Trama in the Classroom – Part 2

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This blog post is originally published at the blog of TESL Ontario on November 7, 2022, written by Allyson Eamer, Amea Wilbur, Katie Crossman, and Jennifer Allore.

This blog is the second in a two-part series on trauma in the classroom. Part 1 discusses how teachers can better facilitate learning and provide support for students who have experienced trauma, such as refugees. This segment focuses on vicarious trauma?

Vicarious trauma is a form of second-hand trauma. It is experienced by people in helping professions when they are deeply affected by their exposure to others’ trauma. The term was coined in 1995 by Laurie Pearlman and Karen Saakvitne, and originally was used to describe symptoms that clinicians experienced from working with clients with trauma experiences. Vicarious trauma has since been recognized in other fields. It can occur in various ways, such as listening to traumatic stories or viewing disturbing images. 

Anyone who engages empathetically with survivors of trauma or materials relating to trauma can be affected. In particular, it can affect instructors that hear traumatic stories from their students. This is especially true for instructors who work with recent immigrants or refugees to Canada. Instructors in full time language programs where they spend a lot of time with their learners may be at a heightened risk.

Vicarious trauma accumulates over time. Someone with vicarious trauma will experience a shift in how they view the world, or a shift in their fundamental beliefs about the world. For example, they might observe a shift in the belief that they are safe. This might manifest in checking and re-checking that doors and windows are locked or that family members are safe. These shifts in belief tend to gravitate towards the negative and play out subconsciously. 

How can vicarious trauma be addressed?

Like most things, prevention is better than a cure. Vicarious trauma can be prevented. In language classrooms, instructors can use trauma-informed approaches by creating a predictable, consistent, and safe environment for learning. Instructors should also be clear with themselves and their learners about their own boundaries and the scope of their role. For example, it would be irresponsible to listen to a learner’s disclosure of trauma and try to provide them with advice. Instead, an instructor should remind the learner of their role and acknowledge that they are not trained to provide advice. Instead, instructors should be aware of community and organizational resources such as counselling, women’s shelters, or settlement organizations that learners can access. Learners can get the support they need, and instructors avoid taking on the “weight” of a learner’s disclosure. 

Furthermore, in the classroom, instructors can build in everyday practices as part of warmers or other activities that promote emotional regulation. This can be done with grounding activities, such as mindful breathing or observation. Likewise, instructors can use these activities when they are overwhelmed in the classroom or their daily lives. 

As well, having a routine or ritual that marks a distinction between work life and home life can have a protective effect on instructors. For example, a leaving-work ritual that helps you mentally end the day can help keep work and home life separate. This can be as simple as mindfully turning out the light or saying goodbye to work at the end of the day. 

Finally, organizations, institutions, and funders must prioritize and support well-being for instructors. This can be done through balanced workload, access to counselling or wellness programs, collaboration, and maintaining a system-wide environment of care throughout our systems. 

Where can I learn more?

Resources are becoming available to support language instructors. As part of a research project at the School of Global Access at Bow Valley College in Calgary, a toolkit about vicarious trauma and other empathy-based stress was developed for language instructors. Along with instructors from across Canada, a group of TESL Ontario members are piloting it this fall, and the toolkit will be more widely available in Spring 2023. More information can be found here.

You can also read more about this in a forthcoming book, Teacher Well-Being in English Language Teaching (Routledge). Amea and Katie each contributed chapters on this topic. We (Allyson, Jennifer, Amea, and Katie) want to understand more about trauma in the classroom. To share your own experiences and thoughts, look for a survey in the coming months.


About the authors: This team of four researchers from three provinces and four post-secondary institutions brings a wide variety of experience (ESL teaching, settlement work, teacher training, adult education) to their research on the migrant experience, language learning, trauma and vicarious trauma. Allyson Eamer and Amea Wilbur are university professors; Katie Crossman is a researcher; and Jennifer Allore is an ESL instructor and (former) Chair of the TESL Ontario Board of Directors.

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Trama in the Classroom – Part 1

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This blog post is originally published at the blog of TESL Ontario on November 7, 2022, written by Allyson Eamer, Amea Wilbur, Katie Crossman, and Jennifer Allore.

If you are a LINC or ESL instructor, there is a good chance that you have taught learners who have experienced trauma. Syrian, Afghan and now Ukrainian refugees, for example, have been arriving in Canada in large numbers and are increasingly part of our classrooms. Although you are not a mental health specialist, you are often the first point of contact for many students. They likely see you more often and for longer blocks of time than they see their settlement workers or other professionals in their lives. Your students undoubtedly view you as quintessentially Canadian and very much a part of “the system” that directly impacts their lives and futures in Canada. Because you work hard to be a caring instructor and to build trust in the classroom, you are likely to witness the effects of trauma on student learning, and/or to have trauma disclosed to you by a student. You are therefore an important, if unwitting (and likely unprepared, we will argue), key player in responding to trauma.

We (Allyson Eamer, Amea Wilbur, Katie Crossman, and Jennifer Allore) are researchers who strongly believe that language teachers need to:  

  • understand the impact of trauma on learning 
  • be trained in strategies for teaching students living with trauma 
  • have a plan for how to address disclosures from students  
  • be supported by their institution and systems to provide inclusive and responsive instruction 

What we know 

The literature is clear on how trauma affects the brain. People who have been exposed to trauma and chronic stress produce the stress hormones, cortisol and norepinephrine. While both are important in dealing with imminent danger and processing stress, too much of them have been found to create lasting effects on the brain’s neurobiology. For example., elevated levels of cortisol negatively affect the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain, both responsible for memory and executive function in the learning process. As a result, learners who have experienced trauma and stress may be at a disadvantage with their English language acquisition. Trauma may also compromise their ability to concentrate and to maintain motivation. This phenomenon is known as “survival brain,” and is well accepted in the literature. 

What we learned 

In 2018, we explored the relationship between trauma and language learning with a number of refugees in southern Ontario. We conducted interviews with adult refugees from Syria, Myanmar, Palestine, Burundi, and Tunisia. We asked them to describe their language classroom experiences and how they perceived the availability of existing educational, social, and health systems in supporting their language learning and acculturation.   

When we talked with refugees and heard their country-of-origin and passage stories (many of which were filled with traumatic events), as well as their settlement and language learning stories, we noticed thematic patterns of resilience, agency, resourcefulness, and identity development.  

Interestingly, participants described a tension between valuing teacher authority while enjoying teachers who were approachable and flexible. There was also a tension that emerged from wanting program structure and rigor, but also enjoying unstructured opportunities for conversation.  

What we think 

We argue for a more intentional balance between teacher-centered and student-driven lessons in classrooms consisting of refugee students. Achieving this balance will afford learners living with trauma the comfort of predictability, routine, and structure. This approach will also gradually expose them to the “teacher-as-facilitator” model, wherein lessons and assignments are developed democratically in response to student needs. Fortunately, language instructors have done well to develop sensitivities regarding the cultures, values, conflicts, and political circumstances relevant to their refugee students. Many instructors have begun to seek resources that will provide strategies to address these matters in the classroom. We highly recommend Beyond Trauma: Language Learning Strategies for New Canadians Living with Trauma

Next time 

The focus of our 2018 study was on the refugee language learners’ experiences and perceptions. It did not take into account the impact of disclosed trauma on the teachers of these students. So, while the research is very clear that primary trauma impacts learning, we suggest that secondary trauma may impact teachers in similar ways.  

Join us in part 2 on Wednesday where we shift the focus to vicarious trauma in instructors. 


About the authors: This team of four researchers from three provinces and four post-secondary institutions brings a wide variety of experience (ESL teaching, settlement work, teacher training, adult education) to their research on the migrant experience, language learning, trauma and vicarious trauma. Allyson Eamer and Amea Wilbur are university professors; Katie Crossman is a researcher; and Jennifer Allore is an ESL instructor and (former) Chair of the TESL Ontario Board of Directors.

How to Make Your LGBTQ+ Students Feel More Included

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Did you know? Up to 30% of the world’s population belong to the LGBTQ+ community? This means that close to 1/3 of your students in class may as well. It is important to make all of our learners feel like they belong so here are a few tips on how to do this for your LGBTQ+ students. The most important point to remember is to allow for a natural type of inclusion and not portray any kind of ‘otherness’. Too often in an attempt to include LGBTQ+ in our lessons and surroundings, we tend to ‘fragment’ topics and activities. For example, some teachers focus on topics and representation only during the month of June – pride month. This, however, does not foster a sense of inclusion in everyday classrooms but rather serves to highlight an ‘otherness’, fragmenting the curriculum as a result. For real inclusion and a sense of belonging to occur, students in this community need to be represented on the walls of the classroom, in textbooks and materials used in class, and in real life activities.

Your Classroom

Take a good look around your classroom. What posters are on the wall? What pictures are on display? Is there any way you can make the visuals more inclusive without creating a sense of ‘otherness’?

Your Textbook

Research has shown that very few ELT textbooks include representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This can be remedied by a teacher supplementing with material on topics that relate both to the theme of the unit in the book and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in the Reading and Writing Q: Skills for Success series there is a unit on colour. A teacher can easily bring in the symbol of the rainbow and what the colours mean to the community. Another unit in the same series focused on festivals in London. Here, the teacher can easily bring in the Pride Festival in London. By carefully examining your materials, you are able to naturally introduce topics related to the LGBTQ+ community without veering from your curriculum.

Your Activities

Classroom activities can also be adapted to better suit the needs of your learners. Activities in lower beginner classes on family, for example, can include pictures of many different kinds of families – the nuclear family, single-mom or dad family, two-dad family, two-mom family, extended family and so on. When students are asked to describe their perfect husband or wife, more neutral words such as ‘life partner’ can be used. The natural inclusion of the pronoun ‘they’ in lessons may also be helpful. When examples are given of people in different professions, try to include some from the LGBTQ+ community. For example, a unit on sports where students describe their favourite sport/athlete can be introduced with an example from the community, such as tennis star Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, or basketball star Jason Collins. This brings in representation of the LGBTQ+ community in a naturally inclusive way without creating a feeling of ‘otherness’ in the class.

Author’s Bio

Hilda, like many in ELT, has worked in a variety of contexts. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Teaching Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She is working in EAP, the TESOL Certificate Program, and the MEd. She previously owned and ran her own private language school. She also has years of overseas experience. Hilda holds a PhD from Rhodes University and has contributed to the BCTEAL Journal as well as numerous other journals. Hilda’s experience in so many areas of EAL make her an excellent addition to the board as the Private Sector Representative (2021-2023).

10 Ways to Use Music in the ESL Classroom

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Music is a wonderful way to engage learners in the classroom. It breaks up the monotony of worksheets that are often used to practice vocabulary and grammar points. Here are 10 ways to spice up your language lessons with music.

1. What’s the Word?

Function: Listening for details

Level: High Beginner +

Materials: worksheet with song lyrics that contain mistakes in vocabulary items

Instructions:

Create a worksheet from lyrics of a song by replacing words with certain vocabulary items the class is working on. Students correct the mistakes as they listen to the song. For example, if you are working on university subjects, you can use the song Don’t Know Much and replace the subjects in the song with subjects being taught in class (‘Don’t know much about history’ becomes ‘Don’t know much about chemistry’). Students listen and correct the mistakes.

2. Re-order the Lyrics

Function: To listen for details

Level: High Beginner +

Materials: song lyrics cut up into strips

Instructions:

Students work in pairs. They listen to a song and put the strips with the lyrics back in order. Long songs that are not too slow and have very little repetition are perfect for this kind of exercise. The level of difficulty of the song should match the level of your class.

For example:

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot (High Intermediate +)

3. Memories

Function: To describe memories

Level: Low intermediate +

Materials: a song that brings back memories for you

Instructions:

Start lesson by playing a song that is special to you as it reminds you of something or someone. To keep the students interested, you can make a gap fill with the lyrics. Then tell the students why this song is so special. Describe the memory. Then divide the students into pairs. Ask each person to choose a song (can be from their own culture/language) and write about the memory it brings back for them. Students present the song and the memory to their partners. Volunteers come up and sing part of their songs and describe their memories to class.

4. Word Search and Songs

Function: To learn new vocabulary

Level: High beginner +

Materials: lyrics with missing vocabulary words (same part of speech)

Instructions:

Start lesson by playing a song. Ask the students to write down as many nouns as they can from the song. Then put the students into pairs and give them a word search you created with all the nouns in the song. Ask students to use their lists and find as many of the words as possible. When time is up, the group that found the most nouns from the song wins. Make sure to go over meaning of words and show students how to remember any new words with various learning strategies.

5. Musical Analogies

Function: To review vocabulary

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: worksheet with lyrics and gap exercise, analogy worksheet with answers from the song

Instructions:

Begin by handing out the lyric worksheet and having students complete the blanks by listening to the song. Take up the answers on the board. Then hand out the analogy worksheet and ask students to work in pairs. The answers to the analogies can be one of the gap words or any other word in the song.

For example: Grass: green         Ocean: _blue_

6. If I Could Change the World

Function: To describe hypothetical changes

Level: High Intermediate +

Materials: Eric Clapton’s Change the World

Instructions:

Start lesson by asking students about people who have made a difference in the world. What have they done? Then ask students to listen to a song about a man who would like to change the world. They are to listen for things he would change and write them down. Take up the answers after the song is finished. Then ask each student to write down 5 things they would change about the world. Then put the students into groups. Together, they must come to an agreement on 5 changes they would make. Students present changes to class.

7. Music and Art

Function: Expressing and Supporting Opinions

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: various pictures of works of art, different musical pieces (jazz, new age, classical)

Instructions:

Put up various pictures of art around the room so it resembles an art gallery. Give each painting or picture a number. Give students time to move around the classroom and have a good look at all the pictures. Then break the class into pairs. Play different excerpts of music and ask students to match the music to the artwork. Students need to come up with reasons supporting their opinions. Their opinions are presented to class.

8. Make an Album Cover

Function: To express opinions

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: excerpts from an album no one has ever heard of, magazines, paper, scissors, glue sticks, markers

Instructions:

Students listen to a variety of excerpts from songs off an album. They make note of feelings, images, and ideas they get from the songs. Then they are divided into groups and told they are the artist’s creative team. They must come up with an album cover for the songs they just heard. They discuss their ideas and choose images from the magazines to create an album cover. These covers are presented to the class and then displayed around the room.

9. Questions and Answers

Function: To give reasons

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: songs that have Wh-Q questions in them, answers to the questions on index cards (one word, one card)

Instructions:

Start the lesson by reviewing Wh-words and question formation. Then play a couple of songs that have Wh-Q in them. Students write down all the Wh-Q they hear in the songs. Then divide the class into groups of three. Each group gets a set of index cards which have the answers to the questions (mixed up). It is a race to match the answers with the questions. Answers are presented to class.

For example: Why must we wait until tonight?

…because    we   have to   work   all   day.

10. Musical Cryptograms

Function: To review vocabulary

Level: Low Intermediate +

Materials: worksheet with lyrics and gap exercise, cryptogram worksheet using words in the song 

Instructions:

Begin by handing out the lyric worksheet and having students complete the blanks by listening to the song. Take up answers as class. Then hand out the cryptogram you created using some of the vocabulary or phrases in the song. Students must decipher the number-letter code in small groups or pairs. Some letters and codes are given. Groups race to finish first.

For example: 

Author’s Bio

Hilda, like many in ELT, has worked in a variety of contexts. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Teaching Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She is working in EAP, the TESOL Certificate Program, and the MEd. She previously owned and ran her own private language school. She also has years of overseas experience. Hilda holds a PhD from Rhodes University and has contributed to the BCTEAL Journal as well as numerous other journals. Hilda’s experience in so many areas of EAL make her an excellent addition to the board as the Private Sector Representative (2021-2023).

BCTEAL.org Launched!

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It’s official! BCTEAL.org is now in its new home!

Some highlights of moving day on December 1, 2022:

  • We started at 4 amin the morning, preparing for the “movers” to arrive.
  • They arrived early, and we had the “truck” loaded by 6 amand began the move from our home of 4+ years.
  • The move itself went quick, and by noon, we were in our new space.
  • Even though we cleaned the new home thoroughly, a lot of new bugs showed up. We had to wait for the exterminators to come and clean it out which took until 3pm.
  • By 5pm the dust had settled and we had some guests. In fact we had 3 visitors, who decided to move in and join the community!
  • At around 6:30 pm, we made a public announcement to over 3000 of friends that we had moved into our new home!
  • By 8:45 pm most of the main items were unpacked and we sent the “house-warming” invite to 380 of our closest friends and family.
  • Over the next few weeks, we have started some housekeeping, touch-ups, and various home-improvements to make sure everyone has a pleasant stay when they come visit, as we settle into our new place! 🙂

In short, it was a rough day starting at 4 am in the morning but migration was underway on schedule at 6. Many issues came up, including a glitch in member information, pictures not loading, links misdirecting, and pages not showing up in the right place. Fortunately, by the end of the day, the majority of the issues were resolved, and the site was up. However, with some unexpected issues, we delayed our launch and had to inform our members through the mailer at 3:30 pm instead of in the morning. Finally, the Membership welcome email was sent at 8:45 pmto all active members!

Over following few weeks, we were hoping that most of our members are be able to log in and visit the site. We also anticipated a large number of ‘members’ realize that their membership had expired and hopefully renew. We already had a handful of members renew their membership on December 1, which was very encouraging for the Membership Committee!

There is more that we are doing! After things settle down, we will likely start up phase 2 of the website project. This will involve updating texts such as land acknowledgement, and forum guidelines, and upgrading the membership area including the LMS, video gallery, etc. and running more and better contents to make the most of our front page. You may notice some changes happening already!

Thank you again for everyone’s hard work, especially in November and December 2022, proofing so many items and providing so much feedback! We are very grateful for the members who volunteered to test the new site prior to the launch; they provided much valuable feedback to improve all members’ experience. Additionally, I offer special thank you to Cindi, Fedha, Vera, Jennifer, and Neil who made up the mini-website sub committee. Last be not least, I would like to extend my sincere appreciate to the board’s support!

Moses Lam

Website Chair

Edited by Vera Wu

Recent BCTEAL Survey Data: Hearing from Our Members

Aughtry & Cummins
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Karen Aughtry & Jennifer Cummins

This June, we put out a fresh survey among BC TEAL members to discover more about our demographic.

Completion rate for the survey was high. We had forty-six members respond, with over half (twenty-six) from Metro Vancouver. The remainder were eight from the Fraser Valley; four from the Okanagan; three each from the islands and Thompson-Nicola; and one each from Northern BC and other.

Firstly, we were curious about the areas of the sector that our members are from. Surprisingly, none of the responders were TESL students; rather, being a field of such diverse roles and niches, our respondents were from a broad variety of professional positions: The vast majority ranged in careers from LINC instructor, manager, coordinator to general instructors, managers, coordinators, lecturers, and assistant/associate professors. There were two responders who specialized in IELTS teaching and testing, one curriculum manager and case manager, directors, and a recruiter.

Next, we asked about the current employment situation of this diverse group. In terms of percent, 64% are full-time, and 19% are employed part time. Of the remainder, 13% are on contract, and 10% are “non-applicable”.  The vast majority work for one employer.  

We were also interested in the happiness index of our professional membership. Are they happy in their roles, are they surviving, or are they struggling through from one day to the next? Seventy-four percent reported that their current roles are ones they wanted and are satisfied with. Fifteen percent have not attained the position they desire, and eleven percent prefer not to say. Set in the context of 75% having worked more than fifteen years in the industry, there is longevity that speaks to their satisfaction. 

Next, we wanted to know the education level of our membership. Three have Doctoral Degrees, thirty-one have Master’s Degrees, and ten have Bachelor’s Degrees. 

In regard to longevity of membership in BCTEAL, results show that 45/46 of the responders have been in BCTEAL from two to more than ten years. Almost half of those members purchase yearly memberships, whereas a few have two or year memberships, and several have special discounted memberships.

Additionally, many of our members are associated with other professional groups. Although 30% belong solely to BC TEAL, TESL Canada is an added connection for 46%, TESOL International for 26%, and the Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics and IATEFL each have 6.5%. The other 22% belong to unnamed organizations.

Curious as to how much our responders participate in BCTEAL events and publications, we asked, “How have you participated in BCTEAL?” The vast majority (85%) both participate in yearly conferences and in reading newsletters. The next largest rating for participation (66%) is attendance at regional conferences and BC partner events. Many (77%) browse our website and 64% attend webinars or other online events. Of the respondents, 40% have volunteered with BC TEAL for events or positions.

Surprisingly, not many responders utilized BC TEAL’s social media! The highest draw is the Facebook site at 28%, with Twitter following at 19%. Instagram, the Blog, YouTube, and LinkedIn are scarcely visited.

So, what do the survey results say about BC TEAL (besides that only one person may be reading this blog article)?

The higher ratings by responders revealed that their professional needs were met by this organization in terms of professional development opportunities (87%), networking opportunities (67%), updates on current issues in English language teaching (61%), and communication and updates on association activities and events (57%).

Thus, when asked what they hoped to get from BC TEAL membership, “choosing all that apply”, EVERYONE checked the boxes for all the following: networking and professional development opportunities, discounts on conference and pro-d fees, advocacy for the profession, updates on issues, opportunities in leadership and volunteering, recognition, and access to awards and scholarships from the TEAL Charitable Foundation. Thus, it was no surprise in response to the greatest benefit of joining BC TEAL, the above points were reiterated, appreciating the kindred spirit and professional identity that ensues.

Comments from survey participants on what BC TEAL provides for members:

“The greatest benefit is to stay connected to colleagues and see what other institutions are doing, and to contribute to the field through research and teaching expertise.”

“Networking and leadership opportunities”

“To be a member of a professional community”

Even in the best of organizations there is room for improvement, and this information comes from the participants:

 In selecting “all that apply” (and referring only to the highest percentages), 41% wanted more membership benefits, 33% wanted more engagement with the EAL sector, and 28% desired more communication between TEAL and its members. There were many specific suggestions for improvement, which the board will consider.

Comments from survey participants on BC TEAL areas of improvement:

“I’d love to have more updates / info provided by the BC TEAL board and the members.”

“More in person networking events”

“Additional networking and professional development and training opportunities.”

Thank you to all who participated in this survey. Your opinion, interaction, and commitment mean much to the survey committee and board.

Authors’ Bio

Karen has been a member of BC TEAL for over a decade. It is her love of professional development that propelled her teaching from the first steps of tutoring and homeschooling to attaining her undergrad and graduate degrees (MATESOL). After several years of retirement from her EAP position and membership expiration from BC TEAL, she renewed her membership, realizing the value of being part of the community, continuing to learn and give.

Jennifer Cummins is a passionate, creative, and committed instructor in the field of English as an Additional Language. Over the past 15 years, she has worked in a variety of settings, including international education, non-profit work, and post-secondary. She has shown leadership at both provincial and national scales by presenting at conferences, leading professional development opportunities for other educators, and consulting on policy decisions for the provincial and federal governments. Jennifer maintains active involvement in both private and public sectors of EAL education. She continues to look for new opportunities to develop as a leader in the educational field.

Can You Really Motivate Someone to Learn a Language?

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By Olessya Akimenko

Motivation is generally considered to be an important factor that can affect a learner’s success in English as an additional language (EAL). On the internet, you can find countless articles about how to motivate your EAL learners. The authors of these articles suggest multiple ways how this could be done, ranging from “triggering students’ interests” (Lesley University, n.d.) to “giving them a little friendly competition” (Pesce, n.d.) However, is it really possible to motivate a learner if they are not really interested?

First of all, let’s define motivation. According to Dörnyei and Skehan (2003), “motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity, and how hard they are going to pursue it” (p. 614). Speaking from my personal experience, as an EAL teacher with 10+ years of teaching experience, I don’t think it is possible to motivate someone to learn, unless they are already motivated. I believe that either a learner already comes motivated to learn or they don’t. The only thing that the teacher can do is not to let the learner lose this precious motivation. If they aren’t already motivated, there isn’t much that could be done.  

In this essay, I’d like to talk about how we as EAL teachers can create an environment for the learner, so they wouldn’t lose the motivation that they already have to learn a language. First of all, we do this by letting each and every learner contribute to the classroom practices and activities. It’s easy to lose motivation if you are not given an opportunity to actively participate. For example, Norton (1997) in her article “Language, Identity, and the Ownership of English” describes the experiences of an EAL learner who mentions how frustrating it can be to listen to only one student speak throughout the whole lesson. This student eventually drops the course feeling that she “didn’t learn at all”.

Second, we make sure that that the needs of all learners are addressed. People come to language classrooms with various needs, such as to get a (better) job or pursue post-secondary education, and those needs should be the main priority for the teacher. This, of course, might be harder to do in larger classrooms, but maybe this means that the classrooms do not need to be large.

Norton (2015) also suggests that classroom practices need to draw from and legitimize learners’ cultural capital, i.e., their prior knowledge and experience. Therefore, it is important to choose materials and activities that learners can relate to. Canada is a multicultural and multilingual country. However, do the learning materials for EAL students always reflect this cultural and linguistic diversity?

These are some of the ways that I believe can help teachers retain the motivation of their EAL students. And I am positive many teachers are already applying them. However, if you don’t, it’s probably high time to start.

Now, going back to my original idea that a learner either comes motivated to learn or they don’t, you may ask then why people come to learn a language if they are not really motivated? Can you really motivate them to learn? Well, this is something I’d like to hear your ideas on!

Olessya’s Bio

Olessya Akimenko is a PhD Candidate in the Languages, Cultures and Literacies program at SFU. She is currently conducting research for her thesis related to the professional identity negotiations of teachers of English as an additional language (EAL). Her other research and educational interests include dialogic pedagogy and the pedagogy of multiliteracies. Olessya also teaches at the Faculty of Education at SFU. Prior to starting her PhD program Olessya worked as an EAL teacher in Kazakhstan for more than 10 years.

References

Dörnyei, Z., & Skehan, P. (2003). Individual differences in second language learning. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 589-630). Blackwell.

Lesley University. (n.d.). 3 strategies for motivating ESL students. https://lesley.edu/article/3-strategies-for-motivating-esl-students

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL quarterly, 31(3), 409-429.

Norton, B. (2015). Identity, investment, and faces of English internationally. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 38(4), 375-391. Pesce, C. (n.d.). How to motivate ESL students: The 10 best ways to increase teenage student motivation. Busy Teacher. https://busyteacher.org/3644-how-to-motivate-esl-students.html

Everyone has an Accent

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By Tara Toroghi

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the term “accent” is defined as “the way in which people in a particular area, country, or social group pronounce words” (2022). Some examples of accents include Canadian, British, American (such as Southern or Boston accent), French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Persian, Jamaican and so much more! The latter highlights that while we may think differently, everyone who speaks English has a distinct accent, including Canadian, British, and American individuals. For example:

  • Canadians say “about”as “a-boot”.
  • British citizens say “British” as “Bri-ish”.
  • Southern Americans say “you all” as “y’all”.

While these different pronunciations show that everyone has an accent, some accents are seen as “inferior” which impacts people’s experiences when speaking English. As a result, accents bring up different emotions for different people. It can make someone feel confident in their ability to speak a language aside from their mother tongue. It can also be a reason why someone feels embarrassed because their accents are preventing others from fully understanding them.

I have experienced a few uncomfortable situations firsthand by speaking my first language – Farsi. During my early teenage years, I was teased by family members for pronouncing words in Farsi with an accent. I was mortified, uncomfortable, and from that moment, I decided to limit speaking Farsi out of fear. A few days later, I witnessed my mother experience a similar situation while speaking English in a grocery store. I noticed that the encounter did not stop my mother from speaking English despite her accent. Watching my mother remain confident made me realize that having an accent is a strength as it shows one’s ability to persevere and learn.

Today, I believe having an accent is something that one should be proud of because whether they have taken the time and effort to learn a whole new language or it’s a part of their mother tongue, their accent is a part of their identity. I had the opportunity to interview a few who use English as their Additional Language regarding their experiences associated with their accent as well as if they believed there is a correlation between accents and fluency.

Q: When was the first time someone mentioned your accent to you and how did that experience impact you?

  • “Although I am proud of myself for learning a completely new language, when my accent was pointed out, I felt self-conscious. However, I did not allow that to stop me from speaking English because practice makes perfect.”
  • “Everyone has an accent. The first time someone mentioned my accent was when I traveled to Seattle for a conference after living in BC for a couple of years. This surprised me and made me question myself during presentations and job interviews, however, I did not allow that experience to hinder my growth.”
  • “The first time someone mentioned my accent was in the fourth grade. One of my classmates made fun of me when I was presenting a skit. From that moment, I have been self-conscious of the way I speak, especially with my pronunciation. Experiencing this at such a young age has made me doubt my abilities when it comes to speaking English.”
  • “The first time my accent was mentioned, I was four and baffled. One of the parents at my school told me I had an adorable African accent, and I couldn’t help but be confused about what that meant. It would be like saying someone has a European accent. German? French? What does that even mean? But I was four, so I said thank you then learned to tie a shoelace.”
  • “My mother sounds distinctly British. Which means that sometimes… I sound distinctly British. People seem to find that incredibly distinguished, posh, intelligent even. When I get excited, however, I might find myself sliding into more AAVE, which has almost the direct opposite effect on people then when I sound British.”

Q: In your experience, are accents and fluency related or unrelated?

  • “In my opinion, there is no correlation between having an accent and fluency. One can have an accent when speaking English but they can be as fluent as an English First Language speaker.”
  • “I believe that accents are more fluency based. I focus on whether I can understand the person speaking rather than judging their accents.”
  • “Accents can affect fluency of communication; however, rather than focusing on people’s pronunciation, I believe that listening skills need to be improved if one is unable to understand someone speaking with an accent.”
  • “In my experience, fluency has nothing to do with accent. Fluency is about being able to speak on a topic while accents depend on one’s geographical location.”
  • “In my experience, accent and fluency have almost no correlation. Though, clarity is occasionally an issue (just go to Newfoundland). However, I’ve found that an accent can change people’s perceptions of fluency and ability.”
  • “I’ve found that the way we interact with people, fluency or not, has more to do with perceptions of the accent they use than with how well they speak our language. I’ve also found that it’s easy to forget, when surrounded by people who speak like us, that there is no such thing as not having an accent. Everyone’s from somewhere after all.”

As mentioned above, everyone has an accent, and based on the answers given for their personal experiences, most interviewees felt shame when their accents were mentioned. However, all of them continued pursuing the language for personal, educational, and professional goals. Regarding the correlation of fluency and accent, there were mixed views as some believed that accents affect fluency while others said that there is no correlation between the two. Something that stood out to me was how some interviewees mentioned that people should further exercise their listening skills rather than judge someone for their accent.

What is an experience that impacted your view on accents? Did this blog change your view on accents? If so, how? Feel free to share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Remember, your accent is a sign of intelligence. Speak loudly and speak proudly!

Reference

Cambridge University Press. (2022). Accent. Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/accent

Author’s Bio
Teacher, writer, and free-spirit, Tara is someone who encourages people to embrace their authentic selves and live their life’s purpose. Growing up in an immigrant household, she witnessed and experienced judgment when it came to accents when speaking English and Farsi. Writing about this topic is Tara’s way of spreading awareness and showing acceptance of accents.

Start the New Year with Learnings from 2021

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Happy New Year! We asked our board and committee members to share with our readers their learnings from 2021 which they will carry forward to 2022 .

Self Care

Self care definitely stood out among all the themes occurring in what we learned: “…there is nothing wrong with making time to take care of yourself” (Jennifer Cummins), and “It’s important to take care of myself, first. It’s like the oxygen mask in the airplane: Put your own on first” (Cindi Jones) and “to encourage others to take care of themselves, too!” (Taslim Damji). 

We also learned to give ourselves permission to take a step back. For Mercedes Bueno, it’s about disconnecting from work periodically: “…the mind needs to disconnect from work regularly in order to be more productive weekly. Working online doesn’t have to equal being available 24/7.”  For someone who experienced uncertainty and significant changes, they may find Karen Aughtry’s wisdom resonates with their learning: “I have learned (am learning) to float with the ebb and flow of life. …This year I’ve been experiencing all types of conditions on ‘the sea’. I’m learning to choose what suits my capabilities (I don’t mind learning new things, though) when there are many tugs of options on my line, and I’m learning to chill when there aren’t any. I will keep doing this in the unknown of 2022!”

Through the challenging times in 2021, as devoted and caring educators we realized the importance of self care, so that we can be a strong support for our students, coworkers, family and friends. We learned to slow down, ground ourselves, take breaks, care for our own needs, prioritize our own wellbeing, and let go of the things we are unable to control.

Supporting Others

While we learned to take care of ourselves, we also learned and kept improving the ways we try to take care of others and their unique needs. “…Each person deals with adversity in a different way, and the challenge is to provide the kind of support that is unique to each individual. To demonstrate true care involves giving the ‘cared for’ what they need, not what I think they need” (Karen Densky). Shirene also shared that “…socializing in small groups or one-on-one allowed me to spend more engaged time with the ones I love”.

As we are busy preparing for learning opportunities and supporting our members, Azzam learned not to “put off things for tomorrow as there are always fires to be put out then” – It is also a snapshot to show you how hard our board, committees and volunteers are working to bring you more professional development opportunities! 

Through the Challenges of 2021

In 2021, we experienced challenging wildfires and flooding amongst the continuing pandemic; however, we did not stop learning. As Fedha Muema summarized: “…In 2021 I finally began to understand what it truly meant to be a lifelong learner. … [Learning is] not just someone who takes college credits for fun well into their twilight years; it’s not just the student in the classroom or the Dojo or the dance studio. It’s also all the little things you accumulate in the most unexpected places. … In 2021 I learned that education is a conscious choice to be open to discovering something new, and to never stop reaching for more. “

What is one thing you learned in 2021 that you will bring with you to 2022?

Know Your BC TEAL Membership Benefits

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By Karen Aughtry

Are you a member of BC TEAL? BC TEAL aspires to understand our readership and members’ needs. An unpublished internal survey was recently conducted to which some readers responded. Interestingly, approximately one-third of respondents were unaware of the benefits offered by BC TEAL. As the survey probed for what teachers want, there were suggestions of shopping discounts (ELT materials and otherwise) and restaurant discounts; others wanted teaching support (including a data base of teaching materials and line-ups of available guest speakers); and someone suggested a job bank. Here is the good news: Some of these great ideas are available now!  Below, you can discover some financial, teaching, professional advancement and career benefits.

Financial Benefits

Available now for members are discounts from Fresh Prep, Black Bond Books, Learn Your English, Banana Backpacks, Soft Moc, and Maple Leaf Storage – even membership discounts from the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) are offered. The reductions and further information of how to access them are found when you join and sign-in to the “Members Only Resources” at the BC TEAL website. Such financial advantages may not end there. Your Membership Committee continues to inquire around for more such benefits that we can offer you.  

Teaching Benefits

As for a data base of teaching material, there is already some material available at our BC TEAL website. So far, it consists of the following: a resource on civic engagement, lessons for refugees and newcomers regarding men’s and women’s health, information to help them with their young children, and material for caregivers. Perhaps we can all work together on sharing teaching material, and perhaps we can engage with each other to offer availability as guest speakers in our areas of expertise.  

Professional Advancement Benefits

Teachers are often keen on professional development, and another offering already available from BC TEAL is through our Charitable Foundation. Here, teachers can apply for financial support for research and professional development.  There are, of course, the regularly scheduled conferences and some local gatherings in this regard as well.

Career Benefits

Finally, there was interest expressed in a job bank. We are pleased to say that we have a few postings at our website already! We encourage your participation by notifying admin@bcteal.org to make the publication aware as jobs become available in your area and/or organizations.

Why not join BC TEAL?

If you are teaching, will teach, or have taught English as an additional language in any capacity, it is certainly worth your while to become an active member of this unique organization. The fee is minimal: ranging from $50 for a yearly membership to discounted ones for those who are students, retired (yes, retirement is no reason to quit us), unemployed, or low-income earners.

Conference code: BLOGGIN

Author’s Bio

Karen has been a member of BC TEAL for over a decade. It is her love of professional development that propelled her teaching from the first steps of tutoring and homeschooling to attaining her undergrad and graduate degrees (MATESOL). After several years of retirement from her EAP position and membership expiration from BC TEAL, she renewed her membership, realizing the value of being part of the community, continuing to learn and give.