Departure Tips

luggage1So you saw the ad in the paper about teaching in Japan. You’ve applied for the job, secured an interview and got hired immediately. Well, the hard part is over! But wait …check out this article if you who are still in the application process

Now for the fun part – Preparing to leave. There are a few tips I can give you when you are preparing to leave your country to live in a foreign land.

  1. Attitude

Keep a positive mental attitude – it is the most important part of this new experience. If you can stay positive, you will have a great time regardless of temporary setbacks or disappointments you may encounter. If you do not feel mentally prepared to leave your home country, wait until you do. The results will be worth the delay.

2. Preparing Your Documents

  • Obtain a passport; if you already have a passport, ensure it is valid until at least one month after your return date.
  • Obtain the appropriate travel visa for the country in which you will be teaching.
    Make copies of your documentation (i.e., passport, visas, marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.).
  • Consider getting an international driver’s licence (quite easy to do and very worthwhile).
    Write down the contact information for your family, friends, accountant, lawyer, etc.
    If you plan to look for work once you arrive, take several copies of your credentials (diploma, certificate, degree, etc.) resumes, reference letters, and passport photos.
  • Photocopy all documents including insurance particulars, record the numbers of your credit cards, traveller’s cheques, passport, and airline tickets and give to a responsible family member or friend at home.
  • Additional passport photos to ease the process of replacing a lost or stolen passport, or if other official documents are required once you are in your destination country.

Airline Tickets

  • Before purchasing your airline ticket, follow the advice of your recruiter or school. They may have suggestions or limitations such as only flying out of your home country.
    Research various airlines to find the best price and best options, and purchase your tickets.
  • Check your airline’s website for any flight restrictions, such as weight and size limitations, or how much luggage you will be able to take without paying a penalty.
    Make sure your ticket will suit your needs after you finish the teaching contract. A flexible (open) ticket is a good idea.
  • Buy luggage tags and make your luggage distinctive so if all black suitcases come through, you will know easily which is yours.

Medical Considerations

  • Visit your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and to take any preventative steps before departure.
  • Get a check-up from your doctor to be aware of health information.
    Ensure you have enough of your prescription medication to last for your entire time abroad.
  • It is important to check the expiration date of all medications prior to departure.
    Make sure you have all relevant vaccinations for your destination country; this may take up to two months.
  • Ensure you have health and accident insurance, and have contact information for the insurance company in the event of an emergency or needed care.
  • Carry spare glasses and a lens prescription.

Financial Reminders

  • Clear any debts (i.e., parking, library, etc.).
  • Cancel automatic withdrawals from your bank account, if applicable.
  • Plan ahead for filing your income tax and, where possible, legally remove yourself from the taxation system in your home country so you do not pay taxes in both countries.
  • Visit an accountant to get country-specific tax information.
  • Arrange for a power of attorney or someone you trust to make bank deposits and transfers, pay credit card bills, and carry out other legal matters.
  • Have at least $1,500-$2,000 saved or available in credit to start your new career overseas.
  • Purchase traveller’s cheques
  • Make sure you have enough money to pay for a return plane ticket.
  • Consolidate your loans, etc.
  • Make copies of your traveller’s cheques and credit cards including customer service phone numbers and account numbers; keep copies in a safe place (separated from the originals), and leave a copy with someone you trust.

Legal Issues

  • Clear up any legal issues that you may be involved in.
  • Consider getting a criminal record check completed. This may take up to two months; however, the criminal record check must not be older than six months before your arrival date.
  • Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit.
  • Become familiar with Travel Safety tips to ensure you stay safe wherever you go.


Prepare For the Classroom

You may need to start teaching as soon as you arrive in your new country.

  • .
    Collect  “gifts/souvenirs” to give out to your students
  • Ensure you have appropriate ESL Teaching Resources such as lesson activities, lesson plans, classroom and teacher resources, theory and research, and additional resources.
  • Purchase an English dictionary, a grammar book, and supplies in case these items are not readily available.
  • Purchase a few educational games such as Scrabble® or children’s word association games.
  • Collect glossy catalogues and magazines with lots of pictures; these are hard to find in most developing countries and students love them!
  • Find out what is considered to be proper attire in your classroom, including shoes, as well as weather appropriate clothing for your destination country.

Personal Items

For women who like specific personal items such as a favorite hair product or relaxers, it is best to travel with those items as you may not see them in your new country.

Summary : What to Pack
Keep a positive mental attitude – this is definitely the most important thing to pack in your suitcase. If you can stay positive, you will have a great time regardless of any temporary setbacks or disappointments you may encounter. If you do not feel mentally prepared to leave your home country, wait until you do. The results will be worth the delay.

  • Take some money (traveller’s cheques) to cover the cost of your living expenses during the first month.
  • If you plan to look for work once you arrive, take several copies of your credentials (diploma, certificate, degree, etc.) resumes, reference letters, and passport photos.
  • In addition to photocopying your documents, record the numbers of your credit cards, traveller’s cheques, passport, airline tickets, etc, and leave them at home with a family member or friend.
  • Find out what is considered to be proper attire in the classroom and pack appropriate clothes.
  • Find out what the climate will be like while you are there – hot, wet, dry, cold, varied – and take suitable clothing.
  • Find out if there will be shopping facilities near your residence.
  • Take some favourite luxuries (to spoil yourself) such as cd’s, radio, laptop, personal items, tea, snacks, books, etc. Remember these items may not be readily available at your destination.
  • Consider taking items such as; a camera, film, address book, writing journal, and mini photo album of your loved ones, as well as some  souvenirs (for gifts).
  • Make sure your ticket will suit your needs after you finish the teaching contract. A flexible (open) ticket is a good idea.
  • Ask how much luggage you will be able to take without paying a penalty.
  • Take a photocopy of your airline tickets and itinerary (with phone numbers, if possible).
  • Copies of your ticket provide proof that you indeed purchased the ticket, if you lose it, it will help speed up the reimbursement process.

Items to Take For The Classroom

  • A few educational games (Scrabble, children’s word association games).
  • An English dictionary.
  • A concise grammar book.
  • Writing paper, pens, etc. (just in case some of these items are not readily available).
  • Glossy catalogues and magazines with lots of pictures. These are hard to find in most developing countries and students love them!
  • Additional teacher resource books and English game booklets.

Teaching children vs Teaching adults

hong-kong-skylineThere are a few crucial differences between how and why children and adults learn. Keep these differences in mind so you can cater your lessons specifically to your students.

Children and adults learn languages differently

Children and adults learn very differently

No matter what age group you’re teaching, it helps to understand the different stages of language-learning that happen throughout life.

Children’s natural ability to acquire new languages is strong before adolescence. Pronunciation comes easier, and vocabulary sticks during this time. Sure, a classroom of 6-year-olds may be a handful, but in terms of English instruction, everyone will be more or less on the same page.

Adults, on the other hand, will have more varying levels and difficulties. Around puberty, the natural ability to pick up a second language drops, and continues to do so as we get older. As adults, we must deliberately and consciously learn a language if we want proficiency or fluency. If you’re teaching adults who are absolute beginners and have no previous experience or exposure to English, this can be a big challenge for them.

Children and adults have different motivations

Why are your students learning English? The sooner you pinpoint this answer, the more solid your lessons will be.

Small children don’t have a driving motivation to learn languages. Their attention is fueled by curiosity and imagination. Keep this in mind, and plan your lessons to appeal to their senses. Adults, on the other hand, will have very specific reasons for learning English. They might be preparing for university abroad, or are just trying to gain a new skill for their career at home. Your job will become more strategic, and you’ll need to closely monitor their progress to help them reach their specific goals.

The key ingredient in great ESL teaching to children is to deliver on fun. Their attention spans are short, and they’re driven by the here-and-now. While it takes a lot of energy to teach this bunch, if you’re creative and enthusiastic, you might be perfect for the job. Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching children.

1. Keep the momentum moving

Classes with children don’t run on autopilot. You need to be steering the wheel around each turn. One common pitfall is turning your back to the entire class to write something on the board. Sure, it’s only for a few seconds, but just a few seconds is all it takes to loose the class. If a group of 6-year-olds doesn’t have something to do, don’t expect them to sit quietly like angels and wait until you’re ready. That’s why it’s important to always have your materials prepared before class and have backup lessons at hand for times when Plan A takes a nosedive.

Kids love fun and exciting activities

2. Don’t over-correct

Young children learn English just as they learned their native language: through experience and interaction. They aren’t consciously studying structure and grammar rules, so keep your corrections natural. If they make a mistake, just repeat back the correct sentence. For example, if your student says, “He goed to the park,” you could respond, “Yes, he goes to the park.”

3. Movement and activity is key

Not only is movement and activity a part of childhood, but it actually helps the learning process and keeps students involved in your lessons. In your classroom, try games like “Simon Says”, or pass around a ball and have each student answer a question when they catch it. Start your class with some yoga stretches, and end with a game of charades.

4. Use songs

Think back to your high school language classes. I’m sure we all remember the words to at least one catchy song, even if we still can’t give directions or order food to save our lives! Music is powerful, and fun songs will keep your students engaged and help them pick-up new vocabulary.

5. Remember classroom management

It’s a big part of teaching dozens of small kids. But it’s doable. Using a consistent “quiet signal” is an effective way to manage a big group. A good signal is clapping three times, and having students repeat the rhythm back and fall silent after they’ve finished. No matter what happens, never shout over them. Raising your voice to get their attention can make them used to talking over you, so stay calm.

Article taken from For more posts like this visit

Becoming an EFL teacher

So you’ve been looking into TEFL and you’re considering taking a qualification. Remember, TEFL can take you places most other careers can’t, but simply gaining the qualification won’t change your life. You need to be committed to your decision and be prepared for some major changes. TEFL can open up so many possibilities that it’s useful to expand your planning to take in every aspect of the life it will lead you to.

What will your  CertTesol certificate mean to you? Do you see it as your “ticket to ride” – a way of getting you a job that enables you to travel or relocate? Or is the teaching the most important part to you – you don’t really care where you do it?

Are you moving away from something in your life (a stale relationship, an unchallenging job, an over-bearing family) and looking for an escape route? Or are you moving towards a new career as an English teacher, taking useful past experience along to help you? Or maybe a mixture of the two?

According to Oprah Winfrey, creating a Life Map may help you discover what you want for yourself and your life. Her website offers great insights in making your own Life Maps:

Step One:
Gather magazines and catalogues.

Step Two:
Go through the magazines and catalogues and pull out images, words and phrases that speak to you or evoke feelings.

Step Three:
Cut out these images and words.

Step Four:
Place your words and images on a large board in a way that feels right to you.

Step Five:
Paste the images on the board.

Step Six:
Review your Life Map and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have I learned about myself from looking at my Life Map?
  • Do I see any patterns?
  • Does anything on my Life Map surprise me?
  • If I knew that all of the images and this Life Map would come in to my life, would I be OK with that?
  • Who do I need to become in order to fulfill the intentions on my Life Map?
  • Based on my Life Map, what quality will I commit to developing this year?

Step Seven:
Find support for changing your life. Share your findings with a friend. You can even create Life Maps together.

The important thing is that you need to know what is motivating you and be clear about what is important to you and how your new job as an English teacher will affect that. Those few weeks on the course can be tough and you need to be clear why you’re there if you are to see it through.

However, you might feel that although you can’t stop thinking about all the potential possibilities and pitfalls that TEFL will offer you, you need some real clarity about your motivations and expectations.

Constantly reminding yourself of your wishes and expectations now will help you make the right choices later on and will help you live the life you dreamed of when you first signed up for that course.

· Article adapted from Claire Bradford


Evangelising in Taiwan

WHILE STUDYING for a degree in business at Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Venice Brooks had thoughts of a career in Jamaica. Then one day in church, she heard a report of someone who had spent time in Taiwan doing Christian work. She was excited.

She thought then of giving some of her life to work in the foreign mission field. Her hopes were fulfilled as within two months of graduating from NCU in 2000, the 20-year-old found herself in Taiwan working as a missionary.


“Taiwanese,” she said, “are unwilling to have any confrontation whatsoever. They will not fight easily. They are a peaceful set of people, loving and kind. They have low self-esteem. They all think that foreigners are better than they are. I keep on teaching them in my English and Bible classes that it doesn’t matter what you have or what you wear, or who your parents are, or what position you have, we are all equal. And they say in response ‘Oh no, no, no this one is rich so he is better than me’.

This national low self-esteem is reinforced in some of the religious practices, and it fuels the high suicide rate in the society, she said Suicide, she said, accounts for a substantial portion of deaths reported in that country.

“They will kill themselves if their romantic relationships go awry, if they fail an exam, if they end up in bankruptcy. They don’t have hope. If you don’t have hope, you don’t have any reason to go on. I met a lot of people in my life who wanted to kill themselves.

The Taiwanese, she continued, are very superstitious and their main religions, Buddhism and Taoism reinforce that state of being. “They believe in the dead walking around, and touching you. They believe Christianity is the west’s religion,” she said.

The people of Taiwan, she said, place family traditions above all else. The family tradition often means allegiance to Buddhism. “Many of my friends want to accept Jesus but if they accept Jesus it will mean letting go off the family traditions. And if they let go of the family tradition, that is like a curse. They (the family) will cut you off the line, in terms of inheritance and dissociate from you and disown you,” Miss Brooks said.


Taiwanese people are not aggressive. “They are submissive and compliant. They will listen to you willingly (concerning the Christian Gospel). But they won’t confront their parents and say ‘I have chosen to follow Christ’. It takes a long time for them to build the inner strength to face their parents.”

“I have had friends who are 30 years old, and I say ‘Hey, it’s Saturday night, let us go out to a restaurant, and chill’ and they say ‘I have to call my mother first and ask her if I can go.’ And the mother would say ‘Okay you can go but you have to come home by nine o’clock’.” This applies mostly to females, Miss Brooks said.

For the males, she said, family pressure is greater, especially for the firstborn son. She explained that the society places such a high regard on the firstborn son. After the firstborn marries, he and his wife are obligated to live with his parents. “In some cases when I talk and counsel with wives, they tell me that the mother-in-law has a key for every room of their house. The mother-in-law runs the house. It is not a common thing for young couples to move out on their own. They stay under their parents roof. It is not uncommon to find 40-year-old men, still living with their mom and dad,” Miss Brooks explained.

“Every culture is different. Not wrong. They (Taiwanese) are very sensitive about their culture, so if you laugh at them, they will back off. The best way to reach them with the gospel is to get along with them. You let them know that the culture is fine, and that they are fine.


“When I came to Taiwan, I started a friendship ministry. Some person’s approach would be to open the Bible and say ‘learn this’. Some of the Taiwanese don’t know what the Bible is. They have never heard of Jesus. They don’t know who Jesus is. In the friendship ministry, I said ‘Let me know about you,’ ‘Tell me about your life’, ‘What do you want to do’, ‘What are you studying.’ It is like a care group.”

“If they know that I am not going to preach at them, there is no pressure. They will then open their doors and allow foreigners to come so that they can also practise their English.”

Persons who study missionary activity in foreign cultures, are virtually unanimous that in every culture there is a redemptive analogy – something in the culture that has a parallel in the Bible and so it can become the link to communicate the Christian gospel.

Miss Brooks believes there are at least two such redemptive analogies in Taiwanese society. She said much of the early Chinese writings in some way point to God. The way the Chinese write, the strokes, the different characters pointed to different aspects of the Christian God. To illustrate, she said, the word for boat, is a picture that resembles Noah’s ark.

She said too that the way the culture idolises the firstborn is a good nexus to share Christ as the Firstborn of God.

The Jamaican Christian, Miss Brooks believes is highly suitable for the Taiwan mission field. “Jamaicans are very friendly, and most of us are open minded. We will adapt. But you cannot be very direct with Taiwanese – you will push them away.”


She tells stories of how the non-direct, non-confrontational approach has irritated her.

“If you are doing something wrong or not correctly, the boss will not tell you. Because they are non-confrontational.”

She has advice for persons who might be thinking of a career as a missionary ­ especially as a missionary to Taiwan.

Firstly, she said, one should not go with inflated expectations. She explained that when she left Jamaica she thought she was going to baptise thousands. Instead, she has had to be extremely careful how she proclaims the message of the gospel.

Secondly, she said, don’t go on the mission field to push one’s own religious beliefs on them. Rather “Go to make friends, go to understand who they are. And slowly but surely, they will turn around and start to ask you about your religion.

Thirdly, for Taiwan or any country that has a different language ­ “Take the opportunity to grasp the language as soon as possible. The longer you stay there, the eagerness to learn the language diminishes. You will then find it a burden to study the language.”

She told The Gleaner that on her return to Taiwan, she will be enrolling in a class to study Mandarin.

Lastly, “Pray, it is the only thing that can get you through the missionary experience. A missionary experience can make you or break you.”

For the entire article go to

How to teach College students and Adults

As an English as a Foreign language (EFL) teacher in Taiwan, I was bombarded by the culture, language and customs of a new land but the real surprise was the way Taiwanese students performed in class. They were disciplined, polite, competitive and unresponsive to questions, but brilliant. I had to find new and interesting strategies to entertain and facilitate them in every class. Keeping abreast of the new teaching strategies of teaching EFL to Asian students was no easy feat. There were workshops and meetings I needed to attend and more often than not there was just not enough time to attend formal training seminars as these were usually conducted in other countries. Instead, I had to research these strategies on my own to keep my knowledge current.

Carl Rogers (1967) states, “we are faced with an entirely new situation in education where the goal of education, if we are to survive, is the facilitation of change and learning. The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to learn; the man who has learned how to adapt and change; the man who has realized that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives the basis for security…”

When I arrived at the College, I had gained some experience in the teaching field abroad but I had no training in teaching undergraduate courses and somehow got through the first semester of teaching by trial and error using the only method I knew at the time – teacher centered methods. Still questions plagued my mind during that time. Why don’t my students understand the contents of the lesson? Why do my students look so bored when I’m teaching? Why are my students failing their exams?

This started a journey toward facilitating adult learning and constructive approaches. Specifically, I wanted to know the best way to teach English and how to design activities for a more effective class. I discovered that many facilitators have developed new ways of ensuring effective learning in their classrooms by focusing on learner centered strategies and this launched an investigation. This action plan is birthed from the quantum leap I did to redesign and resculpt myself as an instructor. 

A constructivist classroom is a learner centered classroom (Gray, 1997). In a constructivist classroom the teacher builds on the students prior knowledge and then “carefully orchestrating cue, penetrating questions, and instructional activities that challenge and extend a student’s insight” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2007, p. 217). Meyers and Jones (1983) continue by making two assumptions: students learn best during activity based subject matter and teachers need to use a diverse number of teaching styles to satisfy a significant number of students.

After much research and observations, I found seven principles proposed by Weimer (2002), that enhance student learning in my class. They are:

  1. Teachers do learning tasks less. I involved students in end-of-class summaries, problem solving, generating discussions and delivering presentations. I assigned students some of the tasks of organizing the content, giving examples, summarizing discussions, solving problems, and drawing diagrams, charts, and graphs.
  2. Teachers do less telling; Students do more discovering. I allowed students to quiz other students on the syllabus allowing all students to discover information about the course.
  1. Teachers do more design work. I concentrated more on designing activities that attract, motivate and engage learners.
  1. Faculty do more modeling. I assumed the role of a master learner and modeled the learning process by talking through the steps of solving a problem and sharing reflections on a topic.
  1. Faculty do more to get students learning from and with each other. I demonstrated the value of collaboration by creating small groups in class.
  1. Faculty work to create climates for learning. I created a climate of intellectual maturity, responsibility and autonomy.
  1. Faculty do more with feedback. I concentrated on delivering prompt constructive feedback to students.

Attention is also a necessary prerequisite for learning (Schunk, 2008). As a lecturer, I knew I needed to garner the skills of attracting and keeping the students attention if they expect the students to remain interested in classroom activities. I used inflection of voice, animated gestures and even dramatic skills to attract and retain my students attention. In addition, I used discussions, group activities, games, songs, videos, etc. and, according to Appendix G, majority of the Business Communication class agreed that they preferred these activities.

Also, in order for my class to remain lively and relaxed, I had to rearrange the seating to foster a thought-provoking environment. I found that arranging the class in circles or a horseshoe formation made discussions and group activities easier. A seating chart helped me to identify the students quickly. I made sure to place students who had difficulty in a particular area with students who were strong in that area. 


Assessment strategies include observations, group work, dramatic presentations and homework assignments. Also, daily revision was done at the beginning of each class where I encouraged the students to answer from prior experience instead of the textbook. The use of various instructional techniques/materials, such as dialogues, flashcards, charts, graphs, music, telephone, videos, television shows, role plays, simulations, seminars, panel debates, case studies, discussions, slides, lectures and cooperative group work, demonstrations and brainstorming, all enhanced the learning process. This is evident in every lesson taught except lesson eight when the students did a mid term exam.

The culminating activity for the semester was a career seminar which was very entertaining and interesting. I invited a representative from a well known company to speak to the students about work ethics and choosing the right career. The seminar helped the students to understand how to communicate more effectively and how to display appropriate behaviour at work.

For the final assessment, each student should show expertise in areas such as, developing a website, developing an advertisement for the product, interviewing employees, conducting business meetings, marketing the products, registering the company and writing a business plan.

While reflecting on this question, I thought about my perception of teaching and why I wanted to be a teacher. Realistically, one’s efforts will not always be rewarded and I have to face the fact that not every student will appreciate my effort to present a good lesson. After reading Learner-Centered Teaching (Weimer, 2002), I finally had a new awakening. “I came to realize that the classroom environment I created ended up being a place where I could succeed and do well,” Weimer discovered (p. 3). After much research, I found the principles outline by Jones (2007) to be very effective to increase students’ learning in class.


The first thing I did was to ensure that my students were prepared for class. One reason for preparation is for teachers and students to understand the schools’ policies and regulations. After getting my timetable for the semester, I was also given the objectives and expected outcomes, and the course outline for the class. In the first class, I made sure everyone had a course outline and explained exactly what the course was about. Since I will be using learner centered strategies as the basis of my instruction, I took the time to introduce them to the strategies and explained its effects on student’s performance. Finally, I clarified any questions that they may have about the class.

To prepare for an activity, I ensured that I had all the right props for each class. I allow the students to form assessment guidelines for the activity and this helps them to feel more confident and relaxed. Less confident students may need an example before they begin participating (Jones, 2007). I would then take one or two confident students to demonstrate the activity or I would do the demonstration myself while the others watch and listen. 

The Muddiest Point is an activity that is done in my class to prepare the students for the upcoming classes. They would write the information that they find the most confusing and exchange their handwritten notes with other classmates. The next class will be dedicated to answering these questions.

Discussions and Sharing

Reflections from Teacher’s Log:

‘I observed that only the students in the first half of the class would participate and this particular class was no different. It has been very challenging to get the students in the back of the class to answer questions. I know that favoring one half of the class is a bad practice of many teachers, so I tried my best to get the all the students to participate. I tried calling on the shy or introverted ones and coaxing the lazy ones. I avoided directing questions at the front of the class by walking around to the back so my presence could be felt there.’

The best discussions are when students use their own experiences and give opinions (Jones, 2007). Discussions are one of the best strategies to use to increase students’ learning. Students tend to do more discovering when they discuss theories and concepts that is relevant to everyday life. I usually divide the class into ‘buss groups’ and allow each group to debate issues or questions. Afterward, each group will present their findings to the class using dramatic techniques.

During discussions, I used the art of questioning very often. Questioning is the key in guiding learning and all teachers should ensure they are armed with the art of questioning. There are different levels of classroom questions as well as different strategies for using them in the classroom. The most widely used system is the Bloom’s taxonomy which proceeds from lower order questions, which requires students to remember, to higher order questions, which requires students to think.

Research shows that male students are asked more questions than female students however, personally speaking, I find that girls receive more questions than boys. One reason for this is because girls are more assertive and generally take more interest in the class than boys. In my class, girls are more competitive and desire to get better grades, hence they would participate more in class. And frankly, there are more girls in the class than boys so naturally more questions would be posed to them.

Role Play

Role Play was a fundamental staple strategy in my class. My students found it to be fun and interesting. Role plays were usually done to further cement theories and concepts. Mini debates were popular in my class too. This tactic encouraged students to structure solid arguments and sharpen their instincts while defending a point.

Learning requires energy and even more so, unlearning and relearning. After experiencing learning and unlearning teacher strategies that could improve my students’ behavior, I’m led to conclude that learning occurs as a part of education or personal development that will result in a positive change of behavior. 

Motivational activities arouse and maintain interest and are indispensable in every classroom. Activities that increase success and reduce failures increase motivation. Fewer motivational devices are needed for intrinsically motivated students than those who are extrinsically motivated (Ornstein, 1990). In addition, introverts are more likely to succeed in university than extroverts because social activities might distract extroverts from studying. “It was found that more direct influences on academic success came from a combination of motivation and well organized study methods” (Entwistle, 2009).

Reflections from Teacher’s Log:

‘During the first week, it was a bit challenging for me to remember the names of all my students. I realized though that knowing their names was advantageous, as identifying the unsettled ones by their names could curb disciplinary problems. I observed too that the students felt a sense of belonging and pride when I called them by their first names – they felt empowered. Donovan Thomas, in his book Confronting Suicide: Helping teens at risk, extrapolates that the educational system has failed at contributing to a student’s self esteem and self worth (2002). Teachers have been emotionally insensitive to children’s needs and aspirations and the same is true for adult learners. Some adult learners enter the college classroom with preconceived ideas and past failures from their previous experiences.

Interestingly, in my first class at the College, the students seemed relaxed and happy to see me. My initial thoughts were “this is going to be an easy class to teach”. For the introductory activity, I asked each person to tell me their names and something special about themselves. Interestingly, quite a few students said nothing was special about them. After a bit of coaxing, they relented but one student refused to answer. Subsequently, my thoughts were “if she doesn’t believe in herself, it will be very difficult for her to pass this course.”

Ornstein (1990) explains that an instructor can enhance intrinsic motivation by using a mixture of teacher centered and learner centered approaches such as, demonstrations; case studies; pictures and cartoons; personal experiences; problem based learning; exploratory and creative activities; charts, tables, graphs, maps; anecdotes and stories; contests and games.

An instructor can enhance extrinsic motivation by giving clear directions and expectations, enough time to complete each task, tasks that are appropriately matched to students’ cognitive ability, prompt feedback, frequent rewards, praise, linking past learning to present learning (McCombs & Miller, 2007; Schunk, 2008; Jones, 2007). Rewards were also used in classes to attract students and reinforce their learning .

Reflections from Teacher’s Log:

‘The second week fueled even more questions. The lesson began with watching a commercial and discussing the emotional and logical appeals the advertiser made in persuading the viewer to buy the product.
By this time, many students were excited to talk about the deceiving commercials that are on television. Later, the students were placed in groups and told to create a product and a commercial to present in class. The students agreed on a set of criteria to evaluate each presentation. They all engaged themselves in animated discussions as they brainstormed ideas for the commercial.’

I was very pleased over the next couple of weeks to see the level of participation from the rest of the students. As soon as class started, they became excited, clamoring to answer questions and to participate in the planned activities. Even though I had problems getting them to respond in an orderly manner, the interaction between students and teacher blossomed.

At times, it was really challenging to deal with the students’ enthusiasm and even though I reminded them to raise their hands when they want to respond, they were just too excited to remember. However, class was never disrupted or ended prematurely because of this. All classes were interactive as I tried my best to incorporate learner centered activities. Students participated in role plays, songs, interviews, games and a highly interactive research project where they had to create their own product line and present it to investors.

From observation, I deduced that most College students were confident and believed in their ability to perform well in school (high self efficacy). Few believe that they were not smart enough to gain straight A’s. They believed hard work pays off but they were not willing to do the extra work to perform well. Their self validation was very low and it was usually very difficult to motivate these students

Reflections from Teacher’s Log:

‘I immediately placed the class into groups and assigned a leader to each group. I noticed tension on the faces of some students but I ignored it, casting it off as first day nerves. I gave them a group activity but some students didn’t get along well with others in their groups and this caused some students to become disengaged. When it was time to present the activity, many students remained in their seats refusing to join their group members at the front of the class.
I was very disappointed with the groups’ indifferent attitudes toward presenting the activity. Moreover, I was peeved when a particular student shrugged her shoulders when I asked her why she didn’t participate in class. I was tempted to reprimand her but I held my tongue instead. I realized that I took their nonchalant behavior personal. During that class, I was thinking of the hours I spent preparing for the lesson and I was saddened to see that my efforts were not being appreciated. It seemed like I took more interest in their learning than they did.’

Lowman (1984) says no instructor can make students learn. Instructors cannot claim full credit when their students perform well, neither can they carry all the blame when their students fail. Fear of failure can also drive feelings of anxiety or attainment (Entwistle, 2009). It may also lead to the safer route of rote learning rather than attempting risky independent understanding.

Lowman (1984) explains by saying “instructors cannot be held responsible for the differences in ability students bring with them, but they are responsible for motivating all students, from the gifted to the barely adequate, to do their best work and to love the learning experience.”


The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning. This includes setting a positive climate for learning; clarifying the purposes of the learners; organizing and making available learning resources; balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning; and sharing feelings and thoughts with learners.

Various methods of assessments (formal and informal) can include cognitive coaching which is based on the idea of meta-cognition, self-appraisal and self-management. Performance Assessments should be used where applicable. This reduces the pressure normally associated with public performance or exams, as there is no pass or failing grade. Self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success.

It is also important to learn and be open to change. Knowledge is not static, it is constantly being created and hence there will be a need for a flexible curriculum. Content must be relevant to meet the needs of the learner. Content should seek to unveil rather than conceal truth. Although all educational institutions will be guided by their own philosophy, content should not be biased or seek to marginalize minority groups.

All in all, students should critically assess new information to gain new knowledge and insights, adopt a self critical attitude towards learning, learn how to learn from self and others, and participate in the decision making about learning through using learner centered strategies in school.

Research shows that learning strategies in the classroom results in higher student classroom achievement, higher active learning skills, higher intrinsic learning goals, higher motivation to learn, higher confidence in their ability to be successful learners and higher lifelong learning skills (McCombs and Miller, 2007, p.18). I must admit that when I entered the classroom I viewed myself as the authoritarian figure in the classroom. I must be in control; I have all the answers; Everyone must listen to me; I am the authority. I pity the fool who comes to the classroom with this mindset. After using these strategies, I realized that adult learning is about transformation of the  students – transforming their attitudes, mindset, skills and beliefs.


There’s an all too common pattern to the beginning of an overseas assignment: a period of high excitement and exhilaration, followed by an emotional crash, known colloquially as “culture shock.” Initial feelings of elation and excitement at being in a fascinating new place may be followed by confusion and depression as you encounter one baffling difficulty after another. Once you start to figure things out, however, your emotional curve starts back up. The classic model of culture shock, consists of four stages: honeymoon, crisis, recovery, and adjustment.

The “shock” in culture shock can be mild or severe; brief or long lasting. At its mildest, culture shock can be little more than a vague, free floating sense of anxiety, mild depression, or frustration. In some individuals, it becomes serious enough to interfere with normal work and life, and may require medical treatment. Table provides a list of symptoms of culture shock.

Table 1 
Some Commonly Reported Symptoms of Culture Shock

Mood swings Spending time with your own people Negative talk
Irritability Reading all day Anxiety
Fluctuating appetite Boredom Depression
Reduced sex drive Lack of energy Alienation
patterns Confusion Physical illness
Spending time alone Homesickness Stereotyping

Although almost everyone experiences some form of culture shock, it may not hit immediately. In fact, your first few days or weeks in a new environment are often wonderful. You start by finding everything in your newly adopted country charming, exotic, and exciting. At get together with other foreigners, you can’t say enough about how much you like it here.

Gradually, however, your point of view begins to shift ever so slightly. Whereas at first you played up the differences between here and home, and spoke positively about them, now you find yourself trying to minimize the differences, in an attempt to find some sort of common ground you can relate to. “They may look and act different,” you hear yourself saying, “but we’re all human beings under the surface, right?”

When the search for common ground doesn’t produce the results you’d hoped it would, you turn into a student of difference. You go back to focusing on distinctions now, seeing yourself as fundamentally unlike “these people.” The differences seem less quaint and exotic now. Some of them actually seem threatening.

Finally, if you’ve accumulated some frustrations and setbacks along the way, you’ll start to play up these differences, exaggerating them and considering them as insurmountable, negative obstacles to getting anything done around here. As one of my friends put it, “I keep trying to adjust, but they keep treating me like a tourist!”


You’re now in crisis mode, and there’s no end in sight. You’re not a tourist; you live here. You can’t just browse through the culture, as and when you feel like it: You’re dealing with all of it, all the time. You’re having cross-cultural encounters every day — at work, in the streets (where the sidewalk vendors and the kids still think you’re a tourist), in the shops and marketplaces, in schools and in offices. And although you’re surviving, and perhaps even thriving in some ways, you’re also making mistakes. The mistakes are raising your anxiety level, and the locals around you are picking up on some of your negative reactions. There’s a self-reinforcing cycle going on here, since you’re also reacting more intensely to what’s happening. A host of questions runs through your mind: “What’s wrong with these people?” “What’s wrong with what I’m doing?” And finally, “What’s wrong with me?”There’s really nothing wrong with you. Culture shock is a normal, near-universal, and actually healthy response to radical change. Culture shock is a learning experience, as you make the transition from one frame of reference to another. Your perceptions and assumptions are challenged, and you have the opportunity to learn and grow. The stress in culture shock, although uncomfortable, is basically a frustration reaction, and in manageable amounts, stress can actually improve learning and awareness. Managing the stress begins, therefore, with understanding why it happens.

Why Culture Shock Happens

In a sense, culture shock is hardly surprising. As an adult, you’ve spent decades learning to become a functioning member of your own society. Now, suddenly, you have only a few weeks or months to do this in a new and different culture. Two problems appear immediately:

  1. Your new environment makes demands for which you have no ready-made responses; and
  2. Your responses, in turn, do not seem to produce the desired results

This adds up to a situation which literally does not make sense. Social interaction within any culture is a kind of mutually organized performance requiring a high degree of skill. Social encounters across cultures often resemble plays in which at least one actor does not know his lines.

Unless the new situation is highly structured, you are thrown back upon your own resources in order to adapt and make sense of things — evaluating situations, making decisions and judgments, and getting things done in the right way. What makes this change particularly difficult is the fact that your normal coping and management mechanisms don’t work very well. At home, we know what is expected of us and what we can, within reason, expect of others. In a new environment, the rules are different. We’ve lost a familiar frame of reference, and we realize that we don’t yet know how to manage the new system. Sometimes, this can lead to a kind of paralysis. Vasily Matuzok, a Russian who defected to the U.S. in 1984, said: “I tried to comprehend somehow what is American. I was at a loss. I was afraid to go to a store and buy a pack of cigarettes. I didn’t know there were such a variety of goods. I couldn’t make my choices. I was afraid to go in the streets.”

At home, we take many of our cultural cues from groups; people to share our concerns with, to learn from, to get support and guidance from, and to give us a sense of worth. In a new environment, we may have no group to help show us the ropes. Much initial behavior in the new cultural environment may therefore be directed toward finding or establishing a reference group. But often, people in the new culture have little room in their groups for newcomers, especially if they are based as so often happens-on kinship or ethnicity. And so we find ourselves on our own, or stuck in the expatriate “golden ghetto.”


The differences themselves are sometimes unexpected ones. If the porter who takes your bags at the airport when you arrive is dressed in a breechcloth and wears a bone through his nose, you can be pretty sure you’re in for some new experiences. Your antennae go up, and you’re alert to your surroundings. If, on the other hand, the person who meets you looks and acts pretty much the way you do, you may be lulled into thinking that differences are slight or nonexistent. But as Brislin points out, it’s not necessarily the more obvious differences that cause the most trouble:

The adjustment process demands a reordering of daily behavior habits in subtle ways which might escape conscious awareness, such as different uses of the same work, different status symbols that must not be insulted, different traditional values that must be recognized or different views on the importance of personal relationships. These conflict with culturally related behavior habits that can be extremely difficult to change. 

As you’d expect, the points of greatest stress will probably involve your core values. If you’re a monochronic person in a polychronic environment, where everything seems to be happening at once, you’re going to be frustrated initially. If you favor straightforward communication, and you find yourself dealing with people who never say “no” directly, you’ll have even more problems.

Newcomers to the United States also experience culture shock, as their own core values come under assault from aspects of American society. Thai students in the United States, for example, report adjustment problems which center around several differences in core values: the U.S. concern for independence and control versus the Thai emphasis on interdependence and acceptance; American openness vs. Thai restraint; the U.S. emphasis on equality versus the Thai respect for hierarchy; and so on. 

Businessmen from overseas are often bewildered at the intricacy of male-female relationships in our society, and by our complex but unspoken rules governing time, status, and gift-giving. They may not understand the subtle cues which help Americans decide when to talk business and when to relax, when people are sincere and when they are just being polite.

This can be equally bewildering — and shocking — to an American overseas:

Imagine a professional meeting beginning like this: a woman enters an office and introduces herself, extending her hand to shake only to have him kiss it. Next, he helps her off with her coat and takes her by the arm to usher her over to a chair three feet away. He then comments what a pleasure it is to have such an attractive visitor. This is the Polish way; she could sue for it in the United States.  

As you begin to deal with a new cultural environment, you’ve got a limited number of initial response options available to you:

•You can leave, and go somewhere more to your liking.

•You can ignore the new situation, pretend it doesn’t exist, and try to erect walls or barriers to isolate yourself.

•You can try to change the environment itself and the people in it, so that the situation becomes one that you’re more comfortable with.

•You can change your expectations. If the new environment can’t or won’t give you what you want, you change what you want.

There’s a fifth option, which proves, in the end, to be the most effective for cross-cultural adjustment:

•You can become part of the situation. You can embrace the new environment, learn how it works, and start to operate within it.

Not everyone sees this as important: There are expatriates overseas who have managed to isolate and insulate themselves from the culture. They inhabit what one friend of mine calls a “duty-free environment” where virtually no sustained contact takes place with the world outside the walls.


A cross-cultural mindset is based on a simple realization: there are minds out there that think as well as yours, but differently. Someone with a cross-cultural mindset recognizes that all cultures have coherence and an implicit rationale, and that no one culture is inherently better or worse than any other. People who possess a cross-cultural mindset also recognize that they themselves, like those around them, are cultural products. People who have a cross-cultural mindset generally share a set of traits or attitudes, which include the following:

Flexibility/adaptability: a willingness to bend, to try new things, and to change routines and patterns as a result of learning.
Tolerance and patience: tolerance not just for difference, but for the ambiguity and mixed signals that are so much a part of the start of a cross cultural experience, coupled with the patience to let meanings emerge slowly, as experiences accumulate.
A sense of humor: the ability to laugh at oneself and — tactfully — at others is very important for keeping you from becoming too frustrated, angry, or serious.
Intellectual and social curiosity: a genuine desire to know more about people and their way of life, their ideas, and their hopes and fears.
Self-confidence and control: a centered and confident individual will be able to take risks and manage the stress, discomfort, and vulnerability that is an inevitable part of the early stage of cross-cultural learning.
The ability to communicate: this is not just-or even primarily — about words. It’s about the communication of respect, and the management of personal encounters in ways which are perceived by people as fair and proper.

This mindset is the key to successfully managing difference. People who can do this are capable of learning across a range of cultures, and of using what they learn to generate creative and positive results. Arie De Geus reminds us that in the future, virtually the only competitive advantage companies will have is the ability of their managers to learn faster than the competition. “The companies that succeed,” he says, “will be those that continually nudge their managers towards revising their views of the world.” 

Making a cross-cultural transition is an unparalleled opportunity to enhance and extend your existing skills, and to learn new ones. Being able to adapt successfully to living and working in another culture will enable you to learn about that culture and how to operate within it. This ability, in turn, will develop in you the elements of a cross-cultural mindset that we’ve noted above. Having this mindset as part of your personal inventory will then enable you to manage difference positively and productively forever afterward.

K. Oberg 1960, “Cultural Shock: Adjustment to New Cultural Environments,” Practical Anthropology 7: 177-82.
Nancy J. Adler, International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior ( Boston: Kent International Business Series, Kent Publishing, 1986).
Linda E. Anderson 1994. “A New Look at an Old Construct: CrossCultural Adaptation,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 18, 3: 293-328.
Quoted in David K. Shipler, “After They Defect,” New York Times Magazine ( December 7, 1986): 111.
Richard W. Brislin, Cross-Cultural Encounters (Elmsford, NY: Pergamon 1981): 153.

*this excerpt was taken from the IADB Cross Cultural Awareness Manual,  2010

Honduran adventure!

Teachenglishcaribbean is pleased to interview  Dawnelle Clarke who was a Missionary in Honduras.  We talk about her experiences, challenges and responsibilities in Honduras.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica and I grew up in Old Harbour. I attended Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville. I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Studies with an emphasis in Marketing in 2007.

Where were you living and how did you get there?

I lived in Comayagua, Honduras for almost one year. I applied to be a missionary teacher through the Adventist Volunteer Service website. I had no intention of choosing to go to Honduras but my original choices did not work out. After much disappointment I made up my mind to go to a Latin American country although my heart was set on Asia.

What did you do in Honduras?

As a missionary teacher in Honduras I had a lot of responsibility. I taught grades 5 through 10 and it was quite a challenge. I had to get to know 11 different sets of students. The class sizes ranged from 15-25. I taught Bible, Literature and Economics. I was also in charge of monthly chapel services for over 100 students. Missionaries were responsible for supporting the youth church which held services in Spanish.

Describe the roles  you played  in Honduras.

At school I was responsible for lesson planning, creating exams, supporting school functions and meeting with parents. Although my purpose was to teach in English I still had to learn Spanish to communicate effectively with parents and staff. At church I participated in Sabbath School, sang special music and attended church activities like visiting a children’s home. I also gave a financial lecture as part of a Women’s Ministries certification course.

Are the Honduran and Jamaican cultures similar?

The Honduran culture is very similar to the Jamaican culture. The people are very friendly and caring. They welcomed me with open arms and treated me like family. They are also very laid back like us. If a meeting is to be held at any given time you can be sure it will start late. Their food is different but you will find things like breadfruit, sweetsop, sorrel and guinep. They are not big on spicy food but they do enjoy jerk chicken—at least those who got to try it.

What challenges did you experience living in Honduras as a black woman?

Surprisingly, I did not experience any challenges as a black woman in Honduras. I was located in the central region of the country where few blacks live. Many Hondurans were fascinated by me especially by my natural hair. At school the students would go crazy when I would wear my hair in an afro. They could not stop touching it. They were intrigued by the many different styles I could do with my hair. Since Hondurans have native blacks I could pass for Honduran. A few times people assumed I was from the one of the islands of Honduras. It is there many of the Garifuna (the black population) reside.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In the next five years I hope to have completed a Master’s Degree. I enjoy traveling and learning about different cultures so I see myself living overseas but owning a home in Jamaica. I also see myself speaking three languages but at this point I am not sure what the third language will be. I put my future in God’s hands and with His leading I am sure I will achieve what I set out to.