It was really nice to get an email from the English Language Teachers’ Association Berlin-Brandenburg (ELTABB) that I had been chosen as the ELTABBer of the month recently. I’ve talked a little bit about the charity organisation on the blog before and recently did a workshop and wrote an article for the members.
ELTABB has helped me to understand the working context of Berlin and what it means to be a freelancer. It can help you to find jobs in the area, connect with local teachers, attend teacher meet-ups, read articles from members, attend webinars, and get legal advice among other things. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think my settling into living abroad would have been as smooth. And with that in mind, it was great to give back a little bit to the community recently, and hope to do more in the near future. I’m looking forward to the Christmas Stammtisch!
I haven’t been able to update the blog as much as I would have liked recently because I’ve been doing a couple of things behind the scenes.
I’ve been giving workshops on giving feedback to students and clients here in Berlin with a particular aim of focusing on making the positives more objective and clearer. This proved to be very fruitful for all involved and I was glad to see that the participants got a lot out of it. I also came away with a lot of food for thought, for instance, when reformulating students’ utterances, am I giving them sentences and words that they would actually say in their context? Am I speaking in their voice or my own? Building rapport and understanding my students’ situations and world has a newfound importance for me. It also got me thinking about how I can get the students to utilise the emergent ideas and language more, and how to stretch that further. This is quite exciting for me, and I hope to research these paths over the next few months.
The weather has been pretty nice at times and unbearable at other times here in Berlin. I think I have acclimatised quite well though since I moved here, much to the dismay of my fiance (I got engaged recently). She rolls her eyes when I say that I am cold when the temperatures are in the low 20s.
The winter temperatures are notoriously low which I am not looking forward to considering the energy crisis we are currently in here in Europe. Having said that though, it wasn’t bad earlier in the year. There were some days when my bones were shaking, and I made it my mission to teach vocabulary kinetically to warm up.
I know Dogme teaching isn’t to everyone’s liking, but boy did it get me out of trouble recently. I was in a real bind which I’ll detail below shortly.
I am really thankful that I explored this teaching methodology during my Delta, and I tend to have, what teachers and bloggers call online, ‘Dogme Moments’ in my classroom pretty much all the time now. However, for a class I had a couple of weeks ago, I had to use a deep-end approach, and it really saved my bacon. Let me explain.
I came home after a long day ready to start my in-company sessions for the evening. As you do, I got my email, material, and Zoom all fired up and ready to go. But, the Internet started to drop a little bit. No big, just restart the computer, what could go wrong? Big mistake.
As a gamer, I must applaud what game developers are doing these days when it comes to making their games as accessible as possible for their target markets. Basically, for those who don’t know, they are now implementing accessibility options for those who want to enjoy their games as much as they can. Having a game playable for those who are visually impaired, have hearing difficulties, autism, and so on, must be really liberating. For me, I often have to magnify or zoom in on text that is so scrawny. I don’t understand why other developers make their heads-up display (HUD) or text so small. Like, we have massive TVs these days!
This got me thinking about my lessons in the classroom. Am I attending to my students’ needs when it comes to accessibility? Can I do more?
Yesterday, I attended a really nice workshop on one-to-one teaching, led by one of my Directors of Studies at a Berlin school I work in. We focused on a number of key points to consider when teaching in this context: pros and cons when teaching and learning in this way, the needs analysis, and troubleshooting.
One area of the workshop that got me thinking was working with students who need English for Specific Purposes. Unfortunately, when it comes to materials and coursebooks you may need to use to get a good sense of what it is like to be in the student’s shoes, these books can be lacking in the engagement department. Not having a background in the student’s field can really alienate a lot of teachers, too; it can be an uphill battle before you’ve even started the student’s course.
As the weather started to get a bit more unbearable, heat-wise, here in Berlin, it kind of warranted an escape to cooler parts of the city. Signing up to help ELTABB at EXPOLINGUA at the lake was just the ticket I needed.
EXPOLINGUA is an annual trade fair comprised of exhibitors from all sorts of language backgrounds showcasing courses, conducting workshops, and/or informing patrons about recruitment opportunities. Like most events, this event returned to its former glory in person, not done since 2019.
It’s been a year since I started this blog. The fact that I have kept it going is huge for me because I didn’t think I had it in me to do it and maintain it. As I had detailed in my very first blog, I had several reasons why I wanted to have one. Have I managed to keep to my initial goals? More or less, yes.
I have explored and detailed some interesting areas, such as being on the other side of the fence as a language learner experiencing a placement test and later trying to survive an intensive course. This experience helped me to understand students a bit more closely. Some of the intricacies of being a student can only be gained from being one.
Let’s talk about ‘perfection’. I’ve never understood it and never really understood people who chase it. Does it exist?
Sure it does. Mathematics is perfect. Science is, too (flat-earthers look away now). If you burnt all the books written about those topics and started from scratch, testing and experimenting as you normally do when investigating a hypothesis, you would get the same results you had once lost.
But, can people be perfect? Can the things we want to achieve and ‘do’ in life, like speaking in another language, be perfect?
This is the question that sends shivers down our spines as teachers and makes us glance back at the board we had written on with sheer panic.
Did we explain a piece of grammar or vocabulary incorrectly?
I have heard this question over the years and it has always resulted in a playful chuckle in the classroom among the students and myself. Recently, I have come to the conclusion that this question always comes from a good place and is not meant to be taken in a malicious way or to challenge the teacher. The student has a perception of an item of grammar or vocab they have acquired elsewhere and a genuine curiosity, and it’s up to me to shed a bit more light on this item of language. I never say that they are wrong. I actively listen to what they have to say, then add my two cents. This type of exchange has not always gone down well with my colleagues, though.