Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fabulous Start to 2006^^

This has been a kick-ass month!

I love this feeling that I'm getting out of it and I've been getting plenty of positive feedback from the learners about it too! There's only one class that I'm a little concerned about that really haven't bonded at all – formal Korean social hierarchies... But they still manage to find enjoyment if I don't group the younger students with the older ones.

Back to the kick-ass front, my overall inspiration, creativity, motivation and enjoyment have soared this month. I’ve been trying new things, sharing ideas with colleagues,... I love it! This is why I love my work!^^

(Still, I do desperately need to get away from work more too – lousy work schedule for the past months.)

Update: 26th January, I've just been told by our so-called manager that the student evaluations this month (yes, the students rate their teachers on 10 basic criteria; odd, I know) are far lower than last month, when I was severely burnt out twentyfour-seven.

I've been getting excellent and uplifting feedback from the students verbally and without asking. I also got very positive comments from a useful 'How can I help you learn better?' form I got them to fill out at the two-week mark. [Compared to the other students in class, I feel I'm at the same level / more advanced / less advanced because... ; I feel my weakest points are... ; What I like about this class is... ; In class, I’d like to see more...]

I therefore find my "manager's" news highly suspicious. I'm asking to see the eval sheets for myself and next month I will be personally signing each and every evaluation sheet I hand out to make sure the numbers aren't subject to foul play.

on being fabulous and romantic

"If we say nothing but what has been said before us, we are dull and have observed nothing. If we tell anything new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic."- English society figure Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in a letter to her husband in 1718.
During a stay in Sydney a while back I worked in a non-sales-related telephone job, cold-calling people all around Australia. After a few weeks of settling into the job, it dawned on me that I was in fact a modern-day Santa Claus (long hours and too much caffeine perhaps??). That is, I could potentially bring joy and happiness to people in every city, town and outback corner of Aussie; I could have an impact on the outlook of the whole country from that single bright sunlit room.

I would make every call smiling, be as pleasant as humanly possible, and make the mere five-odd minutes I had with each person count to the max. My aim was to make each person at least a little bit happier. And after they put the receiver down, they might just be nicer to the next person they met. And they too might be a little more cheerful. And so on.

By enriching even one person’s life, I could be the butterfly that flaps its wings. And I could flap them cheerfully in every corner of the country with a mere tap of my fingers on the keyboard and a smile in my voice! And that smile became more and more beaming with every person I was able to make even a little happier.

(Of course, this did my employer a lot of good too and I got very positive feedback from my boss and co-workers.)

Make today the day that you too become a fabulous and romantic butterfly.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Controversial? / 논쟁적인가?

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"사람들에 대한 궁극적인 판단방법은 그들이 편안하고 안락한 순간에 취하는 태도가 아니고 도전과 논쟁의 시기에 취하는 자세에 있다." - 마틴 루터 킹

I have one fussy high-level class this month who take a lot of work. One lesson that I spent hours designing and creating was reduced to a long po-faced silence in no time. So, working on the concept that I had to come up with a topic for the next class that even they couldn't not have opinions about, I racked my brain for contentious issues. What follows are some of the ones that worked really well (;p), grouped into vague categories for you to peruse.

The goal is to provoke learners (and yourself) think, to present a compelling topic for them to express their views on. It can also be used to practise discussion skills, and potentially debating skills too.

"God is dead." - Friedrich Nietzsche
"Imagination is greater than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
"Eighty percent of success is just showing up." - Woody Allen
"Laughter is the best medicine." - saying
"Innovators are inevitably controversial." - Eva Le Gallienne

“There is nothing wrong with our faces or bodies that social change can’t cure.” - Naomi Wolf

Hitler was the greatest criminal ever.
Beauty is nothing more than a matter of taste.
A woman's place is in the home.

Airbags in cars should be replaced with big steel spikes - people would drive more safely.
People who get plastic surgery are truly happier about themselves.
TV is a huge waste of time.
Monogamy doesn't work.

Military service is a bad influence on Korean men.
"Fan death" is nothing more than a Korean urban legend.
The Korean education system is a robot assembly line.
Harisu (the famous Korean transsexual) is, basically, a man.
English teachers in Korea should be qualified to teach English.
The “East (Asia) Sea” should be referred to by the most widely-used current term – the “Sea of Japan” – until any disagreement has been resolved.
The lack of sleep that Korean high school students put themselves through is damaging.
Japan is actually a bit better than Korea.

A related activity is to play them Savage Garden's catchy song "Affirmation" (lyrics below) and ask, To what extent do you agree?

verse 1
I believe the sun should never set upon an argument.
I believe we place our happiness in other people's hands.
I believe that junk food tastes so good because it's bad for you.
I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do.
I believe that beauty magazines promote low self esteem.
I believe I'm loved when I'm completely by myself alone.

I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned.
I believe you can't appreciate real love until you've been burned.
I believe the grass is no more greener on the other side.
I believe you don't know what you've got until you say goodbye.

verse 2
I believe you can't control or choose your sexuality.
I believe that trust is more important than monogamy.
I believe your most attractive features are your heart and soul.
I believe that family is worth more than money or gold.
I believe the struggle for financial freedom is unfair;
I believe the only ones who disagree are millionaires.

verse 3
I believe forgiveness is the key to your unhappiness.
I believe that wedded bliss negates the need to be undressed.
I believe that God does not endorse TV evangelists.
I believe in love surviving death into eternity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dumb? Are you?

"You scored 30 out of a possible 38" That means, I hope, that I'm NOT dumb, thank you very much!

Of the wrong ones, 1 was on football - I'm only really interested when the World Cup's on - and 2 were on recent British pop culture - I haven't tried to keep up with that while I'm away - I figure it'll make for more interesting conversations when I get back...!

What I'm talking about is this: A recent survey of Britain's 18- to 24-year-olds has shown up the many gaps in the cultural knowledge of the "information generation". Has ignorance triumphed over enlightenment?

As one commentator observed, "Every healthy culture winnows and chooses a past which it finds useful. But something has been lost."

Should we welcome the free-thinking technological generation, "a generation whose minds are more empty than open"? Or should we take the view that "the better informed are also the tolerant and compassionate"? Should we be "smart" or "knowledgeable"?

You can take the test yourself and comment on the meaning of the results here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Appropriate Management

Gareth Morgan, a professor of organizational behaviour once commented that, Farmers don't grow crops. They create the conditions in which crops grow. This, as I see it, is the job of any good leader, coach, teacher, manager, conductor - to ensure an environment in which people can thrive at what they do and develop at a speed that fits them.

Albert Einstein, a man whose name is synonymous with intelligence, said, "I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn."

And one more quote to drive the nail home:

Many years ago my friend Christopher was a junior manager at Yorkshire Water Company. He was asked by his line manager to visit a senior engineer at his home in Huddersfield. Chris knocked on the door and was invited in. "Would you like a cup of tea?" the engineer asked. While Chris waited for the kettle to boil in the kitchen, he looked out of the back window expecting to see a garden. Instead he saw row upon row of fish tanks, stacked one on top of the other, each filled with a different species of fish. "I didn't know you kept fish," said Chris. "Nay lad," replied the old engineer, "I don't keep fish, I keep water."

Now that's great leadership, if you think about it. - from HLTmag

At work, we have a monthly teacher evaluation system that allows our learners to voice their opinions of their teacher. Although a lot depends on how they feel towards the teacher personally rather than the quality of the teaching per se, I relish the feedback. I've realised that even if the ratings and comments ARE mainly based on their feelings, surely a large part of my job in the classroom IS based around feelings: if the learners can't find a personal connection with the teacher and the class and the language, how much can I really expect them to learn?


One thing is missing though: manager evaluations. Following a similar format to the teacher evaluation form, and for anyone who might want to use this, here's my proposed "good manager" evaluation form.

For each question give an answer from 1(never) to 5(always).
Please be an honest as possible.

01. Manager facilitates employees' work, empowering them to do their very best.
02. Manager recognises the value of employees and shows them respect and trust.
03. Manager is knowledgeable and capable.
04. Manager praises and gives credit where it is due.
05. Manager is fair and reasonable, not punishing employees unduly.
06. Manager recognises problems quickly and knows how to deal with them effectively.
07. Manager admits mistakes and recognises the value of them in striving for new highs.
08. Manager is open to new ideas, suggestions and questions - listens actively.
09. Manager is human and friendly, and helps motivate employees.
10. Manager maintains a positive and motivating attitude.

For TOEIC the Bell Tolls / <토익을 위하여 종은 울리나>

For me this is great news. Maybe I'm a fool for being too hopeful about the demise of this infamously inept test, but an article in the Chosun Ilbo (Chosun Daily) here reports to my delight that the TOEIC:

나에게는 이게 아주 좋은 소식이다. 어리석게도 나는 이 악명높게 부적절한 시험의 멸망를 낙관하고 있다. 하지만 <조선일보>에서 있는 글이 이렇게 토익에 대해 보고했다.

may at last be on its way out. Some 12 corporations ... have dropped a TOEIC score requirement for job applicants, and three others ... have lowered the minimum requirement...

"...we judged that the TOEIC not an appropriate indicator of actual English skills," says Lee Jeong, head of personnel at the Industrial Bank of Korea.

...The test, which has no reading and writing sections and consists largely of formulaic multiple-choice questions, may have come to the end of its extended run. Most candidates sit the test for employment reasons. If companies now dismiss it, the exam's survival is under threat.

recommended ELT reading

my own efl articles


Humanising Language Teaching

internet TESL journal


TESL e-journal

one stop English


hwakwang university TEFL and asian EFL journal

British National Corpus and LT concordancer


BBC World Service (UK) Learning English

ABC Asia-Pacific (Australia) Learn English


News Links

Conversations with Larry King

A few weekends ago, I read the well-known Larry King book "How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere" and was fairly impressed. Well, at least by 6 of the 12 chapters. His commonsense advice for better conversations can be summed up as follows:
When looking for someone to have a conversation with, choose someone who looks alert and interested in what's going on around them.

There's a good chance the person you're about to talk to is shy, so you don't need to be! Try to put them at their ease. Never feel inferior or intimidated - everyone's human.

Pay attention to the situation, setting and the person.

Conversation starters for 10:
The weather - a no-brainer.
The situation.
Popular current affairs - everyone has opinions.
Kids/pets - people care a LOT about these things if they have them.

Your job is to find out what they're avid about, what's closest to their heart. Be sincere and curious, aim to learn something from them and you will. And you'll be a more knowledgeable person for it! So, listen. Oh, and don't stay too serious for too long!

Pay attention to the person you're talking to. Lean closer if they seem comfortable with it - it shows you're interested. Look them in the eye - but don't freak them out by staring non-stop!

Listening well (for example, making interested sounds and clarifying what you've understood by rephrasing what they've said) will help you ask better follow-up questions ("the mark of a good conversationalist") based on what you've heard.