Well, it is that season again. You know the one – the one where everyone is tweeting and posting about all the “best” bloggers (their online buddies) and posting all their little badges on their blogs. Yes, that time of year – Award Time.
I won’t mention any awards going on or that are about to start. Don’t want to feed the beast, the moloch. You probably know all the usual suspects – the sites not genuinely interested in much of the hard working, “good” in ELT but rather their own traffic and “get everyone to visit my award site”.
Instead of crying and whining, I’m going to fight fire with fire – start my own awards. So I hereby announce the 1st annual ELT Golden Raspberry Awards. Since it is the first, the awards will cover all time – from the first days of cavemen teaching English with chalk and stone to present day post modernists.
I’ll announce the first winner tomorrow (so please return and make me popular!) and one every day thereafter until I run out of raspberrys. Here is the tentative lineup but I reserve the right to change any category at any time. If you have suggestions of winners for any category or another category altogether – please leave a comment and I’ll take it into consideration. Much appreciated.
1. Most dull powerpoint presentations of all time in ELT
2. Most prolific tweeter of what he or she has never read/viewed
3. Most behind the times website about ELT
4. Most expensive course of lowest quality in TESOL
5. Worst coursebook to ever become widely issued
6. Most ineffective methodology for teaching English
7. Least credible award contest in ELT
8. Most horrid marketeers in education
9. Worst attempt at blogging ever
10. The worst tool every to be used a lot by teachers
Every year, I make a very practical, specific resolution for my teaching. Last year, it was to explore and practice the possibilities of using video in the classroom. This year, it is one big, inspiring one that I hope other teachers will join in – MAKE IT REAL.
Too often, we postpone. We dream, we plan but our resolutions just remain that – ideas. This year, I will follow the Signal 37 philosophy that I’ve long espoused and make my own long list of teaching projects become REAL.
I’ve got a new School of TEFL, I’ll be launching with a full 120 hour course. In my own lessons, I’m going to bring in experts, bring the world into the classroom and flag – relevance to the world out there. I have a list of ideas that I won’t wait on but will seed. I’ve long mucked about but this year it will get even more intense.
So join me – let’s resolve to Make It Real in 2012. Here are the words of Goethe to get you off the couch. Also, some 80′s rock, The Scorpions. Let us know what you will make real this year in your teaching world!
2011 was a big year for myself as a blogger. I blog for several organizations in addition to this blog (both this public one and the one on EFL Classroom 2.0). So I’m always shocked by my output – over 270 posts on this blog alone in 2011. However, even more suprised by the joy and pleasure I have making a blog post. I don’t count, or do it as a duty. I enjoy sharing, I enjoy the thought I suck upon like a gum drop, when I make a blog post. [but I am totally surprised by how many people do visit - thank YOU for visiting. I've had many days this year of over 1,000 unique visitors (readers)]
Amid the hundreds of blog posts this year, stand a number I believe didn’t get the attention they deserve and others which did but deserve even more attention!
This post, I’ll detail my top posts I think need more readers and “light of day”. Next up will be the Top 10 that would welcome even more eyes of readers. To end the year, I’ll list my best Practical and best Language oriented posts. – See here a mid year review of Simply The Best posts.
As many of you might know, I returned “home” to Canada, the north of Canada this year. After years spent wandering the globe teaching, decided to be in one place, with family and friends.
The transition has gone better than I expected. Love spending time with my lovely parents on the farm. Love my sisters and kids. Love just exploring my old town and trails. Got a great job at the local university. I have lots to be happy about. However, life can kick you in the chops and it has this year.
I wrote previously about losing my dear coach, Mr. Z this year. A tragic ATV (all terrain vehicle) accident. Weeks later, a young student, Carter (pictured), avid skateboarder was also killed on an ATV. Tragic and makes you doubt your time and place. Made me do so…..
However, I’m a positive man. I want to do something about it rather than stand still and let it kill me.
But I need your help.
Carter was an incredible kid, a skateboarder. We are trying to get a skateboard park in the community, under his name. The most votes will get the money. Read about it.
What I am asking is for each and every person who reads this, who is part of this community, to give. Give a vote. It just takes a click a day.
You have to register but you can just use your Facebook page. Vote daily and lets do something for Carter. I’d like you to help me make a difference.
“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity.” Julius Erving
This post might unsettle you – so advanced warning. Just my opinion. The rest of August I’ll be chiming in with many other provocative opinions about the web and education.
This last year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the new power of social networking and what that means for education. Especially in light of seeing more and more educators participating – blogging, commenting, tweeting, facebooking. In a word – sharing.
But sharing is a double edge sword. It has to be authentic and purposeful. Supported by community. Otherwise, it is just a lot of noise and a black hole into which an ego can tumble down and get lost within. Let me explain.
It all begins with the “Share” or “Like” or “retweet” buttons. These are great ways for a community to share what’s valuable. The trouble is that it has become a popularity contest – our focus has been lost as educators. I truly believe so.
It’s become all so high school. And with so many people liking everything and everyone – where does the center hold? How do you know what is valuable, useable, 5 star, stellar? Further, the liking becomes about short, trite comments, a kind of education by “yippee” and “yahoo” , a shouting.
And then there are social streams notifying you that you are promoted, highlighted, honored! I just got one. How much the ego is at play and tickled.
I’ve been SNing for a long time and I’ve seen the evolution. Nobody wants to offer a considered reply or slow down and read. It’s all about hitting the LIKE button. Nobody evaluates materials much any more. It is just let’s tweet it and hope for a zillion RTs! All the intelligence has drained away from online communities. It is all about speed and popularity. Is that education? Is that professional development? It’s true, onnline communities and blogs that really try to expand discussion, collect and curate materials, they are dying. It’s death by popularity, by like button.
But my main point is not that “liking” erodes discussion. No, the disease is much worse. The biggest problem is that it erodes the impulse from which things are created. Materials are no longer created of love and an inner impulse. Discussions, essays, posts are no longer shared truly because they are “valuable” but rather for their power to promote self, to be “RTed” and “liked”. This is why the invasion of “like” into our professional discourse is so potentially ruinous. I would never have done even a thousandth of what I have online – if I was looking to “be popular” and get a rep. But I see that out there – its an energy and I’m fearful of it.
The future even looks bleaker, once the marketing people starting paying you for your “liking”, “+1ing” and “RTing”. It’s right around the bend and I’ve read a number of reports on this income stream. Check out “FanSlave“. Hell, you can even set things up to get automatic likes/rts right now!
I’m not saying the sky is falling. I’m really saying we all need to rethink how and why we share/like stuff. We also have to go back towards the trunk/core of what being an educator online is. Go back to deep community and commitment to those communities. Not the scattering and wiping away of the sky that is circles, fb or twitter. These are tools but we should meet, discuss, promote, think together elsewhere than the high school dance.
That’s my unpopular take. Is anyone else out there, feeling the same?
Public health intervention more than any other “science” has done more for humankind than anything else over the last 200 years. Forget industrialization, forget inventions – how we live in abundance and health is most definitely related to the things put into place by public health: sanitation, universal medical treatments like vaccination, pre/post natal care, medical screening, public safety measures and so much more…..
I find it curious that we don’t have “public education intervention” as a core policy and fundamental tenent of creating a society that is educated. There should be an office in every country/city with a budget and the power to effect these kind of “pan” educational changes.
We know the effects that poverty has on education. High drop out rates, delinquency, school violence, decreased motivation, poor results/grades etc….. Why not focus efforts away from better tests, more “X” in schools, fancy textbooks, better teachers (yes, I mean this), decreasing standards etc…. They are only dealing with the symptoms of a much wider problems – call it, “the poverty of stimulus” problem.
Children that are poor under perform for the following reasons.
1. Poor nutrition. This effects their day to day learning and more so, their development. Physical development of nerves, tissue, the whole physical system is retarded.
2. Health. They live with limited access to proper health monitoring. Children in many places live in poor environments where health is effected by unsanitary and impurities (toxins, like lead are more prevelent in poor environments).
3. Poor inputs. Families are more prone to disruption, violence, stress. This effects children. Their home environments lack books, internet access, critical conversation. Role models stressing the value of education are lacking and in total there is a poor stimulus. Children don’t learn because their environment is “intellectually” poor.
I think we need a new science in education – the science of Public Education Intervention. Let’s put our dollars into attacking poverty. If we do – we’ll get many more results than better tests and more assessments. Let’s stop such magic shell games.
Stephen Krashen bless his soul, has focused on this important issue. Watch this interview with him (he’s in marvellous form) and think about what if…. What if put huge resources into enriching the educational access and environments of all children. What if we put our efforts towards creating the conditions for proper learning rather than the “dog eat dog” world which now exists? Education should not be a way out of poverty. Education is about a lot more …….
Here’s a doc. that discusses the above – from a Canadian perspective.
As an “insider”, I’m privy to a little of what is going on at EnglishCentral. The team has really been working overtime and coming up with some fantastic changes that will be in a new release.
Here’s my insider’s sneak preview!
I hope you like the new look and changes. Please comment and let us know your thoughts about this or other things you think EnglishCentral should do. This summer we are working overtime to prepare for September and the school year. Working overtime to get EnglishCentral teacher ready.
1. The player will give students “fluency” feedback as well as that on pronunciation. Meaning, your students will also get scored at their ability to match the length of utterance and pause of the original video. If they don’t say the word(s) at the correct time, a pause icon will show and indicate this. This is one step towards building a complete prosodic model by which to assess student speech. (forthcoming – tone/pitch/stress/power).
2. A simplified interface. Take a look – every page is less busy and easier to use and find what you need. In WATCH, simply click the sidebar and go any category. Drop down menus take you to the videos you want, instantly.
3. Unified Difficulty Level. Meaning, you’ll self select your level based on internationally recognized standards or the EC levels. When you use EnglishCentral, you’ll only get videos and vocabulary at your preselected levels. We’ll track your progress as you climb through the levels. Level 7 is the vocabulary beyond 8,000+ words and represents an addition 25,000 words of study!
Tomorrow, I’ll detail some more delicious changes you’ll love!
Note one thing. The teacher tools will remain the same BUT they will get an overhaul later this summer. They’ll be sleak, easy and work like a charm. We are working overtime on them!
A patchwork and “raw” post. It has been one of those weeks. Today, held in my arms for the first time, my beautiful niece’s son – Riley. Couldn’t have been happier. Tomorrow, heading to my coach’s funeral. He died tragically this past weekend. Life shines and life sucks.
Mr. Z was an amazing coach. I wouldn’t be who I am today without his guidance and motivation – he’s a part of me and in a strange way, lives on. He was a great father whose sons followed in his and his wife’s footsteps as teachers. He was tough as nails and pushed us underachievers – we all appreciated that about him, at the end of the day. He never gave up on us, like a great teacher, like a great coach – he believed in his athletes, great or not so great. Every one.
Belief. That’s what makes a great teacher and coach. Research is unequivocal on this point – students who have a teacher who believes they are intelligent, gifted, talented, great, outstanding – will undoubtably do better and achieve more. A student isn’t born, they are made – made by the power of a teacher that believes and cares. It almost makes one think there is some invisible spirit and force which emanates from one and empowers another.
Mr. Z, is the guy with the beard. Here I am at 15. We’d won an all Ontario medal. It was just the beginning for me. I’ve won marathons and national championships, set a world record – but most importantly, through Mr. Z, I found something I loved, running. That wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Z’s faith in me. How he hounded me to train, to keep at it. He did. I never got a moments rest – he was always encouraging and keeping me in line. And believe me, there were many times I could have fallen and not got up. Thank you Mr. Z. Your belief made a big difference. I hope as a teacher, I can also “believe” in my students as strongly as you did.
I regret not having spent time with him nor telling him directly this. Here I am running in the Hamilton Spectator Games a few years ago. Rounding the 180m track at a speed that almost made me dizzy – I kept hearing this, “Go Deubel” from the stands. I did a warm down lap, looking up to see who it could be. Sure enough, there was Mr. Z. cheering me on like it was 1977 and I was 15 years old. I should have told him then.
But that’s life, it never sits still. There is no center where things hold. We just have to live with our regrets, the best we can.
To end, I hope many of you will watch this video. It’s about death and having regrets. A hard subject for your students. Still, if you do show it, it might just save them from regrets like I have at this moment.
I’ll only say thank you to my niece Gabriella, who painstakingly went over the copy and edited everything. Thank you! Here, I’ve reprinted the short forward (the print book will contain a much longer and well researched essay on the topic of “the dictionary”).
Enjoy and comments, your fav. definitions, welcomed!
About this book
This book was written over 20 years ago, over a few days. A result of my own “Foerster’s Syndrome”, a kind of lexical illness which I suffer gladly. Both an incessant need to pun and an uncontrollable reflex of seeing meaning within words. A kind of inability to see the forest (word) for the trees (the sounds / meanings).
But I’ve lived with it and learned to control it. Still, ever so often, this Jabberwooky, this moloch and primordial beast attacks and I’m back in the land of the idiot’s dictionary ……
I’ve written a lot about the power of words over the years. See my previous book – “The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Teacher” for those. I’ve studied and been influenced by all the creative writers / poets who’ve pushed the frame of reference in which language lives. Valery, Mallarme, Stein, Breton, Borges, Gass, Calvino, e.e. cummings to name just a very, very few. The Gagaism manifesto, born of the same time as the dictionary (at the end of this book) – stands as my own theory of language in the world.
I also must emphasize my own use of the word “dictionary”. This book is my belief that “We, the people” should have control of the language – not the Websters and Murdochs of the world. A dictionary is not a definitive source but rather, an interpretation. This book, my small attempt to put a dent in the prescriptive armor we wear as we walk the world, in the flesh born of “the word”.
I’ll end with this wonderful passionate appeal of McKean for a new kind of dictionary, a new participatory and living dictionary of meaning and metaphor.
This morning during my usual coffee and book – came across the above quote. It really got me thinking about the reasons many EFL teachers (or others), pack their bags and leave home behind.
It is relatively easier to “take off” these days. Not so much isolation, faster travel, the world is getting smaller. Still, it is a big decision to leave the comfort of your own culture, community, your family and friends. Not to mention time lost working your way up the “job ladder”.
I have packed up a number of times, each for different reasons. The first time, fresh out of teacher’s college, the main reason was to get into a classroom, any classroom. The teaching job market was tough in Canada, so I headed first out to British Columbia. Same situation there, so it was off to the heady and velvety times of the Czech Republic.
The second time, I went overseas “to meet honorable men”. I loved Europe, especially the people I’d befriended. I wanted to meet others and grow as a person, thinker.
The last time I went overseas was to Korea. To be honest, there were many reasons. I was an established teacher but tired, very tired. So I have to say I went to “leave my troubles”. It worked out and the change and challenge renewed me.
I’d love to know the reasons others have “left home”? Are they one of the 5 above or are there other reasons/considerations?
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
– Henry Miller
I recently made all my books into “real books”. Today, my 3 favorites came in the mail. Get them all here – I’ll soon add links to the real, POD versions. It’s great to be an author but even greater to be free to do as you please, create and make. Not to be at any whim other than the own wind beneath your wings.
I’ve outlined a bit of the process here (for making a book of your blog) – I’ll soon outline more on how you can go from idea to book, with yourself at the helm….
I’ve been a runner for over 33 years – hardly ever missed a day. But the last 2-3 years have been gradually more and more crippled and it has got to the point where my legs won’t run. I get terrible calf cramping (from lack of oxygen) when I run, just after 2-3 minutes now. I vowed last year to get back on top of the running game, something I love. No go.
So I have to do something. It isn’t the whole solution but I think sitting has been killing me. So I intend to just walk while I’m working.
I’ve transitioned in my career and especially this year – to working / teaching mostly from home. I love it. I’m doing great work. But alas, I sit a lot! I think it is killing the circulation in my legs and it is a warning for others who also teach online, at a desk.
I know a thing or two about treadmills, also running. (see the slideshow below). This seemed like a great solution. Right now it is an experiment that I’ll report on later ……………… Maybe some others who are wacko enough can join me?
It’s that time of year – graduation! Full of commencement addresses and speeches. I’ve got to give my share and I’m always reminded of this time of year by the traffic level hitting this one post; Graduation Speech.
For those who haven’t seen it, I’d like to share one of the finest (and funniest) graduation speeches – Bill Cosby speaking to new Carnegie Mellon graduates. He tells a special story in the unique way that only he can. It means a lot, what it says – so I won’t ruin it for you with my own pauper’s words and pretense. Watch, enjoy and celebrate. Really and truly we each graduate, each and every day that we “learn”. Your students can practice this speech on EnglishCentral too!
Just a warning and heads up. I’ll be reloading and reinvigorating the #1 in ELT series. A way for teachers to go directly to the “gold” in our profession. Here’s the last edition that I’ll be adding to. (download by hitting the button on the bottom right. Then click photos/links for secondary sources)
This month I’ve had my head full of “spring” and in particular that spring 40 some years ago in 1968 when students around the world became very “educated” and aware and sought to change things for the better. I didn’t live through that spring and I don’t condone everything that happened then BUT it was something I feel is missing in students/teachers these days — a sense that teaching is not just about the subject but also about LIFE. That teaching should follow the Socratic dictum of helping lead students to be SCEPTICS and who critically challenge the present order — all in the name of the “good”.
Students nowadays are more concerned than ever with “business”. Not just the subject of business and getting a better job but also qualifications, diplomas, certificates, marks, status. This culture is very conservative and doesn’t seek to challenge the authorities or question the very fundamentals of our society (because that would endanger their “position” and future). It is as if students these days, especially in university, feel that they have to keep quiet, feel they should just party and get good marks because “protest” and student movements would threaten their future possibility within society. This I believe profoundly effects our world.
We need students who question and challenge. Without these “soil turners”, the world just keeps spinning in violence, keeps along the same “moral/immoral” path and there is in a way, so much less salvation, less “spirit” in this world. My own hope is/was that the internet might be a way to fan the flames of youthful inquiry, protest against injustice. I”m not so sure……..
I remain convinced, we missed the boat so long ago in ’68. Yes, the cries and demands at that time have changed things in some ways — race, women, liberality, a peppering of more freedom. Still, the flower never bloomed on the stem. So many great critical theorists in education tried and offered solutions to the educational malaise in 1968 and thereabouts — I think of Illych’s incredible pamphlet, “Deschooling” or Postman’s “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” — both babies of that time’s bathwater. Yet their ideas and vision is left unfulfilled (though still as valid today as ever). The question is “why”?
The recent French movie, Cannes Palme D’Or winner, “Entre les Murs” – “Between the walls”, about a French teacher who challenges authority and his students really showcases what hasn’t happened in teaching worldwide. So few educators like this or like Sidney Portier in “To Sir with Love”, so few teachers who teach the other side — not the subject but “consciousness” and making students aware of the conditions in which they live. Today, so few teachers “risk” and take their students into that place where they truly become aware and in control of their own reality. So few teachers ever ask their students to “fight the power” and try for Socrates notion of “the good”.
Teaching, especially teaching EFL, is not just about the “subject”. It is about human relationships and engagement. It is about trying to affect eternity and in my estimation the greatest thing a teacher can do is to “lead”. This is teaching at its best. Lead. Lead your students to think outside the box and always be full of spring…..
Here are a couple videos which challenge the present status quo, especially the war in Iraq. We need more teachers to ask of their students — “why is the world full of violence?” , our future demands it……… I reject our present climate of teaching — the very apolitical sense and fear which pervades teaching. It is truly sad. The teacher’s role is not just the subject but THE subject — the good……
I’m reminded of my own reading of de Tocqueville and his prescient view of “democratic despotism” and the teacher’s job being to awaken others out of this ever present threat. He writes…
“For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? ….After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.”
He called for a “vigilant” population — informed through education. I call on all teachers to rise to that challenge and standard. And maybe question, with passion like Pink (and hasn’t changed at all with Obama……)
“Where is the life we have lost in living?”
- T.S. Eliot
Teaching in Karlovy Vary, C.R. - early 90's
I have had the honor and pleasure to interact with a lot of new teachers over the last 6-7 years. Energizing and invigorating.
One thing however that seems impossible to convey to them, is just how much teaching abroad has changed over the last 20 or so years. It has changed dramatically (and for the better, for the most part!).
I go back 20 years, starting my teaching career in 1990 in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, just after the Iron Curtain fell with a loud thud. But I’ve talked with even “deeper” veterans, like Thomas Farrell who was teaching in Korea when it wasn’t even on the radar of anyone (and go listen to his plenary if attending IATEFL – he’ll be a breath of fresh air from across the Atlantic!). He has stories that even make my own seem “modern”.
It seems that there are now fewer and fewer – isolated spots. The world is truly a village for all but a few teachers. Teachers now can consider themselves so lucky, in many ways. Here are just a few that come to mind.
1. English is everywhere.
These days, I would get the Herald Tribune 4am in Seoul, on my doorstep. I light up my computer and stream Al Jazeera in English. In 1990 in Karlovy Vary, I used to wait anxiously every Sunday outside the “Tabak” for the one copy of Maxwell’s superb “The European”. Often it didn’t come and I had zero English unless an English movie came to town. Even on TV, nic, nothing in English. (and even then, remember watching “Trainspotting” when it came to town and not understanding a thing – like it was a foreign language!)
2. Technology helps teachers.
Back in 1990, I didn’t have any EFL Classroom 2.0, a place to get resources with a click of the button. Not even a photocopier! We did have a machine (for which the name escapes me) that you’d crank and get some ink smeared copies if desperate. Textbooks were one of two kinds. Cambridge or Oxford – that was it. No computers, no projectors or IWBs. No context to reinforce the teaching. It wasn’t easy and you had to learn how to chalk talk or else. I am surprised I haven’t lost my health due to all the chalk dust I used to inhale!
3. No more isolation.
Nowadays, teachers can phone their family and friends very easily. There is facebook and skype. You can keep in touch easily. Back in 1990, it cost almost a weeks salary to make a call home! Suffice to say, I wrote letters and went 6 months without hearing my parent’s voices. It was a lot tougher. It was go native or go home. Knedlicky and smazene syr (dumplings and fried cheese). No starbucks and TGIFs offering Western tastings. I remember hearing the news Tesco had opened in Prague (maybe 1993?) and was amazed when I went there to get peanut butter! OMG.
And let’s mention here that professional development is so much easier. You even don’t have to leave the school or your home! Twitter, SNs, Facebook – ideas come to you, the talk comes to you. I remember the first professional development conference I ever went to – in Liberec. It was an exhausting 3 day journey for an afternoon of a few workshops.
4. English suffices.
English in now a true “lingua franca”. These days, there are always enough English speakers abroad – that there is little need to learn the local language. Of course, I think every teacher should (depending on the context) but it is no longer a requirement in order to survive your year(s) teaching abroad. I had to learn Czech – otherwise I’d of gone stir crazy. So I did. And perhaps that’s one of the upsides to teaching yesteryear. That and the crazy low prices that everything cost (I’m thinking of the .25 cent Czech beers when I first went there!).
There are some great memories – “how happy we remember our days in hell” – said Dante. I remember throwing my jug down to the gypsy boys who’d for a few crowns would fill it at the corner pub. I remember Thanksgiving dinners at my place where teachers from all over the C.R. somehow miraculously found out I had got “real” turkey and cranberries and would turn up yearly in ever larger numbers. Great memories of running the miles of pristine forest trails. Memories of singing with my good friend Drew in many pubs, late into the night. Ah…. there was an upside to the isolation – the suffering made me suck longer and harder on the joys therein.
I know there are probably still a number of teachers teaching in conditions like I did years ago. I’m generalizing but I think the point is valid – our teaching environments have changed considerably. For the better. I’m happy for it and TESOL has come a long way – growing more and more into a real teaching profession, less ruled by linguists and academics. A lot has changed.
What about the other old timers out there? Any comments about the “Then” and “Now”?
[ Still want more Then and Now? - no better photos on this theme than those of Irina Werning. Amazing and a must see.
I’m just on my way home from a great conference in New Orleans. Refreshed by many conversations with fellow teachers (but have lost my voice!). The small talk and conversations were even more important than any of the presentations I attended or gave. Really and truly, a conference is about all the little things and thoughts you share with others working in different and diverse environments. It all adds up and contributes to our teaching knowledge and will definitely transfer back to the classroom.
I took the time despite being so tired – to take in the blues. Spent two nights listening to Bryan Lee and his amazing Powdered Blues Band. Rejuvenating, especially how music, the blues in particular, are so full of insights into language and its use/worth/power. Telling a story, repetition, rhyme, emotion, identity… too much for this short post from the airport. I will comment more in another post.
Just want to say thank you to anyone I met and shared conversations with!
If you are interested in a great website your students or you can use in your class – try The Blues Maker. It is super simple and you can make a great song in a few minutes. Teacher’s might also find this Louis Armstrong power point useful 9thinking about it since I’m in the Louis Armstrong airport as I write this) or get the video on EFL Classroom 2.0.
Burnout is something every teacher will continually confront – even those of us with the best of jobs. Entropy is a law that applies to teaching as well as physics. Nor, is there a sure fire, one size fits all solution. Some teachers will have to just push through it. Others need to change things up a little. Some, change things up a lot and maybe head off in new directions. Some teachers will even get motivated by digging deeper and pushing hard (yes, it is true!). Some teachers will just need to step back and take a break.
That’s what I am doing this year. It is hard without my own classroom (though I’m teaching online). I miss the contact, miss the involvement. Miss my nice big office and the starbucks 20m away! Still, I needed it and needed a new challenge. This year, really trying to do different things, start up and be independent. I work from home, have my new office finally set up. Doing some consulting for a few companies (most notably EnglishCentral) that I believe in (and I’ll only support companies with vision and that have the teacher’s interest in mind). Will be starting my own School of TEFL. I’m near my family that I love and am now officially back from self imposed TESOL exile.
This is how I’ve always dealt with teacher burnout – by stepping back. As the French put it, “reculez pour mieux sauter”. Stepping back so to jump further forward.
It is a principle we all have to learn to obey. When to push, when to step back. As an athlete, my job wasn’t only training well – it was also perfecting the art of doing nothing. Only with rest, does growth come. I am also thinking now about long jumpers – how they step back, rock back and forth as they look down the runway before leaping so far far ahead….
My stepping back involves getting in touch with my self. Teaching takes so much selflessness and pulls you so much away from yourself – you need this, all teachers need this. For me, stepping back towards myself involves renewing old habits. Like reading and poetry. Like running. Like making materials for teachers.
I returned to my old karaoke making today – inspired by a song I love and used to spend hours running the streets to. U2 – running to stand still. Perfect for your students and also you – many of you who might be “running to stand still”.
This picture puzzle maker is really simple! Just go to the webpage, upload a photo and then choose how small you want the pieces to be. (I recommend choosing the largest size, that is difficult enough).
I think this might be useful for “jigsaw” type activities with text. Get the text as a picture (take a pic with your camera). I’ve posted up an example below. It might also be fun to do this with pictures of students. A hat tip to member Ruth Ferris – I got this site off her Teacher Tools page.