TESOL Thoughts

Reflections on Teaching and Learning

11 Questions Blog Challenge -Tagged by @JosetteLB

This has been my first year writing on this blog and exchanging ideas with people on Twitter, and what an incredible year it has been! I’ve met teachers in different parts of the world (e.g., Korea, China, Brasil, Turkey, Italy, Israel), and well, the cooperative spirit and enthusiasm of so many folks has been an incredible gift in my life. While I sure hope to meet some of these teachers in person one day, for now, I am thankful to have the opportunity to read about their experiences and learn from their reflections.

Josette, who tagged me on this 11-question blog challenge, is one of those people who have inspired me to continue reflecting about my teaching, motivating me to write. Answering these questions was fun, and now I would love to get to know a bit more some of the people I follow online, so here are my 11 questions for
@thesecretDOS (who wouldn’t want to find out more about this mysterious blogger?)

Tagged Folks: there is no pressure to answer. However, if you would like to continue this idea, here are some of the guidelines:

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.


1. Why did you start blogging?
As someone who has always enjoyed journaling and writing, I had always wanted to blog, but was very insecure about it. Who would want to read? What would I even write about? Earlier this year I got a great excuse to begin: the community college I used to teach at sent me to work in China for a semester, so I started a blog to document and reflect on some of my teaching experiences. It was intimidating to commit to a blog, but this year for me as been all embracing challenges by committing taking baby steps towards a desired goal. Because of this, I set out the goal to blog once a month. I skipped August and October, but I’m so happy I did begin –writing 10 posts rather than zero feels great!

2. What keeps you teaching every year?
The desire to learn something new. This year, I learned (or began to learn) what it was like to teach large mixed levels (A1-B2) without a pre-existing curriculum. I also started to learn about Project-Based Learning. I’ve met some amazing people (students, other faculty, teachers online), and I think the interaction and exchange of ideas with others also keeps me motivated and going each year.

3. Do you have a pet peeve? If so, what is it? If not, have you ever had one, and how did you get over it?
I think I have several pet peeves, but one the one that comes to mind right now is the use of the expression “real world” when referring to what you do outside of the classroom. Where are we if not in the real world when we are learning with others? Nothing more real than developing relationships with others who may have similar goals to yours. Sure, schools can be a bubble at times in terms of how different issues are discussed or approached, but it is still very real and not some sort of artificial experience.

4. Do you prefer planes, trains, or automobiles when traveling?
Trains! Most of the trains I’ve ever taken have been to visit friends of family in Italy, so there’s something nostalgic about them. I love preparing all the snacks I want to have with me, choosing a book to read on the trip, and having a good playlist. I suppose planes accomplish this too, but I really enjoy how much I can see from a train window.

5. What’s your favourite movie?
An Italian film that came out in 2001 called “Le Fate Ignoranti”. I think it’s been translated as “The Ignorant Fairies”. The movie is about a young widow who finds out her husband had a male lover for many years. She sets out to search for the lover, and through him, ends of discovering a lot not just about her diseased husband, but about herself. The movie is filmed in Rome, and the stories it tells are so moving.

6. Has a complete stranger ever showed you kindness? What happened?
This is such a hard question to answer because I can’t recall one big moment. Rather, I think I’ve been shown kindness many times in small acts –like when people offer to help carrying something, or when a stranger has said something nice to me just on a day I really needed to get some encouragement.

7. Tea or coffee?
It’s a close call, but being half-Colombian and half-Italian (Seattle is also home), I have to say coffee! I could go a week without tea, but it’s hard to go a day without coffee. I am picky about my coffee, too. I like good quality coffee, fresh, strong, and black.

8. What was one of the sweetest moments that ever happened in class – between you and the students, or between the students?
I once taught a Saturday morning, four-hour remedial English course to MBA students in Colombia. It must have been a group of 12 students, and all of them were at such different levels! I literally had one student who could not understand when I asked him if he liked the textbook, while another one was ready to tell me all about his travels and work experience. The first day of class, at one point after the break, the student with the most limited English decided he would not take the class. All the other students convinced him to stay and told them everyone would work together. It was amazing! They really did work well together and the student in question, a guy in his 40s, ended up really motivated to learn! He took private classes on the side and continued (and successfully completed) his MBA. This was all the work of students though, and I was touched to see that level of support.

9. You have the whole day to yourself. What are you going to do?
Cook something nice while listening to music or the radio (I love NPR’s Radio Lab). I would make coffee or tea and read the news paper for a while, then go out on a walk (preferably in the city) and take lots of pictures. At the end of the day, I would go to the movies –haven’t gone alone in a while, but it’s a great experience. I would take a long bath at night, again, listening to music. Wow, I feel relaxed now just to think of this imaginary whole day to myself!

10. If you could spend a year focusing on research, what would you research? Why?
I am fascinated by Italian dialects (they’re more like languages, actually). I would like to do research on linguistic heritage and find out how maintaining the language of our family or communities affects how we think and who we are. There’s a strong personal motivation behind my interest in this subject; I grew up listening to my Italian grandmother speak in Sanremasco (the dialect of Sanremo in the region of Liguria), and I love how Sanremasco sounds. When I was a kid I would always try to understand as much as I could and I would ask my grandma lots of questions about what she was saying, or try to impress her by translating into Italian. I love how we sound different when we switch languages, and I’m saddened by the fact that the sounds of many generations are disappearing as dialects become less commonly used.

11. What’s your favourite word? 🙂
I really like the word “stentorian”. I remember I first head it in a Fiona Apple song having to do with being heartbroken. The song is called “Oh Well!” and that word for some reason reminded me of the importance of being strong, of listening to that loud inside voice and searching what I really wanted.

My 11 Questions
1. Why did you begin blogging?
2. What is an aspect of teaching that you struggle with and have tried to improve on?
3. What is your ideal lesson like?
4. What would you hope your students remember you for?
5. Why did you become a teacher of ESOL?
6. If you were given a paid semester off to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?
7. Do you listen to music while grading? If so, what do you listen to? If not, why not?
8. Who has influenced your teaching?
9. If you could go anywhere in the world to teach, where would that be and why?
10. Do you have a pet peeve? If so, what is it? If not, have you ever had one, and how did you get over it? (taking this question from Josette)
11. What is your favorite resource (website, object, activity) in teaching?

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