Sunday, March 22, 2015

γεια σας !

A few months ago, I suddenly decided I needed a break from my normally intensive focus on all things "teaching English".  I've still been teaching, but I've been using my blogging, course-taking, textbook-reading, blog-reading time for other things!

For one thing, I've been exploring an opportunity to peer coach other teachers of adult ESL learners.  The pace for that may pick up (or not) when the new fiscal year begins in July, depending on the budget for that program. In the meantime, I'm mostly learning the ropes.  A lot of the work will be online, but I believe that an unplugged approach can still be taken and that it's ideally suited to this task.  As (if) I get into it more, I'll surely comment here.

I have also taken on two private learners who come to my house for lessons twice a week.  We knew each other from another context and they asked if I offered private lessons.  I think they were surprised, though, to discover that my home office is actually set up as a mini-classroom!

This enterprise is a delight.  The two learners have taken up the reins and are driving each lesson in full unplugged mode!  We have conversation and pause often to beat the heck out of some language point, mostly at their discretion.  I find that I do little lesson preparation, though I do spend about an hour after each session writing notes and "post-planning". They repeatedly comment on how happy they are with what they're learning and how it's helping them outside the classroom.  It's truly quite rewarding for me too!

I usually serve a bit of coffee and one of the learners will sometimes bring a snack.  There's a bookcase with reference tomes to the right and a printer to the left. (These are rarely accessed, actually.) You can see from the whiteboard that in this session they wanted clarification on the present perfect tense.  The question also came up: what does XOXO mean?  I used Google images to look up a recent publicity campaign for Philadelphia tourism and we used those as the "text" for that part of our discussion. And I warned them not to write OXOX (hence the pictures of oxen on the monitor)!  The lamp and pictures and a nearby couch and chairs make the setting quite "social" but there is a good learning infrastructure in place to use as desired.

On a more personal level, I took up running.  For the last year or so, I've been doing exercise walking and it got to the point where I wanted to increase effort but not time.  So I now run for some of my sessions. Feels good to be in (somewhat better) shape!  I will be breaking from classroom teaching over the summer (private teaching will continue) and hope to do a lot of outdoor stuff with that extra time.

Finally, I've taken up learning a new language myself!  I've made friends with a former student and his wife and felt odd that I knew exactly one word of Greek (γεια σας = hello).  It seemed as if I should at least get somewhat familiar with this giant dimension of their lives.  I don't expect to become fluent or even get a lot of practice because we have no real need to use Greek (they're both highly proficient English speakers). But the personal connection does provide motivation and it's also an excellent opportunity to be sensitive to the rank beginner's experience (to strengthen compassion for my learners).  Until a few weeks ago, I didn't know a jot (a word of Greek origin!) about pronunciation, grammar, reading, writing, listening, vocabulary, culture ... anything!  It's an ego-tamer, that's for sure.  And since I have all sorts of opinions about what makes a good learner, it's a chance for me to a) test things out from the learning side of the equation and b) put up or shut up!  

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