Monday, 31 December 2012

Hand in hand

I'm not an astrology believer, but the other day I found myself sitting in the car listening to an astrologer making predictions for 2013. He was trying to explain that he's only the bearer of news and it's not really his fault the theme of 2012 was, has been, recession. And then he stressed the key term of 2013: collaboration.

He said something along the lines of Marin Luther King Jr.:
 We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

Or John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself.

Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime; and every kindness we birth our future.

So here, to close 2012, is one of the best Prezis of past year to start the new one. A Curriculum for Future Minds (a.k.a what the next generations seriously need to know) by Sunni Brown as seen by Amber Lewis

Happy New Year to All!!
Lots of love, health and happiness!!

Sunday, 30 December 2012


When a baby comes to this world, they need someone to contain their feelings and name their needs so that they could, in time, do it for themselves. I don't really know at which point we're supposed to be fully equipped to name and identify everything we feel and need, but it happens for some sooner and for some later. And the truth is that for mountain chains of natural and human phenomena most adults have no idea what they really are and how to define them. Maybe the problem isn't solely in misunderstanding, but in the mode of expression as well: Some things cannot be said. Suzanne LaBarre, a senior editor at Co.Design, at the beginning of her article on philographics says:

It takes the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 28,250 words to explain the woolly concept of relativism. It takes Genis Carreras 32 words and a single image.

So hereby I present to you Philographics and Philographics 2 by Genis Carreras. Maybe they'll make this world a little bit clearer before we embark on the journey called 2013. Clicking on the images below will take you to larger images on Carreras' website.

Love to all near and far,

Friday, 28 December 2012

Smart mice

Sometimes things look impossible. Like there's no way out, no possibility of change, no sliver lining. And the worst possible thing you could hear is "It'll get better", because deep down you somehow know it won't.

Getting stuck in a downward spiral is easy and the only way out is using your will power to try and see something good and attainable and go for it.

If what you're doing isn't working, try something else.

And if what you're telling yourself you'd never tolerate from a friend, stop saying it. Be a smart mouse and give yourself a treat.


Love to all (far and near),

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Pay it forward

I want to keep things light this Christmas - sometimes a little bit of kitsch is good for the soul, and there's plenty of it during the holidays season.

What I especially like about this time of the year is people coming together and being kind to each other (provided they actually get the point of it all).

So this Christmas do something nice for someone. And don't expect things in return. Tell them to pay it forward.

May these days pass in peace.
Love to all, no matter how far your are...
Be safe, healthy and happy!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

How does putting a ding in the universe sound?

Money makes the world go round is a famous cliché, but is it true? Are sticks and carrots really the key to motivation?

There are people around this world coming home from their paid jobs who continue working in their free time. This work can constitute volunteering of any kind, programming of any kind, design, music, writing, teaching, coaching, searching for ideas and solutions. I'm obviously one of them. Last night, after an exhausting day I sat down and started blogging. Two of my friends asked me WHY?! with a mixture of why don't you just go to sleep? and laughter (they know me too well). I didn't tell them but I asked myself the same thing. And this morning, an answer came:


Remember - autonomy, mastery, purpose.

Have a happy International Volunteering Day 2012!

Click on the picture for a bit of inspiration! 

Now go and put a ding in the universe! ;)

All my love,

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Episode Three: Dissemination strikes back

My two latest Prezis - created for my primary school colleagues. They're both in Croatian. The second one is nothing new, just a little bit different. But I've never made a Prezi on Comenius before.

If you're one of the people I spoke to today - thank you for taking the time to find my work. I hope you'll find it useful.

If you're one of the people helping me through all of my ventures - You are precious and I love you to bits.


Stage fright and other ghouls

Have you ever found yourself asking: "How and why did I get myself into it in the first place?" about an hour before having to step out in front of a group of people? Public speaking is a tricky thing and the trick about it is to make it look easy, appealing even - which makes the pressure even higher, if you're one to feel it. But the hardest bit is stage fright. Or to put it in the words of FDR (inaugural speech, March 1933):

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

and Sir Francis Bacon (De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Fortitudo (1623).):

Nothing is terrible except fear itself.

I don't think fear is necessarily something bad - if observed and learnt from it can be precious (not to mention it saved a lot of our ancestors from hungry bears and angry crowds). Sometimes there are things to be afraid of.

The point is for it not to stop us in growing and changing things for the better.

There is a potential to go on a downward spiral before having to give a presentation, but once you did get yourself into public speaking, there's no point in analyzing how, but (as always) focus on what you can control:
  1. Make sure you're comfortable and comfortably acquainted with the subject matter of your talk.
  2. Preparation, preparation, preparation - but be kind to your voice and tailor the preparation to yourself: some people need to go through all the details, some do the work in a very short time and without saying a word.
  3. Find three points in the audience to look at - you won't be able to look at everyone if there are a lot of people there. Kind faces help the situation. 
  4. Have some water available.
  5. Take your time before the event. Do whatever you feel is good for you. 
  6. Try to be aware of your body language.
  7. Breathe.
  8. Speak.
Everything in life is taking a chance: sometimes smaller, sometimes greater. No gain is certain only if no chance is taken. 

All my love, 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Role models

Today some people might find it difficult to think of any role models (no wonder...) so here's a list that might come in handy. :)

Celebrity Education
Image provided by

Love to all,

Thursday, 15 November 2012

All that glitters... not gold. And some people learn it the hard way. As I've witnessed some seriously scary Internet-naivety today, I've decided to share some wisdom. Look at this video and keep in mind the fact that these kids' beliefs are shared by adults as well.

The wisdom I've decided to share was bestowed upon me during the Learning Technologies course provided by the British Council. It's one of those courses that actually teach unbelievably valuable things, help you meet very interesting people and really open doors. Now that I've pitched for them enough, here's a part of a presentation I did about Internet safety. It's not only for teachers, but all Internet surfers can learn from it.

And if you've ever wondered where the expression from the title comes from, here's a very interesting quote to close the post:

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll'd
Fare you well, your suit is cold.
(The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7)

Be young in your limbs and in judgement old.
Love to all,

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


It's November and the time of colds and flu has begun a long time ago. With it, many of us have lost our voice - and it is one of the most important teaching tools (unless you're a proponent of the Silent Way ;)).
So here I'm re-posting a slightly revised Blogathon post on voice care. I know it'll come in useful.

Here are some tips in voice care a doctor and a speech therapist from my county gave us teachers in a lecture (combined with some useful links I’ve found):


  • Rest your voice ( if you’ve been using it for 4 hours, you need to rest it for one hour)
  • Drink water or juice in regular intervals during the day
  • Learn how to do breathing exercises
  • Stretch your neck and shoulders
  • Warm your voice up before work - here are some Wise Warm-Ups you could use.
  • Sleep 
  • Get your student’s attention with a gesture like raising your hands or by using spatial anchors. 
  • See your GP if you inexplicably lose your voice.
  • Read some general info on voice care here
  • Read some basics on how voice is produced.
  • Here are Top Tips for Voice Care.


  • Yell, whisper or imitate other peoples’ voices or sounds - or get training on how to do it safely.
  • Clear your throat by coughing.
  • Ingest anything too hot. 
  • Sing with a hoarse voice.
  • Eat 2-3 hours before sleeping: it causes acid reflux which can damage the vocal chords.
  • Try to outvoice a crowd.
  • Forget to sleep.

Do you maybe have any student activities to help teachers be quiet in case of sudden in-class loss of voice? Having a student assistant can be a lifesaver.

Hope I’ve helped.

Love to all,



Go easy on dairy products.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Dark Side of the Web and Life as a teenager

A couple of days ago I've heard a story of a girl who was so bright and talented it got on some of her classmates' nerves so much, she had to be moved to another class because they couldn't stop hitting and insulting her. When she finally entered a high school famous for being open only to super bright kids she found friends. I thought - I'm so glad I'm a twentysomething, I don't ever want to be a teenager again. 

You know how some teachers say that what's keeping them young is hanging out with young people everyday? Well, welcome to the dark side of being kept young. According to the linked infographic in the US 75% of bullying cases go unreported, 77% of kids face bullying of some sort and a child is being bullied every 7 minutes. In the UK 85% of kids have witnessed bullying of some sort. 

On the world scale 200 million young people 
are bullied every year. 

That means every year a population of Croatia,
4 290 612 people*
individually go through either 
malicious teasing,
receiving unsolicited sexual remarks,
being maliciously gossiped about, 
having their belongings destroyed, 
being excluded or rejected by their community
46.61 times. 
That's once every 7.83 days.

Here's a great post by Ana Cristina Pratas on how to keep "being kept young" an asset. If you're a teacher or a parent, you'll have to deal with it sooner or later.  

And remember: Read blogs. Read lots of them, because there's an ocean of knowledge out there that might take you to places you've never even dreamed of.

All my love,

*According to the the Census of Population, Households and Dwellings of 2011 first results by settlements by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, as retrieved on 3 November 2012.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Be all ears

Many people take refuge in headphones, but they turn big, public spaces like this, shared soundscapes, into millions of tiny, little personal sound bubbles.(Julian Treasure @TEDGlobal 2011)

“We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening, but we’re not very good at it. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear.”
(Julian Treasure @TEDGlobal 2011)

I guess I could copy/paste videos and a couple of quotes to make my task easier this morning, but I need to explain the point I see in it all. I've been writing a lot about learning styles and understanding oneself so this one could understand others, but this time I'm about to be a little more specific.

Everyone reading this blog know by now that our learning styles influence the way we communicate with others, and for teachers that means that their learning styles influence their teaching styles and perception of what's happening in a classroom. "You're not listening to me!!" and any of its variants in any of the world languages is probably one of the most commonly heard utterances (not just in a classroom). But what does it really mean?

I gave a presentation recently and started it with: "Could you take a piece of paper now and make a table like the one on the screen?" and someone said "What makes you think we've got paper and pen?" A brilliant point. What does make me think people bring papers and pens to presentations?, thought the person with a special notebook just for presentations and a particular appreciation for good stationery. Starting from our own habits and values, can lead us to believe someone is not responding to us in a desired way. If someone's rhythmically tapping their pen during a lesson and looking out of a window - it says nothing on how attentive they are. I know a person who closes their eyes during meetings - to the horror of all attending, but trust me they're one of the best listeners I know. They're remembering and analyzing what's being said to amazing detail and phenomenal precision, while some people may be lead to conclude they're dozing off...

At one point Julian Treasure in his TEDtalk mentions we've been  losing our ability to listen because we've come up with ways of recording what we've heard. My first response is that I think I listen better because I'm recording what I hear, but a part of me does wonder if my use of writing has made me a lazy listener. Furthermore, listening is at the very core of empathy. If we want to help our kids empathize better, we need to help them really listen and also be good listeners, in order to give them the experience of being listened to.

There's so much noise we're living in. Everything is screaming at us in order to get our attention, no wonder the kids scream as much as they do. So take a moment to listen. The video on busting the Mehrabian myth is here to point to the relevance of words themselves in any spoken discourse. The TEDtalk video is here to remind us about the importance of listening and to help us listen better. Make the moment especially silent.

Vivaldi is here to greet the snow and give you a chance to try out what Mr Treasure speaks about - How many channels can you hear? How many filters can you use?

Listen well to what's being said, then you'll understand what's not. 
(from the cover of an old Morning Glory notebook. ;))
All my love,

Saturday, 27 October 2012

This one's not for travellers...

...or photographers, because they already know it. It's for those stuck in an apocalypse they just can't get out of.

Have a really good day!!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Perchance to dream

There is an epidemic of simplifying and making things easier for students under the excuse of tailoring courses to their needs. It was very difficult for me to accept it at first and in so many ways it still is. I'm not saying some adaptation of material shouldn't happen. I even maintain that in some cases this adaptation should be immense, because the needs of the students are such that the material needs to be immensely adapted to them. But students should not have everything laid out and made ready for learning by heart - there should be a challenge and with it a chance to grow.

And every day is going to surprise you. Learning prepares you to cope with surprises, education prepares you to cope with certainty. There is no certainty. 

Says one of the speakers in Ericssons latest video on the future of education. I've found it here, at the Huffington Post's website accompanied by an article.

I guess this world needs a reminder: There's nothing wrong with a little failure, as long as you learn from it.
Shine everyone!

Thursday, 18 October 2012


I've always loved BBC's tests - There's always something nice to learn. So click on the picture above to find out just how musical you really are. Maybe there's a hidden talent. ;) It can also be used with more advanced students - music is something everyone can relate to in some ways.

*Imagine Prince's Musicology playing for end credits.*

Over & out,

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Brawny brains

I haven't really asked myself why learn language at all for years. My Mum took me to a language school when I was 6.5 years old and told me: "You'll learn English here." I had some objections, as all only-children do when others decide what they're going to do, but then the teacher was nice and my friends were there so I stayed... for the next 13 years or so. When I started working, though, my dear teenagers asked this question frequently and left me too shocked to give a proper answer in most cases. Somehow this rang in my head:
You taught me language, and my profit on ’t
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
(Tempest, 4.2, 368-370)

I got better at answering the question, but this morning a friend posted a link that will in all likelihood help me get even more savvy. Teenagers like to hear no-nonsense scientific facts - they'll listen to that, explanations -not so much. So, if you want to know about how learning a language makes your brain bigger, read Business Insider's "Learning A Language Makes The Brain Bigger". Other than brain-building, the article reports benefits of language learning include helping fend off Alzheimer, so remember:

Evidence like this is building that the brain is still plastic and capable of growing and changing long into old age, and that this plasticity is important to keeping the brain healthy. The National Institute of Health recommends staying mentally active to help stave off mental decline. Learning a new language may give the brain the exercise it needs to stay healthy.

REMEMBER! Don't be all brawn, no brain. Give your cogs, nuts and bolts a little stretch once in a while. It's never too late to learn or try new things - amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.
Hasta luego!! :)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

School as a safe base (HUPE Rijeka branch talk Prezi)

Today I gave the second of the three planned talks about what we did during the Difficult Learners course. It was a small gathering of enthusiasts of all ages and levels of experience and hopefully they enjoyed it as much as I did. Here's the Prezi I prepared - it was put together with a lot of effort and care. It also finally, covers everything about the attachment theory and its significance in the classroom environment.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Take a stand!

Teaching profession does usually attract people who have in common the will and persistence to care for others and help them grow. Also commonly in that care for others, they forget to care for themselves and get lost among the papers, books and layers of chalk. So this Teachers' Day I decided to pass on the words of UNESCO:

Taking a stand for the teaching profession means providing adequate training, ongoing professional development, and protection for teachers’ rights.
All over the world, a quality education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living. However, there can be no quality education without competent and motivated teachers.
Teachers are among the many factors that keep children in school and influence learning. They help students think critically, process information from several sources, work cooperatively, tackle problems and make informed choices.
Why take a stand for teachers? Because the profession is losing status in many parts of the world.. World Teachers’ Day calls attention (to) the need to raise the status of the profession - not only for the benefit of teachers and students, but for society as a whole, to acknowledge the crucial role teachers play in building the future.

So in the face of everything stacked against our hopes and dreams keep leaving your mark and making a difference. But never forget to care for yourself - it's the only way you can be the best possible version of you for others. 

Have a happy one colleagues!!
All my love and respect,

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Take five

It's been too long since I've written a thing, so here I am. There's an activity I really like and would like to share - I used it to discuss learning styles with my students and they gave it a thumbs up which means it's GOOD. It's called a "sensory dictation" - I've heard about it from Marie in class this summer, but it can be found in Unlocking self-expression though NLP by Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri (Delta Publishing, 2008), as well as Dictation by Paul Davis and Mario Rinvolucri (CUP, 2002).

It goes like this:

  • Write on board and draw a symbol for each of the senses like on the picture. I won't be drawing here, seeing my squiggles is a privilege that belongs to my students, but if I were drawing here I'd draw and eye, an ear, a nose, a hand and a smiley sticking it's tongue out - one of my students thought of it and it took on...
  • Next, the teacher should dictate a list of 20-30 words. It can be anything really - I used just random everyday words I knew they were familiar with, because the point wasn't to revise, but to speak about learning styles. Next time, it might be words from a text or a unit. 
  • As the teacher dictates, students write the words in columns according to what comes to them first when they hear the words. Let's say the word is ice cream: Do they see an ice cream? Do they hear that annoying ice cream truck or someone talking about an ice cream? Do they taste ice cream? The first ones will write the word in the first column, the second ones in the second and the third ones in the fifth I taste column. 
  • After the dictation is done they discussed the following three questions in groups of three or four: In which column have you written the most words? Are there any empty columns? Why did you put a word in a column - is there anything interesting you noticed about yourself? 
  • In the end I talked to them about learning styles and about how they scored in the dictation and what might that mean for them as learners. I felt listened to, because they asked questions, gave examples - some light bulbs were definitely lit.
So try it out. ;)

And another thing. Some exams like IELTS, TOEFL and CPE contain something called a long turn task. The candidate receives a question or a topic and needs to speak about it for a minute or two or 45 seconds, which is a long time. Some people simply shut down in the face of it repeating "What do I say? I have nothing to say." Pointing them towards thinking in terms of the five senses helps. If the task is to describe an experience, a person or a place, chunking the task down to the senses: What do I remember seeing/hearing/smelling/touching/tasting there? helps. Simple, but it was a revelation to me. 

Have a nice week.
All my love,


Friday, 14 September 2012

How do you feel about learning today?

Hello everyone,

As I've learnt a lot this summer I've decided to introduce some changes to my lessons and I did it from day one of this school year. I've actually decided to try out everything I feel might be useful, so this is actually my first step of putting theory into practice.

The change my students have grown very fond of is asking them "How do you feel about learning today?". They don't even wait for me to ask anymore, they just show me with their thumbs or tell me. It really is a great way to start a lesson, because they get the chance to let all of the distractions go and warn me if there's something I can help with or need to take into consideration. As there is only 45 minutes to a lesson, the best way to approach this is by a quick survey. And here are some ways of how you can approach it:

  • A SHOW OF THUMBS: thumbs up for great, in the middle for so-so, thumbs down for not well.
  • A SHOW OF FINGERS: give yourself a grade from 1 to 10. 
  • DOODLES: draw something that represents how you feel - you can limit this to an animal, a plant, a film character, a cartoon character, a monster,  or a household object, 
  • MELODIES: Pick a song or a tune which represents how you feel and sing it or whistle it (noise risk factor to be taken into consideration!!)
  • CALLING OUT EMOTIONS: This is great if you've just done adjectives about feelings, you or a student might call out words for emotions and people sit down when their emotional state is named. This is good for developing empathy as the one calling out words needs to think about others. 
  • STRIKE A POSE: This one's primarily for young learners and only, and just maybe, for very open teenagers. Show how you feel by miming it or striking a pose. 
  • JUST ASK THEM: It's pretty obvious. But don't insist on everyone sharing, some things are private. 

Finally, it's a good idea to ask yourself the same question about teaching - just so you know where you stand  and if there's something you could do for yourself to feel better. 

Maybe this was more of a Monday post, but I wanted to finish the week on a positive note. 

Now I'll go home and rest. Monday's a very BIG day.

Love to all,

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Lost Art

A couple of people lately came to me saying they've been typing so much spelling has become an issue for them. I'm illiterate in two languages now!! one of them wrote in honest distress and I understand the unease in realizing you've forgotten 5th grade lessons... Once we were annoyed because teachers were constantly correcting us. It stopped, for a while we were relieved and now we miss being corrected....

It also reminded me of a discussion I took part in a couple of months ago. It was something about digital textbooks and two comments were made which really got me thinking.

I don't really care what happens to "handwriting skills" as I am sure that will be a forgotten art in a generation or two anyway.

About handwriting, maybe there would be some special courses for those students who might be interested in learning it.

The comments also inspired me to do some research and write a post which I'm going to re-post here. This is for the kinaesthetic learners out there who need to know why handwriting is important for learning and maintaining the skills of reading and writing.

Hope you enjoy it,
All my love,

The Forgotten Letter - Q as in: Quills or why teach handwriting at all? 

 Submitted by dxplorer on 10 February, 2012 - 19:35 

The revered Steve Jobs in his 2005 Stanford commencement address mentioned the impact enrolling in a calligraphy class had on his life, Apple and ultimately the world. It’s interesting how comments to my post about something Apple introduced into this world made me wonder: with all the swiping, typing, texting and tapping, why teach handwriting at all?

My little Google research lead me to this describing the work of Karin Harman James from Indiana University which showed the following interesting points:

  • The brains of children who learnt letters by writing them down reacted more intensely when they were shown a letter, than the brains of those children learnt about the letters otherwise.
  • Adults who were taught a set of new characters by writing them down more easily distinguished those characters from their mirror images.

These two findings point that by writing we take in the characters more deeply – not only visually, but also kinaesthetically. By writing the parts of our brain in charge of motor skills and sensory memory is activated too. And that leads not only to better writing, but also better reading, because if perception of a character activates more parts of our brain, we recognize it more easily.

To conclude: As obsolete as it may seem to be becoming – writing by hand is a skill not to be underestimated.

So stay hungry, stay foolish – and make your students’ hands write… at least the important things. ;)

Love to all,


Further reading available at the Science of Learning Blog and Science Daily.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Before I start posting about theoretical stuff again...

...I want to share an idea that found its way to my Google Reader this morning. Some people think that an idea is the most dangerous parasite in the world ;) - this one surely is contagious and may bring change and open dialogue, so it might be risky if you don't know how to deal with those things. BUT!! It may help you with tapping into what your students want/need/care about in a safe way - they may be seen writing it, but once the message is written it stands alone. I'm going on about something and you don't even know what it is, so without further ado:

You can change a classroom, seating order, the content of a lesson, the colour of a corridor or door, make plans of virtually any kind, ask and share whatever comes to your mind. "When I'm trying to learn a subject that's difficult..." may lead to a discussion about how they learn, how they feel about learning and tips on how to learn better. They can learn from each other.

I'm going to make a class of mine occupy a wall like this because I want to help them own their classroom - there are blank walls, old posters and so much wasted space which could be taken over by their own imagination.

So, after I'm done with this post, I'm going to spread the idea and hopefully it'll catch on. What about you? ;)


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wield your words wisely

I'm very happy to report another anti-cyberbullying campaign has begun in Croatia. There has been some word about cyberbullying here with the UNICEF's Prekini lanac campaign, but for some unfortunate reason is down. I believe cyberbullying is one of those never ending issues with the increasing importance the world wide web has in everyday lives and education.

So, dear ex-Yu-languages speaking colleagues you can read all about the new campaign started by and association of young people called Medijska Tvornica here and here. And there are also two videos available, one of which will start if you click play in one, two, three...

Speak about it, spread the word and raise awareness. It's important kids learn that posting/revealing something online is no less real than a slap in the face.

Shine everyone!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

On Prezi

You might have noticed I use a presentation tool which somewhat differs from the usual Power Point. It's called Prezi and I love it very much. I've blogged about it before and you can find the post if you click here, but what made me blog about it again is a Prezi about Prezi made by Prezi team.

I think I liked it so much because in the first three slides they appeal to the kinaesthetic learners. It might be that they did so unwittingly or not, nonetheless - Prezis are a way to appeal to your students better. So here it is - What makes a Prezi beautiful? in the words of its upkeepers:

Hopefully you're having a great weekend before school starts.
All my love,

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Report no.1

On last Friday I held my first presentation of what we did at the course. It was for the staff meeting at the high school I work. I tried to keep it as short and resourceful as I could and still there was some resistance, but! most people reacted well and I've actually already had some really productive talks about how to approach some students. I guess some of my words really resonated which makes me very happy.

So, this is my first Prezi in Croatian - I'm sorry others won't be able to understand it, but it'll help spread the word among people I work with.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Something found :)

I did some searches and found our trainer's TeachingEnglish webinar session. I'll be putting a link in the "Recommended Reading and Viewing" section of the blog, but I'm also posting it here in hope it will be more visible.

So here is the link to a recording of TeachingEnglish webinar of 14 February 2012 called "Dealing with challenging learners".

And here is the TeachingEnglish introduction to the webinar:

Theme: What is a challenging learner? Why do some learners challenge us more than others? How can we understand challenging behaviour in a different way so that we can teach these learners better in the classroom? This webinar will address these questions and explain the effects of loss, trauma, violence and neglect on the brain, learning and behaviour.

About the speaker: Marie Delaney is Director of The Learning Harbour, Cork, Ireland. She is a teacher, trainer and Educational Psychotherapist with many years of experience of working with school management, staff and pupils around challenging behaviour.
(As submitted by Rob Lewis to TeachingEnglish Teacher development section on 24 September, 2011 - 15:22)

Hope you enjoy it.
All my love,

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Details in the Fabric

In order to become a teacher one needs to be highly educated. In order to become highly educated, one usually needs to be a good student. It becomes such an integral part of us we forget how tricky it can be, so here's a reminder:

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The way we learn...

I've been reading and attending workshops on learning styles, but no test helped me understand how I learn until Marie made us do some activities... How very kinaesthetic of me - I needed to experience my learning style to uncover it, and as usual, I'd like to help everyone do the same. So this morning I came across a wonderful infographic on CristinaSkyBox blog. The visuals will love it ;), others might find it helpful.

 What Type of Learner Are You?
Compiled By:

The thing about learning your own learning style is becoming aware of how you teach and how you can relate to some students better and some students not so well. I wish I knew more about it as a kid, because I'd stop making myself sit down and learn for hours - I just don't fit into that group and I'm not a bad learner, I've always done well in class. So, when you can, help your students reflect on how they did an activity, what they found easy or difficult. It may seem like too much fuss at first, BUT! it may make your life much easier with time.
All my love,

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Before I went to Caterbury I wrote a post with basic notions of Attachment theory. I haven't applied it to school situation yet, but I think it's time I do so. And I'll start with the notion of "secure base".

A "secure base" is the emotional and physical refuge in which uncertainties are processed into thoughts and the base from which exploration can take place (Geddes, 134).  One of the reasons for all the anger and sadness coming out of some students during class is because school with its predictable routines and rules is a secure base for them. I'll touch upon it in one of my next posts, but right now I'd like to write about those within the school who might not feel so safe because of all uncontained emotions coming out - the teachers.

In the face of a student shouting abuse at everyone and everything around them, kicking, screaming, crying and/or running out in an unknown direction, every and each one of us will ask the question: "I'm supposed to be the expert, so....what do I do now?" One easily gets worked up trying to answer it especially if a colleague comes by and makes one of those "They never do things like that to me" comments.

"They never do things like that to me" just might be one of the meanest, heartless sentences I've ever heard. In 6 years I've been working I haven't witnessed it helping anyone and I'm certain I'll be able to say the same thing 30 years from now. Think it, go home and gloat on your own, just don't say it to someone who's in distress - it's not just unhelpful, it says nothing nice about you, especially if you use it on a rookie teacher.

Our work is such that we can easily get swamped and lost in it. We receive little if no training for working with kids with social and emotional issues. And if we cannot turn to our colleagues for help...

In schools where there is least collaborative thinking about challenge and distress, the most likely is that strong feelings are being constantly projected into the school community. There can be a sense of uncontained fear running about the school, "as if anything can happen." (Geddes, 132.)

So what should we do when a situation arises? Listen to what we teach our kids. (This is something I picked up from a poster made for the Paths/Rastem project at my school.)

Take a step back. Breathe.

Think. Make a plan.


Sometimes the yellow step needs a little more time to become truly effective. Find someone you can trust will help you and sit down with them. When thinking or talking about a pupil's behaviour, try not to make judgments. There's a big difference in between:

He's not listening to me. He thinks I'm incompetent - he wants to decide what's going to be done in class.


He's either reading something else in class or looking through the window. He always asks me to do something else during the class and not what I planned. 

The second set of sentences helps us wonder about the child's motivation, because his behaviour isn't clouded with the teacher's presumptions about the child's motivation. It may be easier said than done - it's definitely something to be practiced, but it's worth it. Sometimes sharing information like this with other teachers who work with the same child helps notice patterns in it's behaviour, or see it from a completely different angle and those can help us understand it. And if we understand it, we can become more consistent and constructive in dealing with it.

That's it from me for now.
Hopefully I've helped,
All my love,

Monday, 6 August 2012

It's just the way I see it...

A little something I've learned...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Go fish!

This is one of my favorite Pilgrims' memories. The second day we were there our trainer Marie told us The Parable of the Dolphin. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time, a person interested in developing NLP went to a dolphin training center. There he observed a dolphin trainer at work - the one others had told him was the best. He did nothing special during training - when a dolphin did something well, he'd give it a fish. The NLP person wondered how come this trainer was the best, up until an evening he found him sitting at pool side talking to the dolphin, stroking him and giving it fish. "Why are you giving the dolphin fish?" asked the NLP person. "Just because." the trainer said. 

On that note, Marie gave us two pieces of paper each. A fish was printed on one side, the other side was blank. Our task was to give fish to people we noticed had done something well, as small as it might have been. It took on - fish were swimming across the group for the rest of our stay in Canterbury. Marie got a blue paper fish bowl with a hand-made fish from each of us at the end of our course. :)

My very own fish bowl <3
We all loved giving and receiving fish, some of us so much we started thinking about bringing some shape or form of it in to the classroom. We discussed it a couple of times and a few questions arose:

  • What if a person in the class doesn't receive a fish? It happened to one of us the first day, and they were a bit hurt. Should the teacher react in some way? What if kids give out fish only to their friends and/or those they wish would like them? 
  • A fish is a symbol closely connected to Christianity. Not everyone is comfortable with that, so think a little of your classes and maybe choose a different symbol - that means the parable probably won't work as the introduction, so think about the ways you could do it.
I hope you like the idea.
All my love, 

For another example of working with the fish click HERE.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Of cogs and humans

I haven't written in a while because the whole experience of being in Canterbury took over. There were too many things going on at once for me to sit down and write, instead of paying attention. Maybe, that's the difficult learner in me - I'd rather go out and meet the world than sit, even though I can't keep to the "you'll sleep when you're dead" maxim. (There's nothing like a good snooze. ;) ) So I didn't really break my pattern in the sense to stay in my room and write, but I did break it in another way: I went to the cinema... alone. And liked it. 

Angel's share is a 2012 Ken Loach film, currently showing at festivals and non-multiplex cinemas around Europe. I've decided to be a show-off and say I've seen it twice in the past three weeks. I'm a fan and would  recommend it to anyone, if for nothing then for the way it makes people feel upon watching, and there 's so much more to it. 

The story is not the movie's strong point - most of the audience could more or less predict what would happen next. Everything revolves around a young man with a difficult and violent past who needs to get his life on track in order to take care of his girlfriend and their unborn child. Being sentenced to 300 hours of community service proves to be one of the best things that happen to him as he meets Harry, a community service supervisor with a strong belief that everyone deserves a second chance. It's a feel-good movie - it would be inconsistent to the "feel-good movie" notion for anything bad to happen, and yet, none of the audience I spoke to, could keep their mind straight and not fear for Robbie's fortunes. The acting and the way the characters are formed through the script and the camera simply glues one to the seat. Their success, be it in legal or illegal matters, becomes important, if not internalized. 
But two things have been lingering in my mind ever since I've seen the movie for the first time: Does Robbie really succeed in the end? (People who are not in the mood for spoilers should stop reading now - watch the movie and then come back. ;) ) 

He gets the money and the job in a way that could only get him into more trouble. His girlfriend tells him she'll never come back to the courtroom right at the beginning of the film. Will she ever know what he had done? Does it even matter for their relationship to work? Is he really out of the woods? 

One other thing... Who would have known that Robbie's strength would be his nose? This is just my "teacher" role kicking in - How would I identify that in a language classroom? Is that even a question to ask? We're all parts of a system that is slow to change and quite inflexible, but most of us try to do the best we can. No one can "save" everyone, being a teacher one learns that the hard way, but can we be criticized for not doing the impossible (and there is at least a "wee" bit of critique in this movie)? For me one of the maddening things about my job is that sometimes the key to success is simple, but difficult to see and the stakes are usually high. I can hear Marie saying something like - "Teachers always panic about what to do, instead of stepping back and taking a little time to wonder about what's in front of them." 

All in all, go see the movie. 

And remember, sometimes a little totally random good goes a long way. Just ask Harry, he'll tell you all about his "Angel's share".

All my love,

Saturday, 21 July 2012

What's up with Hamlet?

This post is for W, who does not believe psychology is a science and has a string of firm arguments to support his hypothesis. ;) :*

Yesterday afternoon we did a sequence of eight one minute activities - each was connected to one of the intelligences from Gardner's theory . We covered all but one - existential. We knew nothing about it - so here is a little about what it is and some ideas on what kind of activities would suit learners with a strong existential intelligence.

If we're to trust Wikipedia, existential intelligence is "Ability to contemplate phenomena or questions beyond sensory data, such as the infinite and infinitesimal.". Or to give it an example - One of my eight-year-old students has a crush on a girl. One day she refused to sit with him, because he had hit her, pulled her hair, hid her pencil case or whatever boys do when they like someone. He sat on the floor next to my desk, crying and screaming: "If she doesn't love me, I do not exist!!!!" "But what do you mean?? I can see you.", I poked him lightly, "..and even touch you." "Yes, but I am nothing." Strong words, aren't they? So young and he's questioning his existence. I'd say that's his existential intelligence speaking. Another example would be students, teachers and professors of philosophy, who spend years and years tackling questions, such as:

Why am I here? Why are we here?
What is around me? Can I trust my senses, if they get so easily cheated?
Are there really ghosts?
What does it mean to die?
Where does the wind rush when it blows?
Why are some people evil? Is being evil a thing of character or just a phase?
Is there life on other planets?
Is it OK to say whatever I want to? Where does my right of speech end?

A colleague here at the course today said he didn't like barbecues because at a barbecue people eat way more meat than they need... Existential learners are likely to be very aware of the world around them in a political and social sense. They might enjoy setting up campaigns to save/help someone or something. They'll like discussing world and community issues, exploring different viewpoints to one thing, coming up with plans to improve the quality of life... They are likely to bring down theories in three short sentences, not because they feel the need to show how smart their are, but because the holes they see in the theory are, for them, too wide to ignore. Don't take it personally - it's not you, it's the theory.

That's it. Now I know why I studied philosophy and why I felt so good surrounded by my class-mates. :)
Could you come up with any activities for existential learners?
All my love,

Thursday, 19 July 2012

DAY THREE: The other nine tenths

Today was quite intense - we did a lot of thinking about our own behavior patterns, memories, relationships and reactions. So this is my attempt at summarizing hours of work. It's also a work in progress -  I'll add more things at another time.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

If what you are doing isn't working, do something else.

At the beginning of each lesson Marie asks us how we feel about learning - so far we've answered using fingers as a scale from 1 to 10, and with thumbs up/down. It's a good way of identifying what state the group is in, even if it's a large class - it focuses them on their own state of mind and can open up some important issues, the class and the teacher need to deal with before doing what's planned for the day.

Yesterday morning, each person in the group was given a piece of paper with a word they had to memorize. We gave the papers back to Marie and then we were given the task: Each person has a word, together you can form a sentence - try to do it. We had fun doing it and were actually really happy when we did it, even though it's a very simple and, only at the surface, boring grammar/syntax exercise. But then we got to analyzing it and here's what came up:

  • Not only did we do grammar, we also had to negotiate and share ideas, sometimes assert ourselves - which are all good strategies to practice. However, in a classroom full of students speaking the same language, their mother tongue would probably be used mostly. That takes away the foreign language practice dimension, but they still practice inter-personal skills. Not bad, is it?
  • You can give the students any sentence you want to give them. Group them in which ever way you want. This is an exercise for all ages and all contexts.
  • In order to succeed we HAD to LISTEN to each other. I don't know if I've mentioned a lack of empathy among my students, but they really need to learn how to listen to other people, for which this exercise is great. 
  • Right at the beginning of the exercise, one of my colleagues said: "Can we write it down?" and another said "I don't think that's allowed." The interesting thing about the question was that I was thinking the same thing and suddenly I realized how much seeing the word means to me. I guess I'm more of a visual learner than I thought. And now when I think of it - with all the writing I do all the time, and all the notes I take... Of course I am. The interesting thing about the answer is that nobody contested it - We made the rule ourselves and stuck to it. Nobody banned writing, Marie just didn't tell us to write, because she wanted us all to speak and by not having the words written down, each of us HAD to SAY at least one word - a good strategy for getting the really quiet ones speak.
  • Praise them. Name the interpersonal skills they showed well. Tell them - "You helped. You organized. You showed understanding." 
  • At the beginning of the activity we were all faced with a little bit of uncertainty and frustration - not knowing what comes next caused it. Later on we were able to analyze how we reacted to it, what role in the group we took on, etc. We concluded that most of us stayed calm because we trusted others in the classroom and the trainer, but also our own ability to deal with the task. Kids who lack trust in any of those respects, do not stay calm. That's why too much uncertainty can lead to disruption in the classroom due to some kids feeling helpless and giving up. So, if you see your students get stuck with this task, provide them with a clue. BUT! Do not over-manage- a little frustration leads to growth.
  • And if you get stuck, do what's written in the title. 
All my love,

DAY TWO: Angel's share

This is a film tip for teachers and I was not paid to do it. ;)


The film is a well-told story about finding hidden talents in the most unexpected places. There's actually much more to it, but I'm not going to go into the social critique which the film undoubtedly makes, for the simplest of reasons: I want to keep this post light. And today my group did a lot on the topic of finding the energy we need to do our job in the places we do not count on or forget about when they are needed the most. Here are some things I'd like to share.

Stop and think: How many of you stop doing exercise or things you love to do in your spare time when the workload rises or tough times come around? The truth is sticking to what makes you feel good might prove crucial for you to cope with the troubles before you. Think of stress as the common cold - the best cure is prevention, i.e. helping yourself feel well. Remember:

it's the only way you can take care of others well.

In a tough situation take a physical step back and take a deep breath. There's no such thing as a perfect reaction, there's only the "good enough" reaction, and the only way to figure that one out is to calm yourself. Later on you can reflect on it. Maybe you'll come up with a better idea, maybe not, but if you learn something from reflection, especially if it's about yourself and your own behavior- you've done well.  We need to get to know ourselves as much as possible, in order to react more effectively in different situations and to different people.

If you feel having a lesson plans is not really working with some classes, try to think of it this way: Each lesson plan is a plan for an unpredictable situation and if every detail of it works, it's nothing short of a small miracle. I'm not saying lesson planning is not worth it, I'm saying lesson plans shouldn't be used as crutches, but as tools.

Train your brain to think positively. Every day list 6 highlights (big or small) of the day. For most people the first three or four come easy, but most of us had to think harder to find the fifth and the sixth. 

Be your own best friend. Never tell yourself things you wouldn't like to hear from a friend. 

And remember: Focus on the things you can control, as small as they are, they may constitute the basis for change.

All my love,

Monday, 16 July 2012

DAY ONE: On rabbits, clocks and places to get

It took me twelve hours to get here, but I did it. :) I’m writing this from a six bedroom dorm house at the University of Kent. The trip from Stansted to Canterbury was stressful – nothing prepared me for that many misunderstandings and lack of helpfulness. But two things really struck me:

1.It was the Europeans who undoubtedly introduced the signalling system into the underground at Beijing and Shanghai, but yesterday the Tube was more difficult to navigate than the aforementioned…

2.I’ll never forget the first sight of departure boards at the Beijing West Train Station, but in the end we read them by comparing the numbers and departure times to the ones on our tickets. My ticket yesterday had no departure time, and there was no Canterbury on any of the boards, not to mention the woman at the ticket booth told me the train was leaving 20 minutes past real departure time…

But enough of travel troubles, I’m a student again and it’s wonderful. I’ve got 5 roommates and 8 classmates. My trainer is great – her name is Marie and I feel like I’ll learn a lot from her. Our day started with a plenary on intercultural communication and we learnt a golden rule:


Throughout the lecture I wondered if that could be applied to my trip… The lecturer, James Banner, also mentioned the differences in viewing time: there are people who do need to be on time and have little tolerance for tardiness and then there are people who see time in a more relaxed way – understanding that watches are guides not overseers of punctuality… Then I wondered if the lady at Victoria sat at this lecture two weeks earlier… ;) 

There’s one last thing I need to mention on the matter of time – There are rabbits on campus. They’re not white, but they’re cute, worried and always in a hurry. 
Maybe I’m close to my Wonderland. 
All my love, Do