Thanks for Visiting my Blog!

I am curious to learn where the people who are reading my blog are from in the World. I don't know any way to find out except to ask, so I am. I have a Visitor's Poll on the right side. Please take a second to select the best answer. If I don't have your Country listed it is not intended as a Slight (China was suppose to be there; I can't add it now). I quickly realized I could not list every country, so I have continents listed. Feel free to drop me a comment or email as to which Country you reside in if it isn't in the list IN ADDITION to selecting the best answer in the poll. Thanks

Friday, July 3, 2009

Honduras - why are we trying to force them to accept a corrupt politician?

Why is the US and other nations trying to force Honduras to accept a corrupt politician back as President? I have wondered this as I read news accounts of WHY he was removed from office. Yes the military removed him but how else were they to remove him? He had already defied the Congress, Supreme Court of Honduras and every other body that told him "no". What would we do in the US if the President insisted on breaking the law? Insisted on doing what the Supreme Court and Congress told him he couldn't do? What the people also rejected? We'd have him taken into custody also. No one is above the law.

The fact Honduras used the Military to in effect enforce the impeachment doesn't change the fact Zelaya was trying to use his post as President to force his will upon the people. He was trying to be a Chavez. We in the US should not be trying to force Hondurans to accept a corrupt leader anymore than we would accept him. He broke the law and as a result was removed from office. End of story or it should be.

We should support the people of Honduras in their decision to remove a corrupt official and use their Constitution to name his successor.

Oh hypocrites we are. We criticize Honduras for removing a corrupt leader and stay silent as Ahmadinejad and Khamenei murder, beat and torture innocents in Iran to in effect take office by a coup. That is a real coup; Honduras was not. Somehow it seems we have forgot what once made our country great - freedom and democracy - even as we prepare to supposedly celebrate it tomorrow. Have we forgotten what freedom really means? Have we forgotten that while the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776, it was not until the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that our right to exist apart from Britain was recognized. 7 years of bloodshed in a coup to decide our lives for ourselves. Today we seek to deny those same rights to people of Honduras and Iran.

Where are you now George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson? Is this the country you envisioned? I think not.

Looking for work - TESOL, TEFL

On June 14 I received my certification from Oxford Seminars to Teach English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL) / Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). In some areas it is referred to as TESL (teach English as a Second Language) and others TELL (Teach English Language Learners). Regardless of the semantics employed, it is teaching a person English whose native language is not English.

Now that I have my certification, it is time to find a job somewhere in the world to use it. In the Western Hemisphere my interest lies in Brasil / Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. Since I now am partially fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, any of these countries would allow me to make a living and improve my existing language skills. I already know that I adore Brasil so it tops my list. I have spent some time in Ecuador working (legal work) but have never visited Chile.

If I don't go to South America, then I am looking at (in no particular order): Russia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and countries in the Middle East. Any of these would be new experiences for me, different cultures and languages than I have previously truly experienced. Yes I have eaten at Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Russian, etc restaurants and know people from these countries BUT it isn't the same as visiting the countries first hand.

Finding information on jobs in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan is easy. There in fact may be too many listings so it makes it hard to decide which ones to apply. I'm sure some are bogus.

Finding information on TESOL jobs in Brasil, Chile and Ecuador are more daunting. The jobs are there but the information about them isn't! I really want to have a job lined-up before I leave the country although I believe it when people tell me - just go and you'll have no problem finding a job. Oxford Seminars also has a job placement assistance service but I am hoping to find this first job without using it. Then I could use their service should I need it next year. They guarantee to find you a job BUT they cannot guarantee where it will be. So I am looking online.

IF you read this and know of a TESOL job in one of the countries I have listed, especially Brasil, Chile or Ecuador, leave me a comment please or email me at [ esl (at) timnew dot com ] I spell it out so all the net robots won't start spamming the account :)


PS: I spelled Brasil with an "s" on purpose; it is how the country spells its name.

Monday, June 1, 2009

One-Third of Oxford TESOL Course is completed

So far, so good

I just spent my weekend in the Dallas area (Plano) attending the first 2 days of an Oxford Seminar to be certified to Teach English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL). It was a major relief to discover that my experience in Mexico was an anomaly. What do I mean? Don't misunderstand. I loved teaching in Mexico. I loved the kids (at least most of them). But the school there is not designed to properly teach English to students whose first language is not English. In my first 2 days of the Oxford Course I learned that:

1) Most schools where I could end up teaching will utilize text books designed to teach English as a foreign language or second language. That was not the case in Mexico where they are attempting to use Abeka Language books.

2) Most schools will have students assessed for their level of English and students will be placed in appropriate level classes. Again this was not the case in Mexico where students were placed in English class solely based on their Spanish level - 4th grade Spanish students were automatically placed in 4th Grade English even if their English level was not up to that level.

Both of these changes will make teaching English easier and more enjoyable.

Another change will be in the Teaching Methodology. This will take some effort on my part. The norm will be to teach English Grammar indirectly rather than through rules. You will use the English Grammar through context and activities and have the students pick up the correct usage rather than try to have them memorize rules or learn it by mimicry and repetition exercises. So the days of having students learn verb tenses by I run, you run, she runs, we run, they run, that I used somewhat effectively in Mexico will be replaced by usage in sentences and conversation. Did she run in the race? No, she didn't run in the race. Did they run on the beach yesterday? yes they ran on the beach yesterday.

I am also having to adjust to a class format of Warm-up exercise, Activity, Review with a common learning objective. Once I get it all figured out and use it a few times I think it will be easier. This is especially true since the text books I will probably be using will have the activity portion more or less laid out. I will just need to tweak it, supplement it and add warm-up activities and reviews.

All in all I am happy with the first weekend. Two more to go. In the interim I have a lot of reading to do, homework to do and need to begin deciding where I want to teach next year - that is the goal of taking the course after all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From the outside, on the inside, looking around

From the outside, on the inside, looking around

What has happened to the U.S. Education system? Why is it failing?

From 2006 until January, 2008 I was a substitute teacher at a local elementary school. I taught every grade from First Grade through Sixth Grade. From January 5, 2008 until February 6, 2009 I taught English to Hispanic students at an elementary school in México. I taught Third and Fourth grades. If you want to know why our education system is failing, substitute teach.

Lack of Discipline

Classrooms lack discipline. The lack of respect I have witnessed as a substitute teacher from students in the local elementary school is a sign of why our education system is failing. In the 13 months I was in México teaching, I did not see any similar behavior. At the local school the students mock the teachers, make fun of the teachers, talk back to the teachers along with blatant disobedience. This is in addition to talking in class and playing in class. Talking in class and playing in class occurred in México also if the teacher permitted it. The difference is that in México the children were respectful when the teacher admonished them for their misbehavior whereas in the U.S. the students resent the teacher for not allowing them to do as they wish. And most times they continue doing what they were just told not to do.


Students don’t care.

I had one or two students in México who simply did not care about learning – it wasn’t important to them. This was especially true of students who were at the school to learn English but didn’t want to learn English. Their parents wanted it; they didn’t.

The problem has been more prevalent at the local U.S. elementary school. It seems to begin at about the Fourth Grade. Maybe it is just this school. But in the Fourth and Fifth Grades, the percentage of students who “hate school” or who just don’t care is staggering. I would estimate only one-fourth of the students in these grades want to learn, probably one-third have no interest in school other than to be with friends, and the remainder is somewhere in the middle.

Teaching Down / Lower Standards

Perhaps part of the reason for apathy is the manner in which our schools now teach down to the students instead of challenging the students to rise to the task. Students are grouped in classes based on age, not ability. Then it seems the policy of the schools is to teach down to those students who know the least. If you want a higher quality of education, aggregate the students based on ability. Yes I know this idea won’t be popular with the system, but I am confident it would improve the education level of our students. Put the best third of the students together and teach to their level and above. Put the middle third together and teach to the level of the best students in that division. Do the same with the bottom third. To a certain extent you see this done at the high school level with AP classes. Start in Elementary – maybe at Second Grade based on the performances in First Grade - and challenge the students.

Get rid of the CALCULATORS!

Did you know that elementary schools are letting their students in Third through Sixth Grades do their math on calculators? What is the result? Students in grades 4 through 6 who cannot do simply math without a calculator. I kid you not. I asked the question just last week of a Fourth Grade student “What is 4 x 5?” The answer? I only know my tables up to threes. This was more than some of his classmates knew. There are students in the sixth grade who are doing simple multiplication, addition and subtraction by counting on their fingers.

When I was in the third and fourth grades we learned (read that as memorized until we knew it) the multiplication tables at least to 12 x 12=144. Very few students today at the local elementary school can give you an answer to multiplication flash cards without hesitating. Those that can are in the same classroom with those that have no clue. Does that make sense?

Get rid of the calculators and teach children the basics of math. They need to know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide without using calculators or their fingers. They need to learn math. I can see using calculators in the higher maths – maybe Trigonometry or Calculus but not for basic mathematics of adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing.

Parental Involvement

It seems parents/guardians are less involved in their child’s education. They seem to think it is the school’s / teacher’s job to educate their child. When the child doesn’t do well, it is the school’s / teacher’s fault. Guess what? Most times it isn’t. If all the students are doing poorly, blame the school or the teacher. But if some of the students are doing well, chances are the fault isn’t with the teacher.

I have seen students at school write down answers for their schoolwork that was nonsense. The student was simply writing something down to create the appearance of “doing his work”. When I questioned one student, his response was “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong, I did it and I’m finished”. Now whose responsibility is that attitude? The teachers’? The school’s? I don’t think so. Clearly the child doesn’t care whether he learns or not and from my perspective that is something that must be corrected by the parent or guardian. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. I have seen it in Third Grade, Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade and Sixth Grade several times while substitute teaching in the past 2 months. When I asked one girl why her answers were so clearly wrong on her homework, she told me she wanted to do something after school the day before, and she couldn’t until her homework was finished. So she just wrote down something to finish. This happened to be one of the better students that usually did her work and did well on tests.

Parents/Guardians quit passing the buck. Accept responsibility for your child’s education. The teacher and school cannot make your child do their homework correctly, nor make them learn their multiplication tables, nor make them study for tests. Neither the teacher nor school can make your children take their education seriously. It isn’t the teacher who is letting your child play X-Box, WII, or PlayStation instead of studying. It isn’t the teacher who lets your child watch television or play ball instead of doing their homework correctly. The one girl's parents at least had a rule she must do her homework before doing other things. I suspect most of the time they check it. For many of the students who are doing poorly in school, I suspect there is less involvement by the parents or guardians.

I have had good teachers (thanks Mrs. Hart), and I’ve had some bad teachers (won’t name names), but I still did well in those classes with less than stellar teachers. The effort was up to me, and my parents ensured that I gave my effort. Quit passing the buck. Accept responsibility for your child's education; get involved!

In summary, there isn’t a single reason why our educational system is failing. Part of the blame lies with an educational system that teaches down to the students and lowers the levels of expectation (such as using claculators). Part of it lies with the children and their parents/guardians. Both need to be fixed if the U.S. is to raise it education levels back to the top.

That's how I see it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

ESL Certification is coming soon

At the end of May I will begin the 60 + hour course to get certified to teach ESL. The course is offered by Oxford and will be 3 weekends (Saturday/Sunday) at my Alma Mater Hendrix College. I'm not sure where I will be going once I get certified but hopefully it will be fun. I have enjoyed teaching ESL and with a better grasp of the techniques (and classroom management) I hope it leads to even more fun somewhere - Brasil, China, Japan, Korea, Peru, Europe, somewhere I haven't been (unless it's Brasil).

Currently I am substitute teaching at Junction City Elementary and getting my vegetable garden planted. I don't expect to be going anywhere until at least late July or more likely August. I need to save every $ I can between now and then to get a laptop - preferably a MACINTOSH. Don't think I'll be able to carry this desktop Mac with me where ever I go.

If you know of some openings for an Attorney that teaches ESL drop me a line. I'm interested. Eventually I may try to get back into a corporate law department where I can work internationally but for now I'll settle for ESL.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Time to upgrade

It's been a busy week so far - substitute teaching Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (that's good! I need to substitute teach every chance) and taking photos at church for a Childrens' Rally on each night from Sunday until last night (Wednesday) and PhotoShopping them. I shot at 1600 ISO so my colors were sometimes off using my Nikon D80 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera. It's tendency to over saturate the reds is my only complaint. It takes just a moment in PhotoShop to adjust the hue (+6 seems to work with the church photos) to get the red down to reality.

Anyway I just need to PS a few photos (last nights) to have that project finished. The Rally ended last night.

So today I hope to work on creating a new look for my websites using CSS templates. My site was way behind the times. Wait, not was but is. So I downloaded some free CSS templates to use, but customizing them to work with my themes - Photos, ESL, News, Fantasy Sports is taking more work than I thought. So today I hope to spend time getting some of that work done as well as catching up on other necessary work - I still haven't finished unpacking from my move from Mexico - since I am not Substitute teaching today.

So today is time to work on upgrading my sites to CSS. We'll see how far I get.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

None so blind as he who will not see

Lyrics to a song that seems to paraphrase Biblical verses

they also describe the situation where I was teaching English - Eagle College in Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Last week I resigned after being told I could not make any photocopies to use in my classroom. Supposedly some parents were complaining because I was using photocopied material to teach their children and not the textbooks they had purchased. Half-truths?

If it is a half-truth is it not a full untruth? Half-truths have been used for eons to deceive by those who wanted to be able to claim "but I didn't say anything untrue". It has been used by politicians, lawyers, and others who sought to avoid accountability while misleading others. I have no doubt some parents were complaining. The school had required them to buy the books after all. Here is the situation.

The school began last year as a "bi-lingual" Christian elementary school. The school had the parents purchase U.S. textbooks by A Beka and then attempted to use these books in classes based on a child's age and not ability. When I went there to teach in January of 2008, what I found was students whose conversational ability was at best U.S. second grade trying to do academic work in U.S. Third and Fourth Grade books. Some of the children are very intelligent and could spell any word I gave them by memorizing its spelling. They had no idea what the word meant. Glancing at the work they had completed before I arrived, I thought they had enough English to function. What I did not know was they had just copied the answers into the books. They were not actually learning anything.

The majority of the students did not even know the pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, or they. They were lost and frustrated. I began a process to teach them basic English vocabulary beginning with Dolch Words and the words most frequently used in English. They began to learn English. I had parents and Aunts thanking me. Their child or niece or nephew was finally learning English. But I wasn't doing the books. That frustrated the administration who cared only about justifying selling the parents the books. By years' end (July, 2008), my Third and Fourth Graders had improved their English a lot but were still far below the level they needed to be at equivalent U.S. levels.

One parent asked me to please return at the graduation (6th grade) dinner. So I did. I knew that in returning I would be facing the same problems. Students placed in English classes not based on their English ability but based on their class in Spanish. Even students who failed English the year before were advanced. Many new students were enrolled who had never had any English. Once again, the school ordered the A Beka books. I had explained the year before that the students could not do the work in those books. They needed books that taught English as a foreign or second language. They didn't listen but rather persisted in the same way.

So I once again started teaching using word lists and material for learners at levels below their assigned grade but within their ability. The administration grumbled. I kept teaching and the kids kept learning against the odds. Finally last week the "Director" asked me through a translator if the kids were going to use the books the next year. Obviously they had not listened to anything I had told them. The A Beka books are not what the school needs at this time. In 5 or 6 years it may be possible to transition to an American based curriculum but not until the school had children at appropriate levels of English. I told her I doubted it.

I did not know until later that the school was having parents pay for next year's textbooks. Last Wednesday I was ordered to only teach using the textbooks and the board. I was not to use any more copies in class. So I resigned. Clearly my message was not getting through to the Administration who have shown a complete lack of understanding on how to teach a foreign language. Their restrictions in effect prevented me from teaching the kids what they need to know - basic English - apparently just to justify having the parents buy books that the kids can't use again.

I am posting the 500 Most Frequent Words lists we were using before I was forced to leave on my ESL page. I left the url with the kids, and told them I would have it all posted. I cannot pretend to teach them as the school demands so I could not stay. But I will do what I can from afar to help them. They deserve better than what they are getting, but I fear they will never get it with the current administration. The sad part is the Administration acknowledge the kids would probably learn more English my way. But apparently the best education isn't the top priority. Saving face is more important. So I do what I can from here.

I make my prediction here. If the school does not hire someone to take over as Administrator who understands teaching a foreign language, the school will fail within 2 years. The kids know the truth as to why I left and so do many of the parents. In the interim, the kids suffer. There is none so blind as he who will not see; none so deaf as he who will not hear.

If you are trying to learn English or Spanish, visit my ESL site. The Most Frequent Word List (in English and Spanish) is only one tool you will find there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

From History we learn man learns nothing from History

Oh how gullible the masses are.

As I read through the news internationally I am amazed at how many people have swallowed the HAMAS "we are the victims" propaganda. HAMAS has intentionally attacked Israel. Their stated objective is to remove Israel from the world. They do not have the man-power to do it directly so they stage terrorist attacks daily against Israel - killing a few here and a few there. Launch a few rockets daily. For what purpose? To get Israel to respond with force so HAMAS can display dead and injured civilians to the world and proclaim "Look at how bad Israel is. They are hurting innocent children and civilians".

Oh how gullible the masses are.

World-wide people are demonstrating against Israel's use of force to stop the attacks. Why? Because the news media shows citizens and children being injured and killed.

Abraham Lincoln wouldn't have fallen for it.

He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then when sentence was about to be pronounced pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.

The HAMAS has intentionally created the situation. They intentionally dress their terrorists as civilians and when one is killed exclaim "Look, Israel killed a civilian". They hide their weapons in hospitals and mosques and schools. And if Israel bombs one to destroy the weapons, HAMAS exclaims "they are bombing the hospitals, they are bombing our schools. NO place is safe." Propaganda.

Wise-up people. HAMAS wants innocent blood shed. That is why they place weapons and their fighters among the civilians. They want to show people that innocents are being killed and cast the blame on Israel. If Israel doesn't kill enough innocents, HAMAS isn't above killing them and laying the blame on Israel (such as the attack on the UN aid supply driver). Propaganda.

All of these tactics have been used before. William Lederer and Eugene Burdick wrote about it in a book "The Ugly American". That book illustrates how disinformation can be used as a weapon. It illustrates how gullible people can be.

Innocent people are suffering in Gaza even as I write this. They are suffering not because of Israel but because of HAMAS. Israel was much more patient in responding to the atrocities of HAMAS than any of you that are casting stones at Israel would have been. They have averted casualties to civilains as much as possible while at the same time attempting to take away the terrorist threat to their country.

How many of you would support a terrorist group conducting suicide bombs in your city, against your schools, your places of worship, your restaurants? How many of you would be quiet if a terrorist group was established just outside your city and launched rockets daily in the direction of your homes, schools and businesses?

Not a one. I write this with a certainty. You would be demanding that your government take action and protect you.

Yet, is this not what Israel is doing? Yes. And you dare to cry out against them. You hypocrites! You in your glass houses casting stones at Israel.

Grow-up. You are either for terrorism or against it. If you are against it, then you should not be ranting and raving against Israel. You should be applauding them. They knew that many of you would believe the HAMAS lies and propaganda when they took the heroic step to stop them. Yes Heroic. It is easy to do the right thing when people support you. It is difficult to do it knowing it will not be popular.

The people of Gaza deserve better than the world is giving them. They desrve to live a life free from hatred, free from fear, free from bullies. So do the people of Israel. That will not happen as long as HAMAS is allowed to attack Israel.

There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as people advocate the destruction of Israel and attack Israel just as there would be no peace where you live if some terorist organization sought to destroy your nation. HAMAS needs to be removed from power. They need to be treated for what they are: terrorists. They are not victims.

The cycle of hate in Gaza also needs to be broken. Get the younger generation out of the cesspool. Start a program that will let them live and learn abroad. Let them see there is another side of life. It is amazing how travel and education can break down barriers of prejudice.

Get economic reform into Gaza. They need infrastructure and jobs. Yes I now the world economies are reeling. But employing people to rebuild and advance Gaza will aid both Gaza and the economies of countries participating.

Stand up for the rights of the people of Gaza, not HAMAS. The people of Gaza can coexist with Israel and live in peace. But not while HAMAS attacks Israel and seeks to destroy them.

HAMAS is hoping you believe their lies and propaganda. They hope you blame Israel for the atrocities in Gaza and not the real culprit - HAMAS.

JOe the Plumber has it right.

For a broader view of the Israeli - Gaza conflict, read the news from different sources. I maintain a news site on my website

I currently read the Jerusalem Post, The Middle East Times, The BBC, Fox News, and the Jordon Times. The Middle East Times has some intriguing editorials and opinions. One is and another is

Don't fall for HAMAS propaganda. That is all it is. There can be peace in the Middle East, but not while organizations like HAMAS gets your support.

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