Category: Stories from class

Interesting discussion / debate: man’s house burns down

This article has a video interview with Gene Cranick whose house burned down because he wasn’t on the list of people who paid $75 for fire department services from a neighboring city:

Ashes and rubble are all that remain of Gene Cranick’s house after it burned to the ground last week in Obion County, Tennessee. Firefighters on the scene were not allowed to help and could only watch. All because Cranick forgot to pay a $75 service fee for him living outside of the city limits.

Because this fee wasn’t paid, the firefighters were not allowed to hose the house or do anything to save it. They could only stand by, in case it spread to other houses. They did aid a neighbor’s house, saving his field. But did nothing heroic for the Cranicks. A local news report shows them climbing in their trucks and driving away, as flames still covered the remains of Cranick’s home.

In my class about 90% of students thought the fire department should have stepped in and done something though there were a few who said the system needs to be strictly enforced. It’s not the kind of debate that lasts an hour – I felt 20 minutes was about right. Students did find the situation interesting (if somewhat unbelievable) and some asked on their own if something similar could happen in Korea.

I tried to present the issue sympathetically to the South Fulton government. That city pays for its fire department and needs the annual $75 to keep things running smoothly. Since Gene Cranick doesn’t live in South Fulton, his taxes didn’t go to the fire department. And since he forgot to pay the $75 maybe he really has no reason to expect another city’s fire department to save his home.

I didn’t mention that he had 3 dogs and a cat in the house (they all perished) but I did mention that when he called 911 he offered to pay whatever it took (I said “however many thousands of dollars”) for them to save his home.

It may be worth mentioning that they started the fire by burning trash too close to their home and not controlling the fire.

Adjusting to a new home, new school, new classes

Every semester I have to adjust to new classes, but this semster I also have a new home and a new school. As some of you know, I’m no longer a teacher trainer with SMU-TESOL. I now teach at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

It’s a big change from teaching graduate level SLA and practicum courses to teaching English conversation, composition, and debate. The students seem a little more nervous and hesitant which makes me realize that if I push my undergrads as hard as I pushed my teacher trainees, I might do more harm than good.

Still, the classes I’ve met in this first week of school have impressed me. I’d be lying if I said the students seem as excited as I am, but they do have positive attitudes. I can tell that they are happy to be where they are. That’s at least one thing we have in common!

Extra credit assignment for SMU-TESOL (Groups 1,4,5,6,A,B SLA class)

Extra credit assignments will be written reports applying ideas from SLA class to a lesson you have taught and/or planned. Reports will be published on this blog so that other teachers can benefit from the analysis.

Step 1: Summarize a lesson. This could be a lesson from your own teaching experience or it can come from one of your methodology lesson plans.

Step 2: Analyze the lesson’s theoretical foundation by applying ideas we’ve discussed in SLA.

Notes: The summary should be fewer than 200 words. The analysis should be 500 words or more. The conclusion should be fewer than 200 words. Reports should consist of paragraphs under headings. Possible headings:

I. Overview of the lesson

II. Theoretical justification of the activities

A. Right hemisphere participation

B. The Affective Filter, anxiety, and motivation

C. Input and Output

III. Conclusion

The headings above are not required (you may use any headings you like) but should give you an idea about the form I expect. Extra credit assignments should be emailed to [email protected] attached as word (.doc) files. The due date is Monday, December 4th, 2006.

A nice moment today

I had a student come up to me and ask for extra reading so she can prepare for grad school. I asked her what she wanted to study specifically so that I could recommend the most appropriate books. She said, “SLA.”

Well since I’m the SLA teacher in our graduate certificate program, that made me quite happy. I know that she may have made up her mind long before she stepped into my class, but I also know that I might have inspired her. One thing I know for sure is that I didn’t squash her dreams. That’s something since the classroom is often a discouraging place, especially when exams and grades are involved as they are in our TESOL program.

Observations are coming!

Observation time is coming again. In a few days my teaching style will be on display and up for critique. I suppose I’m more confident than I should be, but my student evaluations last semester (my first at SMU-TESOL) were almost oo good to be true.

Well it feels great to work hard and see that your efforts are appreciated. But it also probably makes me a little too confident and the past 3 weeks I’m not sure I’ve been doing my best at being critical of myself in order to get better.

Hopefully, I’ll snap myself out of dreamland. I don’t want the observer from the University of Maryland to do it for me.

First day of class

So in a few hours I begin teaching. Part of me is certainly sorry that vacation is over a month earlier than it would be if I were still teaching in a regular university program (the normal sememster starts in September but our program starts in August). However, part of me is looking forward to having a regular schedule again since I seem better able to get work done and budget my time when part of each day is dictated to me.

Anyway, I should have more stories to tell soon.

Creating student books

One of my new responsibilities as a lead teacher is to prepare student booklets. This week I need to work on 3: one for SLA, one for the SLA part-time class, and one for the academic skills part-time class.

Honestly, I’m not looking forward to this. I love being in the classroom, but sitting in front of a computer creating booklets can be fairly tedious.

Students who should know better

Today a couple of my colleagues and I were in a meeting preparing for next semester when a student interrupts to hand in a paper. My colleague says “It’s a little late.”

The student says she didn’t know the article was due at noon (it was 1:30) but my colleague called her on that little fib: “It was written on the assignment, right at the top, in big bold letters. Plus I wrote it on the board and told you in class.”

The student continued protesting, insisting that she didn’t deserve to lose any points because she didn’t know about the deadline. My colleague said that she would deduct a few points because the assignment was late.

Eventually, the student turns her back, says “I just think this is ridiculous,” and slams the door on her way out.

Now we’re talking about a graduate student here, a teacher in training. How could she not know better?

Proctoring exams

Final exam season here. In a few minutes I have to proctor another 2 hour exam. I can usually read a few pages of my newest travel book, but mostly I’m pretty vigilant. There are so many students in a such a big room and the other proctors are pretty vigilant so I try to pay attention to the test-takers for 2 hours but it’s ahrd (and boring). Anyway, time to go do it.

Get your students online practice with native speakers

As the university semester here in Korea winds down, my former colleague using the grammar message board told me that he’s had a great semester getting his students to interact with native speakers online.

Once again, I want to invite anyone to come use the forum, free. I hire native speakers to maintain conversations with anyone posting in the Tell us about yourself forum. We’ve seen some pretty good learning experiences:

Here’s one learner who got some good practice discussing music. Another learner shared some thoughts on Korean culture, specifically Parents’ Day in Korea. All in all, we just see lots of interesting exchanges develop. This is language learning, making it meaningful and having fun with it (do I sound like Krashen?).

Anyway, invite your studnets to come join the fun. I’ll make sure they have native speakers to speak with.