What’s your story?

Here’s mine :

Like everyone else, I went through a schooling experience that left me wanting and damaged in many ways. But unlike everyone else, I was idealistic about being able to find a way to make schools how I intended for it to be for me: a place which inculcated a transcendental narrative to make this world a better place. A better place how?

– opportunities

– discovery

– creation

Opportunities to go anywhere and be anything you want to be.Those opportunities come from the circumstances designed from informed opinions, decisions made from critical thinking and deep insight.  An opportunity to experience freedom, affluence, love, ease, joy. It didn’t matter if you wanted to wallow in self-sabotage but at least one will have the opportunities to inform their decisions and engineer their circumstances beyond what was given. That to me, was supposed to be the goal of education.

Discover – to discover the purpose and meaning of your life, not what tradition and world-view dictates to you but to be able to say, “I own this opinion. I own these feelings. I own these actions.” When you discover what you are capable of, what your strengths are, these are richness no one can take away. One can only discover their purpose if they mine the innate aptitudes inherent in them and then learn to cultivate them from other masters. From these masters we inherit their skills and discover how we can take it one level up.

Creation – the final outcome when the opportunities to discover and be come into fusion.

My daughter has been watching me read, write, conceptualize, research non-stop in the last few months. She asked me last night, “Mom, if you were teaching any other language, would all this have happened?”

For some background, I teach ESL. The way I view things, we have arrived at a place in time where we’ve started to question seriously the egalitarian goals of schooling. Let’s face it; we have a whole world of people who no longer believe in the “work hard, save money, die” routine of generations before.

Aren’t we now experiencing the unfolding of a movement for freedom that began in the 60s? Equality, opportunities, technology,wealth-creation, freedom, emancipation. These are the themes of our times.

We’ve accepted the validity of multiple intelligence and the importance of social and emotional intelligence in helping us frame a new concept of the world we can be, opening up Opportunities to so many more people to add dimensions of thought and being to our world. The verdict is also out on the theories of a woman who was ahead of her time – we’ve begun to appreciate the importance of childhood in helping individuals Discover their innate potential and inherent strengths, cultivate their creativity through curiosities and bringing with them new answers to salve the wounded world we live in.

So what’s my story with teaching ESL in the 21st century?  For one, we’re starting to see that storytelling is beginning to find its place again e.g. (Krashen, comprehension +2) PLUS Content & Language Integrated Learning has started gaining traction in the last 10 years. In the right context with the right person, you’d have every student leaving feeling, “I’ve improved so much and learned so much!” I’m not talking about an illegible rambling of a teacher’s personal life but a proper, meaningful, thought provoking lecture.

This is not a blog debating the effectivenes of CLIL as a methodology by itself, but merely to illustrate that there is merit in teaching CONTENT that is useful to the learner through a LANGUAGE they are acquiring provided the teacher can step-down the content to suit the language abilities of the learners. This is where being a bilingual teacher can be pretty helpful.

So, my content : 21st Century Paradigm : How to learn, earn and succeed in it by synthesizing the different topics and levels of content you’re learning through language. Isn’t it engaging to learn insightful things about the real world, things that schools simply aren’t meant to teach? Wouldn’t it make a language learner more receptive to language if the topics were highly relevant and engaging?

It’s not a school subject but it might as well be. Why pay for seminar after seminar as an adult after you find yourself stuck in a rut when you could’ve learned the new rules of technology, learning and economy WHILE learning a second language? Why shouldn’t an ESL course teach socialnomics, marketing, global knowledge, cultural awareness, how language is learned, what metacognition is, how to learn how to learn, how to learn how to think more effectively – and to be enabled to do all these by using the tools for communication, collaboration and creation that technology has brought us? Why not?

And no, I haven’t gotten ALL the answers, I’m doing it the Google way – be perpetually Beta testing, but at least I get to learn from my mistakes. I think I still need to do a lot of work in how I present my lessons; it’s heavily focused on teacher-talking right now because my students can’t multi-task! They can’t listen, reflect, recall and make notes and anticipate at the same time. Not even in their own Mother Tongue. Their idea of making notes is to capture every word in full-form. I’m thinking, next month’s content – Effective note-taking and mind-mapping techniques. Why not?

I’m making mistakes, but I believe that’s still better than being a teacher that believes they’re not making any mistakes because they stick to the bell and the answer book. Just last week, I realized there’s a cultural barrier to self-directedness : Chinese learners don’t think they have a right to be smarter than their teacher and thus didn’t feel a right to ask questions that challenges the teacher to teach them in a way they learn instead of obliging themselves to learn how a teacher teaches.

I had to address an issue that no one really realized was an issue. I gave myself as an example, that had I not dared question the practices of my English teachers nor dared to question the dictatorship of schoolteachers, what sort of teacher would I have been? I eventually formulated a lesson out of that for them to reflect upon.

We’ll just wait and see how incorporating Organic Learning + CLIL + 21st Century Skills is going to work out. That’s my story :).

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