Thursday, January 24, 2013
The Internet is your Oyster
This is an article that I've written for an upcoming Kotesol article. Enjoy your preview :)
I know that many teachers come to Korea just for a year but that that year somehow turns into two, then three, and four, and eventually you find yourself with a spouse, children, a car, pets and more things that you could ever hope to stuff into those two suitcases that you brought here. In those first and second years, I would venture a guess that most of us were probably harmless, but ineffective teachers. I know that I most certainly was. However as time goes by, teaching becomes more than just how we make money, and most of us genuinely want to improve our teaching skills so that we can help our students actually learn and improve their skills for wherever life will take them.
One of the best ways that I’ve found to improve my teaching is by taking advantage of the resources available on the Internet. In this case, the ESL Internet world truly is your oyster, and you really should be grabbing the opportunities given to you. These days, the Internet serves as the great equalizer, giving a chance for all teachers in Korea to make an impact. I will give three (easy!) examples of how you can do it.
Reinventing the Wheel
One of my favorite time-saving tricks for the busy teacher is not reinventing the wheel. For example, if I’m teaching a lesson on superlatives/comparatives, I’ll search on Google for “superlative comparative ESL.” As you’re typing, you’ll see, “games, activities, worksheets” pop up. Just click on whatever you’re looking for and you’ll be directed to a wealth of resources for that particular lesson, usually for free. I can often find a fabulous worksheet, activity idea, game, or even complete lesson plans in less than five minutes. And I’ve found numerous new things to help me keep my classes interesting and engaging, which is often a little hard to do year after year.
In terms of professional development, I use the Internet almost exclusively (with a little bit of Kotesol too!) I love listening to Podcasts while I’m on the subway or exercising and some of my favorite ones that are relevant to English teachers are: ESL etc, Edgycation, ESL Teacher Talk, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, and Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Tips. Just search on Itunes.
I also try to read at least one or two ESL teaching theory related things once a week. Some of the sites I like are: Heads up English, An Introduction to Task-Based Teaching by David Nunan, and Learning for Life. Take the ideas that you read about and incorporate them into your teaching, talk to your colleagues about them, or better yet, blog about them.
Speaking of blogging, five long years ago I started a blog about teaching, mostly as a way to force myself to think more deeply about what I was doing in the classroom instead of just drifting along from semester to semester as it easy to sometimes do (My Life: Teaching in a Korean University www.eslteacherinkorea.blogspot.com). It has served that purpose but it’s done a lot more as well. I’ve been inspired to present some of the ideas that I’ve developed on the blog at Kotesol conferences. I’ve made lots of interesting contacts throughout the ESL world, even some of the more famous people (mostly through my textbook reviews). I’ve been able to help lots of people by answering their questions that they send me. I’ve compiled a resource for myself (and hopefully others) of lesson plans, games and activity ideas. I use the search bar on my blog a lot to find a certain game, or Internet site, or book that I know I’ve blogged about but can’t quite remember what it is. And finally, I’m pretty sure that I’ve become a better teacher though doing it. A little self-reflection on the good and the bad is a practice that is useful for anyone in a classroom.