Research interests:
educational responses to linguistic diversity; linguistic identity; bilingualism; second language teaching

The long road to publication

Posted: April 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: academia, multilingualism, writing | No Comments »

Today I had the pleasure of opening an email that read “We are delighted to say that we would like to accept your revised paper”. Music to my ears. As many academics experienced and emerging can attest, rejection in publishing is something to get used to and perseverance is the key. I would also add humility. This article, on the linguistic landscape of a bilingual school,  looks at data that I gathered during my Ph.D. research and decided not to include in my dissertation. It was great data, but I had too much for one dissertation and I am glad I didn’t try to make it all fit. Right after I finished my dissertation I worked in earnest to get it written up. I read Wendy Belcher’s “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks” and followed it pretty closely. I tried to make my writing a social endeavor, but few people around me are doing similar work. My first reader was a friend who is a strong writer. Springboarding from her comments, I revised and sent my article to the external examiner for my dissertation. His strong theoretical background helped me strengthen my argument and pointed me to additional literature in environmental print in elementary schools. These steps delayed my initial submission, but saved me from outright rejection. The first review took just over a month, but the revisions were plentiful, so they took me three months. Most of the time was spent putting myself in the shoes of the reviewer who objected to my methodology. Once I could see exactly where my lack of clarity had led him/her astray, I knew how to respond to his/her comments. The second review did not take long and this time the review was split. I still hadn’t satisfied the one reviewer, but the new one liked the article. At this point I was very discouraged. Do I continue with this journal and face this reviewer or take my article to another journal with the hopes of encountering someone more open to what I had done? After all, my article is improved. I consulted with two academics I admire and the advice that was most helpful was “look, they could have rejected it outright, so they must see merit in the article”. So, I took some time to get back into the mindset of the first reviewer and then, in my first break in teaching, I did a concentrated period of writing daily until I was able to submit a second revised article complete with snappier title! (The second reviewer wanted a snappier title, so I held a contest in one of my classes for students to come up with a snappy title based on the abstract. The winners got books to help them as future teachers and I had a blast reading the submissions). So, today, just a month and a half later, I got an acceptance. Now I enter a new world. While I have had peer reviewed articles accepted before, this is my first international journal so I suspect I have a lot more learning ahead of me.

Too busy to blog

Posted: December 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: general | No Comments »

I enjoy reading blogs. I follow certain blogs of personal or professional interest and read them regularly. Yet, when it comes to blogging on this website, I face a few challenges.

1. Time: Sure, we all feel we are busy, but during the semester when I am teaching a lot there comes a time of panic when my writing schedule gets taken over by marking that must get done and meetings that must be attended. At that point it is hard to remember to blog and even harder to set aside the time.

2. Priorities: Linked with the above concern about time is the thought that if I do have time, I should be devoting it to my other writing projects. Realistically, blogs don’t take as long to write as they don’t require as much formal editing, yet there is the added challenge of remembering my login and navigating this supposedly user-friendly website platform.

3. Ideas: Keeping a personal website is a little like talking to oneself if you haven’t met your audience or don’t actually know if anyone reads it. Those who know me, know I never run out of things to talk about, but a website/blog, despite its informality, has a purpose and the blogs should contribute to that purpose. I am beginning to expand what I consider to be blog-worthy.

Looking back over the history of this website, I can see that my impression that I have fallen off in my posting is just that: an impression. I have posted 4-6 times each year for the past three years and this post makes # 6 for 2013. I think what I am sensing is the evolution of this website from a static online CV (really Web 1.0 thinking) to a more dynamic chronicle of my journey into and through academia. So, while I was content with the origins of this website as it was, I now tweet when I blog to encourage readership. The next step will be authentic participation. So if you read this blog or check this website, please leave me a comment and join in the conversation.

New research opportunity

Posted: October 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia, research | No Comments »

This summer I had a fortuitous reunion with a former colleague. In my first year of teaching, the educational consultant seconded to Alberta Education from the German government was Rainer Wicke. In the two decades since he encouraged me to write an article about a student letter writing project, both of us have received our Ph.Ds. Now he and a research collaborator are embarking upon a research project in which they would like to include research about the German Bilingual Program in Canada. We met again at the International German Teacher Conference and shared our mutual research interests, only to discover that we might be able to work together on our overlapping interests in the German Bilingual Program. So, he introduced me to his research collaborator, Dr. Kim Haataja, from Tampere, Finnland, who was able to tell me more about their project: Content & Language Integrated Instruction in German. I look forward to working with them and take inspiration in their interest in my work.

Working in three languages

Posted: June 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: multilingualism | No Comments »

I was musing the other day on the difficulties of working in three languages. That morning I was answering emails in English to my graduate students, in German to the organizers of a session at the conference in South Tirol this summer and in French to the professor organizing the teacher preparation courses for the French cohort. Someone entered my office and I had to ask them to wait while I concentrated on the right wording of the email in French. Those of you who live and work in three languages know the challenges. Researchers recognize that multilingual people use their languages for different purposes and therefore have areas (domains to quote Fishman) in which they work in one language and not another. However, some of us, for a variety of natural or artificial reasons, do the same work in more than one language. I facilitate teacher workshops on drama pedagogy in either English or German. I teach language classes in German or French and undergraduate teacher preparation classes in English or French. So, in one domain, I need to have the same vocabulary in all three languages (or at least in two of three). This can be really challenging as one is always stronger in one than the other and sometimes you don’t realize your shortfalls until you are in the middle of a sentence! Take, for example, an undergraduate class in French that I taught in January. I took great pains to prepare the classes, but during a spontaneous reference to something the students may have been exposed to in the lecture from another class, I started saying “Dans votre. . . ” then I got stuck. I wanted to say “lecture” (in French), but that word in French means “reading”, like reading a book. Immediately I thought of the German word “Vorlesung”, but that actually does mean “reading” because, I surmise, it came from the days when professors sat at the front of the lecture hall and read to their students from a paper or prepared notes. So the German word was no help. I asked the students. They (also mostly advanced  second language learners of French) said they didn’t really ever use that word and so nothing came to mind. So I did a circumlocution and said “classe de x” and moved on. Working in three languages keeps me humble and always adding to my knowledge, but there are times I wish people could see a sign on my head that read “she really is trying”. (Oh, by the way, the word I was looking for is apparently “cours magistral” – very impressive sounding word – I have connotations of the king presiding).

Teacher conferences

Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: service | No Comments »

Updating my CV to include my latest teacher workshop at a teacher conference (the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers) reminded me that in 2012 I hadn’t done many teacher workshops. Looking back, I can see the lack of workshops is correlated with the need to finish my dissertation and my eagerness to spread the knowledge generated from my Ph.D. research at academic conferences. However, now that I am settling back into a more normal rhythm, I look forward to teacher conferences. There I meet practitioners who are active in the field of second language teaching, my fellow Multiplikotaren (facilitators) from the Goethe network and other researchers. I attended sessions of serious interest (Katy Arnett on differentiation) and ones of pure curiosity (Ron Cook on Cree). I believe some academics underestimate the value of teacher conferences, but I for one, have found several I highly recommend: Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, Canadian Association of Teachers of German, American Association of Teachers of Foreign Languages to name three.

Lifelong learning

Posted: February 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

Some people consider the phrase trite and overused, but I enjoy the concept of lifelong learning. When I struggle with writing and enlist the mentorship of a more successful writer, I continue to improve upon my own understanding of what is involved in effective writing. When I check my twitter account and read up on the current issues in Alberta Education or recent blogs about the problems with Ph.D.s seeking alt-ac (alternative to academia) careers, I realize how much can be gained by keeping up on ‘current events’ in my field. I consider the presentations I attend on campus and at conferences to be my continuing education program. I challenge myself to explore the learning management software (LMS) our university uses for online courses, recognizing that if I can imagine an application, there is a good chance someone else had previously and it might be embedded into the software. For example, I wanted to show my online course participants how to do  a research database search and was able to do so using the application sharing function in the LMS. This is so much a part of my life that I assume it is a part of everyone else’s; however, I occasionally encounter resistance to learning that surprises me. “Oh, I could never learn another language” “I passed Math in high school, I don’t need to look at it again”. What I learn from hearing those remarks is how different attitudes toward learning are, especially among those who don’t carry successful learning experiences with them. It also reminds me of my former negative attitude toward art and physical education (and hence certain sports). I appears that we gravitate toward lifelong learning in areas we love, but still might have mental blocks about those we love less.

Attending the International German Teacher Conference

Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

Four years ago I discovered the International German Teacher Conference (Internationale Deutchlehrertagung Fellow teachers had attended and presented in IDT Jena 2009 and came back raving about the experience. I kept it on my radar as it is only held once every and when the Call for Papers opened up, I applied. Meanwhile, I also applied for funding from the Goethe Institute in Toronto to attend. As someone who teaches German and regularly provides workshops to teachers as a part of the German teacher-facilitator network (Multiplikatorennetzwerk), I was eligible to apply. I was ecstatic this week to discover I received the funding, so even if my presentation is not accepted, I can attend! This year the conference will be held in the south Tirol area of Italy which has German as a minority language. The conference itself will be held in the small center of Bolzana (Bozen in German). I am very excited to start planning the trip. It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet German teachers from around the world and share the latest in second language teaching.

Balancing teaching and writing

Posted: November 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

One of the main challenges of academia is balancing the demands of teaching and research/writing. This year I have undertaken a great deal of teaching to enhance my CV. Despite my previous experience as a school teaching, it is necessary to build up experience teaching at the university level. For that reason I am teaching two undergraduate courses for the German department, a course in the undergraduate teacher preparation program and a graduate level online course. In addition, I will be supervising the French cohort of student teachers who begin their practicum in just over a week.

In addition, I am working on articles that are coming out of my dissertation research. This requires a perseverance and discipline that is hard to muster after having just written my dissertation. Sure, the writing is still fresh in my mind and I am enthusiastic about the topic, but the long-awaited break between writing my dissertation and starting up the new academic year didn’t materialize, so forging ahead with writing is indeed challenging. I have been aided by the encouragement of key mentors and a book outlining a systematic writing plan. It remains to be seen if this is successful,  but I am nearing the completion of my first article since the dissertation and look forward to submitting it after in the near future.

Successful defense!

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Ph.D. journey | No Comments »

I was ecstatic to have defended my dissertation “Simultaneous and Sequential Bilinguals in a German Bilingual Program”. The committee’s questions were challenging to be sure, but that was to be expected, especially in light of the many disciplines that were represented around the table. There were certainly times during this whole process when I felt that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. Having chosen such an in-depth project required equally detailed writing. The end product, including those edits that I had to make afterward, is the result is as much about learning to writing as it is about the content. I wish I knew then what I know now and I certainly aspire to apply what I have learned to future writing.

I was especially delighted to have four guests at my open defense, who shared in the excitement and also gave me some excellent feedback.

Looking back, I wish I had gone to some doctoral defenses before my own. I felt confident about the process, having witnessed a few Master’s defenses. In hindsight, I realize that doctoral defenses are that much more difficult and it would have helped to attend one.

Looking forward, I have plans for articles stemming from this dissertation and a few courses lined up to teach in the fall semester. The job search continues as well.



Writing my dissertation

Posted: July 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Ph.D. journey | No Comments »

I thought I had posted more recently, but the work of writing my dissertation consumed most of the last few months. There is the feeling that it will never be done, never be perfect, and some days, even the feeling that it is all wrong! Then there comes a point when it comes together and one can be satisfied, maybe even content. The near final edits occur (of course, there is more editing after the defense) and the document is printed and distributed. I submitted my dissertation to my committee on June 25 and now I am preparing for the defense.