Czech EFL

Let the Czech check it out

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'll be back!

Hey everyone!

Thank you very much for your invaluable comments. Making up my mind had turned out excruciatingly painful but I eventually decided to go for the IT position. So that's the end of this blog. Now I've got to brace myself for juggling my uni, work and personal life. It's going to be a challenge far greater than anything I've been through so far BUT I'm aware that: soon as people become more competent, God or life will give them bigger things to do. -- Scott Peck
Tomorrow I'm videoing one of my classes and I have to figure out how I can possibly explain myself. That'll be pretty much it for now but I'm damn sure about one thing: I'll be back!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Please help!

As some of you may know I've got some experience in IT. Now a friend of mine is looking for someone who would work for their company and overlook (oversee, of course) a project for a major client. I didn't turn them down immediately but asked for loads (I mean LOADS) of money and it seems now they're completely out of their mind or hard pushed for time or whatever but they're on the verge of saying yes.

What the hell am I supposed to do? I love teaching for all the damn reasons I've posted about when I set up this blog. Most people would dream of such a well-paid job in their thirties but could I really sell what I love for formal attire, stress, no time to finish the two semesters I've got to go at my university? I certainly didn't plan for teaching to be a one-off fill-in. I did think it to be my vocation. Shall I throw away all I love about teaching? Is it a challenge I should try to rise up to or is it a test of my character and integrity?

I haven't got a clue. I've got to consult lots of people and decide by the beginning of next week. What do you think? What would you do? What kind of questions do I need to ask myself before I make any decision?

Please, comment!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Affective filter in play

One of my students is struggling as she often seems unable to understand simple questions let alone much of the more complex input I provide. She's been through a few traditional language courses but what she clearly needs now is to work on her listening skills. As I see it, a high affective filter plays its part as well. Simply put, she always seems somewhat insecure and is beginning to skip classes in favour of her dentist! As my DOS pointed out, she'd rather see her dentist than me....!

Okay, I need to address the feelings and emotions first so I began today by asking about how she feels at the dentist etc. before I dug deeper. I asked about dating and relationships (I knew it was a problem) and could sense she didn't feel comfortable with such questions. Before she could utter a word I quickly introduced the issue of asking and avoiding personal questions:
  • If you don't mind my asking, ...
  • Sorry, I'd rather not say.
I stressed that language is power and we have to protect ourselves now and then against things we consider too personal. So I repeated the question and encouraged her to protect herself. Then I went on to introduce something stronger:
  • That's none of your business!
I asked again, bumped up against that wall of powerful language, roared back: "Excellent!" and enjoyed her smile and sense of relief/achievement.

The only purpose of power is to empower others. -- Scott Peck

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Magic moments

We were talking today about work uniforms and my student told me in Czech something along the lines of:
I hate it because I have to wear it every day.
I swiftly put the expression on the board, repeated it several times and modelled the emotions by stressing the words HATE and EVERY. The student then, much to my amazement, said: "every SINGLE day!" It's an expression we'd come across before and I was so pleased she could remember it. I went all out to praise that effort and make her proud of it.

It went down all very well I think but I find it easier to praise some students than others...

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Once you step onto the grammar-translation path, forever will it dominate your destiny... ha, ha, ha

-- Darth Hoge
It's classic really. I've been overtly enthusiastic about some of my BE students who joyfully embrace new ideas and begin to direct their own learning and now it's about time I mentioned the others. They all come from different walks of life but while the former tend to be younger and are complete beginners the latter have been through a couple years of grammar-translation conditioning. They find it hard to give up the old patterns, tend to lack self-confidence and need truckloads of counselling and emotional support.

What did we do today? What they asked for...

Wh- questions in the present tense
  • In questions with be, have got and can, the verb comes ....................... the question word.
EXAMPLE: ..............................................................
  • With other verbs, ....................... or ....................... comes after the question word. The subject comes next and the main verb comes ....................... the subject.
EXAMPLE: ..............................................................

Source: KET Objective

... and they felt secure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Classroom blogging

While there's much academic debate going on about classroom blogging I'm enjoying now the practical side of it. I'm now attending Mental Health and Selfmanagement seminar at my university and since we have WiFi on the premises I thought I might blog some: there's an exquisite poem over at Sarin Miso. Go refresh yourself :)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The ghosts behind the blackboard

There is a great necessity for teachers to face themselves. If they don’t, they can’t face others.

-- Ephraim Weintraub

Friday, November 04, 2005


I'm really excited about how my BE students are keen on exploring the kind of autonomous learning I have outlined in the "Dear Learner" letter. They read and always proudly tell me how much reading they've done so far, they get themselves monolingual dictionaries, they choose movies we watch together... they take charge of their own learning!

I seem unable to steer clear of making inappropriate remarks now and then though and I'm afraid I made a bit of a blunder yesterday. The student produced a second-hand Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's dictionary and I, instead of bursting with praise for such a bold effort, set about to investigate when it was published as I'm aware that all pre-1990 dictionaries didn't draw on corpora analysis... Not really the most important thing for an intermediate student, is it? Oh well, I tried to backtrack and point out that it would definitely be of great use to him but the harm had been done.

Psychology for EFL

I've got a couple psychology courses at my university but I find myself struggling a bit with the underlying philosophy which is essentially about competition, ie. understand and handle your partner in order to make a profit. This clearly is in stark contrast with the kind of cooperation philosophy a teacher needs to embrace in order to be able to help and support their partner.

I vividly remember a role-play we did on a management course. Two people were supposed to get an amout of oranges to sort out a serious nationwide disaster in their respective countries. Most pairs were arguing for a good while to finally arrive at a kind of compromise (which lead to a loss of many lives anyway) while we were done in a matter of seconds because the very first question was: So what do you need? That way, we immediately realized that while I was after the skin my partner was after the juice! Sure, it was a little, easy-to-overlook detail but the win-win solution was one of cooperation, not competition.

However, there's a lot to psychology and all Krashen's followers keen on lowering the affective filter have to develop such skills. Personally, I could with a bit of training in this area.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Free voluntary reading

I recommend all my students ought to read as much as they like and I really want to find out how free voluntary reading works so I've just bought The Adventures of Tom Sawyer + CD (Oxford Bookworms Library, Stage 1) for my brother. He's going to be my guinea pig but not the only one. As EFL Geek once pointed out, all language teachers should be learning a foreign language so they could better relate to what their students have to go through. Therefore, I also signed up for a year membership at Institut Français de Prague and borrowed a couple graded readers (littérature facile).

Mind you, I've been through 3 semesters of the worst possibly devastating grammar-translation university instruction of 'here you have a crap book, go memorize it and come back for your exam' type and first I've got to restore my relationship with French crushed by this horrendous approach.