Monday, October 31, 2011

Thinking on thinking

   It is not enough to "know" anymore.  A 21st century student must have a set of skills to succeed in the modern work place.  These skills are being able to use technology in such a way as to make one more productive, more creative, ultimately more flexible than others.  Technology is a useful to, but as with all tools - is only as good as the user.
     I loved that formal assessments "in no way correlate to how productive students will be in the workforce."  The key to success is "high productivity.'  To me this is because if you are productive it is because you a) understand, b) are able to apply knowledge to new situations, c) adapt this knowledge to fit your situation so of course your productivity will increase.  The opposite is also true:  if you don't understand, you can't apply, adapt, or produce anything.  You are stuck in an endless loop of frustration.
     The ideal situation would be to have a class where students are in Krashen's I+1.  But we all know the difference between the ideal and reality is as big as the grand canyon.  I see my roll as trying to find out where students are, and then trying to help them move forward.  This is not always easy or feasible given all the exterior influences and pressures.
     But I will try, and maybe that' the key.  To keep trying until we figure what works?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Practical Teaching Theory

We are products of our experiences - I am sure I teach in ways that I was taught.  But, I am also sure that I have made conscious choices to not teach how I was taught as well.  Whether I put formal labels on it or not, I do have a belief system in how students learn.  I have made some assumptions and it is these assumptions and my observations that have shaped and molded my teaching.
I have struggled before to put my teaching theory into a neat category.  It didn't work perfectly.  I have definite leanings, but I am very eclectic.  I use what I need to help students succeed.  After obtaining my MEd, I learned that I am a constructivist and a cognitivist.  Having said that, I am also a pragmatist.  I teach Foundation English.  My students need me to help them gain 'fundamentals.'  I try to be constructivist in my approaches, but let's face it - foundations is pretty prescriptive.
My biggest push right now is using technology in my classes.  I see tech as a way for students to interact with English.  I see it as a way for them to construct their own English reality.  That's my theory anyway.
I will conclude this thought with a metaphor....Teaching is like a newspaper - it changes everyday within set parameters and I learn something new everyday!  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Learning to Drive in Egypt

I have been driving a vehicle since I was 4 years old. I grew up in rural Utah, USA. I drove my fathers old truck to school. I learned to drive a stick shift before I drove an automatic. In other words I feel comfortable behind the wheel. I moved to Egypt. I got a job teaching in a high school and rode the bus to school every day. The bus was full of screaming children, the seats were to small, and I got there just before school was to start, not to mention the fact that I had to ride on this noise machine for an hour more on the ride home. All in all, not an ideal situation. I got a silver car for my silver wedding anniversary. There was just one problem. This was Egypt. I'm not sure if you've ever visited Egypt, but driving and obeying the rules of driving are unknown there.
I had been out riding with my husband. On the odd occasion, I had even driven to the market area in the gated community where we lived. I had a flash back to high school when my father had gotten into the pick-up truck and said drive. That is basically what my husband said, "This is your car, you need to learn to drive it."
I distinctly remember driving my first time on the ring road by myself. I had to consciously breathe. I was that scared. The ring road in Egypt is that scary! But I did it. I was going to give an English Lesson and didn't want my husband to have to wait for me for two hours. Going back was just as scary as by now it was dark. The cars there flash their headlight too, but some even drive with no lights!
What I remember most is my sense of independence. My sense that I can tackle anything! My sense of accomplishment. I don't want to sound like my husband wasn't supportive. Actually, I couldn't have done it without him, but I was all alone on the road; just me and my car. If I am faced with problems or a task that seems to big, I just remember my little silver car and that road. I can do anything!