Tips for Drawing-Challenged Teachers

drawing esl teaching Mar 03, 2017

Do you feel drawing-challenged?

As teachers, we often use the board to "draw" a word or concept. I have always felt "drawing-challenged" and dreaded those moments when I realized that drawing on the board would be helpful for my students. My most recent "drawing disaster" was an attempt to draw an airplane which ended up looking like a sickly bird!

Have you also had drawing disasters?

Well, hopefully our drawing skills are about to improve! I was away last weekend and decided to make it a computer-free weekend. This meant spending several hours reading. While reading Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley (another great book), I learned about author Dan Roam and his wonderful books that help people become better visual communicators.

Dan has several books but the one that I think relates most to what we do as teachers is called Blah Blah Blah - What to do when Words don't Work We know as ESL/EFL teachers, sometimes our words "just...

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Coming Clean: Mental Health Issues in ELT

Update on last week's blog post - Why Students' Cell Phones belong in a Shoe Bag!

There were a few responses on twitter.  It appears that teachers have very strong views about the use of phones in the classroom.

Banning cellphones in an adult classroom - unnecessarily authoritarian

Wondering how #ELTs of adults would feel if asked to voluntarily surrender cell phones at conferences

No cph use inclass (including breaks-commoncourtesy) S/T pushback!

Good topic. My adult students are literally driving me insane with the use of cellphones.  It’s not just texting, making and taking calls but some of them actually record the lessons being taught.  This is very distracting.

The point I was trying to make was not a complete ban, but I would like to have at least the first 5 minutes of class so I can say hello to students, and introduce the lesson!

Coming Clean: Mental Health Issues...

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Why Students' Cell Phones belong in a Shoe Bag!

Are cell phones a problem in your classroom?  Do you find that students are easily distracted because of their phones?  I accepted a 7 week EAP contract at a local college a few weeks ago.  It has been more than a year since I taught young international students studying English in Canada.  I am not sure if students are becoming more addicted to their cell phones (and can't put them away for even a minute) or I have less tolerance for the constant distraction of phone use and texting.  

I spotted a former colleague in a classroom last week and popped in to say hello.  I noticed a shoe bag hanging on the wall near the door and asked about it.  She said that she set up a system of using the shoe bag for cell phones and it has worked like a charm.  If I do return to the EAP class in the summer, I will be bringing my shoe bag with me!

She also said that she uses this Breaking News lesson plan ...

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Chris Kelly's Biggest Surprise as a Teacher in China

teaching in china Feb 08, 2017

As teachers, we are always proud of our students when they are successful. Being an instructional coach for new ESL/EFL teachers is no different. I love seeing new teachers develop both their skills and confidence. Chris Kelly is a perfect example.  Just over a year ago, Chris contacted me about providing instructional coaching before he headed off to China. We had a few Skype calls and off Chris went.  It was great to hear from him after he completed his first year as a new teacher in China.  (If you are interested in learning more about instructional coaching with me, click here

Chris can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am 26 year old new (1 year in) teacher from America. I hope to make international teaching my lifelong pursuit. I’m learning Chinese and how to cook. Both are going very slowly, but I will succeed! Eventually.

Where did you do your TESL/TEFL training?

My primary...

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Why teaching tolerance is needed now more than ever

I had another blog post prepared for this week but I felt that it wasn't appropriate given the events this week in my country of Canada and the ban in the United States.  It is rare for me to voice my opinions about political matters but I felt that sharing the resources listed below is important.

Earlier this week, a person opened fire on a mosque in Quebec killing 6 people.  This kind of gun violence is rare in Canada and our nation is shocked.  I support the words of Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau.

As a member of TESOL International, I was proud to see that they took a stand this week and have been very vocal about the ban in the US. Several resources have been posted in one of the TESOL online forums.  I wanted to share them with you as I believe that as teachers, we have a role to play in teaching not just tolerance, but inclusion and diversity. As an ESL teacher for the past 21 years, I have had the opportunity to teach students from all over the world....

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Why colouring is not just for kids!

On my last birthday, I received a wonderful book from my friend Ray. It wasn't a typical book that you read but a beautiful "colouring" book called Happiness, Colour Yourself Calm. The book contains blank pages of lovely mandalas (see one of my finished creations below). 

Just to be clear, it isn't a colouring book for kids but a colouring book for adults! Perhaps you think this is odd but did you know that the New York Times has recognized a growing trend in the sale of adult coloring books? It seems that more and more adult colouring books are appearing on their best seller list.

I haven't "coloured" for a while, but when I feel like my heading is swimming and I can't concentrate on what I am doing any longer, I sit in my comfy chair, grab my pencil case and colour. It may seem strange but colouring for me is extremely relaxing. My breathing slows down and a sense of calmness washes over me. It is a wonderful...

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What I learned from my burn-out as a teacher

"Self-Care is so important. You cannot serve from an empty vessel". Eleanor Brownn.

"I love this quote from Eleanor Brownn. I start my teacher well-being workshops with this quote. The relief on the faces of teachers is very evident when they hear it! It’s almost as if we need permission to give ourselves this self-care. However, we are the only ones who can give ourselves this permission!"  Fiona Forman

Teacher burn-out is a serious issue.  This post includes my personal experience and a wonderful interview with Fiona Forman, a teacher from Ireland, and Co-creator of the Weaving Well-Being Program.

Many of you know that I left classroom teaching after 20 years in December 2015. It was very hard to admit that I was burned-out so I jokingly told colleagues that I was retiring (even though I was years away from retirement). Being "burned-out" seemed like a weakness. In fact, this is the first time that I am actually admitting it.

So what caused my burn...

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Why our Students Could Benefit from Checklists

Welcome to my blog post - Weekly Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches. Thank you to all my new subscribers this week. Please connect with me on social media and forward this blog post to other teachers.

Why our Students Could Benefit from Checklists

A recent book review of The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right by Dr. Atul Gawande caused me to think about the use of checklists in teaching and learning and how they can benefit our students.

Most likely you have never given much thought to checklists however author and medical doctor Atul Gawande has.  In his book Gawande discusses a simple but powerful tool used to reduce medical errors – the checklist.

Maybe you are wondering what medical errors have to do with teaching or learning English.  There isn't a connection however I think that checklists can be useful for our students.

Let’s look at what Gawande has to say about checklists. He...

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How to Make a Difference as a New Teacher: Kay Bennett`s Story

One of the reasons that I like social media so much is because of the connections I have made with thousands of English language teachers all over the world. This includes you!  I believe that we all share the same desire which is to help our students learn (no matter where we live or where our students live if you are an online teacher).

Over the holidays, I caught up on some reading which included an article by Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters and Jennifer Aaker, Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  

Their piece entitled "In 2017, Pursue Meaning instead of Happiness"  includes data from a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs. According to the survey, teachers (as well as clergy and surgeons)  find the most...

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Why everyone needs a "Ray"!  

Uncategorized Dec 07, 2016

Exactly one year ago today, I left my job as an ESL teacher after 20 years (including 7 incredible years in Hong Kong). I had known for a year or so that it was time for a change because I was feeling uninspired and tired. I felt the need to learn some new skills and travel at any time of the year, not just school breaks.  I craved a creative outlet but I wasn't really sure what to do.

Was it frightening to think about life outside the classroom?  Yes! But little did I know that having support to push ahead would be key in achieving so much in the past year.  This is why I believe that we all need a "Ray"!


So who is Ray?  A few years ago, my friend Ray asked me if I could write an online course for him.  I said that I could and did. He also asked me to attend a 4 day training event for coaches, writers and online course developers. I went with the intention that I would learn more to help him with other online courses, but I ended...

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