Tag Archives: #livebloggingparty

My Happy ELT Story ‘2017 (or RP meeting that didn’t happen)

Today’s blog post is a reflective practice meeting on paper.

Wait, what?

Let me explain. Here in Tokyo we hold monthly reflective practice meetings (and I mentioned those before in my previous blog posts, for example here). We tell stories and ask questions, trying to help each other look deeper and see more in what happened. Some meetings see more participants than others, some have two. Like today.

And while it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have a chit-chat with Lina and call it a Meeting, we thought we’d do something special. We’d type up what we’d otherwise be saying.

So here goes your Christmas present from RP Tokyo, a reflective conversation around a happy ELT story from a 2017 classroom. 

 

***** PART 1, THE STORY *****

My happy story did not start so cheerfully. In fact, it started as one of the most challenging, trying classes of this fall semester. In a bunch of high level proficiency students, most of whom had either studied or lived abroad, there was one kid who seemed particularly… bored. Let’s call this student Bo.

Bo’s casual English was nearly flawless. I could easily see Bo hang out with his mates in LA, London, Singapore, etc. and have zero problems getting the message across (a possibly timely note: Bo’s “mates” in my imagination would be 16-18 year olds). So back to our classes. From the very first lesson (and mine is a mandatory discussion class that HAS to be taken no matter how fluent and great you are at English), Bo looked like the class was about the worst possible way to spend time (yet, Bo only missed one class out of 11). Bo was the first person to grab the bag and leave the classroom the very moment the bell rang and I wrapped up the lesson. I don’t remember Bo ever saying goodbye to either myself or group mates – and the class size is eight students, so I would most definitely hear those words. In group discussions, Bo liked to sit back in the chair and waited to be asked to share opinion. Which Bo would quickly do – and return to the very comfortable if idle position.

Needless to say I felt not a little annoyed and frustrated by Bo’s attitude. However, that class was a BUNCH, as I said, and it was a bunch of Bo’s and other. Every day I had to teach that class, I mentally prepared myself for a storm of emotions that I might have to go through. One such time it hit me pretty hard and I blogged about it. I didn’t really want to give up on them and all of the various issues I found myself experiencing when teaching this particular group. I tried to do something (or not do something I’d been doing) in class, hoping that a little change would work (for this idea in my mind I will forever thank John Fanselow). Yet it seemed like they could see through my intentional effort – and class went off the rails (for me anyway) in a totally different way again.

Anyway, I did say it is a happy story, and so it is. After our latest lesson I was returning back to my office from another building on campus and I saw Bo, who I’d earlier taught that day. Bo was in a group of friends and engaged in a conversation… but as I was passing by, Bo made sure to say “Goodbye Anna” loud and clear enough for me to hear and react to. Right now as I’m typing this, I’m smiling. Such a tiny thing, you’d think. Coming from Bo, though, in a circumstance like that, it felt pretty great.

I am not sure what had happened and what Bo will be like in the remaining classes we have together this term. I do want to mention something, though. In one of the recent lessons I asked those students to do a self-reflection. Among other tasks, the reflection had these questions:

Apart from our Discussion classes, do you have an opportunity to use English in your life right now? (By “use” I mostly mean speak, but please mention other ways you use it, too). When do you use English? How much (a week)? With whom?

We only have 5 classes left. After that, you won’t have any more Discussion classes. This could be a good time to set a goal to achieve by the end of the course. What goal(s) would you like to set for yourself for Discussion class? What can you do to achieve this goal?

Bo’s answers were eye-opening to me (and who knows, maybe to Bo, too…). Bo said that, having spent many years abroad speaking English every day in an international school, now there is NO chance to use English. Bo’s goal was to participate actively every class and ask group mates lots of questions (I’m obviously not quoting, so I think Bo formulated it even better, and with … mmm… heart put into it). In fact, all students in that class surprised me that time with how thoughtful they were, how genuine their response was, how openly and responsibly they took the questions. They inspired me to be more positive and have good faith in what we can all do together in class. I now don’t fear that class approaching. I like them and I think I will miss them when I have to say goodbye.

I don’t think self-reflection or any other measure I took or didn’t take to turn things around in that particular class worked on its own. Frankly speaking, I’m not even sure how the next class is going to be. But I feel now it’s a happy story already.

 

***** THE QUESTIONS Lina asked *****

In group discussions, Bo liked to sit back in the chair and waited to be asked to share opinion.

Lina: Why do you think this happened? Bo’s English is almost flawless, as you describe it, so it wouldn’t be difficult for Bo at all to participate in the discussions actively. What could have stopped Bo from doing that? Bo didn’t like being forced to take this class? Bo didn’t like the topics? Bo thought it was too easy?

Anna: I observed Bo, even though I think for the first few weeks my vision was clouded with the frustration I felt about exactly this – having the means to do the thing and participate, and yet not having the desire to do so. I think this is a case when ability and willingness to communicate did not get to meet. For a while. It might have been conditions, or atmosphere, or mood, or class composition, or teenage rebellion… anything, really. Everything.

 

and class went off the rails (for me anyway) in a totally different way again.

Lina: It would be interesting to hear in what ways the classes went off the rails. In what ways did they ruin your efforts?..

Anna: For example, I have a bad habit of running class a little overtime. It never seemed to be a problem with any other students, but as Bo was always the first to leave abruptly, I felt badly and thought we should finish on time. However, it’s tough as students in this class are overly chatty and I had to spend quite a bit of our time bringing them back to tasks. So that one class I started by offering “a deal” – they’d be paying attention and not getting distracted, I in my turn would be able to finish and let them go on time. I was pretty happy with my idea. Well… they could focus for about 7 minutes… and for the remainder of the lesson, they suddenly decided to chat with each other in Japanese!… In all lessons stages, between speaking tasks, during speaking tasks, in group discussions.. It was something new, and something I couldn’t expect from students of their level of proficiency. It was something else. The deal didn’t work…

 

Bo’s goal was to participate actively every class and ask group mates lots of questions

Lina: I can’t wait for an update! I really want to get to know if this student achieves the goal or not. Will the usual behaviour change?

Anna: We’ve had two classes since, and it’s been great. Touch wood. =)

 

I don’t think self-reflection or any other measure I took or didn’t take to turn things around in that particular class worked on its own.

Lina: Do you think you managed to establish a good rapport with these students? Do you feel like they’re a unity now or still just a bunch?

Anna: I feel like we’ve come closer. Not only me and them, but also them with one another. And…. again, I was frustrated that my usual methods of “establishing rapport” were not successful with this group. It’s a long, long process, the building of group dynamics. Now that we’ve probably come to something good, we’ll have to part soon…

 

***** THE HAPPY END***

This post was brought to you by a #livebloggingparty featuring Lina and myself. Be sure to read Lina’s happy story in her blog here.

We wish you and your students many happy moments in 2018! Stay positive, and if you feel you can’t – find a person you can talk to. Chat with an understanding colleague (hi, Shoko ;)). Write a journal and give it to read to someone you trust. Come to our reflective practice meeting, if you’re in Tokyo. =)

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Paragraph blogging.

Welcome to a new type of blogging Kate aka @springcait (see picture below) and I propose to those in ELT community – paragraph blogging. If you…

– are sick of mulling over your Seriously Great Idea in an attempt to shape it coherently and beautifully into a decent (read: perfect) 1K+ words blog post;

– think your Seriously Great Idea will not significantly lose in its greatness if you manage to tell it in one paragraph;

– are lazy;

– promote clarity in expressing thoughts.. or lack of clarity within a one-paragraph writing;

– don’t think you have a Seriously Great Idea, but you do think you have something to say;

– want to experiment with your writing style;

– desperately want to blog but have just your cell phone with you…

…then paragraph blogging is for you.
Let’s see if one paragraph could be a good amount, readable, doable, enjoyable, ideally informative.

Here’s my Paragraph 1.

*****

Today I was in class with university students (acting as their actual teacher) for the first time since June 2014. I met 13 young adults, some of whom looked tired, sleepy, well-rested, cross, skeptical, blank, interested, curious, shy, markedly laid-back, and some didn’t even look up from their desks to meet my eye. Interestingly (for me), many of those young adults didn’t know much about each other, even though they spent a whole term studying side by side. (That makes me think now whether “studying side by side” necessarily equals “knowing your partners” or “caring to know your partners” in a language class.) Naturally, they were given time to mingle and find things out, which they, naturally, did. The two main take-aways from this non-groundbreaking getting-to-know activity for me personally were the following phrases I overheard: “It turns out my groupmates are interesting guys” and “I write short stories”. While the first line invites no further commentary from me, the latter one might. So it turns out Student I. is an interesting person and writes short stories about the things/ events/ life she observes around her. And since her teacher easily gets excited about what she believes to be students’ talents or creative expressions, and especially all things writing, we all agreed to exploit this. It’s a tentative plan now, of course, but one class Student I. is going to attend my class without actually participating in it, solely for the sake of making the best use of her time observing our lesson. She will then write a short story about it, which she will bring to class for us to translate into English. At least translate, that is! I can’t even start to imagine what it could hold for us all and me as a teacher in particular. It will also be interesting to see how honest the writer will get in her observations))

Thank you for reading.

P.S. This post belongs to a #livebloggingparty series, back in Russia, hiding from the wet grey Moscow February in a cafe with Kate. Fun as ever 🙂

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In Mike Griffin’s class.

One of my personal professional goals to achieve during my Korea time was, as you might have read in some posts before, visiting classrooms and processing the experience. I think I started with a lot of zest. As a result, this post came out a very detailed one, took about 5 hours of my time, a lot of concentration, meticulous note-taking of anything I was seeing (and the thoughts those scenes and moments spawned), and then brain effort to structure and write it up in the way it could be readable and telling the points.

Next class I visited was of a very different type and I eventually decided to blog about it in an idle way which would require little analysis on my part but would leave a special feeling of other people being part of this emerging space of a blog. There were voices to be heard, I sensed, and I think that was a good choice on my part to eliminate the thorough scrutiny.

I’m going to go similar way now writing about another class I visited in Korea about a month ago, that meaning I will cut the dissection part. Because it’s too hard and I’m not sure it’s worth it. Besides, I feel like the main interest in that class for you the reader of my blog could be the contents of the class, at least that’s what it was for me.

 

Welcome to Michael Griffin’s English class at Chung Ang University, Seoul. Fasten your seatbelts, or any other belts, I hope it can be an interesting cultural ride.

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 *****

I’ll set the scene for you. Imagine a rainy but warm day in Seoul. That was the kind of day. Mike invited me to one of his classes and I was even going to be more than just a guest taking notes. That is exciting, if you ask me, and exactly the type of experience I’d long been thinking of having.

It’s a rough estimate, but it felt like 2 minutes of class passed after I felt a pang of jealousy. I saw Mike being relaxed but obviously confident and in control of the flow of his lesson, joking around while being on track and giving clear instructions. That was, in fact, pretty much the same Mike Griffin you’d see if you attend a presentation of his (and next chance to do so is in Japan in just 5 days). What was the pang about anyway? Well it struck me like it hadn’t in the months before that I miss teaching. I wanted to teach a/my university class and it was while being in that particular room that the feeling got so intense. I was almost aching to interrupt, interfere, comment, play a teacher, or get involved in any other way.

Which I only had to wait for. The plan for the class was the students (4 Korean ladies) doing the task assigned by Mike for one hour, and then the next hour would be divided into 15-minute “interview” sections, the interviewers being both Mike and me. This was in itself a new and unusual class format for me, and now that I’ve tested it and seen it in action, I’ll certainly try it out with some students in Russia, as soon as I get a chance.

 

So the four students split into two groups of two. There was “a Korean” and “a non-Korean” in each pair. The non-Korean Koreans were to read the questions, the questions that non-Koreans might wish to ask Koreans about their culture. The Korean Koreans, in their turn, were to give their Korean replies and explanations and provide any necessary comments on any further interrogation by pesky non-Korean Koreans.

Some of the questions from Mike were the following:

? Why do so many Koreans wear masks?
? Why are there so many Kims and Parks and Lees in Korea?
? Why do Koreans like Samsung and want to work for it?
? Why do Koreans hate Japan?
? Why do Koreans use metal chopsticks?

 

There were all in all 24 questions, all of them equally interesting or some even more. As you might imagine, I stopped taking notes of the things I could observe about the lesson very soon, for the simple reason of getting too curious about what the students had to say explaining their culture! By that time I’d been in Korea for three weeks and collected a fair amount of questions like that myself, so I couldn’t wait till the interview part of the class.

 

And while I learnt a lot in that interview part of the class and satisfied some part of my curiosity, I’m led to believe the students had a chance to learn from me, too. One of the best examples of the kind of cultural learning that happened that day and happened both ways was talking about the image of Russia. In that hour I heard 3 things which the students  shared with me as their instant associations with my country: (1) Moscow is a dangerous place to go to as there are skinheads who roam about the streets attacking, hitting and killing foreigners; (2) Russian food is greasy; (3) What do you think about Putin? … I don’t believe I need to go into much detail here about how passionate I was dealing with (1) since it’s just not true *anymore?*, and it was shocking news to me that such information travels around. Russian food is certainly different from Korean and it’s common knowledge that tastes differ. I’d heard taxi drivers here in Seoul blurt out “Putin?” first thing after they found out I was actually a Russian, not an American.

 

Among all other things we talked about it might be interesting for English language teachers in Russia to read that I heard this line: “My Russian groupmates struggle with their English”. I realize that it’s just one student sharing her personal opinion and it doesn’t lead us into making this unpleasant conclusion about the state of English language education in Russia, its standards and the levels students get finishing school.. There’s one thing that is certain as it’s a fact: Russian students don’t have to take an obligatory English exam as they finish school education, unlike Korean kids. For the latter English is mandatory for entering any university whatever major they choose, and English scores are in a way crucial (yes, they are a big deal). As I explained what the situation for Russian school children is like, my Korean interviewee said “I think your system is better” (stress related + not all students really need English in the future). Whichever system is better, her Russian groupmates struggle with their English.

 

I’ll share with you my questions about Korea and things Korean I’d been noticing in my time here. I got responses to some of these but still wonder about others. In any case, it’s useful to have them here as a memory of what I had in my mind in October 2014, and it’d be more than great to have some of your replies in the comments to this post.

  • Is it bad manners to tip?
  • Is it bad manners to not finish your meal/ leave food on your plate, if you don’t like it (some parts of pork, for example)?
  • What about dairy products and Koreans?
  • Has anyone here ever tried a dish called “kuksi”?
  • Why do Koreans invent English names for themselves and introduce themselves to me as Suzie, Robert or Jenny?? (note: I got an excellent answer to this question from one student but I’d like to read what your perspectives are as well, teachers who are based in SK)
  • Why are people in the metro or in the street never saying sorry after pushing you, stepping on your feet?
  • Why are people not looking at other people in the street? Or is it just for me?
  • How are people from Seoul different from Koreans from other places?
  • Where does Japan stand in the list of tourism preferences for Koreans? How’s the general *hostile* attitude reflected in daily life – do Koreans use Japanese products? Do Koreans have Japanese friends?
  • Why are you asked to scribble whatever on a special thing if you’re paying with your card? It’s not even supposed to be a signature. Apparently, there are no security reasons involved as there would be with PIN-codes, what then?
  • Names for dishes! That’s just amazing to me. In order to feed myself in a restaurant I need to know the name of a dish (and what that dish is, of course). It’s not as easy as it is to order a steak or pasta marinara, you know.
  • What’s one thing a Korean would never eat?
  • How about going to places, such a coffee shops, alone? It seemed to me it’s not quite typical/ natural for Koreans to hang out on their own.
  • Is there no Korean version of Google?

 

It was a very informative class for me, and even insightful in certain ways. Cultural gaps were filled, for me and maybe for those students as well. In the end I did feel I was a good part of the lesson, and I thank Mike for organizing the time in the way that allowed for that! Thanks a lot, Mike! =)

 

*****

Random analysis points that I couldn’t resist:

 

1)  I enjoyed Mike’s teaching style: very smooth and natural, with interesting and timely commenting and language work. The whole first part of the lesson revolved around one and only task, and that felt right and “light”. There was no hurry to proceed to some next stages and that opened up space for fruiful work on the task there was to be done.

2) I personally learnt a new word (peoplewatch (v)).

3) Several times Mike referred to Korean in his comments on the use of some phrases in English. I’m sure making connection with L1 is useful for students at any level of language proficiency. That is my humble assurance.

4) Here is a post to read to learn something more or less up-to-date about Russia (Moscow?).

5) I asked one student to share 3 important things my students in Russia should know about Korea. Here are her replies:

– Korean parents have high expectations of their children. They want them to study hard and get best scores.

– Wifi connection is excellent in Korea.

– Delivery service is just as excellent in Korea. Your order will arrive at your door within 10-15 mins from your call.

6) I paid special attention to Mike’s phrazing of “non-Koreans” instead of “foreigners”. I’m determined to stick to “non-Russians” from now on, whenever that comes in handy.

 

*****

This post is the forth (! already) in the #livebloggingparty series. This time Mike himself and I got together and blogged. We also ate this kimchi pizza. I hope you enjoy his post that you’ll find here. And with this post the blogging party moves on to another country! Expect to be continued soon-ish.

Big thanks to Josette, Anne and Mike for agreeing to go through this with me. I’m going to leave Korea with exceptional memories.

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Thanks for reading!

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Free writing at #livebloggingparty with @AnneHendler

I’m thinking of…

 

 

… a beach. This beach is long and stretches all the way into the horizon. It’s wide and deserted. It’s not a bay but an open coastline, so waves come crashing at their own good times, there really is no way you can get away from the powerful sound of the waters here. The other side of the wide sandy beach line is framed with the green, fresh and pine. Green hills slightly clouded by a bluish mist are on that other part of the horizon, facing the azure of the ocean.

There’s an occasional couple or a family to be seen here and there, as well as those seeking their solitude. It’s not hot, you actually have to be wearing jeans, jacket and sneakers to feel comfortable, though the sun is really bright and you wish you had your sunglasses on. It’s breezy enough but somehow there’s no disturbing feeling about it. The beach is in a city, so you can easily imagine it crowded at the weekends. Now it’s weekday daytime. Perfect time for a stroll.

This is what I’m seeing right now. This is what I’m experiencing. This might actually be My Perfect Beach. And I’m thinking of finally writing down and getting out what I’ve had imprinted in the back of my mind for 20 years, what I’ve told at least 4 people here in Korea about, something that has now gained enough strength to show up from the deep corners and is not afraid to grow.

 

my fav pic ever

 

This not-so-secret “something” is about the beach.

 

I don’t see how I could possibly write anything other than ultimately personal from a place like this. I see myself coming to such quiet beach on my own, sitting down facing the water, which would be coming as close as only 3 meters from reaching my feet in its mighty tidal wave. I cannot picture myself writing down pretentious lines from this place. I can, though, imagine I would yield to letting go of barriers that keep my mind (and language, as a consequence) think in terms of limits. I can imagine I would write my heart out, because it’s being called out from a source more demanding an honest answer than that of a promise to myself, a resolution “to write”, or a blog post title and notes in drafts.

 

So I used to think I can’t write from anywhere else rather than my desk in Moscow, at any time other than comfortable, safe and lonely nighttime. Apparently I’ve been proven wrong, by this beach, this day, and this ocean, as this post is just writing itself.

 

This place makes me think of other things, too.

It makes me think of just how many beaches I haven’t seen, and how few (and awful as in touristy) those I have seen are.
It makes me think again of how lucky I am to have found out I enjoy being on my own (and that I can bravely enough openly state it here).
It makes me think it’s relatively easy to live with no strings attached, or to cut those strings, in order to indulge yourself in what it is your soul is asking for. Or at least to go looking for it.

 

My perfect walk on a beach is a walk I make on my own, all the way along, stopping where I want to, staring at the sand, seashells, masses of water that I’m actually so scared of. This walk gives me a chance to stare into those parts of my Self, which so easily get neglected and underrated in the busy city routine.

 

I am thinking of a beach and what my life would be like in a place like that.

I’m thinking of a change to make.

 

*****
I’m grateful to Anne Hendler for several things: (1) for letting me spend the whole day with her and her students; (2) for the sweet tangerines; (3) for the attitude towards students I have yet to learn; (4) for showing me the wonderful, special beach and in this way  helping me (maybe unknowingly) find the right mood and enough courage to write this blog post. It is as different as my writing could ever get in this space. It is as personal as I can possibly make it. It is quite scary to hit “publish” right now, several hours after writing it from that rocking bench on that fantastic beach in Gangneung, too. But long live #livebloggingparty 🙂 I can hit “publish” now as I’m not alone.
Thanks, Anne!

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*****
Thank you for reading. Here you can read Anne’s post written on that beach.

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My unique Daegu time: with @JosetteLB and 16 Korean teachers.

On Friday October 17th I visited Josette LeBlanc‘s class at Keimyung University. The class situation is pretty unique to me: 16 school teachers have taken a 6-month break off their jobs to go through a full-time teacher training program, which involves various types of language and teaching practice classes.

In fact, there was no class that Friday, as in there was no class that Josette would teach and I would observe. What happened was a discussion, about English language education, Russia, Korea, me, them, students, geography, and my granny. I think I was too verbose, as I usually am as soon as I get emotional. I’d never been in a similar situation and I wish we’d had more time to share our experiences, especially theirs.

My original *big as always* plan had been to write a detailed and thoughtful analysis-type post based on all my many notes (somewhat like this one). Now I think there’s a different way to do it, and also probably a better one – let the teachers of that class speak about our time spent together in their own words.

We asked the teachers to answer one question: “What was significant to you about this discussion?” The teachers were free to put a check on the paper if they didn’t mind their response being shared in this post. Some also wrote down their names. (I thank all of you, teachers of Josette’s class, for being willing to talk, listen, reflect and connect with me!)

So here are their/ your thoughts. My thoughts and comments will follow at the bottom of this post.

 

***** What was significant to you about this discussion? *****

 

… Your personal story about studying English… Taking a glimpse of Russian culture and education system. (Jeong, Hyekyong)

 

You are jealous of our supportive Korean education system and I envy the huge country of yours. Thank you for your advice. Reading and writing are good for fluent speaking. (Kim Yoomi)

 

It was interesting to compare the university education for major of English in Russia and in Korea. We have native professors here. And also your hard work for keeping and improving your English was very impressive and helpful for me. The reason why I attended this course was only that I wanted to improve my English that I started slowly losing. I wanted to tell you this.

 

I checked that there is no royal road in learning English. Practice, practice, practice! Hard work and intensive studying is the only way to improve English. (Choi Jungsook)

 

I think there’s a big difference between Korean English education and Russian’s. The attitude to English is different. It seems like Russia doesn’t think English is so important. That’s why you don’t have teacher training courses like us. Our government treat English as a VIP language, more important than our own language. I hate this but it is true. That’s why we should compete with each other and develop our ability continuously. It’s a too big responsibility. (Geum Eun Ju)

 

It’s good to meet and hear from Anna, stories from a Russian English teacher is quite new and interesting. I was surprised that her English was bad when she started university studies because I didn’t know English classes in Russian secondary school were focused on grammar, reading, and receptive skills. That happened in Korea, too. I admire her courage to quit her job and chase her freedom.

 

 

I also felt I wanted to teach adults, not kids, because I wanted to communicate with students as well as teach. After hearing your words, I have empathy with you. I’m interested in your experience and your process of thinking. I was impressed with your decision and action.

 

I’ve learnt that studying English as a foreign language is difficult for everyone. We need to make some effort to speak it fluently. I remember your sentence: “Expressing your thought in English will help improve your English skill.” I will do the same thing from now on. (Sujin)

 

I considered all circumstances of learning English in Korea as some pressure, but comparing to your situation in Russia, I realized that those are such amazing opportunities to learn a language. We, Koreans, are blessed. Thank your for your insight. 🙂

 

The most interesting thing to me is in Russia people who want to be teachers have one whole year training course in their last fifth year. In Korea, we usually just have one month training course in our last fourth year.

 

It was good to know the different style of English education in Russia. “Hard work helps, always..” I need to keep that in my mind to improve my English. It’s amazing again how important English is in Korea.

 

The most impressive thing that you said is “Writing in English is helpful for improving English”. I’ll try to follow your advice. Have a good time in Korea. 🙂 (Choi Sukhee)

 

Thank you for sharing your story. I truly felt your heart. Good luck. (Kwon Jihyun)

 

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***** My thoughts and comments *****

 

So, there’s no big need for me to go through the nitty-gritty of our discussion as most interesting points can be seen through the teachers’ lines above. I did talk a lot (which I’m not very happy about because I wish I’d listened more), answering questions and oftentimes being carried away. The topics that were touched upon include:

– Scattered bits of info and a really rough overview of English learning and teaching in a Russian school (based on my experience, so obviously it should not be taken for granted as the only existing way)
– How Russian students get into university (exams before and now)
– Importance of English in Russia vs Korea
– My preparatory year for entering university, curriculum and the basic description of what my 5 years at a teacher training university in Moscow were like
– Native speaker professors at a university level *that we didn’t/ don’t have in Russia*
– Co-teaching practice *that we don’t have in Russia*
– My personal interest in Asia, why and such (that was a tough one!)
– Geography lesson and working with the map to find some Russian cities on it))
– Many specific personal stories/ situations from my life that came to my mind on the spot as I was talking about something
– My experience learning English

I guess the comments the teachers shared with me on those sheets of paper are saying more than I could have said analyzing the discussion. If I am to answer the same question as they were answering, I’d say that it was significant for me to feel these teachers’ willingness to learn from whatever that was that I had to say, reflect through the lenses of their context and experience, compare but not necessarily bear judgement of either of the sides. Some things are similar, some are different.

I’m very glad I’ve joined their group in BAND app and can keep in touch. I’m going to write a letter to these teachers, say what I wanted to say but didn’t have time or the right moment, share the link to this post, invite them to leave a comment.

There is one crucial point I never managed to mention in our too short conversation, though, and I want to have it out here.

Hard work is important. Enjoying English is kind of key, though. I sometimes might forget to say it out loud to my students and just focus on hard work (which I do believe is what moves mountains and brings progress) but… You’ve got to love it. I might be naive but I strongly believe that loving what you do (in this case, learning English) is the right way to eventually becoming good at it.

Thank you, Josette and the 16 teachers of this KIETT course. I feel lucky to have shared time in class with you, and I’m still jealous. 🙂

 

*** Random but nonetheless very important facts related to this post ***

 

1. This post was typed using my right hand only. As have been and likely will be all of my posts.

2. This weekend I found out I’m not the only person in the world lacking the wonderful skill of typing using both hands. I’m glad Josette is that other person. If there are more of you, Right Hand Only type writers out there, please let us know in the comments below. Thank you.

3. This post is part 2 of the #livebloggingparty series. The glorious idea and plan I want to try and follow through is to meet a teacher-blogger offline, sit down in some place and blog together. Hitting “Publish” simultaneously is part of the deal. Part 1 of the series can be found here (blogging with @KateSpringcait). This post (part 2 of the series) was written sitting next to Josette on the couch in her home in Korean countryside, listening to the chirping of birds and looking at a praying mantis moving around on the window glass in what I take to be its Kung- fu fashion, scheming an attack. I am forever grateful to Josette for this chance. You can read her *excellent* post entitled Turning Points here.
Part 3 of the series might be coming very soon 🙂

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Final note, added here in order to be very honest with you readers: the post was finished in and published from A Twosome Place cafe area at Dongdaegu Station, Daegu, South Korea. Thanks for reading!

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My teaching unprinciples

This post is being written in an unusual (for me) manner, place and situation, and to me this fact is at least just as interesting as the theme of my writing today. More about it at the bottom of the page, just a few paragraphs down. At the moment I’m curious myself about how it’ll go for me. If the end product (=the post) turns out to be of a disputable quality/ value, I’ll blame the change. Because the original idea in my draft, to my mind, was not that bad. :))

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In this emerging space of a personal blog it’s time for more personal truths to emerge. They might not be flattering, as personal truths are likely to be.

I have previously mentioned here that I oftentimes envy people who are strongly principled and follow clear directions in their life while making choices, important or less so. I’m probably not always one of them and now is the time to examine briefly and casually how principled a teacher I am.

Following my recent pet trend to look into dictionary definitions for words elemental to my post themes, here’s what Merriam-Webster tells us about a principle:
– a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions;
– a basic truth or theory: an idea that forms the basis of something;
– a law or fact of nature that explains how something works or why something happens.

Keeping those in mind, I want to lay bare some of my personal teacher truths, give comments and drag in the definition ideas where possible. This is going to be so random. Enjoy.

(1) Dialogue.
– Do you give your classes following the communicative approach?
– Mmm… Can you explain what exactly you mean or want me to say here?
– (what sounds and impresses like a word-for-word quote from the approach description)
– Well, there’s a lot of group and pair work in some of my classes, less of that in others. There’s interaction, focus on personal experiences, but, I mean, that’s maybe obvious…? I hope I mostly teach to communicate, yes. I don’t stick to the points of the method description.

It’s not a new talk for most all of you, I know. What’s my point? Maybe it is that feeling class, as in both whole teaching process and a particular lesson, makes more sense to me as a teacher who teaches to communicate than reading into the lines of methods and methodologies and being their slave. CLT is not the basic truth or theory behind my teaching, but neither is any other type of teaching on its own.

(2) I can’t stand being lectured. BUT I have been noticing myself sometimes turning on a lecturer mode while being too emotionally involved in something that I believe (at the moment of conversation) to be right. The realization of this contradiction to my own principled view, when spotted, is quite sickening. Lecturing on the brink of preaching (or is it the other way around?) is going a bit too far in my understanding of what an ordinary teacher should be expected doing in an English class.

(3) I say openly and loudly at presentations, webinars, blogs and meetings: Go for social networks with your students! Explore them, try out with your class, have fun or fail, reflect and try again – that would be pretty much the summary of my belief on the issue.
Just sneak a peek into the Students Connected FB group and judge, by its happenings, how much of that I’m doing myself these days.

Quite often I find myself unconsciously steering the conversation or course line in my class the way I would not normally do, discussing texts and topics I would naturally not want to include (for the reason that they’re trite, mostly).
Quite often I find myself wishing for the calm, regularity and boredom of a coursebook while claiming to be all too pro-coursebookless teaching style (I’m sure that is not a word).

Why did I call those points my “unprinciples”? Many a time I catch myself thinking, saying or doing something that I generally don’t believe to be 100% true or right. And maybe that is so because I don’t believe most things to be 100% true or right, most of the time. I doubt and then I doubt more, but this hesitation, aside from being refreshing, can also prove frustrating.
As anything is possible, I can expect any kind of a choice from myself in class and I’m not always too happy with those choices.

Maybe those uncomfortable un- and semi-principles could be called a compromise?…

Thanks for reading.

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@KateSpringcait, who can usually be found blogging here, today could also be found blogging when sitting next to me in a cafe in the centre of Moscow. This was her *excellent!* idea and I highly recommend it to others, too. It is fun, it’s the first time I’ve blogged outside of the comfort (and distractions!) of my home, and I want to do this again. In the end, writing alone is not really a principle I hold on to too passionately either.

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