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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.

 

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Glam Challenge # 2: Love

In celebration of this month’s Valentine’s Day, I would like to share with you our glam photo this month. Drum roll…Tada!!! 

Glam challenge_Love

If you notice, our group is getting bigger – we’re now three.  We welcome our friend Mrs. O, whom starting this month is also joining us in this challenge (Yey!). Special thanks to Judy (10 years old)  who lovingly prepared our chocolate chips for this photo. Happy Galentine’s Day!

“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.” (attr. to J. Isham)


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Chronicle # 3: A Broken Promise

When I graduated from my Master’s Program in 2016, I pledged not to go back to school anymore. I have studied for nearly 75 percent of my years here on terra firma (yes, I mean earth), and I told myself that was it – no more! Well, unless it is something that is light or for entertainment. For instance, photography or painting which I’m sure will give my right side of brain some excited stimuli. However, barely two years after my graduation, here I am back on the chain gang.

Recently the word “instructional design” has become a buzz word in the higher education.  Many of my colleagues from grad school have either found a job as an instructional designer or have started going back to school to study instructional design. I think it makes a lot of sense since technology is very much embedded in today’s workplace and lifestyle. It is, therefore, significant and beneficial that technology be incorporated as part of instruction and learning. That being said, many instructors are now taking advantage of technology to make their instruction not only meaningful but also enjoyable.

At present, I use Canvas which is a learning management tool to assist me in my instruction. I utilize it to aid me in my presentations, idea reinforcement, and assessments. At times I also use fun learning platforms such as kahoot and jeopardy to jazz things up and make my instruction even more interesting. Other than that, I am still a rookie. So, lured by the fee waiver that my college (employer) offers to its employees, I got myself sucked in and decided to go back to school – again.

I am currently enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in Instructional Design. It is a 15-credit program which (hopefully) will provide me the knowledge I need to design, develop, facilitate, and evaluate instruction. I’ve just started my first term and yet I am already bombarded with reading assignments, as usual. That makes me wonder if I’ve made the right decision. Well, I guess I’ll never know until I try, right? Anyway, that’s the story of my brief but spectacular broken promise, which I am hoping will lead to a happy ending eventually.

“Promises were like laws; smart men knew when to break both.” – C.J. Hill, Slayers

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Special credit to Painting with a Twist

 


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Glam Challenge Update

If you have been following my blog, then you have probably read about the glam challenge I accepted from my friend Mrs. D. sometime in May of last year. At first, I thought the challenge would be easy peasy: just dressing up and taking a selfie. You would think it is a piece of cake, right? Well, not even close. Mrs. D. and I have encountered some hiccups along the way. A couple of those I considered the most challenging are the following:

Busy schedule or lack thereof 

The idea of our glam challenge was to celebrate success: we both were starting our dream careers and felt a need to digitize our activities away from books and “no comb” days. While you would think it is simple to take a photo of ourselves before heading to work or going for a husband date – well, hell heck no, sorry! We have no training when it comes to modeling. Remember, I am an instructor and Mrs. D is a lawyer. So you can imagine our struggles just to get a decent photo. Most often than not we had a tendency to take the glam out of glamour.

A One Woman-Show

I didn’t realize the complexity of fashion photography until I got myself involved in this glamour challenge. Initially I would just ask my supportive husband to take my photos. To his credit, he went along with my shilly-shally whims and fancies for months until I became a picky subject. My husband can only take one or two shots and he’s out, so that didn’t last very long. In fairness, however, he didn’t leave me totally in the dark. I told you, my husband is the best. On my birthday he surprised me with a tripod, and I interpreted it as his way of saying to me you are on your own.

I must admit, the tripod was a tremendous help; however, the problem in photography is not only having a good photographer. Chasing good lighting as well as perfect timing are also important factors. I realized that if you’re not a trained model or someone comfortable having your photos taken in public, it could be real challenging.

Mrs. D has shared the same predicaments. Perhaps hers were even greater than mine since not only is she a career woman, but she’s also a full-time mom. Thankfully, despite our struggles, we persisted and successfully accomplished our goal. From May to December last year we were able to put together 20 collages of our glamour efforts, and here are some of my favorites:

Glam challenge update

To celebrate the success of our first venture, we are coming up with our Glam Challenge Year 2. This time we are taking our challenge to a higher level; perhaps coming up with more artistic shots and meaningful concepts. Indeed, something to look forward to. However, let me clarify that our glam challenge is more than just exchanging photos; it is about our friendship.

We often forget that friendships are like a garden. They need tending, too. You need to weed, water, and nurture to get those fabulous petunias with those funnel-shaped corollas. Making good friends may be easy, but keeping them and developing into best friends is the difficult part. This is true for people like Mrs. D and I who live on two different continents. It is so easy to give up friendships when you are apart and juggling career in between household chores and other responsibilities. So, that is the real test of our Glam Challenge project. Mrs. D. and I will attempt to keep our friendship alive by bridging the gap of time and distance that separate us. As a testament to our hard fought battles to attain our new careers we truly believe that there is nothing impossible to those who persist, including our friendship. Wish us luck!

“Friendship is not just about hanging out; it’s finding time in spite of having very little…” Pinay E-motion

 

 

 


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Chronicle # 2: No Comprende

While I survived my first week of school (yey!), it’s just the beginning. I still have a long way ahead of me. As I mentioned in my first chronicle, this term is quite different from my past terms because I am teaching night classes for the first time. I would not characterize it as “difficult.” Teaching is teaching – regardless of any time schedule. However, since I also teach in the mornings on the same days I teach in the evenings, the demand of talking for 7 hours can be physically challenging. But, I am not complaining; I love my job!

So how did my first week go?

First week of school is usually the opportunity for the instructor to communicate clear expectations in the class. Immediately you have to set the tone on the first day of school. Experienced educators will tell you, “expectations are what you allow them to do, not what you say.” Thus, immediately setting a positive tone in your classroom is very important. First impressions lasts, so it is best to rememner that the first day of school as a microcosm of the coming year. It should represent who you are as an instructor and what you expect the classroom to be. In this regard, I feel quite confident that I did a good job.

This term I am teaching four ESL classes – three of which are quite large with 22 to 27 students in each class. Their countries of origin span from five continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. I must admit, sometimes I enter my classroom and I feel like I am in the Tower of Bable. When my students all talk at the same time in their languages, which usually happens during our break, it is like listening to people speaking in tongues. It’s wild. United Nations wild!

That was my experience during the first week.

… And I assume I will continue to experience it until every student in my class understands that he/she needs to speak English while on the campus. While it is not too much of a challenge reminding my higher levels students, it can be a real struggle for beginning students with limited vocabulary to speak English all the time. So, how do we bridge the gap? How do we communicate when everyone speaks different languages?

Every ESL instructor has different teaching styles. Since, it is a spoken rule in our program to encourage students to speak only in English, it is then the responsibility of the instructor to explore different instructional methodologies to meet the students’ needs, and make their learning a valuable enriching experience. I know – it is easier said than done. In my case, I usually let my Spanish speaking students immediately aware not to get fooled easily by my Spanish sounding first name and “morena” skin tone. Each time they mistakenly speak to me in Spanish, my immediate response is “no comprende”, and instantly they stop – and laugh. I do the same thing to my other students who speak other languages, except that I do it with my “no comprende” facial expressions.

My “no comprende” is my go-to response; however, it is not anywhere near the ultimate solution to this vexing concern. This is one reality in language instruction that every instructor has to face and negotiate. So what do instructors do? When I was in graduate school, we debated the level of importance between vocabulary and grammar, and we unanimously agreed that the former is more substantial. That being said, a good place to start when teaching ESL, especially beginners, is to provide them with a plethora of vocabulary words and then teach them how to use these words in correct sentences. It is not going to be fast and easy. It may take some time and hard work, but believe me, hard work works! Oh what a sight to behold when the light bulb finally comes on.

So, that’s where I am right now in launching the courses I teach this term. As always, it is an exciting learning journey not only for my students but for me as well. As I have noted in my teaching philosophy: teaching is not only a profession or a career; it is also an opportunity to share life’s experiences. I have always believed that those who take the challenge of facilitating learning also benefit and receive an education in the process.

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“Of all the hardest jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.” -Maggie Gallagher

Thanks for reading and have a nice day!

 


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Viable

Philippine Chronicle # 1: A Filipina Teaching in the USA

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Now that the holiday season is officially over, I am also officially back to work – physically that is – starting next week. However, if you work in the academe as I do, you know that instruction does not begin and end inside the classroom. Setting the tone while making a good impression from students on the first day of school can be difficult without careful preparation. Thus, I got busy. I started on lesson planning as soon as the ball dropped on January 1st. For the past few days, I have been preparing my materials for the courses assigned to me this Spring Term.

I will teach four courses this semester: 2 ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) intensive writing courses, and 2 ESOL non-intensive grammar/writing courses. While this is not the first time I will teach grammar and writing, what makes this semester quite interesting is two of my classes, the non-intensive, are scheduled in the evenings. Wish me luck, considering our nippy winter nights. Yes, I have to brace 8 cold weeks even in our brief Florida winter.

This will be my third year teaching college here in Florida, and some of you may be asking the same question I asked myself when I made the decision to pursue a teaching career here in the US: Is it easy to teach college in the US? I must admit, it was a long journey for me. I remember the first time I heard one of my students addressed me as “professor”, I looked at my student and asked her, “Are you talking to me?” As an immigrant, who once felt I had to prove myself even to get credentialed to teach preschoolers (I taught previously at summer camps and Montessori preschool), I felt both honored and humbled to be addressed with such hefty title. Flashbacks of hard work and sacrifices suddenly appeared in my mind. Then I cringed. I do not think there is really such thing as “easy” in life. Even those who have become instant millionaires through winning a lottery have shown persistence in their quest at some point in time. As a matter of fact, I agree with Theodore Isaac Rubin who beautifully phrased it, “…easy (only) comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”

That being said, my answer to the question is it depends. I believe that successful teaching in the US is contingent on two important factors : 1) how prepared are you to tackle the job responsibilities, and 2) how much support do you have or get from the organization you are working for. For disclosure, I am not involved with any human resource department or hiring agency. Therefore, everything I discuss in this blog is solely my opinion based on my experience and observations. For no. 1 factor, I believe that some of the important qualifications in becoming a successful TESOL instructor/professor are: 1. education (preferred Master’s Degree in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, Foreign Language, or English); 2. teaching experience; 3. sensitivity to and understanding of cultural diversity; and, 4. personality and work values. For the latter, it is beyond your control. All you can do is to understand your organization more and be proactive.

Teaching in the US or anywhere else, in my opinion, is more complex than a teacher merely teaching a subject. There are other elements that are essential for this human experience of learning to be lasting. The abilities that help us to succeed in instruction include not only the ability to provide good content material. It is also important to render a positive environment and creative approach to make the lessons meaningful for our students’ lives. We have to remember that the end goal of education is not merely to teach a subject; it is to improve people’s lives. Oh yes, and make money too.

So, do I find my job easy? – Let’s just say, it is fulfilling!

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on a cold iron.” – Horace Mann

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Finally…

Yes, FINALLY we are starting a new year and opening  a new chapter for new adventures. Welcome to 2018!

Wait, but before I finally say goodbye to 2017, I would like to reminisce the many joys and blessings the Year of the Rooster – 2017 (my year) had allowed me to experience. I wouldn’t say it was perfect. I had my share of bad days and tough times (the coming of Hurricane Irma included), but overall, it was indeed a wonderful year. So, here’s a recap of some of my accomplisments in 2017:

  1. January – April: Besides working my regular teaching job at SSC, I worked for the UCF Global as a Writing Tutor.
  2. April – A snippet of my American Dream story was featured in our college’s Department newsletter.
  3. June, October, and November – I checked off 3 of my career goals on my bucket list. a) To attend a TESOL Conference outside the US; b) To be published; and, c) To present in a TESOL conference. √√√
  4. July – I received a (surprise) response letter from my favorite President, Barack Obama.
  5. June and August – My husband and I checked off 2 of the places on our bucket list that we both wanted to visit: a) Niagara Falls in Canada and b) Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. √√
  6. August – December – I was assigned to teach ELI courses at SSC, including an elective course which I designed and created myself. √√

To my loving husband, family in the Philippines, friends (my UCF Homies, my Glam Challenge sister, my Christmas Challenge bestie), and everyone who has been a part of my 2017, THANK YOU!

blog_happy new year 2018                             Special Credit to Lit. Bella Ditta E. Isabella & Figlio. Milano

Now we are ready for a toast. To the DREAMERS, happy New Year!!!

“Come gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.William Shakespeare

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