moving-on-after-presidential-election

Moving On

Before the November 8th US presidential election, I wrote an article about why it’s important to vote, and why I had voted for Hillary Clinton.

As you have probably heard, Donald Trump won the election.

Where do I go from here?

Nowhere, really.

Living in Europe, Trump’s victory has very little impact on my day to day life. Other than hearing about it incessantly in social media and on the radio, that is.

It’s interesting to hear the media issuing mea culpa after mea culpa, and asking themselves how they were so completely blindsided by Trump’s election.

The answer is pretty easy: the media is biased. We are all biased. We live in our echo chambers and hear what we want to hear. We’ve become so polarized that we can’t stand to hear opinions that differ from ours.

Trump said sexist, racist, and horrifying things. And we liberals wanted to make those the main campaign issues. The cultural issues, the media is calling them.

But for a huge part of the country, the economy was their main issue. This article from the Harvard Business Review is an extremely informative and interesting read.

I find it hard to separate the man from his despicable behavior, ideas and remarks, but a lot of Americans didn’t.

Americans wanted change, but did we get it?

So we voted for change. (Actually, most of us voted for Hillary, but don’t get me started on the Electoral College). But will we get it?

Trump has said he will drain the swamp. I’m pretty sure Obama wanted to do that, too. So far, Trump hasn’t gotten off to a roaring start. He’s hired lobbyists (and fired some), and he’s scaled back on some of his campaign promises already.

So it remains to be seen if the Trump presidency will be the big change factor lots of Americans hoped it would be. I am not optimistic.

Unless, of course, we mean change for the worse for large portions of the American population.

How can we make it better?

With Thanksgiving coming up in just one week, many of us may be dreading the family get-together. Maybe you’re the only cousin who voted for Trump. Or you voted for Hillary and the rest of your family went for Trump.

Either way, it’s going to be awkward.

The only way to make it better is to listen to each other. And I mean, really listen.

That means, listen to what a person is saying without thinking of your comeback, put-down or counter-argument. Just listen. If you can, let that person talk your ear off, then take some time to digest what you’ve heard. Formulate questions on things you haven’t understood, and come back and ask them respectfully and non-combatively. Listen. And then listen some more.

Hopefully, if we listen enough, we may understand. And others may pay us the respect of listening to us in return.

Another way to make it better…

If you see something, say something.

I don’t mean suspicious activity in an airport or a public place. I mean, if you see lawmakers moving to enact unethical laws, then write. Write to your congressperson. Make noise.

Don’t let us wake up in a few years and wonder how on earth we got to where we are. Let’s fight Trump’s (and anyone’s, for that matter) bigoted policies.

I have faith that our system and our institutions will not allow Trump to become what others have predicted he will. But that faith counts on the attention, the engagement, and the willingness to speak up of the American people.

Let’s pay attention. Let’s stay engaged.

Let’s keep listening.

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Election 2016: Get Out and Vote!

November 8th isn’t really Election 2016 Day; it’s the Election Deadline.

Something like 37 States have allowed early voting, and NPR analysts estimate that up to one third of votes will be cast before November 8th.

It also feels like the final submission date for all the crazy that has been this election cycle. I listen to NPR out of Boston (WGBH) for my US news, and it seems like the insanity has been building up to a fever pitch. As a result, I’m convinced that Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome is a thing.

Fighting Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome

Here is my handy-dandy guide to fighting Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome. It’s super simple. There’s just one step:

vote

If you can’t stand the tension, and you’re sick of the coverage, get it all over with early and vote now.

If you’re registered to vote, and you can vote early, do it.

If you’re registered to vote, but you can’t vote early, get out and do it on Tuesday November 8th.

If you can’t stand the sight of Hillary or Donald, and you’re sick to death of their bickering, get out and vote to shut at least one of them up.

If you can’t bring yourself to vote for either one of the major party candidates, vote anyway. Vote for someone else. Write someone in if you can. But vote.

Vote.

VOTE.

VOTE!!!!

 

You No Vote? You No Kvetch.

Voting is a privilege and a responsibility.

We are privileged to be able to vote. It is our responsibility to get off our lazy butts and do it. There are people elsewhere in the world quite literally dying for the right to vote. Don’t take it for granted.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the major party candidates. You still have a responsibility to vote, either along party lines, or according to your conscience.

If you don’t get out and vote, you have no right to complain about who wins. I don’t buy the, “I didn’t vote out of protest” line. That’s (pardon me) bull cookies. Protest by voting. Rebel by voting.

Just vote.

Why Is It So Important to Vote in 2016?

It’s always important to vote. Not just for president, but midterm elections are important, too.

It seems particularly important in 2016, because one of the major party candidates is an immature, bat-shit crazy, racist, sexist, unhinged, Twitter-trigger happy, wall-building, conspiracy-theorist, repugnant demagogue.

We need to keep this man out of the White House, and prevent hate and fear from taking over our country.

For a great anti-Trump propaganda project, check out @trumplemonde on Instagram, and download the DIY kit for printing up posters and stickers here on DropBox.

Why #ImWithHer

I’ve never been a big Hillary Clinton fan. I don’t like the dynastic trend of recent presidencies (Bush Sr. & Bush Jr., now potentially Mr. Clinton & Mrs. Clinton). I don’t like her economic neoliberal ideas. Historically, she has been much friendlier to big businesses than to working Americans. I lean much more towards Bernie Sanders’ socialistic ideimwithheras. Having grown up and lived most of my life in Europe, it’s only natural.

But Hillary Clinton has experience. She knows her stuff. On social issues, she reflects my values. She has worked successfully across the aisle. I don’t know if she’ll be able to break the deadlock that is polarized American politics, but I firmly believe she has a better shot than any other candidate.

Gary Johnson is, by his own admission, not ready to be president. Admittedly I don’t know much about Jill Stein, except that she is an anti-vaccine physician. That gives me enough pause right there to keep me from voting for her.

I Voted. Please Do the Same.

I sent in my Massachusetts absentee ballot weeks ago. Please join me and vote, too.

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celta_certification

CELTA Certification: What to Expect

It’s over, guys! I’ve made it through my CELTA certification and have come out the other side (relatively) unscathed. I am now certified to teach English as a foreign language.

As I’ve mentioned before, CELTA is a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. It is run by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the folks who bring us lovely exams like the IELTS, etc.

If you’re thinking of taking a CELTA certification course, read on.

“Intensive” means just that.

The full-time CELTA certification is four intensive weeks. It includes 8 hours of teaching practice, 4 written assignments, input sessions and experienced teacher observation.

In the mornings, you participate in input sessions. This is where you are taught to teach! Tutors use the Cambridge English method to teach you how to teach the main language skills: listening, reading, speaking, writing, grammar and lexis (formerly called vocabulary).

Essentially, you’re trying to absorb all kinds of useful information which you can then put into practice in your afternoon teaching sessions.

1. Teaching Practice

You’ll be teaching from day 2 of the course. In the first week, your tutors give you plenty of guidance for designing and planning your classes. Over the course of the four weeks, though, that guidance gradually reduces until in the end you are responsible for designing your own classes (materials are often provided).

Teaching planning

The day before each teaching session, you have a planning session with your group and tutor to help plan your lesson. These sessions were my favourite part of the course. My colleagues and my tutors were always helpful, and provided valuable input and ideas.

Lesson planning

At night, you go home and write your lesson plan. A lesson plan includes a detailed language analysis of language items (grammar, vocabulary) that you will be teaching. Then you plan your lesson step by step.

The idea is to have a detailed enough plan that if, for some reason, you cannot teach, another teacher can pick up your plan and teach your lesson. The first lesson plans will take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to write. Yup. Intensive.

Though the lesson plan may seem like a bother to some, I found it extremely useful, and it gave me confidence in my teaching.

Feedback sessions

Each TP session is followed immediately by feedback. You complete a self-evaluation, your tutor provides pointed feedback on your lesson plan and your teaching, and your colleagues (who are also observing you teach) give feedback according to some observation guidelines.

If you can’t take constructive criticism, tough. Your teaching will be thoroughly scrutinised, and some feedback will be disappointing, or hard to hear. Other feedback will be uplifting and gratifying.

You are expected to take feedback to heart and to apply it to your next lessons.

2. Written Assignments

There are 4 written assignments. They are, at most, 1000 words, and it is very clear what you are expected to write. They require some research, and will take a few hours to complete.

I did not find the written assignments very challenging. What they required was very logical and straightforward. Tutors provided a checklist for each assignment, to ensure that you had responded to all the questions and provided all the details they wanted. To be honest, not a whole lot of independent thought needed to go into them. It’s not like you have to produce original research.

For me, it was simply a matter of answering the questions within the word limit.

Some trainees found the written assignments difficult, though. If you are not comfortable writing, and if you have little experience of writing research papers, you may find them harder to complete. Don’t worry, though. You’re given a chance to resubmit each assignment, and usually you only have to resubmit the sections you struggled with in your original.

3. Input Sessions

This is where you’re taught to teach. You’ll learn about lesson planning, classroom management, phonology, reading & writing skills, course book assessment, error correction, and more.

One input session was entirely conducted in Hungarian! Without speaking a word of English, the tutor helped us learn basic phrases in Hungarian, in order to demonstrate how a language can be taught to people who have absolutely no previous knowledge of it.

Some of the input sessions I found more valuable than others, but all were useful. They were especially practical: what you learned in the input sessions could be applied almost immediately to your teaching practice.

It was also valuable to see the Cambridge English teaching method applied directly by the tutors, not just in teaching observation, but also in our input sessions.

4. Teaching Observation

Finally, you have to complete a number of hours of experienced teacher observation. We watched three DVD sessions, and observed our own tutors teaching A2 and B2 level classes for a total of 180 minutes.

During teaching observation, you are given observation tasks, or things to look out for during the session.

These observation tasks (which you also have to complete while observing your fellow trainees) are important for the final written assignment. I wasn’t as detailed in my notes as I should have been, and I found myself wishing I had noted down more specific information during my observation sessions.

By the last observation session (usually a DVD), you’re able to look at an experienced teacher and think, “I would have done that differently.” It’s a great feeling.

You won’t fail CELTA.

Very few people fail the certification. You may not get the highest grade, but you will be supported and encouraged to pass.

The tutors dedicate a lot of time to helping trainees with any difficulties. They are there to ensure that you succeed.

Your fellow trainees are also a great help. Some of my classmates were experienced teachers, while others were novices. In any case, everyone had a strength, and within our groups, everyone was happy to lend a hand to anyone having trouble.

I couldn’t have succeeded without my colleagues’ help in the teaching planning sessions. It was a great bunch of people, and we each learned a lot from the course.

Last Word?

Do it. If you’re thinking about it, just do it.

Plan to have no other obligations or distractions during that time (thank GOD for Chico and our parents who were here to help with toddler-care and housework!).

It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it has given me prospects I never thought I’d have.

Wish me luck!

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