Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Things about Asheville

We're thoroughly enjoying our little holiday in Asheville, NC. Here is a list of some of the great things about Asheville:
  • Malaprop's Bookstore has a section devoted to banned books. In most of these books is a card describing where it is banned and why. It's good to be reminded that reading can be radical.
  • Southern cooking, OMG. Mac and cheese is listed with "vegetables" on many menus. Everything is fresh, fatty, and good.
  • Lots of Nia. I plan to take a class tomorrow.
  • A giant arboretum designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.
  • Mountain trails. We plan to do some hiking tomorrow.
  • Vibrant, artsy downtown.
  • Live bluegrass! You may recall how I adore bluegrass.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ciao for now

I'm leaving for vacation on Friday. When I return from vacation, I'll have a perfect job for the rest of the school year: subbing for a middle school ESL teacher who'll be on maternity leave. I am scared shitless about the fact that I have landed my dream job, and, even worse, they are really excited to have me. High expectations always lead to disappointment. On the plus side, the real teacher will be back in the fall and therefore I cannot do too much damage as an impostor.

I also keep having nightmares that we miss our plane for vacation.

I'm not sure what's wrong with me. I intellectually realize that vacation and dream job are causes for celebration, but I'm something of an anxious, weepy mess.

Let's blame it on the fifth grade class I covered today. We watched a movie of Where the Red Fern Grows. In case you've forgotten, the dogs die at the end. Still. And kStyle bawls. Still.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Quote of the Decade

All religions are true, but none are literal.
--Joseph Campbell

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pesonality in the Classroom

Bill asked an excellent question:

From anecdotal evidence, it seems the teachers who are both subject smart and have personality are the ones who make a difference (and are fondly remembered). Conversely, those with bland-neutral personality or come off as negative never get a fair shake or remembrance from students.

Is teacher personality ever discussed?

I cannot speak for all education programs. ESL is a little marginal, and therefore wonderfully quirky.

We don't frame the discussion in terms of "personality," but rather in terms of "affective learning." Affective learning means making the classroom a low-stress, creative, humorous environment; bringing affect into instruction with teacher humor and creativity; and encouraging the students to be their own creative, individual selves. It means giving the students creative work in which they can construct their knowledge as individuals and as a group. It means giving the students some outlet for personal reflection, like journaling, and, if possible, connecting with students' families and communities.

Of course, all students would benefit if we gave affect some breathing room in the classroom. Affective learning is especially important for our English language learners, though, because they are making HUGE EMOTIONAL adjustments to their new identities and cultures. Have you ever studied a foreign language? Have you noticed, perhaps, that you sort of become someone else when speaking the new language? This person is still you, but this Spanish- or Portuguese- or Khmer- or Mandarin-speaking you might think about the world a little differently, and by definition expresses himself differently than the English-speaking you. Imagine that phenomenon times a hundred, plus pressure, perhaps, from a misunderstanding society to abandon your native language, plus pressure from your parents to maintain your native language, plus grappling with a new culture and how much of it to adopt. At certain times, you would be a bundle of emotions. The teacher needs to support you in this journey and to demonstrate the value of your culture and language.

On top of all that, Stephen Krashen tells us that anxiety is a barrier to language learning, and some theorists whose names evade me...Well, they say that imagination is the way to motivate a student to learn a new language. The native tongue already provides everything the student needs: security, communication, relationships, and so on. But the second tongue, oh, that can become a place of freedom and dreams, of whimsy and fun.

I think we frame this in terms of "affect" because affect can be changed or adjusted. Asking a teacher to alter her "personality" would be hurtful. But, we can ask teachers to change how they present their personalities, inviting them to share warmth and humor and imagination with students.


Hello, Blog Friends!

I miss writing here and seeing your witty replies. I'm afraid I've been pounding out so many papers reflecting on education, second language acquisition, and my teaching philosophy that I am all written out. I'm assuming that these topics may not be of much interest here, and also I wouldn't feel right posting a paper verbatim. However, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have on these topics. They're on the brain and the language is at my fingertips anyway. I would entirely understand if none of this is of interest, however.

Other random notes:
-Going on vacation in two weeks! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!
-Been feeding the cats wet food and they LOVE it! Their coats look shiner, too.
-The goldfinches are turning a vibrant yellow.
-I'm planning to read Jung. It seems that everywhere I look lately, I see Carl Jung looking back at me and waving. "Hey, kStyle," says Mr. Jung, "Let's talk." The Portable Jung is sitting on my coffee table right now.
-I saw the first crocuses--with blooms!--earlier this week, and the first yellow daffodil flowers today.

I hope you are all well.