Friday, August 30, 2013

The Annual Faculty Retreat at MGM Grand Hotel in Macau

A photo of all new and returning faculty at the ELC.
 Last week after helping all the new teachers arrive over the weekend, we had our first faculty meetings and annual retreat. Below is an article about Day 1 of the retreat that was held at the MGM Grade Hotel in Macau. We were lucky to have a delicious 3 course meal and plenty of coffee, tea, and snacks throughout the day. They even had the sweet, sugar and cinnamon dusted churros which I used to sell on the local beach amusement park when I was in high school.  After a little research, I interestingly discovered that churros have a Chinese history.

To sum up the faculty retreat see a reflective article that my co-worker and I wrote up for the campus wide e-news bulletin about some of the events from the day. The semester does not start until September 16th, but we have been very busy with professional development workshops, course meetings, research planning, and event planning. Teaching and preparing our lessons is definitely not the only thing on our schedules!

Dear Colleagues and students, 

The English Language Center (ELC) kicked off the 2013-2014 semester with its Annual Faculty Retreat at the MGM Grand hotel on August 20, 2013. As the new semester approaches the ELC faculty may all agree on one thing; the nerves never go away before a new semester begins and we often find ourselves feeling exactly like our students with butterflies in our stomachs or like a child on Christmas morning not knowing what to expect from Santa Clause. With 8 new Faculty members joining the ELC concurrent with the expansion of the University, the retreat was a great way to get new and old teachers bonding as a team and familiarizing everyone with new ELC and University wide policies and expectations. New teachers Marie Webb and Azita Kuok reflect on the day spent getting to know one another under the sea at the MGM. 

A Handshake Game was used to reduce the tension and to get the group into a collaborative mood. Teams had to generate creative handshakes which incorporated both movement and sound, at each round increasing the number of movements as teams got bigger throughout the activity.

One of the more serious activities during the retreat was a group discussion on the ELC policy. Each group was formed with new and old staff members to discuss 3 questions related to the ELC policy. The questions covered all aspects, such as professional development opportunities, rights and duties, personnel rights and obligations, and support and funding for doing research. 

“We’ll take Important Dates and Numbers for 400 please,” a team shouted out during the American quiz show game Jeopardy. The Jeopardy game was used to revisit the policy discussion later in the day and served as a good review activity. “September 16?”, Subject Convenor at the ELC Barbara Weissmann asked, and team number 1 eagerly replied, ”When is the first day of class?” A team Jeopardy game served as an activity for teachers to review questions about policy and important days of the academic year. Of course the most important day, the first day of classes was highly deserving of 400 points. Personally, as new fellows in the program we both felt that the Jeopardy game was a great way to get all of the faculty thinking about exciting activities to integrate into their class lessons. But, we won’t deny the fact that the chocolate bar rewards also helped with our extrinsic motivation.

In addition to exciting activities such as the Jeopardy game, all level head teachers and new teachers participated in a poster session in which we shared teaching ideas for our classrooms with one another. This activity reminds us that as educators collaboration is what helps us to stay open minded and up to date in our classrooms. Sharing our insights into successful lessons or activities is not simply just a retreat team building activity, but a lifelong process in which teachers are involved in a community of sharing knowledge. 

On the note of community building, teachers were expected to build a unique structure out of materials such as spaghetti and marshmallows in another activity. ELC courses are creative and innovative and this tower building activity demonstrated the characteristics of ELC staff members. Each group had to build a tower with 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of string, a yard of tape and one marshmallow. The group which could build the tallest tower in 15 minutes would be the winner. We were so engaged in this activity that no one wanted to stop when time was up. We learned the personalities and talents of each group member and it was challenging to collaborate in such a short period of time. As a result many of the marshmallow towers collapsed to their death after the timer rang. It was inspiring for us to reflect about ways to work with each other and having opportunities to show our strengths. The best part of this game was that Barbara, Joan, Kevin and Azita won this challenge! 

Overall we are excited about working in the ELC and truly feel that the Faculty Retreat day one set the tone for a wonderful and bright semester filled with new relationships and friendships. We are looking forward to getting to know the ELC teachers and staff more and would like to see if round two of the spaghetti marshmallow building competition improves in quality after we have known each other for more time. Let’s all take time to reflect on the things we learned and thank one another for a successful day.

Also, check out the ELC's webpage ( for more information and photos. Thank you very much for your participation in ELC activities and for your support of our University's English Language Centre. 

English Language Centre (ELC)
University of Macau (UM)

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The move in process in Macau for off-campus faculty housing in 2013

Some purchased items to fill up my white, empty apartment in Macau.

        As I am working for the University of Macau, I was placed into housing as a language fellow (visiting instructor position). The cost of rent is extremely cheap for us because we are not hired directly by the University and are working for the English Language Center itself. For the 4 fellows our rent is only $104 per month to stay in off-campus housing through the university. During my 5th week here, 8 new senior instructors arrived to teach in the ELC and all were placed in temporary housing as well. Because of the move to the New University Campus in January, we are in a state of housing limbo.
        After providing much help to my new co-workers on the move in  process such as setting up gas, applying for internet, obtaining water, fixing wrong keys, broken air conditioners, securing couch covers  for peeling couches, etc., the management of the ELC sent out an e-mail requesting that all teachers reply to the housing office with requests for improvement and suggestions on the moving process. Each new teacher replied to my first e-mail that was sent and added more information. Some of the information added included the teachers that were placed in the Best Western Hotel in Taipa with no Wi-fi access or kitchens. For a week or two this is ok, but the University is not paying for their Wi-fi access which comes at an unreasonable cost as well as the fact that those teachers must eat out every meal at additional costs for a period of 1-4 months since the move to new apartments on campus is uncertain.

          Here are some of the items of complaint:

Hi Carol!

Here are a few:

1. White mold present in each rooms furniture. Mainly the desk, inside the desk drawers, under, all sides of the drawers insides, behind desk. Suggestion: Proper cleaning of all furniture prior to arrival.

2. Paint peeling from couches, you cannot even sit on the couches without being covered in black specks of paint. This is especially dangerous for the families with children whom often ingest the paint. Suggestion: new furniture or proper couch covers.

3. No gas upon arrival to cook or take hot showers. Suggestion: the school buys the first tank and removes the charge from our paycheck.

4. Basics upon arrival such as a roll of toilet paper, at least one cup, dish, bowl,one cooking pan, fork, spoon, and knife. Suggestion: In the past when I have moved abroad for teaching jobs there was a basic care package either sent the same day as arrival by delivery or provided in the apartment. All materials in this package were cheap and meant for basic needs upon arrival. We could leave only the initial items provided in the care box upon leaving so they could be used again, or dispose of them.

5. Proper pillows because mine was literally falling apart. The entire pillow was shredded into small pieces and then stuffed into a pillow case. Suggestion: new pillow upon arrival.

6. Check to make sure all keys work. My roommates key was the entirely wrong key and she was locked out. Suggestion: The school checks each key to make sure it functions correctly.

7. A second set of keys for guests. Many times we arrive with someone to help us with our adjustment and it is hard to get in and out of the apartment with only one set of keys. Suggestion: Each teacher be provided with 2 sets of keys.

8. Proper cleaning of apartment. I think all of us can agree that in the Western World we have different ideas about what is  "move in clean." For example, I spent 2 days scrubbing and bleaching the black mold and grime between the bathroom and kitchen tiles. This is something that no one wants to do when they arrive to a new country. A brief cleaning is not acceptable. Suggestion: A thorough clean of the floors, walls, and furniture.



     Although it seems as there are alot of complaints about the housing, this is due to the fact that the University is in a state of flux right now during the moving process. However, one teacher did reply to the e-mail noting that the University considers itself as one of the leading schools in Macau and in China and if they claim to do so they would probably have considered the moving process for it's international teachers with more care. There were obvious signs to all of the new teachers that the University took no care regarding their move to Macau. Especially when basic items such as air conditioners were not functioning or keys did not match the doors.
     With all of the complaints noted, The off-campus apartments are of wonderful size and in a great location of Macau. It is extremely hard to find this much space anywhere in Macau and for such a great price from the University subsidizing most of the cost. However, most teachers do not want to share rooms and need more than just a peeling old couch when arriving with a family that has children. I am sure this is the last time that most teachers for the University will experience this kind of setting as the new campus will have plenty of housing for faculty. However, for faculty that does not receive on-campus housing from the beginning of their move, the University definitely needs to raise their quality of service for new arrivals. Much of the faculty from the ELC has taught in the Middle East which dominates in the relocation department. Some faculty report being handed thousands of dollars to buy new furniture and being provided with a private car upon arrival until they were more fully settled. Moving to a new country is a huge adjustment and providing professionals with a professional moving experience should not be understated. As of now, there are 3 of us living in this apartment. I am under the understanding that I would not be receiving on-campus housing and that I will be staying here for the year. My roommates are under the impression that this is temporary housing and that they will be moving in to the new apartments on campus once the construction is finished. Check back for a later post on a live video tour of my apartment in Macau.

If you have any questions or comments about "The move in process in Macau for off-campus faculty housing 2013please leave them in the comment box below
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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Can I raise my hand?:Teaching at The Summer Bridge Program at University of Macau

Students enjoying the end of the summer bridge program during our class party.
     Three weeks have flown by since I started teaching at the Summer Bridge program and my students will be happy to part with me for their summer vacation before Fall classes tomorrow, while I will be wishing we had more time to really get down to work! I have been in Macau for almost 1 month now and this 3 week summer program at the University has been a great introduction to the English Language Center that I am working at this year. The students in the Summer Bridge Program are all recent High School graduates and it is their first time taking any University affiliated course. Most of them were accepted into the program with the understanding that they pass this summer course in order to enroll into classes in the Fall. With a lower English level, these students need a brush up on their basic English skills as they have been taught English in Chinese for the past 6 years. And even more exciting, they need a crash course in Western teaching philosophy that requires class discussion and group work where their ideas are appreciated and heard.
         "I can raise my hand?" a student asked me during the first week of class. I was shocked as I watched my students struggle with the adjustment of being told what to do instead of deciding what to do. I realized quickly that my students have never had to think for themselves and were used to an environment where they simply filled in the blanks and did extremely rote activities to reinforce concepts, rather than using the language in a more natural way. This is when a team game was introduced to the class in which the students had to match sentence strips under the category of Western Teaching Philosophy or Eastern Teaching Philosophy. Then after a discussion, the students were able to write on the topic and state the pros and cons of each philosophy and/or which one they preferred. 
            To my surprise, all of the students chose Western teaching philosophy even though I explained to them that I would mix both styles of teaching in my classroom. They stated that they liked not focusing on a book and actually being creative because they felt they could contribute more to their society. Their words were very powerful to those that understand the lack of creativity that they were previously allowed in their learning experiences. 
            There is alot to say about this 3 week program, but overall my opinion is that it is too short to accomplish any deep learning. I tried my best to thoroughly cover all of the most important information while teaching them basic skills to survive in a University setting. A majority of my class didn't even know how to organize a notebook and I quickly realized that I needed to make that a part of the class grade to get them to pay full attention to staying organized. They actually showed up to class with mini mouse notepads and some of them without lined paper or pens and pencils. This seems almost non-nonsensical to most American teachers as these skills are reinforced at a young age, but my Chinese co-worker reminded me that the students are known for being "spoon-fed" and catered to their entire lives even during their schooling. This is a much bigger problem than I thought it would be. I have taught in Asia before in Korea and Japan, but never have I experienced the "spoon-feeding" non creative mindset with such full force. Here in China, even in a more free environment in the Special Administrative Region of Macau, students are not taught to think for themselves at a young age. This is something that I truly think hinders them as they begin their college careers, where most of them will be thrown into all English classes with Western teachers who will be shocked at their lack of discussion skills. 
              As the 3 week period wraps up tomorrow, my class will enjoy a relaxing day of playing English games and watching Ice Age 3 over lunch together. This is something that I look forward to at the end of my classes where the students can get to know me on a more personal level and reflect on the time that we had together.

A view of Macau from the University of Macau on Taipa Island.

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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