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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

It’s sometimes difficult to give accurate information about many western customs.  Even though I understand, follow and participate in many North American customs and traditions, I don’t always know the origins of the traditions, or how certain customs evolved over time. 

As an ESL teacher, especially teaching overseas, I was repeatedly asked about certain holidays and traditions.  In an effort to be able to answer my students’ questions, I started researching different holiday customs.  I found that there was not an easy, short explanation to be offered for most of our traditions.  Many explanations involve explaining the politics, religions, cultures and histories of our ancestors resulting in long lengthy discussions that weren’t always easy for students to understand.

So over the years I’ve come up with abridged versions of how traditions started.  This is the explanation I offer to students when they ask why we dress up for Halloween, and why we give out candy to the children who come to our doors yelling “Trick or Treat.”

It was believed by pagan cultures that spirits of the dead came to the earth on the night of October 31.  These spirits wanted to steal the souls of young children.  In an effort to keep their children safe from the spirits, parents dressed the children up in ghoulish outfits.  When the spirits arrived to take the children, they couldn’t recognize them and could only find ghosts and goblins.  They had to leave for the spirit world without the souls of the children. 
Food was left on the doorstep of homes for the spirits to eat on their visits to earth.  It was believed that if a home did not put food on their doorstep, that the evil spirits would play a trick on the residents of that house.
Over time the people stopped believing in evil spirits, but they continued to dress up their children on October 31st.  The custom of leaving food on the doorstep evolved into handing out treats to children who came to the doorstep dressed as spirits yelling “Trick or Treat.”
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:12 AM   1 Comments  Add Comment

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Professional Dress Code

Many places in North America have a casual dress policy. 
This includes not only offices but schools as well.  Teachers and assistant teachers frequently work in attire that 20 years ago would have been unacceptable. 
Today standards have relaxed and people work in more comfortable and practical clothing.  Gone are the days of heels, hose, ties, and suits.  Should there be a dress code for teachers?  Should teachers dress more conservatively? 
Students from some cultures expect their teachers to dress up and look smart in the classroom.  This at times contradicts the new North American attitudes of dressing casually.  I don’t think we need to return to the constrictive styles of dress from previous generations, but I think we must consider the impression we make on our students as we enter the classroom. 
In order to be regarded as a professional, we must conduct ourselves as professionals….and that includes the way we dress.  Teachers should not wear low-cut pants or tops, transparent clothing, sleeveless shirts, T-shirts with inappropriate slogans, short skirts, shorts or flip-flops.  At no time should a teacher enter the classroom in an outfit that reveals their undergarments! 
No matter how relaxed and casual the environment of a school, teachers must consider the impression they are making on their students.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:17 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, October 07, 2007

What's in a Name?

Many students who study English as a Second Language opt to take an English name. 


Some students choose a name that sounds similar to the pronunciation of their own name.  Jae Hee may choose the name Jane.  Others choose English names merely because they like the name itself Hiroshi may choose Charlie. 


When individuals immigrate to an English speaking country, choosing an English name is often done for simplicity’s sake.  It will be easier for the natives of the new country to call the newcomer by the English name. 


But I’ve seen students choose English names even when they are remaining in their home countries.   Do they do this to help the teacher remember their names…supposing that teachers will better remember English names?  Or do they do it because choosing an English name allows them to change their identity, at least in the classroom?   Does having an English name allow students to feel as if they are part of an English speaking culture, and therefore inspire them and motivate them to speak with more confidence? 


Can a name really make a difference?  Will Hiroshi learn more if he’s calling himself Charlie? 


POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:38 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

top Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Field Trips

Many language schools offer field trips for their students. 

I once spoke to a member of the admin staff at a school in Toronto who said it’s a selling point for many students.  They want to know that their tuition covers a few outings with other students and their teachers. 

Field trips are a tremendous learning opportunity for classes held in English speaking countries.  Choosing a location that will allow students to maximize their exposure to English and the local culture is very important.  For example, a field trip to the mall or an amusement park, although fun, offers limited value.  It allows the students the opportunity to chat with their friends, but chances are the chatting won’t be done entirely in English. 

A trip to a local brewery, or bakery however, offers students much more, especially if there is a hands-on component to the tour.  Students are first shown around the facility and the process of making beer or bread is explained in English.  Then students are then given the opportunity to actually try making the product.  Students will understand the term “knead the dough” better if they actually are expected to do the kneading themselves.  This type of field trip gives students a unique local experience in English that they would unlikely pursue on their on time. 

Other field trips that promote language learning include trips to television stations, historical villages/sites, fruit orchards, farms, conservations areas, and factories.

POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 2:52 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Happy Halloween
Professional Dress Code
What's in a Name?
Field Trips

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