Archive | April, 2011

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunity

Acquire new tools, knowledge, and training to work more effectively with English language learners by completing a professional development course this June at SIT’s campus in Brattleboro, VT. (Exact dates: June 13 – 17.)

Complete 1 or 2 courses in June while working toward a certificate. Did you know you can obtain a certificate of Teacher Trainer Development after successfully completing six courses through SIT’s Teacher Training and Professional Development Institute, including courses offered online at other times of the year? Courses award 1.5 continuing education units each.

This spring’s offerings include courses to help teachers:

  • Navigate cultural contexts
  • Integrate peace education and conflict resolution into the English language classroom
  • Utilize technology to facilitate language learning more effectively
  • Successfully communicate across cultures

Click here for the complete listing of course offerings.

Space is limited – submit your application now!  Housing is available.

SIT’s Teacher Training and Professional Development Institute provides professional development courses and workshops, which focus on a variety of topics pertinent to language teachers and others working in intercultural contexts. 

Comments { 0 }

Straying into Discovery

“All learning begins with awareness,” said Caleb Gattegno.  How can a professional create awareness for themselves?  How can it be sustained?  After all, the professional’s goal is not only making performance fruitful, but also doing so over time.  Creating awareness for one’s self in thoughtful, conscious ways can lead to enhanced performance, regardless of one’s chosen field. 

Angela Richardson, a current student in SIT’s MA in TESOL, describes the process she recently used with her SIT supervisor, Kevin Giddens, during a period of observation.

– Marshall Brewer, SIT Graduate Admissions Counselor

Angela Richardson

Straying into Discovery

by Angela Richardson

Why are you doing what you’re doing? 

Why is it important? 

What would happen if you didn’t do it? 

What could you do instead?

These were the driving questions posed to me by my SIT supervisor, Kevin Giddens, during our most recent meeting. 

Since Kevin’s visit I’ve been asking myself these questions regularly in my teaching practice and I’ve already noticed a significant improvement in my ability to optimally utilize class time and keep students engaged and on-task throughout the lesson. 

Kevin has recently been embracing the concept of “do-nothing teaching”.

Before his visit, Kevin asked me what was happening in my classroom and what I’d like him to focus on during his observation.  Making optimal use of class time is something I was struggling with and wanted his help with.  On the day of his visit he sat quietly at the back of the class, taking notes.  After class, we went to a restaurant, where he asked me to think about what went well and what didn’t go well.  This was something I already practiced regularly, so I was ready to answer. 

As I talked, he listened intently and asked me the questions above.  Although these were things I’ve thought about on my own, it was quite a different experience to outwardly reflect on my reasoning with another person. I was particularly affected by the question, “What would happen if you didn’t do it or if you did something different?”  Through Kevin’s questions I realized there were a number of things I was doing in class that weren’t really necessary.  I could exclude them, making time for more meaningful tasks!  There it was:  optimal use of class time!  I was grateful for this new awareness.    

Then, Kevin asked me to read his observation notes. Expecting to see comments about my teaching – as I was always given in my CELTA courses – I was surprised that he had written down only what he observed me and my students doing.  At first I was hesitant, because I wanted feedback.  I already knew what had happened in the class, but reading through his notes sparked a good discussion.  It was like having a second pair of completely non-judgmental eyes.   I could use Kevin’s notes to gather data and enhance my reflective observation.  Sometimes it’s difficult to separate the reflective observation stage from the interpretation stage of the experiential learning cycle, but looking solely at the facts of what happened in my classes and talking about why they happened was helpful. 

By the end of our session I appreciated that I had been given the opportunity to talk about my supervisor’s observations, rather than have him dictate the agenda.  Although I had written him a pre-observation plan beforehand, by letting go of the plan and instead exploring the important issues that came up for me the day of my observation, I was able to reach a deeper understanding of myself as a teacher. 

Seeing how helpful Kevin’s “do-nothing teaching” approach was for me has inspired me to attempt it in my own teaching.  Although I don’t usually like straying too far from my lesson plans, I’m starting to observe my students more closely.  I try to identify do-nothing teaching moments and take advantage of them. 

For example, last week my students worked on yes/no questions.  I had planned an activity where they were guided to formulate yes/no questions given the answers, but they weren’t engaging as I had hoped.  One student (out of boredom, I suppose) asked me random questions.  Interested to know about their teacher, other students started asking me questions, too.  Soon enough, the class was engaged in asking me questions, intently trying to figure out who my boyfriend was (he is also a teacher at my school). 

Seeing that they were much more engaged in this interaction, I decided to drop the original activity and allow this one to continue.  I followed this by having pairs of students ask and answer questions about each other.  The activity became much more meaningful and the students were learning and practicing the language structure without even realizing it! It felt great to see the students so engaged in what they were learning, and I’m looking forward to having more experiences like this.

Comments { 0 }

Ray Clark: An Educational Legacy

Ray Clark then...

Ray Clark has taught English to Speakers of Other Languages for over 40 years. Ray worked as a faculty member at SIT Graduate Institute for over 30 years. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the late 1960s and worked as a teacher trainer for Peace Corps training programs for Iran, India, and Korea, as an ESL teacher, as the Director of SIT’s intensive English program, as a faculty member and director of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program, and as teacher-Director of ESP programs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Istanbul, Turkey.

Although now retired from full-time teaching, Ray still teaches English linguistics part-time in SIT’s MA in TESOL for Practicing Teachers of English (Summer Program). He is also senior editor and marketing and exhibition coordinator for Pro Lingua, a publishing company in Brattleboro, Vermont, which produces language teaching materials.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ray about his impressive career and his recent experience teaching English to a group of health professionals from Equatorial Guinea at SIT.

Q: Tell me about your first experience teaching English at SIT.

A:  In the late 1960s, many Latin American students came to SIT to learn English. They were awarded scholarships to attend various U.S. universities because at that time only affluent people in Latin America learned English. Even then, SIT had a commitment to serving students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

After my first year at SIT, I decided to look for an MA in TESOL degree. There were only a few such programs in the U.S.

Q: Did you attend SIT’s MA in TESOL program?

A.   No, although SIT has an international reputation as one of the oldest successful MA in TESOL programs, it began in 1969, two years after I finished my MA degree at Brown University.

Q: Since then, you became involved with SIT’s MA in TESOL program, didn’t you?

A.   That’s right. I was involved with the program in its first two years and again after 1978. I returned to the MA in TESOL faculty from 1991 until 1998. I continue to work part-time for SIT.

Q: What has changed between then and now?

A: When I first started teaching, there was a focus on learning English by memorization. Now, students are more encouraged to learn by doing and experiencing language within a social context.

Technological changes have also affected ESL teaching and learning. On one hand, online distance learning has allowed more people to study. On the other hand, I believe you must learn with other people. Language is social, and it can be difficult to hear slight tonal inflections and gestures via the Internet, even with video chat.

Q: Tell me about your recent experience teaching the group of Equatorial Guinean students at SIT.

A: I taught a group of 8 health professionals from Equatorial Guinea in SIT’s intensive language programs in January. The students were selected to participate in a nine-month specialized training program in malariology. I really enjoyed working with this group. They were motivated to learn and had a wonderful rapport with each other. They also had a great sense of humor. 

Heather Beard is an Admissions Counselor for the SIT Graduate Institute.

...and Now

Comments { 0 }