A Teacher is Also a Student

teachers are students Mar 06, 2016

This week my blog post ended up being two posts - the one below and also The 5 W's for Using Photos in the ESL/EFL Classroom.

Last weekend, my blog post in Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches was inspired by my current class of impressive TESL students.  Just as I was to post my blog for this week,  I realized that something was missing. (A good teacher always reflects so I thought more about the 4 hours that I spent with these teachers-in-training).

Even after 20 years, I still have things to learn about teaching.  I may have "wisdom" because of my knowledge and teaching experience, but it doesn't mean that I don't have anything else to learn.  It certainly doesn't mean that I can't learn from my students (one teacher in particular but you will have to read the whole blog post below for the details). A special thanks to the students in TESL005 for teaching me an important lesson.  

"A teacher is also a student".  


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The 5 W’s for Using Photos in the ESL/EFL Classroom

Most ESL/EFL teachers have one thing in common.  It is our penchant for saving everything.  I have always loved collecting photos, images, posters and anything visual.  (Many of my photos are still in perfect condition because I laminated them while working in Hong Kong years ago).

Here are the 5 W’s for using photos in your teaching:


Using visuals in ESL/EFL classrooms makes sense because these aids can improve long term memory and comprehension to name a few benefits.  Dr. Lynnell Burmark suggests that “unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information… Images on the other hand go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched”.


The list below includes 10 ideas however I am sure that there are many more.


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The Top 5 Mistakes that New ESL/EFL Teachers Make

Last Saturday, I spent half a day with 8 energetic and passionate TESL trainees assessing their teaching skills.  Each TESL student was required to teach a mini-lesson which included a grammar point.

As as TESL trainer, I have assessed many teachers-in-training but I was very impressed with the attention to detail, the creative handouts and interactive activities demonstrated by this group.  However one of the things that I have noticed consistently over the years are 5 mistakes that almost all new teachers or teacher trainees make.  Although these mistakes might seem trivial, I believe that if they are avoided or eliminated, teachers can be more effective and therefore significantly contribute to their students’ learning.

Mistake 1 – Check Understanding

This does not mean saying to students “Everyone knows what they are doing now, right?” but more specifically it means checking the instructions that you just gave by saying “Who can tell...

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Post CELTA/TESL Grad? Now What?

Last weekend, I took part in a 2 day online global professional development event that featured 40 teachers answering a pre-determined question.  This epic event was organized by Rob Howard and Dr. Nellie Deutsch from EFL Talks  http://www.efltalks.com  

Each teacher had 10 minutes and a maximum of 10 slides to present his/her topic to ESL/EFL teachers who were logged in from around the world.    

Here is a summary of my 10 minute talk - What training do you recommend for Post CELTA grads?

There are many options such as DELTA, TESL Diploma, M. A. TESOL, or PhD. however I have provided a step by step approach. 

Step 1 - Identify what you really LOVE about teaching English

  • Linguistics?
  • SLA?
  • Adult learning?
  • Curriculum Development?

 (For me personally, I always loved writing lesson plans e.g. reading, researching, and going online to find the right clip art.  This is not surprising given the amount of freelance work I do now as a...

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How to Survive and Thrive as a New English Language Teacher

Are you a new ESL/EFL teacher working in your home country or abroad?  Do you still have questions about teaching English?  Do you often feel unprepared for the challenges in your new career?  

I know exactly how you feel!  Twenty years ago, I was in your shoes.  I had just graduated from a TESL program so I thought that I was ready for the classroom however I quickly discovered that I was unprepared for the complexity of language teaching.  I had so many questions but I was afraid to ask my more experienced colleagues!  I wasn’t sure how to continue to learn and grow as a new teacher.

Based on my own personal experience as a new teacher in 1995, as a TESL Trainer, and the experience of other new ESL/EFL teachers, completing a TESL program does not necessarily mean that we are all ready for the classroom. 

I love to share my “wisdom” from 20 years in the TESL trenches as an Instructional Coach to help new teachers improve...

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My Biggest Surprise as a New Freelancer

It has been almost two months since I left classroom teaching and ventured out on my own as a teacherpreneur.  I love being my own boss and feel that I definitely made the right decision.  I was interested in the Forbes article that predicts that “more than 40% of the U.S. workforce will be made up of freelance workers by the year 2020”.


The article provides some good questions to ask before launching oneself as a freelancer.  I do believe that I have the motivation to work on my own however I have made one crucial error.  Constantine Anastasakis, Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy for Fiverr (an online marketplace for freelancers) says that “one of the worst mistakes new freelancers can make is selling themselves short “. This means doing too much work for too...

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Is "i" the New "I"? - Part 2


Several weeks ago, I published/posted “Is “i” the New “I”?  I was so surprised to see more than 150 teachers (and even those who are not teachers) weigh in.  Here is the initial post followed by a summary of how teachers feel about the use of “i” by students learning English, as well as a few solutions that were posted.  Thank you for your comments.


Last week, I started teaching online courses for the winter semester including a university level academic writing course.  To my horror, it appears that "i" is quickly replacing "I".  Several emails that I received from students last week used the dreadful "i"!


"i enrolled late in the course so can i have an extension?"


When I see students use "i" instead of "I", it is like hearing finger nails on a blackboard.  What has happened?  I can only assume that texting language is the culprit.

 I reminded (or warned) students at the...

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Is "i" the New "I"?

A few weeks ago, I started teaching online courses for the winter semester including a university level academic writing course. To my horror, it appears that "i" is quickly replacing "I". Several emails that I received from students last week used the dreadful "i"!

Here is an example:

"i enrolled late in the course so can i have an extension?"

When I see students use "i" instead of "I", it is like hearing finger nails on a blackboard. What has happened? I can only assume that texting language is the culprit.

I reminded (or warned) students at the beginning of the course that I was an ESL teacher for 20 years so I rarely miss an error! I asked them not to use "i" for "I" but somehow it didn't seem to make much of a difference based on the emails I received over the weekend.

I have to say that the use of "i" is one of my writing pet peeves. I would love to hear from other teachers about how they are handling this.

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Why you Should Use a Super Hero Pose

As a teacher trainer, I have seen my fair share of nerves during practice teaching. Unfortunately a bad case of nerves can greatly affect not only one’s teaching performance but can affect one’s level of confidence entering a new profession.

If you have not watched Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk – Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are – I highly recommend that you do, and as Amy’s suggest at the end of her talk, share this information with others who could benefit.


Have you ever noticed a person’s body language if they are feeling sad or nervous? People tend to hunch over and make themselves small. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself. Conversely, when we feel happy and confident, we stand taller and open up our bodies. Cuddy’s research reveals that not only does our body language affect others’ perceptions of us, but it also affects our brains and feelings as well.

Cuddy suggests...

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Teachers - How to Make your Students Feel at Home Faster

When I taught (EAP) English for Academic Purposes at a local college, I would start the first class with introductions.Classes traditionally started on the first Monday of the month.I was always amazed when a student would introduce him/herself to the class, and tell us that they just arrived in Canada on Saturday.They hadn’t even had time to recover from jetlag, let alone culture shock!

Interesting research in the area of social psychology suggests that there is an activity that helps students to adjust better.Research conducted with American students living in China reports that those who were treated to apple pie (as a reminder of home), tended to be more comfortable with local students more than those who received mango pudding, a Chinese dessert.

Another longer study looked at Chinese students living abroad.Students who were experiencing high levels of insecurity were asked to write about either a Hong Kong landmark such as Victoria Peak, or about symbols from the host...

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