영어사람!

I recently took the KTX from Seoul to Daegu. I had high hopes of doing lots of work while on the train. This did not happen. One of the reasons for my lack of productivity was the loud little shit child in the next row. I figure he was about 5 years old. Among the many annoying things he did was yelling at babies who were crying, telling them that they were being loud and annoying. His younger brother pointed on the flaw in the logic of yelling about this but he continued undeterred. Lots of yelling. I tried to be understanding but it was a tough task for me. I figured his grandma not up for the challenge of keeping him in line for 2 hours so I tried be forgiving. My generosity dissipated a bit when I realized his mom was in the seat behind me, seemingly oblivious to her son screaming.

I did not start this post to excoriate the parenting skills of that mother. I wanted to share something the little tyke said. About an hour into the two hour journey, after all his screaming and smashing his toys against the window he took notice of me. I suppose tall, charming, handsome white people are not super common on Korean trains. He took note. He registered his surprise with his grandma.  “Wow, It’s an English language person” he exclaimed (in Korean). He didn’t say I was a British or English person, mind. He said I was an English language person, a 영어사람. This struck me as fascinating.

영어

It was less fascinating when he shouted out “A, B, C, D” and commented in Korean to his grandmother on my big nose. He, in turn, was amazed when I told him in Korean that I’d understood what he said. Cognitive dissonance made an appearance on the train that day when a white person spoke Korean and made claims about understanding some parts of the language. The little fellow asked his grandmother how it was possible that an “English language person” could speak Korean. How could someone that looks like me (with my big nose and all) be there on the train speaking Korean?

I have to wonder if I’d be 영어사람 if I were an African American or Korean American L1 user of English. What if I were a Nigerian or Filipino? I am not sure. I am sure that somewhere in his 5 years on this earth he picked up that people who look like me are English users. I have no way of knowing exactly where this came from but I guess the little tot’s life experiences to this point might have backed up that hypothesis. It was all very interesting to me. Instead of simply being an annoyance and hindrance to the work I thought I *should be doing he gave me some insights and some things to think about.

Thoughts about language, race, nationality, identity, native speakers, native speakerism, media, hiring practices for teachers in Korea and the world, and English Education in general raced to my head.  I didn’t and don’t have any easy explanations but I appreciate the chance to think about these things.

I thought it was a fascinating experience so I shared it with my students, grad students and future interpreters/translators, who told me this word 영어사람 was not a common one. They also shared their opinion that he was just a confused kid still learning Korean and that Koreans don’t classify people based on language in this way. I personally wonder if this confused little kid was onto something. I also wondered how our industry might have helped him think in this way and what the implications of such thoughts might be for our industry.

help with co-teaching

I would usually (if anything) put this sort of thing in the “Workshop materials” section of my blog (right there in the middle of the menu bar) but this time I figured I’d share it here. This main reason for this decision is my assumption more people would read it as a blog post instead of a page. Since I am doing this workshop tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to see if anyone had any advice or other problems to add. I will be sure to check for comments all day Sunday November 9th, 2014.  

I am not sure how much explanation is needed for these materials. Ha. I am not even sure exactly how (or even if!) I will use them but I imagine there is something about passing them around the room and changing roles as advice giver and advice receiver.  

 

advice

 

1) Dear co-teaching experts,

I need your help. I really want to change up my co-teaching approaches and try something different but I am not sure how to talk to my co-teacher about this. I think she might be pretty stuck into doing things the same way every time. I think I’d just like to experiment a little bit and try some new strategies. What shall I do? Thanks in advance for your help.

Bored in Boringdong


2) Dear co-teaching experts,

Hi! I am experiencing a problem with my co-teacher and I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes, well actually it is quite often, when I ask a question in class my co-teacher answers it! I guess he thinks he is trying to help but it is not really helpful at all for me because things I expected to take 10 minutes end up taking 3 minutes and then I am suddenly stuck for materials and activities. Of course the timing is a problem but the other problem is that students are somewhat robbed of the experience of trying to answer my questions. I am trying to elicit answer and activate schemas and all the things I am supposed to do as a good teacher. I don’t feel comfortable to confront him about this because I think it might hurt his feelings or cause a loss of face. What can I do? Any advice is appreciated!

Scared in Sueseong


3) Hello co-teaching experts,

I didn’t know where else to turn. I am writing to you about a problem I am having with my co-taught classes. My co-teacher and I get along very well and we have a great relationship. There is just one problem. My co-teacher often corrects me and gives me unsolicited feedback in the middle of class. It is so embarrassing! I am not sure I can take another day of this and I am afraid I might snap and cause our good relationship to fall apart. Any advice is requested.

Frustrated in Daegu


4) Co-Teaching Experts,

Please help me. I have a very small problem and I thought you could offer some advice. My problem is that I’d really like to try one of the 6 fantastic models of co-teaching I learned in an amazing workshop recently but I really cannot decide the right one for the right situation? What criteria should I use? What types of lessons are these models appropriate for? How do I know which model will be best for me? Which one is the best? How will I know? Please share some ideas with me and help me set some criteria for these decisions.

Cheers,
Enthusiastic in Seo-district


5) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a sensitive issue and I need some help. I feel that my co-teacher does not treat me with respect. I feel like he is the main teacher and I am just a helper. I’d like to have a bigger role and do more to help the students but he seems happy enough to do 95% of the work. I don’t know how to approach him or what strategies to use to start the conversation but I’d really love to see a change here and to make a more balanced and hopefully productive classroom teaching situation. Please advise.


6) Hi experts on co-teaching,

I have a problem and need your help devising a strategy. You see, I am supposed to work as a co-teacher but I simply don’t have time to plan things properly. Ideally, I’d like to do team teaching with my co-teacher but I know this requires a lot of time upfront. What are some ways to make the maximum effect with a minimum of planning time? Also, do you have any advice on how to let my co-teacher know how busy I am without making it seem like I am avoiding him? I’d like to be a better co-teacher but I just don’t have time. Is there anything I can do in this situation?

Busy in Bokgu


7) Dear co-teaching experts,

I have a question. I am supposed to do co-teaching but I just don’t see the point in it all. It seems like a lot of extra effort without much payoff. I thought since you are the co-teaching experts you could fill me in on the benefits of this. What are the benefits? I am specifically interested in hearing the benefits for the students but I’d also like to hear the benefits for me as a teacher. If possible if you could tell me the benefits for me in terms of professional development as a teacher that would be great too. I hope you can help me see the advantages of co-teaching because right now I cannot see them at all.

Skeptical in Seoul


8) Hello co-teaching experts,

Everything I read about co-teaching says that one of the most important things I need to do is develop rapport with my co-teacher. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a Korean teacher of English and I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good. I, of course, realize that everyone is different but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Seeking jeong in Jung-Gu


9) Dear co-teaching experts,

I keep seeing and hearing this word “rapport” in everything I read about co-teaching. I know what this word means but I honesty have no idea about how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions for me? My co-teacher is a foreigner. A native speaker from _____. I’d really like to know if there are any ways that are generally good to develop rapport with native speakers. I, of course, realize that everyone is different and we are all our own individuals but I’d just like some tips to get me started. I’d like to develop a good relationship but I don’t think I know where to start. Please tell me your best hints.

Thank you,
Looking for Rapport


10) Dear co-teaching experts,

How are you? Things with me are generally great. I love my job. The only problem is that I don’t really know how to work well with a co-teacher. She is a nice person and is a hard worker and she seems to be trying to be a good teacher. The problem is that I don’t know when to intervene and help. Sometimes I think I cause a problem by not helping when he seems to want or need it. Other times I help when he looks to need it but he gets upset with this. I am just trying to help him and the students. I think the problem is that I am very much accustomed to doing everything for the students so I always do the same thing even if there is another teacher in the room. I can’t figure out the right moments to help and the right moments to relax. I am not sure exactly what my question is, co-teaching experts. Please let me know what you think about this situation and what I can do and what I can do with my co-teacher to solve this problem.

Intervening in Ilsan


11) Dear co-teaching experts,

I heard in a recent workshop that “One Teach, One Observe” is a good way to co-teach. This sounds interesting to me and I can imagine it being valuable. The problem is that I don’t know what to look for in the observations, and I don’t know what to ask my co-teacher to observe when I am teaching. Do you have any suggestions for this to get us started? I am really at a loss. Books or any tips at all will be received gratefully.

 

One (possible) solution for co-teacher induced hangry moments

“You’d better use CCQs” she said in an not-unfriendly manner as we walked out of class on way to lunch. Aside from it becoming obvious she doesn’t read the ELT Rants Reviews Reflections blog it also became obvious we had a communication problem. I wasn’t impressed with the timing, especially since I wasn’t expecting a feedback session. I thought we were just going to teach the class and then chill out for a bit and maybe get some damned food. I didn’t know she would be jumping right into critique mode. It’s not like I love or agree with every fucking thing she does in class, I just figured there is a time and a place for everything. I didn’t think this was either for such a conversation. She busted out the CCQ thing and I guess it was on.

Who the fuck does she think she is? It’s like she learned “The Way” of teaching last year on a training course or something and is ready to pounce on anyone who doesn’t follow it perfectly. Who the fuck does she think I am? I didn’t just unpack my backpack and start teaching. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck nor is this my first rodeo. I’ll grant that she has been teaching much longer than I have but I don’t think that means she knows all there is to know about teaching English. Sheesh. I am ready to have conversations about how to improve but I don’t need to be talked down to.

I am not happy with how that conversation went down. I think it could have been much more civil and more productive. I am not at all excusing myself for my role in the meltdown. I was wounded and I acted accordingly. Teaching is a sensitive thing and it is tough to get unexpected negative feedback particularly when you don’t even agree with it. It is rough. As teachers we often teach on our own and either gather feedback from students or not. It is a real jolt for the system when there is another set of eyes in the room, observing and maybe judging. I guess this emotion is heightened when the other teacher has completely different teaching beliefs. I can’t say for sure but I’m thinking the other teacher coming from a different culture (both educational and in general) doesn’t help either. Then we throw in different concepts of our roles and it becomes a pretty nice cocktail ready to act as a catalyst for chaos.

I don’t wish to say things were hopeless from the start, I just want to say things were set up to be challenging and if we are not aware of these challenges then disaster is a distinct possibility. I think I detailed some of the challenges above. I’m sure there are more. I think part of what bothered me so much was the way she told me. I don’t mean her tone, which was nice enough. I mean the manner in which the information she wanted to convey to me was given to me was not what I’d hope for.

On a training course I heard about the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) as a way to think about our experiences and build on them to develop ourselves and our teaching. In this training course, our trainer was adamant about organizing feedback sessions around this cycle and I think it helped me think about my lessons and to find a way into improving. I remember after our first practice teaching sessions I could see so clearly what my peers had done wrong and I was eager to offer them constructive advice and suggestions. I also felt like I knew what changes I wanted to make in my own lessons immediately after my lessons finished. The trainer insisted that I go through the cycle before eventually arriving at what I’d do differently.  I found it somewhat tedious at the time but now I can see real value in it. I wish my co-teacher had followed this way of thinking and talking. I realize I am not being completely fair to expect my co-teacher to follow training only one of us experienced. My current wonder is what would have happened if I had been more explicit about my experiences with, beliefs about, feelings about and expectations of feedback.

Above is the cycle as I learned it and it starts with an experience, which is sometimes considered a slice or a moment. It could be anything and is basically something that happened.

We want to describe this thing. In detail. Objectively. This is not the time to talk about what is right or wrong or good or bad. This is not the time for beliefs or suggestions, or “I would haves.” This is the time to share what actually happened. Phrases like “I saw” and “I heard” are good here. Specifics are good too. This is not the time (if there ever is one) to say, “Your explanations were not clear” but it might be the time to talk about what happened explained a specific grammar point at a specific time especially if there are references to what students did. It might be the time to share exact quotes. Data, not opinions, is what we are aiming for here. Objectivity over subjectivity.

At this point, one might argue that what we see is always subjective. Fine. This is true but if we do our best to paint an objective picture and leave out our judgments. This is the time for trying to see things are they are or were. This is the time for clear-headed cold-blooded objectivity. This is not the time for emotions or feelings.

I didn’t forget the feelings part on the graphic. I like to think of them as a cloud off to the side, something that we want to address but not something we want to “cloud over” all the thinking we are doing in other parts of the cycle. We can’t ignore them, especially in light of how much of an emotional business this can be. So maybe we want to start with the feelings, even before the description.  We don’t want to harp on them or allow them to dictate, control and cloud the whole process. I think of this semi-stage as a time to unload the feelings but ultimately as a time to prepare for what comes next.

After the description (and feelings) we can move onto interpreting. I have been taught to think of this as two parts. One of them is thinking about hypotheses for why the experience might have gone this way. Why might the thing that happened might have happened the way it happened? With these questions we should generate some potential explanations. I think this is extremely valuable because we often just jump to one conclusion and thus block out a range of possibilities. Hopefully a rich description will have been helpful for calming the mind and for drawing a basis from which to speculate on. I like the idea of creating hypotheses here, even if they are not likely to be true. I think this flexibility helps me step away from simply assuming the worst and at the very least it helps me see how there are often many possible hypotheses I would not otherwise consider.

The other half of interpretation is to generalize, to create statements of belief about teaching. We want to use the experience to generalize about teaching and learning. We have so many beliefs about teaching and many of these are unknown and not yet articulated or considered.  Here we play around with these beliefs and draw some conclusions. We don’t need to worry about saying things like “all students everywhere ever will respond to X in this way” but it does help to think about how certain things might go with our group(s) of students. These should be based on the previous stages of the cycle which means that generalizations without some basis in what happened are not going to work well.

After creating a rich description and interpreting the event we are ready for the action plan. What (exactly) will we do next time? How will we approach things differently? The answers to these questions should be rooted in the answers and ideas from the previous stages. If the action plan does not speak to the previous stages we need to keep working and thinking. When we have a plan we are happy with we can go about trying it out with some active experimentation.

The new experience that comes out this experimentation can form a new start of the cycle. From that new experience we can cycle through once again. So we don’t need to think of this as a once-off but rather more a continual spiral of many small spirals. The process can continue like this and we can continue developing our thoughts and experiences about teaching.

Returning to the experience with my co-teacher, I think part of the problem for me is how she jumped right to the action plan, to the suggestion. She didn’t even give me a chance to see where this thought came from. I’d be happy to participate in a discussion. But instead she imposed her beliefs and prescriptions on me, and I was not mature enough to simply listen politely and later make my own decisions. I think if she had painted the moment for me (especially if she provided examples related to student learning or the hindrance of it) I would have been much more receptive. But instead, all she did was hit me with a belief (CCQs are needed!) masquerading as an action plan and sounding like a threat. Not ideal. Perhaps if she started with a thing that happened and showed the students’ response to it and helped me see how and why it was important I might have been more swayed by her points. She didn’t even really give me a chance to think about what happened and why it might have or what that means for my teaching and what I might do differently next time. That could have potentially saved us from a useless and stressful conversation. Instead I was just tired and hungry!

Notes in the form of Q/A: 

Why was it obvious she doesn’t read this blog? 
Post related to CCQs
Post related to “You’d better”
Post related to feedback on lessons
Column on how to make team teaching work
Something about something about reflection and feedback or something

Can you share Moar links?
This one by Carol Rogers (on reflection) can be seen as related.
This one where Josette LeBlanc provides a lot of insights. As does her blog in general and the experiential learning tag, specifically.

 Did you make this cycle up?
 Not at all. It something based on Dewey and Kolb and adapted further. 

Is this a true story? 
This is not a story that happened to me.
This is not a story that happened to anyone I know.
It might be seen as an amalgamation of many stories I have heard, read and experienced.
I honestly just made it up.
If you don’t believe me or think I doth protest too much, I can say I have never worked in a public school or had this type of co-teaching arrangement.
I’d also like to add that I, successfully or not, tried to play around with a different voice here.

Do you have another purpose for this post? What is this for?
I had some hopes that this, or part of it, could be used in training situations, maybe as soon as this weekend!
I also thought I might be able to adapt some of the ideas for something else I was working on so this post was something of a brainstorming session.
Feedback and comments are very welcome.

Is there anything you wanted to include but cut because it was already 2,000 words?
Yes! Many things. The biggest three were the following, which I just rescued from the cutting room floor.

“One of the attacks I have seen levied against reflection is that it is very insular and doesn’t lead to action. In this case it clearly does if the action plan is followed.”

“Another aspect I like of this cycle is that it puts the teacher in the driver’s seat. I could have listened to my co-teacher and suddenly employed CCQs whenever she was around but I might never know why I was doing so. Making the decision based on my own through her help and guidance would probably be much more long lasting and helpful for my development.”

“One thing I always remember about the action plan is that it doesn’t need to be some dramatic change, or any change at all. Often, however, after walking through this reflection process we will want to make some changes.”

Job hunting part 7

I don’t usually drink on Monday mornings, but when I do I tend to have Irish Coffee. On February 3rd, 2008 I was pretty well tanked. The Patriots are my second favorite NFL team (go Bears!) and my favorite AFC team as well as the favorite of many of my friends and even my brother. I was convinced Tom Brady would lead them to victory that morning (Korea time) in Super Bowl XLII but somehow he didn’t. If the helmet catch was the strangest thing I experienced that day a phone call I received was second.

helmet catch

 

I was working in a unigwon and it was winter break. If my memory serves we were to start classes shortly after the break. I’d chosen to spend my winter working in an intensive course. I don’t usually make it a habit to answer the phone from strange numbers but this was not a usual day so I answered when I saw the number starting with 02.

The phone call was bizarre.  They’d somehow heard my name and heard I was a good teacher. They wanted to hire me starting in March. I hadn’t interviewed or sent an application or anything. This was a different type of cold call. On the surface the job sounded better than the one I had. There seemed to be potential for higher pay and less hours and admin encroachment. I was intrigued. Does stuff like this really happen?

murray

 

I tried to collect some details from my interlocutor who seemed like a friendly enough chap. I also stepped out from the bar and into the cold fresh-ish Itaewon air. They didn’t want to give the details over the phone. Strange. They were insisting on an interview that day. Even stranger. I was buzzing and feeling limited pain but I was also smart enough to know that a nap, shower, shave, and whiskey-free coffee were not going to make me presentable in just a few hours. I thanked them for their interest and said I would not be available for an interview that day. I also told them that if I was the type of person they wanted to hire I couldn’t just leave my current place of employment with no notice. I am not sure if they followed this honor based line of argument. I considered the whole thing an interesting experience and got on with my life.

sigh

My work circumstances changed dramatically in a year. I became Assistant Director of the program at the unigwon in the fall term and (in retrospect, not coincidentally) also resigned at the end of that term. I was suddenly looking for work. I applied to a few colleges and universities in Korea, somewhat last minute and somewhat halfheartedly. I didn’t get any great offers that fit what I was looking for and I ended up working as a teacher trainer in another city for the winter, and then stayed on for the spring and even worked there in the summer. I loved it, it felt like something of a calling. There were some aspects I didn’t enjoy like not living in Seoul so that early summer I was back on the job hunt.

One of the places I contacted was the aforementioned cold callers, who as it turns out are frequently hiring.  In my cover letter I reminded them of their previous interest. I got an interview and I thought it went well. One thing that stuck out for me was how they were telling me somewhat less than desirable aspects of the job in what appeared to be an attempt to determine my suitability and tolerance for bullshit. I think there is a correlation between these.

I believe I showed good potential for dealing with nonsense. I was offered the job. They said they’d need me to start in September but also wanted me to film some educational material before then, starting in August before the contract officially started. I was fine with it but said there were certain dates I had previous commitments on and was unavailable.

The recording of educational material was hilarious. The script was atrocious in two main ways. The English was some sort of weird 80′s slang and these were the highlighted points, the target language if you will. I think I said some of those phrases for the first time in my life whilst recording. The other aspect was the cultural one. Gosh. It was just terrible I was the creepy and know-it-all American who was teaching the unworldly Korean visitor to the US how to behave properly in the big dangerous NYC.

87427-Nic-Cage-bad-acting-gif-hpVA

There was so much wrong with this script and educational material it might warrant its own blog post some day, especially as related to issues of identity and languag and culture (and probably imperialism). One positive from this experience (which made the whole thing more bizarre) was my co-star, a lovely Korean American graduate student who knew how silly it all was. We were continually cracking up at the language, cultural tips, and sexual innuendos in the script. We also had some laughs at moments when we were forced to over enunciate and add odd (to us) intonation. Terrible as it was, I was almost prepared to endure this for a year in order to move back to Seoul. I said almost.

nonsense

I eventually both lost my cool and cooled down on this place when they were calling me every day to schedule recordings for dates that I had already said were impossible. I emailed and clearly outlined the days I was not available and still got phone calls at inopportune times. The warning signs suddenly seemed more apparent. Then they were calling and asking about me completing documents I hadn’t received yet. This was the last straw and I informed them I’d not be working there in the fall.  I said I realized it just wasn’t going to work out and wasn’t for me. I gave them the “You wouldn’t want to hire me if I am not motivated to work there anyway” speech. I also gave them plenty of notice and had never signed any documents. I told them I’d be happy to finish the video because filming was already over 50% complete. They paid me for the acting work and that was the end of it.

confetti

I realize after writing this it might not seem so bad, and maybe it would have been fine. I think the main problem was how I felt the position would be one where I’d continually be battling unsuccessfully for respect. I didn’t feel respected while creating the videos partially because my opinions did not seem to be heard or received. I didn’t enjoy   Gut feelings telling me “this is a not a good place for me to learn and grow and be satisfied” appeared and I knew it wasn’t going to work out.

I am extremely glad I didn’t take the job. If anyone has access to that video please don’t share it.

 

This is (for all you know) a completely fictional story (except, unfortunately, for the part about the Patriots’ Super Bowl Loss). I do hope you enjoyed it. I said it was part 7, which means maybe I need to get cracking on parts 1-6. As is often the case on this blog it is “Choose your own moral, if any.” 

8 things they don’t tell you about PLNs (Twitterversary post)

It was about three years ago I got involved with Twitter and connected with teachers (especially English teachers) around the world. It changed my life. In a 2012 post I detailed my decision to join Twitter and talked about some members of my PLN. Last year I wrote about some of the “wow” moments I’ve had as a result of being connected. In other posts, I have extolled the virtues of Twitter and tried my hand at proselytizing on the magic of PLNs. In this post, I will not do these things much but I’d like to try to share some lesser-known benefits of having a PLN. These benefits appear after the picture of my first tweet. Any benefits to add? Please feel free to share them in the comments.

  1. I have people around the world  I can ask random questions that come up in class or in life.
    This is a great one. Quite often in my classes a question about another country or culture comes up and I often happen to know someone from that place. While the responses are quite often just one person’s take on something the fact that it is a real life person adds some credibility and excitement, I believe. I also get the sense this seems somewhat magical to students. They’ve asked me “How do you know people from ____?”
  2. I am more clued in on the daily lives of people around the world.
    For me, this is probably more about Faceboook than Twitter (though with people I first met on Twitter). It’s exciting to see the daily lives and special events of friends around the world and I think it gives me a sense of how people live and what is important to them. Pictures and other status updates give a nice glimpse into places I might not be very familiar with if not for these. Of course, a skeptic could say I’m only following a very small subset within a specific field of people in certain countries. I’d agree with this but I’d also say I have a better idea about many places than I would otherwise.
  3. I am more aware of the educational situation in countries around the world. 
    In addition to learning about the daily lives of folks around the world, I have also been able to steal some peeks into the educational (again, especially English related) situation of countries around the world. For whatever reason, it has been especially heartening for me to see how English teachers all around are faced with similar challenges. I think here in Korea there can be a strong sense of thinking many things fit under the category of “Only in Korea” even when they are quite common worldwide. In my previous work with Korean public school English teachers I was often confronted with ideas about Korea being the only country in the world facing particular problems. Knowledge of other places and teachers’ views on the situation has given me a lot of needed perspective. I wish I could do a better job sharing these common concerns and helping people see they are not alone in having such concerns.
  4. Through hearing, reading and learning about other contexts I can see my context and my teaching more clearly.
    This is related to the above point, but is more specific as a tangible benefit to my own teaching, or at least understanding. I think through seeing and reading and learning about other contexts I have gained a clearer perspective on my own. When people write and talk about (as an example) EAP in the UK I can see how things in my context are similar and different and it opens up my thoughts on the choices I make and how and why they might or might not be different as well. Sometimes this analysis helps me see where I have missed something or assumed too much about my current context.
    (I suppose this might not be so much of a hidden benefit but is actually one that is mentioned frequently. I’m not sure anymore.)
  5. I’m more in touch with and less apathetic about the political situation in places around the world.
    As an example, when Twitter was banned in Turkey it had an impact on me in terms of the above points. It also prompted me to care just a bit more and to do a little research on the issues. I can directly link my increased interest in certain countries to having friends in or from the country. This is quite interesting to me and probably not what I expected back in 2011 when I first joined Twitter.
  6. I have another reason to try food from around the world.
    Earlier this year I was faced with a choice on what sort of chicken dish I wanted to order. I was not familiar with any of the options and I had no idea what was on offer. I made a decision based on my PLN and chose (what was being called) “Hungary Style” chicken. It was fantastic and I was pleased with my decision. Thank you, Hungarian friends, for unknowingly guiding me in the right direction on that day.
    (I am quite pleased about not making any puns on hungry. I await your praise.)
  7. I have an improved sense of time zones.
    I am not trying to brag but.. I have dramatically increased my skillz in this area. Some might even characterize my skillz as mad. Someday I might not even need the World Time Clock or the related Meeting Planner. Maybe I spoke too soon as daylight saving’s time will always keep me guessing.
  8. Travel and conferences became more fun for me.
    I suppose I have already mentioned the conference aspect in previous posts. It is still quite a buzz to meet people face-to-face that I have only met online to that point. It is fun and exciting and somewhat odd. One thing I like about it is the idea that I already know a lot about a person even if I have never talked to them. I don’t think this will get old any time soon. As for travel, it is fun to think I could make plans to meet  at a coffee shop in Boston, in the streets of Belgrade, on a Siberian railroad, in an airport in Jakarta, at a pub in Taipei, or at the beach in Gangneung.

Thoughts on a hot issue

Try as I might, I couldn’t remain silent any longer. There is a major issue floating around in ELT circles at the moment and I felt obligated to weigh in on it. It is inescapable. My twitter feed is awash with references to the issue so I thought I’d dip my toes in a bit. I will apologize in advance for my limited understanding of this extremely important and complicated issue. I think it is a delicate and contentious issue and I’d like to tread as carefully as possible and I hope readers will let me know if I have missed anything or gone too far in any direction.

A few years back Chia Suan Chong wrote about this issue and did a much better job of looking at both sides of this issue than I will or could. I think her post offers a very good starting point and I also think the comments are well worth reading. I am particularly interested in why this is such a hot issue and how we can turn what I see as negativity into something positive and maybe even start a healthy, open and honest debate.

Like many hot button issues there are people on both sides who think they have it all figured out. What worries me in this case is  (what feels to me as) strident tones and the lack of respect for those who don’t happen to hold the same opinion. The issue seems unnecessarily charged in an emotional sense. I hope we can all step back and examine the issues rationally while making attempts to understand the other side.

It should go without saying that a respectful conversation on this topic would be free of name calling. I hope I have heard “fuddy duddy,” “Buzz Killington,” “curmudgeon,” “wet blanket,” “imperialist,” “toady,” “wannabe”  and “tool for the American Cultural-Industrial Complex” for the last time in relation to this issue. What I’d love to see is mutual respect and understanding along with an 88% reduction in name calling.

In this field we are seemingly able to get along and and look past disagreements even when we don’t see eye to eye on things like dogme, TBL, order of acquisition, some sort of black box or something, the importance of research and a whole host of other issues. For whatever reason, this issue seems more divisive than the others. I feel critical friendships and teaching families could be destroyed if we are not careful. So let’s be careful and not succumb to fear and judgment.

From my view, it doesn’t typically make sense to get worked up about the pedagogical decisions other teachers make. It is their choice and we don’t tend to know how their classes actually go anyway so it always seems odd to me to judge others when we don’t know the whole story and have an obviously incomplete picture. Last year I tried to write about how I can’t and don’t care what other teachers do in their classes.

I used the word choice in the previous paragraph but I also think it is worth considering it is not always the teacher’s choice. Sometimes directors and other admin foist their views and expectations upon working teachers who might be then forced to act in ways they would not otherwise. This sounds to me like another reason to not presume much based on what teachers do in class. It can be choice and we *should respect that but it is not even always a choice anyway.

I think another part of what fuels the divisiveness on this issue is how wrapped up in things like culture and identity this issue is. When I talk about identity here I am talking about both teachers and students alike. I am, once again, back to the EFL and ESL distinctions but I am not entirely sure how the different sides of this dichotomy would tend to fall on this issue or why exactly. Here in Korea, and outside of the English teaching world, it was interesting to see  Korean celebrity (and “person who has had a beer with Michael Griffin”) Hong Seok-Cheon get embroiled in a controversy related to the issue.

Whether you teach it, celebrate it, ignore it, hate it, fear it, or are ambivalent about it I’d like to wish you a happy Halloween. Thanks very much for reading and congrats for making it nearly to the end of this post. Just to be perfectly clear I was mostly not serious at all in this post and the TIC-R (Tongue in Cheek Rating) was 8.7/10.

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Creative use of visuals.

As I bit of clarification, I am not trying to say that people I know have actually been arguing about All Hallows’ Eve at all. I just made up the whole controversy but I do think there are some lines drawn in the leaves about what people will and will not do in class and perhaps this topic is one of them.

And for some further clarification, I wrote above that it is an “important and complicated issue.” I don’t mean to suggest that it isn’t, because I think there are very real and serious questions here related to culture and the teaching of it. This is one of the most interesting things for me about living in an ELF world. I am also interested in ideas and questions related to what it actually means to “teach” certain holidays and what the expected outcomes from this might be aside from the vague “raise awareness” or something like this. I think Chia’s point in the post linked to above about not lecturing is an important one.

My late and short K0TESOL post

I had a great time at the K0TESOL International Conference this year. I really did. I had some nice chats with lots of nice people. I didn’t see as many presentations as I would have liked because at times I was slightly amped up, nervous and focused on my own presentations. At other times I was a bit hungover tired and distracted so I wasn’t as active in seeing presentations as I could have been. I also, regretfully, didn’t spend as much time with the conference book as I could have so I missed a few talks that sounded great to me months before when I was much more prepared than I was a week or day in advance. Such is life I suppose.

Having been to quite a few conferences in the past few years I think I sort of go in waves in terms of attending a lot of sessions at some conferences and treating other conferences as something more of a social or networking social networking event. I have been thinking a lot about conferences and how valuable they are for professional development and how stepping away from conventional (get it, convention?) ways could be better for all. This could be a topic for another blog post.

I originally didn’t plan on doing much of a review or any post on the conference, to be honest. The following tweet from Geoff Jordan was just the nudge I needed. Of course, the oddness of being mentioned in the same tweet as the others was not lost on me.

Well, let’s see, I don’t have anything to say about Nunan’s presentation at this point or on this channel. And, to be fair. I only saw the roughly 7 minutes he went over time.

Luckily, David Harbinson‘s KoTESOL International Conference 2014 Review covers what Long and Thornbury said very well (with a brief but telling mention of Nunan as well). Also, Tim Hampson blogged on sessions from Thornbury and Long (and more, check out the whole series!). Speaking of Long, Jordan himself shared two helpful posts related to Task Based Language Teaching here and here.

I think I have answered Dr. Jordan’s question about as well as possible regarding what humans who are not me said at the conference. I suppose I will quickly mention what I said and did, then. I had three workshops this conference. It was a lot. I might not do such a thing again but it was enjoyable. I also had the great fortune for two of these three sessions to work with great co-presenters. Anna Loseva and Michael Free were pleasures to work with. I appreciate their insight, knowledge, passion, patience, and PPT skillz. What follows is what I said and did at the conference.

Friday’s workshop was on Korean culture and the choices we can make in class related to this. I made a last minute decision to read this post aloud (rather than print it off) and a lively discussion occurred. The title of this workshop was “Cultural Explorations for Teachers: Beyond Confucianism and Excuses” and I believe we did get beyond these 2 common aspects of conversations about English teaching in South Korea. Lots of juicy questions and points were raised. Here is a version of the PowerPoint: Cultural Explorations for Teachers, which might not make so much sense if you were not there. Please let me know if you have any questions. I think my main point (assuming I had one) was something like “don’t believe everything you hear and don’t be a defeatist as things can change.”

On Saturday Anna and I talked about the glorious #FlashmobELT movement and how it can be used to spur on teachers’ creativity. It was lots of fun. One very cool thing that came out of it was a lino wall of activities that participants in the workshop shared. Here is that wall. In the session we mentioned certain criteria we were hoping for on #FlashmobELT activities. That criteria can be found in the PowerPoint slides here: Steal your way to creativity 2.1 (the criteria can be found on slide 11 if you happen to be both very interested and in a rush). I am not sure if I answered the “What did I say” question here but one thing I said was that it is easy to pretend you are creative if you have a few ideas and adapt them.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of talking about using the Experiential Learning Cycle to talk with co-teachers along with Michael Free. The title was “Professional Development for Couples: Reflective Practice for Co-Teachers” and the slides are here CT+RP-KOTESOL 10.5.2014 (1)   It was interesting to see the problems the participants associated with co-teaching and to see if  walking through the ELC could be of help for teachers faced with potentially challenging discussions. My key takeaway here is that lots of the hurtful things we tend to imagine co-teachers saying come from starting at the end or middle of the ELC. I don’t blame co-teachers (or managers or anyone) for doing this because this is way it is usually done in the world. I think the ELC is one nice way to frame conversations about teaching and co-teaching. As Michael Free likes to say it can push the conversations back to students and their learning which is presumably why we are there.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope there was at least something of interest here.

Random additions (with some potentially “in-jokey” ones) :

  • A K0TESOL bigwig said, “I liked your blog post” as he zoomed past me. Considering there are more than 150 posts on the blog I asked, “Which one?” He said he was talking about this one. That was very interesting to me, and become more interesting when he said he’d like to talk about it.
  • I felt this conference was very well run and I thought there were lots of great options for talks to see.
  • Unrelated to the previous bullet points here, I am now a member of KOTESOL.
  • I liked how all the doors had room numbers at this conference.
  • Actually, the venue was great all around.
  • During the wine and cheese party some classy folks like myself (read #KELTchatters) went out and got beers and string cheese. I personally couldn’t handle the waiting in the hot and oxygen deprived line before the gates were eventually lifted for common folks to also enjoy the wine and cheese.
  • At K0TESOL I was able to make some additions to the “Interviews” page on this blog. You will just have to click the link and find out what I am talking about.
  • This was the first year I can remember the conference starting out with workshops on the Friday before the conference began in earnest. I enjoyed the workshops I attended (done by Anna Loseva and Tana Ebaugh). It was fun(ny) to know that at the same time I was doing my workshop Barb Sakamoto and Ahmar Mahboob were running ones in the other room.
  • There were lots of cool people I missed seeing this time around who I’d seen at previous conferences.
  • I really should remember to update the page on this blog where I listed presentations I have done. It would be so easy. The titles are here. I just need to cut and paste them. Ah well, I will wait till the end of the term.
  • I obviously made the title for this post before finishing the post. It is not exactly short. Though it might be short in the “day late and a dollar short” sense of things.