Thursday, January 21, 2010

5 problems and 5 solutions

I hate instructing or advising people without being asked to do so. If I don’t like what I see I usually keep quiet but this time I could not.

Three weeks ago I attended a few workshops run by experienced teachers new to the art of public presentation. The content of their presentations was fine but they had some serious problems when it came to dealing with the participants. I imagine similar things happen in their classrooms so if THEY had difficulties, how about regular teachers?

Here’s an outline of the problems I’ve observed with the solution that work for me.

Problem one: Teacher asks an open-ended question to the students e.g. ‘What are the advantages of using computers in class? Students look at each other, one of them replies, the rest is quiet. Teacher asks ‘Anyone else? No one else replies. The discussion is abandoned.

Solution: Give students a few minutes to work in pairs/groups and discuss the issue you’ve chosen. Then proceed to whole class feedback.

Problem two: Teacher wants the students to wander around the classroom asking each other questions e.g as in Find Someone Who. S/he distributes the handouts but the students don’t feel like moving and continue sitting.

Solution: Stand still and make the students come to you to get the handouts.

Problem three: Teacher wants the students to work in groups and make a list of five important people from their country. After a few minutes students work in pairs and make lists of ten famous musicians.

Solution: Check your instructions by saying ‘What are you going to do now?’ It might become slightly annoying but it’s definitely worth the effort. More importantly, the students will get used to paying more careful attention to what you’re saying because they’ll remember you’ll ask for a recap.

Problem four: Teacher asks ‘Do you understand’? Students say they do. Really? How do you know that?

Solution: Ask students to repeat what they’ve heard from you to their partner or yourself and in case of any misunderstandings, allow more time for further explanations.

Problem five: Teacher wants the students to talk about the effects of global warming and gives them some questions to discuss. After some time s/he realizes the students are talking about the causes of the problem. They forgot what exactly they were supposed to talk about.

Solution: Write the subject of the discussion and possibly related questions on the board so that the students can refer to them while talking. Elicit or provide students with task language.

If you have different solutions and/or find mine inappropriate/useful, feel invited to comment :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

All about Poland

Some time ago Jason Renshaw wrote a memorable post called ‘Tell me about Turkey.

Actually, it wasn’t the post but the comments that created a major storm in the blogosphere. Some people got offended, the others had only positive impressions to share.

On the whole, what I’ve read gave me a lot of food for thought. One of the conclusions I came to was that we all seem to glorify our own motherland, especially having immigrated to a different country.

Poland is a nice place to live in or visit but it surely isn’t heaven. I’d also risk saying that the state of ELT is pretty good there. You can’t teach English without qualifications, for instance.

Yet my opinions will always be subjective. That’s why I’d like to know what you think about it.

What’s you first impression of Poland?
Are there any stereotypes about Poland in the place you come from?
What’s it like to be a teacher there? What are Polish students and schools like?
How about Poles themselves

Both positive and negative comments are most welcome J

Friday, January 15, 2010

2 kinds of teachers

Some time ago I wrote a guest post for Nick Jaworski, the author of Turklish TEFL, called ‘3 kinds of teachers’. To keep it short: type 1 – one who doesn’t know the students’ mother tongue, type 2 – one whose mother tongue is the same as the students’, type 3 – one who knows the students’ mother tongue more or less. Nick’s comment to my previous post generated another idea.

Looking at EFL/ESL teachers from a different perspective we might as well say that there are two kinds of educators: type 1 – teachers who were trained to become teachers and have worked only as such and type 2 – teachers who joined ELT having experienced doing something different for a living.

I’m a teacher type 1. For the past seven years the only thing I've done is teaching English. One advantage of being a teacher type 1 is that I’ve taught kids, teenagers and adults and thus gained pretty much experience. I’ve used a number of course books and have my own library of photocopied materials and ready to use lessons back home. I might be thrown into a classroom and teach a great lesson without any preparation or stress if required.

Yet sometimes I cannot get rid of this nasty, subtle feeling of inferiority. Teachers type 2 are familiar with  such a bunch of other issues. They can bring a great deal of their non ELT related experience into the classroom and that makes a huge difference.

The only things I know about are the ones I studied – British/American Literature, Phonology, Descriptive and Historical Grammar, Linguistics… Needless to say, it surely isn’t something students would fancy discussing.

There are of course personal interests and passions. I’ve always been into travelling, ethnography and films. (If you are planning to take part in the ISTEK ELT conference in March, feel invited to attend my workshop about using documentaries in the classroom J )

I'm really curious about the rest of you in the blogosphere.

What kind of teachers are you?

Can one type of teachers claim superiority over the other?

What are some other advantages/ disadvantages of being teachers type 1 and 2?

Thanks Nick for the inspiration btw!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is personal satisfaction included?

I guess it wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that everybody wants to get satisfaction from what he or she does for a living. Yet so few of us actually manage to gain it.

Low salaries, classroom management problems or bad attitude are among the main issues that we all have to face most of the time. These nasty feelings of discontent and disappointment pretty often lead to burnout which we have discussed before.

Being a teacher is not easy and a wise man who compared teaching to acting had a point. Performing in front of an audience a couple of hours a day is incredibly strenuous. It requires preparation a quite a lot of thinking involved so what to do if your students simply do not care? This issue is probably very familiar to those of you who have experienced teaching teenagers – they are by far the hardest to please and deal with.

Imagine your salary is more than reasonable but the satisfaction you get is minimal. You are fed up with teaching at XYZ. What would you do?

  1. Look for a job with a lower salary but giving more satisfaction (hopefully).
  2. Continue working for the same institution. It’s all about the money these days, right?
  3. Change your profession and do something not connected with teaching. Gardening? McDonalds?

Are there any other options?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year, New Look

I have been thinking of changing the template of my blog for quite a long time but I had no idea how hard it would be. Actually, installing a new theme is a piece of cake but keeping your widgets intact while choosing a new template proved to be an achievement worth a Nobel Prize at least.

Although I was racking my brains and had a bunch of sleepless nights thinking, I succeeded!
I’ve also installed a few new widgets to my blog: Contact Button Top Commenters, Blogumus and Related Posts.

This site was very useful and this one had great templates but I could not figure out how to deal with the installation and widgets problem. Thank you Karenne for your help and advice!

I hope you like the L_missbossy’s ELT Playground’s revamped look J

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

7 signs it is time for a new job

Last month I wrote a guest post for Ken Wilson about my burnout experience. The overall message emerging from the post was largely positive – I did manage to fight my burnout and opted for a huge change, starting everything from scratch in a new country.

It’s been my third year in Istanbul and I’m afraid the big B might start knocking on my door pretty soon. To be on the safe side and just because I believe in teacher cooperation, here are my

7 signs it is time for a new job:

  1. Your life is boring and you truly hate it
  2. You have nothing in common with your colleagues and / or secretly despise them
  3. You start thinking that even working at McDonald’s is a lot more fun than teaching
  4. You secretly devise ways of doing something very bad to your DOS/ Head of Department
  5. Your laryngologist advises you to change the profession – teaching is surely not worth losing your voice, is it?
  6. You see no point in preparing for your classes – sitting and chatting with your students still means they practise listening and speaking, right?
  7. You stop putting on makeup in the morning – who cares about the way you look anyway?

Just wondering - has anyone experienced that or am I the only one coming out

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Seven Common Deadly Sins of EFL teachers

For the past three years I have been working with a number of trainees doing their best to become good EFL teachers. Having observed their classes and being repeatedly asked to pinpoint typical mistakes they make, here is my list of the Seven Common Deadly Sins of EFL teachers.

  1. They don’t set up contexts to introduce new topics
  2. Their TTT dominates the classroom making it largely teacher centred
  3. They teach/ practise grammar without drawing students’ attention to meaning
  4. They provide students with (usually) one form of (negative) feedback
  5. They believe in the power of worksheets as the best source of practice
  6. They make students sit most of the time 
  7. They provide students with a written form of a word before modelling pronunciation 
Sounds familiar?