Posts

Confessions of self-employed English teachers

Image
My fellow Fulbrighter and a wonderful English teacher Maria Merziapova, when she moved to Moscow was so appalled by the mess that is going on in language schools that she is thinking of going freelance. I’ve been self-employed for several years now, so Maria kept interrogating me about this career path. I decided to take it two steps further: to address her questions and fears in a public post and to invite my amazing colleague Sandra Slivinskaya to join me. Sandra and I wrote our answers completely independently to provide two perspectives.

Part 1. My questions.1. How did you make the decision to leave a steady job and work on your own? Irina
I didn't really make this decision. It was a series of small decisions. It always made more sense financially to have my own students rather than work for someone else. At one point I had a full schedule as a self-employed teacher and didn’t need a school.

Sandra
Well, first of all, after my graduation as a linguist-interpreter, I have nev…

How to ace your Fulbright interview

Image
Aspiring Fulbrighters have recently received good tidings that they have made it to the second round, the most important and stressful part of which is the interview. So I've decided to put together a list of the most helpful interview tips and asked my fellow Fulbrighter Maria Merziapova to join me. We wrote our top tips completely independently so that you could have two different perspectives.

Top tips by Irina Lutsenko(Fulbright FLTA, 2015-2016, University of New Haven, Connecticut) #1 Be ready to talk about your application, job/studies, program participation, and plans for the future.
To be able to do that:
- Read your application again. Chances are you wrote it 3-5 months ago. Trying to remember what you wrote during the interview is a bad idea.
- Talk to Fulbright alumni or watch/read about their experience. You will get a better understanding of what the interviewers might be looking for.
- Google typical university or even job application questions. These bog standard, …

Don't judge Abook

Image
I am itching to share a story written by Lyudmila Snezhanova in my Creative Writing Club, which is a project for people who share my passion for writing. Lyudmila wrote an incredible piece based on a highly challenging prompt:

✦ Choose one of the following idioms and include it in a story that also includes a literal use of one of the figurative words in the idiom. For example, if I were to choose the phrase “at the drop of a hat,” I would also include a hat or someone dropping something.
- at the drop of a hat
- hit the sack
- judge a book by its cover
- beat around the bush
- steal [someone’s] thunder
- the last straw. ✦
Below is her wonderfully-crafted story with all of these idioms in their literal and figurative meaning! Enjoy! 
✽✽✽ Don't judge Abook“Yes,” said Perry Stalker, gripping his new suspenders, slipping from his stomach, and regretting he had feasted on smoked bream and a six pack of beer last weekend. "With our stainless reputation of the best private bo…

Text. Lexically.

Image
This is a guest post by Alisa Chernikova, my student and an English teacher. The post is about working with text and is the third in a series Reflections on "Lexical Grammar" (a book by Leo Selivan). Follow the links to read the previous two: 1. Chunks and collocations; 2. Grammar acquisition.

The post contains lots of practical activities we did in class. Alisa dug out some activities I had created long ago and had totally forgotten about. But it turns out I've been following the lexical grammar approach for years without even realizing it. You can give these activities a shot too, btw. The key is at the end of the post.   


So we’ve been talking about the lexical approach and lexical grammar in particular. By now we know that chunks and collocations are important both in terms of boosting grammar and vocabulary acquisition. Today let’s have a look at how we can work with text.

According to the author, texts are most usually used for the purposes of reading comprehensio…

Computer-delivered IELTS: totally worth it

Image
This post is an interview with Liubov Vlasova, who is my first student to have taken the computer-delivered IELTS. In this interview, she shares her impressions and the reasons behind her choice.
1 Tell my readers a bit about yourself. My name is Liubov Vlasova. I am an ecologist from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Today I want to share my experience of taking computer-delivered IELTS, which happened on 7th of May.

A couple of months ago I took a very important decision to try to emigrate abroad. I think my professional area is very important today because our environment was totally destroyed the last years, and I hope one day I will do really useful and important job for improving the current situation. According to the media, in foreign countries environmental and particularly ecological engineering are very important and popular branches, which is why I decided to move abroad for achieving my professional and personal goals.
2 Why did you decide to take IELTS? Initially, I found out t…

Soft skills as a survival tool in the 21st century

Image
This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Vera Novikova. The post is inspired by Philip Warwick’s talk at the NATE conference in St Pete.
In this post I would like to share some concerns regarding future employability of millennia generation and a shifting role of an English teacher in particular.

Being a devoted sci-fi fan I have to admit that up until recently ideas of a fully automated world seemed rather futuristic and somewhat improbable. Up until recently… when I realized that certain sci-fi future elements have already been here for some time.

Most people have already turned into some sort of cyborgs, using their smartphones as an extra part of their body. We have been glued to the screen, scrolling down in social networks, streaming videos, exchanging photos and news, jotting down memos, video phoning, e-buying, reading e-books, blogging, plunging into virtual reality and what not. We have turned into digital residents leaving visible digital footprints whenever we po…

Five underestimated words on IELTS assessment criteria (and then some)

Image
IELTS assessment criteria, which are available on the official website, are drowning in myths and stereotypes. When interpreted unprofessionally, they get totally distorted. Some aspects get blown out of proportion and enter the popular consciousness, while others get totally neglected. In this post, I want to look at the ones that are usually overlooked, focusing on bands 7-9.

First things first, here are the links to the public version of the assessment criteria:
- Speaking;  - Writing Task 1; - Writing Task 2.  1. Skillfully
2. Naturally  Speaking. Lexical resource 8-9:  - uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skillfully, with occasional inaccuracies (8);
- uses idiomatic language naturally and accurately (9).

For some reason people focus on “idiomatic” and totally ignore “skillfully/naturally.” This results in students memorizing insane lists of idioms and bending over backwards to use them. For one thing, vocabulary memorized without any context or real usage tends to go out t…