Friday, December 07, 2007

14 Minutes Left!

Holy cow . . . there are only 14 minutes left in the EAP 3 writing final exam. I'm trying to type as softly as possible so I don't disturb the people who are still in the exam. I can't believe the course is over. It's been a good 13 weeks. I actually feel like everybody's writing has improved, and that makes me feel good inside :-) I can't wait to put nice checkmarks beside all of the perfect thesis statements, topic sentences and concluding statements!

Anyway, now comes the big job for me . . . I have to mark everyone's final writing exams, calculate the course grades and then submit them to the registrar's office. I think I'll be drinking a lot of coffee this weekend. Usually the way I tackle the final exams is first I just mark them for grammar - making note of all the grammar, punctuation and word use problems. Then I read the exams again for content and organization. That way, I read each exam twice before I come up with a final mark. I hope people chose a lot of different topics. That makes it more interesting for me while I'm marking. The worst thing in the world is marking 25 essays all on the same topic. For example, if everyone writes about solar energy, I might just go crazy!

Well, I hope all my students stay in touch with me through the blogs. It's been a great semester. Good luck everyone!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Pain Has Gone :-)

Phew . . . the pain from my root canal has finally gone. Today I celebrated by going to a Japanese restaurant for hot soba noodles and curry rice. It was so good. I went to a restaurant called Shikiji ( It is totally one of my favourite restaurants. It always reminds me of when I used to live in Japan. The lunch special that I had cost $12.85, but it is a huge amount of food. I'm always really stuffed afterwards. I guess I am not very classy because I judge how good a restaurant is by how full I feel afterwards, but still I think it is a good deal for the price. Anyway, for those of you that don't know, soba noodles are made from buckwheat. They are delicious and nutrititious :-)
Hmm, this blog isn't very serious today. I guess I am delirious because of the lack of pain. I better go back to planning the final exam . . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Abscessed Tooth!

Holy cow, have I been in pain that last few days. I wonder if anyone noticed at the Glenbow Museum how much pain I was in. It was totally killing me, both physically and mentally because I had been looking so forward to going to the museum, but then I couldn't enjoy it as much I would have liked to because I was concentrating so much on not showing any pain. You see, I have an abscessed tooth. Oh the agony. About 3 years ago, one of my teeth cracked, but I never got anything done about it because I didn't have any dental insurance. When I finally got dental insurance at the University of Calgary, I went to the dentist and they cleaned out all the rotten stuff and capped my broken tooth. However, I guess they didn't notice that the damage was much deeper than it seemed because I guess for the last year, my tooth has been slowing rotting from the inside out. Finally, last week my lower left jaw was killing me, and my face was getting swollen. I was worried that I had the mumps, so I decided to wait a few days and see what happened. By Wednesday, I was in agony, and it seemed like a toothache gone crazy, so I decided to see a dentist. The dentist took an x-ray of my tooth, and told me I had an abscessed tooth. Now, I'm on antibiotics because my entire lower left jaw was infected, and I have to go for a root canal operation on Wednesday afternoon. So, I'm taking huge amounts of ibuprofen, and tylenol with codeine trying to kill the pain while I wait for the infection to go away. Actually, the pain seems worse now than it did on Friday, and all the pills are making me nauseous. Anyway, if you are wondering why I'm kind of weird in class . . . blame it on the abscessed tooth!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It’s official . . . there are basically three weeks left until final exams. I can’t believe it. It seems like this semester has just flown by. I think it has been getting more and more interesting as well. I was really excited to be able to do the story “The Man who Planted Trees” with the students. One of the benefits of this semester, is the students are able to handle challenging materials that push them to their limits – like the story about the man who planted trees. With all of the challenging things we have been doing, I actually think the students are gaining new vocabulary and fluency this semester, which are two of my main goals. I think we still have a ways to go with grammatical accuracy, but I figure that as long as they are able to understand the world around them, and as long as they are able to make themselves comprehensible to the people around them, they are on the right track to success at university. I guess that is the two fold mission of the EAP program – facilitate the students understanding of the world and their ability to make the world understand them. In any case, I feel this is one of the most successful semesters so far.

Another exciting thing we have been able to do this semester is see the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. The best part about this is that no one fell asleep during the movie! Teachers are often hesitant to show videos during class time . . . especially longer movies. Usually I follow the “20 Minute Rule” which is that teachers should never do more than 20 minutes of anything because they students will start to drift off and become bored . . . or worse . . . unruly! However, I only had two days to show “An Inconvenient Truth”, so I had to divide the movie up into two one hour segments. That’s almost triple my 20 minute rule for each day. The great thing was though that Al Gore was such a compelling speaker, and the students were so interested in the topic, that no one drifted off. Now the fun part begins on Monday when we decide if we believe Al Gore or not . . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Assignment Schedule has Changed!

I hope everyone got the memo today about changing the due dates for all the assignments. I'm going to paste it in here so that everyone can see it again.

Changes in due dates:

Essay #4: Thursday November 8, 2007
Essay #5: Friday November 23, 2007
Essay #6: Cancelled
Annotated Bibliography #2: Friday November 9, 2007
Annotated Bibliography #3: Cancelled
Book Report #3: Monday November 26, 2007

Remember – no classes Monday or Tuesday November 12 – 13, 2007

Combined Listening & Speaking Classes

All classes will meet together for the first hour after the grammar and writing class

2:30 – 3:30 Thursday November 15, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 16, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 23, 2007

I hope that all makes sense. It was hard for me to decide on doing this, but I think it is for the best. It seems like a lot of my students are suffering from "homework" shock, and may be it's time to ease back a bit on the official homework. My only worry is that the students will stop studying all together or that all studying will sink down to the lowest common denominator. One of the reasons we instituted the assignments as we did was so that the students would be using as much academic English as possible outside of the class. The goal was to push their learning to the next level. In the past, I used to give lots of suggestions for studying, but I found that if there wasn't a mark attached to an assignment, often the assignment wasn't done. However, the minute a mark was attached to an assignment, most of the class would at least make an effort at doing it. Thus, it becomes a fine balance between grading homework and encouraging students to do things on their own. Ideally, I would have a system where no grades were given, rather I would tell people if their work was poor, developing, satisfactory or outstanding. One of the drawbacks of grading things such as the essays is that if one person gets 85% on an essay, and another person gets 88% on an essay - does that mean that the person with the higher score is 2% better at English than the person with the lower score? I don't think so. I think we are trying to cut things too finely when we are using percentages. Rather, we should have broad bands.

Anyway, this is what is going through my mind at the moment. One thing that has driven all of these thoughts is the fact that I have such a large class this semester. Now I know why my French Professors in my undergraduate studies only assigned one essay per semester!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Tell Tale Heart

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yahoo, the mid-terms are marked - and there were no major disasters! Phew! I noticed that the students really get quite worked up at mid-terms time. People start to worry a lot, and they get nervous and stressed out. I feel kind of bad putting my students through this. The funny thing is that when I was a student, I never felt nervous during exams. I guess I just kind of accepted them. In the EAP program, when I first started noticing how worked up students get over the exams I started trying to think of ways to lower the stress. The way I thought I could do that was by being as explicit as possible about what is required for the exams. I really wanted the students to feel that there was a method to the mid-terms and they way that the exams are marked, rather than feeling like they (the students) are being buffeted about by forces beyond their control. What I mean is, too often, it seems like the students felt that the process of being evaluated on the mid-terms is random and arbitrary, when actually, we try to reduce the abitrary nature of the grading as much as possible through rubrics and collaboration between the teachers. At least, that is how it is supposed to work in theory. Anyway, the mid-terms are over now, and there is only half a semester left. I guess mid-terms are going to be stressful no matter what we do. I guess part of the problem is the nature of EAP itself. When I was teaching ESL, there were really no consequences. If the students weren't able to write an essay in English, it never really was a big deal, as long as we had lots of fun during the process of learning how to write an essay. But now, here in the EAP program, the consequences are really high. I mean, if the students don't pass, they don't get to go on into their faculties for regular studies. Also, there is the added bonus of being able to skip the effective writing exam if the students get a B+ in the writing course. Anyway, all this adds up to major consequences that you don't normally have in a regular ESL course. S I G H. I miss taking students to the zoo and having homework which involved deciding which animal was the cutest one at the zoo and drawing posters depicting just how cute it is. Now, it's all about transitions and adverbials . . .

However, one day all my students will be engineers, scientists, doctors, and teachers. I guess that's more important than picking out cute animals at the zoo . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The 2007 Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language Conference is over! Wow, I never knew volunteer work could be so much like . . . well, work! You see, I was the Publishers’ and Exhibitors’ Committee Co-Chair, which basically means that I was in charge of getting the publishers to the conference, helping them while they were at the conference, and then sending them away happy at the end. That meant that I had to be at the conference at 6 am on the Friday of the conference to help the publishers set up, and I didn’t leave the conference until 7 pm that night. That was a 13 hour day. I was totally exhausted by the time I got home. On top of that, I also ran a workshop on blogging on the Saturday of the conference. It’s hard to believe that I have been blogging for almost 4 years already. I first started blogging with my students in April 2004, and I haven’t stopped since then . . . I think I have also done about 10 presentations and workshops on blogging since I started as well.

Anyway, the conference was actually kind of fun because it was great catching up with teachers from all around the province. The only problem was that the timing of the conference wasn’t so great. It fell this year right in the middle of mid-terms for the EAP program at the University of Calgary. This meant that I had to abandon my students on Friday so that I could be at the conference. I hope they did okay. I’ll be seeing their exams on Monday . . . fingers crossed.

Actually, I’m really glad that it’s mid-term time. This is a great time for us all to take a moment and reflect on how the courses have been going so far, and there is still time to make a change in direction if necessary. I think I’m going to focus on getting some feedback from the students after mid-terms about what we can do to maximize their language learning in the last six weeks of the program. In fact, if any students have any great ideas, don’t be shy to comment on this blog!

As for the teachers who came to my workshop last Saturday, thanks very much for coming. It was a pleasure sharing my experience and blogs with you! Please keep in touch!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Ogopogo is the name of the moster that lives in Lake Okanagan beside Kelowna. But don't worry . . . I didn't see him (or her) while I was in Kelowna. I guess I spent too much time at the college. I got to visit Okanagan College on Friday to talk about ESL programs, and how our EAP program at the University of Calgary compares to their ESL program at Okanagan College. It was really interesting to visit another institution and talk about what is going well for us, as well as some of the pitfalls. Right now, Okanagan College is evaluating their ESL program, and they asked my PhD supervisor to go to their college and chat about what they are doing. I was lucky enough to get invited along by my supervisor so that I could sit in on the meetings.

The part that was the most interesting for me was the discussion about the validity of ESL programs, and how to establish that validity. By validity, I mean, are we really doing what we are saying we are doing. In my case, that means, is the EAP program at the University of Calgary really preparing students for undergraduate studies and raising students English to a level high enough so that their relative problems with English won't be the cause of failure in University. Does success in the EAP program mean that students are likely to be successful at University?

I guess if we want to know that, first of all we need to know that what we are teaching and what we are testing are the same things, and that they are all relevant to the academic English language proficiency needed for undergraduate studies. Are the appropriate language, concepts and strategies being covered in the EAP program? The curriculum would need to be checked against the final exams.

Next, it would be good to check what we are doing with another accepted method of assessing language ability. That would mean carrying out a study in which students who graduate from the EAP program take another accepted test and we compare those marks to our marks. That could mean seeing if students who pass the EAP program also pass a TOEFL test, or the like.

After that, it would be nice to know what is happening to our students once they get to university. We could do that by checking on their GPA's one year, three years, and upon graduation and comparing those scores to their exit scores from the EAP program.

If we did all that, I think we could be fairly confident is saying that yes, the EAP program is preparing students well for university (that is if all the results are positive).

Anyway, those are the kind of things we were talking about in Kelowna. Fun stuff!

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I'm so proud of my students. Everyone is blogging really hard right now. Phew. I think we had kind of a shakey start this semester. However, I hope from now on that everyone is going to blog a lot. I guess the reason we had a shakey start this semester is that I totally left it up to the students to start their blogs. I guess I'm trying to test their "independent" learning skills. Actually, most of the students were able to do it no problem . . . but with others it took a little prompting :-)

Anyway, now everyone is blogging!

Hmmmmm . . . I wonder if anyone wants to come to my office hours today. You see, somebody threw a rock through my back window at my house. Can you believe it? I didn't even wake up when it happened. It happened last Saturday night, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, there was glass all over my back room. I couldn't believe it. It is a pretty big window too - about 4 feet by 4 feet so it is going to cost me around $500 to get it fixed. I'm so annoyed because it is not like I am a rich person living in a rich person's house. Not that I'm advocating throwing rocks through the windows of rich people, but at least they could afford to get their windows fixed. Ah well, I guess I'll have to eat less Swiss Chalet take out chicken this week. I even called the police, but there was nothing they could do to help me because they said it is basically impossible to catch the people who through the rock through my window. They did ask if I had any enemies . . . I wonder which student might be mad at me!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ignore the Last Blog!

Okay . . . so my office hours have changed already. Here are my new and offical office hours:

Tuesdays 2:30 - 3:30
Thursdays 3:30 - 4:30

I promise I won't be changing them any more!

Last Friday I gave all of the students the day off because I had to go to the memorial service (funeral) for my grandmother. Gosh, I think I would have rather have taught. It was a really hard day. I was pretty okay until I got to the church and I had to sign the card that went with the flowers I bought for my Nana's (that's what I called my Grandmother) service. I started to write "Dear Nana . . . " and then I just lost it and started crying. It was also hard when my Dad delivered the eulogy. He talked to each person at the funeral individually during his eulogy, and pretty much got all of us crying a lot. My aunt especially was weeping the whole time. She tried to read a poem by William Wordsworth, but she couldn't go on and my Mum had to get up and help her to read the poem. They had asked me to read a Psalm during the service, but I declined. I just felt that I couldn't. It all felt a little bit weird for me anyway, because my Grandmother had requested an Anglican (a form of protestant christianity from English) service for her funeral, and there was a lot of talking about Jesus, etc. It was also weird because this was the first funeral I had ever been to. Isn't it amazing that I made it to the age of 37 without having ever gone to a funeral. When I was a kid, my parents didn't let me go to my grandfather's or uncle's funerals because they felt I was too young. Anyway, the last part of the service consisted of a piper playing "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. The bagpipes always send a shiver through me. I guess they are touching something deep and ancestral in my soul as if thousands of years of history suddenly are welling up inside of me. However, for me, the hardest part of the funeral for me was after the church. After the church, we went to the cemetary, and suddenly my Dad gave me my Nana's ashes to hold. It freaked me out a little to be standing there with a small box containing the ashes of my grandmother. By this time, the weather had turned cold and cloudy and it was lightly raining. It was exactly like a funeral in the movies, with people dressed in black, huddled around a hole in the ground in the rain. I also had to put the ashes into the hole in the ground, and I had to get down on my knees to put it in. I got dirt all over the knees of my black suit, but I didn't care, I just wanted to put the box into the grave. Then the minister threw some dirt on the box and said a prayer. Finally, we put roses on the gravestone while a piper played a lament on the bagpipes. Once again, it was eerie hearing the bagpipes playing in the cold wind while we all stood there around the grave.

Anyway, after the funeral we went back to the church and there was a tea with little sandwhiches with the crusts cut off. It was all very English (My Nana was from English, as are my parents). I ended up sitting beside my high school physics teacher from grades 10 and 11, trying to make polite conversation, when all I really wanted to do was go home. It was strange being surrounded by so many people that I hadn't seen for so many years. After the tea, we all went back to my parents house where my Dad opened up a bottle of expensive Scotch. You see, my Nana used to like to have a Scotch now and then, we we were drinking it in memory of her. In fact, I remember being a little kid and mixing my Nana a Scotch and water. Anyway, it was 16 year old Scotch and supposedly very expensive, but I couldn't finish mine. It tasted like burnt wood and it made my lips numb. I guess it was wasted on me.

After that, we went out for dinner, just the family. There were 10 of us, and we went out for Chinese food. My Nana always liked Chinese food, so we went to a local restaurant in Olds. After that, I went home. It was a very strange day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spread the Word!

Hello Everyone! I have office hours!

Scott’s Office Hours

Wednesdays 3:00 – 4:00 pm
Thursday 2:30 – 3:30 pm

Please make an appointment if you want to see me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The EAP Barbecue!

Here's a picture of me playing my guitar at the EAP barbecue just before the microphone broke and I couldn't play anymore. Hmmm, I wonder if someone broke the microphone on purpose . . .
Just about two weeks have gone by since the barbecue, and now we are entering the second week of classes. I'm really looking forward to this semester. I think I have a really good bunch of students in my class, and they all have a huge amount of potential. I'm sure that we are going to see a lot of language growth. The thing that excites me most about this semester, is that everyone seems really eager to learn. Some years I have been quite challenged by apathetic students who didn't really want to be in the EAP program, and couldn't care less about learning English, but this year, I think everyone is really motivated to learn. We did an activity in class where everyone had to write down their motiviations for learning English, and it seemed like the students were, in fact, actually motivated.
Here's to hoping this is the best semester ever!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Taking a Semester Off :-)

It's the second day of the new semester, and I'm not teaching :-) Wow, in a way it feels kind of weird not being in the classroom this semester, but in another way it's really excellent because I can finally focus on all of my PhD stuff. I have already done a whole bunch of errands that I have been putting off for months in just one morning. Now, I'm just planning out how to make use of my time to the fullest over the next four months so that I can get as much done as possible for my PhD while I have time. The problem is that I know it is going to be so tempting to sit in the back yard and relax.

Anyway, I just wanted to let people know that I won't be posting as regularly as usual in this blog. If I start up a new blog, I'll let you all know.

Have a great spring and summer!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Final Exam Week

Final exams have started at the University of Calgary. There are a few things that can tell you this. The first thing I noticed this morning was that the parking lot (the cheap one on the edge of campus by Scurfield Hall) was full, even though it was only 8 o'clock in the morning. Secondly, when I went to get my omelet and cheese bagel in the social sciences building, there were students everywhere studying. There were also quite a few students sleeping on the benches. I think some of them must have been there all night. I even bumped into some of my own students when I came back to the Education Tower, but I think I freaked them out because I told them that it was too late to learn anything for the exam. They just looked at me in horror and fear. Ooops, I guess there is no such thing as a sense of humour before final exams :-)

I think part of the fun of going to university are midterms and finals. They really help you bond with your classmates, and it gives you a real sense of being a student. I remember hanging out with my friends, madly trying to study. I even remember we would look for places to study all night on campus, and then at about 5 am we would go to Denny's for "Moons Over My Hammy" and fourteen cups of coffee so that we would be ready for our 8:00 am exams. Although it may have seemed like hell at the time, whenever I bump into friends from university we always look back sort of nostalgically to the days when we were students. Now, when I talk to my friends it seems like life for a lot of them is only about mortgages and stressful jobs that are crushing their souls (myself excepted . . . my soul hasn't been crushed, yet!)

Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say to my students is ENJOY exam week. Study with your friends and eat pizza every night while drinking a six pack of pepsi cola. When you look back at all of this, it will be with fondness :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Case of the Disappearing Scott . . .

Hello all . . . it's almost exam week! Eeep! I know that some of the students are freaking out, but I hope they are able to relax a bit before the exams. There is an optimum level of freaking out . . . you need to freak out just enough to drive you to study for the exams, but you don't want to freak out so much that you make yourself sick, and you can't perform at your best during exam time. There is a fine line between enough and too much!

I wonder if any of my students have ever taken a moment to think about where these exams actually come from. What I do in LEAP 4 is I take a survey of all of the reading we have done in the text book. I look at how long they are and how difficult they are. In order to do that, I use the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test ( That gives me a rough idea of what grade level a test is at. Once I have had a look at the type of readings the students have been doing, I then survey the tasks that they have been doing with those readings. After that, I match those readings and tasks to the Canadian Language Benchmarks (, I'm looking at CLB 8 and 9) and the course objectives for LEAP 4. Now I know what I am looking for and what I need to be testing. Next comes the hard part. I have to find a text. Now I do an exhaustive search looking for readings that are of the appropriate length, difficulty and topic. I also try to look for something Canadian. Once I find some articles, I share them with my fellow teachers to get their imput. After we decide which article to go with, I then begin to develop the test. In order to do that, first I re-write some of the sections / sentences of the article in order to make them more accessible. I then look at the vocabulary and choose academic words that the students should be able to guess from context. Then I pick and choose tasks from the textbooks and apply them to the reading in the text. As you can see, there should be no surprises on the final exam. The tasks all mirror tasks the students will have done in class (or at least, should have done - but they are in the textbook, so it is the responsibility of the student to study the textbook and be familiar with all of the tasks). Now I create the exam. Once that is done, I pass on an answer key and a good copy to the other teachers for their input. They come up with their feedback, and I adjust the final exam as necessary. This entire process takes about 6 - 10 hours. Crazy stuff, eh? And it's not over yet, once the students have finished the exam, I then have to check it over again and see if it worked, but that is a story for another blog . . . . . .

Study hard :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seattle is Amazing!

I am having such a great time at the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Conference, that I don't even know where to start! Today was day two of the conference, and it was the day of my poster presentation. I couldn't believe how many people came to see my poster. I ran out of handouts in three minutes, and I brought 100 of them! I felt really bad for everyone who wanted one of my handouts, so I have posted the handout on line. It can be found here:

One good thing about not having enough handouts is that I have finally worked out how to use my webspace at the University of Calgary to make a webpage. It's funny, because so many people think that I am some sort of internet expert, but actually, all I do is just muddle along one step at a time. I think that should be the title of my presentation for next year's conference, how to muddle your way through the net.

Anyway, I really enjoyed having the chance to meet and talk with so many people. It was fascinating to hear what people are doing with their blogs all around the globe. I hope many of the people that I spoke to today will have a chance to drop me a line and let me know how they are doing with their blogs. Over the next few days I'm hope to post more and more information to my U of C website so that people can access more information about blogs and how to use them in their classrooms . . . exciting stuff!

Friday, March 16, 2007

English Only ESL Classes - Great Rule, Necessary Evil, or Oppression?

I wonder why I am so crazy about English only in the classroom. I am sure that is comes from a number of sources ranging from the way I was taught French as a kid and as a young adult, and from the different ideas I was exposed to while I was in graduate school studying Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

You see, when I was a kid studying French, English was FORBIDDEN in the classroom. In fact, if we spoke English, our teacher would have a fit and we risked being sent into the hallway or even the Principal's office. This way of teaching didn't stop as I got older either. When I was 17 years old my parent's sent me away for the summer to Trois Rivieres - a city halfway between Quebec City and Montreal. I guess you could call it the Red Deer of Quebec. Anyway, while I was there I went to CEGEP to study French - it is like a college. Can you picture me? I little 17 year old guy all by himself for the first time? It kind of reminds me of some of my students who are studying here in the LEAP program right now. Anyway, not only was English forbidden in the classroom, it was forbidden EVERYWHERE! That's right, I could drink beer (illegally), smoke cigarettes and ignore doing my homework, but if I ever spoke English anywhere in the city at all and I was caught, there were huge consequences. And I mean huge! You see, the CEGEP had not only teachers, but also monitors who hung out with us after class. On top of that, many of the local people in the city knew that Anglophones came to study French every summer and they kept an eye on us to. If we were caught speaking English at any time, we would get a warning. You only got three chances. If you were caught on the third time . . . you were put on a plane back home! I'm serious. I personally know people where were kicked out of French programs for speaking English too often. Even me, your teacher got caught speaking English one time. I remember I was in a pool with some friends and we were swimming. As some of my students probably know, I love talking, and suddenly I just started shouting to some friends in English to come and jump into the pool. Right behind me was a monitor! Holy cow, did I get in trouble. It was really serious. They had me totally freaked out that I was going to be sent back home. From then on, it was French only for me.

So you can see that from a young age I have been indoctrinated that the best way to learn a langauge is through the immersion method. It is almost like a Canadian way of doing things. I guess that it has affected me a lot,but you know what is amazing . . . . I speak French :-)

Going to Seattle :-)

There is less than one week before I go to the annual TESOL conference in Seattle! I'm really looking forward to going this year. For those of you who don't know, TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is probably the largest ESL type conference in the world, and there are going to be some really famous professors and researchers there. I don't know if any of you are familiar with the grammar book used in LEAP 3, but the author of that book is doing a big presentation. I can't wait to go . . . gosh, I sound kind of like a geek, don't I?

Anyway, I have the honour of doing three things while I am in Seattle. I'll be doing a poster presentation on the Thursday of the Conference, a hands-on showcase of my students' blogs on the Friday, and finally a workshop teaching teachers how to use blogs with their students on the Saturday. It's going to be fun :-)

What I would like my students to do is please complete this survey (please click when you are ready):

I'd like to share your opinions with my colleagues in Seattle.

Thank you in advance to everyone who does this survey!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Me and My Mum

This is a picture of my mother and I :-)

It was recently my mum's birthday, and we went to the Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary for their Sunday Brunch. I think this must most definately be the best Sunday Brunch in all of Calgary, if not Alberta (well, actually the Banff Springs Hotel would be a close second). This brunch is absolutely fantastic. It has a mix of breakfast items and lunch items. For example, you can have a gourmet omlet made for you while you watch, or you can get Belgian waffles made fresh in front of your eyes. There are also other amazing things like eggs benedict and eggs pacifica. Eggs pacifica is one of my favourite breakfast dishes. It is an english muffin with smoked salmon on top. Placed on the smoked salmon you have a gently poached egg, and it is all topped off with a sauce that is out of this world. Yum. Actually, I kind of go smoked salmon crazy when I go to the Palliser for Brunch. I take huge amounts of smoked salmon. I just can't get enough! They also have lunch items like roast beef, and things like that, but I usually stick to the breakfast items. Finally, there is a large variety of cakes and desserts. It is all amazing. Unfortunately, it is a little bit pricey. For one person, brunch is $40 and there there is tax and tip, so if 4 people go, you can end up spending around $200. However, it was my mum's birthday, so it was worth it :-) If anyone ever has their parents visiting town and they want to splurg, I recommend the bruch at the Palliser Hotel.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

International students frustrated by LEAP program??

I have been feeling a little down lately because of an article I read in the Gauntlet. I wonder how many of my students read the student paper here at the University of Calgary. When I was an undergraduate student, I read it every week. Anyway, just for fun the other day I picked up a copy to read while I was reading lunch, and right there on page 7 was an article about the LEAP program. However, this certainly wasn't the LEAP program that I know about. Basically the article was arguing that the LEAP program wasn't fair to international students because it was a waste of their time and money because they are not learning anything. Eeep. Students were also claiming that they were learning things in class that they were already familiar with. I guess they mean stuff like they had already studied how to do the present perfect tense, so why study it again?

Anyway, this is the online link to the article, but if you pick up a current issue of the Gauntlet, you can read the article there too. I wonder what my LEAP 4 students would think of this article. I really hope that now, because of the program, they are able to do things in March that they could not do in January. I guess that is the real measure of a program. If a student can say "now I can do this, but I couldn't do it before" that would be a way of demonstrating that they have learned something. Anyhow, I won't let this article get me down, but sometimes I do feel that I am faced with an almost impossible task compared with a normal professor at the university. It almost seems like if students fail in the LEAP program it's the teacher's fault for not teaching, but if they fail in normal university it's the learners fault for not learning. Complex stuff . . .

Friday, March 02, 2007

I Miss the Cat!

Okay, okay, I know. At first I totally didn't want to babysit my friend's cat. But for 10 days I got to know this kitty, and now that his is gone, I feel there is an empty place in my heart . . . s i g h.

On the other hand, there is no more kitty litter all over the floor of my kitchen, and my toes are safe from night time commando attacks!

It's weird, it was really nice having Rocky around for 10 days. I think the funniest thing that happened while Rocky was staying at my place was when I was renovating the upstairs apartment in my house. I had just painted the floor leading up to the stairs of the upper apartment. Anyway, I was upstairs working on the bathroom when suddenly I heard this weird meowing. I looked down the stairs and there was Rocky standing in the middle of the fresh paint. Poor Rocky, I ran downstairs and picked him up. His two front paws were totally green on the bottom. I was really worried because I didn't want him to lick his paws and get sick from the green paint, so I carried him like a baby to the kitchen and tried to clean his paws. Unfortunately I couldn't get all the green paint off of his feet, so he had green paws for about 3 days . . . . poor Rocky.

Also, I totally spoiled this cat while he was living with me. For instance, if I was having a bagel with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon), Rocky would get some creamcheese and lox too. However, he didn't like bagels, so I ate his for him. Also, once I got sushi from T&T Supermarket, and I let Rocky pick off the raw fish from the tops of the nigiri sushi, and I would eat the rice. Hee hee. I don't think he is going to like the hard dry cat food he is going to get at him Mommy's house :-)

Oh well . . . no more cat for me. But it was fun while he was here!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Babysitting Rocky

I wonder if any of my students noticed how exhausted I was today! You see, I am babysitting a cat for a friend of mine. The cat is totally adorable, but he is kind of nocturnal. He was up all last night, running around and making funny noises. His favourite noise is "mrrrrrr mrrrrr". Sometimes he just goes "meOW MEoooow". Last night, one of his preferred games was to play "attack the toes". Everytime my toes stuck out from the sheets on my bed, the cat would pounce on them and try to chew them. After this happened about ten times, I tried putting the cat outside of my bedroom and closing the door, but that just started up a slow wailing sound "mmmmmeeeeeeeeooooooooooowwwww" until I let him back into the room. He was good for a while then, but I woke up in the middle of the night to find two eyes glowing 1 cm in front of mine. It freaked me out, and when I freaked out, the cat freaked out and jumped on my head to escape. Anyway, I woke up this morning exhausted to find the cat sleeping peacefully on a pile of my clean laundry. I hope he is enjoying his nice relaxing day at home so that he can stay up all night again attacking my toes and jumping on my head.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I have decided that I blog waaay too much about food, so I thought I would blog about some of my favourite things to do in Calgary. I have to say that in the winter, it really easy to become a couch potato in this city. Sometimes when it is cold outside, all I want to do is sit at home with a blanket and a hot cup of TV and watch television. However, there are some things that I like to do in this city, and one of them is skating at Bowness Park. Bowness Park is a huge park on the Bow river in the NW. It is my favourite park in the whole city, and I go there all the time both in the summer and in the winter. In the winter, the pond at Bowness Park is frozen, and you can go skating on it. There is also a frozen creek and a frozen canal, so you can skate all over the place. The best part of course is that it is free! Sunday was only my second time going skating this winter, so it took me a few minutes to get used to it again, but soon I was zooming all over the place. The weather was so great on Sunday too. There were tons of people. There were even mothers skating and pushing their children in baby carriages on the pond. I think the cutest thing is the little kids with their snowsuits and helmets.

Anyway, I highly recommend that everyone try skating at Bowness Park. They even have skates there that you can rent (I think they are $5, but they may cost more money now), so there is no excuse for not going. Also, students can rent skates from the outdoor recreation centre here on campus.

Happy Skating!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hey everyone! It's great to see that everyone is starting to blog all the time. I hope that you are all enjoying it.

Hmmm, what should I blog about. I have been so busy lately! In fact, I have been so busy that I don't have time to cook lunch or supper any more, so I have been eating all of my meals here at the university. If I can get the special in the Education Cafeteria, that's not so bad because they have a daily lunch special that is only $4.99. Usually it is pretty good. The only problem is that they are sometimes late getting the lunch ready, and I don't have time to eat it, or it isn't ready when I have my lunch (I have to eat my lunch at 11 or 11:30 because of class). When the special isn't ready, instead I have to spend almost $8 for my lunch. Yikes!

Supper isn't so bad though because usually I have time to go to Mac Hall, and there are lots of choices there. Lately, my favourite place to eat is "Opa!". That is a Greek place, and it has amazing food. I really love the lamb slouvaki. My other favourite places are the place with the Vietnamese subs and the Vietnamese Noodle place. I've also seen a lot of my students working there, so it's fun to see them out of class.

Now, the only problem is that I'm worried all this university food isn't healthy for me. I wonder where my students like to eat on campus. Maybe they know some better and healthier places . . . . .

Friday, January 19, 2007

Here we go . . . . . .

Yahooo! Here we are in the computer lab. All of the students are blogging about what they think about the LEAP program and what they think about blogging. I can't wait to read what they have to say about the LEAP program and what they have to say about blogging. Personally, I really love blogging. I think it is a great opportunity for students to practice their English in a non-threatening situation - especially because they don't have to worry about their grammar or their spelling. The main point is just communication. That's what's so fun about it. Plus the students get to pick their own topics instead of me saying "okay class, please write an academic essay about cheese" zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Anyway, I am sure that they blogs are going to be a big success this semester and that everyone is going to benefit. I can wait to get feedback from the students later in the semester.

Happy Blogging Everyone!!!
These are my students from last semester - good luck you guys!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

An Important Aspect of Academic Life

It's time to talk about an important aspect of academic life - going to the pub! This is a picture of my favourite pub in Calgary . . . can you guess where it is?

I hadn't gone to a pub in ages, but recently Calgary has gone totally smoke free in all bars in pubs, so I thought it might be time to try one out again. You see, I used to smoke. In fact, I smoked cigarettes for 16 years, but I finally quite for ever on April 17, 2003, and I haven't touched a cigarette since then. Because I don't smoke any more, I always avoid places where people smoke. That means that I could never go to the pub. However, now I can! As of January 1, 2007 all pubs and bars in Calgary are complete smoke free. It's so great because now I can enjoy pub food like the steak in the picture without having to worry about breathing all that nasty second hand smoke.

You know, I don't really like drinking either (I am the king of ginger ale), but at least if someone is drinking beside me, it doesn't really affect me the same way as if someone is smoking beside me. Anway, I really recommend that all my students try out the pubs here on campus (Dinny's Den) They have great food. They are a good place to meet new people, and remember, you don't have to drink. You can always order a ginger ale like me :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm back on campus!

Hello world,

Here I am back on campus after a nice long break. I have officially been on holiday since December 22. That was 12 days of pure relaxation! Mostly I just hung around the house reading books and watching TV. I did go skating once on Bowness Pond, but the ice was really rough so I stopped after just 20 minutes. I guess the most exciting thing I did over the holidays was visit my parents in Olds, Alberta. My parents have an antique shop in Olds, and I got to see all the stuff they are selling. Some of it is pretty cool. I also got to play with my parents two dogs and their cat. All in all, it was a great visit.

Anyway, I'm back, and I'm raring to go. I can't wait to start teaching again. See you soon!