jueves, 28 de febrero de 2019

How to make the most of tedious paperwork

By Mayra Yaranga Hernández

A new school year is about to start and, before pupils arrive in their classrooms, teachers need to have completed quite a lot of work; for example, subjects need to be planned in advance for the entire year. This seems to be a logical step to ensure a sense of direction in our teaching. Although reality shows a quite different picture.

Teachers may feel overwhelmed even before the race starts. The paperwork that needs to be done seems never-ending to many: creating the subject annual plan, dividing it into units, lessons, components within each lesson, materials, coursebook choice, and so on. This can become rather stressful and it also limits teachers’ time to analyse their students’ actual needs and discuss alternative strategies and generate innovation in their own contexts.

It is all too easy to complain and blame the educational system or the school authorities for the mind numbing chore of course planning. Of course it won’t be possible to change this situation in the short term, but in the meantime we cannot remain arm-crossed but we must find ways in which course planning can actually add to our continuing professional development.

One basic rule to start planning is to identify real, achievable outcomes, not just in terms of language development but also of learning strategies. Most teachers focus on the structure and lexis that students need to learn, but ignore how they can gain new knowledge in a more effective way that can be useful when facing more complex language. For instance, having students practise language in realistic conversations not only requires us to focus on the language needed but also on how to control this type of situations (how to start or end one, how to keep it going, what intonation patterns invite turn-taking, etc.)

Another important rule is to allow for unforeseen events organised by schools (excursions, celebrations, performances) by allotting enough time for content and activities. Furthermore, the reasons for these events could be integrated into the plan so that, for example, if the school decides to hold a Talent Show/ Open House/etc., the contents and skills developed could serve as a basis for the activity to be held.

Although following these two rules may seem even more demanding and time-consuming, we must think about the long-term consequences: if Teacher A simply copy-pastes from scope and sequence in order to complete all the paperwork while Teacher B makes an effort to conscientiously determine goals, processes and outcomes, which of them will be investing in their professional profile? Which of them will be equipped with better methodological resources? Which of them will improve their career prospects?

All in all, it’s our mission to transform this daunting paperwork into something useful and flexible which will not constrain our teaching but guide it throughout the school year.

Now, it’s YOUR turn
Do you think planning is a vehicle for professional development?

     Mayra Yaranga (1985) Doctor in Education (UNIFÉ); Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London) revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she is Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.

jueves, 21 de febrero de 2019

What are those factors that seem to haunt teachers’ development?

                                                                          By Maria dela Lama
       Dear readers

       What are those factors that seem to haunt teachers’ development?

     Sometimes very talented teachers are not able to thoroughly develop all their professional potential. Although they have the required knowledge, preparation and experience, something holds them back: their fears.  Fears are dangerous feelings that impede teachers´ development.  How to overcome them?  A first good step is to be aware of them. Here is a list of some of the most common teachers’ fears: the fear of programming, of setting goals and be able to stick to them; the fear of incorporating technology to their daily teaching practice; the fear of evaluating and being evaluated and finally the fear of assuming new challenges.

     In our next post, we will be dealing with each of them. Please, do share the post with your colleagues. Nowadays, empowered and brave language teachers is what is needed the most.

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2019

What to do to Enhance Our Employability

By María de la Lama

          Since 2009 there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for English teachers in our country. But even though these professionals are needed in schools and universities, for many of us those job offers do not respond to our expectations. Thus, it seems   that getting the desired job is not an easy matter.

          I have been hiring language teachers for a long time. And the truth is that most of the time successful teachers get the job for reasons that go beyond language proficiency and academic qualifications.

          Many teachers may believe that because of their command of the language and professional qualifications they will be hired easily, hoping that the fulfillment of these two requirements is enough.

          Somehow they have this idea in their minds:

          Today, a strong command of the English language, as well as an updated academic education, are expected; but, unlike some years ago, they are not a plus anymore. In fact, in addition to language competence and academic background, there are important characteristics that employers have started looking for. Then, the traditional belief that language competence and educational background are more than enough does not work anymore. Let’s see how our graphic has changed:

          The   teacher as a human being, with their talents and potential is indeed a key factor for the success of any language program.  In particular, there is a need for teachers with specific soft skills. Without them all the language competence and professional qualifications won’t be enough to reach an institutional goal. So which are those characteristics that will boost hiring probabilities?

About the teacher’s personality traits

ü  Cares for their professional growth
ü  Has excellent communication skills
ü  Knows how to handle conflicts and keep personal problems away from their work.
ü  Has empathy
ü  Knows how to listen

About the way a teacher works

ü  Enjoys working in groups and has the potential to become a leader in the institution
ü  Cares for their students’ progress
ü  Keeps their students’ motivation
ü  Loves to change the way things are done
ü  Has developed good organizational skills

          An educational activity will be successful only if the teacher, in addition to transmitting knowledge, makes an effort to reach the student through careful listening, continuous motivation and genuine interest in the development of their pupils.

And now your turn:
Are you looking for a job?
How are your job skills?

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.

miércoles, 6 de febrero de 2019

Emotional Intelligence: Is it More Important Than any Other Assets?

By Flor de María Vila

      Nowadays people contend that it is essential to be able to handle certain difficult situations at work. These situations usually are related to the ability of managing your emotions in a social context.
      What does this have to do with teaching English? We think that our job is safe if we have a good level of English, we know how to apply the different teaching methods needed to instruct different kinds of learners and sufficient teaching experience, don’t we? Shouldn’t that be enough?
        Thinking about this, a memory of a difficult situation came to my mind.
This is it:
            I used to train teachers who gave lessons in a five-day program institute and one of them came to  me and related the following case: As part of his duties, he had to give a grade for the homework done in the workbook. He needed two scores per week, so he didn´t need to check students´ workbooks every day. One day, he checked the students´ workbooks and after that there was a break. When he returned to class, a lady (one of his students) was waiting for him outside the classroom. She claimed that he chose the day she didn´t do her homework to ask for it to make sure that she would fail. Unbelievable, wouldn’t you think? Everything that came to his mind was: “What! What in the world is she talking about?” Instead of retorting to the absurdity, which was his first spontaneous reaction, he tried to calm down himself, and tried to understand why she was behaving that way. Eventually, he realized she was extremely worried about the possibility of failing the course, so he serenely explained to her that there was no way he could know beforehand when she had o hadn´t done her homework. He also offered to help if she had trouble doing the assignment if she didn´t understand. The woman quieted down, returned to class and later in the course she asked for help only once. After that, she became the sweetest person one could ever imagine. Even more, she recommended him to all her contacts.

       So, what had happened? Why didn´t this episode with the woman become a nightmare?Had the teacher used his emotional intelligence or Emotional Quotient-EQ, as David Goleman calls it? According to him there are five components. Let´s see if the teacher in the example used them.

1. When he calmed down himself and tried to understand his student, he definitely identified his emotion and worked on regulating it. This covered two abilities: self-awareness and self-regulation.

2. Offering his help he showed he was able not only to understand how she was feeling but also to manage his response at the light of this information. This is related to a third component: empathy.
3. Being able to interact well with others is another important aspect of emotional intelligence. This ability is known as social skill and he used it when he could manage the woman´s emotions by listening actively when she was explaining what she thought was happening. He got her to return to classes and, even better, later act as a reference for other students.
4. Even though the example given does not display a specific action that illustrates motivation, it is certain that the teacher mentioned encouraged himself to achieve his goals which were beyond mere external rewards. In fact, he used this experience as a driving force to use his emotional intelligence every time it was necessary and became a teacher whom everybody liked and wanted to work with. 

            Was he born with these qualities? Can we learn them? 
                            Do we need to learn them?

       Many employers find emotional intelligence extremely important since it is the one quality that allows people to productively work with peers in better conditions. Employers consider soft skills as important as hard skills since without them employees find employment challenges insuperable.
For us, teachers, the situations in which we may need to use our emotional intelligence are many. Probably the most common ones are the circumstances in which we interact with our students, our colleagues, our students’ parents or relatives and our supervisors, whether they are coordinators, trainers or directors.
       A tip that usually works for me is to think the following: Behave, react and respond in the way that person would if he or she were you. For example, be the teacher that student would need if he were you. In the example given lines above, did he need an interlocutor as a punching back? or one that tried to find out what was happening that made her behave that way? It´s certainly not an easy job, but if we work on this, we will definitely be on the right track. Putting myself in the other person’s shoes works for me. What about you?

       And if you do not want to love your neighbor as much as yourself, think about the possibility of losing your job because it is very demanding for others to work with you. If it is extremely difficult to manage your emotions with students, it is very likely that the same happens with the other people with whom you work. We need to educate ourselves or look for help.
        We would be “safe” and keep our jobs if we act proactively and update not only our language skills and our methodological foundation but also train to improve our emotional intelligence since this is precisely what technology would never dominate, in the words of laureate professor Vikas Pota, Chairman, of Varkey Foundation, a family organization seeking to improve global teacher capacity and promote universal access to quality education.

What do you think?
Is Emotional Intelligence really important?
Have you ever been in a situation in which you needed to use it?
Have you trained yourself or is it natural in you?

Goleman,D. "Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)," in A Blog by Concordia University, November 17, 2017, https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/daniel-golemans-emotional-intelligence-theory-explained/
Pota, V. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/people/vikas-pota

M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).