Friday, August 23, 2019

Squeeze, Squeeze, Squeeze

This morning there is a hint of fall in the air.

The plane (I hope) my mother boarded this morning is in the air as I write this and sip my daily green smoothie. Soon I will go out to the car, power up the GPS, and cross under the Detroit River to pick her up at DTW. She is to visit for ten days, and we are both very excited about it.

Since I've been inside my classroom weekly this summer, driving up there each Thursday for the newcomers' Sewing Club that I co-host, I'm expecting my re-entry anxiety to be a bit softer this year. But there's no doubt in my mind that I am floundering inside. I've never stuck with a job (nor with a marriage or romantic partnership) for this many years. Next spring I'll get my ten-year pin. I feel desperately in need of novelty. I have a good employer and good benefits, but our aging, leaky-roofed building is depressing to me. Our search for a new location has been going on for at least two years.

I absolutely do not want to go into a new school year with a blah attitude, counting the hours and minutes until the end of a workday. My students deserve better and I deserve better. No, I won't live like that. I must find ways to re-energize myself. I have SOME ideas, but I'm hoping you'll give me a few more. Here are some things I have thought of so far:

  • change my parking location in order to save money and get more exercise, a change of scenery
  • do more this year with art; students may be able to help me with ideas
  • if my employer will spring for a copy, read and implement ideas from Conti and Smith's new book on teaching listening
  • take students on field trips, as always, but change it up somehow
  • schedule more guest speakers, ones that are interesting to me as well as to the Ss
  • ???
For me school starts again on September 9th. I have a wee sliver of summer left and I plan to squeeze all the juicy goodness out of every single day between now and then. My mother, at 88, is still one of those people who seizes every day as if it were her last. She is a wonderful role model to me in that sense. She inspires me and helps me see beauty all around. She is a basically trusting person who is quick to see the good in others. I'm so looking forward to having her here with me.

It's time to set off for the airport.


  1. Kelly, I hope you and your mom have the best time together. I cannot tell you how much I miss my own mom. All the rest can be figured out later. It’s mom time. Enjoy!

  2. Extreme anxiety at the thought of returning to class. PBLA has ruined life for me.

    1. Hopefully you have an opportunity to read Claudie’s response from 8/29 posted below. “Extreme” anxiety and a “ruined” life isn’t good for you or your students. Please take care of yourself. Maybe some of her ideas will help you.

  3. Me too. I hate what PBLA and those who support and promote it have done to my chosen career.

  4. Also it's 2019. WHO IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD USES BINDERS??!!! THE AMAZON IS BURNING. TREES ARE DISAPPEARING. WASTED PAPER IS APPALLING. What is wrong with the people who are promoting this idiotic wasteful nonsense?

    1. I know what you mean. I was thrilled when I read the new guidelines and finally came to understand that I don't have to create assessment tools (rubrics, etc.) for the receptive skills and don't have to have any extra paper attached to the skill-using activities. To be honest, I do not know how level 4+ teachers provide actionable feedback to 22+ students times 2 classes times 8 artifacts per productive skill per term. I just barely manage it with 8 to 10 literacy students and NO PBLA in my morning class. --KM

    2. It's impossible. I teach two high level classes (5 and above and both are mixed levels) and each class has 35 students registered. Give me a break. It is utterly impossible and completely stupid. I challenge every person involved in creating this mess to do what I have to do for even one week. Oh and the PBLA 'leads'. Feel free to take a crack at it. I'm not going to lose my mind over this and won't quit (yet) because the students deserve to have a teacher who recognizes the absurdity of it.

  5. I want to squeeze our PBLA leads...hope to see that they have been assigned classroom duties this year because they haven't taught in the years before PBLA nor the years after PBLA began. It would be good to see them back in the classroom and trying to perform what they "trained" us to do, am I right?

    1. Assuming for the sake of the argument that PBLA lead teachers will continue to exist for the next little while, I think that 25 classroom hours per week should be a prerequisite for holding that position.

    2. Nope. No teaching assignment. The leads do not have students. They do not lead by example. They do secretarial work. And are paid extra to do it. It is a farce. Good ride for people who no longer have the stamina to manage a class though.

  6. I would like to make all kinds of suggestions Kelly, about things I used to do and look forward to. I feel sad that field trips are no longer on the table for us . Parties and multicultural festivals, gone. No more garage sales, pizza days, fun events. PBLA has stolen all the fun at our school. No time and no permission anymore from management who are too busy trying to please the funders to see what is right beneath their noses. ESL as we once knew it is dead and gone and has been replaced by drudgery. I hope you are still allowed to have some fun. I might try closing my classroom door and sneaking in a little joy. PBLA is not fun or joyful.

    1. I'm happy to say that at my SPO we can still take students on field trips, there's just no BUDGET for it. So we can only go where our feet or bus passes (if everyone has one) can take us. So far the seniors have been to an outdoor pingpong table (health), Jackson Park (Canadian history, war, Vimy), The Francois Baby House and Museum (local history, War of 1812), to the sculpture park (I wrote an activity pack for that), and to Hospice to learn about their end-of-life options and about this amazing resource that uses 2000 compassionate volunteers. Mind you: my seniors class does not have to "do" PBLA.

      With literacy students, I've been to the library to sign up for cards, to Food Basics to find ingredients for pumpkin pie that we then baked, and to the riverfront in order to show and tell, via FlipGrid, a class of literacy students in another province where we live. It is VERY difficult to maintain the level of enthusiasm and creativity it takes to come up with and execute exciting modules like those while simultaneously stressing over an unreasonable and meaningless artifact quota.

  7. Hullo there K and all.
    The break is was SO good.
    I will drag myself in next week full of apprehension...but also determined to be happy. Have a positive attitude. Do my best.

    Life isn’t perfect, but it’s wonderful. Teaching ESL in these times is not perfect. (It never was. However today because of the impossible demands of the unfair, impractical, unreliable CLBs, and PBLA, the flawed tool designed to promote them it is even more imperfect, stressful, onerous.)

    But it is still wonderful.

    And I am determined to find joy and peace in my work.

    I will not waste my time on useless “modules”. I WILL sketch out a LRP - using a progressive curriculum...

    I will make assessment part of my teaching (always was). But I will teach first, test second. I will collect enough “evidence” (as I always did) but will NOT obsess on 32 artefacts (lol - maybe it will turn out that I/my learners collect more.)

    I’m not going to obsess on complete “alignment” to the CLBs because the CLBs are just one model of language proficiency among many. And they are a model not based on research; they are very problematic and unwieldy; they are motivated by a political agenda - not by linguistic certainties or research.

    I will teach with all my heart, with all my accumulated experience and knowledge, and with the multiple resources I have collected over the years. These include Azar, McKay, Murphy, On Target(adapted occasionally), the LINC 5-7 Activity binders, among others.

    Boos to those administrators and “Leads” who forbid “grammar” - the foundation of any language.

    I will allow no one to disrespect me. And I will try not to disrespect the Leads and managers who have a different agenda and take on what “teaching English to newcomers” in September 2019 is about than I, and other experienced respected ESLers, have.

    I will not waste seconds of my precious time to fulfill outlandish, illogical, redundant paperwork (think “practice reflections”, reflections, rubrics) I will only do this only on “as needs” basis and when there is clear ROI. No more redundancy, no more overkill, no more exploitation.
    I will use common sense in my approach to my teaching.
    I will make learning English an exciting, relevant and rewarding enterprise for the learners.
    I’m glad to be able to make a positive difference in people’s lives; that’s why I stay in this.

    Have an awesome year!

    Sent from my iPad

    1. It's wonderful that you have the wiggle room to choose what you'll do and not do. One of my colleagues has been driven to tears over her failure to meet the 32 artifact quota. I saw her in the building many hours this summer (I was there for a volunteer gig) trying to get ready finally to "comply" with this directive. :(

  8. You said it, Claudie. That's exactly what we need to do. We need to focus on our teaching and keep everything in perspective. Just let it be.
    Thank you.

    1. I agree with you and with Claudie. Sounds like she found the perfect grey area in all of this over the summer months. There is no need for two rigid PBLA camps. Find the sweet spot as Claudie has. Like the two of you say, teaching with perspective is key. Some have posted this type of sentiment in the past only for others to start name calling. I even remember Claudie calling Kelly a PBLA traitor once when she posted positively . Claudie’s latest post is exactly what I needed to hear heading into the new year. Yes, thank you.

  9. Claudie here. I hope my ideas are going to help ME too...I’m just trying to find a way to deal with MY extreme anxiety/apprehension and my bleak view of the (ruined) state of LINC and ESL. I’m trying to set boundaries, define limits (like it is NOT my responsibility to monitor students’ see whether they have entered the “assessment tasks” in the “correct inventory list”. STUDENTS point out to me that it is redundant for them to write the task, the competency area, the pass/fail on the stupid lists - it’s all on the filed test/ task assessment anyways. They are right. The lists are just makework.
    I will not meet one on one with any “Lead” or Trainer. Nor will I contribute in “PBLA workshops” with any Lead or Trainer. Passive aggressive? You bet.
    By “playing ball” as I have these past two years now I have become a PBLA perpeTRAITOR myself....(although I make sure to write on every module, every assessment task, every rubric I create that “This is copyright ©Claudie Graner and may not be reproduced without the author’s permission.” )
    The fact that IRCC and administrators are demanding/suggesting that teachers share their intellectual property without compensation under the guise of “best practices”, “helping their colleagues”, “fulfilling expectations” is another egregious infringement of labour practices.
    My past modules (LOL - no more modules! What can IRCC do to me? Let’s see.) and assessment tasks were all created on my own unpaid time). Copyright. Copyright. Copyright.
    (For those that feel they prefer to share and lessen the burden for colleagues I totally understand, and thank you. But I want to make a point so except for some exceptional one on one sharings I’m not going to contribute to supporting PBLA...)
    I’m hoping that administrators will say to IRCC what they say privately. This is all wrong.
    Like Kelly I tend to be an early adaptor. Faced with the evidence that something is radically wrong with the “PBLA” approach (including the awful “Train the Trainer”, the PBLA power structure of Regional Coaches and Leads) I know I have to stop “complying” - and I have to do the job I applied for, and for which I was hired - which is to teach newcomers English. I’m going to do that. I’m going to be happy. And I’m NOT going to “DO” PBLA - because there's no such thing anyways.
    Hang tight Anonymous 8/26/2019. 4.52 A.M. - I understand.
    And Anonymous 8/30/2019...I know you care, and I appreciate that.
    Anonymous 8/31/2019 - I hope my admin agrees with my perspective and allows me freedom to teach. We’ll see. Best to you. Be happy����

    1. "Set boundaries." That's where it's at for me. If PBLA is the mandate du jour, then it is what it is. But I am going to continue to work only the hours I'm paid to work. If a task put before me requires more than that, I will continue to ask, "When am I supposed to do that?" My entire team has adopted that as our mantra, and admin has become very responsive. As a result, they find ways for us to do surveys, reporting, etc., on paid time. Every teacher across Canada needs to stand up for her/his rights and say no to exploitation.

  10. Anon 452 AM here. Claudie could you run for office somewhere high up? You've got what it takes. A fighter with intellect and integrity (sadly those are not qualities many of our current leaders have ). I'm planning pretty much the same as you for the year and will do the job I was hired to do; I have no intention of dumbing it down for PBLA (geez it's so embarrassing) Gonna do the right thing for my students and TEACH.

  11. Teachers are dropping like flies where I work. PBLA. What a disaster

    1. I've already lost a couple of coworkers, and two more went to half days. I haven't quit, but my entire outlook has changed. Sad.

  12. lol Kelly..I am ever hopeful. I am going to set boundaries..and create that wiggle room. But no guarantee that there won't be blowback. I immersed myself in PBLA last year (you remember me talking about 9.00 to 9.00 days.) I used all the jargon, collected artefacts, created task assessments (14 hours each...) The benefit to the students? ZILCH.. Zippo. In fact I robbed them of valuable instruction in order to “comply - and for those “cohorts I will forever feel I let them down as I did not work thoroughly enough with them on presentations, and essays) (“connected paragraphs” in CLBspeak - what quaint verbiage) I am not going to do that again. I’m going back to doing what I did really well...teach real English. Respect the individuality and needs of the people who come to me to learn.
    PBLA adherence is not my responsibility. I THINK I have a practical management that will understand that I will provide “assessment tests” and results that I will give to the students for filing - and I will continue to keep “tests” and work samples in the “student folders” (paper) as I have kept for years as evidence of progress (or lack thereof).

    BTW - I have nothing but pity for those that tried to shame me (and others) at conferences by asking snidely: “Well, what did you do BEFORE PBLA?” (You know who you are. Pathetic. AND anything instructors did “before PBLA” was better than this dog’s breakfast now. And if there are instructors that have benefitted by closer acquaintance with the CLBs - well, that’s good. But it is NOT doing”PBLA”. )

    I am so angry at the managements that allowed the bullying and harassment over “32”.
    That did not PROTECT their employees.
    That allowed vicious and sadistic bullying to take place.
    They either have zero knowledge of SLA -or they KNOW it is invalid and makes no sense and they are compromising their own integrity by going along with this because they have been squashed and browbeaten.
    I ask them whether they are PROUD that their instructors are stressed, desperate, at times reduced to tears? Do they think that reflects good management skills? I don’t.
    Restraining myself from further comment...

    Had a GREAT short week. Heard the cursed word “PBLA” only once...

    Sent from my iPad


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