Monday, January 30, 2006

It's my second last day, it's my second last day, it's my second last day of CEL-TA!!

In case you haven't yet realised, today is my second last day of the CELTA course. I've gotten my final assignment back and I've taught my final practice lesson. All in all, my brain badly needs a rest.

So, for you all of my friends, who for the last month have felt like I've dropped off the edge of the world - I'll be back to real life on Wednesday.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm REALLY glad that tomorrow is a public holiday.

Today the server was down at college and I spent the whole day in mental agony because I hadn't read my horoscope. For the record:

Saggo-Aquarius synergy feels good for you guys: it's high on ideas, communication and personal enlightenment. Something formal may need to be expressed to a friend? A proper thank-you note?

Gee, glad I read it now then - my whole day could have gone down the tubes like that *click*.

Ok, so mental agony may be a slight exaggeration (btw: that "may" I used back there is a modal auxiliary and expresses an opinion - are you bored yet, or do you want to teach English as a second language when you grow up?).

Anyway, my brain has become nothing but slush. And it's slooshing around in my skull doing me no good at all. Only a few more days to go and I'll have finished the CELTA course and I will have a life again. Only a few more days .....

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Comprehension has its limits

The most interesting thing about teaching English as a second language is that most of my students actually know a lot about grammar stuff because most of them have been studying English for up to ten years. But their comprehension isn't always the best.

The other day, Deadly was doing a listening exercise where they had to listen to a song and complete the gaps in the lyrics that he gave them. One of the lines in the song was "oooh baby, you light my soul on fire". The had great difficulty getting this until it dawned on Deadly that they thought that the song was for singing to an actual baby. So he had to try to get them to understand what "oooh baby" meant in the context of the song.

He did a pretty good job, and in order to make sure that all the students were on the same page, he asked what we call concept checking questions. "So Yeoung, would I say oooh baby to you?". "Yes", says Yeoung. "No, no, no", says Deadly. I would not say oooh baby to you, I would say it to my wife, but I would not say it to you".

I still don't think poor Yeoung really understood.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It would be so much easier for everyone

This afternoon, Deadly was teaching the class about directions - how to give them and how to follow them. He was on the home stretch and the class were looking at their mythical village maps trying to plot routes from the hospital to the castle etc. The class was abuzz as they worked in pairs trying to find the best route. Finally most of the class finished and Deadly (using our highly advanced technology - an overhead projector) was drawing the routes that the students were describing.

One student, Jenny, was getting very confused about which was left and right and the difference between an intersection and a t-intersection. The route that she was describing (and that Deadly was drawing in) was going nowhere near the castle and was so convoluted that the whole class was mystified.

Finally she just blurted out "can't we take a taxi to the castle?".

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I also had my first set of immunisations last night. I'm hoping to go to Vietnam and Cambodia in Feb/March but it depends on whether I have any money by then. So I needed Hep A, Hep B and Typhoid. Rather than go to my usual doctor, I thought that I'd just go to one here in the city that specialises in travel immunisations.

He was a fucking butcher. He just jabbed those needles straight in and did both in the same arm. By the time I got to the bus stop, I actually had blood running down my arm. Never again will I get a needle from that place. And he was mean. He didn't even speak to me or look at me and then he stuck a bandaid on my arm when I said I was allergic to the adhesive used in bandaids.

Next time I am going to see Dr Greg who gives me jellybeans when I have a needle.

It's hard to keep a straight face sometimes

You know, I hadn't really planned for this course to completely take over my life - but it has. I don't do anything except teach classes, attend lectures, prepare lesson plans, write assignments and drink coffee at every opportunity. In order to break up the monotony, I've been treasuring those little moments when my students make me smile.

The other day one of the other guys (nicknamed Deadly) doing my course, set the class (we take turns to teach the same students) some homework - I think it was verb phrases or something. When he asked one of the students to tell the class his answer, SungJin (speaking very clearly) said "I like pure girls". Deadly nearly died on the spot. He recovered well though, and kept the class moving along. In the meantime, all of us sitting at the back doing observation tasks, were in hysterics.

After class, Deadly, was reliving the moment when one of my other classmates revealed that SungJin had told him that he only came to Australia to find a girlfriend. Apparently he was studying Civil Engineering in Korea but wants to give it away because it's too hard to meet girls. Bless his little cotton socks.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Teaching adults vs. teaching children

On Friday I also had a new Japanese student in my class. Before class I chatted to him a for a bit about where he was from and how long he was going to be here for. I told him that I was going to Japan in March to teach at a cram school. He expressed the opinion that it will be very different from teaching at the English college. "Yes", I said, "but at least in Japan I'll be taller than most of my students". "That's true", he said, "and in Japan you'll be able to hit them if they are bad".

And he wasn't joking.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

E-Dictionaries - why they should be melted down and used as door stops

The one thing that I really hate about teaching English is those little electronic dictionaries. All of our students, you see, have these nifty little electronic dictionaries that they are all completely addicted to. It's a nasty little habit that means many of them can't sit through an entire lesson without tappity-tapping the little gizmos. But that sounds great you say! If they don't know what a word means, they look it up, how keen you say!

Well, it's not. It sucks. Firstly, the quality of the language and meanings that they are looking up is dubious at best. Secondly, the meaning of a word is often totally dependent on the context in which it is used. And thirdly, they don't need to look up every other damn word - they should be learning to infer the meaning from the context. Reading in a second language is like riding a bike. If you keep stopping the reading process every 2 seconds to look things up, you get the wobbles and fall off the damn bike.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes e-dictionaries are helpful - like the word sawmill for instance. They all know what a sawmill is, they just don't know the english word for it so an e-dictionary will probably provide an adequate explanation. But try looking up "gold fever" - it won't be there. So they look up gold - that's simple. They look up fever - that's simple. But they are nowhere near understanding what "gold fever" means.

Now I just tell them to put the damn things back in the bags and ask if they don't know what something means. At least we have decent English/English dictionaries to refer to.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A peep through the classroom door

On Friday in class, the students (mainly Korean) were talking about the famous living person that they most admire (practicing their oral fluency). It was really interesting because as they went around the class, the guys would pick some Korean soccer star and when asked why they admired them, would say "because he is handsome, does good work for the poor and sets a good example for the fans". I thought it was interesting that none of the guys had a problem saying that another guy was handsome. No Australian man would EVER say that because it's like a blight on their masculinity. Interesting, huh?

Nor did the Korean students really understand about citizenship. After class we were talking about Korea and someone asked me if I was Australian. I said I was, but that I was born in New Zealand. "So you are a New Zealander then?". No, I'm Australian. "Yes, but if you were born in New Zealand, then you are a New Zealander". Maybe it's different for Westerners because we don't seem to have a particular racial type (ie. most of us look alike), but they definitely feel that where you were born determines your nationality.

Tales from the classroom

Well - the title sounds more exciting than it really is - sorry about that. I'm teaching my fourth class tomorrow - we are doing adjective structures and dependent prepositions. A dependent preposition essentially refers to an adjective with a particular preposition that goes with it. For example - certain about (about is a dependent preposition - so you wouldn't say certain with, of, to, at etc).

Thankfully this is an easy one to understand because I am living in fear that the students will realise that I'm bluffing and that I actually have no idea about the hard stuff - like verb structures. I'm also pretty crap at verb tenses. I'm sure once I've managed to "get it", they'll stay stuck in my brain, but I just can't get my head around them yet.

I'm sorry I don't have anything else exciting to tell you about - but I no longer have a life. This morning I got to college at 8.15am and left at 6.15pm. Only 15 more working days to go.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hey, this place looks familiar....

I know I haven't been a very good blogger lately but I've been such a busy bee that I haven't had a chance to come by and say hi. But I'm here now, so "hi".

I started my course on Tuesday and even though it is only Wednesday, I'm exhausted. I couldn't even speak to Jammin' J for more than 30 seconds as I feel like my brain is totally fried. The course I'm doing is to learn to teach English as a second language (to speakers of other languages). It's only four weeks but is very intensive.

A better description is to say that I feel like I've joined a cult. It's hard to understand but it's like only my classmates really understand how I feel while doing the course. It's like we are all in some weird Jim Jones inspired work camp but it will end with us all flying off to different places to teach and not drinking poisoned kool-aid.

I taught my first real class today (yep, on my second day) and it was pretty awful. My topic was verb structures, and as you all know, because I have such a fabulous grasp of grammar, it was a piece of cake (hint: I'm lying now). So the material sucked but the class are very nice. There are about 16 of them and most of them are Korean. The majority of them have been studying English for some time and have a pretty good grasp of the written stuff (ie. their grammar is far superior to mine). Most of them are here to do some immersion learning and improve their language skills. All of them really want to be able to speak English, so they mostly need to practice listening and speaking. They are all so pleased to be here and many of them would like to stay here once they finish studying.

Anyway, I need to go and do some prep stuff for Thursday and this entry is beginning to sound like a Christmas letter. Ewwwwhhhh.