all the things i didn’t mean to write (or Today I learned a lot, a summary)

It’s been an incredibly active week on the forums for my TESOL class. Some of the topics discussed were authentic materials, strategic investment (and language learning strategies), learning styles, teaching grammar and vocabulary, and professional development. I don’t always feel like I have anything to contribute in the class forums, and it’s sometimes a struggle to post. This week, however, I was happy to be part of these conversations.

I have a lot to say on authentic materials stemming from previous discussions on #KELTchat and with members of #KELTchat.  I learned from the class discussion that I was missing half of the argument – that they need to be authentic in their production and in their use. I think this might mean that once we bring them into a classroom, it will be very difficult to justify their authenticity, but I’m not done thinking about it. My opinion right now is that whatever we do in class should have a purpose. Anyway, this isn’t what I want to write about today.

The learning styles discussion stemmed from some tests that a classmate posted about learning styles. I’ve seen these before (during an impromptu webinar – I don’t know how I ended up there, I just saw a tweet that announced it and it read to me like, ‘come out and play’, so I did) and I score firmly in the “auditory learner” category on every test. Funny thing I just thought of: I clearly remember my US History teacher get up in front of the class with some slides and announce that she’s a visual learner. I have no idea what her presentation was about that day. The tests in my textbook score me (unsurprisingly) as right-brained and introverted. The interesting thing about all this is that I teach as though my students are the same way. I also have had to learn some compensatory strategies myself or  I wouldn’t be able to teach at all. (Anyone who’s never seen me teach might be shocked to see me dancing in front of a group of college students, but it really does happen on a regular basis.) The other interesting thing is that 75% of the people posting on the thread about learning styles (teachers all) were similar to me. It makes me wonder about my chosen profession. But this isn’t what I want to write about today either.

The discussions on teaching grammar and vocabulary were timely after reading this blog post by @teflerinha and this possibly unrelated post by @hughdellar (but it felt related, even if I can’t figure out why anymore). Because in the midst of a large group of people posting about using language creatively and placing themselves firmly on the side of the fence against repetition of language, one lone student in the class had the courage to say “I use choral drills.” And while everyone pretty much ignored the post, I could respond, “you know what, that’s okay.” And when I reflect on it, I think it is okay. As long as we have reasons for the things we choose to do, if they work that’s awesome and we see how we can make them work better, and if they don’t work, we change them and try something new, but we should never just not try because it’s not done in communicative teaching (in my humble opinion). Anyway that’s not what this post was meant to be about.

Then there was the discussion on professional development, a topic very close to my heart. I was delighted with the opportunity to explain what PD means to me and how I plan to continue my education after my TESOL unit is over (which happens after I turn in the papers that I’m not typing while I’m typing this). I wrote about my TEFL certification (three years ago) which led me to starting my MA and also to KOTESOL which led me to Reflective Practice which led me to Twitter which led me to #KELTchat and how all of those things led me to the community I am now part of. I took time to explain how Twitter can be used for PD and where to find the people and the chats. And to answer a question on action research as a form or professional development I dug up a paper I’d written for the TEFL certificate course and, on reading it, briefly reflected on how very different my thinking is now from where it was three years ago. And that’s what this post was supposed to be about but isn’t anymore. Another time.

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