Welcome to my blog post - Weekly Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches. Thank you to all my new subscribers this week. Please connect with me on social media and forward this blog post to other teachers.
Why our Students Could Benefit from Checklists
A recent book review of The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right http://amzn.to/2jAfcC3 by Dr. Atul Gawande caused me to think about the use of checklists in teaching and learning and how they can benefit our students.
Most likely you have never given much thought to checklists however author and medical doctor Atul Gawande has. In his book Gawande discusses a simple but powerful tool used to reduce medical errors – the checklist.
Maybe you are wondering what medical errors have to do with teaching or learning English. There isn't a connection however I think that checklists can be useful for our students.
Let’s look at what Gawande has to say about checklists. He...
One of the reasons that I like social media so much is because of the connections I have made with thousands of English language teachers all over the world. This includes you! I believe that we all share the same desire which is to help our students learn (no matter where we live or where our students live if you are an online teacher).
Over the holidays, I caught up on some reading which included an article by Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters http://amzn.to/2hOArly and Jennifer Aaker, Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Their piece entitled "In 2017, Pursue Meaning instead of Happiness" http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/12/in-2017-pursue-meaning-instead-of-happiness.html includes data from a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs. According to the survey, teachers (as well as clergy and surgeons) find the most...
Exactly one year ago today, I left my job as an ESL teacher after 20 years (including 7 incredible years in Hong Kong). I had known for a year or so that it was time for a change because I was feeling uninspired and tired. I felt the need to learn some new skills and travel at any time of the year, not just school breaks. I craved a creative outlet but I wasn't really sure what to do.
Was it frightening to think about life outside the classroom? Yes! But little did I know that having support to push ahead would be key in achieving so much in the past year. This is why I believe that we all need a "Ray"!
So who is Ray? A few years ago, my friend Ray asked me if I could write an online course for him. I said that I could and did. He also asked me to attend a 4 day training event for coaches, writers and online course developers. I went with the intention that I would learn more to help him with other online courses, but I ended...
To say that the education field often undergoes change is an understatement. Many of the recent changes relate to technology in teaching and learning. Initially, I felt that ESL could only be taught face to face, however now I have a different view based on my own personal experience. I think teachers can be open-minded to any change when we see the benefits for our students. This was key for me.
A few years ago, the college that I was working at announced in May that it would transition to becoming a “blended learning” institute the following September. This meant that students would have both face-to-face classes and online activities. At the time, I was very skeptical about teaching English for Academic Purposes in this format, and also overwhelmed with the thought of adapting both my teaching approach and materials to a blended format. I also wondered how students could possibly learn and improve their language skills without all of us physically being in the...
I had the pleasure of interviewing teacherpreneur Drew Smith. I used to teach with Drew's mom - Judy - who is also a published author. Drew believes that "all teachers have a book or two in them". Do you?
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule Drew. Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
I’ve been teaching with St. Charles Adult and Continuing Education Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for the last 14 years. Currently I have a class in a wonderful school called Circle of Friends.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
My typical teaching day involves a healthy mix of instructing, listening, and entertaining. I aim for learners to learn and smile at the same time. A great mood in the classroom always encourages great learning.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
Music, reading and the great outdoors!
What is your biggest challenge as a teacher?
I would say...
I am not sure if it was turning the clocks back one hour last weekend (resulting in darkness at 5:30 p.m.) or seeing my American friends so divided by the U.S. election, but I drew a blank this week for my blog. Some weeks I have a few topics, but this week nothing… until I saw this quote in my inbox this morning.
I just finished 5 weeks of supply teaching at a LINC centre for my good friend Nancy. When I was offered one day a week until the end of June, I happily accepted. For those of you outside of Canada, the federal government provides free language classes for immigrants and refugees at LINC centres. I actually started my teaching career 21 years ago at a LINC in one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto. It was an incredible first year of teaching and I felt at home.
I left for Hong Kong at the end of that year where I spent 7 years. When I returned to Canada, I entered the college system to teach EAP (English for Academic...
Last week, I was a mentor teacher for one of my former TESL students. He needed to complete both observation and practicum hours for his Canadian TESL certification.
One day during lunch, a few teachers were commenting on what they were like as new teachers. One teacher recalled several disasterous teaching moments in his first year. Another teacher described himself as being "absolutely terrible". I am not sure that I would describe myself as absolutely terrible, however I was very nervous but I desperately wanted to be a great teacher.
As a TESL trainer, I have assessed many teachers-in-training and notice that it is not in common for nerves get the best of these newbies. There is not much one can do about nervousness as this is a natural reaction to being observed and assessed, even for more experienced teachers. However I have noticed 6 mistakes that almost all TESL students make. Although these mistakes might seem trivial, I believe that if small...
For the past month, I have been filling in for another teacher at a local college. I have three classes of a first year English Communications course. What I have noticed about students’ communication styles after a two semester break from college teaching is alarming...for an English teacher.
Several months ago, I wrote a blog post called Is “I” the new “I”? and then a follow up because of the numbers of responses that I received. In these posts, I described my annoyance with the use of “i” instead of “I” in many of the emails that I received from students.
Now the latest “trend” that I have noticed is the lack of punctuation! Take a look at the emails below from students in this current semester:
Hi I accidentally submitted my essay into the pre research assignment drop box...
Have you heard of “deep work or attention residue”? I recently had a discussion with a first year medical student about study habits, excelling in academics and high achievement. He told me that he has difficulty staying focused while studying (he studies with his laptop open and frequently check emails!) He is obviously a smart young man to have been accepted into medical school, but he has asked me several times to give him some study tips so he can learn more, and learn faster. His goal is to be at the top of his class.
A couple of days after our talk, I came across a book review for Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (http://calnewport.com/books/deep-work). Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University in the United States. He earned his Ph.D. from MIT.
Newport argues that in nearly every profession, better productivity and more satisfaction can be...
Exactly one year ago, I decided to leave classroom teaching after 20 years. My decision was based on a few reasons but to be honest, I was exhausted (I hate to use the term burned out). I was also bored from the sheer repetitiveness of teaching English. I didn’t leave the ESL field completely and in the last two semesters (I still think in terms of semesters and not months!), I have been teaching online, writing and travelling. When a friend of mine asked me to supply teach for 5 weeks, I decided that I was ready to return to the ESL classroom.
My class of new immigrants to Canada from Sierre Leone, Chad, Burma, Syria, Afghanistan, Vietnam, China and Somalia.
As teachers, we give so much to our students. It can be hard to find the time and energy to care for ourselves, too. Self-care - the act of taking the time and space to nurture ourselves - is not something that is “nice” to do but it is essential for our well-being as teachers....