The Nicest & Saddest Comment from a Student

” Hi Naomi Good morning, I’m glad I got better, and really fun to learn with you, the very caring and important to you I do ”

That was what a student wrote to me as a reply to my comments on a returned assingment (the tasks are handed in, commented on and graded using edmodo).

She got a 76 , its the highest grade she’s ever got in this course. She’s had to hand in revisions for every single task till now. For some tasks it was several revisions.

I was so touched.

And am so concerned.

I certainly have cause  to worry that that grade of 76 may have been a lucky fluke. The course is practically over. Will she be back where she started, with a failing grade?


Saturday’s Book: “Teenage Romance or How to Die of Embarrassment” By Delia Ephron

Yes, yes, I DO know that Nora Ephron is the one who recently passed away. I was just reading about her again in TIME magazine, and have read about her several times in other places.

However, despite having reallly enjoyed the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, I have never actually read any of her books. Till today I thought I had read one. Turns out though, (thank you, Google!) that ” If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits” was written by Erma Bombeck…


On the other hand, I have a very clear memory of getting Delia Ephron’s  book “Teenage Romance” as a gift for my 19th birthday. I remember finding it both amusing and relevant and being really frustrated that I couldn’t  share it with my friends as it didn’t have a Hebrew translation back then. As far as I can tell, it still hasn’t been translated into Hebrew.

What I don’t remember is to whom I gave the book to. I hope it was my niece when she was a younger teen than I was when I got it.  All I know is I haven’t had it on my shelf for many years now. In any case, I hope it is making the rounds among people who enjoy it!

Saturday’s Book: “The Swan Thieves” by Elizabeth Kostova

Running a bit late, but it’s never too late to discuss a book!

Season’s Greetings! (I took this one!)

I can’t help thinking that this would be the right book to read on the plane to the conference in Liverpool (assuming I get that long sought-after document of approval!). Engrossing and easy to read, lets you feel as if you were somewhere else for a while. Easy to read except for the print, that is. I know I’m beginning to sound like my mother, but without Baiba’s recommendation I wouldn’t have looked twice at a 564 page paper back book with such tiny print! That’s what friends are for, right?

The book is written in a very visual manner. It’s as if the author was trying to paint with words. Hasn’t anyone made a movie of the book? It seems perfect for Hollywood.  I think that is both its advantage and disadvantage. The only bone I have to pick with the author is some parts don’t seem to be the way people actually talk, even if that is the way they think, which isn’t quite the same.

Still have half a book to go! Looking forward to it!

IATEFL Dreams Update – Lessons in Uncertainty

Note: This is an update regarding my IATEFL Dreams, as described here.

Today I finally got a hold of the secretary of the Ministry Official, who is in charge of authorizing such things as missing school to attend a conference abroad.

She says the request did not arrive at her office.


Back to making phone calls to the people lower down in the pecking chain who had approved my request and promised to pass it on …

When Opinionated Adults Clam Up

I first learned of The Holstee Manifesto video from Sandy Millin’s Blog (Almost Infinite ELT Ideas) last year. I decided to try and adapt my take on using the video back then, with my high-school students, for my current course with hearing adults.

So many bikes in the film, but none like these!
(Photo by Omri Epstein)

I emphasize the word “hearing” not because there is any dialogue in this video (I look for videos that tell a story without dialogue!) but because I noted how much the students enjoyed the music! When we worked on it bit by bit I muted the film and they missed the sound.  The previous film I had used (the power of words) was given as homework so I didn’t think about the musical aspect. Not used to thinking of it!

I planned a short activity for the last part of the lesson. This course of 38 adults is almost completely devoted to reading comprehension of academic texts. The students need to successfully pass a reading comprehension test in order to be accepted to a higher education program. They landed in my class because they failed such a test. For two lessons in a row we’ve had texts about depressing topics (prisons and violent ant-abortion activists) and something cheerful was certainly in order.

I told the students that we were going to do an activity that would involve an introduction to expressions of opinion. With these adults you have to be very clear about why you are doing something that isn’t reading a text.

Epstein Family Photos

For starters I just let them watch the video from start to end. It’s only about two minutes long. They seemed very absorbed and curious, some complained that the text went by too quickly. I assured them that we would be going through it slowly with me freezing the frame, which we did. But it was a shame that I hadn’t photocopied the text in advance for them – it would have been easier.

I showed a sentence from the video and then presented an expression of opinion and asked for a volunteer to give his/her opinion on the statement from the film, using the expression. My example for the students was:

Statement from film: If you don’t like your job, quit. ExpressionPersonally“. My opinion: Personally, I think it is better to find a new job and then quit my old job”.

The second sentence (the first one went smoothly, just the way I had hoped) was:  If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing the things you love. The expression of opinion was “As I see it”.

There was a murmur of approval when we finished ensuring that everyone understood the sentence. The ages in class range from 20 to 62 (only one man is 62, certainly not the average age!) and it obviously struck a positive chord. I was so pleased!

And then I made a mistake.

The student who was supposed to give her opinion on this statement said ” As I see it, I want to do things I love”. I said that that wasn’t an expression of opinion on the statement itself. As she was one of the older women I asked if she would give such advice to her daughter and she said yes. But then someone said: “Well, its all good advice, we agree with them all and thats it”.

The students remained very interested in understanding exactly what the statements in the clip were but did not really want to express their opinions on them. Only one brave student broke away from the crowd and said “I strongly disagree (the expression on the board) with the statement “all emotions are beautiful” (the Sandy Hook School in Conneticut was mentioned). I even suggested they use their mother tongue first to say what they think as we barely work on speech in this course but that didn’t help.

Many students told me, as they left the class, that they had enjoyed the video. They did encounter new vocabulary in a meaningful context so they hadn’t wasted their time but my plan certainly backfired.

I plan to try an “end of the year film with them to end next week’s lesson. I have to give some more thought to how to use it!



Saturday’s Book Tales

The horrific events in Conneticut, U.S.A pushed the book We Need to Talk about Kevin back into focus. I read it a year and a half ago and discussed it in two parts, as it was so upsetting. The parts are here and here.

With events such as these happening, I guess people don’t need to read that particular book as a wake-up call. Alarm bells should be ringing as loud as can be.

A moment of silence.

On a completely different note – it seems that some things are made to be.

Last week Baiba Svenca passionately reccomended a book called “The Swan Thieves” by Elizabeth Kostova. I took note of the recommendation but was determined NOT to look for it when I went to the library on Thursday. Our library’s collection in English is very erratic and I’ve been dissappointed often. Gems are found when I come with an open mind. Last visit to the library I tried looking for THREE different books and came home with NONE. Luckily, my good friend Dorit lent me An Equal Music (which I really enjoyed, though it is a bit too long) so that turned out well.

Anyway, what do I see thirty seconds after entering the English section of the library on Thursday? You got it – The Swan Thieves! And I wasn’t even looking for it!

So, you already know what next Saturday’s book will be. I’ve just begun (two chapters) and am delighted but its much too soon to write about it.

May everyone have a safe and peaceful week.




A Blog Birthday Hanging in LIMBO!

My blog is two years old today! I’m rather awed by the fact, I must admit. I had no idea what would happen when I posted my first post. Yet here I am, two years later, my head full of comments, thoughts and books that are just waiting to be blogged about. Writing has become synonymous with reflection for me.

So why am I “in limbo” and not simply rejoicing? Here’s the chain of events that has left me hanging in the air:

Photo by Gil Epshtein

A while back I applied for a scholarship and sent in a speaker proposal for  IATEFL Conference in Liverpool, this coming April. Nothing gained if nothing ventured, isn’t that how the saying goes?

I didn’t get the scholarship.

But my speaker proposal was accepted! Oh my goodness!!

First there were agonizing debates with myself, my husband and some friends – attending a conference abroad is an expensive adventure. We’re cautious people who work hard and plan our expenses carefully.

Photo by Gil Epshtein

However, my blog’s second birthday isn’t the only event of the year (The Jewish year is from Sept. to Sept., you know!). I’ve been a teacher since I was 23 year old. I’m turning 50 this June and speaking at IATEFL isn’t something I have done before.

So, we decided to go for it!

Then why the limbo, you may ask?

I need permission to go as I will be missing a few days at school. My school principal and school inspectors have been wonderfully supportive (IATEFL sends a beautiful official- looking letter with its logo) and I REALLY appreciate their support. However, it seems that someone higher up in the Ministry of Education needs to approve it as well and sign documents. When will that happen? Will it happen?

I don’t know. Hence the limbo. Those two short sentences make a nice ryhming sound when said together but they leave me feeling uptight. Flights need to be found, dues need to be paid, accomodation issues solved (anyone looking for a roomate for the conference?) not to mention a talk to be prepared.


In any case, I can talk about books with real pleasure. I’m still reading (and enjoying) An Equal Music. Meanwhile, here are some recent reccomendations from readers of the blog:

Baiba Svenca recommended The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. She said she didn’t want the book to end!

Janet Toar couldn’t put down the book “Sacred Hearts”, by Sarah Dunnant

Shulamith reccomends a site of Winter Poems to warm you up. She encourages the Israeli readers to enjoy it quickly – Winter is awfully short around here!

A book Vicky Loras  recently read and really liked was “Scenes From Village Life” by Amos Oz.

I’m delighted  to receive recommendations, so keep them coming!




Saturday’s Book: “An Equal Music” by Vikram Seth

I didn’t notice the exact moment when I got caught up in this book. It’s not one of those that I fall in love with by the end of page one or two.

But by the time Michael jumped off a moving bus in London in a hopeless chase after Julia, forgetting the record he had struggled so hard to locate, I felt breathless and desolate.

I’m hooked.

**Note from Sunday: What a great comparision between music and food! You spend hours on preparation and its gone in such a short time!