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Teaching Diversity is Imperative (Part One)

Teaching Diversity is Imperative (Part One)

One of the great benefits of being a self-employed educator is being able to create individualized curricula. Some teachers use standard materials, some exchange resources with other teachers, and some create all the materials from scratch. As long as the curriculum is high quality, the method of acquisition is moot.

However, ELA teachers–and any teacher who incorporates literature into their lessons–must decide what to prioritize in their text and assignment selections. These decisions can result in enormous anxiety and debate, both with the teacher themself, families, administrators, and other teachers. Despite the potential backlash, we as educators must choose to teach diversity to prepare students to make compassionate decisions in their adulthood.

Saying “No” to the Classics

If you are attempting to teach texts based on a Western education, you’re likely to be pushed to teach the “classics”. Some of these texts are “classics” in the traditional sense (e.g. Homer and Shakespeare), some are more modern (e.g. Fitzgerald and Austen), and some are the books that will likely be given that honor this century (e.g. L’Engle and Morrison). The largest problem teaching these books is the lack of diversity. Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, and Amy Tan appear on these lists, but most authors are White men from the United States and Western Europe.

Parents argue that those books are what help students succeed on the AP Literature exam, college admissions, freshman English composition, and world literature. It’s hard to dismiss that argument; if a student wants to enroll in a Western university, having some knowledge of those texts is likely to help. However, if that’s the argument, here is the rebuttal: Then what?

What happens after the English composition and world literature classes are finished? Will reading “The Great Gatsby” help students love their chosen career? Will studying “War and Peace” make them better parents? Will dissecting “Great Expectations” make them healthy, compassionate adults?

In most cases, the answer is, “No, probably not.”

There’s nothing wrong with students reading these books. If a student wants to read Hemmingway in the summer or on the weekends, that’s fine; I’m thrilled when a student is reading anything. However, should teachers spend precious class time teaching these texts?

No, probably not.

Saying “Yes” to Diversity

I spent months designing my fall curriculum. Even books that I love to read and teach were moved to summer to make way for greater diversity and lessons I felt students could genuinely use. Mary Louisa Alcott’s “Little Women” was replaced by Linda Sue Park’s “A Long Walk to Water,” and Ann Braden’s “The Benefits of Being an Octopus” was replaced with “Listen, Slowly” by Thanhhà Lại.

“Little Women” is fun to teach, and Braden’s book deepens students’ empathy and understanding of peers in difficult situations; in fact, Braden’s novel will remain one of my favorite middle grade books. Nevertheless, Park and Lại wrote stories that create intense discussions, widen perspectives, and will likely stay with students long after we’ve moved to a new unit.

Linda Sue Park is a Korean-American author best known for “A Long Walk to Water,” although she has plenty of other award-winning books. Thanhhà Lại is a Vietnamese-born American author best known for “Inside Out & Back Again,” but her three other books are also highly acclaimed. Both authors write beautiful stories worthy of their success and awards.

The rubric I used to choose these and other texts is a subject for another post. For now, I would like to explain why Thanhhà Lại is a perfect example of an author worthy of precious classroom time.

Listen, Slowly

First, “Listen, Slowly” begins when a Vietnamese-American girl has just finished sixth grade and is blind sighted by her parents when they announce the family will be spending the summer in Vietnam. My seventh graders, just returning from summer break, will be able to relate to this story, at least in part, creating a smoother transition.

Second, the book takes a close look at how we define our identity. Tweens and teens are having these inner monologues already, but the choices they make in the next few years help mold them into the people they will be in adulthood. “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” are questions worth exploring in fiction to help students explore those questions in real life.

Third, the creative writing has an informal style that will resonate well with its intended audience, allowing us to discuss word choice, sentence structure, and all the other difficult English concepts teachers love to explain.

In short, the book is well-written, relatable, and thought-provoking. That could be enough of a reason to teach a book. However, Lại’s life story and accomplishments add another layer, which persuaded me to keep it at the top of the list.

Teachable Lives; Teachable Moments

If I’m honest, my text selection really boils down to me looking for as many “teachable moments” as I can cram into a semester. How many lessons can I turn into advice (without sounding like advice)? How many times can students leave class thinking about something we discussed? “Listen, Slowly” will increase those teachable moments exponentially.

Often, teachers give students information about the author of a book because that’s what we’re supposed to do as a “pre-reading” activity. However, students rarely care when and where an author was born, where they went to college, or what job they had before they published their first book. These facts don’t enhance the story for them; it’s basically the same as learning information about a complete stranger. I try to find a more engaging way to introduce this material–usually after we have started the book.

I won’t need to do that with Lại.

First, Lại’s family fled Vietnam in 1975, shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. Her childhood and adolescence allow us to discuss the Vietnam War (about which students know very little at that age), immigration, and the refugee crisis. It builds empathy, tolerance, and humility.

Second, Lại struggled to learn English properly, and she wrote a scholarly article entitled “From Awkward to Still Awkward, but More Chill” detailing the challenges she faced in learning the language. She tells a story about being exiled from AP English and discusses how one can’t use logic to write English properly. The article is humorous and captivating, and I know my students–especially multilingual students–will appreciate this personal story.

Her experience provides us with the opportunity to talk about the difficulties of English grammar, syntax, and mechanics, and I hope that it will instill optimism. After all, a student who struggled for years to understand the complexities of English became a bestselling author; my students can overcome those difficulties, too.

Third, Lại founded Viet Kids Inc, a nonprofit organization that provides bicycles to Vietnamese students who often walk four hours each day to receive their education. Biking to or from a school can cut a 2-hour commute to a 30-minute trip, giving students more energy to concentrate on learning. Additionally, the nonprofit provides tuition, uniforms, and rice to students; my American students often do not realize that the necessities of education are not available to everyone.

This information allows us to gain a sense of community and interdependence, foster kindness, and learn humility. Additionally, we can tie this noble organization to the information about the Vietnamese culture included in the book.

Students may not remember all of the facts. The story of being kicked out of AP English and the exact name of the nonprofit may escape them. However, the lessons they will learn and the positive character traits they will develop thanks to the book and the author’s story will be with them much longer–and I will feel proud of those teachable moments.

Positive Character Outweighs Classic Knowledge

I do feel it is my responsibility to help prepare students for university, and I’m not sure that “Listen, Slowly” will ever be on the AP Literature test or discussed in a college English class. However, more importantly, it is my responsibility to help prepare them for adulthood–in whatever form that takes for them.

Reading Baum and Dickens is unlikely to help students when they’re facing their biggest decisions.

But the information they discussed while reading Lại just might.

7 Tips to Keep Motivated While Learning Online

7 Tips to Keep Motivated While Learning Online

If you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to learn online, there are some things you can do to keep your online learning strategy on track and full of motivation. Here are seven tips that can help you stay on track with your e-learning without getting bored or discouraged!

  1. Make a plan

Make yourself a plan to stay on track and keep you motivated. Plan which days you’ll work on each subject, how long it’ll take you, and how you can reward yourself for sticking to your schedule. Schedule breaks into your day and think about how you’ll use them – whether it’s for a nap or to catch up with friends. Having a plan will help you stay focused and motivated at every stage of your learning.

  1. Break your goals into small steps

Start with small goals and make sure you have multiple sources of information to learn from. This is a common strategy in e-learning. If you follow it, you can keep motivation high for your online courses. The best way to use the course materials is to think of them as a whole new resource – you can learn something that surprises you and challenges your existing beliefs. Let your curiosity motivate you.

  1. Organize your space and resources in online learning

Keep your resources (your computer, external hard drive, books, etc.) in a well-organized space reserved just for learning. If you work at home in your office and want to leave work behind, it’s easy to keep your learning stuff in a separate room or closet.

  1. Take breaks when you need them

When you’re sitting in front of a screen learning something new, it’s easy to burn out. Take breaks every now and then, or even use them as a strategy to learn more. Watch a learning video on YouTube or read your favorite blogs on topics not necessarily related to what you’re learning online or visit websites you find interesting.

  1. Celebrate success

Reward yourself after each e-learning success. Whether you passed a quiz or completed an entire course, treat yourself and keep your spirits high! The more confident you are in your abilities, the more successful you’ll be overall. And nothing is worse than losing motivation due to boredom or lack of confidence in your abilities; these feelings can easily cause you to snowball and give up altogether!

  1. Have someone to hold you accountable

If you spend a lot of time learning online, you should find someone to hold you accountable. You can find study groups or people who are also interested in what you’re learning and work through the lessons together. That way, you can motivate each other, challenge yourself, and find out which strategies work – and which don’t.

  1. Keep track of what’s important

The classroom, whether online or otherwise, is a very distracting environment. If you want to succeed with e-learning and motivate yourself, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of what’s important: learning and future success. Don’t let all of life’s distractions get in your way – focus on completing each course and making progress toward your long-term goals.

Online Education Benefits Tweens in Unexpected Ways

Online Education Benefits Tweens in Unexpected Ways

Parents often question if online learning is right for their middle school students. After all, they are in front of a screen (again), and it does not have the same feel as a traditional classroom. I can sympathize with those concerns, but online education provides immense benefits that we often overlook.

Here are benefits to consider when deciding if online education is right for your student.

The Exposure to Diversity is Unparalleled

In 2020, when I began teaching online, I taught students in 13 countries. Most of my students live in the US, but I have taught students from Sudan, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa, Mozambique, Germany, Greece, and New Zealand (among others). Typically, 45% of my students identify as people of color.

Additionally, students have a variety of learning differences. I have likely taught as many students with a label of “gifted” as I have kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I’ve taught students who could read the assigned book in one evening and kids struggling with severe dyslexia. Although this may seem like a difficult balancing act in a classroom, this diversity actually helps all students. They learn that everyone is different, and we all have struggles.

In my experience, learners are unlikely to find such significant diversity in their other educational settings, and this leads students to share their experiences in a larger context. Conversations have included everything from sports traditions to refugee situations. Yes, they learn English and social studies, but they also learn about one another and gain new perspectives.

Ultimately, online education builds empathy. I would argue that those lessons are more important than any academic content.

Teachers are Passionate Experts

Self-employed teachers typically teach because they love it. Being a self-employed educator requires a leap of faith and optimism that one can make money and change lives simultaneously. There is no safety net, so teachers must believe in what they are teaching. Nevertheless, the freedom to create an individualized curriculum is incredible, and I know that my chosen book and writing assignments have taught my students much more than they would have learned in a traditional classroom with standardized curriculum.

Students Receive Individualized Learning

Although there are exceptions, many educators teach smaller classes online than is required in US public schools. Public school classrooms often contain 15-32 students; my classes typically have 4-7. The level of attention and feedback I can provide students allows them to improve their understanding, and I have very few classroom management issues. Families do not worry that their students will be distracted or distracting; when there are only a few students, they tend to pay attention and appreciate the attention paid to them.

Less Bullying; More Accepting

My students occasionally write persuasive essays on the pros and cons of instituting a dress code at in-person schools. Most of us know the two sides: self-expression versus ridicule. However, that question is moot in an online education environment. Students barely see each other’s sleeves, let alone the brands of their clothes, and the small classes allow students to know one another as whole people, rather than simply by their looks.

Students have discussed their gender identities, medical diagnoses, and previous learning challenges with me alone and with students in the class. I have even had students change their names or pronouns during a semester, and the only reactions I experienced were those of empathy. Questions are respectful, especially when a student tells their peers that they rarely share personal information. (In a particularly memorable class, a 12-year-old cancer survivor related her story to an emotionally difficult book.)

Additionally, although students sometimes disagree during discussions (especially my 8th graders), I have never had a student bully another student. There has never been name calling, insults, or even rude jokes. By spending significant time with the same students, and under the watchful eye of a respected teacher, bullying is not even considered as an option.

Teachers and Students Form Lasting Bonds

This is my fourth semester teaching some of my students. One specific group I met at the beginning of fifth grade, and they will soon enter seventh. It would be nearly impossible for me to nurture that type of relationship with students in a conventional setting.

Students I’ve tutored for two years have had nearly 300 sessions with me, and I am able to watch their progress–and tweak my curriculum to help them most. There are families with whom I have developed close working relationships. I have even had some families ask me to stay with them the next time I travel! Although I certainly had bonds with my public school teachers–and was even able to have some for multiple semesters–there are few opportunities in modern US classrooms for students, teachers, and families to create the types of connections I have with my online learners.

The Ethical Environment Makes Teachers Happy

Sure, there are plenty of online teachers who are miserable and cranky, and wonderful in-person teachers who are lively and engaging. However, if you are considering MyCoolClass specifically, you’re likely to find happy, relaxed educators because of the platform on which they have chosen to teach. Speaking as someone who has taught for an online education company valued at over $1 billion USD, coming to MyCoolClass was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t even realize how suffocated I had felt until I became a teacher on the platform.

MyCoolClass takes a lower commission than any platform I’ve found, and certainly lower than my previous platform. It allows teachers to use their judgment in creating the best classes, rather than following rigid regulations, which are often only imposed to reduce liability for the corporation. Teachers are given the flexibility and autonomy of independent contractors, whilst still being respected as members of the cooperative.

Families can feel good knowing that the majority of the fee they pay goes directly to the teacher, and that they are supporting a company that strives to give back to the global community. There is an opportunity to teach kids that helping a small business, entrepreneurs, and those collaborating harmoniously is likely to make a greater impact than using services managed by large corporations.

Personally, I believe that cooperative teaching is the future of online education, and that it will ultimately result in a better experience for students, regardless of age.

Conclusion

Online education isn’t right for everyone, and I would never pressure a parent to choose an online class over in-person. However, online classes do provide unique opportunities for learners and the chance to form long-lasting relationships with the educators. Students can feel accepted, respected, and appreciated. Furthermore, taking classes on MCC specifically may help families feel they are supporting a greater good.

Consider browsing teacher profiles, registering for a demo, or contacting MCC administrators with additional questions. We’ll be happy to have you, and your students, as part of the community.

Facilitating English Language Learning Among Young Learners and Adults

Facilitating English Language Learning Among Young Learners and Adults

English language learning is becoming more and more popular among students, young learners, and adults due to the growing popularity of the language and the need to adapt to international standards. Facilitating Language Learning can be a daunting and difficult job for trainers if not well versed in the topic. Non-Native speakers find it difficult to get a teaching job in English due to their fluency and pronunciation. Therefore citizens from native English-speaking nations like U.K, U.S, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are in huge demand due to their English Language skills and proficiency. Their fluency and command in the language make them superior and the top-rated teachers in the world and are considered by teaching institutes. They are hired and recruited for their skills to teach young learners and students the basics of English Language and linguistics and enhance their communication skills. English Language learning can be a rewarding experience for any new learner or student and can help him take better decisions in the future to make and advance their career.

A TEFL/TESOL certification is mandatory to teach English online

The TEFL/TESOL certification has become a mandatory requirement for teachers to teach English online. The certification can be attained from leading institutes like Asian College of Teachers, International TEFL Academy, Bridge Education Group, etc. English Language learning in 2021 is becoming increasingly popular among students and young learners. They are looking for the best teachers to teach them English online. MYCOOLCLASS.COM is credited to be one of the best English Language Learning platforms and is known to recruit the best teachers from around the globe.

English Language Learning can be started at any age group

There is no age limit that restricts an individual to learn English and its linguistics. Students and young learners can enroll in preliminary courses and adults can take up courses related to increasing corporate communications. There is also the option to enroll in courses that teach English from the very basics.  In fact, students and young learners consider mastering the concepts early in their life span to be better communicators and be on par with international students. They look for the best teachers to attain perfection and mastery over language. The best teachers are selected based on their qualifications and certifications before they can continue their teaching careers. Therefore an individual need not worry about age, religion, or ethnicity to learn English and it is imperative to acquire the skills required to excel in their job or career.  

How is English language Learning accomplished?

English language learning can be accomplished by students by selecting an English Language learning platform and select the best teachers to continue their learning career and move forward. The students have the option to try and get the best teaching help from expert teachers in each of these platforms. They can book their slots based on the teacher’s availability and can purchase study materials from the online academy. Study materials, therefore, help in filling the gaps that they face in terms of comprehending the language. English Language learning is therefore a very exciting journey in a student’s life and can be rewarding in the future.

How do we acquire mastery over English Language?   

Mastery over English Language Learning can be attained by following Chomsky’s model of teaching and knowing the basics of English Language grammar and linguistics. There are various models of learning that give students the benefit to learn from the strategies or techniques and acquire mastery in the subject. Language learning requires patience and hard work and following the teacher’s guidelines and standard practices. There are different strategies like Communicative Language Learning, Communicative Language Teaching, Task-Based Learning, Grammar Translation method, Natural approach, Lexical Approach that acquaints students to learn and develop good skills in English language and linguistics.

MYCOOLCLASS facilitates and enhances English Language learning

MYCOOLCLASS is a teacher’s cooperative owned by teachers to help students excel in their careers and advance forward. Our aim is to help students across the globe and get acquainted with the subject.  MYCOOLCLASS is designed to help students with language learning across various geographies. Besides English, the platform is suited for students willing to know about other languages like Italian, Spanish, French, etc. We have a very simple and effective methodology to help students enroll in courses by visiting the marketplace and choosing their teachers. The marketplace consists of teachers from around the globe with different skills and students can get to know them by visiting their profiles and booking classes with them. They can schedule and plan their learning sessions with tutors depending on their needs. There are also other courses besides Language Learning in the platform to help students and learners with their requirements. 

   

MYCOOLCLASS invites all teachers and students to try and use the platform for teaching, learning, knowledge sharing, and communicating effectively. It is very essential to choose the appropriate language learning platform for students to get what they are looking for. We are here to help students with their basic necessities and are always reachable in case of any questions or doubts.  We are available as per the time schedule mentioned in our calendars and students can effectively book classes without any hassles. Therefore, come and explore your teaching and learning journey with MyCOOLCLASS.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING FAQ

English Language is required to compete and excel in education and job and get acquainted with the language that is accepted and recognised worldwide.

English Language can be learned at any point in time. It should be given preference when one is studying in school and can continue learning as long as he or she acquires mastery. It can also be taken as a subject while doing graduation and post graduation after completing board examinations and high school. English Language is also taught by expert teachers at leading education platforms.

Mastery over English Laguage can be attained after acquiring basic knowledge in grammar and linguistics and practicing it while communicating, reading and writing. Constant practice and speaking improves fluency and command over the language.

Learning English language takes time but after learning the basics but it can take years to become a master and be a leading practitioner in the subject.

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