Teachers’ Weekly Self-Assessment Guide

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 6.35.02 PMVia Twitter, Facebook, and Skype, Act 2 Educational Consultants LLC asked experienced teachers around the world what they would advise new teachers to include on their weekly to-do list. This certainly wasn’t meant to give those new teachers more work, but was meant rather to help lighten their loads and increase their effectiveness as educators by borrowing from the valuable experiences of their senior, global colleagues.

We are fortunate to have received twenty-five responses so far, and the poll is still open for others to add their thoughts. The suggestions deal with academics as well as with relationship building and avoiding teacher burnout.

I am happy to pass these suggestions on to you in hopes that you will share them with your colleagues, both new and seasoned. These suggestions can benefit all teachers, and, in turn, their administrators, and their students.

Do you have an idea that has helped you be more successful in the classroom?

Technology

Technology

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

ESL Rocks!

Why does ESL rock?  Because we have…

  1. …students who really want to learn.
  2. …students who support and encourage each other in their learning.
  3. …instructors who work as a team.
  4. …instructors who work with each entire person, not just with the “reading” student or “composition” student or even just the “ESL” student
  5. …instructors who genuinely love and respect their students, and have that love and respect reciprocated.
  6. …opportunities to teach with new technologies and are encouraged to do so.
  7. …administrators who value creative approaches to learning.
  8. …a P/E/U grading system:  P-passes to new level, E-has made good effort, but needs another semester in this level (not punitive), U-unsatisfactory (which is usually not used.  Most of us drop our students rather than put a bad mark on their record).
  9. …opportunities to meet people from all over the world and hear first hand their experiences with their governments and societies
  10. …the opportunity to collaborate and learn with English language teachers all over the world.
What could be better?!  Yes, ESL rocks!

10 Reasons Why I Blog

Why do I blog?

1)  I blog to reflect on what I’ve done with technology in my ESL classes.

2)  I blog to record what I need to remember the next time I try doing something similar.

3)  I blog to share with my colleagues across the country and the globe what has worked for me as well as what hasn’t.

4)  I blog to let those who are attempting to incorporate technology into their ESL classes know that we don’t have to be  technology whizzes or experts to use it; we just need to have the will and the determination to see it through and make it work.

5)  I blog to make my school colleagues aware that all of this doesn’t come as easily for me as they seem to think it does.  I spend a lot of time trying to learn about what is available and how to use it in ways that are beneficial for my students.  I also make a lot of mistakes as I’m starting.  If I can figure it out, they can, too.  It’s not a special talent; it’s a desire.

6)  I blog to let others know that there are ESL and IT teachers worldwide who are willing to answer our questions if we just send them a tweet!

7)  I blog to share with my friends and colleagues something important that I have learned about using technology in my classes; I’ve learned that asking my students a technology question or allowing them to come to my rescue from time to time is not a sign of weakness. Yes, I go to class prepared, and yes, I work out the glitches I’m aware of before getting in the classroom.  But, if something does go awry, and a student helps me out of my jam, allowing that student to shine is a wonderful thing, not a sign of weakness on my part.  Also, by my students recognizing that I believe in lifelong learning, risk-taking in my learning, and forgiving myself my mistakes, I hope I am teaching them something even more important than English.

8 )  I blog because I want my students to write, and I want them to teach their children to write and their grandchildren to write.  I want my students to know that what I ask them to do is important enough for me to do it as well.

9)  I blog to remind myself and others that we are not islands in this field.  There are always new ideas, new tools, and new challenges, and that by encouraging new and seasoned teachers to work together, sharing ideas, developing new methodologies, and improving our craft collectively, we make our profession stronger and our students, wherever they are, better prepared.

10)  So, why do I blog?  Surprisingly, because I have learned to love blogging!  It is as fun as it is challenging.  I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I complete a post.  It provides closure for me in one area of my teaching and learning, and allows me to go on to try something new.

So this is why I blog.  Why do you blog, or… why don’t you?

How has the way you work changed over the last ten years?

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker asked today how the way we’ve worked has changed over the last ten years.  My answer is with regards to teaching is… in almost every single way.

1.  Ten years ago, I was making audio cassettes for my students to purchase through the bookstore.  Now I give them links to free sites on the Internet.

2. Ten years ago, I collaborated with very few faculty in my department because our schedules didn’t mesh.  Now we collaborate via the Internet in a variety of ways, email, instant messenger, Facebook, Skype, and a new favorite, Google Docs, as needed or desired.

3.  Ten years ago, if I collaborated at all, it was with teachers in my own school primarily in our shared office.  Now, with all these new technologies, I  collaborate with people all over the world 24/7 .

4.  Ten years ago, two-way video conferences needed to be scheduled well in advance in order to get the equipment.  Now many of us have the equipment at home.  I’m videoconferencing on Skype almost daily.

5.  Ten years ago, people weren’t very willing to share their work.  Now we put our projects, both big and small, on sites such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare and on blogs and wikis to share with the world.

6.  Ten years ago, our work used to be saved on our hard drives and always backed up on a floppy.  Now our work is primarily saved in the clouds and backed up on a flash drive.

7.  Ten years ago, teachers got nervous if there were no overhead projectors in their classrooms or transparencies to use (colored ones had to be purchased by us since they were too expensive for the schools to purchase).  Now we have multimedia systems in our classrooms that project right from the computers.

8.  Ten years ago, nearly everything was printed on paper.  Now we are endeavoring not to use paper in order to save our natural resources, not to mention our budgets. Now we are encouraging our students as well as ourselves to design and create using technology rather than paper and pencil.

9.  Ten years ago, I had to carry extra handouts with me for students who had been absent, or the students had to go to my office for them.  Now these handouts are posted online for the students.  Likewise, students submit their work online so there is less chance of conflicts regarding if and when the work has been handed in.  It is also less likely to be lost by either the student or the teacher.

10.  Ten years ago, I worked equally hard, but had access to much less information.  Ten years ago I had to wait to get answers to my questions until I could get to the library or at least to a computer.  Now the answers to most of our questions are at our fingertips wherever we are via our cell phones.

What can you add to this list?  It’s fun to ponder.  It’s even more fun to ponder how our work will change over the next ten years.

The “Hole-in-the Wall” Project on TED by Sugata Mitra

In this TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) presentation, Sugata Mitra, Ph.D.,  Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK, and Chief Scientist, Emeritus, at NIIT in Gurgaon, India, proves with his “hole in the wall” experiments, carried out in some of the poorest parts of the world, that children “will learn to do what they want to learn to do” regardless of who or where they are in the world.  He discusses children’s ability to learn without instruction given the opportunity, computers, and learning companions.  Furthermore, he suggests that teachers who understand and value this concept of learning will be able to unleash amazing amounts of learning energy in their students.

How can we unleash this learning energy in our adult ESL students?  In our classrooms and workshops,  let’s recreate a form of Dr. Mitra’s SOLES (self-organized learning environments), and ask our students to collaboratively find answers to questions by capitalizing on each other’s knowledge without any intervention or interference by the teacher.   I don’t propose that this be the daily lesson plan, but it can be an activity to accompany almost any lesson if structured appropriately.  Will the students improve their English-language, problem-solving and technology skills simply by being given the opportunity, the resources, and the cohorts?  You betcha!    Just as In Language Learning, Silence is Golden on the part of the teacher, also golden is allowing our students to be at the center of their learning rather than the instructor!  Can these SOLES also be set up to have students develop a project, be it a video, glog, audio file, story, or other creation demonstrating the technology, language, and problem-solving competencies they have achieved through these  “hole-in-the-wall exercises? Let’s find out!

Another thought…Dr. Mitra talked about the “Granny Cloud” from which kindhearted souls would Skype into the classroom to help and encourage the children in their learning.  Why aren’t we using Skype in our classes to give our adult students contact with kindhearted volunteers who might not be able to be physically present in the classroom but who could, nevertheless, offer language and cultural assistance to our students through tutoring, guided conversation practice, and/or by simply by being on hand to answer questions or to ask them, “how are you doing today, my friend?”

Thanks to Adam Burke for his post, Lessons in the Absence of Teachers.