Free seminar, the only cost was sleep

WebonairEDIT_zps3f174fc6.jpgFree webinairs are just great to attend. They allow me to learn in a live format, the newest or the latest issues in ELT and ESL. This particular webinair was essentially bringing taboo issues into the classroom. Named, “Out of the Closet Into the Classroom webinar”, the two hosts/ lecturers , Aaron Wright and Scott Thornbury discussed the issues and pedagogy of introducing subjects like Gay and lesbian, HIV as a topic for conversation in the classroom. They then went onto issues dealing with declaring or at least broaching the subject of informing your students or your employer of your sexuality. Like, WOW. That’s, gutsy. Most ESL teaching environments that I know of are very, very conservative. I can cite the examples being of Asia and the Middle East, though I’m less sure of the Middle East of their potential rejection of the outee.

Sadly given the time difference between New York and South Korea was massive. So much so that I mis-calculated the start time and logged on thinking I was fashionably early. Not so, through bleary eyes I watched the Q&A part of the webinair only slowly getting the gist of the discussion. This subject was definitely not covered by Johnson in his book, Values in English language teaching. To relate part of  what’s in Johnson about marginalisation, this is the social phenomenon concerning Native Speaking English Teachers (NSET) in foreign locations where English is an L2. If NSETs are on the margin or ‘edge’, then gays and lesbian teachers are even more so.

Rhubarb, rhubarb

Rhubarb, rhubarb.jpgI’m required to give oral tests to my High school students twice a year. The tests are based on material that I’ve taught in my classes. These are received by my students (approximately 40 per class) with levels of indifference to absolute engagement. In light of keeping the students ‘clued in’, I’ve got to have my lesson plans together. I typically use the PPPP schema with good effect. The recent TESOL course I’d taken at SMU had come to be very useful. So many changes for my teaching, being an ELT means you are constantly learning and changing.

But in looking at the oral tests, I knew I had to plan ahead. With regards to priming the students, this, as I’ve found out, should have been done at the beginning of their year. Give the students a big carrot to chase, with a little bit of stick. Having read When? How? Why? by the Saskatchewan professional development unit, I have in, retrospect, learnt how to test properly. But the overall philosophy to the testing is that do they understand the concept? Are they able to compose an answer or question given that they know the concept of the grammar point. It’s one thing to memorise, but it’s another thing to create your own answer. No conversation in English (or any language) stands on it’s own and can be seen as being entirely unique. As I’ve noticed in going from class to class during testing, the students’ answers get better, as they’ve had a preview from other classmates in other classes about the questions. Their answers become more and more ‘canned’.

That is why I’ve only given them what the type of question they’ll get (Past experiences with Have you ever). I have never told them the precise question, then it becomes a matter of memorisation, which, in my opinion is too much like their education system of verbatim regurgitation. As the title of my blog suggests, it’s just repeated words to give the impression of noise. Rhubarb, rhubarb!

A word about classroom furniture: having sat in their class and their chairs for about 40 minutes, the height of the chairs is too low. These students are about my height and are growing lads. After about 40 minutes, the wooden seat pan had left my seat, numbed and sore. I really don’t know how they do it for an hour.