepared a short list below:

Habit 1: Preview the lesson
Tell students what they are going to learn in the lesson. I do this by writing a brief agenda on the board. I developed this habit more than 20 years ago and still do this before every single class. Research shows that the best place to write the agenda is at the top left-hand side of the board. Go through the agenda at the beginning of class and then as you reach each item, check it off.  Students like to know what they will be doing in the class and it also helps me to stay on track.

Habit 2 - Recap at the end

Let's jump to the end...

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Ways to Form Student Groups

I will be heading back to the classroom in May to teach an intensive EAP writing course. I'm looking forward to helping international students improve their writing and communication skills after a long break. There is always one group project in this particular COMM course that I will be teaching so I started to think about the students working in groups.  

Do you have students work in groups?  If so, how do you get your students into groups? Are the groups student-assigned, teacher-assigned or randomly chosen?  

Student-Assigned Groups

Based on my experience from 20 years of teaching, I have found that students prefer to form their own groups.  This works well when students know each other but I have discovered that in many post-secondary classes, students come from a variety of programs and therefore may not know anyone in the class.

Make sure you have students form groups in class and then have them submit a list of names to you. Also, ensure that...

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English Clubs in Africa - More than just learning English!

One of the sessions that I attended at the TESOL Convention last March was about English Clubs in Africa.  The growth has been remarkable and there are now more than 35,000 English Club members in Africa! Kathleen Malu, from the U.S. State Department, has been working on this project.  She was unable to attend the convention, but I was able to meet an extraordinary young English teacher and English Club founder from Senegal, West Africa - Seydou Sy Obama.

Here is my wonderful interview with the inspirational Seydou!


Patrice:  Can you tell us where you teach and how long you have been teaching?
Thank you very much for giving me the chance to share my experience with teachers around the world. I am teaching in Senegal, West Africa and have been teaching since October 2015.
P:  I understand that English Club membership is growing in Africa.  When did you start your English Club in Senegal?
S: I discovered English Clubs in my first...

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Conference Presenter:  Yes, Maybe or Never?

Uncategorized Apr 06, 2017

I sit on my local TESL Board of Directors.  We've spent the past few months planning our Spring conference which takes place on April 22. This year, there were several presenter proposals to choose from however this has not been the case in previous years.  

Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to find out why so few teachers are interested in presenting at conferences. I decided to design a 3-question survey to find out why  If you could take just one minute to complete the survey, I would appreciate it.  I'll report back on the findings in next week's blog post.  

My good teacher/friend Joan Bartel and I share the view that presenting at conferences is not only fun but addictive!  

Was I always such a conference-keener?  Of course not!  

I can clearly remember my first conference presentation.  I was working in a Teaching and Learning Centre in Hong Kong and I was told (not asked)...

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The Joys of Being Part of a Teacher Tribe: TESOL Conference Updates

teacher tribe Mar 28, 2017


I have just returned from 5 days in Seattle, USA where I had the opportunity to attend TESOL's annual conference. Can you imagine 6,000 teachers in one place? The highlight for me was connecting with many teachers from around the world but I'm always excited to attend presentations and learn more about our field (e.g. setting up English Clubs in Africa, teaching issues in Cuba and an upcoming conference there, and the latest on materials writing/publishing).

TESOL's President Dudley Reynolds opened the conference by reminding us of the role we play as teaching professions and questioned how we can elevate our profession: "We contribute to multilinguals. How do we make our profession a force in the world? How do we create a presence globally?"

What do you think? Do you feel that English language teachers need to create a global presence?


Conference Connections



 Cathy Raymond, Executive Director AIWR, TESOL Conference, March 2017

I had the pleasure of...

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An Online Conference you can't miss!

online conferences Mar 17, 2017

Online Conferences: A new trend?

Spring is certainly a popular time for TESL conferences.  Have you noticed that more and more conferences are going online?  A perfect example is the SkyTeach conference this weekend (30 speakers from around the world and more than 1,000 participants!).

Another online conference that I am thrilled to be part of is the Online Teacher Summit taking place from April 2 - 9.  

There is growing interest in online language teaching so this free conference is timely. Technology allows us to teach a language from anywhere in the world. This 100% online event will provide information about the best tools and practices from experienced online teachers.

Click here to sign up!





We all make them. 

It's embarrassing especially as language teachers but we all make errors.  I always say that when I win a...

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Power Pose: Real or Placebo Effect?

Almost one year ago, I wrote about Amy Cuddy and her research related to the "power pose".  If you didn't read that post, here is the link (http://

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the "power pose", it means adopting a posture or stance like a "superhero" (hands on hips, standing tall and powerful).  The idea is that we gain confidence from standing like a super hero!  

Cuddy faced much criticism regarding her research and book - Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges (   

According to Cuddy, "the key finding is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful".  She reports that this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.

In addition, Cuddy argues that "what’s absolutely clear from...

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