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…)

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?

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 5.05.00 PM

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.


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. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 3.52.30 PM.png


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:



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…)

Flipping the classroom and feedback

Write this.

Flipping the classroom – input occurs outside the classroom

In classroom, there’s more time for practice and feedback

Feedback stages become central in the lesson and much of the teaching can take place during feedback.

Because input has already been done (flipped), there are several opportunities for peer teaching and learning.

You start dying.. by Neruda

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice…

by Pablo Neruda