Book Review: Deep Work

508024134_140I recently read Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

It was a good read and made me look differently at what I want to do and how I go about it, but mostly, how I allocate my attention. I recommend it to anyone who feels that they don’t have enough time, which is high praise, because that’s most everyone I’ve ever met.

The main premise of the book is that it’s really important to carve out uninterrupted time in our days to focus on tough problems, ignore distractions, and do the hard work. He calls this “deep work,” and contrasts it to the shallow work of reacting to email, refocusing after interruptions, meetings, engaging on social media, and so on. He argues convincingly about why deep work is valuable, and writes extensively about how to go about it (e.g. scheduling, how to limit shallow tasks), as well as how to boost your concentration skills to make the most of your deep work time (e.g. meditation, memorization work).

I have to admit that it was a bit hard for me to get into it: as a stay-at-home-mom who can’t use the bathroom without getting interrupted, the multiple stories of single men retreating from the world for months at a time to incubate their genius in silence felt kind of like Newport was flipping me off. I’m glad I kept reading anyway, and I encourage you to do so as well. I think he’s just trying to be engaging by talking about so many extreme examples at first. In Part II of the book, he really delves into the how of deep work, and includes many suggestions and examples of people working deeply to great effect without abandoning their other responsibilities.

ESOL-Related Thoughts

Are we employing deep work strategies to perform our best as faculty? How could our departments support deep work of both full-timers and adjuncts? How can we as individuals harness it?

Are we fostering or impeding deep work in class? With our assignments? With our LMS expectations?

Is this a topic worthy of mention and coaching in our classes, like information literacy and plagiarism and critical thinking?

Excerpts from this book be a worthwhile text to use in an advanced class. The writing is pretty direct, has a strong voice, and makes really valuable points as well.

 

In case you’re interested but aren’t going to be reading the book any time soon, Newport has some talks up on YouTube, and he’s a great speaker.

 

You’re reading Book Review: Deep Work, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

 

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Taking Notes

 

6016780468_67a298ed8eUnrelated to teaching, I began bullet journaling this year. It’s kind of a thing, but having done it for several months, I see why it’s popular.

The idea with a bullet journal is that it’s for everything, so I took it to class with me. And rather than just say to myself, “that activity my lead teacher just did was so awesome, I’ll definitely remember it whenever I begin lead teaching again,” I went ahead and jotted them down. I collected way more ideas than I’ve written up for this blog.

While I was jotting, I also took notes on student reactions to all sorts of things – activities, assignments, assignment review, conferences, etc.

And while I was thinking about those, ideas popped into my head speculating as to why their reactions were so different than what I’d expected, or other interesting activities, or different angles for lessons, and even blog posts to publish in this space.

Taking notes helped guide and expand my thinking about our class in a way that I hadn’t expected. I went from wanting to feel a bit more organized as a stay-at-home mom, to poaching great ideas from my lead teacher, to really pretty deeply considering the intersection of the students and the syllabus.

Also unexpected: I’ve reread my notes several times already. Since they’re in my bullet journal and I always have my bullet journal on me, rereading happens pretty organically.

I’ve already characterized assistant teaching as amazing professional development, and I found this semester that taking notes took my learning and reflection to another level.

 

Photo Credit: matryosha on Flickr

You’re reading Taking Notes, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

Ending with the Beginning In Mind

3526550845_d4e3d14c85As class starts to wrap up, here are some of the end-of-semester thoughts that are on my mind:

  • what are their lasting take-aways (content and impressions)?
  • are they prepared for their next courses? How do I know?
  • am I proud of myself? Why?
  • what did I learn?
  • am I prepared to teach/assist better next time? How?
  • feeling sad that an enjoyable routine is coming to an end
  • feeling inspired to fill that time in great ways this summer
  • feeling excited to assistant teach again in September

So looking back, looking at now, and looking ahead. Thinking, feeling, wondering.

The funny thing is, right now I can’t actually imagine what it’s like to be at the beginning of a semester. I’ve been there, you know, a lot. It just feels a universe away from right now.

I’m guessing that as the summer comes to a close, I’ll be wondering what it feels like to be at semester’s end as I start to face an unknown new one.  So here’s where I’m at right now, Future Emily!

Looking forward to the last few sessions of a great semester, and looking forward to writing Beginning with the End in Mind in a few months!

 

Photo Credit: Nicholas Canup on Flickr

You’re reading Ending with the Beginning In Mind, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

Growth Mindset for Teachers

I recently came across a great article by Deborah Farmer Kris called Never Too Late: Creating a Climate for Adults to Learn New Skills.

3828790504_97bf89b607We’ve all (hopefully) heard about the amazing advantages that having a growth mindset can afford us.

As a teacher of adults, her article was interesting because it’s geared at the K-12 setting, in which students = children and adults = teachers and administrators. For me, the categories are not so neat, but her points hold true regardless.

What I really enjoyed about this article was that she discusses a workshop that Australian business professor Peter Heslin runs for business leaders that focuses on mindset. It appears to be based on a peer-reviewed article by Heslin and Lauren Keating. She shares four reflection activities from Heslin’s workshop that sound really useful:

  1. Reflect on the real-world ramifications of your mindset.
  2. Reflect on how a former weakness turned into a strength, and perhaps even more importantly, consider what made this happen.
  3. Reflect on mindset by writing a letter of advice to an employee whose skills need improvement.
  4. Reflect on a time someone exceeded your expectations of them. Did your low expectations hold them back?

I’m putting it on my calendar to go through these reflections myself. I’m completely confident that the exercise will be worth my time. I’m not completely confident that what I write will be blog-worthy, so I’m not sure how/when/if I’ll follow up in this space. Do let me know if you decide to tackle these reflections too!

Photo Credit: Katelyn Fay on Flickr

You’re reading Growth Mindset for Teachers, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Two Deep Pronunciation Resources

15186400768_446484e376The past year or so, I’ve been getting much more into pronunciation than I ever was before.

By personality, I’m very bookish and very drawn to the written word (if you couldn’t tell from this blog). I also enjoy analyzing how things work, so I get a kick out of grammar. Pronunciation kind of went under my radar.

But then two things happened thanks to really amazing colleagues:

  1. In conversation, one colleague name-dropped a few ESOL big-wigs she’d met at the big TESOL conference over the years. I only recognized one of the names. I unabashedly wrote down the other names (she kindly repeated them for me) and looked them up. One of those names was Judy Gilbert.
  2. Another colleague is running a special program focused on giving one-on-one pronunciation help to students. She told me all about why she started it and what it means to the students who attend, and then I couldn’t help but invite myself over to observe. It’s fascinating and has a huge impact.

Now I’m hooked on pronunciation.

So the following resources are for deep learning. They are not the ones that will be useful to you ten minutes before class starts. But I found them really eye-opening.

  • Teaching Pronunciation Using the Prosody Pyramid by Judy B Gilbert. This is a 50-page book, and it’s worth every single page. It completely convinced me that pronunciation is more closely tied to the other skills than I had realized and gave me a ton of activity ideas. It is posted in the TESOL resource center with no pay wall, so I assume it’s legitimately online for free.
  • The Color Vowel Chart by Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson. This is a visual system of dealing with the 15 English vowel sounds. It’s a really powerful way to sort, communicate, and systematically teach and compare our vowel sounds. It is posted in the US State Department’s resource section, so I assume what I’m linking to is legitimately online for free.

Any similarly awesome resources to share with me? Please let me know in the comments, even if this post is already years old!

Photo Credit: Suzanne Nilsson on Flickr

You’re reading Two Deep Pronunciation Resources, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

Since We Last Spoke

Hello!

Here’s what I’ve been up to since you last heard from me:

As you know, I gave myself “maternity leave” from the blog when my first baby was born. We are about to celebrate her fourth birthday, as well as her little sister’s first birthday. And we moved from our condo into a house. Lots of changes!

Professionally, I completed my MA TESOL. It was a great experience. It took my teaching to a new level, and it opened the door to teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP), which I’ve been doing for a couple of years.

I’ve also committed to not just attending the annual MD TESOL conference, but making sure to be as extroverted as I can be while I’m there. So far I’ve stuck to it for two years running and it’s just such a wonderful chance to keep up with and meet more of the inspiring people in our field. I’m hoping to get to TESOL 2016 also because it’s in Maryland. It’s a big commitment of time, money, babysitting, and extroversion, but I suspect it will be worth it!

I would love to commit right here and now to blog journaling my next class the way I used to, but we’ll just have to see how it goes. I take teaching seriously, and I also take my family seriously. The past few years there hasn’t been much left for taking a blog seriously too, even though the reflection time and long tail of notes are both so valuable to me.

So that’s my status!

Update

Just checking in!

I’ll be teaching Level 2 in the mornings from next Wednesday through early June.  Yesterday we all received our paperwork, books, and materials for the semester.  Looking through my paperwork, I saw one student who was in Level 1 with me last semester in my Level 2 class!  I’m not sure who will be taking over my old class or how many of my former students will be returning to Level 1

In other news, I’ve applied  to be a non-degree-seeking student at one of the local universities to pursue a bit more coursework in ESL.  I should hear back any day now via snail mail.  My intention is to apply this semester to be a degree-seeking student starting in the Fall.

Volunteering in the Emergency Room continues.  I really like it.  I’m not sure I could do it much more than 3.5 hours per week though – it’s exhausting!

I just finished several great books, and one of them is very relevant to working with people new to America.  It’s called The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, written by Kao Kalia Yang.  The writing is stunning, musical in a good way.  There is no preaching about war and genocide and US foreign policy, nor is there any exoticism of a culture whose world view tends to differ greatly from the typical American world view.  Yang invites you to join her family in the jungles of Laos, the refugee camps of Thailand, and the low-income housing of St. Paul, and she tells you stories.  The book made me feel like an insider in a culture I hadn’t known much about, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I think that’s everything!  Can’t wait for teaching to begin next week!