It Seems That “Teaching” Beats “Cooking” After All!

It was a close race. “Teaching” and “Cooking” ran neck-to-neck most of the way. Near the end “Cooking”  seems to pull ahead, but at the last-minute “Teaching” beats it to the finish line. 

Part One – running neck-to-neck

Do and Do Again

Again and again (Naomi's Photos)
Again and again
(Naomi’s Photos)

* You invest time and effort in cooking a few dishes. Before you know it the food is all gone, the refrigerator is empty and you have to repeat the whole process. And then repeat it again.

* You invest time and effort in teaching your students various things. You then teach it again to the next set of students (assuming that the first set of students remembered the material!).


On the lookout (Naomi's photos)
On the lookout
(Naomi’s photos)

So as not to bore yourself or your “eaters” / students, you are constantly on the lookout for new ways to use the very same staple ingredients in your kitchen / mandated curriculum.

Damage to fingers / clothes

While the dangers of kitchen knives, burns  and acquiring stains on one’s clothes when transferring  the soup from the pot to the container may be obvious, you must mind your fingers at school too. Not only do they become stained with ink, whitener, the whiteboard marker (and possibly glue) but paper cuts abound. Not to mention all kind of old wooden chairs, cupboards with uneven surfaces. Or with an old nail that got slighty raised. These will attack either your fingers or your clothes… Don’t forget the dangers of colliding with a coffee-carrying-teacher in the teacher’s room!

Part 2:  “Cooking” almost overtakes “Teaching”

Positive Reinforcement!

Just for you! (Naomi's Photos)
Just for you!
(Naomi’s Photos)

People, even CHILDREN will actually TELL YOU that they enjoyed something you cooked (children will also tell you what they didn’t like!). Diners may even inquire how many hours you spent in the kitchen to achieve this result and thank you for doing so. They may ask for the recipe. Your efforts in achieving the end result are not taken for granted.

I won’t say this never happens at school, but it’s fairly rare.  Even if at times students actually say they enjoyed something in particular, it’s taken for granted that the teacher has spent time and effort preparing this. Taken for granted by the administration as well.  The kids are passing their tests and there are no complaints, that’s all that is needed, right?

Part Three – “Teaching Crosses the Finish Line First!”

Naomi's photos
The best! (Naomi’s photos)

Every time you cook a dish, it’s a one-time-opportunity. You carefully chopped all those vegetables and then added too much salt? Or forgot to add salt before putting the casserole in the oven? That’s it. The damage has been done. All the careful work you put in has been cancelled out by that careless shake of the hand, releasing all those misguided grains of salt. A few dishes can be salvaged by smothering them in gravy or adding rice but the expected success has turned into “being edible”. While you can say that over time you improve your Spinach Quiche, that first Quiche was done for.

In the classroom you can change tactics, revise your lesson plan and try again. If you realize that the way you presented a new topic to your students wasn’t clear all is not lost. If you gave them too much new information at once or see that they are getting confused you can add support, change tactics and still achieve success.

“Teaching” leaves room for errors, not just for the students. Teachers can get a second chance too.







Saturday’s Book: “The Miracle at Speedy Motors” by A. M. Smith

A town's name from the wrong side
A town’s name from the wrong side

This is one of the books from “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”.

I love these little books. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I find these books incredibly comforting. I make sure not to read them one after the other, but rather every few months or so. It’s nice to know I have a few waiting for me.

I’d heard about them quite sometime before I tried the first one. They are difficult to explain – if you haven’t read one, give it a go! Though start from the first one!


A Non-Holiday Themed Video Lesson


Can you see the Menorah in it? Happy Chanuka!
Can you see the Menorah in the tree? Happy Chanuka!

Music videos with holiday songs simply do not work with most of my deaf and hard of hearing students.  I was only able to use Pharrell’s “Because I’m Happy” video back in September’s holiday season because that video is incredibly popular, has a simple word in the chorus (happy) AND I had a version of it in American Sign Language.

So I gave up trying to make a holiday themed video lesson and just used a short video, without dialogue (of course!) with a surprise ending. Something to interest teenagers. Thanks to Leo Selivan for introducing me to this video. You can have the students begin with the version below or watch the film  The Black Hole on YouTube first so as to see it without it being paused.

Here it is below.

Note: In the embedded version you see below the first question appears a second too early. In the version you find at this link this problem doesn’t exist, but you must answer on a separate page/doc, which is what I asked my students to do in any case.




From Superstitous Spiders to Celebrating Global CPD


The itsy bitsy spider (Naomi's Photos)
The itsy bitsy spider
(Naomi’s Photos)

It’s been the sort of week that makes me think of the phrase “everything that goes around, comes around”. It certainly seems that way, but was it because of the spider?

As some of you may know, I’m participating in a 365 project, which calls for a commitment to take a photo every day for a year. I’ve learned a lot from this project, including how to look at little things. So, I was delighted to get a shot of a spider among the dewy leaves right near my parking spot outside of school  (I never would have seen it before the project!).

Twenty minutes later in class, some students were working on exercises related to “the first conditional”. They asked for help with the sentence: “If you see a spider, you will get money”.

Really?! What a shame that I don’t believe in superstitions, because I just saw a spider!

Well, I didn’t get any money but I did “get” celebrations!

Spreading the word! (Naomi's photos)
Spreading the word!
(Naomi’s photos)

You see, my blog just had its 4th anniversary. So did Vicky Loras’ blog. Vicky is a wonderful ELT teacher located in Switzerland, whom I met when each of us decided to take the plunge and go look for online CPD. This means blogging and twitter, webinars, reading and collaborating online. Four years later I not only have learned a great deal, I now call Vicky my friend.

The thing that helped us both to really enter this new world was Shelly Terrell’s 30 Goals Project.

Today I read that Shelly and the project are celebrating the publication of a book: “The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small steps to transform your teaching!” So pleased to hear that!

But that’s not all.

The postman must have arrived very late yesterday, because we don’t get mail on Fridays. But there was an additional reason to celebrate waiting in my mailbox today – the Special Joint ETAI-ETAS issue of the ETAI Forum is out! And there’s a joint article, written by Vicky and myself,  presenting our “take” on Goal Number 3!

So what do you say about the timing of all of the above?!

Not bad for a little spider!

If you would like to read our article, here it is:

Vicky & Naomi




Blog-Birthday Book Post – Revisting “ANIMALIA” by Base

The moment before (Naomi's photos)
The moment before
(Naomi’s photos)

Visualising Ideas will be four years old on Dec. 8th! This blog has become such an integral part of my life that I almost forgot its birthday isn’t the same as mine…

One of my first ever book posts was about our all-time favorite-family-fun-for-all-ages book Animalia, by Graeme Base.

I wouldn’t have written about it the same way at all today. I began these Saturday Book posts on day one but their style has changed.

Those early posts were rather formal. I don’t try to supply a blurb of the book anymore. Getting the official blurb, pics or anything else is only a click away. I’m not trying be an official book club blog.

I just want to share the fun (or lack of, as the case may be).

This is such a great book to have on your bookshelf because we revisited it again and again at different stages. The clever combination of it being an alphabet book with stunning drawings of oh-so-many things for each letter along with it being a sort of “Where’s Waldo” book, excited the boys when they were small. The first time we looked at it we missed so much! It took a while till we realized that EVERY SINGLE THING  on a given page is related to a letter. For example, that snake we saw on the page for the letter A isn’t just there to play its role in the overall drawing, we have to come up with a name of a snake that begins with A (Anaconda!). That led to many hours of puzzling over pages and sharing with friends to seek help.

The book went to the classroom for a while but came back home – the boys were concerned over keeping this one!

When the new “Dr. Who” episodes started airing on TV here, an exciting discovery was made – that unidentified strange thing on the page for the letter D is a DALEK! Who knew? I had actually seen some of the old Dr. Who episodes as a child but didn’t remember anything except the Tardis travelling in time. Just the other day there was some mention of the word “exterminate” (one of the few words Dalek’s say on the show) and my eldest and I chuckled about the fact we actually have a book with a Dalek in it!

By the way, I think the double spread for the letter “L” is my favorite page. It’s just so beautiful!


Teaching & Being an Introvert isn’t a Contradiction – A Comment

Pounding the Pavements of my hometown
Pounding the pavements of my hometown

Just read a great post by Paul Read “Quiet is the New Loud – Introvert Teachers”

I really identify with this post and the questions he poses. And not just because he also likes to spend “recharging time” by walking alone and taking pictures of his surroundings. A teacher after my own heart!

Read examines the following question:

“So, if I am such an introvert, why the hell am I a teacher?  Isn’t that like an extrovert choosing a job in a secluded lighthouse?  It seems like it must be some kind of hair-shirt or penance, rather than a thing one would voluntarily choose”.

It’s actually a very complex question. I personally find that teaching does not contradict being an introvert. The act of teaching itself is, as Read says, meaningful. Teaching is a fascinating interaction between the students, the material and  me, the teacher. There are many ways to foster this interaction and I don’t believe there is much of a connection between being an extrovert/introvert to the success of the interaction.

Taking a quiet moment in the school yard
Taking a quiet moment in the school yard

That being said, I must ask, do I feel that way because I have managed to be in a teaching situation that suits me?  Was my own decision to go into Special Education and to teach in the format of a learning center,  influenced by the fact that I’m more comfortable in a small group situation and in one-on-one interactions? Many of my colleagues teach in classes of almost 40 students. My only experience of this was teaching  three courses of adults in classes. I kept trying to individualize their learning and reach out to every single one. Unsurprisingly, I ended up exhausted.

In addition, Read talks about being in a situation of “Rolling Admission”. I teach the same students all year. In fact, I teach the students for three to four years! Again, something I believe suits my temperament.

Nonetheless, we’ve all had wonderful teachers who were introverts. In all kinds of teaching contexts. So perhaps it’s not just me that doesn’t find that the trait and the profession contradict each other.

Note: I have read Susan Cain’s book on introverts. There are some very valid points there which I agree with completely, but the book is far too long (and very focused on business). I find Read’s post far more thought-provoking.