Author: Pulkit Vasudha

Deep Learning in ESL

Traditional pedagogical practices are rooted in the era of the Industrial Revolution, when schools for the public became common but the general population, and their children, were still thought to be stupid and vacant, and their teachers the fount of knowledge. Much of the general populace still grew up and was being reared to serve the elite, and therefore, there was no need for teachers and students to strive for anything other than surface learning – a mere memorization of facts, choosing of the correct answers, filling in of blanks.

The twenty-first century however demands students to be able to think critically, creatively, and communicate and collaborate with others to create new knowledge systems. Communicative language teaching (CLT) in ESL fits the bill. If you teach communicatively, you are already preparing your students for 21st century’s unique challenges. But is there anything more? Anything to deepen the learning? Despite our post-CELTA and post-DELTA teaching expertise, too many students slip through the net, into the abyss of language learning despair. Is there a way to take CLT to a new level and make deep learning the norm?

As an aside, watch this fantastic video on the futility of the modern day education system.

One of my most treasured memories of my teaching career is when I bumped into a student I hadn’t seen for 2-3 years. Maha had been a very shy creature, albeit in her mid-twenties, in my first Beginners class in Riyadh. Her fear of language was such that she kept her eyes down and avoided all attempts at opening her mouth in the classroom. When she did speak, usually during drills, her pronunciation was painful. Her first language was Arabic and she found the strangeness of the English language frightening. (more…)

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Inclusive Leadership: Letting go of Unconscious Biases

If you didn’t read Sheila’s story, go ahead and read it here. Sheila needed not just a great manager, but an inclusive manager. She had already received complaints from parents and her teaching assistants, and there appeared to be some disgruntled noise from other teachers as well. Sheila was a new hire in a new country and at risk of being alienated at her workplace. So what could her manager do?

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This story came to my mind while studying the edX course on Inclusive Leadership. How could a manager approach Sheila, what could h/she say to her. There are two priorities the manager is faced with in this case:

  • the teaching and learning quality in the classroom
  • to ensure Sheila settled in well into the new country, new school, with her new colleagues.

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Inclusive Leadership: How to Hack It

In my previous posts, we read about what inclusive leadership means, what inclusivity is, and what it means in the context of educators and academic leaders. Today, I want to think more broadly about action steps one can take to become an inclusive leader.

But first, what are the traits of great leadership?

I brainstormed with my friends and colleagues to think about all the traits we associate with great leadership, and came up with all of these: honesty, decisiveness, genuinity, restlessness, passion, communication skills, innovative thinking, generous, open-mindedness, steadiness, focused, insightful, confidence, positivity, empowered & empowering, organized and persistent. 

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Inclusive Leadership: The Power of Influence

Boss vs. Leader and Mission of a TeamTake a minute to close your eyes and think about the words that come to your mind when you think of these two words:

BOSS

LEADER

Think about your current / past boss. Would you call them a great leader? Think about a leader in your organization. Is he or she a good boss too?

The picture here effectively summarizes the differences between a boss and a leader. The term ‘boss’ usually has negative connotations – one can usually visualize an authority figure, one who’s also usually authoritarian. A boss is someone who directs, demands, drives (one up the wall).

The word ‘leader’, on the other hand, has predominantly positive connotations. A leader is a coach, a mentor, an inspiration. I think one of the most significant differences between a boss and a leader is that the latter is someone we would like to follow, to emulate, to become.

I’ve been taking this course on Inclusive Leadership on edX and they have a great summary of the qualities of great leaders. Here’s the Take 5 on leadership, with my thoughts about what Inclusive Leadership means in the context of educators and educator leaders. (more…)

Inclusive Leadership for Teachers and Teacher Trainers

I took this course on Inclusive Leadership on edX earlier this year and had so many thoughts about how to apply the learnings as a teacher and teacher trainer.

But first, I want to tell you a story. A teacher was once summoned by her manager. A summon is in itself fairly ominous but the manager started the discussion with a forced smile and casual chit-chat which convinced the teacher she was in trouble for ‘something’. She tried to stay calm and smile but in her head, she was feverishly running through the events of the last week, trying to figure out what she might have done, where she may have slipped, which student may have complained.

All she could think of was how she had walked into the school after a holiday and the receptionist had welcomed her with a huge smile and said, “Welcome back sweety! Your students missed you – I’ve had so many come and ask when you were coming back.” (more…)

Ambitious Teaching and Learning in ESL

 

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare

My main takeaway from this lovely quote is that there is a potential for greatness in each one of us. And for the purposes of our context, we can tweak this quote to read…

Some are born great teachers, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

I know for a fact that I delivered some shockingly abysmal teaching in the first few months after completing the CELTA. But then, most of us did. Did. Not anymore. 😉

I think the watershed moment in any teachers’ career is when they stop thinking about the quality of their teaching and assess lessons based on the quality of their students’ learning. All those utterly boring lesson aims (should) have one goal: students should come out the other end having learned something.

If we push this idea a bit further… (more…)

Lesson aims and how they affect learning

Does the language teachers use in their lesson plans really affect teaching practice? Perhaps a broader question to ask would be does language affect our thought? A great TED talk to watch on the subject is How the words we use affect the way we think by Mary Page Wilson. And if you’re not into videos, here’s an overview of Keith Chen’s TED talk on the same lines.

When I first started teaching, lesson planning was a monumentally daunting task. It would take many hours to plan an hour-long lesson for a bunch of six-year-olds who only really wanted to play games and burn off some weekend steam. But lesson planning took on a whole new aura of fear when it was time to get observed.

In my first three years of teaching, I worked in a school where teachers were observed every three months. The academic managers were lovely and very supportive but that did little to assuage my fears of writing an assessed lesson plan and getting observed. And then, the part of the observed lesson plan template that I really dreaded was the first page – the bit with lesson aims, subsidiary lesson aims and other such mundaneries. (more…)