I’m Presenting at RSCON 4! WOW!

I’m excited to announce that for the first time I’ll be presenting at RSCON! It’s a truly global experience bringing together so many educators and such a wide range of topics! All available from the comfort of one’s home, and free! Just take a look at the following information (link to my talk below too):


In a few days, thousands of educators from various different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON4.  RSCON will be held October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. The entire conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide.


Useful links (click on any item for more information):


We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Steve Hargadon, Clive Elsmore, Chiew Pang, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Paula White, Bruno Andrade, Cecilia Lemos, Greta Sandler, Peggy George, Marcia Lima, Jo Hart, Phil Hart, Dinah Hunt, Marisa Constantinides, Nancy Blair, Mark Barnes and Sara Hunter

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

Saturday’s Book: “Switch” by Chip & Dan Heath

The full title of the book is “Switch -How to Change Things when Change is Hard”.

Getting a hold of this book was ridiculously hard but it was worth the effort. It took all summer. One store said they would order it and then after two weeks said they were sorry but they couldn’t. Then the other store (I had received birthday gift certificates to these stores, otherwise I would have ordered elsewhere). said that transferring books in English from another branch is a process that takes two to three weeks (?!! It’s a small country and the branches were not far!). After FOUR weeks it was discovered that they made an error and the order was never processed. To make a long story short, the young manager of the shop was so embarassed that someone just drove to the other store and brought the book and they gave me a small discount!

All worth it. I know I’ll be writing about how relevant this book is for teachers in some regular post (not a SATURDAY one!) but this first reading was absolutely fascinating on every level.  It is so readable (with some humor too!) and not “preachy”.  Everything is explained very clearly with a really useful summary and Q/A page at the end. The book  made me more aware of things I am already doing at home too, and things I am not. I also found it very optimistic.

As someone who really really tries not to purchase books and is a firm believer in libraries, this is certainly a book to have on your very own bookshelf!

Wondering When Students Begin Enjoying Word Play

The latest post on Film English “Missing U” introduced me to a beautifully animated short film with such clever word play! I enjoyed it so much that I watched it a few times this week, just for my own pleasure.

I don't think THIS was intentional word play...
I don’t think THIS was intentional word play…

It set me thinking though. The adults (hearing) I taught were struggling learners. Despite the lovely and useful lesson plan on the Film English Blog (which was planned for intermediate and upper-intermediate learners, not the level I taught) I think a great deal of effort would be needed for these learners to identify and understand the word play. If a lot of effort is needed, doesn’t that seriously impair the effect? Doesn’t it become “not fun / funny”?

I remember when years ago I took a course in Spanish. Last summer I also tried to study some Spanish on my own. I needed so much concentration to follow something in Spanish (and was so proud when I did) that word play would have thrown me off. I needed the contexual clues to support my budding comprehension and felt much more sympathy toward  my deaf students who abhor words that have more than one meaning.

So, from what level of English is word play suitable and enjoyable?


It’s Saturday! Musings on What to Read in a Waiting Room

Waiting at airports isn’t really included in this particular line of musings, as one usually has a pretty good idea of how long the wait will be. I’m thinking about waiting rooms where you don’t know when your name will be called. At a clinic, for example, you may know that there are at keast 15 people before you, but they are waiting for different staff members and are destined to enter  different rooms, or at the post office another worker may arrive and the line will suddenly progress at a surprising pace.

I tried using a Kindle in one such waiting room this week (I had it on loan for two days, long story). Although it is comforatble enough to read on, its not so convenient in such a situation. Perhaps because it wasn’t mine I was being extra careful, but I had to go back to HOME, turn off, take all four corners out of the protective cover-holder and then put it back inside, closing the zipper. THEN the Kindle went into my backpack.

Too slow when your turn suddenly arrives.

Now magazines are great for instant stuffing into a backpack. No big deal if they get a bit creased. The question is, what do you want the content of the magazine to be in these situations? If you have long waits with other people, its nice to have one with tidbits of information to share (“Really”?! Did you know that?! Isn’t that odd?). On the other hand, sometimes its good to have engrossing ones so that you can forget about where you are. A small paperback is good but a heavy large one may lead to back pains.

I guess the ideal thing is to take a magazine and a paperback book, or two different kinds of magazines!

What do you do?

New Q/A Blog: The Key in the Apple

Every now and then I get questions from teachers from other countries who find themselves teaching English as a foreign language to deaf students.

After being contacted by two such teachers in the last week, I thought I should have an additional blog for specific questions on the topic.  It seems to make sense, as teachers sometimes ask the same questions and then I would have links ready for them. It might also be more searchable.


I’ve actually been thinking about this for a long time. While I’m always pleased to hear that someone found useful information on this blog, Visualising Ideas is NOT a blog with any specific agenda, nor do I wish it to be. I love the freedom of blogging about any aspect of being a teacher that is on my mind at a given moment, whether it is teaching deaf teens or hearing adults, battling with the school janitor to turn up the temperature of the air-conditioner, or meeting former students whom I remember but have forgotten their name.

The blog is called The Key in the Apple. At first I thought of calling it “Apples and Zebras”, which is the name of my reading program and first book. It seems there is already a blog with this name.  “From Apples to Zebras” was also taken (both teacher-blogs, by the way). Then I realized I should use the name of both of my books, the second one being “The Book of Keys”. And so a blog was born!

The Q/A format means that this new blog will grow slowly, as needed, without demanding frequent attention. At least that’s my intention – lets wait and see!

Saturday’s Books: “Postcards” and “The Magician’s Assistant”

This week I finished both my audio-book and my “printed book”.

I chose “Postcards” by E. Annie Proulx at the local  library because I loved her previous book “The Shipping News”. I enjoyed the movie, too.

The writing style does not disappoint but I was quite unhappy with this book. If the writing hadn’t been so good I wouldn’t have finished it. It says on the back cover: “Loyal (the name of the main character, what a name!) comes to symbolize the alienation and frustration behind the American Dream”. That may be true, but for me it seemed like a tale of endless misery and woe and I found it quite depressing.

I chose Ann Patchett’s “The Magician’s Assistant” as my third audiobook of my gift subscription. I really enjoyed “Bel Canto”, “State of Wonder” and “Run” and discovered that my local library doesn’t carry this particular book. At first I was a bit disappointed. This book deals a lot with magic, but it didn’t cast a spell on me immediatly the way the other books had. The beginning seems bogged down with too many details. But then it got much better. I became very involved with the characters and was quite sad when the book ended. The reader was so good, the characters seemed alive and I miss them a bit! Its an early book of hers and I do agree that the others are better but I’m so glad I didn’t miss this one!

New Challenge – The Student Who Doesn’t Respond

Scene One

Third day of school. Only started teaching in my new classroom in the middle of the previous day, when the air conditioner was installed. Five minutes before the first bell, I arrive to find that the carpet-boards (which allow teachers to hang things on the walls) which I had requested were leaning against the cupboard, blocking my access to it. They were too heavy for me to move on my own.

THE student, whom I will refer to as New Kid (10th grade) walks in. I had never seen him before. I admit I was told that he has “communication issues” ( not related to the hearing problem) but not much more than that. I wasn’t given lables and I  won’t use one here. But I was flustered and didn’t remember at that moment which new student he was. I inquired about New Kid’s name but there was no reply. Then I asked for help in moving the boards. New Kid stood there looking at me blankly. I asked again using speech, sign language and just plain gestures showing what I wanted. Nothing happened. Then I realized who this unfamiliar face must be. I placed his hand on the boards and he gave a small tug and let go. He just stood there. I didn’t give up and he finally gave me enough momentum to drag the boards to the side.

One of the boards mentioned.
One of the boards mentioned.

Scene Two

Same lesson. We were alone for the most of the lesson because other students were at a lecture, which was really good. We read a text together and New Kid is brilliant, top level. What a vocabulary, impressive by any EFL standard but particualry so for a hard of hearing student. I quickly realized that I don’t have to ask comprehension questions, he WILL turn to me if there is a phrase he doesn’t know. Then there was an appropriate reaction (most of the time) to what I said. I told him which books to buy.

Second board arrived with makeshift covering because it is so badly pockmarked.
Second board arrived with makeshift covering because it is so badly pockmarked.

Scene Three

Second and third lesson. I ask him if he told his parents about the books,  will he have the books soon. No reaction. Ignores my questions completely. Books appeared yesterday, beautifully wrapped in protective plastic.

2013-09-09 14.37.29
Same board, new cover.

Scene Four

I give New Kid  a grammar worksheet on the topic of Passive (different tenses). He won’t let me go over the help sheet (with the rules) with him so I let him begin and work with someone else. When I come back to him a bit later, he’s quite annoyed that I insist on checking what he has done so far. Since he did not let me explain anything I really did not want him to complete many exercises without checking his work. He’s doing pretty well so I point out where there is a need for corrections and then leave him be.

The bell rings. All the students pack up and begin leaving. I tell him the bell has rung but he ignores me and continues working.  I begin talking to another teacher who has come by to discuss some things during the break. New Kid finishes the worksheet and wants me to check it. I say no, this is the break now, I’m talking to the teacher now. We’ll check it next lesson. New Kid wants me to check it NOW. I refuse. He gives up but remains standing next to us till the bell rings and the other teacher leaves. He will be late for his next class. Only then does he pack his things and leave.

Other board, new cover.
Other board, new cover.

We’ll learn to get used to each other. I already know I should use scrap paper to write him comments as he doesn’t like me writing on the side of his page.  It just amazes me that people are surprised that I’m not bored of teaching for so many years. So many years, yet there are always NEW KIDS who need to be taught in slightly different ways. Boredom is NOT a problem!

New Year Wishes

I know, I know, New Year wishes are supposed to be sent and posted BEFORE the new year actually begins. But I was too overwhelmed and busy this year. The year certainly began in a very intensive manner!

However, it is never too late to wish people good things! So, whether you are celebrating the holiday or just starting a new school year, or even if you aren’t, here goes:

Look what I got for the holiday!
Look what I got for the holiday!

May this year be a healthy one.

May this year be peaceful and safe.

May this be a year where you find the students AND school administration actually care about your goals at school. They cooperate too.

May this be a year when work is so nicely organized that there is time for recreation without having it be at the expense of sleeping now and then.

May this year be a healthy one.

May this be a year  for discovering new things and trying new experiences.

May this year be one filled with great books to read and share.

May this be a year of expanding the global enriching network of supportive teacher-friends.

And yes, beginning, middle and end:

May this year be a healthy one!

Shana Tova!