Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Orientation Day 6: Teaching Techniques & Emotional Well-Being


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Another really tiring day today. I woke up to the sound of the beautiful azan, call to prayer, for the morning prayer. It was so peaceful, my soul felt at ease. I prepared for long day ahead.

The day started with more English Language Training sessions. We learned how to incorporate technology, such as websites, softwares, and phone apps, in our classrooms. Technology helps us get information, connect to people around the world, and access media and current events. This cross-global communication is imperative for emphasize in the classroom.

Interactive learning helps the brain remember better, so the instructor gave us some useful suggestions. For example, some websites we can take advantage of are:
  • Americanenglish.state.gov – official U.S. State Department website with English and American culture teaching material.
  • Eslgamesplus.com – English interactive games
  • Englishclub.com/esl-games – English interactive games
  • Classtools.net – has tools such as “random name picker” so you call on students

Apparently Turkish youth loving being up-to-date with technology, so it’s fair to assume that almost all of them have smart phones, in which case we can encourage them to use their phones to learn English.

Other ideas that were shared during the workshop are listed below:
  • For podcasts or assigning audio homework, we can use apps such as Vocaroo, Soundcloud, and WhatsApp
  • -Other cool English-learning apps are GrammarUp, SoundsRight, Intro to Letter Sentence Builder, Hello-Hello English, Speech Tutor, and Daily Pro HD.
  • Joining LinkedIn groups for ESL (great exchange of ideas)
  • TED-Ex talks with Turkish titles
  • Jeopardy review online
  • Blogging – publishing student essays  - this was my idea that I shared with my peers. I did this when I taught in Pakistan. Check out my student essays here: alimtiaz2010.blogspot.com and aiajournalism2011.blogspot.com.
  • Breaking News English – news at various levels of English comprehension
  • Voice of America – English learning/teaching materials
  • Games – completion in the classroom gets students very motivated
  • Assessment sites – Kahoot.com and Socrative.com
The day continued with another session titled “Focus on Speaking and Listening.” Like Pakistan and most other countries, Turkish educational system is based on “rote” learning, which means that students spend a lot of time memorizing but not enough on speaking and listening. Speaking is defined as the “process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbol in variety of contexts” while listening is defined as the “complex process, active role in discriminating sounds, understanding vocabulary grammatical structures, and interpreting stress in various socio-economic and cultural contexts.” Keeping this in mind, our primary focus should be to get students to gain more confidence in speaking their English, which inherently requires that they practice their listening skills.

Switching gears to a more solemn topic, after lunch we had a session titled “Maintaining Mental Health and Emotional Well-being.” Mental and emotional health are party of the harsh reality of traveling and living abroad, and as such, it was important to discuss the types of symptoms Fulbrighters feel. I learned about the phases of cultural shock which include honeymoon, anxiety, adjustment, and acceptance. Keri and Tess, who are program advisors and two-time renewing grantees, facilitated the discussion. In their presentation, they said it was normal to feel lonely, depressed, homesick, anxious, and helpless; that all these emotions that are legitimate and justified, however it’s important to take care of ourselves so that we maintain good health and well-being. We were encouraged to tour Turkey, yes, but also take time to relax, catch up on sleep, and take part in hobbies. Instead of becoming a homebody, we should explore our city and make friends.

It was also interesting to learn that one can experience depression by helping someone else go through a tough time. “Various trauma,” for example, is the experience due to supporting someone going through an emotional time, and “secondary traumatic stress” (also known as “compassion fatigue”) is the experience through proximity to emotional unhealthiness.

I also learned there are two types of coping techniques: active (resolving) or avoidant (running away from the issue). Teri and Jess encouraged us to ask ourselves if what we are experiencing is daily annoyance or a serious issue. They said to keep everything in perspective because not everything is in our control. Could it be ignored or does it need intervention? Is the discomfort leading to personal growth or is it destabilizing? Teri and Jess warned us that different attributes such as skin color, eye color, hair color, hair texture, and weight do breed attention in Turkey, but that majority of it is coming from curiosity. “We other that we do not know.” As such, micoaggressions, non-conscious bias in intercultural and intracultural situations, are common.

Although I cannot prepare for any emotional distress I may encounter, it was helpful to be aware of various types of emotions, and keep in mind that mental and emotional health are real. Listening to this session reminded of what Baba always tells us: “Heath is wealth.”

“The Qualities of a Good Teacher” was next, which reinforced best practices for good teaching. A classroom with a friendly atmosphere and clear rules and routines, for example, creates a comfortable environment. A good teacher challenges her students, networks and is resourceful, and gives specific feedback. Seating charts can be helpful for learning names. For troublesome students, we should make sure students understand that it’s their misbehavior we dislike, not them. Speak slowly at first so they can hear your pronunciation of words and understand your sentences.

Finally, the day ended with a lecture by a judge who told us about things to be aware of as a foreigner. His English was limited but we understood the main concepts. It was essentially a briefing on the Turkish legal system. It felt like a recap of the security briefing we had received on the second day.

As you can see, it’s been a LONG day. Tally-ho for now, I need a nap.

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