Posts tagged TEFL

All About Blogging (Part II)

This is a continuation of yesterday where I summed up what I heard my students (who are really teachers) relate about the articles I assigned them to read on blogging.  One wrote the following from an article titled “Educational Blogging.” “Blog now refers to a web journal that comments on the news – often by criticizing the media and usually in rudely clever tones.” She then listed the five major uses of blogging in the classroom which seems odd given her above definition that it is criticized as being clever but rude.  But to continue with her thoughts, she wrote:  “Now blogging resembles more and more of a conversation. That’s why it must be given a purpose and it must remain unconstrained.”

One very astute student had read an article that dealt with teaching first year composition students how to blog.  She wrote:  “I have found out that blogging plays an important part in encouraging students to write…being passive observers, from the very beginning, students became active participants.  They got involved in a larger conversation.” She also added: “Many people criticize blogging saying that it is ephemeral, that it focuses on the everyday.” However, she wrote “blogging gave me a new sense that writing matters.”

Coincidentally she noted the same thing in our Kazakh teacher’s classroom.  I’ll let her explain: “There is an interesting poster in the classroom where we have lessons, it has the following inscription: “Learn something new today.”  A dog is searching on the Internet. So looking at the poster and spending my time with my classmates and my teacher, I really “learn something new every day!”

I loved the following that was written by another bright student of mine:  “Today I’ve read two articles about blogs as learning tools and problems that our teachers have in Kazakhstan.  Reading about the problems I thought to myself, “hmmm…that’s true, the author knows so much about our country” and I felt pity for my colleagues who have no opportunity to cope with them.  Because, really, we are to re-educate our policymakers.  So that’s a big problem.”

From the other article I’ve learned so many interesting things about blogging.  To tell the truth, I’ve never thought that a blog could be used for educational purposes.  As for me, I used blogging just for sharing ideas with my friends on MySpace.  But, really, why don’t we use blogging as learning tools?”

The following is from another student, I liked her salient point about voice and audience though she didn’t use those words, but I’ll talk about that later in our reading and writing classes:

“In my opinion, the main point is that communication in written form among blog participants gives participants more time to reflect on and to better articulate their ideas.  Also, knowing that their writing is available to the public, students might have a stronger motivation to write well so that the quality of their writing might shine, as the author says.”

Finally, I will end with this “shiny” testimonial from one of my more active writers, it made my day:

“On the second day of our studies, we talked a lot about blogging, using technologies in EFL classes. It was pretty much like yesterday when we did talking from the FORUM [magazine].  As I listened to other teachers, I was thinking what was the point of our studies if all we did for two days was talking.  But then I got it!  You learn while you listen to the people who are just like you are and all of them are walking in your shoes:  teach English, know the weak points and problems of our English classes.  The difference they have from us,[newly graduated from pedagogical university] is that they deal with teaching for a longer time. It means that their reflection on what they read will be based on their experience with our local students.  They’ll receive bigger amount of feedback and respond with useful ideas and thoughts, though it does not mean we do not (;-)

So the theme was blogging.  That is the thing which has been attracting my attention and interest for a rather long time. That is my nature to try everything I think interesting, but it’s been a long time I could not sit and learn fully what it is.  On my last year at school, I dreamed to find some time and get one blog but alas!  And then I came to Astana and one of the three things I’d be studying here is guess what? Blogging!

Sounds like I’m lucky!  The point that it is a part of my course means that doing blogging does not mean wasting my time but combine my self-development and my work as a TEFL (T means teacher)

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“Why We Teach Overseas” (Part III)

Several days ago I started this series about why my husband and I spend most of our time overseas in the former Soviet Union, in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Bottomline, we both like challenges of living in a different environment from our own.

4. Being and staying organized while living and teaching overseas can be a challenge. First of all, I’ve experienced in China, Ukraine and Central Asia that May is a dangerous month to require too much heavy testing or written work to be put into the syllabus schedule.  Holidays are liberally celebrated during this month and it is just as well because by this time teachers and students are tired of schoolwork and the great outdoors with warmer spring weather is a welcome distraction.

However, because we were Peace Corps and I was the TEFL training coordinator, I was able to set up my own schedule despite what the rest of the country was doing for their set holidays. During this training session in summer of 1993, I effectively used my time to enable the PCVs to be up to speed on how to teach English in a Kazakh classroom.  I implemented a Model School for three weeks, where 32 PCVs took turns in six different classrooms teaching English to primary school age children.  We had about 120 Kazakh students who participated in this Model School. It took a lot of coordination but was well worth it to give confidence to those inexperienced PCVs who did not have any teaching experience before this assignment in Kazakhstan.  Many of the PCVs were trained as journalists but they quickly learned during our TEFL training sessions, especially with young subjects in front of them, eager to learn English.

While I enjoy creativity and flexibility, I also appreciate structure. This makes it so much easier to walk into a classroom with a well thought out lesson plan, thorough textbooks that adequately cover the material and an overall good curriculum that touches on all the necessary skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking in an integrated way.

Second, I enjoy researching and have presented several papers having to do with my own Norwegian ancestor’s history.  I’ve also learned about my students (Ukrainian and Kazakh) history.  When I ask them about their grandparents or grand grandparents, they are very proud of their ancestors and do well in writing about them.  I have presented at history conferences (four papers) and many times at international TESOL conferences.  I enjoy researching and try to help my Kazakh students enjoy it too.  Many helpful websites such as Thesis Statement Builder and Citation Builder make the attributing of sources less onerous.

5. I have many years experience living overseas and coping with cultural differences. I enjoy the moment of breaking through to have a “normal day.”  I have taught in many similar settings to Astana, Kazakhstan and have lived outside of my own home country for over 15 years.  I think I bring an immense amount of experience that my fellow teachers and colleagues might benefit from.  I enjoy helping to coordinate solutions for those who are new at living overseas, dealing with exasperating “cultural moments” when things don’t go according to our westernized sensibilities.

Also, I DO know how extreme the weather can be in Astana but I’m from northwestern Minnesota that shares a similar climate.  In order to cope with the cold, you must find a sport that you enjoy doing outdoors.  I like to cross-country ski and it is great exercise to help alleviate stresses due to living in this sometimes very perplexing culture.

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