What’s the highlight of your teaching career?

highlight

I was asked the other day,

What’s the highlight of your teaching career, Joanna?

and that question was quite difficult to answer because it made me wonder

what is the highlight?

Highlight

the best or most exciting, entertaining, or interesting part of something

                                                                                            Cambridge online ddictionary

Exciting? Entertaining? Interesting? Hmmmm.

So, for a teacher, what is considered a highlight?

Is it getting a promotion? Yes? No? I ask….what’s a promotion? Is the best case scenario becoming a principal at a school? Maybe becoming the Prime Minister of Canada? Is it becoming teacher of the year? How many steps does the career ladder of a teacher have?

Is it gaining degrees and diplomas? Becoming the best you can become because of your education?

Being acknowledged, respected by your peers?

Going to conferences? Presenting at conferences? Being invited to conferences?

Owning your own ELT business?

Is it writing articles? Getting published? Writing a book that people actually read? Seeing your book quoted somewhere?

Maybe it has nothing to do with the career. Maybe it’s a feeling.

Can a highlight just simply be getting out of your rut, avoiding burnout, and feeling like a super hero every time you walk into the classroom? Having the ‘energy’ to keep going on. Having the strength to keep trying even though you are underpaid and not appreciated.

Is it feeling like you had a very productive day with a very challenging class?

Is it being creative? Making something? Sharing something? Having a zillion

Ah hah

moments?

Is it inspiring learners? Making a kid say,

I want to become a teacher because of you.

Is it seeing your work… ‘work’? I mean, witnessing a child or adult acquiring knowledge? Using a language? Having the chance to experience things in another language? Opening doors to a whole new world?

Is it when your kids make you a card or stay in touch even though you haven’t seen them for 10 years?!

What exactly is a highlight for a teacher?

Probably all the above.

My answer

That’s a very difficult question to answer because I cannot put my finger on just one thing. I  felt extremely happy when I realised that one of my kids ‘got it’ or when I saw another kid be able to express himself in English and thought to myself, “Hey! I helped make that happen”. I also felt very good about myself when I got to teach academic English at a university in the UK. I have managed to educate myself quite a bit. So, as I said,  I don’t really think I can mention just one thing. It’s not just one thing…………………

I also think that there are many more ‘highlights’ ahead.

So, how do you measure success?

Till next time…

J.

Monthly Favourites: September

Hi everyone!

I haven’t written one of these posts for a while now, so I am back with a #monthlyfavourites post. You will find websites, videos and blogs in today’s post. So, keep reading.

septmber-favourites-elt

Fun English: Advanced Pronunciation Exercise—Test Your Skills: My higher level learner wanted to do some pronunciation practice and I did a bit of research and found this poem that focuses a lot on sounds. You can check it out here.

If you like lists of words (not to give them to your learners but to use in order to make exercises , feel inspired etc.), you may want to check this site out. I focused on Business English but you can check it out and see what else you can find.There are videos where your learners can read and listen to texts. Lots of ESP stuff. One more thing, the pages take ages to load. Don’t give up.

Drawing in the classroom: story telling.You can find the post here.

EAP blog: Teaching EAP: Polemical. Questioning, debating and exploring issues in EAP.

TED talk I enjoyed and will be using in class as part of a conversational lesson: The optimism Bias (this was recommended to me by a friend after I said that I always have low expectations).

Or a shorter version and slightly different video about the same topic.

I also talked about gender pay gap with my learners and used two things as stimuli. I usually prompt my learners by asking them if there is a gender pay gap in their country. Why they think there is one. What can be done to do change this. I also ask them what they think the gender pay gap is in the US, what in the EU. Which countries have the biggest gender pay gap and which the smallest (they also guess incorrectly here!!) This Video from the Harvard Business Review Website

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this article that has a very long text, graphs (some are bad graphs!!) and extra info about the situation in Europe.

Some random stuff

I started modern calligraphy. It’s fun and relaxing. You can print out pages and practice in your free time by clicking here (uppercase version. You can also practice lower case as well).

Snipping tool: You know when you have a pdf file and want to cut something out but cannot? You can use the snipping tool. It can be found at the little windows button (the one you go to when you want to shut down your pc or search for files. You search snipping tool and you start snipping). See I snipped my own blog post 🙂

capture

So, there you have some of my favourites. I have been gathering and saving stuff for a while now, but as you know, I have really been into my girlie blogging and haven’t been sharing that much here (sorry). You can read my makeup, beauty and other favourites here.Don’t forget to follow my blog or give my Facebook page a ‘like’ so you do not miss notifications of when I publish a super duper post :).

Do you have anything to share? Any favourites? leave a comment in the section below.

Till next time….

 

 

Speed Citations

The great thing about staff rooms is that they are excellent place to hear about a task and then use it in your class, so that’s what I am going to share with you today. A cool task on citations/ referencing.You can do this with your learners if you teach EAP or writing classes that require research and referencing. My colleague John, who works at the ELTC at Sheffield University, told me about this one, so shout out to him. I did change it a bit though.

Speed citations

I had already introduced citations and students were familiar with what they need to do when citing a source in their texts, but there was still a bit of uncertainty.  How does this task work? Students need to find the author and date of a publication as quickly as possible and write it down as they would do in in-text citations.

Procedure

  • Give your students one publication/source each. If you have 12 students, you need 12 sources. I used books, journal articles, and a newspaper (I told them that one of the sources could not be used in their academic writing projects and that’s why the newspaper was in it. My students are not journalists and the newspaper was the Metro paper which is a free paper).
  • Put students in a circle and tell them that they only need a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Each student has about 30 seconds to find the author and the date of the source and write it down as they would as part of their in-text citation.
  • After the 30 seconds, students give their source to the person next to them and move on to the next source. This is done clockwise.
  • At the end, give them a couple of minutes to check what they have written on their paper and make necessary corrections.
  • In order to check their answers, each student comes to the board and writes what they have written. One source per student.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

My thoughts

Why is this a good task?
This was a follow up task, something like a revision which brought the element of ‘fun’ into my ‘dry’ academic writing classes. Students, especially Asian learners, struggle when it comes to identifying the difference between a first name and a family name. They also don’t know where to look for the date or which date they should put in their texts. Learners had a bit more fun cause this was like a game.
eecc3-delta2bbooks
So, there you have it folks. Speed citations. If you are looking for more fun ideas, you may want to have a look at the calling all EAP tutors post and specifically the comments section.

Getting adult learners involved in peer- feedback for writing

So, today’s post is about using peer- feedback in the classroom. This post was originally written for the TESOL Greece Newsletter (issue 127) and since I will be doing peer feedback with my learners on Monday as part of my academic writing class, I thought it would be a  good idea to share that article here as well. So, let’s talk about peer feedback.

Feedback is a way for teachers to make suggestions on students’ written work and help their learners improve (Harmer, 2013). An alternative way to give feedback for writing is to get the students to peer-review and offer feedback. Peer-assessment does not replace traditional assessment but it does enhance the learning process (Topping 1998, cited in Peng).  But before moving on, what exactly is peer-assessment? It is:

an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status.

                                          (Topping, 1998, cited in Peng 2010)

This feedback method works well with all learners, but especially adults. Therefore, getting learners to provide peer-feedback in an EAP, Business or any other type of English lesson aimed at adults is very beneficial. This article discusses why peer-feedback for writing can play an integral part in the everyday classroom routine and makes suggestions regarding different tasks a teacher ca use in class in order to encourage peer-feedback.

Why Peer-feedback?

There are many reasons why a teacher should encourage adult learners to give peer-feedback. Firstly, it promotes active learning as learners have to think about another student’s work. It helps build trust among students and is also a way to get students to co-operate and collaborate.

Why not peer-feedback?

It may affect the ‘balance’ between the teacher and the learner                                    (Gardner, 2000) as traditionally it is the teacher who provides the feedback and not the learner. The learners may not feel comfortable or may even feel unwilling to mark other students’ work. They might also be too generous and do ‘friendly marking’ which means that they are more interested in the fact that they are marking their friends’ work and not so much in the actual feedback.

While all these are quite ‘valid’ reasons why a teacher might avoid peer-feedback in the classroom, surely with lots of training, good monitoring on behalf of the teacher, and a constant reminder of why peer-feedback is necessary and how helpful it can be, both the learners and the teacher can benefit a lot from using the alternative feedback method.

Tasks that promote peer-feedback

There are lots of tasks that can be used in the language classroom in order to get the students to peer-assess. As the purpose of the article is to promote peer-feedback among adults, the activities chosen, are more appropriate for mature learners.

Using rubrics/checklists

When a teacher first introduces the idea of peer-feedback, it is essential that this is done in a more controlled manner. The teacher can make a checklist or provide rubrics according to which the student gives feedback to his/her classmate’s work. If the group is quite weak, instead of providing feedback on grammar, learners could be asked to check if their classmate has a thesis statement or if there is a main idea in each paragraph and so on. Another good idea is to get learners in groups of four and form a feedback reading circle where each student gets feedback from the three other members of the group.

Reformulation

Reformulation is when the student hands in a piece of writing and the teacher reformulates the original with a better version. Instead of the teacher providing a better version, it can be the learners who are providing the improved version of their classmate’s work.

To conclude….

Peer-feedback involves ‘’students in their own destiny’’ and encourages autonomy as well as motivates them even more (Brown 2004, cited in Peng 2010). It can be a very useful feedback method for every teacher as long as it is monitored and planned well. It will probably never replace teacher feedback but it is a method that can be used to get adult learners more involved in their work.

How often do you use peer feedback in your adult classes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

References

Gardner, D. (2000). ‘’Self–assessment for autonomous learners.’’ Links and letters: Hong Kong p.40-60.

Harmer, J. (2013). The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Peng, J (2010). Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Matthew T. Prior et al., 89-107. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Drawings in the EAP classroom (my Iatefl presentation)

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is a video. It is my Iatefl (Birmingham) presentation.Un fortunately, I was unable to go to Iatefl, so I thought I’d make a voiceover video.  My talk is about using drawings when teaching academic writing.

Before watching please keep in mind:

  • My presentaion was part of the forum on academic writing and it needed to be 15 mnutes long.
  • My abstract stated that I was going to also talk a bit about presentations and how to use drawings there, but I decided to only briefly touch upon that as this forum was about academic writing.
  • Even if you do not teach academic writing, you can still use some of these drawings in your classroom.
  • I was nervous!

So, I hope enjoy the video and feel free to leave a question, comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for watching.

Joanna

I love to hate formal observations

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that my next post was going to be about formal observations cause well, loads of people are talking about them, and I thought, I’d join in. Now, loads of time has gone by since I said that, and this post has been sitting in my drafts section for quite a while now, but now is the time. Let’s talk about observations and formal observations (observations that are assessed).

So here is what I think. Formal observations are necessary, but evil (tell us how you really feel Jo). Now, evil is used for dramatic purposes. Before I go all full on about what I dislike about formal observations, I will start off with what I like about observations in general. You learn. You get constructive feedback and you see your teaching through someone else’s eyes. If you are a stronger personality, you may even ask the person observing you to pay attention to one of your weaknesses and give you tips on how to deal with that weakness. They help you improve, think out of the box, and maybe even approach a lesson differently next time. Anyone can observe you. A new teacher can give you fresh ideas a more seasoned teacher may give you practical tips and vice versa.

BUT as I said earlier, formal observations are not my cup of tea. Why? Cause even if you are the best eva prepared and qualified teacher, there is someone who is there looking at you,assessing you,  and this is stressful.

52b09-10527514_10152695725827425_2509733943077571194_n

Assessment and formal observations

In cases where formal observations are part of a diploma/certificate, they become a ‘tool’ of assessment.Someone is  assessing you based on what? Criteria. Criteria set by whom? Do these criteria fit all teaching contexts, situations, learners and teachers?

So, my next question now is, if you have a 3-4 formal observation, will they really showcase how good or bad a teacher you are? And before you say… ”that’s not why formal observations take place Joanna”. I will ask you, “so why assess then?” That’s why, for me, the assessment part of formal observations shouldn’t exist. In my little brain, the sole purpose of an observation should be to help you find ways to become a better teacher. Does assessment take that away? Yes, when you are box ticking.

Now you may say, “Yes, but in order to get a certificate/diploma, we need to formally observe you and assess you.” Sure you do, but just cause I pass the assessment criteria, doesn’t mean I know how to teach. I could have read all the criteria and made a lesson that fits these crtieria, couldn’t I? Or I could be teaching this way to pass the criteria but in real life, I neva, eva teach like that.

And anyway, what is a perfect/ good lesson? Who defines good or bad? Finally, (this is just a question that will probably piss you off) but isn’t the person assessing you, assessing you the way s/he thinks the lesson should be because the criteria have become embedded in their brain?

So what do I suggest?

Of course I am in a position to make decisions, but in my perfect little pink world this would happen. Observations wouldn’t be assessed. Period.There would be no box ticking.

I would observe, but not assess.

I would ask the teacher being observed to tell me what they want me to focus on (some people to do that). I would then make suggestions. Not assess.

I would ask for lesson plans after the observation. I would give the teacher the time to sit down and write a lesson plan after the observed lesson. Don’t get me wrong, the teacher can make a little lesson plan prior to his/her lesson, but, I, the observer would get it after the lesson. Why? Cause for me, one of the hardest and most stressful part of a formal observation was sticking to my lp.

Final thoughts

I have had some very enlightening and helpful observations in my teaching career. I have gained a lot from them. How should teachers be assessed in order to get a diploma? I dunno. That’s not the purpose of this post!

Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. It’s all yours.

Till next time ………

CVs and EAP tutor posts

Every year, right around Christmas, if you go to jobs.ac.uk or Baleap.org.uk, you will see EAP tutor posts being advertised. If you are interested in working in the UK during the summer, keep on reading. If you are curious about seeing what info I put in my CV, keep on reading. If none of this appeals to you, then, well, see you in my next post :).

So, let me begin by telling you what these jobs are. Pre sessional EAP courses are preparatory courses for post-graduate students or undergrads (more frequently students who want to continue their studies by doing an MA in the UK). The majority of the students are Asian students.

Step 1: Check out jobs.ac.uk or Baleap.org.uk. Find a post you are interested in. Then,

Download the Job Description

Once you have decided where you want to apply to, download the Job Description pdf. All posts have a document or page for this. Read it carefully. There are very often tables with essential criteria and desirable criteria. Make sure you fulfill the Essential criteria before you start your application.

There are also person specifications or teacher characteristics each Uni is looking for in an EAP tutor. They are usually in the same document. Read these very carefully and make notes of the ones you feel you ‘have’.

Your CV

Put your contact info at the top. If there is a reference code for the job, have that at the top as well.

Summary

Have a short summary of your qualifications and your work experience (very short summary!!!).

Start with your Work Experience. I use bullet points. I have the most recent job at the top and move down chronologically. I have experience teaching EAP, so I mention what this experience is ( I use bullet points and mention what my duties as an EAP tutor were).

Work

Personal Skills/ Competencies

Write your CAN DOs/ Person specifications: This is where the notes you made will come in handy. Say what you do well. How you work with others. Your personality traits. Do not make things up because when you have the interview you will get a questions along the lines of “How do you work with others?” Or ” What can you bring to our programme?” Or ” Talk about a difficult moment and tell us how you dealt with it.”

If you feel like an ‘expert’  in something, say where.

Move on to Qualifications/ Education:  I include my grades and specific information about my Master’s degree (very brief though. One line long) and my Delta module 3 spcialism (it was on academic speaking, so very relevant in this case- again one sentence long).

Articles/Publications

If you have written anything, include it in your CV.

Awards/ Scholarships

If you have been awarded a scholarship, mention that as well.

Conferences/ Presentations

Have you given any presentations at conferences or online? Put them in your CV.

Other Skills

This is where I put down my IT skills and languages.

THE END

No hobbies in this CV people. Who cares if you swim? 🙂 🙂

Top Tips

Keep the information you mention relative to the job. You are applying for a job that will ask you to focus on the teaching of academic reading/writing/speaking/ attending lectures, presentation skills etc. The fact that you have a lot of experience teaching young learners arts and crafts does not really matter. The fact that you talk IELTS does. So, keep your CV to the point.

Sure you have done a lot in your career, but only mention what matters.

Don’t have too much white space.

If you went to a conference back in 1988, it doesn’t matter. It’s too old!

Keep your CV two pages long. The people recruiting teachers for these jobs do not have all day long to read your CV.

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

Want more info? Check out this post on EAP interview questions and pre-sessional courses.

Of course I am not a CV expert. I did get advice from a website that gives free CV advice though. So, good luck everyone! I will be in Sheffield this summer :). I hope you found this post helpful. Remember to follow my blog (check sidebar ofn how to do this) and maybe even give my facebook page a ‘like’?

Delta books

Thanks for stopping by!!!