Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seattle is Amazing!

I am having such a great time at the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Conference, that I don't even know where to start! Today was day two of the conference, and it was the day of my poster presentation. I couldn't believe how many people came to see my poster. I ran out of handouts in three minutes, and I brought 100 of them! I felt really bad for everyone who wanted one of my handouts, so I have posted the handout on line. It can be found here:

One good thing about not having enough handouts is that I have finally worked out how to use my webspace at the University of Calgary to make a webpage. It's funny, because so many people think that I am some sort of internet expert, but actually, all I do is just muddle along one step at a time. I think that should be the title of my presentation for next year's conference, how to muddle your way through the net.

Anyway, I really enjoyed having the chance to meet and talk with so many people. It was fascinating to hear what people are doing with their blogs all around the globe. I hope many of the people that I spoke to today will have a chance to drop me a line and let me know how they are doing with their blogs. Over the next few days I'm hope to post more and more information to my U of C website so that people can access more information about blogs and how to use them in their classrooms . . . exciting stuff!

Friday, March 16, 2007

English Only ESL Classes - Great Rule, Necessary Evil, or Oppression?

I wonder why I am so crazy about English only in the classroom. I am sure that is comes from a number of sources ranging from the way I was taught French as a kid and as a young adult, and from the different ideas I was exposed to while I was in graduate school studying Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

You see, when I was a kid studying French, English was FORBIDDEN in the classroom. In fact, if we spoke English, our teacher would have a fit and we risked being sent into the hallway or even the Principal's office. This way of teaching didn't stop as I got older either. When I was 17 years old my parent's sent me away for the summer to Trois Rivieres - a city halfway between Quebec City and Montreal. I guess you could call it the Red Deer of Quebec. Anyway, while I was there I went to CEGEP to study French - it is like a college. Can you picture me? I little 17 year old guy all by himself for the first time? It kind of reminds me of some of my students who are studying here in the LEAP program right now. Anyway, not only was English forbidden in the classroom, it was forbidden EVERYWHERE! That's right, I could drink beer (illegally), smoke cigarettes and ignore doing my homework, but if I ever spoke English anywhere in the city at all and I was caught, there were huge consequences. And I mean huge! You see, the CEGEP had not only teachers, but also monitors who hung out with us after class. On top of that, many of the local people in the city knew that Anglophones came to study French every summer and they kept an eye on us to. If we were caught speaking English at any time, we would get a warning. You only got three chances. If you were caught on the third time . . . you were put on a plane back home! I'm serious. I personally know people where were kicked out of French programs for speaking English too often. Even me, your teacher got caught speaking English one time. I remember I was in a pool with some friends and we were swimming. As some of my students probably know, I love talking, and suddenly I just started shouting to some friends in English to come and jump into the pool. Right behind me was a monitor! Holy cow, did I get in trouble. It was really serious. They had me totally freaked out that I was going to be sent back home. From then on, it was French only for me.

So you can see that from a young age I have been indoctrinated that the best way to learn a langauge is through the immersion method. It is almost like a Canadian way of doing things. I guess that it has affected me a lot,but you know what is amazing . . . . I speak French :-)

Going to Seattle :-)

There is less than one week before I go to the annual TESOL conference in Seattle! I'm really looking forward to going this year. For those of you who don't know, TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is probably the largest ESL type conference in the world, and there are going to be some really famous professors and researchers there. I don't know if any of you are familiar with the grammar book used in LEAP 3, but the author of that book is doing a big presentation. I can't wait to go . . . gosh, I sound kind of like a geek, don't I?

Anyway, I have the honour of doing three things while I am in Seattle. I'll be doing a poster presentation on the Thursday of the Conference, a hands-on showcase of my students' blogs on the Friday, and finally a workshop teaching teachers how to use blogs with their students on the Saturday. It's going to be fun :-)

What I would like my students to do is please complete this survey (please click when you are ready):

I'd like to share your opinions with my colleagues in Seattle.

Thank you in advance to everyone who does this survey!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Me and My Mum

This is a picture of my mother and I :-)

It was recently my mum's birthday, and we went to the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary for their Sunday Brunch. I think this must most definately be the best Sunday Brunch in all of Calgary, if not Alberta (well, actually the Banff Springs Hotel would be a close second). This brunch is absolutely fantastic. It has a mix of breakfast items and lunch items. For example, you can have a gourmet omlet made for you while you watch, or you can get Belgian waffles made fresh in front of your eyes. There are also other amazing things like eggs benedict and eggs pacifica. Eggs pacifica is one of my favourite breakfast dishes. It is an english muffin with smoked salmon on top. Placed on the smoked salmon you have a gently poached egg, and it is all topped off with a sauce that is out of this world. Yum. Actually, I kind of go smoked salmon crazy when I go to the Palliser for Brunch. I take huge amounts of smoked salmon. I just can't get enough! They also have lunch items like roast beef, and things like that, but I usually stick to the breakfast items. Finally, there is a large variety of cakes and desserts. It is all amazing. Unfortunately, it is a little bit pricey. For one person, brunch is $40 and there there is tax and tip, so if 4 people go, you can end up spending around $200. However, it was my mum's birthday, so it was worth it :-) If anyone ever has their parents visiting town and they want to splurg, I recommend the bruch at the Palliser Hotel.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

International students frustrated by LEAP program??

I have been feeling a little down lately because of an article I read in the Gauntlet. I wonder how many of my students read the student paper here at the University of Calgary. When I was an undergraduate student, I read it every week. Anyway, just for fun the other day I picked up a copy to read while I was reading lunch, and right there on page 7 was an article about the LEAP program. However, this certainly wasn't the LEAP program that I know about. Basically the article was arguing that the LEAP program wasn't fair to international students because it was a waste of their time and money because they are not learning anything. Eeep. Students were also claiming that they were learning things in class that they were already familiar with. I guess they mean stuff like they had already studied how to do the present perfect tense, so why study it again?

Anyway, this is the online link to the article, but if you pick up a current issue of the Gauntlet, you can read the article there too. I wonder what my LEAP 4 students would think of this article. I really hope that now, because of the program, they are able to do things in March that they could not do in January. I guess that is the real measure of a program. If a student can say "now I can do this, but I couldn't do it before" that would be a way of demonstrating that they have learned something. Anyhow, I won't let this article get me down, but sometimes I do feel that I am faced with an almost impossible task compared with a normal professor at the university. It almost seems like if students fail in the LEAP program it's the teacher's fault for not teaching, but if they fail in normal university it's the learners fault for not learning. Complex stuff . . .

Friday, March 02, 2007

I Miss the Cat!

Okay, okay, I know. At first I totally didn't want to babysit my friend's cat. But for 10 days I got to know this kitty, and now that his is gone, I feel there is an empty place in my heart . . . s i g h.

On the other hand, there is no more kitty litter all over the floor of my kitchen, and my toes are safe from night time commando attacks!

It's weird, it was really nice having Rocky around for 10 days. I think the funniest thing that happened while Rocky was staying at my place was when I was renovating the upstairs apartment in my house. I had just painted the floor leading up to the stairs of the upper apartment. Anyway, I was upstairs working on the bathroom when suddenly I heard this weird meowing. I looked down the stairs and there was Rocky standing in the middle of the fresh paint. Poor Rocky, I ran downstairs and picked him up. His two front paws were totally green on the bottom. I was really worried because I didn't want him to lick his paws and get sick from the green paint, so I carried him like a baby to the kitchen and tried to clean his paws. Unfortunately I couldn't get all the green paint off of his feet, so he had green paws for about 3 days . . . . poor Rocky.

Also, I totally spoiled this cat while he was living with me. For instance, if I was having a bagel with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon), Rocky would get some creamcheese and lox too. However, he didn't like bagels, so I ate his for him. Also, once I got sushi from T&T Supermarket, and I let Rocky pick off the raw fish from the tops of the nigiri sushi, and I would eat the rice. Hee hee. I don't think he is going to like the hard dry cat food he is going to get at him Mommy's house :-)

Oh well . . . no more cat for me. But it was fun while he was here!