Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 2

Hello World of Blogging! I’m back! And the first thing that popped into my mind while writing the title is: “How long ago does April seem? That was before summer, now summer is over and Autumn is clamouring for the driver’s seat with Winter in the wings watching carefully for its chance to stage a takeover bid. It’s been a quiet time on my blog since the end of May, since which time the only noise of any description has been an “I will be back, honest…” type of a post. As I briefly explained in that post, summer school hit! (It was hard work but a great learning experience too. More on that later.) Then, after it ended, I had a much-needed two-week holiday in Sicily with my horse. I am pleased to report that I did a lot of NOTHING – somewhat of a rarity for me!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: my language learning. I am proud (in the circumstances!) to say that I did keep up my languaging over the summer. I managed a little bit most days until the 20th August, when I did a 30 mile run and consequently had no time for languaging, breaking my “Memrise Streak”.

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Once it was broken, and knowing it would be broken again when I went on holiday (if I am on holiday in Italy I am going to focus on Italian as vs. spread my focus among 7 languages!), I decided to concentrate on getting through the remaining two weeks of summer school, have my holiday and then get back to it in earnest. That said, I continued to dabble, just not every day religiously as I had been doing.

This (to remind me as much as you!) was the contract:

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In my first update, I had managed to more-or-less stick to the receptive skills practice aims (thank you, YouTube!) but hadn’t used Memrise, just a bit of Quizlet. I’d also given up on graded readers as clunky (e-readers) or an expensive habit (sourcing them in paperback/cd format) and therefore annoying/untenable.

Has anything changed since then? Well, two main things (which considered in combination might seem rather ironic…):

  • Time became even tighter than usual (you try combining summer school, training for a 30 mile run, maintaining a burgeoning greenhouse and garden full of stuff etc….)
  • I took up two more languages (blame Memrise)…!

I suppose I ought to add “I started using Memrise to that list… At the height of my Memrise-ing, it looked like this:

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So, as you can see, the extra languages I took up were Bahasa Indonesia (I should have learnt it while I was there, still have friends who live there who I could talk to in it!) and then Mandarin (given that the majority of the students at the Sheffield Uni summer school are Chinese, this seemed like a good idea!). So that brought me to a 7-language mission: Italian and French (not on Memrise), German, Spanish, Polish, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin. I like Memrise – it appeals to my competitive-with-myself nature. (I am more interested in keeping up my “streak” than the “leader board” that is another Memrise feature!) It really pushed me to do some each day, when I was tired and actually really couldn’t be bothered! As mentioned earlier though, it can also backfire into lack of motivation to ‘just do it’ if the streak is broken and I know it will be at best intermittent in time to come.

More languages, less time. The basic result was that as far as Polish was concerned, I wound up mostly just doing my bit of Memrise each day. And I watched less German and Spanish than I had been. (Don’t tell my students I just started a sentence with “And” – spent the summer hammering it out of them… :-p ) However, it was nice to be actively learning vocabulary and trying to produce it rather than just watching/listening/reading. Obviously the ideal would be a balance of both, which is what I will be going for next! Indeed, it is time to update my contract in the light of the last few months’ developments on the linguistic front.

One thing I have found particularly challenging as far as Polish Memrise is concerned is spelling. For example:

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I can now spell this one correctly! And this one:

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What I have found is that ideally I want more repetition of recognition of the vocabulary, both reading and listening, or being given the English and having to select the correct Polish, before having to produce it, which seems to happen too soon for me. So that I can see it and hear it more before having to butcher the spelling. However, I am now used to the process of just gaily making a bunch of mistakes, having a pop, and getting closer each time and then eventually “getting” it. Rather than getting wound up about the mistakes and frustrated at the lack of further recognition opportunities. Then, an interesting (to me) problem I had was learning the go by plane, go by train type vocabulary, as it was a mixture of trying to remember the by plane/by train etc bit and then the ‘go by’ equivalent, of which there are 5 (I think) different ones/which one goes with which means of transport, then throwing trying to remember the spelling on top of that! It was hard!!! I think it would have been easier to learn the e.g. jechać ones then the złapać ones etc. rather than having one of these and one of those and a few random extras all thrown in together for my brain to attempt to sort out. Had I had more time, I’d have made my own little reference guide to help my brain along… They are coming together now though, I did a review this morning after a couple weeks break (my holiday) and some have settled nicely.

So that brings us to…

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract v3.September 2016

I solemnly do declare that I will (attempt to) do the following each week:

  • My Memrise practice – daily in small quantities
  • Read/listen to/watch Italian/French/German/Spanish/Polish (Not going to happen with Mandarin or Bahasa for the time being… that will be version 5 or 6 maybe…)
  • Try and look at some grammar-related material for German/Spanish/Polish. (At the moment, as far as Spanish is concerned I just rely on Italian/French grammar and assume it will work the same way! There again, often Italian words will come out instead of Spanish and then I wonder why Memrise marks me wrong! Like when I put ‘Sono contenta’ instead of ‘Estoy contenta’…) This could be a good opportunity for use of coloured pens and notebook (as mentioned in previous update post!)
  • Seek out production opportunities (e.g. sending an email to my German friends, exchanging a few words with my Indonesian friends, trying out my Polish on my Polish brother-in-law etc. etc.)
  • Keep writing my journal in Italian but try to bring in a few sentences from German/French/Spanish and even a smattering of my very, very basic Polish.

Signed: Lizzie Pinard

Fairly basic really! Let’s see how I do in the next month…

How is your language learning going? Any more suggestions for me? (The useful ones on my last post are the reason I got on to Memrise! )

 

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 1

Well, it’s been a month (approximately!) since I undertook the following:

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Now it’s time for the confessions, I mean, update. 

Actually, it hasn’t gone too badly:

I can confidently and honestly say that I have read and/or listened to something in Italian, French, German, Polish and Spanish most days in the last month!!

  • Italian: I am reading Mangia, Prega, Ama which is a translation of Eat Pray Love. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.58.42This mostly happens in my lunch break at work. I have also watched the film of it along with a few others. In other Italian news, my diary writing continues to take place very nearly every day. Watching/reading in Italian is like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers and a cosy dressing gown: nice and relaxing!

 

 

 

 

  • French: I am still plowing through Au Bonheur des Dames. Slowly. I think I will feel quite the sense of achievement when I finally finish! I am enjoying it, but being the lazy sod I am, it often gets neglected in favour of something easier (see next sentence)..! In addition to that, I occasionally dip into a series of books I have on my Kindle, which are much easier and more relaxing – seems particularly to happen when I have an early dinner in the garden!Have done two and a bit in the last month, I think. In terms of listening, am working my way through an audiobook and I have also just found a series on YouTube to watch in 45 minute episodes.
  • German: I have been listening to an audiobook in German, am now on the second time through as a way to try and pick out more than I did the first time round. I’m also still reading (very slowly) a series of e-books I’ve downloaded. Finally, I have been doing a fair bit of watching too – a couple of films and newly started a series on YouTube. My German was getting very neglected prior to this last month. I’d read a bit every once in a while and that was it. It’s nice to be getting back into it, understanding more and being able to produce!
  • Spanish: I “did” two A1 graded readers. The reading was easy, the activities weren’t. Not content-wise but the electronic design… I tried one on the Black Cat App and found it rather clunky. In any case, that was the only A1 book they had on there. I think it is in its early days… I also downloaded one via Ibooks and the main problem with that one was that the “submit” button often tended to be located in the same place that the iPad interprets as turn backwards one page. So instead of the answers being submitted, the book moved back a page. Then you go forwards again and of course all the answers have been deleted. Most frustrating! So I abandoned graded readers and moved on to a translation of Twilight 1 (Crepúscolo). Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.47.26I also found an audio recording of it on YouTube, having failed to source it as an audiobook anywhere else! (Just an amateur version.) I have also dabbled in some Spanish Winnie the Pooh and have just started a new tv series (dubbed), again both via YouTube. No “learning activities” but I am enjoying it all! And Spanish is beginning to feel more familiar and less badly tuned.
  • Polish: I am continuing my way through Harry Potter 1. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.44.41It took me a while to relocate (re-download from an online account where I had previously bought it) the e-book so initially I was just listening to the audio recording. I say listening, it was more just letting it wash over me and enjoying the sounds and rhythm. Around the 6th May  (so a couple of weeks-ish in), my brain finally accepted Polish as a language rather than a random collection of sounds and letters with periodic spaces between them. To get to that point, I needed to use my Polish for Dummies book + notes I had made on pronunciation last year for some review, in combination with listening and reading along (once I got the e-book sorted) to Harry Potter. Since that point, I have started using Quizlet and am now up to 16 words/chunks on it! Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 14.43.22I haven’t, however, touched Memrise or my First 1000 words book. (To be honest I had forgotten that part of the contract – my brain was mostly focused on the reading/listening elements!) In YouTube world, like Spanish, I have also dabbled in some Winnie the Pooh… Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.48.46 The main thing for me with Polish has been to relax and not worry about not understanding the majority of it when I listen to and read Harry Potter. Sometimes I work out what is being said, which is gratifying, sometimes the audio skips and I have to find where it’s gone, but I can do that now (which I struggled with in the beginning!) – it’s all about the minor victories!

Overall, across all these languages, I haven’t done much in the way of actual studying though! A tiny amount of Polish via Quizlet and Polish for Dummies, as explained above, and a tiny fraction of the activities in the two A1 graded readers I did in Spanish. Frankly, life is too short to work my way through endless course books. Since I don’t have any particular hurry and am learning/maintaining the languages for pleasure, I am jolly well going to do it in a pleasurable way.

Things I have noticed:

  • Multilingual DVDs are a great invention. For example, there was one film where I started in Spanish and then flicked the audio to German mid-way through. Not only that, but it means one DVD can serve your learning purposes for several languages if you, like me, have the propensity to re-watch stuff you like more than once! We take it for granted but it hasn’t really been THAT long since video tapes went out of fashion! Score for technology.
  • YouTube is amazing! Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.56.27 I haven’t used it an awful lot for languaging before, mostly because since I became interested in it, I’ve mostly been in places where Internet is limited i.e. you get a certain per month quota so streaming endless content on YouTube wasn’t an option. Now, however, with a fast and unlimited broadband connection, YouTube is one of my main go-to’s.  That said, I’ve yet to find a ‘language learning video’ that I like. You know, the ones that are a video of someone teaching a piece of grammar or some vocabulary in your target language. If anyone knows any good Polish ones, though, please comment with a link!
  • My brain can quite happily cope with 5 languages in rotation! I can switch from watching something else in Italian, to watching something in Spanish then German, then French, then listening/reading in Polish. I think it has “channels” – I just have to flick the switch between them. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.52.49Some of the channels function rather better than others! So, my Italian channel, as far as reading/listening is concerned, is similar to my English channel in terms of comfort/understanding levels. My French channel isn’t far behind. My German channel was a lot more sub-functional initially but is getting easier all the time, the more I use it. That said, there is a definite difference in my understanding of Italian and French, and that of German. My Polish channel barely exists, but a channel has been made – “under construction”! Ditto the Spanish channel, except it borrows understanding from the Italian and French channels…
  • Like one of my students in my upper intermediate course last term commented, I may not have met all my goals but I’ve certainly done a lot more than I would have if I hadn’t set them. So, I may not have met my contract but I’m pleased with what I have done!
  • Every little DOES help: Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.54.42YouTube clips of 8-10 minutes. Reading a few pages chapter while I’m eating my lunch etc. It’s all input! So I stand by what I’ve kept telling students over the years: doesn’t matter if it’s “only” ten minutes, way better ten minutes than nothing!

 

  • With Polish I have needed the support of listening and reading at the same time. I think that now I could just about manage to read without listening – my brain has an idea of how it sounds now! The next step will be reading and comparing with a version in English or Italian, to help build up my vocabulary (well, it worked with Italian!).
  • My German is coming back slowly but surely. Woohoo! After a month of consistent listening and reading, I can say stuff again. Not heaps, but much more than I could a month ago!
  • The amount of languaging I do depends on the weather. When it is a bit rubbish and I am stuck indoors, I do a lot. When it is sunny and I can be in the garden pottering about, I do very little! See my “life is too short” excuse above. For me, being outside wins every time. I do try to multitask though, for example when I am out running I talk to myself (in my head) in different languages, to exercise them at the same time as my body!
  • Resource management can get confusing. Partly because I do some YouTube watching on my computer and some on my iPad, so it’s difficult to remember where I’m up to. But also because Harry Potter chapters are quite long by audio, ditto Crepúscolo, and I rarely listen to a whole one in one go, but my iPad appears incapable of remembering my place in the audio recording. Yet, if I have an *audiobook* on my iPad (not sure why my audiobook of Harry Potter has decided to be in the music app rather than Ibooks where all my other audiobooks live) and my computer, and I listen partially in both places, it keeps track and puts me in the right place regardless of device. So, it seems to be a problem only with the ‘music’ app. (If you have any suggestions for fixing this, please let me know!)
  • I really enjoy languaging. (But I suppose I already knew that!)

What next?

Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, when I feel sufficiently confident, start doing a little bit of side-by-side comparison of Harry Potter Polish and Italian/English/French versions (not all, just one of those will do!). I also want to email some German friends of mine in German (been a while since I did that!) Other than that, keep doing what I have been doing and see what else I feel like! I’d also quite like to use my notebook more… It’s one I bought but didn’t use for my M.A. and has been gathering dust since. It’s perfect because it has 4 sections, so that’s one for each language except Italian, which already has its own notebook from the few lessons I’ve had. So far, I’ve used it for Polish only! image1Need to work out what I want to use it for with the other languages. I suppose mostly I have just been enjoying input and haven’t needed a notebook for that… I also want use the lovely pack of coloured pens I treated myself to more – so far, again, just for Polish! (You can’t see it in the pic above but believe me, there has been purple, orange, pink, green… 🙂

Let me know if you have any suggestions for anything I could be doing with my languages by commenting on this post! Will be happy to hear from you.

New horizons, challenges and professional development

I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks! And guess what? I didn’t do any work. At ALL! It was bliss. Days and days of spending time with my gorgeous horse – isn’t she lovely?!

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Now, however, it may be the weekend (by the time this blog post is finished, nearly the end of it!) but the holiday is distinctly over and I am hard at work in preparation mode:

On Monday I will be starting full-time work in the University of Sheffield International College‘s English department, which is staffed by the University’s ELTC (English Language Teaching Centre) where I have been working (on a summer school and then on part-time evening classes) since last June. I actually did two weeks’ worth of cover work at USIC last term, so the set-up isn’t brand new to me, which is nice! Not only do I know the building a little (including how best to get there on my bike – no small bonus given that I am directionally challenged!), and how the teaching works, but also a fair number of my colleagues I know from summer schools and from doing the cover work. The type of teaching (EAP skills-based) is also familiar from summer schools. The result? I can look forward to the challenges without worrying too much about the ‘being new overload’ that usually goes with starting a new job!

Since September, while working at the ELTC part-time, I have been milking the ELTC teacher development programme for all I’m worth – attending scholarship circles and workshops, delivering workshops and so on. Now, I’m also getting excited about the developmental opportunities that lie in the challenges I will face in my new job.

For example:

  • apparently getting students to do their independent learning work is an issue. This self-study works on the basis that for every hour of class time, students need to do an hour in their own time. In this time, they have to complete various tasks which relate to the work done in class. They often need to have done certain tasks before a class in order to gain the most benefit from it. Being the learner autonomy geek that I am, this automatically looks like just the kind of challenge that is right up my street! We’ve been sent a journal article on Flipped Learning/Team-Based Learning which suggests a seven-step procedure to prepare learners for this kind of approach, so I plan to adapt that and then, in addition, apply my own principles for enabling the kind of independence the approach requires.
  • WAS, or the Writing Advisory Service, is a one-to-one service offered by the ELTC which gives students the opportunity to bring a sample of writing to show to a tutor and receive guidance on how to improve it – in terms of structure, organisation, vocabulary, referencing etc – as well as signposting to useful resources that they can use to continue this improvement beyond the end of the appointment. It is not a proof-reading service. A small number of these WAS appointments will be included in my timetabled hours. I have completed an online induction for this, which involved watching a sample annotated session, with annotations focused on what the tutor was doing throughout the session, and then a second longer sample, with no annotations, with accompanying questions to answer. While time-consuming, it was very useful to watch these samples as I feel I now have a much better idea of how to negotiate a WAS appointment as a tutor! The challenge here is to implement what I have learnt from the induction hours! This one-to-one writing coaching is something that I haven’t done before but I do have some experience helping students with academic writing from my two summer schools, so that should help. Equally, doing these WAS appointments and getting better at them will hopefully help me come summer school time.
  • EAP! On the plus side, I have two summers of EAP under my belt now (and of course the two weeks of cover work I did at USIC last term) so I’m not starting from scratch by any means. Nevertheless, I’ve also just had two terms of General English courses so I need to get back into the swing of EAP. A change is as good as a rest, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to this form of teaching again.
  • Dare I say it, work-life balance… I’ve enjoyed having one of those for the last 10 months, since starting at Sheffield University with the summer school and continuing from there, and I hope this will continue to be the case. I plan to keep up my ultra-running training (am currently preparing for a 30 mile event in August!), get out on my bike as much as I can, try and play my clarinet from time to time (!), keep the garden in hand and – who knows – do some language study (Italian, French, German, Polish) once in a while too…? Not to mention some relaxation occasionally! At least the days are now getting longer and brighter, always helps. Hurrah for Spring! 🙂
  • IATEFL – I’m speaking at IATEFL again this year, on the topic of learner autonomy and academic listening, and look forward to all the learning that will take place there too. I think my attention will mainly be divided between EAP-focused sessions, teacher training-focused sessions and materials development-focused sessions.

Exciting times ahead – watch this space!

Teacher Education Circle (2)

This blog post has been waiting a LONG time to be written! The second meeting of the Teacher Education Circle was well before Christmas… Better late than never!

So, sometime before Christmas, there was the second meeting of the teacher education scholarship circle at the ELTC in the University of Sheffield. Prior to that, I had of course been reading Language Teacher Education by Jon Roberts, in particular the opening section in which different approaches to teacher education were explored. Here is my summary from my much-neglected ELT book challenge (yet another post waiting to be written…!) :

[…]it considers the behaviourist approach, where trainees are expected to follow a particular model of teaching, with no deviation, so that learning to teach is an exercise in imitation; the humanistic approach where change is enabled rather than directed by other people, giving the trainee more control; the constructivist approach, which draws on Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and draws on a trainee/learner’s existent knowledge and experience, so they are no longer a blank slate but somebody who brings something of value to the table; and finally a socialisation approach, where as well as the trainee’s own experience and background, influences on the trainee are also taken into consideration e.g. the school, the community, the education policies in play etc.

So, 4 approaches:

  • behaviourist
  • humanistic
  • constructivist
  • socialisation

Fast forward again to the Teacher Education Circle. We started by considering some approaches to teacher education (as planned at the end of the first meeting, hence my reading around the subject) and since that point I have been planning to compare my notes from the Jon Roberts book with the handouts from the circle. Finally, here goes!

The handouts were taken from Training Foreign Language Teachers. A Reflective Approach, published in 1991. The Jon Roberts book was published in 1998, so fairly close together in the great scheme of things. I haven’t read the book so this is what I have gleaned from the diagrams on the handout and our discussion. Feel free to jump in and disagree in the comments!

Wallace offers 3 “Models of Professional Education”:

  • the craft model
  • the applied science model
  • the reflective model

The craft model has a lot in common with the PPP approach to teaching grammar. You study with someone experienced, who instructs you and demonstrates how it is done, after which you practice a lot and in due course you become competent.

The applied science model starts from scientific knowledge, which is applied and refined by experts, then once refined it is passed on to student teachers, who practice it and in due course become competent. There is another loop in the diagram of “periodic up-dating in-service”, so presumably teachers receive more input from experts at various points which is then also practiced and also contributes to greater competence.

The reflective model draws on both received knowledge (content dictated by what is considered to be necessary for a member of the profession to be able to do) and experiential knowledge (also called “knowledge in action”, gained through experience) and there is a repeated cycle of practice and reflection which leads to professional competence.

We agreed that current training methods draw on a mixture of these. Take the CELTA for example. You study with an experienced practitioner, you receive input (based on current knowledge of how languages are taught and learnt, mediated by an experienced practitioner), you practice, you’re encouraged to reflect on your practice, and so on.

I would say the craft model and the applied science model both have elements of Roberts’s behaviourist approach in them, as the experienced practitioner provides the teaching model in the craft model and the embodiment in practice of the scientific knowledge in the applied science model, and the route to competence is likely to involve a good bit of imitation of those models. The reflective model, on the other hand, is more like the constructivist approach, in that previous knowledge/experience are acknowledged rather than the student teacher being an empty sheet of paper and reflection on experience is part of the learning process.

I suppose the humanistic approach could become an element in any of the models, if trainees are given more control over the learning process.

Based on the name of the book, we can guess which model Wallace champions!

After we had discussed these approaches, we started to develop a model for a teacher mentoring system at the ELTC (which we had come up with as an idea in the previous meeting). It was really interesting to be involved in this, to have input into the development of something new. Watch this space!

The next meeting is on the 18th Feb, so I have at least managed to write up the last one BEFORE the date of the next one! Win. Be interesting to see what comes up next. Meanwhile, I have recently read an article called “Writing for publication as a tool in teacher development” (Rathert, S. and Okan, Z. (2015), published in the ELTJ Vol. 69(4), pp.363-372) which was interesting, and have a set of three articles about getting into teacher training which I plan to read as soon as I finish preparing the session I will be doing at Leeds Beckett University tomorrow, for the Multimedia and Independent Learning module.

Never a shortage of things to do! (Or blog posts to write…I will keep chipping away at the backlog whenever I can…)

TD Sig Web Carnival: “Time is of the Essence!”

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Yesterday, I delivered a session as part of the TD (Teacher Development) SIG (Special Interest Group)’s Web Carnival. I was one of four speakers and the opening speaker for the event, both of which scenarios were new to me! My session, as you can see, was called Time is of the Essence (the reason for which will become clear in due course…)

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This is the outline of the session I delivered. ‘Backwards time-travel’ may sound a little ambitious but in metaphorical terms it actually worked really well. I made sure to tell the attendees that their active participation would be required, and they delivered 110%! Before starting on our journey back in time, we established the definition of “turning point”:

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Then it was time to kick off!

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This is me now. An amazing likeness, don’t you agree? I’m currently working at Sheffield Uni, teaching on a General English evening course as well as delivering a workshop for my colleagues every so often. Alongside this, I am working on some materials with Onestopenglish/Macmillan, will be doing a couple of workshops for the M.A. in ELT multimedia and independent learning module at Leeds Beckett uni. Finally, I have got a book chapter coming out in a forthcoming IATEFL LT SIG book and recently had an article published in a peer review journal for the first time.

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At this point, it was the attendees’ turn to tell me about where they are now, and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener! Such a diverse crowd all doing really exciting things! And this continued throughout the session as at each development point on MY map, I asked them to share theirs. I think I overused the word “awesome” in response, because their responses really were!

Anyway, I suppose you could say I am “Freelance”, ish. I suppose it all sounds pretty cool. *But*, I am just a normal human bean. Mmm beans. So how did I reach this point? And what about this magic turning point?

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International House, Palermo. (IHPA)

Most recently prior to Sheffield Uni, IHPA. It was a good place to develop. I did a couple of certificates (IHCYLT, IHTIT) , delivered some workshops (at work, online for IH World Organisation, online for IH Teachers online conference), was allowed to attend/speak at IATEFL each year, did a LOT of teaching. And, of course, I worked on my own little projects. You see, when I arrived at IHPA I had recently become an LA geek. Nothing to do with Los Angeles, everything to do with learner autonomy and all things related, especially metacognition and motivation. I did some classroom based research on it, trying to use all the theory I had absorbed and put it into practice with students. Thus, the following were born:

I collected feedback at the end of each term to find out what the students made of it all as a whole and it was positive by and large, making it all worthwhile.

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All this would feed into my book chapter for LT SIG. So was this my turning point? But wait…what about the materials stuff? And the journal article? So, what came before IHPA?

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My M.A. ELT/Delta!

An amazing, grueling, challenging, rewarding, exhilarating year. In the Delta portion, probably the key thing I learnt was how to reflect effectively and constructively on my practice. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff a lot of which you can see on this blog! In the M.A. portion, you would think I learnt a bunch of theory. Well, yes. But I learnt a load of practical stuff too, through the assessment. I did a research project in the research module (with the assessment being the presentation and write up of the research), created materials for the materials development material, wrote a journal article (criteria styled on the ELTJ) for the methodology in context module, and made a website for the multimedia and independent learning module. The assessment was able to be linked with the materials development, so the website linked to the materials I made for that assessment. As it happens, I used the skills developed in building that website using WordPress to completely overhaul my blog, and also developed my voice (hence now I never shut up, where before I didn’t think I had anything to say!)

So I was basically able to develop the skills that would enable me to pursue a variety of opportunities. But that isn’t all… for my dissertation project, I wrote some task-based learning materials (which I talked about at IATEFL the year before last – that long already!) which on a whim I submitted for the ELTon Macmillan new talent in writing award. Then I got shortlisted, which in itself amazed me. Then I won! Hence the earlier-mentioned materials writing…I am editing those materials to make them suitable for publication on Onestopenglish, and we are about half way there. Will miss it when it’s over!

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So that MUST be the turning point, right? Well, I would absolutely say it was. If you ask me what the turning point was, that would come to mind. But…let’s go back a bit further…

Why did I do that M.A. at that university?

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IATEFL 2012!

I went to IATEFL in 2012, my first ever IATEFL! Oh the excitement… And you know how you get a goody bag at the beginning? Who doesn’t love a good goody bag?! So, the first night back at the hotel room, I’m going through my goody bag and find a leaflet for this M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met. So, 2012. Lizzie, at nearly 29 years old is feeling very old and under-qualified! I got into this ELT malarkey late, 26 and a bit years old. (Is/was it late? Lizzie thought so at the time…) Lizzie had to make up time…(hence the session title!) Lizzie had also just been rejected from a PGCE primary programme at Warwick University (thank the good Lord!) and was all “now what?” and so my guardian angel sent me the leaflet. After IATEFL finished, I applied, got accepted and the rest was, as they say… history!

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So THAT MUST HAVE BEEN THE TURNING POINT!!!! Again, absolutely yes. Except… ooops back up a bit… How did I come to attend IATEFL 2012?

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Cactus to conference scholarship! I remain indebted to them. But….how? Where was I? How did it happen?

Indonesia…

I worked in a couple of private language schools in Indonesia after graduating from my CELTA, as one does. I was feeling quite isolated so was on the internet a lot. I found a forum called I think Dave’s ESL forum or something (does anyone remember this? some of my attendees did and apparently it is still going!) and started a post on there. I can’t even remember about what, maybe about how to develop or something. Anyway, one of the respondents pointed me towards Twitter. And ELTchat. (Or did I find ELTchat after I found Twitter? I can’t really remember!) Anyway, the important thing is, I got on Twitter. Did ELTchats, summarized them (The dark beginnings of my blogging!) AND…one day…saw a link to IATEFL scholarships. Didn’t really know much about IATEFL other than it’s an ELT conference, but it seemed to be a big deal, so I applied for several and won the Cactus one, much to my amazement.

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So was THAT the turning point? Getting on Twitter? Again, there is a valid argument for it!

But… why was I bothering with looking for ways to develop, in my isolation? I could done other things than looking for ELT forums etc!!

We had better rewind some more…

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My CELTA course!!!

The beginning of everything… But in particular the professional development session towards the end of the course, where we were made aware that you could make a career out of ELT and shown some possibilities, through our tutors’ stories and suggestions of what we could do to develop in future. (For example, that there exists this thing called the Delta that you can do after you have some more experience!) Honestly, I don’t actually remember many of the details of that session, but the important thing is it awakened in me a desire to develop and make a career out of ELT, it gave me that sense of possibility. And perhaps the awakening of that desire and sense of possibility was the biggest turning point of all?

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But all the other turning points were just as important for me! How to choose only one…! As the attendees mapped backwards through their careers to date, sharing their stories as we went along, it was clear that they had plenty of turning points too…

I concluded the session with a bit of take-away…

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…warning the attendees that it might be a bit of a cheesy takeaway (but if from this drive thru it would be vegan cheese 😉 )

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Well, everything that has happened to me so far stems from this, so…

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Most of the attendees mentioned that discovering the online teaching world as key in their development. Of course, for me, if I hadn’t discovered Twitter, I wouldn’t have seen the Tweet advertising IATEFL scholarships, so wouldn’t have made it to Glasgow 2012, wouldn’t have found that leaflet…etc!

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Because they are Good Things. And if I hadn’t…well you know the story already! Be warned: they are addictive!

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If I had acted according to my confidence in my ability to succeed, then a lot of what I have done I wouldn’t have dared to embark on in the first place! (I never in a million years thought I would win an ELTon, for example!) We (attendees and I) agreed that people often fail because they don’t try in the first place. And often that not trying in the first place stems from thinking “I’m not good enough, that’s for people who are better than I am”. But if there is one thing I have learnt, it’s that you only get “good enough” by jumping in in the first place.

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Turning points may not advertise themselves to you as such. It’s often only looking backwards that we realise that such or such an event or situation was a turning point for us. Hence the importance of saying yes! (Even if saying yes all the time can make you awfully busy! 😉 Seriously, who knew the start of 2016 would be so jam-packed!!)

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What you learn needs to be part and parcel of your professional life, weaving it’s way through, not something separate, on the side. For example, if I hadn’t tried to put the theories that struck me on the M.A. into action, my projects wouldn’t have happened and thus neither would my LT SIG book chapter. Not only that, but learner autonomy/metacognition/motivation etc wouldn’t have become part of my teaching, which would have been a shame from the students’ point of view!

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Life is short. Be where you want to be. If you aren’t, then keep udging towards where you want to be. Right now, I am very happy. I am where I want to be and I can highly recommend it! 🙂

Thanks to the TD Sig for this opportunity and to all the attendees for making it such a fun, interactive session to deliver.

 

 

30 questions to ask yourself

According to Sandy Millin, at the end of 2014 Anna Loseva posted a list of 30 questions to ask yourself on New Year’s Eve. Sandy followed suit on NYE 2015/2016. Clearly afore-mentioned NYE is long gone and being as I was in Cape Town at the time, visiting family and family friends, blogging wasn’t high on my priority list! However, the holidays are now over and to kick start 2016 and get blogging again, I thought answering these questions would be a nice opening post. Obviously the ‘this year’ in the questions is in fact last year…! Whereas “next year” = this year! 😉

1. THE BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR.

I have enjoyed a lot of lovely moments this year – lucky me! – but probably the best would have to be a mixture of when my horse, Alba, became my baby in June and all the moments I spent with her in the second half of the year.

Me and my baby :)

Me and my baby 🙂

2. WHAT INSPIRED ME THE MOST THIS YEAR?

The thought of getting work at Sheffield Uni and coming home. I worked towards that in the first half, realised it in the middle and thoroughly enjoyed it from then on! Also, all the CPD opportunities I’ve experienced since starting at Sheffield Uni. There is always so much going on!

3. THE MAJOR NEWS OF THIS YEAR.

Finally moving back to Sheffield in June. Starting with my second summer school and continuing with General English evening classes. After 5 years working abroad (nearly – actually one of those was spent in Leeds doing my M.A.! Away from home still…) I am finally back home and trying hard to stay! But also my ELTon-winning dissertation materials appearing on Onestopenglish (and all the behind the scenes editing I’ve been doing working alongside my editors!) Then there is always IATEFL, the journal article I got published…  Oh, and Alba, of course! 😉

4. ANTHEM OF THE YEAR 2015.

Like I know any songs that came out this year…

5. THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN MY LIFE.

My friends, my family, my horse, my hamster. Who else?! 🙂

6. WHAT WAS MOST DIFFICULT FOR ME TO DO THIS YEAR?

Leaving Sicily. Much as coming home was the best thing ever, saying goodbye is never easy! I have definitely left part of myself out there… just as well I get to visit it frequently!

7. WHAT COLOUR WAS THIS YEAR?

Creamy grey – the colour of Alba! Or blue – the colour of the skies whenever I visit Sicily (please may it continue that way!)

8. WHICH EVENT OF THE YEAR WOULD I CHOOSE TO REMEMBER FOREVER?

Other than those already mentioned (becoming Alba’s person, starting work at Sheffield University), probably my first vegan festival, which was in Manchester! So much vegan-ness in one place, hurrah!

9. WHICH WORD DID I USE MOST OFTEN?

I really don’t know…you would have to ask the people I speak to all the time… but probably ‘Alba’…!

10. MY MOST RIDICULOUS PURCHASE OF THE YEAR.

A horse who lives in a different country from me? Not your everyday situation…

11. I SHOULDN’T HAVE EXPERIMENTED WITH …

Nope, can’t think of anything!

12. THIS YEAR WAS WONDERFUL BECAUSE …

I found the horse of my dreams AND came home to stay.

13. WHICH INNER PROBLEM DID I SOLVE SUCCESSFULLY?

Erm…whether or not to buy Alba and where to keep her? Definitely made the right choices!!

14. WHO DID I HUG AT NIGHT?

My little hamster, Flora. Gently. 🙂

Flora the Explorer

Flora the Explorer – she likes kale too!

15. WHOSE WEDDING DID I HAVE FUN AT?

I didn’t go to any weddings! But in 2014 there was my sister’s, if that counts….probably not…was good though!

16. WHAT WAS MY AVERAGE SALARY THIS YEAR?

God knows… Maths, not my strong point!

17. DID I HAVE A CONVERSATION THAT TURNED EVERYTHING UPSIDE DOWN IN MY HEAD?

Err…don’t think so… unless it was the conversation where I realised that Alba risked being sent to slaughter because she was lame and therefore no longer useful, so suddenly I had to process that awful piece of information and decide I was going to stop it.

18. WHAT NEW PROJECT DID I START IN 2015?

Getting my ELTon-dissertation materials ready for publication on Onestopenglish. They are coming out at the rate of one lesson plan, including teachers’ notes, per month. In 2015 the first half made it out. The second half will appear at monthly intervals during the first half of this year.

19. IF I COULD BECOME A SUPERHERO FOR JUST ONE DAY, WHAT WOULD I DO?

Teleport. Definitely Teleport. So I could visit Alba every day just for a little while, and take in a few friends along the way too!

20. WHAT AM I DREAMING ABOUT NOW?

My horse, of course!

21. WHAT DO I CONSIDER TO BE MY MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENT?

Getting through the year in one piece, happy and healthy? Also having a much, much better work-life balance. And, yes, this means I have rather a backlog of blog posts but…I’m sure when I wind up on my deathbed, I won’t be thinking I should have put life in the backlog in favour of the blogposts! They will arrive in due course… Patience! 🙂

22. THIS YEAR UNTIL THIS MOMENT IN ONE SENTENCE.

‘And I was filled with such delight…’

23. THE LATEST MESSAGE I’VE SENT.

Thanking a friend for some vegan dhaal she brought round for me to try that I had with my lunch today. Nothing earth-shattering!

24. A QUOTE THAT IS MOST SUITABLE FOR MY YEAR.

“There’s no place like home.”

~Dorothy Gale, Wizard of Oz.

“There’s no horse like my horse.”

“There’s no fridge like my fridge” (You’d have to be Vegan to really understand this feeling! :-p )

~Lizzie Pinard, Sheffield.

25. DID I ACHIEVE EVERYTHING I’D PLANNED FOR THIS YEAR?

Moreorless… I don’t have a *full-time* job at the uni, which was the general aim, but hey I have work, that’s a good start!

26. HOW MANY NEW FRIENDS DID I MAKE THIS YEAR?

Plenty! Have also managed to build up a little circle of vegan friends, since being back in Sheffield, which is nice.

27. WHO DID I HELP THIS YEAR?

Anybody that I could!

28. WHERE DID I TRAVEL?

Mostly Sicily! But also Botswana to visit my Dad and Cape Town to visit our family friends, over Christmas and New Year.

29. WHICH PROJECTS AM I PUTTING OFF TILL NEXT YEAR?

The next ones on the list of things to do! Which include continuing work on the ELTon-Macmillan materials, working on my co-authored book project, various workshops, webinars, conference talks etc.

30. WHAT DO I WANT TO ACHIEVE NEXT YEAR?

A full-time job would be nice! Put as much in and get as much out as I can at Sheffield Uni. I also want to get out climbing, as in outdoor climbing rather than indoor bouldering which I am already back on, and do more running. An ultra would be nice. Of course I also want to see Alba as often as possible. And go to more Vegan Festivals 🙂

Well, belated Happy New Year everyone! And thank you for the inspiration, Sandy and Anna, however slow I might have been to actually act on it! 🙂 Now that I have kickstarted the blogging, hopefully it won’t be so long till the next post! (I have tons to say – as you can probably imagine…! – just need to put fingers to keyboard more often!)

New beginnings…

Yesterday evening, my upper intermediate General English course at Sheffield University’s ELTC started. I will be meeting this multilingual, multicultural group of students twice a week for the next 12 weeks (including this week). The course does not have an exam at the end, which is not something I have encountered often in my teaching career to date! The Social English class I taught on the 10 week pre-sessional at the university this year also wasn’t assessed as it was made up of students who had already met their conditions, but it wasn’t a four skills integrated standard course either. The only other occasion for me has been the continuous enrolment intensive courses at a private language school in Leeds that I taught on during the third semester of my M.A. but those were every day with continuously changing groups of students rather than twice a week with the same group. The course book for this course is New English File Upper Intermediate, another first for me, and we are using the version where it is broken down into book A and book B, so book A is the book for the next 12 weeks. I’m also planning to use all the learner autonomy materials I’ve developed during my couple of years at IHPA – the reading project, the experimenting with English project and so on. Finally, I am hoping to use the ELTon award-winning materials I wrote for my dissertation, as I haven’t worked in the UK since finishing them so it is a golden opportunity!

Yesterday’s class was the first class I’ve taught at the ELTC since finishing my CELTA there in March 2010. I *have* done two summer school pre-sessional programmes with the university since then (10 weeks this summer just gone, 10 weeks in the summer last year) but those take place elsewhere on campus rather than at the centre itself. It’s lovely being back the centre – it’s a purpose-built building, with lots of space and a wealth of resources. A lot of value is also placed on teacher development, which I am looking forward to exploiting in the coming months. Indeed, I had my first bit of training yesterday, when I attended a refresher session for using Smartboards combined with an introduction to using Google classroom. Fortunately the tech team have prepared “how to…” guides for both of these, which can be accessed via the teachers portal. It was a lot of information to take in at once! I fully intend to get to grips with both the Smartboard and Google classroom in the coming weeks: Google classroom is very similar to Edmodo, so my interest in that is hardly surprising, and the Smart Board has some potentially useful features. I’m sure it can do lots of fancy, advanced stuff too, but what stood out for me is that you can also do a range of little things with it, that enhance rather than take over your teaching. As I try them out and see how I (and the students) get on with them, I’ll share anything of interest that I learn here. Of course, Google classroom will tie in nicely with my above-mentioned learner autonomy projects.

Yesterday I also signed up for a free course delivered by Lancaster University, called Corpus Linguistics: Method Analysis, Interpretation. It’s an 8-week course which involves video lectures and interviews, tasks, discussions on a forum, and which allows you take from it what you want to take from it. I learnt about the existence of Corpus Linguistics and corpora during my M.A. ELT/Delta year at Leeds Met, and it’s something I’ve wanted to follow up on since those days but have lacked the time to do anything beyond using Wordandphrase.info with my students and developing some materials to help me to do that. I’m hoping this course will give me the understanding and tools to use corpora more effectively, both for my own and my students’ learning.

All in all, my professional life is a very different picture from what it was this time last year, when I was just starting back at IHPA for a second year and about to embark on my IH tutor training certificate. As ever, I firmly believe this academic year will be what I make of it, and I plan to make as much of it as I possibly can, especially as there is no shortage of opportunity. After a quiet month or so on this blog (time off is good!), I hope to post more regularly again, both teaching-related and corpus linguistic course-related. Watch this space…

Watch this space!

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My professional home now. 🙂