‘If you don’t change, you don’t grow. If we don’t grow we aren’t really living.’ said Gail Sheehy. It is just one of the millions of quotes that advocate CHANGE. However, many people prefer to keep the familiar grounds and avoid change as much as possible. Change threatens our comfort zones, change disturbs the routine: depending on the scale of it, it may even affect one’s identity.
Recently, I made a huge change in my life. Surely, what is ‘huge’ is debatable but it has been a HUGE one for myself. I left my job, my established career and workplace, my fantastically woven network of friends and colleagues, and my hometown of 40+ years. In short, my settled life was left behind back in Istanbul, Turkey. I found a job in a prestigious university in the UAE and started to live in Dubai. It has been just over two months, and I must say it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done even though I have been in a privileged status and looked after well.
Last week we had a long break of nine days, which gave me a chance to reflect on what I have done and what I have been doing. Here are some of my gains..
Discovering my unbeknown weaknesses and strengths
As all the reflective people, I have always thought about my weaknesses and strengths but all of these were to do with my familiar environment. I have been discovering new kinds of weaknesses and some strengths. For example, I have never had to get things done with people who spoke English in 100 different ways. Especially one the phone, the accents and the limited level of language have still been frustrating me. One thing I need to work on in the long run, for sure. On a positive note, I managed to adapt to my new role and responsibilities quickly. However, I still could not adapt to my office and my house. It does not feel mine yet. Another thing to get used to.
Appreciating the value of true friendship and the love ones
In an established lifestyle, keeping friends, family relationships and friendships may not seem too difficult. However, being away and feeling detached from the loved ones and their daily lives urges one to show extra efforts to be updated. Thank God there is Facebook. I read my friends’ posts, comment on them and get their comments when I post something. I find this experience invaluable.
New dynamics in my personal life
My new life naturally required new adaptations. First of all, I used to be a perfect pedestrian so well as my husband. We did not need to own a car in Istanbul. My home was in a cozy neighbourhood with everything within a 15- minute walk distance. Even though I live in a flat which is close to many kinds of restaurants, café’s and groceries, in Dubai, there seem to be different places to go for different things. For example, when I went out I used to be able to meet a friend and have a cup of coffee, get my shoes repaired and, on the way back, buy as many veggies as I needed within the 15 minute walk neighbourhood.
More importantly, I used to take a taxi to work in the mornings and it would take 15 minutes max to get to work even in Istanbul traffic . Now, however, it takes 30 minutes from my house to my workplace on a pretty empty motorway (no other public transportation and taxis cost about $50 a day when a rental car is $25 a day). This has required my husband to drive me to work by our rental car (as we did not have the right to buy our own until we have received our residence permits) even though he does not have to get up early. (I have not been confident enough to drive as I had been out of practice for the last 15 years). In the end, just a few days ago I drove first time after so many years and felt overjoyed. It may seem so silly to feel so happy about a skill such us driving but I felt good to feel freer.
We had to set up a house from scratch when we came here. This meant to go to furniture stores in all of our free times and arrange time for delivery. It seems incredibly exciting to be given this chance of creating a brand new house, doesn’t it. However, it was not easy to agree on the time to look for the furniture or a certain piece of furniture. As we had not gone through these stages when we first got married (as my husband moved into my apartment) we certainly discovered many different sides of each other. And let me tell you, they were not the most pleasant ones .
New role, new identity
I used to have an administrative role in my previous post. That role made me experience a lonelier kind of position in my workplace. That is, I did not have enough time to chat or relax with the people around me. Now I am back to teaching and I have a lot more time to chat with everyone and I know more about the gossip as well . This certainly gives me way way different perspectives in more than one dimensions.
It is the first time I am an expat –if I exclude my one-year Fulbright experience in the States, and in an amazing city in an Arabic country where people from all parts of the world truly blend together. Everyday I am fascinated to discover something new. One sees/meets many people form countries such as India, Thailand, Philippines, Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, and Sri Lanka who share incredible stories that one could never imagine to hear. The jobs in the beauty saloons are taken by the Filipinos, taxies are driven by Indians or Pakistanis, etc. One day, I heard that the lady who was doing my manicure has not seen her five year old daughter for 2 years. She cannot afford to visit home more often than every two years and if she does not work here she knows her daughter will never have a future. As in her story, people make rather difficult choices.
I was supposed to talk about my identity but ended up talking about others’. However, what is identity anyway. This hilarious video link made me rethink about identity.
I will keep writing, changing, adapting and growing.
Most of your comments made make a lot of sense. This teacher started off well, we might say. However, she did not reinforce the target language in context but asked for the production which made the students stumble.
Here are some ideas for Scenario 1.
The teacher must answer these two questions first:
1. What is the purpose of asking students to produce sentences before they get the proper input?
2. Why does the teacher ask grammar questions before ensuring the meaning of the dialogue?
Also the teacher must reconsider the learning process. Without grasping the function and the use of the target language, students cannot usually come up with tasks that require higher levels of understanding or production. Language input could have come earlier, that way students would have been exposed to the target language in context.
The lesson consists of isolated sections, so we cannot say that it is contextual.
A communicative group work requires genuine interaction- members need to learn smth that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
So this lesson is not a very successful lesson. The best part is the application of concept check questions.
If we go back to the principles mentioned by Prof Richards- see my previous post. the following principles could be reminded.
Principle 5 Language learning is facilitated both by activities that involve inductive or discovery learning of underlying rules of language use and organization, as well as by those involving language analysis and reflection
Principle 9 The role of the teacher in the language classroom is that of a facilitator, who creates a classroom climate conductive to language learning and provides opportunities for students to use and practice the language and to reflect on language use and language learning
Scenario 2 is coming soon. Promise much sooner than this response..
Please see the lesson stages in Scenario 1 and kindly evaluate it in terms of the criteria for effective language teaching in my previous post.
* T shows some pictures from the course book and asks some concept check questions, i.e. shows a happy young couple with a baby and asks if they can guess how old the baby is, students say 1 year old or 1,5 years old and s/he concept checks: Can the baby be 5 years old? Elicits “No” etc. T does this with two other unrelated pictures and makes sure that students get the target language. T writes on the board how the predictions are made considering whether it is a strong guess or a weak guess, etc.
* T asks students get into groups of three and look at a picture reflected on the board and asked to write similar predictions. They are puzzled and blocked.
* T goes and tries to help them understand the task and corrects the mistakes.
* T asks students to listen to the CB CD for the language input. S/he gives them the text script worksheet where the grammar points were erased and students were asked to fill in the blanks.
My suggestions will follow after getting some ideas from you.
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion
Does being “eclectic” mean that you can use whatever feels right there and then?
What should be the underlying aim of the exercises used in a class where eclectic approach is implemented?
While criticising the prescriptive nature of language teaching approaches, Brown (2001) suggests “principled teaching”, making informed choices suitable to the context for the students in that environment where effective and meaningful teaching which considers language teaching methodology takes place.
In his ground-breaking article at the time, Prabhu (1990) discusses why there is no best method but he acknowledges the importance of the necessity of being “informed” and purposeful for making the right choices.
“……….., for any single teaching context, there is in fact a method that is best and, further, we are able to determine what it is.” (p.163).
Therefore, we cannot do whatever feels right there and then. We need to know why we are doing what we are doing and how effective what we are doing is.
Richards (2005) discusses the importance of theory while planning and preparing language teaching materials and revisits communicative language teaching principles considering current interpretations. Below is a summary of his list of underlying principles of CLT and the link to the full document is here.
1. Meaningful communication and interaction
2. Effective tasks promoting negotiation of meaning
3. Relevant, purposeful, interesting and engaging content
4. Inductive and discovery learning of the rules and time for reflection on language analysis
5. Integration of skills
6. Language learning is a gradual process (mistakes are normal but the ultimate aim is accuracy and fluency)
7. Language learners have different ways of learning
8. Awareness of language learning and communication strategies
9. Opportunities for students to use and practice the language
10. Promotion of collaboration and sharing.
So considering all these, I decided to start a chain of blog posts where I will introduce some classroom scenarios and will ask you to critique the lesson stages taking these principles account. I will then list my ideas to improve e aspects of the given scenario.
First scenario will come soon.
I look forward to your contribution and comments.
Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Prabhu, N.S. (1990).There Is No Best Method-Why? TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 161-176. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0039-8322%28199022%2924%3A2%3C161%3ATINBM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M
Richards, J.C. (2005). Materials Development and Research-Making connections Retrieved September 1, 2012, http://www.professorjackrichards.com/wp-content/uploads/materials-development-making-connection.pdf