An Update 24/10/13

A friend of mine has started her own blog (it’s both in Polish and a work in progress). That reminded me of my own little corner of the Internet. So I’ll bring you up to speed, since I know you’ve been dying to know.

Currently I’m working quite a lot as I’ve taken on an additional role at work, along with a number of YL classes. I’m also coming towards the end of my Distance Delta with a lump in my throat. I need to pass this next assignment.

What else… Oh, I’ve started working on a piece of writing that might actually go somewhere long-term. I can best describe it as Noir Urban Elfpunk, I think. Those are three different links, by the way. It’s all thanks to this Youtube video, which inspired me to slide a character who has spent quite a lot of time in my stable into a newish genre for me. It’s working rather well so far, I think. We’ll see.

Anyway, it’s about an “Odd Job Witch” who gets embroiled in some mysterious vampire stuff which opens glimpses into her own past, whilst also working on a personal case for a high-ranking fey. Hopefully it’ll work out. I might post a bit for you when it has taken more shape (or just because I feel like it).

Oh, and I’m looking for a new housemate at the moment. I’ll be taking on the lease and as a result I’ve actually started getting the landlord to do stuff. It’s going to be expensive buying furniture and stuff, but it’ll all work out in the end.

Other than interpersonal dramas and a couple of tumbles of my bike, that’s all, really.

Here’s a picture I like. Have a good one, Mexico.

wpid-1374550021.jpg

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Young Learners’ (YL) Summer School 15/07/13

I_Am_The_Teacher_funny_education_photographsAs previously mentioned, I had some trepidation about teaching kids again after the troubles I’ve had in the past. Stress and stuff have kept me from the Writing Challenge (stay tuned for that), but I want to talk about about the class today.

Firstly, it differed because there were three adults in the room. That helped a lot in a 20-strong class with monitoring and discipline. There were no actively aggressive or misbehaving children in class; just a bit of giddiness. My plan worked quite well, and I had no real problems getting students engaged and involved in the whole thing.

Firstly, students played a story writing game where they write one part of the story, fold down the paper then write the next. The five sections were labelled “Who” “What” “Where” “When” and “Why. This got them warmed up and giggling when they read the story, though some students did struggle with which one was which.

Next, they went to look at a number of pictures dotted around the room which related to the week’s theme (the sea) and had to come up with a story relating to it. After that, they put it into a newspaper plan when given a format.

Finally, they walked around and made a decision about which was the best story plan. Tomorrow they’ll start writing it up in a newspaper stylee (as per the week’s ultimate goal).

All in all, I was very pleased with the way it went, developed a rapport and a way of doing things that seemed to work out, and all in all it really boosted my confidence with the whole YL thing. Maybe I was just unlucky with previous classes, or maybe I just needed this extra year of developing as a teacher before applying that to a younger class. Either way, I’m feeling quite positive about the whole thing. And none of the dread I felt yesterday.

Note: If you are a teacher and you’d like any of these materials, please drop me a message and I’ll pass them on to you. We’re in this together, right?

Facing a Teaching Fear

I find it very easy to teach adults. After all, teaching is just a conversation – and I converse exclusively with adults. It gives me the chance to practice. Of course, there’s theory, methodology, grammar and whatnot, but I truly think that the core of teaching is having that conversation.

The thing that I think makes me a good teacher of adults is also what gave me such trouble with children last year. As a person I’m chaotic, silly and a bit disorganised. I think adults respond to that because I’m quite fun in class – I make jokes and silly analogies – but also because it means I’m never patronising. I’m not an authority figure in those classes. I’m a guy telling them some stuff.

This of course doesn’t work in regular kids’ classes. If you’re the fun teacher then that’s what you are. In a well-behaved class that can be great and a lot of fun. In others… see for yourself.

The funny thing is, I didn’t have the same experiences at the start of my career – back when I exclusively taught kids in UK summer schools. With almost exclusively Italian students from age 8-18, I was a bit hit. Students loved my fun classes and wanted to be in my team for the other activities. I really enjoyed it too. The kids were fun, opinionated, playful and entertaining.

I realise that International summer schools are different from long-term daily

I've used this image before, but it's terribly appropriate.

I’ve used this image before, but it’s terribly appropriate.

teaching, but it did come as a blow when I couldn’t rely on being the fun teacher – on being myself – as the only tool in my arsenal. Unfortunately, by the time I had realised this my authority and discipline had already eroded to nothing. I tried all the tips and tricks of other teachers, but they didn’t work. The students didn’t respect me, despite how I tried for the next nine months to regain it. The failure hit me quite hard, and brought me quite low.

Now I’ve been asked to try teaching children again. Needless to say, I’m nervous after the miserable experience I had last year with 3*C, but I also remember how much fun I had in those summer schools that taught me I wanted to be a teacher.

I’m assured that it won’t be bad; that the students are coming to ‘my turf’ in the school, that we have a fun syllabus planned and that there’s lots of support available. I trust the people who have said those things, so I will try and hope for the best.

I don’t really have a conclusion prepared for this blog. Last year was hard for me for lots of reasons, and it’s difficult to separate it into all the constituent difficulties. During last week’s YL* training, I felt a hard lump in my chest, and with it flashes back to those classes, that year and how it all turned out. Nevertheless, this is something I think I can do. And I really need to let that year go. So cross your fingers for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

30 Days Challenge: Day 30: Who are you?

I’ve been staring at this question since I started the challenge, thinking about what I’d write. First of all, then, I’m going to post a silly picture:

Post roller derby drinking in Plaza Garibaldi

Anyway, who am I? Well, my name is Andy. I was born in Doncaster and lived most of by life in the Barnsley area of South Yorkshire. I went to university in Preston, I lived in Sheffield for a while and I followed a girl to Manchester. At time of writing, I’m living in DF, Mexico City, Mexico as a professional English teacher. This is my second year doing so in Mexico. I’m also (still) working on my urban fantasy novel.

So, I guess that’s the ‘what’. As to who… oh hell, I don’t know. How do you answer a question like this? I’m geeky, I think I’m a good friend, I’m disorganised, I seek validation from other people and I don’t know where I’ll be next year. I’m not sure what else to say.

30 Days Challenge: Day 29: Future plans/goals

I find myself in the mood to whine and winge at be generally depressive at you. Instead, I’m going to do the next 30 Day question, which is much more cheerful.

Career

Professionally, I want to continue to teach – particularly adults or small groups of children. I’ve become rather jaded towards school teaching and I don’t think it’s really my wheelhouse. Teaching adults and business English, on the other hand, is really something I can see myself doing for the rest of my working life. I’m not a perfect teacher; I have a lot of personal development and growth to do, but that is something I really want to put my time and attention into. Long-term, I see myself going into academic management and/or teacher training.

Career 2

I want to publish a book. I’m about halfway through some British urban fantasy (being that I’m British and I like urban fantasy). Even if it’s not this attempt or the next or the next, I’d like to see a book with my name on it in a mainstream bookstore (assuming they still exist in twenty years’ time, of course). This is a goal I’ve held unwaveringly since I first held J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit at around age 9. Maybe earlier. It won’t change until it happens.

Geography

This is the big question, I suppose. I have no great desire to return to England permanently, and as I begin to lose family members, that need or want will grow less and less. I also have a strong desire to live in  more countries before (and if) I decide to set down permanent roots somewhere. Unless something significant happens in the next nine months or so, I think this will be my last year in Mexico.

Romance

Well, I guess that’s kind of affected by the previous paragraph. I want to be in love again*, but I also know that it makes me make lots of stupid mistakes. It might make me stay in Mexico longer, but not forever. I want to see the world. Whoever I found would have to be okay with that as part of what they’re getting when they say ‘yes’ to getting me.

So far as marriage and kids go, I think they’re things I want in the future, but I’m not there yet. Marriage I could take or leave, but I’d love to have kids one day. I’d love to have polyglot kids one day. The romance thing has to come first, though. And last.

Anyway, those are my plans for the future. I’d also like to further my Spanish and at least one other language. I want to be the kind of man with the kind of life that 12 year old Andy could be proud of becoming.

 

 

*On some days I want it a little too much.

Racism?

Yes, it’s a cliché to open with a definition. So sue me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about racism; about what is or isn’t acceptable.

In my job, you meet a lot of people from a lot of countries, and also a lot of people who have visited a lot of countries. Needless to say, this means that my colleagues and I see a lot of cultural diversity in almost everything we do. Is it entirely wrong to comment on it, or only to do so with malice?

Amongst my closest friends here I have Mexicans (obviously), a Frenchman, a Texan, a Hungarian, a Welshwoman, a guy from the Czech Republic (if memory serves) via well to so Middle England, and others. I am from working class South Yorkshire. We often joke about cultural differences and stereotypes (discussions often but not always instigated by me), and I wonder where the line is amongst friends. I think all my friends and colleagues here are friendly, warm, likeable people, and it would hurt me greatly to think that I’d offended them. That said, I don’t think I have. I think these issues are easier amongst people you know.

On the other hand, there are third party observations that ESL teachers are also guilty of. I’ve heard (and said) things like:

– “If you think it’s corrupt here, you should see XYZ!”
– “Yeah, Mexicans walk slowly, but ZYX walk slower.”
– “Mexico’s problem is just how disorganised it is.”
– “I hated ABC. Everyone was so rude!”

These points are asides from all the things we love about a place, of course. As teachers, we have a tendency to moan. British teachers doubly so. Mexico is here as an example because that’s where I am right now.

Anyway, when you’re at home amongst people who share a culture (even if it’s not your whole ethnic make-up) it’s a little easier to draw the line, I think. In Britain, there’ll always be the middle class fear of offending someone, but broadly speaking, you neither badmouth people who are different nor discuss the ways they are different, save on an ideological level. Out in the world where you’re living the cultural differences, it’s almost impossible not to discuss them. Particularly when you come across the rarity which is an accent that matches your own.

At the risk of mentioning Jeremy Clarkson in two posts in a row, the Mexican Top Gear scandal from a couple of years ago particularly comes to mind. In the episode (see below) Richard Hammond and co. compare a Mexican car to the bigot-approved “facts” about Mexican people as smelly, lazy, stupid desert-dwellers*. This is a perspective from men who leave their country only to mock others while simultaneously living up to the worst possible white Westerner stereotypes. This is racism, and outside of irony with friends, far from what I would ever allow to genuinely pass my lips.

I suppose this is more of a question-post than an answer-post. When you see cultural difference every day, when you travel to places where ideals, processes and habits are different: is it wrong to say so? I’d love your opinions on this.

*I have to say here that since I’ve been in Mexico, I don’t think I’ve met a lazy Mexican. Certain none lazier than me. Though I’ve seen some corruption (and even benefited from it) and a few ripe-smelling people on the tightly-packed public transport, these are certainly the exceptions rather than the rule. Geographically, there is so much varied landscape to see in Mexico without a grain of sand in sight. From a non-native Mexican inhabitant, Clarkson is an idiot.

30 Days Challenge: Day 23: What you would find in your bag

Well, usually there’ll be one or two English text books, a notebook or two (one work, one with novel scribblings), at the moment there’ll be my Kindle open on the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, a load of pens – white board and normal – and various other teaching paraphernalia. If it’s a bag with wheels, it’ll include my laptop for listening exercises  and Starbucks email checking.

There ya go. Sorry, not terribly enlightening again, but I didn’t write the questions.