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.
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?
Teaching higher-level students can be quite daunting for teachers a lot of the time; it certainly was for me in the early stages of my career. As students move up levels, they have certain expectations of learning ‘sophisticated’ or ‘professional’ language when they reach C1 and C2 levels; these expectations and wishes just come with the territory. To better prepare ourselves we are oftentimes scrambling to get dictionaries to equip ourselves with concrete definitions of words and phrases we sometimes don’t use productively, or checking a corpus like SKELL to share examples of collocations that are seen as correct instead of saying to the student, “this collocate just doesn’t go with this word” which can leave the student frustrated.
While this is all true, there is something that I have recently learnt after receiving feedback from a C2 level student.
I don’t think many of us at the start of 2020 imagined how impactful this year would be and how it was going to flip our world upside down. For people around the world, life in 2020 was like a Hollywood movie with a few ups and many downs. That simple analogy was certainly true for me. Every generation goes through a traumatic, era-defining global event, as the picture above shows where you have children trying to learn during the Polio outbreak, and the COVID-19 pandemic was the one that I had to navigate through.
The year started brightly. One of my resolutions for the year was to be more sociable (bit of a jinx, no?). I went to a few events my friends had organised and really enjoyed this time after completing the Delta exam the previous month. I cherished these moments with friends and new ones, too. I’m normally quite shy around new folk, but as soon as we get to know each other I show a bit more of myself. It’s weird because I have no problem working with new students! I had no idea that those few weeks of socialising, relaxing a little, feeling great about getting more comfortable meeting new people would turn out to be the only real interactions I would have with people in large group settings for the remainder of the year. Mad thinking about that now.
I would say, hand on heart, that if 2018 was the year that I dug myself out of a hole, 2019 was a year of stability and calmness career-wise, and eagerness to develop as a teacher. I was firmly back on the saddle ready to get back on the trail and in full control of my life and career, something that eluded me the previous year. It was a year that fashioned a trajectory of positivity and yearning to do more that, perhaps, propelled me forward to this time of writing. This year was also less dramatic, so this should be a shorter blog than the previous ones!
Thinking back on it now (being 2021 at the time of writing), 2019 was when things finally started to click, or the way I always tended to be self-critical – overly at times – the needle seemed to slowly move away from that mentality. I was starting to be more assured and confident with what I was doing in the classroom. I guess the nascent stage of my career came to an end during this time.
Moving into 2018, I was very much looking forward to putting the previous year behind me which really proved to take a toll on me physically and mentally. The year started really brightly. I had put my time on placement firmly to the back of my mind, I was working hard on my written assignments, and my girlfriend and I were settling into our first home we had just bought.
We were incredibly lucky to have got the place and for the banks to have accepted our bid. The place was a doer-upper so we were excited to learn a few skills on our way to renovating the place. Some of the rooms and the way they had been treated by the bank/previous owners, e.g. the bathroom and kitchen, were egregious and were in need of urgent surgery; far from being a sight for sore eyes. It used to be the case for most of the year that we would do our 9 to 5’s then try to find the energy and motivation to work on the house when we came home, not that we were complaining, mind; we were in a very fortunate position, those in our age bracket don’t have it as good as our parents had it.
I was asked earlier in the year to contribute an article to a brand-new ELT magazine from New Way Press Publishing (NWPP) – a new publishing house that you can find out more about here – and I jumped at the chance.
I am delighted to announce that the magazine has now been published and I am fiercely proud of everyone involved from the writers, to the editors and everyone at NWPP, and to the graphic designers who got this magazine over the line. I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning running down to the tree when I received the email from Mara, the magazine editor and my former Delta tutor, to let me know that this magazine was ready to come out of the oven.