“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:
books

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. 😉