Sunday, June 16, 2019

On Summer Break

I'm taking a break from posting on this blog for the summer. The end of this semester found me closer to burnout than I've ever felt before. I have GOT to find a way to make it fresh for myself again. But if a change is as good as a rest, an actual rest is even better, and I welcome this one.
a watercolour by Dottie Morrissey, my mother
On teacher-student conference day, I received a bit of a boost to my tired soul. Several students in my morning (seniors) class expressed appreciation for my teaching style, my patience and kindness, and the topics we were able to explore in depth. I had though that my module on diagnostic imaging had dragged on too long and that it had, in the end, been too dry and too difficult. But several students said they are glad I did not abandon it when some students could be heard moaning toward the end (okay, actually just one student who is given to audible yawns except on days when she gets her way) because they felt that by the end of the enormous module, they had reaped many benefits in the form of stronger communication skills and retention of key vocabulary. One man said he is so glad that he can now read any requisition form. ***BOOST***

One student said she found the courage to go to a medical appointment by herself for the first time since her arrival in Canada many years ago. She felt confident explaining her symptoms to the doctor and understood much of what was said to her. ***BOOST***

Even though I was feeling like a failure because I had not managed my usual morning smile or pep in my step during the last weeks, several students gushed about my pleasant nature and how I always greet them with a smile. One woman, alone with me for the meeting and the door shut for privacy, grasped my two hands and broke down in tears because she's getting her citizenship and won't be back in our class this September. Our class had been there for her when her husband died. Joining our class saved her from being alone all day in her apartment with her overwhelming grief. ***BOOST***

This sort of feedback helps, but I am still desperately in need of rest. We pour our hearts and souls into this work, but self-care needs to come first.

This summer I am cutting way back on the things I usually do so that I can concentrate on two things that have taken higher priority. One of those priorities is spending time with my mom, who will turn 89 at the end of this year. She is far more active than I am with neighbours who drop in for her hospitality once a week, artists with whom she generously shares her outdoor art pavilion, and shows in which she enters her work. She is my best friend, my soul mate. I cannot fathom life on this planet without her, but I know that even with the longevity that runs in the family, every moment counts these days. We have two visits planned this summer; first I'll go to her and then she'll come to me.

The second priority is a project that should result in a new resource that could be used across Canada as well as in public schools--if I can pull it off!

How about you? Are you working or off this summer? Will you have a chance to rest and recharge at all?

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Smidgen of Teacher Empowerment? by Claudie Graner, guest blogger

Last weekend I started getting a link to, and questions about, an IRCC PBLA “survey” that was being circulated. Had I received it? Was it legit? What about anonymity? Although it promised anonymity it asked for province and service provider organization (SPO). There is a list of 129 SPOs + an “Other” field. 

I wouldn't worry about anonymity in big school boards in Ontario.

It looked legit although it seemed constructed to “shoehorn” us into telling them what they want to hear. There were no questions about the real issues – and no “comment space” to expand or explain concerns. I answered the questions about the usefulness of CLB, PBLA, Tutela, LearnIT2Teach with “not useful”.

So - finally a GREAT anonymous (more or less) opportunity to tell the government what we have learned about PBLA and the CLBs, and other related projects?

Not so fast...

Many instructors (myself included) have not received it from their SPOs. Why not?

An obvious answer is that the SPOs are afraid of being blamed and their egregious behaviour being exposed. But seems to me that SPOs were taken by surprise, as we were, and simply wanted to know more.  Time will tell.

An anonymous comment posted here (6/07/2019) mentioned that their “SPO won't let us do the survey”.  “What is going on?” 6/08/2019 10:19 replied, “the funder requested the survey link be forwarded to “ALL LINC/CLIC instructors. (emphasis added to ALL)”.  The irony of Administrators who countered every attempt to discuss the flaws of PBLA with the mantra “The Funder Wants This” not complying with the funder request is remarkable.

There is no “Confidentiality “ note on the survey, no “Please do not share” note. I sent it to my union president. She waited till the weekend then sent it out to all instructors. She said it was an opportunity to send an “anonymous unfiltered message to IRCC about the impact and ramifications these initiatives have had on the teaching and learning experience of ESL, not to mention the non-compensated excessive workload.”

Yuliya Desyatova also sent it to the participants of her study as she saw it as an opportunity for those who had expressed the need for the funders and policy decision makers to hear their voices to give their thoughts to the funding ministry.

AND Kyle Lachini posted the link on the petition to Stop PBLA site. I hope the IRCC site was swamped.

Paula Rebolledo gave a brilliant IATEFL plenary talk “Teacher empowerment: leaving the  twilight zone”  Link: Very worth watching. The expression “cosmetic consultation” caught my eye. I hope this is not just a “cosmetic survey”.

What do you think? What did/would you say to IRCC?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

On the Horizon

Back in early spring I was feeling the burgeoning potential of the greening world around me. I was in a new relationship and feeling excited. I had an idea for a new project, too--something bigger than I've taken on before.

The relationship has ended, I'm sorry to say, but one of the benefits of dating a compulsive analyzer and sensitive communicator is that now I'm participating in a very helpful post-mortem.

The project, I'm happy to say, has not shrivelled on the vine. Rather, it just this morning entered a phase more concrete than conceptualization. My project partner met with me under the maple boughs on my lower deck landing overlooking a small tributary to the Detroit River. The person who graced my humble abode with her presence is a bit of a legend in these parts, and I'm still feeling high from her visit.

Also of interest to us all is a new book coming from Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti on teaching listening. This blog post is a small teaser.

What is on your horizon this week?