We Adore Chaos – A Cartoon by @gapingvoid and My Own Self-Examination


When I read Escher’s statement on this @gapingvoid cartoon, one of my personality quirks suddenly made sense…or at least I understood it better.  People throughout my life have commented on how I seemed to thrive on stress, which at first, I found offensive. But, as I got older and saw how I had regularly piled high expectations on myself to accomplish many things in short periods of time, I realized that they were right.  Now I recognize that I have enjoyed the chaos, but even more so, finding ways to defeat it. It may have wreaked havoc on my nerves and that of my family occasionally, but Escher’s right.  My goal has been to produce order out of chaos and become my own super hero, albeit a tired one!

Intoxicated by Possibility


Today I announced to my students that I was retiring at the end of this December due to Act 10 in Wisconsin. It will be very hard to leave a job, students, and colleagues that I love. But, I am not leaving my career or teaching; it is too much a part of who I am to leave it behind.  I love the art of teaching and I remain intoxicated by possibility.

Thank you once again to @gapingvoid for the art work and the inspiration.

13 Miracles of 2013 to Be…for Me


My life in 2013.

  • I enjoy a balanced life.
  • I maintain organized and manageable email accounts.
  • I eliminate paper files and keep digital copies.
  • I enjoy each day as a gift.
  • I stop trying to do “more” when it is to my detriment.
  • I worry less about my appearance and enjoy who I am.
  • I accept getting older gracefully instead of with a snarl.
  • I wake up feeling refreshed.
  • I read novels again instead of only work-related journals.
  • I play physical games just for fun.
  • I breathe in the clean, fresh air a few minutes each day.
  • I remember to be thankful for what I have.
  • I look forward to the future instead of fearing it.
  • These are the 13 miracles of 2013 yet to be…for me.

    Thanks to Hugh @gapingvoid

    Weekly Performance Self-Assessment for Students

    This self-assessment on Blackboard should take each student no longer than five minutes each week.  By recognizing the weekly “energy”  they put into their learning, students should begin to see a correlation between this “energy” and their weekly academic achievement.

    1.  True or False     I attended class each day this week.

    2. True or False     I was in class from (8:00-8:55) each day without arriving late, leaving early, or leaving class to answer a phone call or use the washroom.

    3.  True or False     I completed all assigned work for this class.

    4.  True or False     I spoke English, watched American television, or worked on the computer in English a minimum of three times this week for at least 30 minutes each time.

    5.  True or False     I studied English with a “study buddy”  at least once this week.

    6.  True or False     I got  _____ out of _____ points ____ on this week’s quiz.

    We’ll see if helping the students stay on target each week helps them reach their language goal a little faster and recognize more aptly the power they have over their own learning.

    What My Adult ESL Students Ask to Be Evaluated on and The Challenges in It For Me

    About half way into the past semester, I asked my students what they wanted to be evaluated on.  Certainly, I had my objectives for their learning, the department and the college had their own lists of core abilities for all courses, and the state and federal governments had their standards for student success. But, I wanted my students to discern what they collectively thought should be emphasized in my class. They made a list of five major areas of focus for the semester.

    1. Daily classroom participation: This is a catch-22 situation for the students because, while they don’t want their lack of attendance to jeopardize their grades, they want their participation to count toward their success. They clearly know that getting regular feedback on their communication is vital to developing their English skills as is, then, their daily attendance.  My challenge is to get them to come to class daily by providing them with a variety of stimulating learning activities, opportunities for daily achievement and success, and ownership of their education. It is also my challenge to make my course content accessible to the students regardless of their attendance and to offer them the opportunity to participate in ways other than face-to-face when necessary.

    2. Interpersonal skills: This the students define as their ability to work in class individually, in pairs, or in small groups, respecting the rights and needs of their classmates and the instructor. My challenge is to clearly guide the process for each of the situations while providing the students with the opportunity to develop awareness of cultural, educational, and learning norms and differences in our student population.

    3. Problem-solving skills: The students highlight this as a critical factor for success in the classroom and out. They define this skill as how students resolve their study issues, including completing their daily work, making up work/tests due to absences, getting information (including handouts) they may have missed, using study buddies, email or instructor office hours to get the extra attention they need to reach their targeted goals. My challenge is to help the students set their goals, clarify my standards and expectations, and work with the class on developing good study strategies and troubleshooting options.

    4. Use of technology: I use Blackboard as a course management tool as does most of my college. I require that my students use it to access the course syllabus, weekly and daily coursework, handouts, and extra resources. Additionally, students take their tests on Respondus Lockdown Browser, a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard. I communicate regularly with the students via Gmail. I also use other applications such as Audioboo, Facebook, Glogster, Twitter, VoiceThread, and YouTube. The students know the importance of technology in the workplace and they are discovering its value in their learning. My challenge is to have online tutorials for the technology I teach thereby enabling students to review at home what I’ve taught in class, and/or to get the instructions if they are absent. (I am aware of the fact that some of the savvier students are tired of assisting the others with the same technology issues day after day.) I also need to help the students become more technologically independent by setting stricter deadlines for achieving and demonstrating their competency on the different programs we use.

    5. Last, but certainly not least, the students want to be evaluated on the English competencies outlined in their syllabus and course outcome summary. My challenge is to to offer a variety of projects allowing for different learning styles in which the students can creatively practice and demonstrate a higher level of English skills.

    Interestingly, these students’ focus points align very nicely with our college’s core abilities (http://facultynet.matc.edu/erd/pdf/syllabustemps.pdf):

    • Communicate effectively.
    • Collaborate with others.
    • Respect diversity.
    • Demonstrate responsibility.
    • Think critically.
    • Use technology.
    • Apply math and science.

    What do your students want to be evaluated on? It is a great discussion to have with them.

    Part Two: A Rubric for Evaluating Student Performance and Objectives

    Part Three: Students’ Standards for Instructor Evaluations

    Creative Mess

    The beginning of a new semester… changing offices…starting a new job…teaching new courses… adopting a second dog…cleaning carpets…painting the bedroom…reinventing myself…ah, yes…a big ball of “creative” mess!  Be patient with me, family and friends, because even though I currently may be a mess, I am, still at my age, a work in progress.

    What Adult ESL Students Want in a Teacher-Part 2

    Today I polled my advanced adult ESL students as to what characteristic(s) they thought good teachers possessed.  The results are published on the following website:


    By far the majority of the comments centered on the personality of the teacher rather than on the teacher’s knowledge of the content or teaching strategies.  The students look for patience, kindness (“a kind heart”),  fairness, encouragement, enthusiasm, good humor,  someone who is a good listener and can be trusted with confidential information.

    As for pedagogy, according to my students, a good teacher is innovative and knows how to teach while not making the students too anxious,  teaches clearly so students can understand, controls and challenges the class, is not boring, and is passionate about her subject and capable of teaching all the students  (“thinks about how to teach this student and another person”).  A good teacher imparts as much knowledge as possible including new vocabulary and information about the American culture.

    This is valuable information for reflecting on myself as a teacher of adult English language learners and for examining my interactions with my students both inside the classroom and out.  While I expected more criteria from the students regarding a teacher’s daily classroom habits, I am not at all surprised or disappointed that they focused more on their teachers’  gentleness of spirit.

    I will poll the students again at the end of the semester to see if/how their assessment of “good-teacher” characteristics changes, and I will ask the students to anonymously evaluate me and my teaching performance on those essential qualities my students value in a teacher.

    You might also be interested in reading 10 Characteristics of Highly
    Effective Teachers by Tamas Lorincz (@tamaslorincz).