Category Archives: Teaching

Accounts of my experiences as an English teacher and developing ideas about this interesting and forever growing field.

A Lesson from Brave Students

Turkey boat trip
The sunshine of summer has definitely hit the city these days.  With cooler temperatures and almost no humidity, the last half of the month of July was surprisingly enjoyable.

Aside from the weather, life at school has been busy due to an increase of students coming for the summer months in Canada.  The influx gives a fresh and youthful energy to the school, which I always welcome warmly since I enjoy full classes with a great ethnic mix!  As summer pushes on, however, sometimes you see exhaustion set in for both teachers and students.  The hot weather forces everyone’s minds to wander to frolicking in the sun, sitting on a patio, or out with friends.  Our minds move away from textbooks and grammar rules.   Is there anyone to blame, really?

This year, I’ve had the pleasure to work with some amazing students, whose English ability is not always the highest in school, but who have a great attitude towards learning and becoming infused in the Canadian community.  Recently, I was asked to join some of these students at the beach.  They had met some Canadians the week before and we invited to return for another match.  I gladly agreed to join after I explained my love of beach volleyball.

Waiting for the DayThat day at the beach brought sunshine and clear skies.  A slight breeze made the temperature bearable and I was ready for some volleyball action.  I met the students, enjoyed visiting with them without the constraints of four walls, and watched them interact with their newly found Canadian friends.  They seemed genuinely excited to have me there, and I was happy to be asked to join in.

For many moments of the afternoon I remember thinking, “Wow.  I can’t believe how brave these guys are to just go up to complete strangers (in Toronto!) and start socializing.  The exact thing that I promote everyday in class; the suggestion I make to immerse completely into the language outside of class; the advice I shout from the rooftops– they were all doing it!

They were using courage built up from who knows where to really enjoy their limited time here.  The timidness that I sometimes catch in the classroom was dissolved by the sunshine and friendly nature of these Torontonians.

I have kept that feeling of pride as I returned to the classroom now in the second month of summer.  I remember that these students’ very act of landing on Canadian soil with the intention of learning English in and of itself is a truly remarkable feat.  So, if some days I catch my students daydreaming about cold beer or their native food, I have to remember not to give up on them!

EI - Sand Bucket & Shovel

Overall, they will learn to survive in this city one way or another.  It’s my job to show them the tools they can use.  If I can make the tools seem practical and rewarding, then perhaps my students will want to pick them up, take them outside of the classroom, and use them to build a great experience in Canada.

I will miss this unique job when I leave in a few weeks to pursue teaching in the standard school system.  I will miss these students’ stories, goals, and general excitement about experiencing this great country.  Hopefully, as I return to student life, I can pick up my own set of new tools to then use in my own future reality, whatever classroom that may be.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: reg187

photo credit: JMS2

photo credit: Christopher Lane Photography

My Pockets are Full

Wow!  It’s been almost 2 months since my past post.  Where did the month of March go?

Ahh, yes…. Ireland!

Edwin and I had been planning our first Euro trip since November, when we started organizing our vacation in order to attend my dear friend’s wedding in Galway.  With two other great friends to travel, it was truly an amazing adventure.  We had a total of 9 days in the country, so we decided to make the most of it by renting a car (which I highly recommend!!).  We made stops in Kilkenney, Cork, Connemara, and finally to Galway for 3 days of wedding fun before heading to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

To sum up, the country was absolutely stunning.  It was just like in every Irish-set movie that I’ve seen.  The stone walls, the castles, the small, quaint, and friendly pubs, the delicious beer, the warm stew, the live music, the sheep, and of course the rain!  Simply driving (or for me, sitting in the passenger seat acting as navigator) brought me to a place far away from worrying about work, chores, or Toronto To-Do lists.

Overall, the highlight of the trip was being reunited with friends who I’ve been separated from for some time.  I was so happy to get to share in this special day.  The beautiful bride emitted a happy glow that couldn’t help spreading to the rest of us, leaving us with smiles all day (and night!) long!  We laughed, cried, drank, and danced to celebrate with her and her Irishman!  I know their future waits for them with a lucky leprechaun  and a pot of gold.

Soon after our arrival back in Canada, we were off to visit my family for Easter.  The visit was relaxing and enjoyable.  With no Christmas dinners or gifts or parties to worry about, I could spend the days with different family members and enjoy some Spring sunshine.  I got to reconnect with my my parents, siblings, and cousins while eating, not turkey, but chocolate bunnies.  And of course, I was over the moon with the fact that my little niece is now over 9 months old and taking the world by storm! 

Back in the city, my “backpack” has been continually filling up as the new season emerges.  Work has been at a constant pace of preparing lessons, meeting new students, and attempting to reignite old lesson plans.  I am actually beginning my last 4 months at my current school in order to pursue my Bachelor of Education and see what I can learn about teaching in a different type of classroom.

I will also start into my third show with a Toronto community theatre company.  The Eastside Players show, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” is a comedy where I’ll be scurrying around backstage in order to prepare actors, props, and apparently lots of stage food.  I’m looking forward to getting back at it with another great team!

Finally, I have made the leap to get back into a fitness regime.  I have been to more yoga, and I finally joined the YMCA and attended Aquafit. It felt great to set aside some time for myself.  As well, I thought I could enjoy some active outdoor time by joining a beach volleyball league through the TSSC (Toronto Sports and Social Club) .   I thought it would be a perfect time to meet some people, make some friends, in time for summer sun and patio season.

The more I’ve been trying to get out there in Toronto (ie: going to see a friend’s band play on a random Tuesday night instead of staying home) the more I realize how important it is to enjoy every day to its fullest.  Obviously, you have to know your limit, but there’s no reason you have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to enjoy yourself.  I can’t wait to see what summer has in store.

So take a minute, how do you fill your pockets?

Everything Else Pails in Comparison
Creative Commons License photo credit: sea turtle

 

Teachers and Students: Never Stop Learning

Despite a continuously busy life at work, my creative mind feels like it is on vacation.  I have wanted to increase my amount of writing (among others things) in 2013, and so far I haven’t had much luck.  Luckily, with a recent performance review at work, a guest speaker at a PD Day at the English School of Canada, and a TESL Toronto workshop at the University of Toronto, I have graciously accepted some new inspiration into creative thought.

First of all, moving into my 14th month at this school, I am feeling quite confident with my course load and have been grateful to meet and work with very talented teachers as well as smart, curious and courageous students.  With comfort in the workplace, however, one can experience a lack of creativity.  Since my time at ESC, I have noticed that the directors are highly supportive and encouraging of professional development.  The entire staff attended a workshop at our school with excellent speaker, Tania Iveson,  on ways to increase creativity through activities to appeal to different learning styles as well as increase variety in our lessons.  It opened eyes, which had dimmed a bit over the winter months, and reminded me of the standard of enthusiasm that I set myself to using.  I tried some of the tactics, and the tasks were completed with success!

My advice: Never stop growing.

adderall dosage Similarly, I met with my director for the teachers’ annual review and received some great feedback about my work within the school as well as some useful suggestions that never would have ever come to me independently.  I realized that working in an ever-changing environment such as teaching should encourage me to use outside sources (colleagues AND books).

I realize that I had perhaps been trying to reinvent the wheel and throwing unnecessary challenges at myself.  Perhaps creativity is not the same as thinking of a brand new idea and concept every single minute, but instead using ideas that have been born and using your personal spice to give life to it in a new way.

My advice: Never stop evolving. 

Finally, I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture by professor and writer Dr. Nina Spada (How Languages are Learned) on “Corrective Feedback“.  It was very interesting and I gained an insight of many ideas that are being asked and researched in the field of ESL.  Here are the two highlights of what i took away from this lecture:

1. ESL/EFL teaching has been around for longer than I thought.

I  looked around the lecture hall at U of T sitting next to an ESC colleague and thought “Wow! A lot of these teachers are old!  Was ESL even around back then?”!  (not that I can be called super young these days!) After a warm welcome, Dr. Spada spoke eloquently and quoted from her research and others’ dating back to the 1970s.   Again, I thought, “Isn’t ESL teaching just for young people who flew off to Korea of Japan for a few years and are now back in Canada trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives?”

It was a stereotypical yet enlightening thought!  I had always looked down on people who spoke poorly about the career choice of an ESL teacher, and here I was playing to that stereotype when, after falling in love with teaching language, I fought so hard against it.

Back to these aforementioned “oldies”- I eventually realized that these people have been in this field for decades, inside and outside the classroom and in and out of research about how to provide the best experience of English language learners.  People have received undergraduate degrees, Master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees in this amazing field, and it brought me back to my 4-week experience in my CELTA course.  It exhausting and exhilarating to learn new ideas from others and to get the opportunity to use them in action.

 2.  Unanswered questions remain.

Dr. Spada introduced her talk with specific questions about Corrective Feedback that she would discuss, for example,  “Who should correct students? How should we correct them?”.  After going on for over an hour, she took questions from her audience and was inevitably asked “When should teachers correct the students, immediately or afterwards?”  I had been thinking the same thing the whole time!  And her very first answer was that she didn’t have an exact answer because there hasn’t been enough research into the topic.  The question stuck with me for days, as I thought about questions I have about this thriving field.  The more I think, the more I want to take more time to learn about language learning theories and which ones I find effective for my personal classrooms.

My advice: Never stop asking questions. 

Overall, I still love the classroom, and I think I always will.  I hope that a can keep this spark of creativity ignited as I push myself to explore this field more.  And maybe when I’m an “oldie” I can attend (or give!) lecture on what we learned way back in 2013.

Any thoughts?

Photo credit: James F Clay

photo credit: Life Mental Health

Category Archives: Teaching

Accounts of my experiences as an English teacher and developing ideas about this interesting and forever growing field.

A Lesson from Brave Students

Turkey boat trip
The sunshine of summer has definitely hit the city these days.  With cooler temperatures and almost no humidity, the last half of the month of July was surprisingly enjoyable.

Aside from the weather, life at school has been busy due to an increase of students coming for the summer months in Canada.  The influx gives a fresh and youthful energy to the school, which I always welcome warmly since I enjoy full classes with a great ethnic mix!  As summer pushes on, however, sometimes you see exhaustion set in for both teachers and students.  The hot weather forces everyone’s minds to wander to frolicking in the sun, sitting on a patio, or out with friends.  Our minds move away from textbooks and grammar rules.   Is there anyone to blame, really?

This year, I’ve had the pleasure to work with some amazing students, whose English ability is not always the highest in school, but who have a great attitude towards learning and becoming infused in the Canadian community.  Recently, I was asked to join some of these students at the beach.  They had met some Canadians the week before and we invited to return for another match.  I gladly agreed to join after I explained my love of beach volleyball.

Waiting for the DayThat day at the beach brought sunshine and clear skies.  A slight breeze made the temperature bearable and I was ready for some volleyball action.  I met the students, enjoyed visiting with them without the constraints of four walls, and watched them interact with their newly found Canadian friends.  They seemed genuinely excited to have me there, and I was happy to be asked to join in.

For many moments of the afternoon I remember thinking, “Wow.  I can’t believe how brave these guys are to just go up to complete strangers (in Toronto!) and start socializing.  The exact thing that I promote everyday in class; the suggestion I make to immerse completely into the language outside of class; the advice I shout from the rooftops– they were all doing it!

They were using courage built up from who knows where to really enjoy their limited time here.  The timidness that I sometimes catch in the classroom was dissolved by the sunshine and friendly nature of these Torontonians.

I have kept that feeling of pride as I returned to the classroom now in the second month of summer.  I remember that these students’ very act of landing on Canadian soil with the intention of learning English in and of itself is a truly remarkable feat.  So, if some days I catch my students daydreaming about cold beer or their native food, I have to remember not to give up on them!

EI - Sand Bucket & Shovel

Overall, they will learn to survive in this city one way or another.  It’s my job to show them the tools they can use.  If I can make the tools seem practical and rewarding, then perhaps my students will want to pick them up, take them outside of the classroom, and use them to build a great experience in Canada.

I will miss this unique job when I leave in a few weeks to pursue teaching in the standard school system.  I will miss these students’ stories, goals, and general excitement about experiencing this great country.  Hopefully, as I return to student life, I can pick up my own set of new tools to then use in my own future reality, whatever classroom that may be.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: reg187

photo credit: JMS2

photo credit: Christopher Lane Photography

My Pockets are Full

Wow!  It’s been almost 2 months since my past post.  Where did the month of March go?

Ahh, yes…. Ireland!

Edwin and I had been planning our first Euro trip since November, when we started organizing our vacation in order to attend my dear friend’s wedding in Galway.  With two other great friends to travel, it was truly an amazing adventure.  We had a total of 9 days in the country, so we decided to make the most of it by renting a car (which I highly recommend!!).  We made stops in Kilkenney, Cork, Connemara, and finally to Galway for 3 days of wedding fun before heading to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

To sum up, the country was absolutely stunning.  It was just like in every Irish-set movie that I’ve seen.  The stone walls, the castles, the small, quaint, and friendly pubs, the delicious beer, the warm stew, the live music, the sheep, and of course the rain!  Simply driving (or for me, sitting in the passenger seat acting as navigator) brought me to a place far away from worrying about work, chores, or Toronto To-Do lists.

Overall, the highlight of the trip was being reunited with friends who I’ve been separated from for some time.  I was so happy to get to share in this special day.  The beautiful bride emitted a happy glow that couldn’t help spreading to the rest of us, leaving us with smiles all day (and night!) long!  We laughed, cried, drank, and danced to celebrate with her and her Irishman!  I know their future waits for them with a lucky leprechaun  and a pot of gold.

Soon after our arrival back in Canada, we were off to visit my family for Easter.  The visit was relaxing and enjoyable.  With no Christmas dinners or gifts or parties to worry about, I could spend the days with different family members and enjoy some Spring sunshine.  I got to reconnect with my my parents, siblings, and cousins while eating, not turkey, but chocolate bunnies.  And of course, I was over the moon with the fact that my little niece is now over 9 months old and taking the world by storm! 

Back in the city, my “backpack” has been continually filling up as the new season emerges.  Work has been at a constant pace of preparing lessons, meeting new students, and attempting to reignite old lesson plans.  I am actually beginning my last 4 months at my current school in order to pursue my Bachelor of Education and see what I can learn about teaching in a different type of classroom.

I will also start into my third show with a Toronto community theatre company.  The Eastside Players show, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” is a comedy where I’ll be scurrying around backstage in order to prepare actors, props, and apparently lots of stage food.  I’m looking forward to getting back at it with another great team!

Finally, I have made the leap to get back into a fitness regime.  I have been to more yoga, and I finally joined the YMCA and attended Aquafit. It felt great to set aside some time for myself.  As well, I thought I could enjoy some active outdoor time by joining a beach volleyball league through the TSSC (Toronto Sports and Social Club) .   I thought it would be a perfect time to meet some people, make some friends, in time for summer sun and patio season.

The more I’ve been trying to get out there in Toronto (ie: going to see a friend’s band play on a random Tuesday night instead of staying home) the more I realize how important it is to enjoy every day to its fullest.  Obviously, you have to know your limit, but there’s no reason you have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to enjoy yourself.  I can’t wait to see what summer has in store.

So take a minute, how do you fill your pockets?

Everything Else Pails in Comparison
Creative Commons License photo credit: sea turtle

 

Teachers and Students: Never Stop Learning

Despite a continuously busy life at work, my creative mind feels like it is on vacation.  I have wanted to increase my amount of writing (among others things) in 2013, and so far I haven’t had much luck.  Luckily, with a recent performance review at work, a guest speaker at a PD Day at the English School of Canada, and a TESL Toronto workshop at the University of Toronto, I have graciously accepted some new inspiration into creative thought.

First of all, moving into my 14th month at this school, I am feeling quite confident with my course load and have been grateful to meet and work with very talented teachers as well as smart, curious and courageous students.  With comfort in the workplace, however, one can experience a lack of creativity.  Since my time at ESC, I have noticed that the directors are highly supportive and encouraging of professional development.  The entire staff attended a workshop at our school with excellent speaker, Tania Iveson,  on ways to increase creativity through activities to appeal to different learning styles as well as increase variety in our lessons.  It opened eyes, which had dimmed a bit over the winter months, and reminded me of the standard of enthusiasm that I set myself to using.  I tried some of the tactics, and the tasks were completed with success!

My advice: Never stop growing.

adderall dosage Similarly, I met with my director for the teachers’ annual review and received some great feedback about my work within the school as well as some useful suggestions that never would have ever come to me independently.  I realized that working in an ever-changing environment such as teaching should encourage me to use outside sources (colleagues AND books).

I realize that I had perhaps been trying to reinvent the wheel and throwing unnecessary challenges at myself.  Perhaps creativity is not the same as thinking of a brand new idea and concept every single minute, but instead using ideas that have been born and using your personal spice to give life to it in a new way.

My advice: Never stop evolving. 

Finally, I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture by professor and writer Dr. Nina Spada (How Languages are Learned) on “Corrective Feedback“.  It was very interesting and I gained an insight of many ideas that are being asked and researched in the field of ESL.  Here are the two highlights of what i took away from this lecture:

1. ESL/EFL teaching has been around for longer than I thought.

I  looked around the lecture hall at U of T sitting next to an ESC colleague and thought “Wow! A lot of these teachers are old!  Was ESL even around back then?”!  (not that I can be called super young these days!) After a warm welcome, Dr. Spada spoke eloquently and quoted from her research and others’ dating back to the 1970s.   Again, I thought, “Isn’t ESL teaching just for young people who flew off to Korea of Japan for a few years and are now back in Canada trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives?”

It was a stereotypical yet enlightening thought!  I had always looked down on people who spoke poorly about the career choice of an ESL teacher, and here I was playing to that stereotype when, after falling in love with teaching language, I fought so hard against it.

Back to these aforementioned “oldies”- I eventually realized that these people have been in this field for decades, inside and outside the classroom and in and out of research about how to provide the best experience of English language learners.  People have received undergraduate degrees, Master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees in this amazing field, and it brought me back to my 4-week experience in my CELTA course.  It exhausting and exhilarating to learn new ideas from others and to get the opportunity to use them in action.

 2.  Unanswered questions remain.

Dr. Spada introduced her talk with specific questions about Corrective Feedback that she would discuss, for example,  “Who should correct students? How should we correct them?”.  After going on for over an hour, she took questions from her audience and was inevitably asked “When should teachers correct the students, immediately or afterwards?”  I had been thinking the same thing the whole time!  And her very first answer was that she didn’t have an exact answer because there hasn’t been enough research into the topic.  The question stuck with me for days, as I thought about questions I have about this thriving field.  The more I think, the more I want to take more time to learn about language learning theories and which ones I find effective for my personal classrooms.

My advice: Never stop asking questions. 

Overall, I still love the classroom, and I think I always will.  I hope that a can keep this spark of creativity ignited as I push myself to explore this field more.  And maybe when I’m an “oldie” I can attend (or give!) lecture on what we learned way back in 2013.

Any thoughts?

Photo credit: James F Clay

photo credit: Life Mental Health

Awards

Kristin’s Backpack won 1st Prize for TESL Ontario’s 2011 ESL Week Blog Contest.
About Me


Welcome to Kristin’s Backpack! I jumped on the blogging bandwagon in 2010 to share my Canadian-theatrical-backpacking perspective on my world adventures. With my return to Canada, I will continue to dig into my pockets and reflect on life as it has come to involve Teaching, Travel, and Theatre. Time to unzip the pockets!
Portfolios
Check out my past and current work here: 

Kristin's Library
Looking for some interesting reading material? Check out my Reading Picks and Bookworm post for some ideas! 

               
This is what summer is all about- finished a book yesterday and am on to the next today.  I just opened The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, which has been on my shelf for ages.  I have been extremely interested in reading accounts that stem from true stories in a dark history that is often swept to the side.  
At the same time, I have been listening to The Maze Runner series as an audio book and have been extremely captivated by the young characters’ circumstances and their view on the world.  
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