Are you part of a "Teacher Tribe"?

Uncategorized May 05, 2016

The idea for this week's post was inspired by the new teachers who attended my workshop last Saturday (TESL Peel in Ontario, Canada) and by Sylvia Duckworth - a very creative educator.  The Teacher Tribe graphic is one of many examples of Sylvia's brilliance (see more of her talents at https:[email protected]


According to my Gage Canadian dictionary, tribe has several meanings but the meaning that I want to use in this post is as follows:

 tribe (n): a group of people having a common interest, profession, etc. 

Maybe you haven't thought about being part of a "teacher tribe".  I never did until last weekend.  This is how it happened.

Last Saturday, I presented at a TESL Conference.  My workshop was entitled "How to Survive and Thrive as a New ESL Teacher".  In the first activity, I asked teachers to complete the following sentence "Being a New Teacher is"...

Before you read their answers, what do you think they...

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Teacher to Teacherpreneur: An Interview with Jose Torres

In this week's blog posting, I took a different approach by interviewing a teacher. I have been interested in "teacherpreneurship" for the last year, and I am currently developing an online course called - Teacher to Teacherpreneur: How to Monetize your Professional Skills which should be ready in the next month.  

As language teachers, I am sure you share my delight when new words are developed and become part of the English language.  Words such as “edupreneur” and “teacherpreneur” are two great examples.


There are several definitions for edupreneur/teacherpreneur:

“A classroom teacher or school based leader who is both educator and entrepreneur; an educator who works a flexible and/or freelance schedule; and/or an educator with a “side hustle” that supplements their income” (Porter-Isom, 2015).

“They manage their own incomes, colonize and create new learning environments, create their own content and taste...

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How a Facebook Message changed Childrens' Lives

refugee children syria Apr 22, 2016

Imagine receiving a message on Facebook from a stranger working in a refugee camp in Syria asking you for help?  What would you do?  Delete it, ignore it or respond?  Julie Pratten, a teacher/writer in the UK had the compassion to respond to Kaniwar Ali’s request to help Syrian children living in Domiz refugee camp near Dohuk, Iraq.  It was a Facebook message that would change many childrens' lives.

Last Fall, Kaniwar was working as a logistics officer in the camp.  He was desperately looking for outside help so that the children in this camp could have a safe space to play and learn. The civil war in Syria has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Although many governments have set up camps and international aid organisations are providing food, healthcare and clothing, children need a place where they can play and learn.

Julie quickly mobilized people to help and after the first round of crowd funding, there were enough...

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CPD - another ELT acronym!

Uncategorized Apr 19, 2016

I am now back in Canada after attending IATEFL’s 50th Conference in England.  There were about 3,000 teachers from all over the world in attendance.  Although I would have liked to have met more teachers, the sessions/workshops were insightful and interesting.  I think what really struck me when I spoke to teachers or attended sessions is that as English language teachers, we share a love of learning and passion for teaching.  

One of the conference highlights was a presentation by David Crystal.  He talked about how the English language has changed over the past 50 years.  Yes – he has been in the ELT field for that long!  I also attended a session by Andrew Wright on the final day. He has also been teaching for more than 50 years and still continues to teach!  (For free recordings of many sessions, click here

It is hard to imagine teaching for 50 years however what I have learned about English...

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TESL Student Feedback

Uncategorized Apr 10, 2016

This blog posting appeared in the most recent issue of

In my role as a TESL trainer, I believe that the most important aspect of practicum observation is for students to mentally prepare themselves for feedback. I tell students BEFORE they start teaching that my feedback is given in the spirit of professionalism with the goal to help them develop their teaching skills. I also make sure that they understand that feedback is based on their teaching skills only and is not a reflection of them as people. These are two very different things.

In my experience, the majority of teacher-trainees have responded well to feedback and are actually grateful for advice on how to improve their teaching skills. Unfortunately, a small number have viewed feedback as negative and/or as criticism.

Here are two good examples from former TESL students enrolled in the same course:

Student A 

“I feel there is so much to remember in a lesson...

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Why is an ESL Teacher Writing about Diabetes?

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2016

You might be wondering why an ESL teacher (me) would be interested in writing about diabetes (I hope after reading this post, you will be interested too).  

Here is my story.

Five years ago, when my son was 13, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  I knew almost nothing about diabetes so I started reading everything I could about the disease.  What I discovered both shocked and compelled me to take action as an ESL teacher.  

What I learned is that immigrants from South Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa have a 2 to 3 times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than Western European or North American populations.  When I thought of my ESL students, the majority were from these parts of the world.  I felt that I needed to share this information with them.

The first thing I did was search the Internet for a lesson plan. Unfortunately I could not find anything that was appropriate for ESL learners and certainly...

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Why Teachers Need a "Bag of Tricks"

new teachers Apr 02, 2016

A "Bag of Tricks" is essential for all teachers.  This is probably not something that you were taught in your TESL/TESOL course so what exactly is a teacher's "Bag of Tricks"?  It is basically a bag (backpack, tote bag, rucksack or any of type of bag) that contains everything you think you might need during your lesson(s).  Think of your own "Bag of Tricks" as a portable mini-classroom.

Maybe you are asking why do I need my own "Bag of Tricks"?  Here are a few reasons:

1. Many new teachers start out as supply teachers. You may end up facing a class full of students that you do not know (e.g. language level, personalities, prior learning). It is different to plan an effective lesson when you really don't know the learners.  Having a "Bag of Tricks" may help you adjust your lesson, if necessary and help you get through what could be a long day.

2. If you are new to the school, you may not have any idea where the supplies and/or...

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



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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How Students Define Inspiring Teachers and Teaching Excellence

“Just be yourself”.  What does that mean in the context of teaching?  When I was in my TESL program many years ago, there was a very outgoing, guitar-playing young man in the course.  He was vibrant, fun and obviously musically –talented.  I thought that he was “cool” and imagined what a great teacher he would be. 

Instead of looking at what I had to offer as a teacher, I started thinking about what I didn’t have to offer.  In hindsight, I wanted to be something that I was not.  I recently told my TESL students that story.  At the end I said “you just need to be yourself”.  They loved the story and were grateful for this advice.

What I am trying to say is that we can only be who we are.  After one of my teaching practicums many years ago, the mentor teacher said that I was like a “warm blanket”.  I never understood what that meant until years later.  I was just...

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The Super Hero Pose - Fact or Fiction?

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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