Second Blogiversary

Ahoj! These days, this blog is celebrating two years of its existence, and I wanted to do a special post for it. Last year, I wrote about the background of Angels and Lions; today, I am going to answer all the questions my readers asked me when I invited them on Twitter and Facebook.

There were about twenty questions and I divided them into three categories: blogging, lesson & students, and learning & teaching.

BLOGGING

How would you continue these sentences about blogging ‘I blog when….’ ‘I blog every time I….’ ‘I blog only when…’ ‘I only blog if………’

I blog when I’m inspired, and I try to be inspired at least twice a month. I try to blog every time a lesson worth writing about happens. I only blog if I’m all right and things are good. Family comes first.

What impact, if any, has blogging had on your practice?

This is a tough question and I don’t really know how to answer it. There haven’t been many tangible results. It’s not like my boss read it and gave me a raise. I guess the growth in confidence might be a thing. You know there is something behind you that you can show people. And reflection, perhaps – “what could I write about this lesson” type of thinking.

What makes you go on blogging? Can you see yourself ever deleting your blog & why do you think that would be (or not)?

I love my audience. I’m glad I started the blog when I had a solid audience on Twitter. I love the exchanges in the comments and the sharing of ideas.

I keep going because I find writing easy. I once told Glenys Hanson I think with a pen in my hand and she said it was unusual. Gosh, I miss her so much….

I love reading my stats, especially the countries where people view from. There are some exotic destinations! I wish I knew who the people were.

Deleting the blog? Yes, I am quite prone to decluttering, so I can imagine deleting the blog. I did nearly delete my Facebook page, when all the s…t about the company came out. Suppose something like this happened to WordPress. Basically, I try not to get too attached to stuff. But I am NOT planning to delete Angels and Lions! I love it!

How has blogging changed for you?

I’m less nervous about being rejected when I post something. I am more confident about my writing in general, but I do need to polish up my English for sure.

Do you feel your voice has changed since you began?

I guess I’ve gained confidence and am less frightened. I hope I will NEVER become patronizing! And I hope it isn’t too frivolous – my usual state of mind, LOL.

What connections have you made or tangible results have you observed in your professional practice as a result of your blog?

There have been so many fantastic connections for which I am immensely grateful! My post on admin for freelancers has got attention among Czech freelancers, and I have made so many friends there. I regularly chat with the Twitter ELT gang, who are so dear to me. When times were hard recently, the Twitter girls came au secours via DMs and have kept me going through it. I know social networks can be a bitch and addictive, but honestly, my connections have been the best!

STUDENTS AND LESSONS

How do you motivate un(der)motivated students?

I hook them. Try to find an individual solution for each person. Some like books, some like videos, some prefer exercises; most people need a pat on the shoulder. There’s a butcher for every pig as the saying goes! This is actually one thing I am good at (supposing you want to hire me).

Would you recommend blogging to your students and why?

I do recommend it all the time! I think the writing of massive amounts of text quickly teaches you how to write. There is no other way to learn it. Responding to comments is another underestimated skill. It’s relatively low-stress. With the tools that technology has to offer nowadays, you can check your writing easily for spelling, choice of vocabulary and grammar. Unfortunately none of my students have started a blog yet, but some of my students have opened Instagram accounts where they post in L2.

What do you do when everything seems like it’s just going bad?

I take control of the lesson as a teacher. (I am not the “power teacher” – I am fairly casual and I step back, let my students talk more than I do and I am not too strict about errors). I reboot the lesson. Wave my hands, bellow “STOP!” and find out/clarify what is wrong – which usually is people misunderstood instructions (mostly my fault), or don’t understand some of the language. Then we start again.

What is your killer go-to lesson if you have 5 mins warning to cover a colleague’s upper-int class?

I’m afraid I don’t really have that kind of thing, just like I don’t have my favourite go-to vocab/grammar activities. If this happens, I improvise (see my BREWING post on teacher improvisation). But now that I think about it, other than Dogme, I’d probably also bring along a safety sheet on revising articles!

LEARNING AND TEACHING

Sum up your teaching philosophy in five words. (ok, more or less five: )

Five-star reliability & professionalism – integrity – trust – teacher & student harmony

What kind of student do you find the most difficult to work with?

The students who don’t want to learn but say they do.

What do you do on days when you just don’t feel like teaching, but you know you just have to go and deliver?

I go and deliver and usually feel better. If I can’t get out of bed because I’m ill, I cancel the classes and make up later or find some other solution; this happens about once a year. Sometimes I wish the Home Office Goddess came down to me and granted me a free day, but I am generally positive and upbeat about my job, although much less so about lesson planning on a Sunday evening.

What are your absolute must-haves during class (laptop? pen and paper? a white board? a bottle of water?)

Pen. Paper. Internet. Large scissors. In that order. A laptop is nice, because I can take my class notes instantly and don’t need to send updates later. I love a 15-min break after class to deal with the updates & sending homework so that admin doesn’t rob me of my weekends.

What’s been your biggest learning curve in the last 2 years?

This question made me want to sign up for a teacher training workshop immediately! I learn slowly and as a typical product of 1990s Czech education, I know very little about very many things. But to answer the question, I’ve recently enjoyed learning how to teach Czech B2 grammar, because until now our courses came up to B1 only. I love learning about TBLT, and I’ve found it so useful to learn about effective learning strategies on the Learning Scientists site. I also think I’ve made progress in teaching English for presentations and some Business English.

What, if any, are the differences between teaching English and teaching Czech for you?

The first and foremost difference for me is that Czech is a heavily grammatical language and there is no point in denying it. I’ve tried many things to avoid a systematic approach to teaching the grammar but to no avail. All the people that have studied the language say the same thing. Czech children study grammar from the first years of school, and an average Czech person has a very good knowledge of parts of speech, sentence structure, verb tenses, etc.

As a result, TBLT implementation is not easy. I am not saying you cannot do tasks, but a Czech teacher always has to keep in mind the grammar it will entail and whether the students already know it. Knowing the Czech grammar helps you; it does not obscure the language. If I were to name some key areas, I would recommend that learners of Czech pay attention especially to the studying of cases, perfective/imperfective and prefixed verbs.

Conversely, Czechs have several difficulties when learning English: the article, verb tenses, word order and decoding connected speech. Moreover, the absence of flexion in English makes it sometimes difficult to understand for a Czech learner.

There is so much to say in fact that I may have to write a full post!

What, if anything, has changed about your view of ELT in these last 2 years?

ELT seems somewhat fuzzy these days. In the distant past, it used to be the language spoken in GB. American English was just the two pages of words like autumn/fall; trousers/pants in the English Grammar in Use and the rolling Rs. Now? You know what I mean. How can teachers teach well if they don’t know what they are teaching? British English? American English? ELF? I find it difficult to see where we are actually going. And you can see this in the “needs” of students:

“What do you want to learn?” — “English. I need to be better at English.” “But what exactly do you need to do in English?” – “Eeeh?”

Why do you think we teachers are getting so many responses like this? It’s as if some people have to know English but do not actually use it except for some boring work emails and occasionally when they bump into tourists on Charles Bridge. I know your situation is probably different and there are relevant contexts, such as English for academic purposes or when people move to an English-speaking country, but in my situation, teaching English to adult professionals in Prague, I have often found myself wondering about the purpose. Is it the teacher’s role to bring back joy and motivation in the learning of foreign languages?

There seems to be a wide discrepancy between the debate happening internationally and the non-debate in the Czech Republic. While important issues, such as the use of course books and non/native English-speaking teachers seem to have been treated in the international ELT circles several years ago, and other subjects are currently being brought up (environmental issues, inclusiveness, teacher empowerment, etc.), in my country, to my annoyance, people are only concerned that there might be a shortage of “native speakers” after Brexit. (Click on the link to the article in Czech here and its English version here).

Unsurprisingly, I do wish the stale Czech waters could get a bit fresher, and also more Czech teachers’ voices were heard internationally. You know the joke about the shop owner’s nightmare: a dog walking in wearing roller skates and holding an ice-cream. My nightmare? A request for a male native English-speaking teacher using a photocopied New English File with an audio CD and amusing his female-only class with “funny stories”.

On the positive side, I think the ELT circles, as I connect with them online, are a fantastic, united and supportive driving force for instilling change. I am so fond of the democratic exchange of voices happening on our online planet and I believe that they can make this world a better place to live in.

That’s it! I wanted to thank you all for asking such great questions. They helped me focus and made me, a perpetual idler, think! In fact, I think they are wonderful questions for many other bloggers, so feel free to borrow some of them and answer on your on blogs.

As always, I’ll be happy to hear from you in the comments. Ciao!

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