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: OnlineCollege.org

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,