Sunday, February 24, 2019

Resources for Black History Month in Canada

Barely squeaking it in before the end of February, I have just updated the LINKS page of to include the resource links that Irene Moore Davis gave to attendees of her presentation to TESL Windsor, "Creative Strategies to Teach Black History in ESL Settings."

Hopefully we will all remember that they are there when February rolls around again in 2020. Or perhaps we won't limit ourselves to only covering African Canadian history one month of the year!

Do you have any good resources to add to that list?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Project Ideas

Is this Monday's post four days late? Or did I miss that one, in which case next week's is early? In any case, ...

I have a couple of interesting projects on the horizon and want to get your input on one of them before I dig in.

I did not do anything with either of my classes for Black History Month this year. I do, however, plan to cover local Black history in some form or other before this term is over. The reason I did not want to study Black history with my students in February is that I want to go on a walking field trip to the Tower of Freedom Underground Railroad Monument in downtown Windsor as part of the unit. Neither my students nor I wish, however, to navigate treacherous sidewalks to get there. We will go when the weather warms up a bit.

Did you know that Windsor has one half of this international monument? The other half is in Hart Plaza, Detroit. At a recent TESL Windsor PD event, Irene Moore Davis told us that the sculptor designed the monuments so that the companion sculpture's pointing hand lines up perfectly with our sculpture in Windsor! You can prove it with a laser beam.

The day of our PD event, Irene Moore Davis provided us with a handout that includes links and references to a lot of good material. My problem is that this material is a bit beyond the reading ability of my class. I would love to create something for LINC teachers in the Windsor area to use with their students. It looks like I am going to be able to do that. I plan to write and illustrate something biographical with tie-ins to the monument and to people such as Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I am bad about biting off more than I can finish in a month or two. But I would rather do something really nice and not have it ready this school year than to do a rush job.

My question to Windsor area teachers is this: what would a booklet and activity pack need to contain in order for you to use it with your class? Would you use a level three text if the accompanying activity pack included level-appropriate activities for higher CLBs? Or should I publish three versions of the same book: CLB 1/2, 3/4, and 5 plus? Please leave me ideas in the comments.

The other project on my plate--one I can begin this Sunday at Taloola Cafe--is to interview Paul Chislett and get his ideas regarding the steps a teacher can take if he / she suspects an employer is not compliant with the new legislation that requires equal compensation for equivalent work regardless of the employee's full- or part-time employment status. I will post that interview on this blog soon.

What are you up to this week?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Troll Poll

Here are the characteristics of an internet troll.

To take the Troll Poll, you do not have to leave your personal info or email. I am relying on the honour system and the assumption that teachers are far too busy to go around sitting at multiple computers just to skew results.

Multiple times over the past two years or more,  I have wanted to set a rule for this forum so that only those whose opinions could get them fired or reprimanded are to use cover of anonymity.
The only reason I ever allowed for anonymity in commenting is that this blog is the only forum in Canada where teachers are free to express their opinions of PBLA without fear of reprisal. I never intended the anonymous commenting feature to enable PBLA defenders to snipe without revealing who they are, which in turn  would reveal any conflicts of interest or ulterior motives for coming here. There are plenty of other venues where we can go if we feel like being attacked on an uneven playing field. If it's up to me to make the decision, I will not publish comments from PBLA proponents who do not identify themselves.

But it's not just my blog, it's your forum. So I'm leaving this decision to you all. I hope you'll take the one-question survey.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Food for Thought

I don't have a specific topic for you this week, but there's a lot of food for thought swirling around right now.

For one, there is the discussion that has taken place in the comments on New Reader Has Lots to Contribute.

I thought that one of the most telling comments was from a PBLA Lead who signed herself "Norma." She addressed herself to a former school teacher who likes the structure PBLA provides:

Linda, if you’re still reading, I’m honestly interested in what you have to say. I was a strong advocate for PBLA—until I was introduced to the CCLB’s grossly inadequate and unprofessional training materials (I’m a PBLA Lead) and to add insult to injury, we were told that THERE ARE NO RESOURCES to implement this thing. This is contrary to what is explicitly stated in their own practice guidelines that “sufficient resources” will be provided. Due to the number of “artefacts” required, classes have become testing centres and stress has increased exponentially for both learners (especially refugees—unforgivable!) and instructors. PBLA implementation has been a negative experience for every teacher I’ve met. You are the first that I know of who has spoken so positively of it. That makes me curious. It is demanded of us that we be “Champions of PBLA”. If this methodology is so wonderful, why does it need championing? It should speak for itself! Why are those who raise valid concerns in an objective and professional manner labeled “laggards”? Why are there NEVER anonymous surveys of instructors and learners? What is the CCLB afraid of? That the emperor has no clothes is my bet. PBLA takes a heavy toll. I sincerely wish you good luck in keeping your head above water. How can it possibly help learners to have exhausted unhappy teachers? How can it help them to push through 32 assessments or they languish at the same benchmarks. Incredibly badly thought out flop of an experiment with disastrous consequences. Please tell me how you’re able to do three assessments a week? Is this a full-time class? —Norma
Other food for thought this week came in the form of two things Yuliya retweeted. One was this article in The Atlantic by Rahm Emanuel about education reform.

The other  was this meme, which I also saw retweeted by @YuliyaESL.

I hope everyone is surviving winter.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Amplify, Amplify

I've deleted my post about Back-to-the-Well and PBLA Survival. Other things are more pressing right now.

There are two items this week that we can all mail off to the folks on our PBLA CONTACTS list. One is Yuliya Desyatova's latest publication, a brilliant article in the TESL Canada Journal. The other is a news article that appeared two days ago in The Star.

Yuliya Desyatova's latest article is "Batting the Piñata and Swallowing Camels": Teachers Learn to PBLA in the Absence of Dialogic Interaction in TESL Canada Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2018): Special Issue - The Shifting Landscape of Professional Self-Development for ELT Practitioners. Reading it helped me understand why I feel the way I do about PBLA, the training model and so-called PD we have received and continue to have shoved at us to date. Brava, Yuliya! This is your heftiest work yet.

The news piece, posted to Twitter, is entitled, "Refugees Hoping to Become Citizens Face High Bar to Achieve Language Benchmarks." It was written by Sarah Schulman for the Toronto Star. Schulman, a sociologist, brings up many points that I believe spell out discrimination. We are erecting barriers to citizenship for those who will never--no matter how hard they try--be able to reach that magic status of achieved CLB four.

Shouldn't OCASI and other organizations advocating for refugees' rights have an interest in the way PBLA is affecting refugees' wellbeing? There are so many ways PBLA is damaging, especially when you consider factors such as trauma and learning disabilities.

Let's add OCASI to the list of contacts, shall we? But I don't want to be guilty of being Ontario-centric. Do you know of a similar organization in your province that might take up our cause?