Teaching Academic Writing – The Challenges (Part 2)

No, there was definitely no touch of madness where academic writing is concerned (or maybe it was me who almost got driven to madness, more like it).

Sigh. Well, back to blogging.

In my previous post, I provided some background information on my Academic Writing class. It’s best for you to read that post, before moving on to this one.  Well, to be honest, this might just be a place where my rants are going to blow its’ sirens; I had a tiring, tough, challenging 3 months with my class for many reasons. Teaching writing is no easy task,and and there are several factors that made it even more challenging:

I had a whopping number of 40 students in the class. Well, it may be quite common for some of you, but it wasn’t for me. It was really tough giving feedback for each of the writing activity that took place (although students were placed in groups of 4), as this was academic writing. While I gave feedback to some, the other groups tended to chatter away. I did not attempt any other form of feedback (peer feedback, self editing) in the classroom; I just could not see it happening! Student’s have never been exposed to academic writing before, and I knew (and felt) that they totally relied on me for the feedback that they received.

Well, to be honest, a lot of them did not read the materials that they were supposed to have read at home; I don’t think they considered this writing class to be an important one (perhaps some did, but a selected few). THey were, after all, dentistry and medical students, and as one of them put it “Miss, we have a lot of other important assignments for our core subjects; this is taking too much of our time!” It was a lose-lose situation on my end; If I proceeded without going over the notes, they’d be left in the dark; If I went through the notes in class, it would’ve taken a lot of time! I did try out some strategies, though, which worked to a certain extend. Then again, I kept reminding myself that this was a writing class – they HAD to get their “hands dirty” by getting into the writing part, regardless of whether they read the notes or not.

7 face to face sessions (with 2 hours per session) was a ridiculously short time. It was way too short a time to teach something as “heavy” as synthesis writing. The large class size didn’t help as well. It really felt like I was “cramming” as much as I could within the short span of time. Also, I felt like I was working around the clock, as a lot of the communication was online as well. I had to constantly reply fb messages, email messages, online assessment on the portal (which took up A LOT of time), vetting assignment topics, screening their outlines. A lot of times I found myself getting so exasperated. It felt like I was working around the clock, 24/7! Tough job. Yes, I it was jolly molly tough!

Or maybe this was my problem. I found that the teaching did not equate to the expectations that was placed on students. There were so many issues that had to be dealt with at a very basic level. Firstly, a significant number of these learners were weak in writing – they had basic grammatical issues, inability to link and connect ideas in sentences and between paragraphs, wrong usage of linking words, inability to logically arrange their ideas in order to increase the meaningfulness in writing. These are the issues that need to be dealt with first, even before they enrol into the academic writing class. It would be great if the university could have a “remedial writing” or “Introduction to Academic Writing” to help build their basic writing skills prior to enrolling into this module. In that case, yes, 7 face to face would be sufficient.

Before I get into this, I must say that the head of department is a lovely, open minded person, willing to take in feedback and ideas to help improvise this module. Perhaps I could give her the link to my blog!  Anyway, getting back to the module, I do feel that the module needs to be reordered and edited again – some of the terms were wrongly used (thesis statement and topic statement were used intermittently when they actually did not mean the same thing!). Also, some of the journal articles selected were way too challenging for the students –  the contents were too complex. Yes, I do understanding their reasoning as to why these articles were selected – these were medical students, after all. My argument is, though, that this writing course was aimed at building learners skills in terms of scanning for main ideas, extracting these ideas, paraphrasing them, using citations, synthesizing these ideas using synthesis-specific language which all, then, led to the writing itself. If this was to be successful, the content definitely needs to be simpler. Students, will then, not be faced with the challenge of trying to understand and make out the content first, before getting into the writing task (which I found, took so much of time in class). Of course, another way is for them to read the articles at home before getting into the writing task, but as mentioned earlier, they fail to see the importance of doing so.

It was a great attempt to get students to do the tasksheets at home. I do think that the number of task sheets could be reduced – some did not seem to serve the purpose, and did take too much of a time. Also, rather than having individually written assignments, it might’ve been better to have the first assignment done as pairs, and the 2nd one individually. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, the world of academic writing can be very daunting to students. It would’ve helped to build their confidence gradually, where they could first collaborate on a piece of writing before attempting the second one by themselves. They could also have learned and helped each other out. Perhaps, conducting an initial placement test in writing, and using the results to pair stronger and weaker students together for the first assignment might have helped. It’s sure worth a shot!

Long shot, yes. I don’t think much could’ve been done to change this – the university issues the schedule. Classes were usually between 4-6pm. I think, by then, students would’ve had a long day!

On the overall, I found that the classes were rather teacher centered, at least in terms of feedback given. In my next post, I’m going to list down some of the strategies I tried using to help make my large class more student centered and most of all, . Ironically, a lot of the CELTA methods wouldn’t have worked! 😉

Coming up next – Strategies for teaching academic writing……


Fluent Enough – A guest post

Having just gotten back from getting my CELTA done (which definitely requires some blogging on!), I’m now well on my way to get back into blogging with a bang! What better way than to start off with a guest post from a lovely friend of mine, Anthony Vaughan?

Let me fill you in about this person. Anthony is a teacher and a teacher trainer who has taught both in Kuala Lumpur and Bali over the last few years. He blogs at www.anthonyvaughan.com/category/blog/. Among the things that has left such a lasting impression of working with him is his ability to pick up languages so fast! Anthony spoke Malay (Malaysian’s official language) so fluently that I was always left in awe. In fact, he even managed to pronounce words exactly the way it sounds and spoke pidgin Malay so well too! He, obviously, became a favorite among many of us here. I have always been curious as to how he managed to learn Malay so fast and so well, and invited him to write a post on my blog. And here he is – presenting to you the wonderful post entitled “Fluent Enough”  by Anthony Vaughan. A very interesting read, I assure you! And of course, please do leave your thoughts here, and he’ll definitely get back to you 🙂


I find languages to be fascinating. I love the sounds. Even more than that, people who have grown up speaking more than one language intrigue me. I used to sit in the office and listen to Ratna (the owner of this blog who has so kindly asked me to contribute this piece) speaking to her colleague in a mixture of English, Malay and Tamil. Their hearty laughter told me that when using three languages to communicate simultaneously, conversations become three times as funny.

This is the backstory to this post. I asked my friend Ratna to write for my blog about this trilingual phenomenon. In turn, she has asked me how someone who grew up speaking only one language has managed to pick up multiple languages so fast.

It’s a good question. Most people learning languages want to learn fast. They want to learn to be fluent. They want to learn everything in the language. So they can say: “I’m fluent.”

Then I would ask, what does “fluent” mean? Being fluent means different things to different people.

For me, it means that if I’m in a foreign country, I can do everything I need to do during the day using that language. If I’m studying at a University in France and I can understand my lectures, I’m fluent. Or should I say fluent enough. If I’m an English teacher in a foreign country and I can order food and speak to colleagues about simple things, then I’m also fluent enough.

Maybe for other people, being fluent means learning all the grammar rules of the language and knowing thousands of vocabulary items. But then, would you ever become fluent if you were not a native speaker. That’s no fun. Outside of professional contexts, it’s funny when you’re not fluent, because you have to lose a bit of yourself to communicate your meaning. Or laugh when you can’t communicate what you mean.

I met Ratna when I was working with her in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She tells me she is quite impressed with how quickly I became “fluent” in Malay. (Thank you for the compliment Ratna. You’re too kind!) So, here I am, sharing with you that my fluency is part illusion, part “cutting to the chase”.

Cutting to the chase

For me, I start with the sounds in the language. The languages I have learned generally have some sounds which are the same as English. You can eliminate those sounds from your study as you can already make them. Even Chinese, which admittedly I failed to learn, has some corresponding sounds, though don’t get me started on those tones.

Next, you need to have fun trying to copy the weird sounds which do not exist in your own language. Your mouth has never made them before. So you have to work out which muscles are doing what. You need to know what your mouth should look like. Native speakers will find this endlessly hilarious and as accurately as you manage to do it, they’ll possibly tell you its still wrong. I blush a lot at this point, but it’s worth it. Later on, as you’ve progressed with the language and speak it more often, your own mouth muscles will start to remember the new positions and eventually you’ll be able to do it. And if not, it doesn’t really matter. But if you can, well done!

Then, study a bit of grammar. I studied linguistics in a past life, so I do enjoy this part. If you don’t, you might need to find a cheat guide, like the condensed subject guides that university students read before exams. It should give you an overview of the grammar and the parts that are different from English. If you can’t find one, try Wikipedia. But do go too crazy. When you are in country, you don’t actually use a lot of the complex grammar that is taught in school foreign language classes. Or you can find a short cut. There is often more than one grammatical way to say the same thing. As long as you can understand it, it’s enough. Just learn the grammar necessary between past, present and future. If there is more than one of each tense, just learn the easiest one first. That way, at least you can distinguish between different periods of time. Some languages are not so fixated on this like in English, so if they don’t, just take note of that and work out how they do differentiate the time (it might be just contextual or using clear time words like “yesterday” or “tomorrow”, as in Malay and Indonesian).

Next, learn some vocabulary. Just enough vocabulary. Don’t learn too much. I have heard it said that you can remember 7 to 8 new words in a study session. So don’t waste your energy learning thousands too quickly, it will take time.

Finally, pretend that you know what’s going on most of the time. This is the “illusion” part I eluded to. The concept of fluency depends on how you define it and your language goals. For example, if you just want to buy some rice from a street vendor, you can smile, point at a picture and then say thank you in the local language. That will be enough to get the ball rolling. Later on, you can try some simple sentences. If you give the illusion that you can understand more than you can, people will speak to you more. This will give you a chance to hear the sounds more and to practice the little that you have learned. Overtime, you start to learn more. Then you will be fluent enough. Whatever that may be for you.

Cool things that happened today….and is probably going to double tomorrow…

I’ve not particularly been keeping the promise I made to myself for the past two months – to blog on a weekly basis. Somehow the whole process of getting back to homeland has gotten a hold over me; reconnecting ties, delving into the new teaching role, redecorating the home (and more to come I’m sure) have seemed to have taken the front row where priorities are concerned.

Hence, it was by chance that I stumbled upon Mike Griffin‘s blog challenge while hogging onto the-oh-so-sinful- facebook (yes, guilthy as charged, your honour).  Ann Loseva had reposted Kevin Stein‘s blog post, where he took up Mike’s challenge to list down cool things that happened for the day, in his life. And I thought, hey, I probably should do it myself (speak about non-original idea, tsk tsk tsk) because today, has definitely been a pretty exhilaratingly exciting day for me. Ultra coolness grooving around me with a total turn of events that caught me off guard, probably leading to something bigger. May spell trouble for me, may not. But hey, I did what I had to do and it was totally worth it! You know what they say about fighting til the last breath escapes your very being. 


(courtesy of http://sajabla.files.wordpress.com)

So here goes to all the cool things that happened for the day:

a) A letter of frustration that I wrote to a friend about my utter dissatisfaction about the Malaysian Government’s actions with regards to the ELT industry got published in the opinion column of a renowned, well-read online Malaysian tabloid. You can find the link  here. Now, some of my friends may stop becoming my friends right here because of the obvious mentions of nationality / nations, but whatever I said was true and yes, things that’ve been bugging me, and yes, things that N.E.E.D to be changed in my country. Awake! Arise!

b) The letter’s gone (and still going) viral in the Malaysian social media. Last I checked (and this happened within the last 12-24hours), this is the number of tweets, reposts, emails, and sharing USING forms of social media that’s taken place:


I think that’s an amazing, amazing number of reposts. Malaysians ARE concerned about our ELT education. I’ve probably raised some very pressing issues here judging from the number of comments and reposts.

c) Now comes the even juicier part. As a result (I think), the Deputy Chief Editor has requested me to write up a detailed article on the directions that can lead towards change. Exactly what I’ve been wanting to do since I got back. Now I get to write about what every Malaysian English language teacher should be doing to becoming global – professional development. I’m going to draw from my AND my wonderful, dynamic PLN’s experience as well. The best part of it is, it’s going to be read by the entire nation (well, literally) and it’s going to spread like wildfire in the Malaysian social media. It’s showtime, baby!

d) I met up a wonderful friend for lunch, and had loads of fun laughing together. We both parted with such a warm, light heart. 

e) As I reached home, I got a postal package from the same friend – my bridesmaid’s outfit that she bought me, for her wedding. Is it coincidence that I meet her today, and get the package later ON THE SAME DAY? You tell me.

f) I got a call that my timetable for the upcoming semester has been rescheduled, where I have the same teaching hours, but only need to go in thrice a week (as opposed to 4 times a week before). It means I save another day of travelling time, traffic jam, petrol, toll, and most of all, TIME! –> to do thing that I want to do.

g) My carpet arrived today. And it’s totally transformed the way my home looks – so yummilicious! I just rolled around on the carpet with bliss all over my face,as long as I can remember as my husband watched me with a smile.

h) A group of my old students sent me a facebook message about how they told a “bunch of new friends that they’d “never be able to meet the best teacher we”ve ever had because she doesn’t work here anymore”. I sat in front of the computer with a goofy smile on my face for a long time.

i) The group of students also told me that they wanted to meet up for a game of bowling and dinner at any time that I’m free. They will come anywhere that I suggest on any day.

And that’s it. Full of ultra cool goodness for the day. Surely there’s more to come tomorrow. But for now, I’ll bask in the glory of the current ones.

Thanks so much Mike, Kevin, and Anna for inspiring me to getting this done. I feel good all over. Like totally. How cool is that now?

Of Observing and being Observed …….

Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....

This is a confession post. I’m a coward. I really  am. For this post is a rant AND  a reflection about someone I observed but didn’t have the guts to give feedback to (because it’s someone of a senior position and not to risk losing my job). My only hope is that the person mentioned reads this and takes it all in the stride of teaching life. I’d like to reassert that my intentions here are NOT to criticize, but to sincerely give feedback and in fact, suggestions on how improvement can take place. On a personal note, though, I quite like this person; jovial, helpful and kind towards me. It’s the TEACHING that took me by surprise.

Let’s name the person as The Observee. And the situation goes like this. I was requested to observe a senior teacher who’s “highly expertised, having vast experience in the industry and published teaching material to gauge whether you’re comfortable teaching this class”. Naturally, my expectations were high. Can I be blamed then?

So I entered the class equipped with a notebook and a paper. I think THAT came as a shock to the observee (perhaps I wasn’t expected to bring it notebooks?). I took my place at the corner fo the classroom. Let me paint a background potrait of the classroom:

Number of learners :

16 (class duration 2 hours)

Learners age             :

19-26 years old

Country of origin     :

South Korea (and I couldn’t help smiling to myself)

Classroom arrangement             :

Traditional style


And below are a list of what I observed, and a short elaboration of my thoughts:

Objectives were clearly stated

It’s always important to write down the objectives on either side of the whiteboard. It gives the teacher and the learner a sense of focus and direction, and helps keep teachers “on track”. I was glad that she wrote it down on t whiteboard, right at the beginning of the class.

Used color-coding techniques

 She used different colors to highlight differences that learners needed to notice. I am a strong believer of using different coloured marker pens to highlight similiarities or differences in a language point. Colors lend a visual component to learners, suiting different learning styles.

Good rapport between teacher and learners

We’ve got to agree that no matter how skilled a teacher is in teaching, building a good rapport with learners play an important role in the teaching and learning environment. Rapport is based on trust and possible similarities (or even indifferences) between teachers and learners interests. When a learner trusts the teacher, there’s usually less opposition from them when requested to complete a task. There are many ways a teacher can help build rapport with his/her learners : – teachers exuding a positive, passionate and emphatetic nature; body language; sense of humor among others. Good rapport builds a strong bond, and a strong bond greatly aids in classroom management. I believe the observee has built a pretty good rapport with her learners.


Having said the above, now we come to the part that’s difficult to digest, at least for me. I’m going to start treading on dangerous grounds here, but am going to do my best to be as diplomatic as possible.

Booming voice projection and EXTREMELY high Teacher Talking Time (TTT) (nearly 90%)

Having lived in South Korea for a bit, I’ve inferred that Koreans, generally dislike booming voices, people talking loudly, sudden loud guffaws in a quiet environment (I’m stating from my observation). I nearly jumped out of skin when her voice boomed from time to time, something that the observee really needs to look into. When teachers project their voices loudly, it engenders a sense of authority and enforces the teacher-student hierarchy. This can sometimes be a barrier in reaching out to learners. There are two possible results from this; learners’ affective filters might be raised so high up that they cringe into their protective shells OR the learner might storm out of the classroom. And both affects learning negatively and disrupts the class.

Also, the learners were hardly given a chance to speak at all. Most of the time, the entire classtime seemed like a “lecture” more than an “English teaching” class. It was made even worse with the observee authoritatively kept reminding learners – “don’t speak Korean”. Well, to be fair to the learners, they weren’t given a chance to speak in English at all! I strongly suggest that the observee takes a second look at her lesson plan, and make changes to her design to infuse activities that encourage learners to communicate  (pairwork, group work, in threes) and express their ideas to one another.  These kind of little tasks are the ones that help to consistently build learners confidence in using the language.

Unacceptable Grammar Mistakes in Spoken language

Or rather, speaking Manglish (Malaysian English) in the classroom. To be honest, I’m quite proud of Malaysian English. It helps me feel a sense of connectedness with fellow Malaysians; it makes us laugh together and understand each other even better. But I believe as teachers, we have different roles to play in different places. Although I regrettably say this, Manglish is perfectly fine during non-ELT related social gatherings. However, it is of crucial importance for the teacher to speak fluently, clearly and as accurately as much as possible in the context of the ELT world (classroom, conferences, workshops, online disucssions).

The thing is, we all make mistakes. Sometimes even as a teacher, in some situations  I do get nervous and accidentally utter structures that are grammatically incorrect. But I almost immediately notice it and apologize to my learners, and these occasions of uttering grammatically wrong sentences, are very very rare. As a teacher, I have trained myself to unconciously watch every word that I say in the classroom. It doesn’t mean that I speak slowly; it just means that I’m mindful in my utterances.

Well, the mistakes she made were one too many to be considered as unintentional tongue slips. And these are her exact words:

“I’m stand like this…”

“She laughed heartedly..”

“This important for your spelling…”

“Please look what I’m doing…”

“It is not the heart very big sized…”

I was quite apalled at hearing her speak in this manner. I confess that I wanted to save my job and not sound “over the board” by pointing out her mistakes and voicing out my observations of the class.  I looked helplessly as she taught them “laugh heartedly” is correct; I couldn’t help wondering if she had noticed the disinterested and blank looks on the learners’ faces.

Never mind that.

This post is a way of me repenting for not speaking up to the observee. But I hope she reads this and thinks about what I’ve said. I’m learning. You’re learning. We’re all learning. To err is human but to err, realize, repent and grow is divine…

So here I stand, in front of you, sincerely apologizing for not doing what I should’ve done as the observer…

Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....


(courtesy of http://www.themashupradio.com

The Lil’ Goodies of Delight That Matter…..

There’s a new bakery that’s just opened at the corner of my street. It’s almost impossible for one not to notice the quaintness and warmth of this little place that is tucked away cozily between two well-known eateries of this town.

Each time I walked pass it to get to the gym, I could never help feasting my eyes on the pastries that’ve all been stacked up so close together that they almost give me the feeling that they’re cheekily huddling in merriment against the cold autumny season.

Oh, and have I mentioned the oh-so-delightful scent of freshly baked bread that wafts around you as you walk by?

(Image courtesy of InfoMoto on flickr)So, one fine day I decide to walked into the place. The enticement was way too strong, you see.I was met by a petite, cheerful Korean lady with a very bright “Anyeonghaseyo!!” for a greeting. She stood at the cashier; I presumed she was the owner of the joint. As I strolled around the place, checking goodies out, she watched me with great interest.

I finally decided upon a loaf of multigrain bread. I took it her, paid for it, and she handed it back to me, all packed up nicely. She had a certain twinkle in her eye and smile. Or was it just my imagination? I wondered.

As I walked back home, I couldn’t help thinking about that twinkle. Absorbed in my own thoughts, I absentmindedly put my hands into the package. And lo and behold, guess what I found? She had slipped a piece of muffin into my bag! Aha, so that was the cause of the twinkle! I quickly scanned through my receipt, and no, she hadn’t charged me for it. I thanked my lucky stars, and indulged into this lil treat the minute I got back home.

What did I do, then, in the next couple of days?I went to the bakery again of course!

Oh no, not because of the treat, but because of the gratitude I felt towards her for her act of kindness. This time, I bought a lovely, sticky cinnamon bun. And she did it again. Slipped another lil treat for me into my bag. Same smile, same twinkle, right in front of my eyes this time! My oh my!

AND it’s been happening each time around, until I found myself thinking that perhaps it was some sort of a promotional strategy (can I be blamed for that?).

So, the next time I went, I played Ms. Smarty Pants. I observed her actions eyefully while standing in the line to pay for my fare. To my utter astonishment, no one else got anything!

But when it came to my turn, she did it AGAIN! And this time, it was a piece of chocolate cake.


(Image courtesy of Brett Jordan on flickr)

The Lil Delights that Matter….

I’ve been thinking so much about this humbling, yet touching gesture of the wonderful bakery owner.

How did she make me feel ? — Very special indeed.

Were the lil delights costly ? — Not at all, really.

Did it matter at all that they weren’t costly ? — Absolutely not, isn’t the thought what matters the most?

And how has this thoughtful gesture affected me? — In ways that cannot be described by words.  And I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

Taking The Goodies of Delight into the language Classroom…

You’ve got to admit this. Each one of us, no matter how old we are, LOVES to receive goodies. May it be a piece of cake, or a complimentary gift, anything at all. A goodie is a goodie, isn’t it? But how do we take this concept into a language classroom?

See, it all depends on what you term “goodie” to be. Some teachers may call it rewards, some may call it gifts, and others may call it prizes. There are loads of past research that have provided contradicting evidence on ‘rewarding’ learners. Some say it’s a source of motivation for learners, but others say that learner motivation might dissipate once the reward’s been revoked (Schimdt, R., Boraie, D., and Kassagby, O. 1996).

Well, I don’t intend to divulge into this argument. My only intention is to look at this beyond what research is concerned, more from a humanistic perspective; something coming from my heart; something I’ve done in my classroom and been duely ‘rewarded’ with contentment and satisfaction. And when I talk about Goodies of Delight, I don’t attach a monetary value to it, because I totally understand that not every teacher receives a hefty salary!

So, what are the lil’ Goodies of Delight? Oh, there are loads of it, we just gotta get a bit creative and be that source of inspiration and drive within our learners minds!

a) Inspirational Note slips : Write short, power-packed inspirational notes on colored stick-on papers, stick them as a form of feedback on leaner’s assignments.

b) Quote books : Small, hand carry quote books are very cheap and can be purchased almost anywhere – bookshops, newsstands, used bookshops. Observe learners, lookout for those who’re having the toughest moments in life. Hold them back after classroom, look them in the eye, and give it to them as a gift. Of course, make sure that the language is understandable to     the learner! And add a personal touch with a short, inspiring note and your signature.

c) Smiley face stickers : These are really cheap and can be bought in many places. Use them when responding to learners work. The number of stickers can determine how satisfied you are    with their work!

d) Sweets : Well, I see some of you in doubt there. Trust me, even the least costliest piece of sweet would catch any learner by surprise. However, I wouldn’t advocate using sweets as rewards for young learners, they might throw a tantrum if they don’t get one!

e) handmade cards : You don’t even have to be very creative or spend too much time on this. It can be on colored papers, with a very personalized note from you to the earner. Pictures can be printed from the internet. Make it funny; make it inspirational; make it thought-provoking.        And you could sign off with a funny photo of yourself, re-sized and stuck at the end.

f) personalized messages on fb or other social media : I’m sure you know where to draw the line when personalization is concerned. Be emphathetic, not symphathetic. Relate to them, connect with them. Express your concern genuinely. They’ll know and feel it when you do.

g) Minute Soft toys : soft toys can be given to both males and females. If you look around, you’d surely find some really cool soft-toys that relate to each individual  learners. Again, stick    a note to it with some positive words from you.

h) Hand-written letter : no matter how advanced we’ve gotten into the digital world, the old-fashioned way never fails to capture the magic of connection. At the end of the term, reflect on each student and write a personalized, short letter to each one of them. End the teaching term with a bang by leaving a huge imprint of yourself in their minds and hearts.

i) Postcards : The key here is how to metaphorically relate the picture in the postcard to how you want the learner to be inspired. Make connections between the picture and your words. It WILL, mark my words, WILL make a difference. Then, give it to them.

The Goodies of Delight have tremendous effects on our learners. It ‘wakes’ them, ‘enlightens’, inspires, motivates, drives, and most of all, gives them a sense of belonging within the classroom. I’ve seen this increase classroom dynamics, rapport, respect, and understanding. It is a great tool especially among learners who’re unable to express themselves outwardly as much as they want to. Most of all, it takes them to great heights and makes them believe in themselves. As a teacher, you actually have a great impact in our learners’ lives. Make each learner feel special. Create that bond with them. You’ll see how it really pays off at the end!

My ideas above might not be new; You’ve probably encountered them at some points in ur life. But if you do have anything newer and funkier, please please do share it with me! I’d love to hear about it…

And, now I wonder…

Do YOU have any Goodies of Delights for me? Surely you know I love surprises, don’t you…..


(Image courtesy of anacik on flickr )

The Beginning of a Journey….or should I say the continuation?……

Is teaching a career?

I wouldn’t say so. To me, teaching is a journey. It’s a path of self-discovery. It helps you explore your innate nature; who you were, who you are, and who you’ll be. It leads you to try things you’ve never thought of trying, to challenge yourself, to bypass personalities and peer into an individual’s very being.

I’m an English language teacher. I love every minute detail about teaching. Every class is an adventure that leads you to new discoveries. I had a wonderful teaching career back in Malaysia; multinational learners, opportunities to conduct trainings, and trying out new methodologies in the classroom.

And then…one fine day my husband got a job in Korea. I quit my job, packed my bags and followed suite. And nothing has ever been the same again, truly. Why do I say this?

Well, the honest truth is, I’m a non-native teacher. It means I come from a country which does not belong in the “native speakers” category. Which means that it doesn’t matter that I’ve got postgraduate qualification in teaching English. Or a TESOL certification. Or experience with learners from literally around the world (Korea included). Or that I have a native speaker like ability (or almost). Or the very fact that I love and am absolutely passionate about what I do. It doesn’t. Period.

And this truth really affected me deep down to my core. Here I am, being able to contribute towards educating the people of Korea, and yet, I’m turned down for not being a “native-speaker”. What can I say?

Well, I have to do SOMETHING, right? Can’t just be hovering over the “Oh-I’m-feeling-dejected” mode. So, I started making friends. I started learning Korean. I started speaking to people at the park that I go to, in broken Korean, amidst the fit of laughter that I get. And this eventually led me to meeting a local Korean teacher. She observed me teach a group of middle-aged ladies at a local cultural center, and things have never really been the same again!

And why have I forgotten the fact that when, one door closes, another opens? And this one being a giant fairytale of sorts. A remarkable person named Chuck Sandy gave me an opportunity to do a writeup on the International Teacher Development Institute’s (ITDI) blog. He opened doors for me to meet English language teachers around Korea. He introduced me to the concept of “community of practice”, and he was the doorkeeper of the huge fairytale door I was telling you about. And what a sight it was on other side of the door!

So, am I happy in Korea? Yes, I am.

Am I regretting not having a full-time job? Well, not really.

Am I successful? It depends on what you define as being successful. If success means having the opportunity to connect with like-minded teachers from around the world, then yes, I am successful.

And lastly, do I regret leaving my job in Malaysia? Not in a single day. That was the best decision I made this year.

As I said, when one door closes, another opens. Perhaps more to come!

They can’t be wrong when they say “An end is usually a beginning”, can they?