Teaching Abroad – after all, that’s why I’m here right?

When you’re busy balancing the desire for living the life with the need to support that life, months can easily pass without your complete awareness. Now it’s time to play a bit of catch-up on adventure-telling as the second installment of life in the DR unfolds.

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Students hard at work

The spring semester ended in mid-April and I was able to wrap up my four (!) advanced writing courses with a minimum of setbacks. Despite the grading workload that the 180 essays and 180 exams called for, the semester ended successfully and I survived. In fact, I was able to get leave approved so as to sign up for another semester which is now over 1/2 of the way complete.

Pontifícia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, affectionately known as PUCMM, is a private Catholic university here in the Dominican Republic. It has two campuses; one in the capital – Santo Domingo, and one in Santiago de los Caballeros – the DR’s “ciudad corazón” or heart city.  I am teaching at the one in Santiago.

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View of El Monumento from campus

PUCMM students are required to reach an advanced level of English language proficiency before graduating; therefore the Department of Applied Linguistics is very robust and a lovely mix of native speakers of English and native speakers of Spanish and other languages. My colleagues come from many different walks of life and one of the benefits of extending a semester is that now I’m finally starting to interact with them as a whole group through professional development seminars and meetings. Interestingly enough, the department and the university have been going through some restructuring/revamping of courses and mission, so I’ve once again gotten drawn into a bit of curriculum re-design and been part of an informal working group for restructuring the writing course. PUCMM Blblioteca and sculptureThe summer semester is only 10 weeks long (as opposed to 15 or 16 weeks), but they still have the same number of hours required which adds a third two-hour class session each week, so the weeks are a bit more jammed and it definitely feels like things are moving at an accelerated pace.  However, teaching one section of advanced writing and two sections of advanced conversation has been nice because I can put into place some of the suggestions for revision while learning how another aspect of the department works as well.

My students have been lovely both semesters. Although the vast majority are Spanish-speaking Dominicans, I’ve also had a few students from Haiti and other countries such as Puerto Rico and Panama.

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Last Day Fiesta

There is a huge contingent of medical students here at PUCMM who have their own version of the academic writing and conversation courses. Even though the material is basically the same as the normal courses, the grading system is different and, as I learned the hard way last semester, tweaking the courses for each is more effective than trying to keep them in lockstep. This is the first time I’ve taught multiple sections of the same course, so it’s been a learning experience in many ways! I’ve been extremely blessed by helpful colleagues – especially other Teach Abroad professors who’ve been here one or multiple semesters before me. Now, I’m finding myself in the role of helper to the newest Teach Abroad recruit who’s here for this summer session. Oh well, they say one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it, so hopefully this experience will bear that out!

20160414_143137Here are some pictures of my students’ end of the term send-offs. We’ll see what I learn from this next batch!

 

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Critical Thinking 101?

So I was trying to grade my students’ reading exams today. An exam, btw, that my colleague and I came up with together. As I started looking at the first person’s exam, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure that I could even answer all the questions so I went back and took the test myself.

One of the questions we asked was, “create 2 critical thinking questions using either when, why, or how.”  – A task that we’ve done some in class.  Anyway, it occurred to me as I was taking the test, that I’m not totally sure I know what “critical thinking” questions are.  It’s a term we throw around in education circles quite freely. And it comes up often in skill team meetings and I nod along with everyone else and agree that “oh yes, our students need to work on critical thinking” but, what does that mean exactly?

So, I googled it. Here’s at least one resource that came up that might lead to others, I’ll try to add more in a bit, but here’s some food for thought to start with. …

http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/CTquestionsAnswers.cfm

Here’s another, more in brief:
http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/ourConceptCT.cfm

Back in a bit, after I finish grading a few more tests.