Learning About Teaching

I am back. I took a short hiatus from blogging to focus on getting stuff done IRL. One of the things we have done is a TEFL training course. In this post I am going to ramble on about some of my observations of "way back when" vs "now", "teachers encountered" vs "the ideal teacher", and some other tidbits.

I have spent many years of my life on the student side of things. In the past, I have done a few teaching exercises, and tutoring sessions, but nothing that would equate to an actual teacher in a classroom, teaching a course of any length.  I am now done with this in class portion of this course, and by no means an expert. The following are my views and opinions.

Children's Rights

While we are learning to teach all ages one section of this course talks about some of the unique challenges and requirements inherent to dealing with children. The first thing that blew me away was a set of outlined children's rights. The reason this dumb struck me was because I remember being told, multiple times, by my parents, my teachers, and the administration, "YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS!" Before you ask, yes, I was a little hellion.

Once this shock wore off I read these rights, and thought back. Most of my teachers had failed to provide most of these rights. But I turned out OK. Then I thought some more what if they had created this environment these rights outlined. I might have turned out better, at the very least I wouldn't have had several teachers telling me "You won't amount to anything", or "Your are stupid." In their defense I was probably doing everything possible to annoy them.

I am still digesting and deciding if I like these rights. I see the value in in corporal punishment for younger children who are operating based on their id, and lack morals. But maybe further learning in this subject will show me a better way.

Classroom Management & Planning

First off I think our teacher is great. One thing she said early on was "Students speaking 70%, and teacher only 30%." I would love ALL iTalki teachers to learn this 70/30 rule.  In relation to that a lot of what they taught us on the first weekend was about keeping the class engaged. If the students are engaging with the planned activity, they shouldn't be bored, or getting into trouble.

Another fun topic was about teaching a class where you(the teacher) didn't know their(the students) L1(native language). This seemed to bother some of the other students. They had a lot of questions about managing a class you couldn't easily communicate with.  Our teacher gave some good examples of what to expect that calmed fears. I personally am not worried about this because of both how they prepared me in this course, and because I know how quickly you can pick up a few important phrases.

Lesson and activity planning are very enjoyable to me. I feel like I am taking an objective, or goal and building a program around it. A few activities there, some explanation here, and presto you got 30-60 minutes of learning knocked out. While planning called to my inner artist, what surprised me was how many activities, and games they had spread around the internet for helping students engage with the material.

Way back when...

Way back when, I had no rights. I was expected to just sit and absorb. I understand they are teaching us to teach a language class, so I am going to try and limit my comparisons to my previous language classes.

First, in High School I recall a few call and repeat exercises, but the majority of the time the teacher was at the board talking and I was trying to sleep with the book propped up on the desk against my head. I don't remember learning a single conjugation, but I do remember being frustrated with Spanish numbers higher than 10.

When I finally decided to learn Chinese in college, I learned a lot, and enjoyed it a lot, but looking back I see that, the teacher still spent more time than the students talking. The format never changed, and there was a monotony to it. I can remember certain classes where I was talking myself into not being bored, or reading the extra words at the back of the book to kill time.

In Taiwan, there was some variety. We did various exercises, like watch a clip, and then do sentence matching. As I mentioned in my review of TMI, I worked with three different teachers, and each had their own methods. Two teachers really liked PPT presentations, and then fill in the blank exercises. Another teacher really liked to talk, and have us talk with him. Now I am in a better position to appreciate what each method did for me. Before I just really didn't like the PPT stuff.

What now?

No I am not quitting my day job. I did this certification for two reasons. First to support my wife who took it with me. She may use the knowledge they imparted to us, to find a teaching job while we travel. Also, secondly for me it is a backup plan in case something did happen to my day job. 

This course and the skills it has helped me learn have sparked some ideas for some side hobbies, and maybe even generate me some revenue at some point. That tho, is a talk for another day. Until next time everyone!


Chinese Status Update Summer 2015

歡迎回來!Good to see everyone again!  It is that time again.  It is time for a little bit of reflection, and a little bit of forecasting. Since the last update I have been studying Chinese at a slower pace, but as of the beginning of June I have been cranking that back up.

The main reason I am speeding back up is because the wife and I plan to visit China in October. Another reason is because I liked doing the Add1Challenge so much, I decided to do it again to improve my Chinese. In June I started doing 3 iTalki sessions a week, instead of two. I also started making plans on how to "level up" in certain areas. I started the challenge with kinda 3 broad goals.  Improve to the point I can pass HSK 5, be able to give a toast at my friends wedding on October, and acquire vocabulary related to programming.

Before I get to what all I am going to do I need to talk about what I have been doing. Below are the goals I had chosen in the last update I posted.

  • Diary in Chinese at least 3 times a week this year.
  • Finish reading Ender's Game in Chinese.
  • Work through PAVC 4, & 5
  • Work through Tales and Traditions(TAT) volume 2, 3, and 4
  • Take the HSK V
  • Use WaiChinese to continue accent reduction research and practice by completing their HSK word and sentence sets.
  • Visit China in October
As I mentioned in the past these goals usually have a definite end, but are not all gonna get done in three months. Over the last three months I did not get ANY of these completed. That doesn't mean I didn't have any victories. Here is what I did get completed. 

  • Completed up to PAVC 4 Chapter 8 ( of 14 )
  • Completed up to TAT 2 story 19 ( of 24 )
  • I had a full 40 minute conversation about tweaking the HTML and CSS of a site using the basic Chinese I know. 
  • Talked with some new people in Chinese.
The PAVC(aff. link), and TAT(aff. link) studies is probably the most constant part of my routine. When my main teacher and I were only doing two iTalki sessions a week, it would take us about three weeks to complete a chapter, and study two TAT stories. Now that we are doing three again, it is taking around two weeks to do the same amount of studying.  At that rate I should have both of these books done by my next seasonal update, and be working on the next in each's respective series. 

I got a buddy that needed help tweaking some bits of his website. His English is good, but as I have no Chinese vocabulary for his area of expertise, he has very little English vocabulary in mine. We started out trying to talk about it in English, and made some head way, but ended up switching to Chinese for most of the conversation. This made me really happy that I could convey some complex ideas using my simple vocabulary. 

My wife is very quick to tell me that my Chinese has issues. Also, when you interact with the same teacher or friend over time you learn each others limits, accents, etc,. Add in a few experiences where you have tried to communicate with new people in Chinese, and fail. Of course some people, not me, but some people may have some worries about being understood. Anywho, with moving to a new state, and doing one of the Add1 mini challenges, I have been interacting with a lot of new people. When I do talk to new person using Chinese, for more than a few words, and they understand me, I get this sense of relief, and accomplishment. Ya, know the one.


Enough about the past! On to the future! Below are my and improved goals. Completing all of them should take no more than a year.
  • Finish reading Ender's Game in Chinese.
  • Finish PAVC 4, & 5
  • Work through TAT volume 2, 3, and 4
  • Take the HSK V, and HSK VI
  • Diary Write in Chinese at least once a week.
  • Visit China in October
  • Finish working through my Frequency dictionary book.
  • Use the upcoming Coursera courses to fill in some programming vocabulary.
Finishing Ender's Game, take HSK V,  and VI,  are all tasks than require me to level up my abilities to do. With all three my biggest obstacle isn't grammar, but lack of vocab. Over the next three months I am going to be making a concentrated effort to gain the right vocab, to get these tasks done. 

I am hoping using Coursera will be useful, and not just a waste of time. I will keep ya updated on that one. I think all my other goals are pretty much self explanatory. Aigh't this post is getting too long. I will check back near the end of September.