Do you Practice "Mindful Listening" with your Students?

empathy listening May 25, 2016

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you were really being listened to and truly felt heard?  I believe it is rare but when it happens, it is can be a powerful experience. 

Last weekend, I attended a two day training session on coaching based in positive psychology.  My biggest take-away from the week-end was learning about “mindful listening” (and actually practicing it).  I had heard of "mindfulness" and “being mindful”, but hearing mindful together with the skill of listening intrigued me.

There were 50 people in the training session.  When the facilitator asked us if we practiced mindful listening, no one put their hand up.  Sadly, we all agreed that we do not listen well, and certainly do not practice mindful listening.  


Would you agree that you could be a better listener?  How often have you had a conversation with student and thought that you were paying attention only to realize...

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What I Learned from Watching my Son Play Basketball (for 10 years)

Uncategorized Mar 26, 2016



My son just finished his last season of playing basketball.  Next year, he will be away at university so it is unlikely that I will be able to watch him play his favourite sport again. It is also my favourite sport as well and I have loved watching him play and develop his skills during the past 10 years.

Reflecting back on hundreds of hours of practices and games, there are a few things that I have learned that relates to sports and life off the basketball court.  

Here are a few insights:

1. You can’t pick your coach or teammates. You also can’t pick your boss or your colleagues so it is important to learn how to get along with many different personalities.  Participating in team sports provides an opportunity to do this. 

2. If you want to develop and improve a skill (and not just basketball skills), it requires hard work, hours of practice, and grit. I remember in the early years, the kids were always bunched up under the net with...

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The Super Hero Pose - Fact or Fiction?

confidence power pose Mar 10, 2016

The night before my TESL course was to begin I had serious doubts as to whether or not I would actually make it to the first class.  The thought of standing up in front of a classroom full of people just seemed too frightening.  I know I am not alone as the fear of public speaking – or glossophobia – is ranked as the number one fear.  Glossophobia has its roots in social phobia, and comes from the fear of being judged (which stems from all of the attention that people place on us when we are speaking). 

I obviously made it to the first class and completed my course mainly because a TESL graduate/friend was teaching in Greece.  The lure of international travel was just too enticing.  

When I finally started teaching, I wrote absolutely EVERYTHING on my lesson plan. And I mean everything!  “Good morning class.  How are you today?  How was your weekend”?  It looked more like a movie script than a lesson...

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A Teacher is Also a Student

Uncategorized Mar 06, 2016

This week my blog post ended up being two posts - the one below and also The 5 W's for Using Photos in the ESL/EFL Classroom.

Last weekend, my blog post in Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches was inspired by my current class of impressive TESL students.  Just as I was to post my blog for this week,  I realized that something was missing. (A good teacher always reflects so I thought more about the 4 hours that I spent with these teachers-in-training).

Even after 20 years, I still have things to learn about teaching.  I may have "wisdom" because of my knowledge and teaching experience, but it doesn't mean that I don't have anything else to learn.  It certainly doesn't mean that I can't learn from my students (one teacher in particular but you will have to read the whole blog post below for the details). A special thanks to the students in TESL005 for teaching me an important lesson.  

"A teacher is also a student".  


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Why you Should Use a Super Hero Pose

As a teacher trainer, I have seen my fair share of nerves during practice teaching. Unfortunately a bad case of nerves can greatly affect not only one’s teaching performance but can affect one’s level of confidence entering a new profession.

If you have not watched Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk – Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are – I highly recommend that you do, and as Amy’s suggest at the end of her talk, share this information with others who could benefit.

Have you ever noticed a person’s body language if they are feeling sad or nervous? People tend to hunch over and make themselves small. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself. Conversely, when we feel happy and confident, we stand taller and open up our bodies. Cuddy’s research reveals that not only does our body language affect others’ perceptions of us, but it also affects our brains and feelings as well.

Cuddy suggests...

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A Mother's Reflection on Poverty and Love

gratitude Dec 24, 2015

My son turned 18 on January 1. It is a milestone for him, and a good time for me to reflect on what it means to be a mother. Being a mom has provided me with so much joy, and has certainly helped me to be less selfish, more loving, fun and creative.

I had my son much later in life, so I had the opportunity to volunteer and work abroad for many years. In 1987, I sold all my possessions so that I could volunteer at an orphanage in Bangladesh. To say that this experience was life-changing is an under-statement. I was not prepared at all for the culture shock and poverty. Despite the challenges during my six month stay, I learned several powerful and meaningful life lessons that have stayed with me all these years.

The orphanage was located in Dhaka, the capital city.There were approximately 400 children and handfuls of staff including cooks, nurses, teachers and administrators. I was one of six volunteers. At least once per week, a young mother would show up at the locked gates holding...

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Six Reasons Why I Left the Best Job in the World

teacherpreneurs Dec 15, 2015

Last August, I wrote about “The Best Job in the World” – being an ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher. I still believe that it is the best job however after 20 years of ESL classroom teaching, I have decided to end my career. You may be wondering why I would leave a career that I suggest is the best job so here are my six reasons:

1. Curiosity
Although I have developed as a teaching professional during the past two decades, there are so many other things that I would like to learn (including Spanish – see Costa Rica), and books that I would like to read (and not about language teaching, or course textbooks).

2. Contracts
My last full time teaching position was in Hong Kong which ended in 2007. This has meant the need to juggle many different positions, and contracts in order to earn a decent income. The plight of precarious employment is a serious issue in higher education. I believe that this creates stress which I would like to eliminate by being my...

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Who is Nav Bhatia and What does he Teach Us?

immigrant stories Nov 14, 2015

Teachers come in all shapes and sizes.They can also appear in the most unusual places, or when we least expect to meet one.

Last week, I attended a conference for internationally trained professionals in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Nav Bhatia was the Keynote Speaker. Although I am a Toronto Raptor’s fan, I didn’t really know much about Nav other than his being dubbed as "The Raptor’s Super Fan".

So who is Nav Bhatia?

Nav and his wife came to Canada more than 30 years ago. Like many newcomers to Canada, they struggled in the early years. They lived in a basement apartment near the Toronto airport, and worked “survival jobs”*. Fast forward to 2015. Nav now owns two Hyundai dealerships – one being the most successful dealership in all of Canada.

Nav would probably not see himself as a teacher however I learned many things from his inspirational talk. I believe that his “lessons” can be applied to all aspects of our lives. This is what I...

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What's Grit Got to Do With It?

Uncategorized Nov 13, 2015

In the last year, I have been trying to find ways to motivate my international students. Attaining the level of English required for post-secondary studies requires language learners to invest a significant amount of time and effort over a lengthy period. Research in the area of second language acquisition suggests that it takes between three to seven years to reach a level of language competency in order to study at a post-secondary level (Collier, 1987).

My quest to understand learner motivation lead me to research in the field of positive psychology. A non-cognitive trait known as “grit” can contribute to student motivation and lead to attaining language learning goals, achievement and success. In the field of positive psychology, GRIT is defined as “perseverance and passion for long term goals” (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, p. 1087). Having grit means “working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure,...

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Future CEOs (or CDOs)?

21st century skills Nov 13, 2015

My son Andrew is the young man seated on the left, with the ear-to-ear grin. After 3 years as a camper at Camp Huronda, he is now a camp counsellor (or CDO – Chief Diabetes Officer). He is responsible for 4 to 6 young campers, all with type 1 diabetes, who will spend two weeks in the beautiful Huntsville area. If you haven’t heard of D-Camps or Camp Huronda, or know anything about type 1 diabetes, it is because this disease has not impacted your life as a parent, the life of your child (or children), and your entire family. The Canadian Diabetes Association generously funds D-camps across the country so that kids can have the opportunity to develop their self-esteem and provide experiences for their personal growth. Campers learn how to manage their life-threatening disease surrounded by experienced counsellors and medical staff while having fun and unlimited adventures.

I had no idea that D camps even existed before Andrew was diagnosed at age 13. I am grateful that...

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