Sunday, October 20, 2019


Today in the meeting for discussion that took place before the Meeting for Worship of my group of Friends just five minutes across the Detroit River, the topic was gifts. How do we find out what gifts each attender or member has and how those gifts can be brought out to the benefit of the Meeting?

I love the question.

Yesterday I was listening to This Jungian Life podcast series, which I only recently discovered. One of the most intriguing episodes for me was the one about the Shadow. The three analysts delved into what Shadow is: the parts of yourself you unconsciously cut off because you cannot bear to face that they are part of you. This is usually a dark side, but Jung also recognized a Golden Shadow, meaning good parts of the psyche that can get severed and lost beyond consciousness. The analysts also made a point of distinguishing between Shadow and something else: undesirable traits and qualities that have been socialized out of us but from which we are not completely cut off and which we are not totally unaware. An example of this might be my bitchy side. I have been socialized to tone it down and hide it, but I'm very aware it exists. The same can be said for positive traits: some get completely cut off (Golden Shadow) and some are just kept in check by societal and cultural rules while still being in one's conscious awareness at least some of the time.

Throughout my life I've sometimes found it tricky to express my gifts in group situations, especially in jobs. Sometimes you find yourself working for someone who isn't as bright or competent as you are. Such a manager might find his or her underlings' gifts to be a threat to his/her ego instead of a help to the team. Even fellow teammates and classmates can contribute to our being socialized to hide our gifts. An example of this that seared itself into my memory in high school was when my test score set the curve for the grading, and other students gave me the stink-eye. When I taught Japanese to grade six students at Gibbs Magnet School in Little Rock, I noticed a very bright girl who was mixed race but who--like almost all racialized children in the South--chose to hang out with other Black kids. When I would call on her, she pretended not to know the answers to questions. I knew she knew the answers. I could see it in her eyes. She was shutting down a part of herself to avoid being teased and perhaps even completely ostracized by her peers in a sub-culture that equates raising your hand and giving the answer with "acting white."

I've done a lot of shutting down of parts of myself over the years.

As I sat in the discussion group this morning participating in the brainstorming part of the meeting and anticipating the break-out into smaller groups for an activity in which we would each be asked which activities bring us joy, I began to daydream and think back to the jobs I've enjoyed most. The thread connecting them all is obvious to me. I've been happiest when my employer gave me the freedom to wear the hats I wanted to wear and contribute my gifts in ways that made me feel fulfilled.

At the public library in Little Rock, I took over the job of making attractive monthly thematic displays. I got to sneak into the supply closet of the Children's Department and borrow their die-cut machine to make perfect letters and shapes out of brightly coloured cardboard for these displays.

As systems specialist at a mid-sized mutual life insurance company in Waterloo, I was allowed to wear many hats. I taught myself a programming language and developed apps to solve my department's problems and turn processes that had once been riddled with human error into idiot-proof processes as the result of my having designed graphic user interfaces that made errors impossible. I was on fire and in heaven. This company's management had the same sort of vision as those at the top of Google who came up with 'genius hour,' and it paid off.

When I first entered the field of teaching English to refugees and immigrants, I was over the moon to get to bring so many of my gifts to the table. I used my love of the English language, my passion for all languages and linguistics, my artistic ability, and my aptitude for technology. My patience was appreciated, as was my compassionate heart. It's all in there. But more and more lately I am feeling called to lay this down a while in order to see what else I might have inside me.

My old friend Olivia once told me about a concept she called fallow time, which can be a very tough one for those of us who always need a project on the go. The idea is to stop doing and just BE for a while, just as farmers sometimes leave a field unplanted for a season in order to let the soil recover.

What I'm getting at is that I'm going to be letting this blog and my website rest in the very near future. In fact, there is just one more thing I've committed to doing that is standing between me and TESL blogger retirement, and that is to give you a review--probably on video--of a book sent to me by a publisher. They sent me two copies so that I can raffle off one copy to you all and keep the other. I'm looking forward to that; I am about halfway through the book.

How about you? Do you feel your gifts are being properly used by your employer? How does that feel?


  1. Grateful for this space11/03/2019 4:38 PM

    Kelly, I'm grateful that you have provided this space for LINC teachers to gather. It seems sometimes that no one is listening to our concerns. Thank-you for providing a safe place where we could share ideas. Take care of yourself.

  2. Thank you so much, Grateful. I expect a few more Sundays to slip by before I get around to finishing the pedagogical book that I plan to review as my swan song, as I am now participating in NaNoWriMo. But I continue to receive nice comments like yours and even emails from around the US from time to time thanking me for the free resources on the website. It's hard to say goodbye to that, but I do feel that something a bit different is calling to me. --KM

  3. Before you go:

    If it takes 250 hours to move a level, does that mean 250 hours per skill?

    L- 250 hours
    S- 250 hours
    R-250 hours
    W-250 hours

    and therefore a 12.5 hour per week L/S class would mean 6.25 per skill divided into 250 hours would equal 40 class weeks of 6.25 per skill (1000 hours per year for all 4 skills)

    8 to 10 artefacts in 40 week classes of 6.25 hours.

    32 to 40 artefacts in 40 weeks of L/S/R/W classes that are 6.25 hours. 8 to 10 per class per school year.

    And in a five month term that would mean 16 to 20 artefacts in 20 weeks of L/S/R/W classes that are 6.25 hours. 4 to 5 per class every 5 months (20 weeks) One task per skill per month. IS this the correct calculation?

    And these artefacts can be skill using or assessment tasks. So why are things so off base in some centres?

    Someone tell me why one spo is pushing for one assessment task in each skill every 5 to 10 days??? 2 L/S/R/W tasks every month. (8 in total per month) (16 in two months) (24 in three months) (32 in four months) and (40 in five months)

    Is this correct? It doesn't seem to be.

    What is happening at other centres? Are any centres required to deliver 64 to 80 assessment tasks per year? Or is the number actually 32 to 40 per year and the above mentioned spo has it wrong?

    "I try to stress to students that it usually takes most learners about 400 hours to complete a level" A PBLA Champion is quoted as saying.

    Why is 250 hours being pushed?

    Anyways. 32 to 40 tasks would take a year if skill building and skill using and peer and self reflection and task assessments are all in the mix.

    1. No, it doesn't mean that. Not that any of the so-called "research" behind PBLA is valid (see, but the original thinking around the artefact quota had to do with the notion that it takes the AVERAGE learner with 8 or more years of prior formal education about 250 classroom hours to change a benchmark. So over the course of 250 hours, you need to collect enough artifacts in each skill (8-10) in order to make a progression decision. So that is not 250 x 4. That's 250 hours in which you have to collect around 32 to 40 artifacts across the four skills. Don't get me started on all the ways this approach spells the demise of our once great profession. Just don't get me started. --KM

  4. If a class is 2.5 hours, then one task every three classes.Crazy, just crazy.

    1. My SPO changed to two 5-month semesters in order to make this easier, and we aim for 32, not 40. That’s still almost non-stop assessing, which is insane, especially in lower level literacy. I’ve told my director she can have quality or quantity from me, but not both. Since the government is breathing down our necks, we go for meeting the quota. Quality doesn’t come into play. KM

    2. Hi, 4:44 AM. You should get some sleep. All of the answers to your questions can be found in the new guidelines document, which I'm linking here:
      You should use this as your Bible because it's also where you go when your supervisor doesn't know what the heck he or she is doing. That document can come to your defence. Some administrators are not up to speed and are still holding teachers accountable for the original expectations, which were even more onerous.
      So to answer your question: among those 32 artifacts, there should be a BALANCE of skill-using tasks and real-world-task assessments. No, a reflection is not an assessment. That's an added activity to do at the end of a module.
      As for your question on peer and self-assessments, I recommend you first read that document linked above, but I'll tell you what I like to do. So remember that the new guidelines no longer call for a rubric or marking tool to be attached to the receptive tasks or to the skill-using activities. So that seems to me to be the perfect time to bring in the self-assessments. I have my students assess themselves on reading and listening with a little slip of paper I cut four to an 8.5 by 11" sheet of paper on which I have provided a form. They circle whether the task was easy, so-so, or difficult and make a note regarding what they can do differently next time.
      I'm afraid I cannot give you any information on peer assessments because I've found them impossible to do with literacy.
      Don't worry about my leaving the blog. Comments will continue to flow to my gmail account and I'll always acknowledge them in some way.
      Good luck. --KM

  5. Kelly, you said, "So remember that the new guidelines no longer call for a rubric or marking tool to be attached to the receptive tasks or to the skill-using activities. So that seems to me to be the perfect time to bring in the self-assessments. I have my students assess themselves on reading and listening with a little slip of paper I cut four to an 8.5 by 11" sheet of paper on which I have provided a form. They circle whether the task was easy, so-so, or difficult and make a note regarding what they can do differently next time."

    Just a couple of questions, if you don't mind. From what I understand, criteria still needs to be shared for all tasks, receptive included. It's "suggested" that the criteria can be written at the top of the teacher assessment task or they can be copied onto a skill-using activity.

    The activity you describe where students reflect on their work is exactly that, a reflection, I think.

    But what do I know?

    It's crazy how insanely INCONSISTENT this all is. And so ironic for an assessment system which saw consistency as one of its key goals!


    1. Nellie,
      Yes, I agree that it's ironic when you consider that consistency was supposed to be one of the reasons PBLA came into existence in the first place, and yet it's a mess.
      Yes, you still have to share the instructions for the task, the criteria for success. This can be written on the board or can appear on the paper.
      As for module reflections, they do not go in the L/S/R/W sections of the portfolio. They are module reflections and now we're told they go at the back of the About Me section. With literacy, I use the Learning Log that can be found in the Learner Self-Assessment Toolkit on Tutela. It's very simple, made of one page divided into four sections, one for each skill. There we note what they can do now that they could not do at the beginning of the module. With seniors, I have my own form I made up where they note down any new terms they acquired during the module, any new knowledge, what challenges they faced and how they will apply the learning in their lives, whether they found it useful, stuff like that. So it's not an assessment at all. It's a learning reflection: looking back and pondering, acknowledging. Sometimes I also use a KWL chart in place of a reflection because we can use it both as a goal-setting tool at the start of a module and then as a reflection of what was learned at the end.

  6. This post is very ironic because I have been realizing that our supervisor/leaders do not want our gifts. As of lately especially our Supervisor has been feeling insecure from our sometimes wonderful ideas and has felt a need to control them. This has lead to her deciding what is PBLA, even though she has no training. It is interesting to see how toxic she has made our work environment by simply removing trust and I would say " not appreciating our unique talents." It is probably easy to guess that no one is thriving. Interested to know about jobs you had where your boss was threatened and acted out because of your gifts. What did you do?

    1. Dear 4:57 PM,
      In some cases I just kept doing my job and the toxic person eventually was fired or his position was eliminated. In those situations, he or she was immediately replaced by someone who recognized my gifts and allowed me to shine. In another situation or two, I moved on to a better environment, one where I was free to spread my wings more. I'm happy to report that toxic people tend to have more volatile lives, which means that you can often outlast them. But if it's dire, you need to put feelers out to see how things are at other schools. --KM


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