Advice CALLum by Mark Garton

Again, we have a delightful post from Mark Garton. I think a lot about my colleagues that haven’t quite embraced technology in teaching in the same way that I have, and he gives us some insight into his experience. It helps me to understand other people’s perspectives and challenges, which encourages me to be a kinder, more understanding person. And, if nothing else, it allows me to focus my work on what my coworkers need rather than assuming what is needed.

Mark has a few other posts he’s done for me that you can check out here.


Advice CALLum by Mark Garton

I don’t read newspapers as much as I used to, but the other day at work I wandered up to the second floor reading room during a break to look at the morning paper anyway just to see what I’d been missing. They’ve taken away all the comfy chairs they used to have in that room, but they’ve still got the paper on a table close to the doorway. I walked in through the door, picked up the paper, leaned against the wall in the corner, got too close to the motion-sensitive hand sanitizer on the wall and got slimed, brushed the soap off my shoulder, and started reading. There wasn’t much news that day, but I noticed that they still have advice columns like they always used to, the ones where people would write in and ask what they should do about their son’s unruly behavior or their meddlesome in-laws. I didn’t read much of those columns, but as I was standing there flipping the pages, it started me wondering. What if Heloise, maybe the most famous advice columnist of them all, were an ESL teacher? Boy, would I ever need her help! I started daydreaming …

Dear Heloise,

I’m an ESL teacher in a small town in Iowa, and I’m having trouble motivating myself to learn more about how to use CALL to improve my teaching. I feel like I’m learning to use CALL because I’m supposed to, not because it’ll help the students more than how I teach now. Whenever I use CALL, it takes a lot of time away from the conversation practice that I know they need, and quite often something goes haywire with the computers. In general, I think CALL can be a good way for me to reach my students, since they’re already so “connected” and I want to keep up with the latest teaching methods, but is this much time on computers really good for them? Shouldn’t they be talking to people face-to-face more while they’re here in the U.S.? Or do they even really have conversations when they speak their own languages? Maybe they don’t. Some of them seem like they’d rather text than talk, and I wonder if they’re really interacting with other people they way they should. It’s like they’re connected, but they’re not connecting. So if I’m teaching conversationally, am I really giving them what they need? So maybe CALL is really better for them? Is there research that shows that using CALL is better than teaching without it? How much time should I spend each lesson using CALL, and how much should we talk together? Should I try going to conferences again and learning more about CALL and risk getting called a “technophobe” and a “dinosaur” like happened the last time I asked a question at a conference? Or should I just give up and be a “Luddite”? Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I’ve just been teaching for too long. I’m at my wit’s end. Please help!

Confused in Iowa

And then Heloise answered!

Dear Confused,

You have serious brain damage. Please seek help from a certified medical professional immediately.

And then I woke up from my dream. The newspaper was all wadded up, so I folded it and flattened it out, and then I put it back on the table. My hands were completely black from the newsprint, but that’s never a problem where I work. I just leaned against the wall in the corner again. This time I held out my hands though. I was ready for it the second time. I’d learned a new method for dealing with this newfangled 21st century high-tech soap dispenser. I was proud of myself.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?



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