Tag Archives: English Teaching

Lifelong Learning

 

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

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Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part, they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of alcohol, inventory processes, and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

cultural learning

Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

natural

Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers, and someone somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

caves

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that became a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He thinks he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

bike repair

Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

planting

However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

 

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Failing at your own business–University courses

A University education is not all it's cracked up to be.

A University education is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m pretty famous around here. People recognize me all the time. Some people know me because my involvement with my making La Yacata a better place campaigns. (See The Beginning of the Revolution) But most people remember me from one of the 4 schools I’ve worked in over the years. (See Learning and Teaching) Those people that remember me often recommend me to other people, who then remember me on down the line when someone else they know would benefit from my skills.

That’s how I came to be involved in University courses. The parent of one of the students I taught, recommended me to his sister who was studying for her master’s degree in Queretaro. Now, I’m the go-to girl when it comes to English dilemmas.

Here’s what I offer for those higher learners in need of English assistance.

I offer a TOEFL preparation course. I charge 50 pesos per hour and another 50 pesos for a copy of the TOEFL book exercises. Students do better if they answer the questions on their own time and then we go over the correct answers together. I explain grammar points that they are having problems with and offer suggestions on how to best eliminate incorrect answers. I also offer a separate listening course for motivated students. Unfortunately, it seems quite a number of students are looking for TOEFL miracles three days before the exam. I do what I can, but stress that three weeks before the exam would make for a better preparation.

Other students need some help with their actual courses. A good number of the University level business courses have a textbook entirely in English. Most of the students are not up to that level of English reading, so they come to me to see what I can do to get them through the course.

I offer a summary service. I will read the chapter, unit, essay, study, or textbook and write a summary of the material, highlighting important facts. I charge 50 pesos per hour, not per page. My summary is in English. I have had students that want me to write it in Spanish, but I really don’t think my Spanish is up to scratch. I tell them to plug my summary into an on-line translator if they can’t manage it. I expect there are people out there who are busy translating these textbooks, etc, and making bootlegged copies to sell. I’ve lost a client or two after they found a Spanish version someplace. I’m ok with that. It’s a huge time commitment. I’d rather do about anything else than spend hours hunched over the computer. But the money is good.

Most recently, I’ve broadened my offerings to include on-line courses. A former student of mine recommended me to a co-worker. The co-worker called me in mid-March and asked if I could help prepare her for the TOEIC exam that she was going to take on Saturday. It was Thursday night. I told her that I did not have any time slots available for her. I don’t do emergency English classes. She went ahead and took the test, failing miserably. After Spring break, she called me again and wanted to meet. I told her that I was not familiar with the TOEIC test, but that I did have an available time on Saturday afternoon.

After blah-blahing for about 20 minutes about the aggravation of having to take the exam to qualify for her diploma, asked me if I would do the on-line English course for her. Here’s the low-down. She would get 700 points towards her TOEIC exam for completing the on-line course that cost 1,500 pesos per month. She had 3 months to complete the course before retaking the TOEIC exam. She would only need to score 200 points on the actual exam to pass and receive her Licenciatura in Business. The exam was the final requirement, otherwise, she would lose out the thousands of pesos she had already shelled out for the application and thesis requirements.

I said I would, with the understanding that I would charge 50 pesos per hour. She asked me to make a few errors so that it looked as if she were taking the course. She gave me the password and the go-ahead and I went ahead.

This was no measly ESL course. It was a bona fide Business English advanced level course with a few grammar activities thrown in for good measure. The course had 10 parts. Each part had 4 Units. Each Unit had 5 activities. Some of the activities were two-parters, essays or on-line research activities.

How many were going to St. Ives?

In addition, she wanted me to create a study guide so that she could be better prepared to earn those 200 points when the time came. When I sent the first week’s study guide, she was put-out that it wasn’t in Spanish. Nothing doing. I wouldn’t have time for that and told her so.

It took 10 weeks for me to complete the course. I worked every spare minute of internet access on it. I averaged 10-12 hours per week. Some weeks she would come and tell me to “echale ganas” and get it done as quickly as possible. Other weeks she would caress the money in her hand at pay up time and tell me it was “bien ganado” a little resentfully. One week I had class cancellations and logged 20 hours of course time, which amounted be 1000 pesos of hard-earned cash. I think she died a little death when I sent her that bill. She certainly delayed long enough, not stopping by with the cash until Thursday of the following week.

Saturday of week 9, she sent a frantic text message asking when I would have the course finished because she needed money to buy some textbook or other and it would cost $1300. I told her it would be done when it was done, by Wednesday at the latest. She wanted to know how many hours I would be working on the course. She also wanted a perfect score on the course now–no more intentional errors. She would get the full 700 points with a 100%, otherwise, she would get fewer points for the course and have to earn more with the actual exam.

I was feeling not only a little pressured but also a bit annoyed and suspicious. I redid the less than perfect activities and sent my hours when I finished the course, but not the final 3 essays. If she decided not to pay me for the work I’d done, I’d, at least, have the last laugh.

She didn’t appear until the following Thursday. She thanked me for my work, complained again about having to do the course in the first place, and told me if she ever needed another course done, she’d come to me. She also paid me! WHOOPEE! I sent the missing essays the next morning, officially ending our business relationship.

I was so relieved to be done with this project. I earned over 5000 pesos during this 10-week period, all of which I spent gleefully on various and sundry goods. Now, I have a baseline price to give prospective clients that want me to complete this course for them. I also cut and paste the exercises from the course and offer Business English and TOEIC preparation courses on Saturday afternoons. (See Failing at your own business–Saturday classes). I can’t wait to see what other opportunity presents itself!

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Learning and Teaching Year 3

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But, we needed more income than my classes provided because my husband had difficulty finding work. So the next year, I agreed to be the English teacher in a different school, teaching first graders. Three weeks into the year, the teacher for the 2-3-year-olds in the adjoining kindergarten quit, so I assumed that position as well. This was the beginning of my crazy teaching year.

I didn’t want to stop with my private students and was getting more and more requests all the time for me to teach others, yet it wasn’t regular enough to do full-time. So my schedule became, kindergarten in the mornings, first grade in the afternoons, an hour break, then private classes from 4-7 each night. My husband stepped in to do what I wasn’t able to do in the household department. He washed the clothes, cooked the food, cleaned the house, took care of our growing mini-ranch, took our son to school at 2, picked him up at 6, brought dinner to me on my break between classes, and waited at the door when I got home with a hot chamomile tea.

I was able to maintain this schedule for 5 months with my husband’s support. However, things in the elementary school were getting more and more difficult. Again, not the teaching, but the adults. The English coordinator for the school was a woman from Morelia. Soon I started thinking of her as my evil nemesis. M hated everything I did. I couldn’t understand this as I tried to exactly what she wanted, well, as long as it didn’t conflict with what I needed to do to teach effectively. So she set out to put up obstacles to my teaching. She vetoed copies that I requested, she wouldn’t inform me of school events I needed to prepare the students for in the hopes that my students would not perform well, she lied about me to the owners saying I was not turning in lesson plans and was just plain nasty to me. She said, in front of another teacher even, that I was just ‘cualquier gringa que no contribuya nada a esta escuela‘ and that was it. (That I was just a derogatory word for foreigner or white person, that made no contribution to the school.)

I told the owners what she said, told them that she had been lying about me not doing lesson plans, and told them they needed to find another first-grade teacher. I felt terrible leaving my kids and cried while packing my materials up, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. The kindergarten owner asked me to stay on at her school and since M was not in any way involved there, I agreed.

Well, my free afternoons were soon filled with more private classes and I finished out the school year in good shape financially. We used the money to close in the back porch of the house and add steps to the second-floor laundry room.

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See Also: Learning and Teaching Year 1, Learning and Teaching Year 2, Learning and Teaching Year 3, Learning and Teaching Year 4, Learning and Teaching Year 5, and Authentic Teaching and Learning and me

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