Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Ideas From The Guardian: Family

I like to challenge my students. I like to choose activities and stimuli that will prove to be thought provoking and different. I have no desire to make them, or me, feel uncomfortable, but I do feel that I need to be pushing them mentally in order for them to come up with an interesting response to the materials I provide.

So in the spirit of 52, I took a look in the January 28th Family supplement of the Guardian newspaper to see what I could find...

Michelle Hanson writes about her embarrassing parents.

Q. Have you ever been embarrassed by somebody? How and why?

Original article

Steven Appleby's Loomus cartoon shows 6 cynical ways you can be loved.

Q. Have you ever tried to make someone like you?

Other examples

Joanna Moorhead interviews family members who have donated organs to their loved ones.

Q. What's the biggest sacrifice you've ever made for someone?

Original article

Erica Medcalfe writes about a photo of her father before she was born.

Q. Can you find an old family photo? What did you think was happening in the photo? Who do you think took it? etc

Original article

Claire Bainbridge remembers a recipe that she used to eat with her family.

Q. Is there are a particular meal or food that you associate with your childhood / past? Discuss why it is so memorable for you.

Original article

David writes a letter to his partner of 42 years, Roy, who died from a stroke.

Q. If you could write a letter to someone from your past, who would you choose?

Original article

Charlie Condou writes about the difficult birth of son.

Q. Have you ever been through a period of great stress? How did it feel? How would you advise anyone experiencing it for the first time?

Original article

Annalisa Barbieri advises a woman whose daughter has become a porn star.

Q. What advice would you give to this woman? How should she deal with the situation?

Original article

The Guardian were looking for contributors for a story about meeting the in-laws.

Question as in the picture.

Follow up article

A quote from the American writer Pearl S Buck.

Q. Do you agree with the quote? Should this be the aim of education?

An anonymous diary of a woman going through a separation.

Q. Who else in society would you like to read a diary by? A prisoner, a police officer, a professional sports person?

Original article

Eight pages, eleven ideas. The chances are you wouldn't use quite a few of them in your lessons. To be honest, for various reasons there are a few I wouldn't use either. But that's not really the point. There are many opportunities to find interesting and stimulating classroom materials all around us, it's just a case of opening our eyes, being receptive and not underestimating our students capabilities.
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Friday, 11 May 2012

Just Say Yes

About a year ago, I made a decision. It was the kind of decision that people have made careers out of, especially the writer Danny Wallace who coincidentally was at my university at the same time as me. Since he studied Journalism and became a writer and I studied Media, specifically television, and became a teacher of English as a foreign language, I’m going to assume that his days at the University of Westminster were rather more productive than mine.

He went to write a book called Yes Man, which was Hollywoodified (that's my word but you can use it...) into a movie staring Jim Carrey, who I definitely did not go to university with. Anyway, back to me. My decision, which was in no way at all influenced by either the book or the film (I regret mentioning them now, to be honest) was to say yes. To everything. Within reason.

Taken from

I'm talking professionally here. You see, I don't believe in luck. I'm a rationalist, I believe that science is our ticket to a golden future and that our destiny lies in our own hands. Sure, sometimes circumstance and coincidence can wreck our plans, but it's not luck, because it doesn't exist.

If you've read this blog in the past or know me personally, you know that I became an EFL teacher because I moved to Brazil and didn't really have any other alternative job options. So I guess you would think that I was lucky because I only had one option and I loved it? I politely disagree. It's a coincidence that the one job I could do is also one I love. And how did this coincidence come about? Because I moved from London to Brasilia. I made the coincidence possible because I took a risk and went for it.

Once I realised how this sequence of events had occurred, it changed how I see the world and I made my decision to say yes to everything that I reasonably could (you have to know your limitations). And what has happened since then? Let me give you an example...

At the IATEFL conference in March, ELTchat hosted a symposium. I, me, James Taylor, theteacherjames, was featured in the first three talks. I don't tell you this to show off, really, but because it illustrates my point. Marisa Constantinides mentioned me because I am the producer and presenter of the ELTchat podcast, something I volunteered for after seeing a request on Twitter, despite having never made a podcast before. With my media background, I was confident I could learn what was required of me in order to put a podcast together, so I said yes and it's been great fun so far.

In the second talk, Shaun Wilden showed a video that I made for him on his subject hashtagging. I don't consider myself to be particularly knowledgeable on the topic, but I racked my brains and come up with something I hoped would be useful. Why? Because he needed a hand and why not? It took 5 minutes of my time and was helpful to him.

Finally, Sharon Hartle used my summary of an ELTchat from last year as an example in her talk. Coincidentally (not luckily!), this was Sharon's first ever ELTchat and included her first ever tweet. My summary was used because I volunteered to do it after what had been a feisty and fascinating chat. This was my first ever ELTchat summary, and I volunteered because it was a subject I'm passionate about and I wanted to contribute to the community that was giving me a lot. Somebody asked, and I said yes.

I could go into more details, but what it comes down to is that as well as the above, I have been to conferences in Switzerland and France, my writing has been featured in an ELT journal for the first time, I have reviewed books, I have spoken to Petra Pointner and her class via Skype, I've met two great Belgian teachers, I've given my first presentation, I’ve been featured on blogs, and more. All through saying yes.

Am I richer as a result? Well that depends on how you define richer. In monetary terms, no, categorically no (those conferences are expensive!). However, I prefer to look at it in non-monetary terms. I've met great people, been involved with fun projects, improved my skills and I hope become a better person. In that sense, I'm the richest man in ELT.

So can you do the same? Of course you can! To kick you off, I'm going to ask you some questions and you can begin by saying yes to a few...
1) Will you start blogging about teaching? 
2) Will you get involved in ELTchat whenever you can? 
3) When someone asks for help on Twitter or Facebook, will you help them? 
4) Will you help your colleagues, even though they might not help you back? 
5) Will you start using Twitter and Facebook for your professional development? 
6) If someone asks you specifically to help them, will you say yes even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone? 
7) Will you start to read more ELT blogs? 
8) Will you tackle that pile of methodology books you've been meaning to read? 

9) Will you ask for help from your PLN and not feel discouraged if you don’t get the result you were hoping for?
10) Will you start to say yes more often?
That should get you going! Be sure to let me know how it goes.


Some people have posted relevant links in the comments which I thought I’d share with you here above the line:

Cecilia Lemos shared the fascinating story of Profeta Gentileza (Prophet Kindness), who has painted the phrase “Kindness generates kindness” around Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Adam Simpson shared the following TED talk on the power of yes:

Phil Pethybridge was “peeved” by this post and responded here, including my reply.

And here's a quote I saw on the Facebook page of the School of Life that seemed relevant:

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Monday, 7 May 2012

Quotes of the Day

Here are a couple of quotes that I came across recently that resonated with me and my teaching so I thought I'd share them with you. Do they mean anything to you?

Click on the image to make it larger. Taken from here.

Taken by me here. Louis Agassiz biography here.
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