Being Open to Online Teaching

teaching online Dec 02, 2016

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...

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Do you have a book in you?

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...

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What "brings out the best in you" as a teacher?

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...

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Do you make these 6 mistakes as a new teacher?

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...

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Is the . key missing from your keyboard?

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...

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Why teachers and students should know about deep work and attention residue

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 (  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...

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Why you should care about self-care

burn out self care teachers Oct 08, 2016

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....

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Are your students fluent in Two Truths and a Lie?

When I saw this question on Walton Burns' website, it made me pause and reflect on what it must be like to be an ESL student, and how as teachers, we may contribute to our students' boredom. I had the pleasure of interviewing Walton who is an experienced teacher, materials writer and the Chair of the Materials Writer Interest Section of TESOL. Find out what happened when a brave student piped up about Two Truths and a Lie.

Here is my interview:

Thank you for doing this interview Walton. Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

At the moment, I do some freelance tutoring mainly for international students or adults living in the area New Haven area of Connecticut, USA but I’m currently doing more materials writing as it allows me to spend time with my son.

How long have you been teaching?

I began teaching in 2001 when I traveled to Vanuatu in the Peace Corps and I started writing materials professionally in 2007.

Can you describe a typical working day?

After breakfast, I...

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How sticky are your lessons?

As teachers, we spend hours planning lessons. However how much consideration do you give to the end of your lessons or to a closure activity? In the last few weeks, I have come across several articles about how to end lessons so I wanted to dig a bit deeper. 

As you probably know, I am a big fan of starting a lesson with warm-up activity but how we end our lesson is also important for student learning.

Here are some reasons why teachers should use closure activities:

·        to check for understanding and gather feedback

·        re-state and emphasize important information from the lesson

·        tie up loose ends

·        correct any misunderstandings or confusion

Closure is also important for students because it can help them to:


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How `Plain Language`landed me a trip to Guyana

A few years ago, I enrolled in a half day workshop on Plain Language. I had no idea what Plain Language was and my curiosity got the best of me. Little did I know that the content in that workshop would land me 2 week assignment in Guyana with CESO

CESO is a Canadian organization that sends senior-level professionals from the public and private sector who are passionate about sharing their skills and expertise in different countries around the world. When I saw the request for a trainer to teach report writing and presentation skills, I was intrigued. (I was in Guyana 20 years ago and was interested in both the project, and returning to the country). I was very excited when I was chosen for this assignment.

The training assignment was for three different groups at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana who are responsible for writing reports, briefs and/or speeches. I introduced Plain Language and it was very well...

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