Tagged: review

14 relatively unexciting things about me, this blog, blogging, this year, and so on

1.  No preamble or preramble, we are just getting right into the list here. I still cannot believe how much I like blogging. I never would have thought I’d do it, let alone like it or get much out of it.  My thanks, as always, goes to Josette LeBlanc for being such a diligent and persuasive “blog pusher.”

2.  Last year around this time I was tasked with sharing 11 facts about myself. It was something I put off doing for a while and then enjoyed.

3.  I like lists. I do. I think it is somewhat sad to see the listification and clickbaiting that goes on in the internet world these days. After two listicle posts in a row I hope to get back to paragraphs soon.

4.  Oh shit, I just remembered that I have one more list on my mind.  I previously wrote a post called “Sorry for judging” where I listed some things that bothered me in the past but don’t these days. I am still thinking about “12 things which to cause me to judge you” or something like this. Stay tuned. I’ll be wearing my judgey pants whilst drinking haterade.

5.  One of the apparently many things that irk me is when connected people say things like “there are no ELT blogs anymore.” This reeks of laziness, at best, to me. I know I have mentioned this a few times, but c’mon people!

6.  Damn, that means another upcoming listy post for me is sharing and recommending new(er) blogs that have caught my attention. I think it is nice to mix a bit of positivity and celebration with the occasional spite and bile that can also appear here.

7.  Some interesting (to me at least) search terms that led readers to this blog this year were:

kotesol
happy  new year kotesol my husband
party time excellent
TPS reports 
many variations on “how to study like a Korean (student)”
Korean+18
flashy lesson plans
stephen krashen personal life

female urination contest 
learn random crap

8.  This year I set a target for blog hits per month and I will come quite close to reaching it. It was sort of bothersome and even stressful on occasion but it was also sometimes nice motivation to write. I shall not do the same thing next year. One interesting result of this target was how it caused me to be a bit more self-promotional than I might have otherwise been. I think it is an interesting balance between being annoying and needy and simply sharing stuff. I suspect I am not the only one who has considered this balance. I’d prefer potentially interested people to read my stuff but I don’t to be spamming people or groups.

9.  This is my 59th post of the year. This number includes guest posts, interviews, and everything else. I (secretly and silently) set 50 posts as my goal for 2013 and that seems like a workable number for me. I have a feeling this will not be my last post of the year. We shall see.

10. I think in 2015 I will play around a bit more with the “publish later” function here on WordPress. I think I only managed to use it once in 2014. (In case you are the very curious type it was the post called “Burgers, language, culture, confusion, and headaches“)

11.  My post from 2014 that had me thinking the most after writing it was  on Confucianism and teaching English, mostly because of the reactions it garnered. It makes me chuckle thinking there are likely some folks who’ve read my blog only once and walked away thinking I was exactly the type of person I was trying to lampoon. Oh well, I guess that is life.

12.  I’ve done a horrible job responding to comments in the last few months, after being mostly prompt for the rest of the year. It is terrible and not something I am happy about. I even considered disabling the comments as something of a punishment to myself. I also considered not posting till all the comments had been responded to. In the end I just kept posting and figured I’d get to the comments “later” when I had more time. I guess that time is now and I *should get to the comments soon. I will elaborate on my excuses here, it’s mostly that when I have time online unencumbered by other work I tend to spend that time writing posts and sort of put commenting on the back burner. Then the days spill over into each other and that thing I wanted to do gets pushed to the next day only to be less of a priority than other things. I wondered if seasoned bloggers or rapid comment responders could share some tips on this? I promise to respond promptly!

13.  One running joke and stream of updates I had going on Twitter was that I’d not use the sign off “Best” for the whole year. I can report I only used it once. It was a complete mistake caused by habit and I laughed when I hit send. It was the 5th message I sent that day to that person and it just kind of happened. Thank you for all the support and interest on this matter throughout the year. While I failed in this mission, I can still hold my head high because I believe I have mostly eliminated the desire to use this sign off. I will surely admit to using, “My best” and “Best regards” numerous times. “Best wishes” seems odd to me in an email sign off.

14.  Thanks very much for reading this and other posts. Best wishes for 2015.

CAMTESOL Review and Reflections

I can’t believe it has already been a week since the CAMTESOL conference ended. I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences before they get crowded out by other things like the new semester starting (tomorrow!?!?) and some other presentations in the pipeline. So, instead of worrying about or working on what is coming in the very near future here comes my review of the 9th CAMTESOL Conference.

Short Version:
I loved it. What a great experience. Highly recommended.

Medium Version: 

  • Great conference
  • Well-organized
  • Lots of enthusiasm and passion for learning and developing all around
  • Filled with friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and nice people
    (presenters, organizers,  and delegates alike)
  • Nice presentations with a wide range of topics and  chances to learn about other regions (especially South East Asia)
  • Clear emphasis on the context in a conference (to my eyes at least) that didn’t try to be mini-IATEFL or TESOL-light but tried to be the best CAMTESOL it could be with a clear sense of place and purpose.

Long Version: As follows… highlights included: 

Meeting People

This was surely a major theme of the conference for me. I met so many interesting and nice people from all over. Some, like Andrea Wade and Leslie Cioccas, I’d already had some PLN/Twitter connections with. It was so great to meet them and to participate a bit in their excellent presentation on connecting with teachers from around the world. You can see Andrea’s blog post on their presentation here.

Meeting interesting and thoughtful people started right as I entered the departure point for the Friday morning site visit. A friendly teacher from Malaysia asked who I was and where I was going and we realized we were going on the same trip and I felt like I had a friend for life. I had the same feeling when another trip goer recognized my name and said he liked my blog/writing. This was all within the first 20 minutes of the pre-conference trip! Things continued along the same path and this helped make the conference such a wonderful experience.

Laughs and new friendships, insights and information were a key aspect of the conference for me and this alone made the conference more than worthwhile. I won’t can’t list all the people met because it would take aged and I would probably end up leaving out someone amazing so let me just say again that I met lots of great people and this was a highlight. 

SAMSUNG

With my new friend/mentee/brother.

Site Visit –Regional Teacher Training Center  

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On the grounds of the teacher training college

A veteran CAMTESOL attendee told me the site visits were not worth the time and money and that he could have learned more about Cambodian schools touring around Phhhhhnom Penh on a bicycle. I ignored his advice and was very pleased I did.

I thought the tour of the training college was great. I think it was great for me in two main ways. One is because I think this is one of those cases where a picture is really worth a thousand words. Seeing the setting, actual classrooms, and library gave me a lot of insight about teacher education in Cambodia at the moment. The second great thing was that I was able to have a chat with quite a few trainee teachers. My first impression was how inquisitive and eager to learn and develop more. This was a bit of a breath of fresh air for me! I was very happy to meet them and their enthusiasm was contagious.

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Studying to be teachers

Organization 

Everything felt very organized and smooth. I knew where I needed to be and when. Everything was laid out clearly. Volunteers were helpful and friendly. Tea times as well as the opening dinner and conference dinner were pleasant affairs that offered chances to meet people and unwind a bit.

Presentations 

I saw lots of interesting and informative presentations. In addition to the aforementioned one by Andrea and Lesley a few others stood out.
(In no particular order)

  1. A Blooming Flower–a good technique for teaching stress to Vietnamese students” was an interesting presentation where I heard how some Vietnamese English teachers help their students deal with word stress in English. The presenters shared some key distinctions between English and Vietnamese and how these can impact students’ use of stress.  They offered a way of thinking about English word stress as more than than just a higher pitch but also longer and louder. I enjoyed their examples and think their ideas would be especially useful for teachers in Vietnam. The presenters were Hoang Thi Nhat Tam and Phan Thi Tra Khuc.
  2. A presentation on habitus by Heather Swenddal  and how it might affect our conscious and unconscious teaching decisions was eye-opening. The title was, “I do that? Exposing teacher habitus for professional learning” and it reminded me in some ways of reflecting in and on action and gave me a lot to think about. The presenter was especially passionate and enthusiastic about the topic which made for an even more interesting presentation.
  3. Tim Knight deserves a special shout out for his (provocatively titled) poster presentation “Restricting students’ creativity to help them write better academic English” and the discussions that stemmed from this.
  4.  I enjoyed hearing about the challenges trainee teachers in Indonesia face from Amalia Lulu Laela and Siti Rodliyah Rojayb in their presentation entitled, “Pre-service teachers’ performance during professional training: some challenges.” It was it was equal parts fascinating, inspiring and disheartening to hear how similar what they reported is to how things are in Korea.
  5.  An extremely memorable and captivating presentation was from current trainees (some of whom I met on the site visit) in “Becoming a state school English teacher in Cambodia: Teacher trainees report on their experiences.” I was very impressed with their candor, humor, confidence and how well they engaged the audience.
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Trainee teachers talking about why they want to be teachers
(and their lives in their training course).

Paul Nation’s Plenary 

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Paul Nation in his plenary

The title was, “What should every EFL Teacher Know?” Great stuff. Practical, thoughtful, based in theory, seemingly pitched perfectly to the audience in the room. I felt this was everything a plenary could be. Rivaled Thornbury and Canagarajah for the best plenaries I have ever seen. In this excellent plenary Nation detailed what he thinks are the 20 best techniques for EFL as well as the proportions of a well-balanced course (while introducing his 4 strands: meaning-focused input, meaningful-focused output, language focused learning, and fluency development)  There was a lot of food for thought here, especially for course developers and ER ponderers. Kudos!

As an added bonus Dr. Nation briefly mentioned his new books “What should every EFL teacher know?”  and “What should every ESL teacher know?” Please note that the latter is available from free download (with registration) from the good people at Compass Media.

Maybe not so great things

  • My impression was that the majority of the audience (especially the local audience) was mostly interested in “workshoppy” stuff so I think that more (or longer) slots for these in bigger rooms (if possible) might be the way forward.
  • All the presentations (regardless of style or format or topic) were 30 minutes. I think some presenters would have preferred more time for more “workshoppy” things.
    (For the record, as a presenter, I loved the 30 minute thing becuase it forced me to make decisions and helped me relax because I knew I wouldn’t be stuck at the front with nothing to say) 
  • For some reason the first presenter I saw decided that the talk she had proposed was too technical and academic so she did something totally different than what was on the title. I was there because I wanted to hear what she had to say about her title/topic and not because I wanted a general overview of education in her country
    (which just so happens to be the country I currently live in)
  • Some attendees complained that there were too many presentations and too many options crammed into too short a time period. I guess this is always going to happen at a big conference.
  • I didn’t have the nerve to pass along any secret messages from Kevin Stein to Dr. Nation.
    (Not really about the conference itself but still not so great) 

The end…till next time…or next year? 

Please see my reviews of (2012) KOTESOL and JALT and my post on meeting people at conferences with and without Twitter if you are into that sort of thing.
It might be worth noting admitting upfront that I held JALT to much higher standard in terms of wifi than CAMTESOL and probably had higher organizational expectations from KOTESOL. Thanks for reading!