pinay e-motion

a heart across the ocean


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Chronicle 8: Back in the Saddle

After a week of short break, Summer Terms officially begins. I am teaching another four classes (grammar, writing, and reading) this term.  It will run for 12 weeks, 2 x a week, 7 hours a day. Bring it on!

Dream Big

 

 

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Spring Break Part 2

Our Rendezvous with the Atlantis

Atlantis

Ever since I have finished reading the book by Astronaut Chris Hartfield, I have been eager to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. That was more than a year ago, but we decided to wait a little bit to ensure that initial crowds would thin as newness might wear off. Apparently, in reality this exciting exhibit continues to attract large number of fans all over the world daily. I put it on our bucket list just to cement the plan, and I was not disappointed.

Last week my husband and I were able to visit N.A.S.A. and finally checked off another item on our bucket list – seeing the Atlantis Space Shuttle up close and personal. The tour took us almost 5 hours of walking and some waiting, but it was all worth it. There’s no way to describe our experience, but (it was) truly a blast!

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Chronicle 7: The Home Stretch

It is unbelievable, our Spring Term is soon to be over. My students and I are now sprinting towards the finish line blazing through last few days of school. For me, it is mostly just preparing the final grades of my students after giving their final exam last week. I understand for many of my students, it was indeed a torturous week. Although I know some students of mine are never intimidated by challenging situations such as test-taking, still the majority of them never seem to escape the heart fluttering sensations when put in test taking hot seat. I have been there, and I know exactly how it feels.

Cognizant of anxiety’s adverse effect on students’ performance, I make sure to try and lessen it before it becomes debilitating. According to some studies, extreme anxiety can raise the affective filter and form a mental block, and no test takers ever want to experience that! So, one strategy I often utilize is lowering the affective filter, and (caution-shifting to way back machine) this reminded me of my former dentist during one of my nerve-wracking root canal procedures. Like many patients, the disturbing process of drilling teeth doesn’t appeal to me at all. Upon one memorable visit, my apathetic dentist came in to the room all business with his casual greeting to his patients, “Hello. How are you doing?” Somebody who would answer that question with “fantastic!” must be lying. For me, it was hard to pretend everything was fine when all I could think of was the upcoming ordeal, so I replied with all honesty, “Very nervous, doctor.” Obviously, I was soliciting some sympathy from him combined with assurance that I would survive the torment – but NO. Without hesitation, my doctor, who was busy putting on his gloves, bluntly retorted, “Well, at least I am not…” While other people may consider my doctor’s response uncaring, his perfect cadence in delivering the line made me laugh out loud. I thought that it was funny. Just imagine if we were both nervous; I’m sure that would be disastrous. That little bit of detraction was all I needed.

Language instruction, of course, is different from practicing dentistry. To be an effective instructor, I believe language learners should be able to learn in an environment that can give them the freedom to voice their views, ask questions, and make mistakes without fear of humiliation. That being said, during testing I make it a point to remind my students even before I read the test instructions that, pass or fail, their score doesn’t define who they are. As an instructor, it is important for me to create an “emotional eco-system” in my class where my students feel that they matter to me and that their work and efforts have value. So here are some activities, or a little bit of distraction, that I usually do before giving high stakes testing.

Suggestions:

  1. Strategically schedule the test – usually a week before grade submission in order to give me and my students some wiggle room in case re-testing is needed;
  2. Providing my students with test coverage;
  3. Offering a practice test to familiarize them with the upcoming test style and my expectations;
  4. Affording clear rubrics for grading;
  5. Returning test papers after correcting them;
  6. Discussing the correct answers and giving opportunities for my students to “notice” or recognize their mistakes so they can learn from them; and,
  7. Offering words of appreciation and encouragement.

I must say, if there’s one thing that I have learned this semester after teaching for many years, it is to strictly adhere to my standard grading policy which is to be fair, firm, consistent, and, last but not the least, kind.

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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

Note: Special thanks to two of my wonderful students who handed me these beautiful bouquet of roses and Thank you card   during our End-of-the-Term party this morning.


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Chronicle # 6: My Time in the Pickle Barrel!

I went to work on Thursday to find out one of my classes would be observed by our instructional specialist. Surprise! Don’t worry, I am not in trouble. This is a routine observation. Maybe it was not also a BIG surprise as I was notified last month through an email that my class would soon be observed. The word “soon”, however, was vague. Other than the 6 weeks window indicated in the email, the date was unspecified.

As many of you are probably aware, a classroom observation is a formal or informal observation of one’s teaching while it is taking place in a classroom or other learning environment. In my college, it is usually conducted once a year by either one of our administrators or our instructional specialist. While the thought of it could initially make one feel edgy, it is really far less daunting than, say, a root canal procedure. If there’s one thing I might find worrisome about a classroom observation, it’s really just the uncertainty of the scheduling. After all, nobody would like to be observed during his/her most uninteresting classroom activities (e.g. giving a quiz, drafting a paragraph).  If one wants to showcase his/her greatest performance in order to win that “Oscar” (pay raise or promotion), definitely the classroom observation is the perfect time to put his/her best foot forward.

A classroom observation is very important. It is often used for a variety of purposes. The most common are: 1) to provide teachers with constructive feedback aimed at improving their classroom management and 2) an extension of formal job-performance evaluation. In my department, it is utilized for both purposes. Trying to maintain a high standard in our ELS program statewide, our administrators would like to ensure instructors’ high quality of instruction AT ALL TIMES. Thus, I suppose, it is the main reason why assigned observers conduct their class observation as a big surprise, if not just giving only a short notice.

Classroom Observation Checklist

Every school has its own comprehensive framework, agreed descriptors, and judgmental criteria when conducting a classroom observation. In our department, they are the following: 1) Demonstrates knowledge of subject matter; 2) Manages instruction effectively; 3) Stimulates interest in subject matter; 4) Encourages student participation; and, 5) Uses appropriate methods of instruction.

In all honesty, this approach is what I routinely attempt to achieve every day in my classroom. However, no matter how confident I feel in front of my students, still the idea of being observed by an administrator (who might give me a wanting evaluation which could eventually result in me being shown the door) puts me on pins and needles. I must admit, as part of my affirmation I constantly remind myself that other people’s perception about me is none of my business. Yet, on second thought, when it comes to my bread and butter, I allow this one exception to that axiom. Yes, I do care. I really, really do care!

The Groundwork

Since I received the email about the class observation, you might expect I have become very cautious and particular about my lesson planning. I wanted to make sure that I was checking all the boxes in the criteria base.

Besides carefully preparing my teaching materials, I also reinforced my effort by reminding myself to dress for success, multiplying my chance to superbly pull this one off. Knowing how my brain works, I recognize the ripple effect that good looks may translate to in my performance.  As Jason Statham beautifully puts it, and I quote, “Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. I would humbly add doing good to make it a good trifecta. That being said, the past few weeks I incorporated a little bit of style in my outfits to go along with that bounce in my step, mischievous grin, and that twinkle in my eye.

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The Verdict 

Then came Thursday. I woke up at 3:00 A.M.  with a stomach bug disrupting my deep sleep. For hours I was tossing and turning in my bed. I almost decided to call in sick, but I toughed it out. I went through my morning routine and headed off to work. At 9 A.M. I started my first class, then trudged off to my next class at 11 A.M. As always, moving around helps me get distracted and forget whatever discomfort I am going through. The pain was intermittent, but eventually it subsided. Both classes went very well so much so I wished I had been observed in the morning. I went home, had lunch, took a short nap, and then got ready for my evening classes.

As it is my practice, I passed by the ELS office to check my mailbox before going to my classroom. As I entered the faculty office, I noticed that our instructional specialist was still at her workstation. I got suspicious, then curious, then hyper.  True enough, she was there to conduct an observation on my class – AT NIGHT!

Oh man, suddenly I felt my stomach churning; butterflies are free again. The stomach pain was back and was mounting a bigger attack, but there was no time to get sick this time. I said to myself “suck it up buttercup.”

I calmed myself down by starting conversations with my students who had started trickling in our classroom. I pretended to be all excited and happy to mask the growing revolution taking place in my tummy. Thankfully, my power ensemble gimmick helped me to hide my discomfort. Once I started my class, the churning eventually stopped, and before I knew it I was already oblivious to my observer in the back who was scrutinizing my performance. One hour swiftly passed and the ordeal was over.  I was so thankful I made it through without embarrassing myself (I am referring to getting sick).

I have no idea how I rated in my class observation, but I am sure I survived in no small part due to my dress for success trick, which helped me exude confidence and conceal the tennis match going on in my stomach. Thank God!

So, until next time when the verdict is read. Fingers crossed!

“If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, then you do good.”– George St -Pierre

 

 


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Spring Break 2018

My glorious week is just winding down from a self-imposed staycation to celebrate our Spring Break 2018. Here I sit getting ready to get back to work again. Although it was quick, I couldn’t be more grateful for having a brief interlude both from classes I teach this term and the graduate course I am currently attending. I know that every time I have a break from work (Spring Break, Winter Break, summer vacation, Teachers’ Day and so on), my husband is always green with envy. I understand many people assume teachers have lots of holidays on their calendars. However, the reality is during those holidays many of us are also working (yes, we are!) – only now at home. That is exactly what I ended up doing during this Spring Break. There was just a magnitude of work on my to-do list, and I was resolved to address each one during this brief respite. Thankfully, I did not disappoint myself.

Despite staycationing in the comfort of our home – spending most of my time in my office – working, and then roaming from one part of the house to another – I would not characterize my Spring Break as pitiful and boring. On the contrary, it’s the opposite. I understand that it has been a tradition among many people during Spring Break to travel and party. Obviously, that was not my priority this time (old chick here anyway). While we have some plans to travel this year, we are waiting for the perfect timing and weather (which also include the wild, “crazy”, and young revelers to migrate again north from Florida). So, what could be more exciting to do on my break but hang out with my own Brad Pitt 24/7. Oh yeah! My husband (BP in another lifetime) and I accomplished many things we had on our need-to-do and nice-to-do lists. However, I must say, the real thrill was getting the chance to spend each day together in complete solace and contentment. We are truly grateful!

Here are some images I captured while shilly-shallying and  dillydallying:

blog_springbreakEnjoying nature’s beauty
blog_springbreak2Visiting an art gallery

“Spring breathes new life into the world around us.”

Thank you for reading!

 


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Chronicle # 5: My Potential Teaching Persona

This week my class in Instructional Design (ID) discussed one’s teaching persona, which despite teaching for many years, I haven’t really thought about. I must admit, I find it very intriguing intellectually. As we explored the topic, Davis (2013) described it as “the way teachers present a certain self to their audience of students.” No teaching persona gets created overnight, of course. It is said that seasoned educators go through the process of tweaking and adapting their tone and body language overtime. Hmmm… very interesting!

As a face-to-face instructor, every now and then I hear snippets of comments from my students, which give me a glimpse of how am I perceived by my students. However, other than that, my teaching persona is something of a mystery to me. Since I haven’t been a virtual instructor yet (and my ID class is, of course, geared towards online teaching), for this week’s project, we were assigned to submit a paper on our potential learning persona. I thought some of my teacher friends/readers might relate, so I elected to share my project in this chronicle.

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First, as an ESL instructor teaching online, I should be mindful that my students are coming from a very diverse population: age, proficiency, educational attainment, economic status, and cultural backgrounds. Thus, I must be careful in the use of my language, albeit I am known as sometimes “humorous” in my face-to-face instruction. From the onset, I may have to devise a diplomatic demeanor to avoid being misinterpreted since gestures and facial expression now will be absent form of my schema. I must be poised by being tactful, defusing difficult situations, and building good relationships with my students. This I can demonstrate by being respectful and thoughtful in my language while still being firm, fair, and consistent in my instruction.

Second, I must also be cognizant of my students’ digital literacy, which from my experience may pose as a challenge to some of my students. Depending on what course and level I teach, I must be cautious not only in my instructional approach (use of synchronous vs asynchronous method), but also in my employment of other technology learning tools. I plan to demonstrate it by being sensitive to my students’ computer skills, as well as being selective to digital learning platforms appropriate for my students’ needs. For language learning, I believe simple but meaningful activities are the ideal approach, especially for the struggling beginning students.

I understand that this approach is easier said than done, but I plan for my students to remember me as a substantive instructor in terms of subject content, yet enjoyable, empathetic, and empowering of my students and vibrant in my delivery. In short, attending my online class would be like a Goldilocks-experience – not hard, not soft, but just right!   ***

“To teach is to learn again” – Oliver Wendell Holmes


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Chronicle # 4: Reciting Affirmations

An Alternative Strategy to Build Students’ Self-confidence

I finally finished reading the book of Chris Ripple entitled, “The Gatekeepers.” It took me four months to finish it, but considering my lackadaisical attitude when it comes to reading for pleasure (talking about speed reading is my Achilles heel), I definitely consider this an achievement. While Gatekeepers mostly re-counts the experiences of former White House chiefs of staff to past US Presidents, surprisingly I encountered a gem of thought. A take-away which eventually made me ponder and later question myself regarding my teaching, and turn that wide-angle lens of self-evaluation squarely at you know who.

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What started my quest for redemption was the quote in the book from Erkshine Bowles who was the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He says, “The key success as Chief of Staff is being empowered by the President.” While discussing topics on politics is absolutely out of bounds in my classroom to avoid controversy, this quote, however, seems to be appropriate when it comes to my role as a catalyst for change. Symbolically, in this case, I as the president (I know that is a mind bender but stay with me) and my students could be seen as the chief of staff. When I first read this quote, I couldn’t help but ask myself – Do I ever empower my students? How do I empower them? How do I build up their self-confidence? Can I and will I be a key to their success? I wonder how many educators have ever asked themselves the same questions.

I remember many of my students when they first came to my class admitted to me that they had enrolled in our ESL program because they wanted to speak English more fluently. Mind you, many of my students in my ESL classes are already successful professionals in their home country. I have lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, journalists, etc. However, I notice every time I turn to them to participate in our oral dialogue drills, the responses I often get is either a nervous laugh or complete silence. There’s something about oral communication that many people, especially our ESL learners find nerve-wracking. I suppose it has something to do with the fear of being ridiculed for using the wrong grammar or unintelligible pronunciation. In the Philippines, we actually have a word for it – nosebleed!

To address this concern, one instructional strategy that I employ in my classes is the recitation of affirmations. You may be wondering why affirmations. Well, the answer is simple. The opposite of doubt is faith. And, it is exactly what we need when we are confronted by self-doubt and insecurities. When we affirm ourselves, we renew our confidence by reminding ourselves who we really are and what we are made of. Of course, I am not the first one who has used this technique. As a matter of fact, I just borrowed the idea from my first mentor/trainer in the Philippines. Like many of us, he believes in the power of speech – the power of words, and I will never forget his favorite borrowed quote from Buddha, “What you think is what you become.” Thus, I instill the same idea in my students. Every time I see that they lose heart because of falling short of their self-imposed expectations, I share with them the famous quote of Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the body can achieve.”

Does it work?

I answer that question with a resounding maybe! I must say, it’s a work in progress. Like anything else, it is something that my students have to internalize and decide for themselves and own. I, as an instructor, serve just as a facilitator. However, I strongly believe that when I begin to trust my students’ capability, I encourage and empower them to engage and believe in their full potential. Hopefully, in this small way, I can bring out the best in my students and make a difference in their lives.

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“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.