TEFL Course Status: COMPLETE

I just received the last feedback for my TEFL course. That’s it, I’m done. I have my overall grade, plucked in my name and address into that end-of-course survey, and will receive my TEFL certificate shortly (will be dispatched within 7 days so it should be here within two weeks).

The course was definitely useful even though I have been teaching English as a foreign language to adult learners since 2012. I got some more in-depth knowledge about how to structure the different kinds of skills lessons (although I could have done without having to create a very detailed lesson plan–the most I usually do is take some notes to plan my next lessons), and I now have proof of knowing what I’m doing (which, in Germany, is actually pretty important–forget all that experience you have if you can’t show the right certificate).

I know I got lucky with my teaching positions, and I kind of feel like paying them back for their trust not only in teaching well (apparently, judging from my students’ reactions–just today, one of them wrote me “I love you” as an example sentence for the structure “I love x”^^) but also in obtaining an official certificate they can show to “the outside” if anyone ever asks about their teachers’ qualifications.

So thank you, Dagmar, Stefan, and Herbert, for trusting me with all the courses I’ve taught for you so far, and for the great support and working atmosphere. I really enjoy teaching, and working together with you.

Oh, just in case anyone was wondering: 97%. =^.^=

Finished up my TEFL Course

So yesterday evening, I finally submitted my last assignment for grading. Sure, chances are I won’t reach the minimum of 45% and have to resubmit it, but honestly, that possibility is very slim. So I feel that I can confidently say that I finished my TEFL course and will soon be a certified teacher for English as a foreign language.

Now, somehow I expected to feel more…accomplished? Proud? Different? Don’t know…maybe that will set in when I finally have my shiny certificate in my hands. Or it won’t. I mean, I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language to adult learners at our community colleges since 2012. It’s not that some big changes are ahead now that I will get my certificate.

I guess the only thing that will change is that I can finally prove that I’m an English teacher. “Prove” meaning that I can shove a certificate in someone’s face if my experience isn’t enough for them. Just in case. You see, I’ve run into that problem before, that someone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) hire me because I didn’t have a shiny certificate saying I’m an English teacher although I could prove I had experience. Sorry, no certificate, no job… Yep, that’s Germany in a nutshell for you.

I got lucky with my current bosses that they took the “chance” to hire me even without a formal proof, and believed my experience and other qualifications were good enough.

So, what does it actually mean to get my certificate? I mean, for me personally? Maybe proof that I’m not delusional, that I actually know what I’m doing when I stand in¬†front of a class full of people and try to help them master the English language one step at a time.

Working With an Editor

The first of my A Rogue’s Tale books is currently in editing stage for publication with The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing. It’s the first time I’ve been working together with an editor like this, because a) usually I was the editor for other authors, and b) although my books had beta readers and a great proofreader, they didn’t have a real editor.

So here are a few random observations:

1) I’m happy she didn’t find more things to object to! Phew, I must have done a decent job with my beta readers and proofreader.

2) Another set of eyes for any text apparently can’t hurt because she actually found a few mistakes that had previously escaped all of us.

3) Some of her comments and questions really got me thinking about the story and the characters, which is good!

4) Word can be an asshole if you’re sending older files to a newer version! Apparently, my Word 2013 is “too good” to properly work with an old .doc file. Track Changes, the most valuable invention since coffee (at least if you ask editors), didn’t work properly the first time I got the manuscript back from her since my Word basically accepted everything, didn’t show any of my changes, and decided showing comments (from either person) would be enough of its duty. We solved the problem for the second round of editing, but boo, Word 2013!

So kudos and thank you to my fabulous editor Charlotte Cowie! I couldn’t have wished for a better set of eagle eyes to go through my manuscript and challenge some of my phrases and choices. I’m already looking forward to working with you on the other two parts as well! ūüôā

You Deserve Better

Do you know that? Even before you open your mouth to voice a different opinion or tell her you won’t be able to make it to whatever she planned, you know she will be disappointed or angry to a point where she will let you feel and see just how much you hurt her. She will make you feel guilty for it.

Does that sound familiar? You tell her that something she did hurt you but in the end the discussion walks along the lines of how it’s your own fault (e.g. because you KNOW she would never do or say something to hurt you so if you got hurt or offended by something she did, it’s obviously your fault for overreacting) and how you’re treating her unfairly and how your behaviour hurts her.

If you point out her misbehaviour, she will brush it off and change the discussion to something you did wrong instead.

You can’t remember whether you’ve ever got an apology from her when something she did or said hurt you.

You can predict the outcome of a discussion with her fairly reliably by now: It’s your fault, she didn’t do anything wrong, you hurt her feelings, and now she’s rightfully angry/disappointed/hurt/[insert fitting emotion here] because of you.

Walking away from a discussion with her, you feel like you just received a beating, you’re trembling, you’re close to tears (for whatever reason–anger and frustration count)…

It doesn’t necessarily happen often. Ususally only when you disagree with her or get hurt by something she says or does, or don’t do something she wants you to do (like meet up at a specific time). Not all of it has to happen every time. In between these instances, she can behave like a good friend (oh, and she tells you that she likes you as a friend every now and then–usually during those discussions).

Don’t be fooled! This person is NOT a friend; a friend would care about having hurt you. They would apologize for hurting you even if you still disagree on the cause. They would not tell you it’s your own fault that you got hurt or offended, and then proceed to tell you how your overreaction hurts their feelings now.¬†A good friend would care about YOU just like they expect you to care about them–it’s a mutual thing in a friendship.

If you experience this at the hands of someone you call “friend”, take a closer look at this “friendship”. And walk away if what you see is not a friendship based on trust and mutual care for the other’s feelings. I know it’s hard, especially if it happens within an existing group of friends, but you deserve better. YOU DESERVE BETTER! What I described above could probably be labelled “emotional abuse”. At the very least, it’s toxic behaviour that has no place in a real friendship, especially not on a regular basis.

Watch out for yourselves. You deserve better.

How do we learn? Yeah, how indeed?

I don’t think there is a universal answer to that question. “we” doesn’t exist; we’re all individuals with individual learning styles and needs. Some people might thrive in a supportive learning group while others prefer to be left alone with their books. Some might need a teacher to tell them things and to explain new stuff while others are perfectly fine with a well-written textbook and some additional resources. And some are something in between.

There have been many different approaches to learning. Learning theorists argue about who is right and who is wrong. You know what? Maybe they’re all right, maybe they’re all wrong, but most likely, they’re both at the same time. They’re right for some people and wrong for other people.

In learning, there is no general “we”. There is a “me” and a “you”, and there might be a temporary “we” sometimes too. But there is no general “we” that can be described as “we all learn best like this” or “we all just need to do that”.

As educator, I try to find ways to help my students even though they all come to me with different experiences, different needs, different knowledge and skills. The second-best way to deal with this oh-so-common situation is to try to implement various kinds of exercises, to appeal to different kinds of learning styles, and most importantly, to ask them how they want to learn, how they have learnt well in the past, and for what purpose they need to learn. The best way to deal with it would be to take the time to individualise the lesson for every student. That’s not feasible, unfortunately, if you have more than a few students at a time.

So how do we learn best? Each at his own pace and with his preferred learning style, I’d say.

The Education Journey Goes On

So I’m almost done with my TEFL certificate course (TEFL stands for Teaching English as a¬†Foreign Language), which is a blended learning course with a 20-h workshop in Berlin (was in January) and a 100-h online course. I’ve submitted the first of two final assignments for grading and now have to wait for my grade before I can tackle the last assignment. So far, my grade is somewhere in the 90 % range, but the quizzes on the course materials only amount to 40 % of my total grade, with the two final assignments amounting to the remaining 60 %. Depending on the last assignment, and when I’ll get my grade for the first assignment, I might still be able to finish the course before university starts again (semester starts on April 18).

That being said, I just enrolled in a specialization course on Coursera called Virtual Teacher specialization. I’m paying for the certificate for this specialization because I think it might help me in my teaching career, even though Coursera certificates are not necessarily recognised by employers. Where I’m working, I do believe that my boss will give credit to it (not necessarily because he knows the course but because it shows that I’m studying to improve my teaching skills and knowledge). Plus, we’re switching to a new textbook series in September, with the new series offering blended learning resources and videos. I might also get a smartboard installed in the room where I teach my classes so that I can use the new books’ resources more effectively in the classroom.

This specialization course will hopefully help me to make the transition to blended learning smoother, and might even enable me to create and offer my own online courses at some point in the future.

With university and the first course of the specialization starting at the same point, I just hope that I’ll have enough time to dedicate to online learning. I’ll be teaching three evenings plus two mornings per week while attending six 90-minute classes per week at university, and I’m considering writing my bachelor’s thesis this semester as well. But I’m looking forward to all of it, and while I wait, I still have some books on teaching English spelling at home.

The Chinese Challenge (3)

The vocabulary test today focused on the more recent vocabulary. I still have so many gaps! So despite me¬†knowing a total of about 100 words by now (including compounds and single characters), it feels like I’m never reaching my goal. I know, it’s stupid since I already know about 100 words more than three weeks ago, and it’s already more than a third of the total vocabulary for this challenge, but it still feels like I’m failing my own expectations. *sigh*¬†I guess that’s why I named this blog the way I did, to remind myself to be less strict with myself.

Anyway, some of the mistakes were as small as using the wrong tone, or forgetting a small stroke somewhere. I even finally got a character right that’s been eluding me from the beginning!

Using mental images and silly little mnemonics (like “tea lifts up your spirits, so the tone of the word goes up”) really helps me to remember those words, but I can’t seem to come up with them for just every word. Not yet, at least. I’m trying to get there. But boy, memorising 3,000 characters seems daunting, and yet that’s the approximate amount of characters a Chinese speaker needs to read his daily newspaper.

So…any virtual hugs or kicks in the butt while I try to come up with some more mnemonics for words I can’t seem to remember?