Why we should stop worrying about putting “bums in seats”

August 3, 2010

Remember that moment when you were so enthralled with what you were learning it seemed like time stopped? Your worries melted away and you were in that space somewhere in between reality and potential. It’s a little like being in a dream state isn’t it? You feel your untapped potential surging forward, about to launch you into a new space, where you had abilities you’d only previously dreamed about.

I remember a time like that when I was learning Spanish. It was the moment when I was so into a conversation that drudgery of memorizing verbs and vocabulary melted away. It was the moment – ever so fleeting that first time – when I was so into the moment that my lack of confidence vanished and I just spoke. It was the moment when my heart filled with joy because I realized that moment had been a dream for me – and it was coming true.

Having the ability not only to speak – but actually to engage with someone else in a meaningful conversation – was something I hadn’t been capable of in Spanish up to that point. Once I’d passed the threshold, I knew I could do it again. Knowing that spurred me on to keep learning.

Ever had a moment like that? Sure you have.

If you didn’t, you wouldn’t believe in the power of knowing other languages.

Your students have those moments, too. Or at least, they crave them. Learners crave breakthroughs; breakthroughs make a challenge worth the effort.

What are you offering your students to help them achieve those “ah ha!” moments? How are you challenging them to reach within themselves to tap into their potential? How are you making their dreams of fluency and sincere connections with others, enabled by their language learning experiences, come true?

When it comes to marketing your ESL, second language, literacy and other educational programs, keep your goals worthy and your sights firmly set on why we do what we do.

Stop worrying about how to put bums in seats.

Always worry about how to empower your students.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


A picture says a thousand words: Tap into the world of stock photos

August 2, 2010

A while ago I did a post on photo tips and ideas for language and literacy programs. In that post I gave some ideas on the types of things you can take pictures to marketing and promote your language and literacy program.

Really though, unless you have someone on staff who was has excellent photography skills, your photos may lack professionalism. Using stock photography has some advantages for marketing. Not only are you guaranteed to get excellent quality, royal-free images, you also don’t have to worry about getting students or their parents to sign waivers allowing you to use their image to promote your school.

There are a number of companies out there that offer stock photos, as well as images and sometimes audio tracks, too. Either you buy credits which allow you to purchase photos on a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement, or you buy a subscription for a certain period of time. Buying credits is a good way to test out the system for not very much money, just to learn how it works.

Once you get to the site, type in a key word that matches the image of what you’re trying to portray. You’ll usually get thousands of images, some of which will work and others won’t. Words I’ve used for marketing ESL and EFL programs include “multicultural”, “students”, “international”, “school” and so forth. Get creative with your key words if the results aren’t giving you what you’re looking for.

  • Getty Images
  • Jupiter Images
  • Fotolia
  • iStock – The photo from this post is from iStock. Every week they offer a freebie for members. This particular freebie was very appropriate for languages and literacy, so how could I resist?

The size of the photo you buy depends on what you are using it for. For website use only, you can get away with smaller images. If you’re using them in printed materials such as brochures, school prospectuses, etc. then you’ll want a higher quality image.

Once you’ve purchases the rights to a photo, you can use it for a variety of purposes, providing you stay within the agreements. For example, don’t go and re-sell the image by putting it on merchandise such as coffee cups or T-shirts that you charge money for.

Some people have said to me that using stock photos seems insincere because the subjects aren’t real students or staff from your school. That is true. It is one trade off of using pro quality stock photos. Ultimately you need to decide what you want – and can – do for yourself. Also, have a look at what your competitors are using in their photos. If their images are pro quality, you may be looking at stock photos.

For me, using stock photos for at least some of your marketing materials, is a good investment of resources.

Do you have a favorite site for photos that’s not listed here? Leave a comment, so others can find out about it, too.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Gandhi empowered others in 11 different languages

July 15, 2010

I have long been a student of Mohandas K. Gandhi and his work. For him, learning languages was a way to better understand the world around him and ultimately, to change it for the better. Gandhi learned 11 different languages in order to extend his reach and empower others:

  1. Gujarati
  2. English
  3. Sanscrit
  4. Latin
  5. Hindi
  6. Urdu
  7. Tamil
  8. Telugu
  9. Arabic
  10. Persian
  11. French

Gandhi saw learning languages as a way of communicating better with others and understanding the world more profoundly. These weren’t just noble intentions. They became part of the foundation of his work.

Aren’t these, at least in part, some of the same reason we are drawn to teaching and learning other languages?

Related posts:

Check out my conference paper on this topic:

Eaton, S. E. (2010). Leading Through Language Learning and Teaching: The Case of Gandhi. Paper presented at the Interdisciplinary Language Research: Relevance and Application Series, Language Research Centre, University of Calgary. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED508664

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Update – November, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.7 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Let’s stop forcing students to “puke out their brains”

July 14, 2010

Individualized, customizable, learner-centred approaches are becoming the new norm. Traditionally, education has been about developing a curriculum and teaching to students in a prescriptive manner. That made education easy for teachers because they could essentially teach the same thing, year in and year out.

That was not only boring for students, it’s ineffective.

It is said that one month after final examinations, students have lost 90% of the “knowledge” they had on the day of their final. That’s not learning. It’s stuffing information into a brain for it to be regurgitated on a test. And once it’s been puked out onto a test paper, it’s gone forever, it seems. Not exactly ideal, is it?

The good news is: learning is becoming more individualized and focused on the students and their needs.

Teachers of tomorrow will need to shift their thinking, stop thinking about how to get students to learn the curriculum and instead, make the curriculum work for the students.

Scratch that.

We don’t have time to wait for a new generation of teachers to understand that learning is about the students, not the textbooks, not the curriculum and most definitely not about standardized testing. Teachers of today need to learn that.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


5 Ways to Show Teachers Appreciation

June 24, 2010

In many regions it is the end of the school year. Here are 5 low-cost ways to let your teachers know you appreciate them:

1. Organize a teacher and staff appreciation lunch – If you can afford to bring in some catering, go for it. If not, make it pot luck and have everyone bring a dish. The point is to gather everyone together for the purpose of celebrating.

2. Make a speech – School taking the time to publicly thanking the school teachers and staff shows good leadership. Opening up the floor for teachers to give praise to their peers adds an additional level of warmth. Keep it brief – and sincere.

3. Certificate of Appreciation – Print off one for every teacher, complete with their name, the name of the school and the school year. Have the principal sign them. Templates for certificates are easy to find on line if your word processing program doesn’t have them.

4. Write thank you cards – It’s amazing how much impact a hand-written letter or card goes in today’s world of technology. Discount stores often sell packages of thank you or blank cards for very little money.

5. Say “Thank You” – In addition to saying it in written form, a sincere, focused verbal thank you, along with a handshake, or a hand on the shoulder is always a nice touch. Be sincere and smile. This is not the time to offer suggestions for improvement for next year, but to show appreciation for the work they’ve done this year.

Related post: 7 Ways to Celebrate the End of the Semester http://wp.me/pNAh3-1R7

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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