Teaching Village Rotating Header Image

teacher training

An “old dog” and “special tricks” (by David Deubelbeiss)


hands Over the length of my teaching career, I’ve changed in many ways. I think my journey mimics that of a lot of other ELT teachers.

1. I have slowed down my delivery and instruction considerably. I used to just screech and scream through content. Now, I relax and pause a lot. I take time to enjoy the spaces together. I’ve realized students need things “a lot” slower and this leads to much more effective learning in the classroom.

2. I risk more, I try different things more. Yes, that would seem against the grain of time and tradition. Aren’t old teachers supposed to be “old dogs” without “new tricks”? Not teachers that have really kept developing and learning on the job. I now understand more deeply, how each student needs to learn in their own fashion and way. That’s why I have to deliver content in different ways and modify content much more thoroughly. In my beginning years, the whole class was a “glob” and I taught that “glob” in one way – my way. Now, I use a multi-modal approach and am much more conscious of hitting all the skills and allowing students to reach the objectives in their own way.

3. I repeat content more often. Even explicitly (there is usually a groan!). I’ve realized the value of this and where I used to just assume students had mastered something, now I assess and if they haven’t “learned”, we repeat, in a different manner.

If there are any “old dogs” out there – I’d like to know if your growth curve has been a long the same lines?

But my development as a teacher isn’t the only thing I’d like to write about today. Rather, it is the shadow cast by my own realization that my development is based upon some sound principles. Throughout my years, I’ve become very interested in special needs and how special educators teach. Mostly because I truly and deeply believe that other than with very young children, we are working with “disabled” students when we teach a language. And we can learn a lot by listening to special needs teachers and the instructional techniques and approaches they use.

One of the epiphanies for me came upon reading Kenneth Dinklage, who as a counselor at Harvard, was stunned how many high performing students were atrocious at learning language. He wondered why these brillant A+ students and “brains”, just squeezed by with Ds in their compulsory foreign language courses. So he set out to get to the root of the problem. It wasn’t anxiety or lack of motivation or even study skills. It was the instruction! The students had a deficit in their L1 which caused problems learning a second language. Once Dinklage applied some of the techniques used by special educators – their language learning blossomed.

Ganschow and Sparks extended Dinklage’s research and identified the Linguistic Coding Deficit Hypothesis (LCDH) stating “that difficulties with foreign language acquisition stem from deficiencies in one or more of these linguistic codes in the student’s native language system.” Brown has since labeled it the somewhat generic, SLAAP (Second Language Acquisition Associated Phenomena). I’ve written about this in detail with some practical advice,  HERE.

To me, what it all meant was that I began to see many of the difficulties my students (and I!) experienced in learning a language, as something that could be overcome if I borrowed many of the “ways”  of  special educators. In part II, I’ll be discussing one such technique – the use of repetition. Stay tuned!

References:

Dinklage, Kenneth T. “The Inability to Learn a Foreign Language.” Emotional Problems of the Student . Ed. G. Blaine and C. McArthur. New York: Appleton, 1971.

Ganschow, Lenore, and Richard Sparks. “Profile of the Learning-Disabled Student Who Experiences Foreign Language Learning Difficulties: Curricular Modifications and Alternatives.” (Revised title: “Impact of the Foreign Language Dilemma on College Bound Students with Specific Learning Disabilities.”) MLA Convention. Chicago, 28 Dec. 1985.

Do It Your Way (by Janet Bianchini)

A very good friend, Ehrhard, a retired teacher from the former GDR, recently wrote a letter to me, which made me truly reflect. He told me that he was so happy that he had taught English “his way” successfully for many years, even though his colleagues had changed their styles and methods to suit the trend of the day. He had remained faithful and constant throughout his long and illustrious teaching career to what he firmly and most importantly of all, passionately, believed in. By doing so, he had earned the greatest of respect from all his adult students of EFL.

(more…)

I know that I know nothing (by Anita Kwiatkowska)

Graduating from University felt awesome and life was beautiful. Full of enthusiasm and open for fresh perspectives I was ready to walk the new path as a fully qualified EFL teacher.

I had taught before graduation – most students did. I already had my favourite games and a foolproof set of grammatical exercises that would make an idiot grasp the difference between Present Simple and Present Continuous. (more…)

Being an EFL teacher (by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan)


When I sat down to write this post, the only thing came to my mind was, ”At the moment I’m where I’ve always wanted to be and this is because I’m an EFL teacher.” Being an EFL teacher helped me become who I am now. It promoted my creativity, enabled me to find different solutions for problems,and helped me become more patient and understanding. If you love teaching, please do it. You need to be self-motivated but the challenge is worth it. Before you start maybe you should know some facts about it. (more…)

It’s the small things that count (by David Deubelbeiss)



The small things count

Everyone seems to know what teaching is. We organize, we write on the board, we give out handouts and homework, we ask questions, we mark and get ready for the next day. Is it so simple? (more…)

Giving Second Life a Second Chance

In an earlier post, I suggested that all language teachers would benefit from being in Second Life. Gavin Dudeney made a similar (albeit more articulate) argument as a guest writer on Burcu Akyol’s EFL Blog

So, let’s say you’re convinced, and have decided to give Second Life a try (or another try). What’s next?

You’ll probably go through several growth stages in your second life, just like you did in your first. I’ll talk about each in a separate post.

(more…)

Why Every Language Teacher Needs a (Second) Life

My Second Life self, Lynn Carlucci, being camera shy

My Second Life self, Lynn Carlucci, being camera shy

You may have heard about Second Life . I actually hadn’t heard of it before I saw the course description for a TESOL EVO session on Virtual Worlds and Language Learning. Considering that I thought an avatar was a diety in Hindu Mythology, I think it’s fair to say that my learning curve was pretty steep.

(more…)