My first henna tattoo… and other TEFL tales

It’s probably because I’m studying again, desperately trying to get the final module of the Delta completed and off my plate in order to put it behind me and use all my new Super Teacher skills on different challenges, but I’ve noticed that the long-neglected ‘Working’ aspect of this blog’s tagline is creeping back in.

Last autumn, when I set sail for Thailand and the first, intensive part of this Delta journey, I was definitely burnt out. All the joy had disappeared from my classroom. My inventiveness had diminished. I was seriously questioning whether sinking a few thousand dollars into a further qualification and a definite period of unemployment was the best of ideas, or whether I should turn my mind to another career change. More

How to write a great personal statement

This month’s ‘How to…’ on completing a great application for your next job in TEFL.

TEFLism

Part 1 – the Personal Statement

It’s easy to find a lot of information on employers and interview techniques for most ELT jobs, from disgruntled rants on Dave’s ESL cafe to informative reviews on Glassdoor. However, information in one of the market’s best-known employers seems thin on the ground.

The good news about their application process is that it’s uniform and transparent and aims to be as objective as such a procedure of selection can be, so there is a process you can follow.

I’ve experienced three BC interviews and a number of applications so far in my ELT career, two of which have been successful. Each time I’ve refined my process using help from others and what minimal internet resources I’ve found. Here’s my guide to making the best impression you can.

Photo credit: Flazingo.com via Flickr

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The red shoes – a tale of twelve countries

On starting work and getting to know new classes, a favourite game is two truths and a lie. Everyone has to think of two true (and preferably interesting) statements about themselves, and one lie, and their new classmates can ask questions to find out which statement is false. It’s a great icebreaker for the group and, if you do a demonstration as the teacher, the group gets to know a bit about you, too, which helps in building productive rapport.

Recently, Wonderboy played this game with a new class and included the statement, “I’ve been to eight countries this year” as one of his interesting facts. This threw the whole game out of order as no one in the room could believe such a thing could be true! In fact, even for me the last twelve months have involved an epic amount of travel. Travel all witnessed by a pair of cheap pumps which I bought this time last year, specifically to see me through the biking holiday I went on last June.

Here, from the perspective of the Red Shoes, is a photo record of my travel adventures, June 2015 to June 2016.

Red Shoes' first day out - Seoul

Red Shoes’ first day out – Seoul

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“No tengo lapiz.” Linguistic acquisition and the ESL teacher

언필이없서요 (yonpil-ee obsoyo). A recent addition to my catalogue of chunks of Korean, of which I now know a range, none of which are related to each other enough to form sentences let alone serve any useful, communicative purpose. Meaning, “I don’t have a pencil,” this, like the Spanish phrase for the same dilemma in this post’s title, is the extent of my on-the-job language learning.

The situation is reciprocal. I learn phrases like, “I haven’t got a pencil,” “I’ve finished”, and bathroom,” in the language of the country I’m living in. The under-10s I encounter in those countries in turn learn the words, “TEEEEEacherrrrrr” (with bored / outraged / despairing inflection depending on the situation) “No homework pleeeeeeeaaazzzzz,” and, astonishingly, all the words to the latest Disney / One Direction song (depending on grade level). Neither I nor they seem to get much beyond this point. More

The Undiscovered Country

It is a time of change and confusions, and so I chose a title to indicate both. The first confusion lies in the providence of the quote, which I’m sure some of you will have mistakenly identified as Shakespeare, W. from his work Hamlet. However, I am in fact quoting Roddenberry, G. and his creation Star Trek. The second confusion is that I am not, in fact, about to discuss either the post-life human condition commonly known as death, or a country that hasn’t been discovered, but South Korea. The third confusion, for those of you so presumptuous to have thought ahead, is the expected continuation of the metaphor… “from whose bourn no traveller returns….” No one can speak for certain of the future, and at this point there are still big question marks over whether I’ll make it to Korea or not, but if I do, I have every intention of returning in a very much alive condition.

There, I’m glad we got all that settled. More

Pants performance by prattling prannies – the pestilential ‘P’ prevails

The problems pertaining to plagiarism persist in my place of employment in the most pernicious manner. It really is beyond the pale. Plagued by precocious pubescent Peruvians, my pedantry proceeds to proliferate as my patience proportionately depreciates.

Is it possible to promote perspicacity as the pathway to sagacity? Or in each precious plenary must we penalise relentlessly – probe pupils’ principles; plumb the depths of their duplicity?

Perchance praise and plaudits for pristine practice may give pause to the deplorable pretenders who pilfer, plunder and purloin the precious, prized phrenic prowess of their peers.

O! What penalty can provide practical prevention against such academic perversion? I postulate that the pervasiveness of this perturbing predicament cannot be pacified by punishment nor pushed aside: we must emphatically petition for a prevalence of probity!

postscript: this ‘profe’ is proper pee’d off.

Aside

The Wire: a guide to modern teaching

I made it to the end of term one. This meant no sleeping, not enough eating, and a lot of marking and grading for the final couple of weeks. And, in the same way that I encourage the students to reflect on the gains in their work and find the areas they need to improve in, I am trying to work out the same things in my teaching.

Of course (although they haven’t worked it out) when I ask them to reflect, I’ve already written out for them in no uncertain terms what they are doing well and what they need to improve.

Who does that for me?

Ex-officer Pryzbylewski of the Baltimore Major Crimes unit, that’s who. More

with the ‘P’ that stands for Plagiarised

An open letter to Grade X – you little buggers know who you are.

This is your English teacher. Yes, the gringa one, with the glasses and the bad hair. The new one. The British one who dresses badly. Yep, got it? That one.

It’s been a difficult year for us, and I feel it’s time to talk about our relationship. I don’t want to break any more plates or glassware so I’m going to make an effort to make this a civilised conversation. Please grunt to acknowledge that you’ve understood. Good, thanks.

I was pleased to see you’d done your homework. Well done. There’s a first time for everything, and I’d like to encourage your blossoming steps in the right direction. Let me get that out there right away. This is cause for hope and celebration.

I was also very impressed with some of the varied and interesting vocabulary you used to complete this work. I was particularly glad to see that some of the vocabulary items you usually copy down, look up and then assiduously forget had resurfaced. Well done.

But let us come to the ‘however’ part of this conversation. More

The power of play

Remember that story about Einstein forgetting how to tie his shoelaces so he could remember to work out how the universe works? Remember when you left school at 16 and could do quadratic equations, remember the Periodic Table and quote Dickens? It’s amazing how knowledge that seems to take forever going in falls out remarkably quickly.

It’s only been a little over 18 months since I finished my CELTA and started teaching, and other than a spell of a couple of months between countries, I’ve been working constantly since. And yet… today I recalled Basic Lesson No. 1 from that glorious training ground, the Kamala tiki hut classroom in Ecuador paradise.

Make learning fun.

So simple, so effective, so elusive, so easily forgotten. More

My recent guest post on ESL Hell.

ESL Hell

I’m in my second year of teaching experience. With a career change in mind and a CELTA in hand I decided to make a go of life in Latin America.

Before I even got that far, I’d had to contend with CELTA vs CertTESOL vs TEFL. Which to choose? What did they mean? Which one was the best? I did my research and realised that the CELTA and CertTESOL were roughly equally highly regarded, and certainly the only two certificates worth the twin investment of time and money. The differences between the two are minimal, or so I understand.  CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the TEFL certificate offered by the University of Cambridge. CertTESOL is accredited by Trinity College, London. Both are respected by employers worldwide. In my case, the CELTA won out based on little other than the fact that there was a…

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