All posts by Naomi Epstein

Hi! I teach English as a foreign language to deaf and hard of hearing students in Israel and am a national counselor in this field.

Saturday’s Book – Great House by Nicole Krauss

I’m about halfway through the book and can’t quite make up my mind about it.

I LOVED her previous book “The History of Love” and couldn’t stop talking about it for a long time. However, this book sometimes has me engrossed while at others feeling a bit depressed. There are separate stories and in each one the loneliness, the silence is sooo great that I’m unhappy. Which could be taken as a sign of how well Krauss writes since I feel drawn into the story.

I don’t know if the stories will tie in with each other yet. I don’t need books to have happy ends but I do need some sort of resolution and hope that it isn’t just a collection of stories of the silences that exist alongside a HUGE desk. The book “Between the assisinations” by Aravind Adiga was like that – tragic stories connected only by the place, no resolution at the end. That one left me with an unfinished feeling to it.

I’m still reading – we’ll see!

Seems you can cloud your tweets now too!

htweet cloud

Looking at this “tweet cloud” this way is not the same as looking at it online – the bubbles expand and you can read the whole word inside each bubbles (bubble sizes reflect frequency) . If you want to do that you can go Tweet Topic Explorer

It was interesting to compare my blog cloud to this one. This time I’m happy with the size of the word “students”! And of course you can see some of the people I’m corresponding with – but there are others too ! Lucky me! Hope no one takes offence! The topics are varied and I’m quite happy with the results!

USE YOUR SENSES with the 2nd conditional!

Screen shot of lesson
Screen shot of lesson

Since I read Ceri Jones post about using the senses to relate to a picture I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I really felt that this could be a useful tool for expanding my use of visual materials but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to experiment with it.

I decided that the best way to begin would be by comparing two photos from very different environments. Ceri talks about (in other posts) about the importance of using pictures related to pupil’s lives but with my pupils I need to expand their world knowledge. In addition, I’m trying to get them to think, and not work by comparing words in a question to the text. Some kids default response is “dunno”.

I had used Jason Renshaw’s Valentines Day lesson and the striking format seemed perfect for the topic of senses. Jason has kindly permitted use of his format – THANK YOU JASON! I had some technical trouble – I know Jason has also posted a blank format without pictures but he used different colors and I was unable to change them. So, if you look closely, you can see I pasted pics over his small ones. That actually was a lot of work but I hope I can make a series of “senses” lessons so it will have been worth it.

I need to teach the second conditional form and I thought everything connected nicely.The instructions are purposely vague, I plan to use it differently with different students.

Here’s the  link to the lesson:

2nd conditional with senses

We’re on vacation so haven’t had a chance to try it. May need tweaking. If you have suggestions, can still make corrections!

Inclusion: A Comment on Tom Whitby’s: “A Third Rail Education Issue”

Tom Whitby has a very interesting post on the issue of Inclusion.

This is an extremely complex issue. A look at my classroom highlights some of these complexities.

Deaf and hard of hearing students at the high-school where I teach are placed in regular homerooms, but the time they actually spend learning with their hearing peers is compleltely individual. Some learn all subjects except gym (and homeroom hour) in the self contained small classes, with special teachers (by subject matter) situated  in the school, while other study varying degrees of hours a week with their homeroom class,   depending on the subject. There are 70 deaf and hard of hearing students and approx. 1, 700 hearing students at our school.

Some of the students came to the high-school from self contained classes in regular schools. Others were completely mainstreamed  till they came to us in 10th grade. Some of these transferred because of academic difficulties. Despite receiving tutoring, the older they became the harder it was to keep up with their hearing peers. Others did very well academically in the mainstreamed classroom.

Regardless of academic succes (or the lack of it) all of the students who came to us from the mainstream were lonely. Some students had hearing friends but felt, as adolescents, that their hearing friends could not understand them and be a “real” friend the way their hard of hearing peers could. Some students study most of their subjects with hearing students yet spend every second of the breaks hanging out with the other hard of hearing students.

I teach ALL70 students. This year we don’t have a single student who can deal with studying English as a Foreign Language on a high-school level with the hearing students. I know for a fact that some deaf and hard of hearing students that are mainstreamed take exams at the highest level of English and do well. But this is a minority. Studying English when the teacher talks, sings and lets the students talk in  a foreign language which is hard to lip read is a nightmare for many. The level of English of some of the pupils that come to me from the mainstream is very low.

Back to Tom Whitby’s post. He writes: “…but sometimes fairness to all, means unfairness to some.”

Now, lets look at Inclusion within the special classroom.

Some parents would rather their child be labeled as “deaf” of “hard of hearing” than other things. In recent years I have been getting pupils whose hearing problem is really the “least of their problems”. For example, a pupil who is hyperactive and when frustrated or angry by a small thing erupts in violence needs my full attention to keep him on task. What about the other pupils in the room? What about the sweet, polite girl who is really weak and needs my attention as a specialist but  I’ve  constantly got one eye on  this pupil or else “all hell will break loose” literally?

And what about the pupil who has organic problems and is sensitive to noise? Classes of deaf students are not (as you may think) quiet places. I teach in the format of a learning center. Hard of hearing students may talk too loudly. Deaf students tap their pens or their feet unaware that the noise is annoying. This student throws temper tantrums when the noise causes him to feel a headache.

Neither of the pupils I mentioned rely on sign language for communication.

I’m told that as a special ed teacher I must be “inclusive”. However, there are days which I wonder who we are being fair to with their placement.

Is Being a Creative Teacher & Being Efficient with Paperwork a Contradiction?

Or is it just me?

As part of my job as  a counselor I have to address, fill (with various papers) and mail out  315 envelopes to schools around the country, according to a list of names.  Some envelopes are filled with five pages, others with thirteen.

I’m incredibly slow.

It’s not that I’m disorganized. Rather just looking at the size of the pile gets me down.

I also get distracted with odd thoughts as I work, such as:

*Hmm, what an unusual name this student has. I wonder if she gets teased because of it.

*Hmm, this place is so small they don’t even have street numbers for the address.

*Who is this school named after? I wonder who he was…

And, of course, I am writing this post instead of working!!!

To Use “Moodle”, “Wiki”, “School Program” or Just Say “FORGET IT”?

I’m currently using Wikispaces as a class site. It’s main use is for homework: the students go to the homework page, download a worksheet that either “stands alone” or is based on a link to a picture or video clip they must watch.The they email me the homework (gmail).

A number of people have recently told me about Moodle. Some recommended it strongly, one said it is more work that its worth.  I also discovered this post by Michelle Reckling on the pros and cons of Moodles. Unlike Michelle, my students do not use it anywhere else. Hers do and yet she reports they don’t like using it and that she is unable to get support from others.

The fact that you can see exactly which pupils have logged on when and done what sounds attractive. I currently keep track of the homework on an excel sheet that I have printed out so the kids can see it too. However,the fact that the moodle looks unattractive does not sounds appealing.

I AM afraid of the extra work using a MOODLE may cause. I’m learning all about using technology in the classroom all on my own and it is very time consuming as it is. I still can’t tell if the benefits will outweigh the effort.

The school computerized grading system has an option for sending emails to students through their files and even attaching a document. I don’t know if links stay “clickable” when sent this way. It would be more work for me to use that instead of the WIKI.The emails can be sent to multiple pupils but only those registered in the same group. I have 9 groups.

On the other hand, it’s not an outside system, students don’t have to get used to  new things. Also the parents have access to it. That, on the condition, that the students haven’t lost their password. I have a few that say ‘I AM NOT going to spend 5 NIS ( a bit more than a dollar) to get a new password! But those students don’t do homework anyway. Using this school system may help encourage the students to monitor their school grade file.

The WIKI is totally open to anyone. I’m already using it. I know I haven’t yet learned all it can do. Maybe I should just stick with it? Or would my life actually be easier once I have a moodle running and can track the homework?

Open to suggestions here!

Close Encounters of the “You are STILL teaching?!” Kind

At the supermarket this afternoon, while trying to choose the nicest carton of strawberries, I discovered that I was standing next to someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

She was a teacher at the high-school when I arrived, 22 years ago ( I taught elementary school before) and we were both there for about five years. Then she left the school and teaching.

Turns out that after several years of doing other things she went back to Education, is completing her P.H.D and has become involved in counseling programs involving computers.

I tell you this with the utmost respect – it’s great what she’s doing.

But then, each one of us standing over the supermarket cart, comes the inevitable comment – so you are still doing the same thing, huh?  I proudly smiled and said “Sure am!”

I don’t feel I’m doing the same thing at all!  I turned the classroom into a learning center, I’ve been experimenting with “reverse reading” and “teaching unplugged” and finding ways to use the Computer-Without-Internet in the class and more!

Since I began blogging, I’m not bothered by the fact that there are very few people I can share this information with. I just say that I’m happy to still be at the school. Here I have an outlet to share my feelings that every school year is a new year, never been a year like the previous one!

Saturday’s Book: “South of the Border West of the Sun” by Haruki Murakami

I went to the library to look for Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the end of the World
which Tyson recommeded, but they didn’t have it. They did have this one by the same author.

It’ s a good book!  I wouldn’t call it his best but I enjoyed it.

Also just read a short story of his in the New-Yorker. He definetly uses a recurring theme of a girlfriend / wife vanishing which causes the man to reexamine his life. Saw in both the book and the story and in previous books.