Pop-Up “Audio Listicle”: 11 Old & Unpublished Draft Blogpost Titles…

Okay, this is going to be a little weird…

Here we have the listicle 🤣 nobody knew they needed

^^ The audio (Matthew Fudd Cosmic Dub) ^^


vv A conventional text (pseudo-)listicle describing the above audio listicle: vv

  1. I recorded this audio post sitting in my car in the Tesco parking lot on the way home from work (and I’m still in here typing this, just about to go in for groceries…)
  2. I couldn’t post the audio from my iPhone memos so I had to stick it into a video (well, it’s just a picture as video) with my iMovie app.
  3. It was long and slow, so I sped up the sound. A lot. 😛
  4. This results in some hilarity. This is what I’d sound like if I were not chronically chill and a pretty slow talker. It’s a trip for me to hear me like this. It does actually help me target the kind of vocal energy I’d like to try to have more often, especially with online teaching/presenting. Okay, maybe it’s quite a bit TOO fast at points. But this is interesting. Maybe, just maybe, I’m going to experiment with this as a potential way to maybe help develop my teaching voice (I feel I need that).
  5. I took the picture leaving my (still pretty new for me) office at my uni this afternoon. So this qualifies as an #ELTworkspace post. Look at that big ol’ window right next to my desk!
  6. The whole concept of this post is a bit silly and pretty self-indulgent seeming maybe? Who cares what’s in anyone’s draft post file of their blog?! But actually I don’t think it’s that in a bad way. And maybe, just maybe, those errant, unfinished blog posts are some kinda thing.
  7. Michael Griffin might think I owe him a drink or something, as this whole thing is awash in His Griffinness. Or maybe he’ll think I deserve the drink on him. Sorry, Him. His Griffinness, in any event, is an inspiration to many and I include myself in that number.
  8. In the post I think you’ll hear “meta”, “meta meta”, and for #8 of this list(icle) describing the list(icle) above I’m just gonna point out here we have meta meta meta.
  9. I’m wearing a mask in the office in the pic, and that’s because I’m in Thailand and it’s been winning re: COVID for reasons including folks aren’t 99% ego like tooooo many my yankee brothers and sisters. But right now everyone’s mad at, I dunno, some Egyptian soldiers on vacation who broke self-quarantine and went to a mall with COVID…I can’t keep up with the news when “old draft blogposts” need to be explored.
  10. I’m not kidding about (mostly) just blogging reanimated versions of these old unpublished things for the rest of the year, as I mention towards the end of the 5 minute goofballingness above. Though actually I want to do more audio and video (Vlog) type things here mostly, or just experiment creatively more (like this, sort of, but…well…better). We shall see! Anyway, I hope those who listen to these weird 5 minutes (exactly!?) get a good LAUGH…congrats if you make it to “Nevermind the Bollocks: About Micro-Teaching”. LOL. I really must write that actual post. I’m pretty sure I know what it was all about!

“Language and Culture”: A Workshop for Faculty Colleagues and a Sense of Arrival on Campus

I’ve been in my new position here at RMUTT for just about two weeks now though it feels like longer. Maybe this is because everything feels like longer these days. But I mean it in a good way, because I’d been quite excited for the change and I’m just really happy to be sitting at this desk writing this right now. I feel like I’m back where I belong on several levels.

However, it’s not as if these two weeks have been fireworks. In fact the majority of my time has been spent off-campus running between government agency buildings in order to sort out my visa/work permit issues. It was sweaty, boring, and stressful. The process took a lot of paperwork, plenty of fees, and a massive does of patience to come to its successful resolution.  Oh, and some gift baskets of appreciation for certain people with certain authority.

Although I posted the half-serious tweet below a few days back, it’s actually today that I finally feel like <I have arrived>. This is because this morning I facilitated a 2.5 hour workshop for my colleagues in my department, meaning I could properly introduce myself, see all or most (ok, many) of them all in one place, and of course “do what I do” in my new work environs. And it was lovely. It made all that queuing and signing and stamping and document shuffling feel worth it.

So, I’m knocking out this blogpost is simply to share a bit of content of the workshop and sort of ‘break the seal’ on…how did I put it in the tweet?…my “reanimated” ELT blog here.

I was simply asked to put together a workshop on “language and culture”. That’s it. “Do whatever you want; it’ll just be a way for you to introduce yourself, share with us some of your professional knowledge, meet more staff, and also we need faculty PD hours and this’ll count!” was the word.

So I had about a week to decide what to do with this time. A very, very busy week, it turned out, so it was one of those things you plan in the nooks and crannies of the day and maybe don’t have any particularly great chunk of time for much deep work. But that was okay, because…well, “language” should probably be in my wheelhouse and yeah, culture should too! Actually, it was a nice experience to have such a vague, general remit for this, and to kind of just go with whatever came up.

I won’t say what did come together was something I’d reprise exactly the same way, but it did work out nicely. I feel like it achieved the aims set out above (if that’s what they were). So basically:

  • I started with some personal anecdotes about my first impressions of Thailand way back when, foreshadowing more exploration of culture shock and moving between
  • True to form, we started off with a language task not unlike something I’d give learners (focused on idioms). Pairwork, monitoring, whole-class feedback, some MPF. Once CELTAfied always CELTAfied innit. ;P
  • There was a bit of academic-speak on ‘levels of culture’ but not much. I talked about how great the book ‘Very Thai’ was, some personal experiences with the subjects of several its chapters, and the difference between “Culture” and “culture”.
  • I posited that my interest in crossing cultures came largely from my childhood environment and the values of my family.
  • We compared American vs. Thai culture in very broad strokes, and did well in not leaving those strokes too unexamined.
  • I shared some humorous anecdotes about culture shock experiences for me moving to Thailand and for my wife moving to America. Participants shared some of their experiences with culture shock abroad (happily, some of those idioms kept coming back up throughout – like “I was at a loss for words”!).
  • I shared a partial narrative of my teaching career in the context of what forms and informs my ‘personal culture of teaching’.
  • Participants were invited to share some of the same to a mentimeter (actually, this didn’t happen because of time constraints I skipped it but I hope it becomes a session follow-up thing).
  • We discussed how cultures influence the teacher role(s) we take on.
  • All of the above (or at least much of it) came together at the end when groups completed the “culture assimilator” activity from this book:

Below is a link to a PDF of (most of) my slides. The ‘culture assimilator’ activity can be found at the end.

Finally, here are a few pics from session:

She wasn’t hiding from my camera, but acting something out in her discussion..I think! ;P

Thus concludes my first post on this blog in…forever. Thanks for reading my little update and perhaps having a peek into what I did this morning on campus at my new job. Next week I might actually find out for sure what my course load and teaching schedule looks like! And we’ll be completing the first semester fully online at this uni, so expect plenty of posts focused on muddles and maxims to do with that.

If you have any comments, I know exactly the place for you, it’s a box just below. Now go enjoy the weekend! I know I will.

Oh, PS: I’d like to say that the fact that the tweet I linked to above got 50+ likes and – even better – inspired a whole bunch of lovely messages of warmpth from different corners of my online PLN was very encouraging and inspiring. It really made me feel like blogging again, and was a nice reminder that there’s a community. 😉

A Brief Update

Hello blog readers! It’s been a while. If you read this blog you might be interested to hear what its author has been up to recently.

When last I posted I was still employed at a Thai university. Since then I’ve changed positions. This week wraps up my first term teaching in the bilingual program of what’s called a ‘demonstration school’ attached to another university. The school runs from kindergarten through secondary. I’ve been teaching in the primary section but will shift up to high school for the next term (teachers tend to disappear around here; also, I think I’ll be happier/better teaching teens).

I still miss certain things about my old job (mentoring of student teachers on their practicums the most) but overall it’s been a good change. The pay is better and – rather crucially – consistent. Working with young learners again has been admittedly challenging but ultimately pretty rewarding. And we now live in a much nicer (see: greener) area which also has a slightly more convenient access to downtown Bangkok by car.

However, I’ve also been struggling with the effects of depression. This condition caused me to accept and then not be able to commit to a rather large materials-writing job that would have been an absolutely stellar career-shifting and career-boosting opportunity. But I simply could not perform. It’s been enough just to get through the day; taking on a project and its intellectual demands very quickly proved impossible for me. And so that failure became another source of pain.

Although I’ve always been conscious of how the many challenges of being a professional teacher and trainer interact with my mental health (and colleagues’, and trainees’), I’ve never before experienced this level of personal psychological health interference in my work in the realm of ELT. It’s been really, really, REALLY challenging; the move back to Thailand after completing my MA and working as an ESOL teacher and then CELTA tutor in the US has simply not gone at all to plan. It’s as if I’m just not the professional educator I thought I was. I feel diminished, devolved, disarmed.

The awareness of colleagues I mentioned above makes it easy to imagine some (perhaps many) of my blog’s readers understanding and empathizing with my experience. So, along with increased communication with loved ones, lifestyle shifts, exercise, and therapy, perhaps a bit more frequent blogging here will be healthy and productive (this final post by Chia here reminded me of how developmental and productive blogging was for me in the past!). We’ll see.

I did just let the “give us $19.99 to keep your domain name” annual charge happen so I might as well keep up with posting now and then 😉

Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m sincerely looking forward to next term. For one thing, I’ll be back to teaching all English classes rather than a mix of English, science, social studies, and others. In theory that was a fun change of pace for me. In practice? Let’s just leave it at I’m happy to be teaching nothing but English again.

That’s it. That’s the update. Thanks for reading, y’all.


A blog post!

It’s time for bed with me but I’ve decided to write a quick blog post before I pack it in for the day. I don’t know what it’s about yet.

It’s just…”a blog post”. It may even be nothing more than a list…icle! Yes, a listicle. And that’s okay because in my mind Michael Griffin made ELT listicles cool (again?) at some point.

10 things to put on a list before packing it in for the day:

  1. My first full cycle of mentoring Thai BA English/TEFL student teachers on their two-semester teaching practicum has just wrapped up. It was frustrating and fun, fraught and fulfilling. The negative aspects mentioned there largely have to do, I think, with my transitioning from CELTA and CELTA-like course tutor (with super-scaffolded planning+observation+feedback cycles going on) to something quite different (more on this in some future post, maybe).

  2. I was happy that in recent practicum-focused staff meetings I was able to share some concerns and ideas and resources in an effort to help improve the potential of the practicum for our student teachers. Damn it feels good to show what you know and say how you feel sometimes. Maybe I’m too passive, or maybe I just know to be patient.

  3. A 2nd year student recently wrote really eloquently and insightfully about how much English they learn from watching Netflix and I thought to myself “there is no need for piling on; when was the last time I loved a product or service more than I now do thee, Netflix?…verily I have no memory of such a time”.

  4. Occasionally I see one of my students out of uniform (yes, in Thailand even university students are required to where uniforms at virtually all times in classes and on campus) and it’s delightful. It reminds me how much individuality is instantly lost in the classroom atmosphere here…I hope it changes soon!

  5. Due to life circumstances my idea of making it over to CamTESOL looks like it won’t be happening. This chafes but I keep trying to just remind myself that I’m not going anywhere and ELT conferences just keep on endlessly repeating themselves forever so what’s the point of FOMOing even for a moment?

  6. That’s the first and, I assume, the last time I’ll ever use ‘FOMO’ in any way, shape, or form.

  7. I do hope to start blogging again this year. Is it just me or are a lot of ELT bloggers very, very quiet these days?

  8. I’ve got one student who may be the quickest ever on the uptake of any new word or phrase she encounters. In one instance just today, they stopped me on the way off campus to ask about several vocabulary items in a reading. One was ‘to be bound for [a place]’. We clarified the meaning, etc. of that and the other language and then as the conversation wrapped up I asked “so, where ya off to?”. “Bound for the dorm!”, they intoned. I smiled then, and I’m smiling now as I move on to #9.

  9. Boy oh boy I’m so, so bad at really writing anything! I’ve got to get going. I’ve got to publish! I’ve just yet to get into a place where the brand of focus and productivity required for it is available to me. I do/have done so much reading, so much thinking, so much tweeting…what I need to do is seal all the hatches and just process what’s already within me and start cooking.

  10. Finally….um…well…geez what else is there to tap out right now? Nuthin’! It really is time for bed.



July ’18 #CELTAchat summary: How trainers encourage and support trainees on a personal level


It wasn’t the first time I’d suggested an ELT twitter chat topic and had it taken up only to miss the chat itself…in fact, now that I think about it this also isn’t the first time I’ve written the summary for such a chat. While I did join in during the slow burn bit, I suppose summarizing is one way to belatedly take part further (so I will go ahead add a few of my own comments as I read and summarize the chat here).

July’s #CELTAchat topic was:


Sandy Millin started off the chat proper by asking what “on a personal level” might mean exactly, and for Darren Bell the answer was supporting weaker trainees or those with special needs. Fiona Price suggested something of the inverse, ensuring stronger trainees are sufficiently challenged. Enter Giovani Licata, inviting the chat to consider both, under the umbrella of “personalization on the CELTA”.

If talking about personal needs, Sandy offered, it’s important to have a clear interview process and identify where they might need extra help. e.g. SEN. She shared that she once had an ADHD candidate who didn’t declare it until Stage 2 tutorials and it made so much sense! But surely if that were known earlier, the candidate could have been “encouraged and supported” more proactively and perhaps avoided some extra challenge. Regarding SEN, Giovanni added that the course application form needs to explicitly ask for that info. I know that at the last place I did CELTA work for the application had a write-in space where applicants added info about “any special needs” or something to that effect. Perhaps a more direct question would yield more useful info, but I think there also may be some legal limit on what we might appear to be requesting or specific ways we should be working it (this was in the US)? To be honest I’m really not sure. Fiona mentioned how important it is to disclose info in the application, letting it be known that it is so we can provide support.

The chat inspired Cathy to reflect on her application as well: it asks for a declaration of health or any other issues that may affect performance, but no one ever declares a SEN on. She wondered if they might try asking in another way. Also, when she asked about this at a conference session, she was told that candidates with SENs could be given longer to complete coursework. This could be quite tricky, however, in practice.

Adi Rajan found that many trainees don’t disclose special needs during the interview but subsequently feel that their needs are not being addressed. He had a trainee who raised this with the assessor. Speaking more of SEN, Darren shared a link to Giovanni’s appearance on the ‘Study CELTA Podcast’, talking about the topic of supporting candidates with dyslexia! It’s here. Finally, Darren shared a link to a rather thorough and fascinating report on working with CELTA candidates who are visually or hearing impaired.


Next, Giovanni said that one thing that helps keep things more “personalized” from the start is not deciding ahead of time who is teaching what. This is something we often do on CELTAs – assigning early TP lessons to incoming candidates before the course has even started and we’ve met them. Cathy Bowden described what I think it likely typical and based entirely on the normal constraints: candidates are divided into groups based on application and interview info, there’s time to meet them in person first, and they get those first TP points on day one. Sure, we consider information from their applications and interviews in this whole process as much as possible (I know me and my co-trainers tend to have a bit of fun together chatting about our perceptions of and predictions about our incoming candidates based on their apps and interviews), but it’s still a far cry from holding off until we’ve met face-to-face and making more decisions then. (I’ve tended to practice the former, but in a flexible way so I can toggle early TP lesson assignments around if its for the best; at this stage in the course the trainees rarely have any notion of how things are supposed to work anyway…then again, it’s also nice just to have everything sorted logistically SO THAT you can pay more attention to all the fresh new faces on the scene, in a way). Fiona called this flexibility important in terms of designing the course around the individual needs of the trainees so it’s more organic.

Sandy asked if other chatters might even do this for later TPs, too. And if I were in the live chat I’d have posted a GIF of some goofy character rigorously nodding ‘YESSSS!’. I think that in large part what we should aim for is “setting trainees up for success” in the TP experience, so if I think person X would do great teaching lesson Y, I’ll go right ahead and put X and Y together.

Cathy brought up Stage 1 tutorials as a good tool for giving early reassurance that candidates are doing okay (or not) and find out if they’re having trouble that might not yet be apparent from a distance. Giovanni tends to give written feedback for Stage 1s, but not face-to-face tutorials. This was/is true for me as well, but reflecting on it now I’m not sure why a little extra time to chat with each candidate at that early stage wouldn’t be a good thing. Oh yeah! It’s probably because while that’s true enough…there are a million other things to do on any given day even early on in the course so written feedback there does seem to check that box in a practical way. Perhaps I should start adding a little note at the bottom of it, though? Something like: if there’s anything here you would like to talk about, or especially anything that’s troubling you now that might be a bigger challenge as the course progresses, please let me know!

Shifting gears a little bit, Darren asked: what about creating a welcoming culture? There was Toronto CELTA tutor Patrick Huang‘s recent (IATEFL?) talk on promoting inclusivity on a CELTA course – in this case for a transgender candidate. Sandy attended and said it was a very good talk (I’ve seen Patrick speak at TESOL and also recommend his presentations!). Particularly thought-provoking, Sandy observed, were ideas about not forcing people to disclose, but setting up a comfortable environment where they can if they want to (Patrick’s talk summarized by her here).


Fiona then asked: “what about support beyond the course or trainee support?” and answered her own question by sharing that she has used Edmodo on a couple of courses, and trainees often create WhatsApp groups to support each other (another chatter mentioned Schoolology). When I worked at a CELTA center in Boston, MA we had a type of in-house LMS that included chat boards for candidates. It was clunkier than, say, FB messenger…but its being there at least introduced the idea that candidates are well served by linking up online. These communication channels can be particularly important because, as Cathy mentioned, there isn’t much slack to give time when a trainee could talk to a trainer (and the same is often true in regards to trainees talking to trainees). Everyone is constantly busy and don’t always want to make day longer. Fiona added that it’s good if there is someone else they can go to outside the course – if possible.


After the hour-long live chat ended, I came around and added some thoughts about what the topic meant to me:

  • Not thinking of tutorials as the *only* time for personalized check-in (eg talk re: opinion of course, well-being, support needed? etc.). As much as possible, “sprinkling this around” during the course of each day.
  • Using humor to, well, humanize yourself and the course atmosphere. Because CELTA + humorless trainers = a potentially horrid experience)
  • Going out for a nip w/ interested trainees after the course and sending them off with a big final dose of personal connection (via shared anecdotes, etc. I often learn a lot of useful info about how trainees connected and support each other during the course in these sessions!).
  • Adding bits of personal perspective in the initial interview (eg ‘I remember on my CELTA when..’), and elsewhere. I think trainees who do interviews are on a spectrum here and occasionally I’ve noticed how ‘impersonal’ this initial contact is and wondered what kind of effect that might have.
  • Simply smiling and signaling positive support…even in those stresspool moments in the course, not letting negativity that might come up in the group dynamics, etc. reflect in your baring as a matter of course.

That topic suggestion, I said, came out of the experience of working with a number of different trainers (a privilege and a silver lining of one of my CELTA employer’s modus operandi) and finding that some tutors clearly foregrounded the personal while others did this far less. And to be clear, trainers toward both extremes worked with high degrees of skillfulness and efficacy to be sure – there’s not one ‘right’ way IMO (more ‘personal’ does not = better!). I’ve worked with trainees who be very unlikely to describe their approach as focused on any particular “personal touch”…yet are among the best and most well-loved trainers. I’m sure Adi would agree with that, but he also flagged some CELTA trainers as “less than humourless, guarding against cynicism and [having] that “this is where my job” ends attitude”.

Clearly candidates on a course like the CELTA require a good deal of support of various types, including the “personal”, and successful course trainers are aware of this need. However, I don’t think we can deny that CELTA has, for better or for worse, something of a reputation for it’s intensiveness (yay) PLUS a rather “harsh” and “impersonal” culture (not yay), and course trainers who fit Adi’s description aren’t helping matters in this area. So, if and how CELTA MCTs and ACTs provide various kinds of “personal” connection and support, and/or facilitate and encourage trainees to get and give support to each other, etc. seems like a crucial, perennial issue.

Adi seemed to agree, saying that this was his interpretation of the topic as well: creating a tutor-trainee relationship that’s not defined solely by the dispensing of knowledge, feedback and grades!

That seems like a very nice note to end on.


One more link shared in chat: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/coaching-emotional-intelligence-webinar-nik-peachey


Thanks for reading! Comments welcome here, or of course tweet with the hashtag. 🙂

Vlog #10: Using (Buddhist) parables to frame points in feedback

A couple of quick notes:

  • When I say I’m not framing things with these parables “intentionally” that’s not right – it’s VERY intentional…what I mean is it’s less consciously, explicitly planned than spontaneously added in. The intention is clear: provide a simple narrative frame in order to make the feedback concept salient.
  • If there’s a larger take-away here it has nothing to do with any particular religious tradition, of course. As I mention, the little stories tend towards the universal – just like idioms, which are often really just pill-sized parables.


  • Another little micro-parable I didn’t mention in the video was the same one I referenced in an iTDi blog post in 2015. The teacher was expressing frustration that a certain maxim which a supervising teacher forcefully insisted upon (telling this teacher they must act upon consistently in each and every class) was not, in fact, working out helpfully. I suggested that classes are all different from each other, as well as from themselves in a process of constant (sometimes subtle, sometimes gross, but constant) change and used the “Tip of the Fingernail” parable, asking the teacher to show me their fingernail, etc. just trying to “make a memory”. This is also an image that can illustrate how even the seemingly smallest things in the learning environment and/or interactions in our class spaces can be meaningful, even significantly impactful – so we should put a lot of energy into being as attentive and mindful as possible while teaching, not letting our perception get too ‘tunneled’ on, say, the tech we’re using, or following the plan to the letter, etc.
  • The reason to think about any of this when it comes to feedback/advice for teachers is simply that teaching is the most or at least one of the most complex and cognitively demanding jobs in the world – therefore, whatever input into a teacher’s thinking is intended to enter into that complex system must have high salience if it’s not to simply be trodden upon by the next set of immediate calculations needed just to get through this day.
  • This gives me an odd but sort of fun book idea – ELT teaching principles through the lens of Buddhist parable or something like that. Would you thumb through that? I can sort of see it being published by these guys.
  • I really do find it amusing that I get to say “finally I can use that totally impractical degree I earned!” 😀
  • Finally, just in case anybody is wondering the “Pali canon” to which I refer is best probably most expertly collected, translated, and made accessible for readers online here.

Lecturer Wanted: Silpakorn University in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand

fac of edu.jpg

Are you interested in teaching English courses to future Thai English teachers, English majors, and other undergraduates? How about supervising teaching practicums? Assisting colleagues with proofreading and research support? Doing your own research and working in a small, tight-knit department at a unique Thai public university famous for its fine and decorative arts programs?

If the answer is yes, please check out the page I’ve created on this blog here. It has all the information you need to look into the position.


For a bit more of a sense of what’s what, here is a look at the full 5-year academic program of a Silpakorn English/TEFL graduate, including a 5th year practicum when students spend a full year in local schools. I’ll mention that this document is a few years old and certain aspects of the program have changed. Still, it gives some sense of what’s done here.


Follow the link above to view my university’s official job advertisement (or see it here). If you’ve got burning questions, I’m happy to discuss things with you in completely open and honest fashion and will give advice if/when requested. The goal is simply to help my department find the best possible candidate for the position (and for full disclosure, I’ll be here. We’ll be colleagues. But don’t let that put you off! ;))

I’ll end this post with a few general thoughts for anyone thinking about applying for this position to consider, especially if you’ve never lived and worked in Thailand before:

  • needless to say (though perhaps not!), living and working in Thailand is not the same thing as being on holiday in Thailand.
  • patience will be required to deal with paperwork, visa issues, administrative inefficiencies, language barriers, etc.
  • patience and equanimity will be required to deal with unfamiliar educational practices and potentially uncomfortable cultural/communicative norms.
  • patience, equanimity, and a gentle touch are recommended for those with progressive educational ideas and a strong desire to mold their surroundings accordingly; you will need to choose your battles (though this is as great a place as any to fight such well-chosen battles!).
  • this is a tropical environment – extremely hot during parts of the year, hot all year round, typically very humid…this is not a comfortable climate for many people.
  • Nakhon Pathom is not a particularly popular tourist spot, nor does it cater to western tastes like Bangkok does (e.g. supermarkets with good cheese, etc.) and very few Thai cities qualify as ‘clean’.
  • this may sound like a tired observation but teachers are offered a good deal of respect in Thai society…and so are expected to be professional in behavior and appearance. Our corner of Silpakorn University is probably on the slightly more casual side of things, but depending on where you’re coming from and what you are used to this may require some adjustment.

Thanks for reading! 


Contradiction into dissonance into retreat (into tradition) [Vlog #9 Follow-Up #1]

*Please excuse the awkwardness of my attempt to catalogue this and (likely) future posts into a little sub-file, right there in the titles. LOL. Part 6 of A/ii in reference to Post11b. It’s all one big comedy joke at the end of the day and this is but a lifestyle blog. 😉


One bullet point in the non-existent TL;DR itemized summary of my 22-minute vlogpost yesterday might read:

  • Many student-teachers appear to hold problematically negative perceptions of their learners in general, something I see as both a cause and a symptom of temporarily confounded instructor mindset (at best) and/or a potentially pernicious teacher demotivation (at worst).

Anyone who has worked with teachers in a mentor relationship has likely been there: an in-lesson critical incident is identified in reflection with some awareness, but the teacher needs nudging to defocus the learner (perhaps in apparent contradiction to what they’ve been building up intellectually) and really directly account for themselves and their influence on the situation. With novice teachers like those on CELTA courses, it’s often quite a lot more than a “nudge” that is needed; trainers are constantly on the lookout for a way to saliently signal this to their trainee teachers without tripping up on any destabilizers for an aspirational teacher identity-in-progress.

To my bullet point above might be added:

  • I believe these cognitively/affectively negative cognitions have a pernicious effect on both the teachers’ efficacy and their development (as if we should even distinguish between the two).

Lo and behold, as I was taking an outdoors walking-break on campus this afternoon (just gotta avoid any number of monstrously large monitor lizards anywhere near water…there’s water everywhere, all over campus. Attentive blog readers can expect visual documentary evidence of these beasts before, say, Christmas…santa-willing) I took along one of my favorite ELT books and opened it right to this:

So I’ve got this muddle in search of a operational maxim to guide me in helping, and luckily as I read and re-read this so-good-I-take-in-on-walks-and-confidently-flip-it-open-knowing-something-good-is-likely-to-come-of-it book Mindful L2 Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective on Cultivating Teachers’ Professional Development by Karen E. Johnson and Paula R. Golombek I’m able to start forming a few. To me, these two brilliant women are ELT teacher-educator visionaries; they have grown magical eyes with which to see teaching, learning, teacher learning. I must keep digging into their work.

and I hope to dig out a photo of me posing with them looking, as you might imagine, $%&#@! over the moon at a TESOL convention. 😀

What do you think about the dynamics that passage is pointing out?

Also, do you have an ELT book that works like this, one of those books you can simply pop open and expect something perfectly suitable to roll on out? Comment section below, people!

Vlog #9: A Practicum Progresses

There are definitely a handful of things mentioned in the video I’d like to write more about in a follow-up post. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, sharings, or questions use the comments section below.

Bone-us video: our Beagle puppy Lucy and the slow slippery slope to sleep…

Thoughts (set off by Marc)


(Marc/quotes from his comment on my previous post, in bold)

Is all this CPD a good thing for people with full-time work? 

CPD stands for ‘Continuous Professional Development”. Is what I listed in the previous post “CPD”? Let’s check…

Continuous = Yup, this PLN stuff is pretty darn continuous. Everything on that list happens and then keeps happening.

Recently I’ve noticed my niece, who is staying with us for a couple of weeks, watching a handful of web-only shows on her phone. Watching all. the. time. She watches the shows and also chats with other audience members about them on multiple social media channels (including twitter, as it happens). Being really into them, her engagement with them is….well, it’s continuous.

I’m into the world of ELT. Not only as my job/profession, but in any number of other ways; for me ELT is a nexus for people, places, ideas, etc. that I like a lot. I’m not at all like an accountant who goes to work and accounts and then goes home and obsesses over golf. I’m not at all like an architect who goes to work and archs and then goes home and spends all their time in the neighborhood community garden. I’m a teacher/teacher educator who goes to work and teaches and teacher edumacates and then goes home and spends a good chunk of time doing the stuff on that list. Being that into it, my engagement with it is…well, it’s continuous.

I’ve also recently been finding myself marveling just at the way life in general has changed since 2011 when I got my first iPhone. Previous to that I think I had an old Nokia – very very basic. I used it to call people and very occasionally, if I had nothing to read on public transportation, play that snake game. Going on the internet for real meant sitting down at a computer. The iPhone meant that the internet was imbedded with me, in my pocket, in my hand. So, whatever I wanted to do online I could do…pretty much continuously. This was when things like webinars where proliferating, and this was the “2.0” era. The online action-zone was exploding. 2011 was also when I got started on my MA TESOL, and 2011 was when I would say I got truly into ELT.

Since my first taste in Sri Lanka in 2004 I’d already been “into it” in a more local and limited way though, and used the internet – sitting down at a computer – to indulge, including in my free time.

I just checked: I’ve tweeted 10.8k times as @tesolmatthew. I tweeted 3.3k times before that as @newbieCELTA for a total of 13.8k tweets. But that’s only a bit past half of the times I posted on a vBulletin teacher’s discussion forum over a 7-year space beginning in 2005 (20k+). So, this is simply to say it’s nothing new.

Getting back to where I started, Continuousness: it’s that way because it’s what I’ve always done as a teacher and it’s that way because with an iPhone it can be.

It’s been continuous, but the quality and quality/level of engagement absolutely does vary. Right now I’ve got a university job and it’s summer session, snack between semesters, hot season, quiet time around here. The only thing happening is the off-campus practicum I’ve been writing and vlogging a bit about. Not many students around. Not many colleagues around either. My officemate is far away completing some research. That’s his empty desk behind the quote from a book I just picked up, opening to this page and thinking it was connected to what I was writing about here.


Anyway, now is one of those times when my attention to PLN-based CPD spikes. It will go back down. Classes will start and there’ll be a pretty big shift. There will be re-prioritizing. That list? It’ll shrink. But in the main, the thing itself will Continue.

Professional = I’m not sure how to address the question of whether or not my list of “what I actually do on/around twitter” describes a purely “professional” thing. As mentioned above, it would seem that a lot of it is in fact Personal . I don’t need to read so-and-so’s blog post about such-and-such to maintain or upgrade my professional knowledge base per se; but I’m interested and it certainly does end up feeding my professional knowledge base in sometimes surprising ways. For example, right now there’s a debate going on about coursebooks (when is there not) and someone mentioned “local versions” of global coursebooks like Headway. The people debating are fun to read and there’s a certain nerdy but very real entertainment value to keeping tabs on it. But doing so for nerdy personal reasons has led me to google a few things and now I’ve got this to read and also this to read for professional reasons; students in the TEFL BA I work on need to grapple with opportunities and options in using globalized materials, and if and when I ever work as a tutor on CELTA again, I want to continue a trajectory of being more and more woke about the materials they’re given at such a crucial developmental stage. That’s certainly Professional stuff.

Development = More and more I want to use the word “learning” rather than “development” because that’s most of what these activities are about. Development is a symptomatic outcome of learning. It’s a bit on the nose, is it not, to slap the label ‘development’ on so many things? The term learning is better, I think, because it’s a more accurate descriptor (of a longer-term, more complex process) but also because it reminds us that, like our students, we as teachers should be studying and learning. This will, we predict, lead to development. There’s that new book “Teacher Development Over Time”, right? I love that title, because of/despite the fact that in some sense it’s just so redundant. That’s what I want to use the word “development” for and then go ahead and use “learning” for what we’re talking about. It’s so much more humble! It’s so much more real.

So anyway, I think the previous bit about the P actually gives an example of something I have or will learn/learn about based on my twitter/PLN activity.

Now to the question of if it is “…good for people with full-time work”.

Above I think I’m clear that it’s something I’ve felt is “good for me”. But I can certainly entertain the notion that an empirical accounting might supply cause to wonder. The question you pose and the way you pose it, I think, go a bit beyond any particular personal accounting: it’s about the larger context of bad working conditions, teacher burnout, and perhaps a professional culture (or lack thereof) with some highly dysfunctional features.

“Full-time work”, one imagines, ought to imply a certain ‘fullness’ that includes one’s fill of CPD. But it often doesn’t, even while the dramatic complexity of teaching work demands infinitely more attention to supported teacher learning. And we know that full-time teaching work – as tough a job as any – will leave a normal human being quite sufficiently spent at the end of any given day/week. Working more – if our CPD entails work – can seem downright inappropriate, even inhumane.

And there’s that quote from the book in the pic above, it’s rather haunting actually. But it suggests that IF the CPD one does is social and interactive, that maybe it does more than the particulars on each tin? So that then begs the question of whether online interaction generally actually is social in the way we want it to be.

Anyway, I guess I’d just say that if it’s not in fact a personal hobby, the answer to your question would be a pretty easy NO from me. No, it’s not good for a people who teach full-time to do the things on that list if what they really want to do is play a shitload of tennis.

There’s maybe a sense, behind the question, that my description amounts to a celebration which amounts to a promotion: a promotion of off-the-clock, unpaid CPD that – whether it’s my intention or not – legitimizes and perhaps even contributes to injustice in ELT.

Are some of us doing a bit too much [CPD]?

Right now I feel it’s ultimately up to each individual to say, really…even while I want to acknowledge that there’s a corporate consciousness that links our decisions, thoughts, and beliefs which we can and should attend to. The latter is, I think, the arena which the more critical/political take you very rightly responded to my post with belongs.

There’s all that and then there are individuals. When you work with teachers as a trainer or mentor full-time, I think, especially student and/or novice teachers sometimes that more macro stuff tends to yield to a much more individual focus. THIS teacher should do MORE to fulfill their potential right now. THIS teacher should perhaps do less to fulfill theirs. The reasons, in both cases, have everything to do with distinctly personal factors.

If you feel like you are doing too much, stop right now.

I think there have been times where I’ve used this or that activity – including online PLN/CPD stuff, yes – to avoid something else in my life, or stay busy so as to not confront something looming, or whatnot. I’d say that’s not a particular feature of what the list was about, however. But there have been times where I should have immediately stopped doing EVERYTHING on that list and did not stop.

Are we hooked on the apparent benefits without considering the detriment to work-life balance and such?

So much to unpack there and discuss, Marc. Hooked, apparent, benefits, detriments, balance. I look forward to more of your thoughts!

I am not criticising you; I am reacting to the thoughts you set off in me.

Goes both ways. Thank you for setting off my thoughts!


OK, it’s now 3pm. I had no plans to blog today but I’d gotten enough done here at my desk to feel the coast was clear and the urge to respond to Marc’s comment was too strong. It took me about 40 minutes to write the post above. So now, back in the mode of the previous one, I’ll simply describe what I think the rest of my day might look like, and note how twitter/PLN stuff will likely fit into the nooks and crannies:

  • Post this.
  • Clean up my office a bit.
  • Send a short message to my practicum supervisees.
  • Check twitter here, scrolling for a couple of minutes.
  • Go find out how I can log into my uni web access, etc. account. I found written instructions for this on my desk when I came in…sadly, my Thai reading is not good enough yet to understand them!
  • Leave campus, drive to HomePro to look for puppy fencing. Practice my Thai speaking and listening (much stronger!) as much as possible during my errand.
  • Sitting in parking lot with or without the fencing I’m hoping for, open my WordPress app ‘reader’ and scroll the blogs. Read maybe one, and bookmark a few others for bedtime reading.
  • Arrive home with dinner, eat with my wife and niece. Play with the puppy. Shower and do some house stuff. Hopefully jog, starting off with music in my earbuds but also probably listen to the latest episode of TEFLology while I run.
  • Yadda yadda, bedtime: read those other blog posts, scroll twitter a bit.
  • Finally, set morning alarm and fight the urge to keep looking at the phone, maybe watching the latest Stephen Colbert monologue. Instead, shut it down and talk to my wife! Pick up my detective novel, pass out after 3 pages. 1 out of 7 days my bedtime reading might be ELT-related. This is down from maybe 4 out of 7 at peak ELT times.