Saturday, 31 October 2009

Working Hard

Mmmm. I'm not sure about ESL teaching in Australia. I am enjoying the work - but like all jobs there is a down side. One of the things that I find a challenge is that the communication is rather scant, and I'm not as sure of myself in this environment.

We work from a series of ESL books, which I find rather demeaning for adult students, but I am required to use them. I am now co teaching - so I have the students for 3 days and another teacher has them for 2 days. She is a career primary teacher and has not taught overseas, and she likes the books.

One of the things that she did not know is that the Korean and Chinese students have already had a gutful of English grammar (which is a feature of the books). She was not aware that three of the students have been learning English (the Korean or Chinese way) for many years - in fact many of them have been learning for 10 years, and it is their spoken language skills that need help more.

In any case I have learned that I have some leeway in taking the class so will spend more time on activities for speaking next week.

Oh, and there's Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Again some serious mis communication. I am aware that there is to be some activity re The Cup - if nothing else students and staff will be able to watch the race on one of the big screens and I heard there was to be some activity in relation to the cup. Heard? Yes, I was told that a staff member was putting up posters about it.

As of Thursday there were none. So I am in the dark about it - and so not sure that there will be anything planned.

Other new teachers have also spoken of the confusion/lack of communication.

We will see how life goes. At least I have had a whisper of two weeks holiday at Christmas time. Sounds good to me!!! But no work = no pay. Darn.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Today should be interesting. After working for nearly two weeks at the college, I will today attend "orientation". I'm not sure exactly what will happen, but I have a host of questions which I expect will be answered.

Maybe I should change my title - as I am not regarded as an English teacher in Australia - just overseas. The reality is that I am an ESL teacher. English as a Second Language.

I'd not cut it in the "real" teaching world teaching English, though I'd probably manage. Clearly I'm not qualified other than for ESL.

I do find the ESL business rather odd, and I am pleased I have had the opportunity to see several sides of this industry. If I was younger I'd probably get more involved. I see lots of opportunities to make a difference with the industry.

For a start I do not like all the British or American text books. Some of the language does not make sense to me. And I know it is confusing for the students. Here they are in Australia, learning about things that do not happen in Australia.

I'd like to try to write some Australian material at some stage. What a task!!! Clearly it needs to be done. Oh, well, I'm not going to do it. Maybe a little.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Teaching English in Oz

I am enjoying my class at the college in Brisbane - and the student numbers are increasing. I like having some "fun" in the class room as it does make learning easier. In the book we are using in class we were doing exercises on appearance, important people etc, so to lighten up in the class we played "Celebrity Heads" - and the students all had a "go" at being at the front.

I don't have anything to put on their heads, but when I have sat them down in front of the white board, I write a name on the board behind them, so they cannot see it.

It is always a fun activity and the student must ask questions. It get's them talking. David Beckham, kangaroo, Mickey Mouse etc appear on the board and we all get a laugh. The students get more confident in talking with each other (and me) doing these exercises.

I am not in class today as I am attending a funeral mid afternoon, but I will be back in the class room tomorrow.

I really do enjoy it all, but have some concerns about the way we Aussies are treating these students who come from overseas to learn English. I shall try and find out a little more about it. The students pay a lot of money to study, and to live here, and I only hope they are treated with dignity and respect.

The college that I am working with appears to be above board, but I do know some that are not.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Sushi for lunch

I had been invited to spend some time with friends today and meet with a Korean student who is studying English at a college in Brisbane.

I was looking forward to it, especially as Sushi was on the menu and it was to be made by the student. I had taken some of my Korean photos too. Perhaps a little cultural exchange. I am familiar with Sushi - have made it here at home, but Sushi was not familiar to my Aussie friends.

It is quite a popular food for lunch and another friend and I often comment about the long queue at a Sushi shop that we pass on our way home from Society of Women Writers meeting each month. Clearly this sushi is popular for Asian people and Aussies!! It is easy to make, but quite inexpensive to buy ready made - generally a healthy meal.

My friends had turned their kitchen over to L from Korea, but it is not always to cook using someone else's kitchen, and L had some challenges. He even burnt the rice a little - but lifted the good rice off the top - and didn't spoil the taste.

There are many photos of different Sushi here too.

The noises and smells from the kitchen added to the intrigue - and soon a platter of Sushi arrived on the table - along with a plate of lettuce, tomato and olives.

I'm not sure that the sushi proved popular - though it was tasty and the sushi rolled in egg pancake was very keenly sought after! The plate was soom empty!

Dessert created by our hostess was great too - a great finale to a wonderful meal.

L spoke of his home, his work in Korea, and some of his experiences as an English language student in Brisbane. Perhaps life would be easier for some students if there was some quality information about living in Australia - even though many Koreans learn English at school in Korea, they do little conversation work, so find it quite a challenge when they hear us speak in Australia. As well, they learn American English, so our Aussie accent, and our Aussie English is quite hard.

I'm sure we could make these students more welcome too!

I thank my Aussie host and hostess, and my Korean cook for lunch today!!!! Many thanks.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

New job?

I had to complete some practical teaching to finalise my TESOL qualifications, and found a college that offered to help me. There was a suggestion that if they liked me, there could be some hours for me. It was a little vague though - I guess they did not want to commit to anything until they saw me in action!

I have done more than my allotted hours for the practical assessment and have the completed documentation. Yoo Hoo.

Yesterday I was given instructions for working today. Today? I only offered to do 2 days without pay!!!! Then the boss later just said in a casual way - "We'd like you to work Thursday and Friday. We'll get some paperwork done!" So it appears that I am on staff from today. No information on hours, or rates of pay. Strange.

As the Korean expedition looks in doubt, it suits me. But sort of a strange way to be appointed.

Yesterday only one student turned up. A lovely young girl from South Korea. It was quite extra ordinary as while we focussed on the class material I was able to discuss like in Korea with her, in the context of her learning. She was quite delighted that I knew some things, and even had to have a photo taken of the pair of us. And with the "V" victory sign from her.

So I am headed off again today. Being more worn out by the day, but I am sure I will survive today and tomorrow!!! I will be very tired by tomorrow night!!!!

It takes me about an hour to go each way - I travel by train, as it is easier and far cheaper. And I can read, or listen to my MP3 player. I have a short walk from the college to the station, but it is a good pleasant walk. Yesterday on my way to the college I called in at a Chinese Furniture Emporium in the Valley and had a look around. Nothing I'd really want to buy but it was a little like visiting a market in Shaoxing!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Adventures continue

Although they are not all mine. I will update though, as it does give some idea of the topsy turvy life I can lead I guess.

I've had two Skype conversations today - one with my friend who is now in Korea, finding out how complicated life can be there. I was of course supposed to be there last week, and my students met, as they do from time to time, and were hoping I would be there with them, but as the plans changed, that was not to be. My friend then was going to meet with them, but that didn't happen either. She has spent some time in Jeonju, and was headed to CheonAn today.

The accommodation which was supposed to be organised for her (or me) a week or so ago, is still not ready. There's a mattress to buy, and a desk, and so on. I don't know if she will stay there tonight - it does sound a bit "iffy" as we would say.

From China I was in touch with a student from the university in Shaoxing - we always talk about me going back there. She is a working girl now, but still wants to show me around her home town which is not far from Hangzhou. I am looking forward to seeing her and her family.

I was reading a website which is a network of teachers in China and recognised the name of someone who was in our writing group. She went to China some months ago, but went through an agent. It turns out this guy is a rogue and he had her booked into doing so much extra work. She had not got her Z visa before she went to China, so was rather restricted in what she could do too. However, she has been able to negotiate a better plan but still is not happy. She was initially required to mark 8000 assignments in one year! How would that be!!!

Anyway I have heard from her and she is OK, but not sure of her next move - back to Australia or something else in China.

Then I received a message from someone who had discussed with me a program in north China, and teaching nurses English so that they could come to Australia and train/work here. The project fell through though. She is back in Australia - but needs to update her qualifications - things have changed in the few years she has been out of the country. So she is betwixt and between.

Meanwhile I have been working on lesson plans to teach at a college in Brisbane tomorrow. I was due to go and sit in on a lesson, but the teacher has called in sick, so I got a call to delay my arrival tomorrow. I've found it somewhat challenging to do a lesson plan - with so many unknowns. I don't know the students, am not familiar with the English program they are doing, and will be "winging it" as they say.

Then came the snakes!!! MM has been working on the front garden - a long overdue project that is all but complete today. Planter boxes have been built and are in situ, and he was piling the dirt from a pile that has been sitting on the front lawn for several years. Growing with each mowing as the clippings were thrown onto it. Seems Mrs Snake chose this place for her nest and he came across a dozen or so baby snakes. They were around a foot long and scurried all over the place as he spaded the dirt into the new planter boxes. Quick - get the camera!!!

Meanwhile, in preparation for the meeting of the Society of Women Writers tomorrow (yes, I was going to fit that in before going to the College), where we have to swap one of our favourite books after writing about 50 words about it. Only 50? OK.

The Book I have chosen is one that I have bought (and given away) on many occasions. It is a book called "Random Acts of Kindness" which set me on a course with the Kindness Foundation in Australia. I confess I have lost touch with the organisation, after being their quite active Queensland representative. A long time ago I think. Maybe 10 years ago.

In any case, I found their website and saw that the founder of the Australian Kindness Movement has been ill. I have sent a message giving him my best wishes for a speedy recovery. I've also learned that it is Kindness Week in November - in fact Australian Kindness day is November 6th.

I love the book - it is a little book of short stories about extra ordinary kindnesses. I shall exchange it tomorrow - but will buy a new one at some stage. Perhaps I'll get involved with the Kindness movement again.

We've just emptied the compost bin - putting all the lovely new nutrient on to the new garden bed, and maybe in a few days we will plant something in the soil. We might wait for rain, as watering is still taboo here.

And that's not all...................

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Gold Coast

Yesterday we went to the Gold Coast - south of Brisbane. We actually go there frequently - but never venture further south than our son's place. Why not? That is where our two wonderful grandchildren live - they are of course the major attraction, though seeing our son and his wife is also high up on the agenda.

But we have recognized that it is so long since we have really seen any of the rest of this amazing place which has grown into one of Australia's most popular holiday venue.

And so it was that yesterday we bypassed the route to our son's place and went further ending up at Pacific Fair Shopping centre. We had lunch - a simple lamb kebab at the food court, before wandering around "just looking". Not plans to spend. And we didn't until we bought two chickens which we'd promised to bring to the family for dinner.

So much has changed since we'd been there. Pacific Fair seems to have doubled in size and is clearly a popular tourist and local shopping precinct. It was funny as one of the local store owners thought we were "tourists" and they did not mean Queenslanders. Why? We were hats. As both MM and I have had cancers cut from our faces, we tend to wear hats whenever we go outdoors. Probably a bit late as most of the damage has been done, but still we continue to try.

Then we drove right through the centre of Surfer's Paradise - just wishing we had the time to walk around, so that is on the agenda for next time.

As we got to Ashmore I spied the shop Anaconda. It is an outdoor/adventure retail outlet and I'd seen some trekking poles on special. The advertisement said $29 each - so I figured a $56 investment might be worthwhile, but was thrilled to learn that it was $29 for the pair.

The assistant was very helpful - as I am really a novice when it comes to trekking poles, and I like the idea of using them, and was not keen to spend a lot of money on my first poles. Just testing.

So, now I have my very own pair of trekking poles, so I'm keen to really try them out. I note that in Korea in particular they are very often used by folk going trekking, so I may find them useful if I take them with me. I'm thrilled that they concertina and could actually fit in my suitcase. We will see. I'll try them first.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Another adventure?

I had an interview this morning at an English College in Brisbane - and I am going to do 2 trial lessons next week. Maybe there is a job for me there. At least I should get some part time work - which is all I want really.

It is a new modern college - with facilities that I could have only dreamed about in China and in Korea!

It is a wonderful day here - it was a little cool this morning, but the sky is a brilliant blue, and clear with not a hint of the dust that we had last week. I drove home from my interview, walked upstairs and picked up the camera and went down to the waterfront and took a few photos. I'm not happy with some of them, but some were good.


I am still practicing with the new camera (my Canon) so I am glad it is digital and I can delete all those photos that are not as good as I would like.


The photos are of the Pandanus or Breadfruit trees along the waterfront at Wynnum.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Korea - not now...............

I was all set to go to Korea - had the itinerary and the Visa from the South Korean government, but things have changed and I am now not going. It is a long story. Maybe I will go in a few weeks. Maybe not. It is a bit disappointing as I was looking forward to it. But it was not to be.

There's still lots to do - and if I'm needed I can go. I will focus on going back to China next year. I hope that happens.

I have decided to do one more semester in China, and then focus on my writing. At least now I will have a chance to have my camera lesson, soemthing that I had hoped to do before I went to South Korea.

I have been enjoying the new Canon camera and have taken some good photos, but I will benefit from some lessons I am sure.