I suppose from some perspectives, I have been a bit bah-humbug this year. It partly stems from wanting to remove myself as much as possible from the commercial traditions placed upon us. That just doesn’t seem to mean anything to me, particularly given 2016. Professionally, I tried to come up with a list of ten groups promoting social justice in our profession in some way that benefit those in our profession. That actually wasn’t so easy, so I added a few links that go down different tangents. I think we have work to do…

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Looking into teacher identity

Who are you? Tyson Seburn. Scorpio? Tiger? Philosophy major? I used to think so. TESL Toronto President? Conference organiser? Writer? Grad student? I was once. Canadian? Author? EAP instructor? TDSIG peep? Yes, this guy exists.

What is your teaching philosophy? Ugggh. That one’s the worst.

I’ve questioned my identity a lot, but here let’s focus on career. We all probably do when push comes to shove. I often garble out something about EAP and guided discovery and teacher development, but do I make sense? I often stare at the wording of my bio when submitting one for a conference proposal. What do I focus on? What description most accurately portrays how I see myself? How do I want others to see me? In 50 words or less. See my LinkedIn profile for one version; my about me page here for another; even the little bits of my email signature. I’m never fully satisfied with them, however.

Teacher identity is an ever-present interest insofar as it’s difficult to concretise and continues to shift. Once you feel you’ve figured it out, it gets called into question again. In a way, I like that.

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I’ve rewritten a love letter of sorts to TESL Toronto (a teacher association committee I’m leaving after 6 years) three times from three different angles and voices. There’s much I want to say to different groups involved, but no one focus conveys my intentions vividly enough. I think it’s because no matter what words I use or perspective I take, it doesn’t capture that magnitude of its impact. It’s been a love/hate relationship with the stakeholders of TESL Toronto, mostly love for my colleagues, the membership itself, and the work I’ve been involved in. The effect of being its president and chairing TOSCON for 3 years that it has had cannot be understated–roles, or the likes of which, I’d highly recommend any teacher eventually seek in some capacity during their careers.

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For many of us, the academic year has come or is coming to a close and with that the busyness of wrapping up meetings, grading, and making difficult decisions. Yet amidst this organised chaos, uniting a course’s team of teachers for professional development and curriculum debrief best happens here while the year is fresh in our minds. This, however, can be challenging at this draining time of year. So how does a team leader create space for agency in these two areas without crossing into chore-like territory?

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On the Friday evening of IATEFL not long ago, I led a Pecha Kucha session on this stage with the enormous screen. Initially when the crowd was arriving, it was nerve-wracking, but once I got on stage, it was pretty invigorating, I must admit.

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For me, the end of a calendar year and the beginning of the next comes a distant second to the beginning and ends of academic years in opportunity for reflection and goal-setting. I may be in the minority that way, but a different type of reflection organically comes then: one of classroom-based pedagogy. Having said this, with some lovely time off from work, I intend to do some broader humanistic reflection and goal-setting also, the first foray of which has transformed into a little experiment I’m going to do as I write.

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What are you doing, Superman?!

Yes, that’s what I first thought too. I’m sure we’re not alone. You, however, didn’t stop there I bet. You tried to figure out another explanation for what Superman could be doing.

Given what we know about Superman and his adventures, we know he’s not trying to defeat the villain with his bodily fluids. We know that superheroes don’t resort to this. We know that it wouldn’t befit Superman even if they did. We know this because we understand there is context to this image: its decades of cultural background embedded into our understanding of superheroes.

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Last fall, I was walking through Cabbagetown with Lou towards Riverdale Park West, a wide open space with four baseball diamonds where people not only play ball, but also cricket, do yoga, have picnics, and let their dogs run off-leash freely and quickly. I’d come there weekly for some time, walking the perimeter three or four times with Lou tagging behind me, stopping every so often to smell the grass or roll around in it and then run to catch up. It was an OK time to be with my thoughts, but it was also a little boring. One day in October would change my attitude toward these walks forever (and inspire a few ELT podcast dreams: one always has ‘teacher eyes/ears’ on after all. #nerd). 

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Nearly three years have passed since I wrote about academic reading circles here, the last being in September 2012 on the Visualiser role. I didn’t realise then that five posts on ARC would collectively build an online audience of nearly 5000 views. Looking back at the first ARC post ever, I had little intention of this activity becoming a central figure in my pedagogical repertoire, the focus of many talks, or my first foray into vended publication. But I’m very glad it has. While its evolution has never been a solitary task, with the support of colleagues willing to experiment and students embracing an unfamiliar classroom activity, my ownership over ARC has been ever present.  I feel responsible to share it with other teachers, clearly explain its value, gather evidence of its effects, and adapt accordingly. As I do so, my enthusiasm for working with students grows with every passing ARC cycle. So as the ARC book was released this week, it feels like a natural (and necessary?) time to look back at that first post and discuss the evolution from it to now.

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