Category Archives: conferences

Creativity, the IMAGE CONFERENCE and List Making

Encountered this on the streets of Brussels on the way back from the conference.

The word “visualising” in this blog’s title is no coincidence. I’m quite mesmerised by the power of visual images and the sheer joy of experimenting with them (or should I say playing?!).  I admit to shamelessly informing my eldest son, who’s interest in photography has been steadily growing over the past two years, which of his pictures I need for my blog or for class. It works for the way words evoke visual images too – remember James Thurber’s delightful story “My Secret World of Idioms”?

So you would think I would be able to figure out how “list making” could possibly be connected to “creativity”. But I can’t!

At the IATEFL conference in Liverpool I, naturally, attended Keiran Donaghy (Film English) and Jamie Keddies’s (lessonstream) excellent talks. I missed Ceri Jones’ talk (Close Up) because it was (thoughtlessly!) scheduled too close to my own talk. AND, it turns out that all these speakers (and more!) will be at the upcoming Image Conference in Barcelona. I certainly hope the talks will be recorded and not just streamed – we only have a one day weekend here and I can’t spend Saturday attending virtually!

Anyway, back to list making.

I’ve been thinking about these talks as part of a “mining for ideas plan”  for my upcoming course with hearing adults. More about that when I start the course and try them out. But lets forget about students for a minute (gasp!) . In one of the clips Keiran Donaghy showed, called “29 ways to stay creative” (so creative, B.T.W), why is “list making” number one? Running around with a notebook makes sense (recording your ideas before they are lost). But list making (which I’m really trying to do now) connects to the non-creative side of people, its just about making sure what needs to be done gets done. Isn’t it?

Can you explain it to me?

“The Eureka Moment” – My IATEFL 2013 Talk

Photo by Omri Epstein

It took me a while to decide how to upload my talk to the blog. The following elements which made me proud at the talk itself also made it very difficult for anyone not present to understand:

* Hardly any text on slides, no reading aloud of slides

* Letting the audience actively experience some activities

The following is an adapted version. All the text you now see on the slides are for the benifit of the reader. I know that, theoretically I could have recorded myself, filmed myself and all sorts of things. But I also knew that I would never get any of that done now that I’m back to normal life again. This way, I worked on it over several nights, and here it is!

Important Notes:

All photos in the slides were taken either by Gil Epshtein or by Omri Epstein.

Thanks to Sandy Millin for posting her tweets from the talk.

Thanks to Anthony Gaughan for talking about my talk (second topic) when he was interviewed at the conference.


Notes from an Event in Honour of Prof. Penny Ur

I was fortunate enough to have just had the pleasure of attending a moving event after a busy day at the IATEFL Conference in Liverpool.  The event, hosted by Cambridge University Press, was in honor of Prof. Penny Ur, who had just received an OBE from the Queen of England.

Prof. Ur spoke of how she began writing for “Cambridge” and later I heard some of the guests sharing their  personal “Penny Tales”.

The advantage of having my own blog is that I can share my own “Penny Tales”!

I started attending our wonderful national ETAI Conferences shortly after becoming a teacher, 27 years ago. That is where I first had the pleasure of attending Penny’s useful and informative talks. For me, Penny was simply an integral part of ETAI. In those days, first as a young teacher and then as a mother of young children, I have to admit that I was remarkably uninterested in people’s existence outside of the conference walls. I made an effort to attend conferences and “made a beeline” to the lectures of those speakers whose talks I knew I would find useful. I’m proud to say that ETAI brings together a great many inspiring teachers worth listening to.

Later on, naturally, I DID learn more about the books Penny had written and projects she was involved in, but I didn’t grasp how famous she was until I joined twitter, two and a half  years ago. Suddenly I heard people recommending her books and tweeting excitedly from talks she was giving around the globe. When I mentioned that I had heard Penny on a number of occasions teachers were jealous! I refrained from saying that at ETAI one could actually TALK to Penny during the conference. In fact, she didn’t speak only at the large conferences in Jerusalem – I attended a talk of hers at a MINI CONFERENCE (one afternoon) at the school down the road from my home!

At the IATEFL conference in Liverpool I discovered that “famous” was too mild a word. Teachers were lining up to ask for autographs and to have their picture taken with Prof. Ur.

I just wanted to say that seeing all of that hasn’t changed my opinion of Penny. One can’t respect a person any more when that person has already earned your utmost respect.

Penny; thank you  for helping me discover many things as a teacher, including the fact that attending English Teacher’s Conferences is a very rewarding thing to do.

I wish Prof. Penny Ur all the best for many years to come!


Leaking Information No One Ever Tells You about Attending an IATEFL Conference

Here is some insider information from someone who is having a GREAT time but has learned some things I’m sure no one thought to tell you before attending a  HUGE international IATEFL Conference in Britain.

Photo by Omri Epstein

Number One:

Computer bags with wheels don’t do well on cobble stones. Nor on mock cobble stones. Quite a few of the sidewalks too.

Number Two:

The hiding place of the water cooler is in the book fair. A quick run down the elevator is the fastest way to fill up your water bottle and be back in the lecture area in time for the next talk.

Number Three:

People in Liverpool are incredibly friendly and patient with Bozos who don’t know what is what when it come to British coins.

Number Four:

Don’t arrange to meet someone by the reception desk at lunch time and THEN go off to find lunch. When there are 2,500 people at one conference, all the eateries at the venue and beside it, literally run out of food. If you want to eat without going too far you have to be off like a shot.

Number Five:

It’s the WONDERFUL company that counts, not the food! It seems to be “Sandwich Heaven” around here. At this rate I’m beginning to look forward to cooking again…

Number Six:

No need to abstain from using your laptop before your presentation for fear of not having “juice”. Turns out the “Quiet Room” for presenters is absolute VIP treatment – from tea and coffee to electricity and even assistance for those who need it! oh, and did I mention cookies?

Number Seven:

Keyboards are different. Surprising. As so many people are logging onto the wifi it crashes so it’s really helpful to use the computer area. The symbols such as @ and quotation marks are in completely different places. Since my computer most certainly was manufactured abroad, I didn’t expect that.

Number Eight

When there is so much going on, so many people to talk to and so much new information (the days are really long),  it IS actually quite refreshing to sit and drink quietly alone for a while. I believe in tea, by the way.

The most important thing is to ENJOY ENJOY and ENJOY!


Repost: Discussing Prof. Crystal on a Remote Island in Ireland

Since I can’t believe that in a week I will have the pleasure of attending another one of Prof. David Crystal’s talks in Liverpool, I thought I’d repost the following. Not only was it a pleasure to attend his talk at the Jerusalem ETAI conference, he took the time to reply to my letter! I n addition, the incident mentions marks the time when I became “the puffin”!

Here is the letter I wrote. I am not posting his reply as I have not asked his permission to do so.

Dear Professor Crystal,
I attended your lecture in Jerusalem, at the ETAI Conference in July. I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought your book: “Just a Phrase I’m Going Through”. I began reading it right away. Little did I know that I would be discussing it just a few days later in what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere!
A few days after the conference I found myself on the remote island of Skellig Michael, 12 km. off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. We had come to see the Puffins and Gannets as my son is an avid bird watcher. I was feeling worse for the wear – an hour in that sea was not something my stomach could live with (since I’m reading your book I know that you have had firsthand experience with motion sickness as well).
While standing at the “dock” waiting for the boat back (seeing the puffins in nature was worth it!) a man approached my family and asked what language we were talking in. Upon hearing the reply “Hebrew” he nodded smugly and said “I thought so!” I asked if he was interested in languages and he replied that he was only interested in the sounds of languages. I asked if he was a speech therapist and he was somewhat taken aback that I had “nailed” his profession so quickly, obviously he likes to puzzle people with that sentence. He introduced himself and said he was from Dublin. As I had just read about your lecture in the Trinity College to speech therapists, I asked the man if he had heard of you. He was dumbfounded. How had I, from Israel, heard of him? He was envious to learn that I had heard you speak in person, as he had not had the opportunity to do so himself but wanted to.
Then we started discussing what I had just read about you “adopting” the accent of the person you are talking to and do we all do it to some extent or not. A man from Uruguay joined the conversation too! Unfortunately it was rudely cut off by the arrival of the boat. Once on the boat no further conversation was possible, not only because of the sound of the engine…
I’m still reading your book and find it fascinating.
Naomi Epstein



Crowdsourcing a Talk – A Heady Feeling

There’s something absolutely exciting about getting a large number of poll responses from people. It begins with a feeling of awe at the number of people who spent some time thinking about what I had asked. It’s as if I had spoken briefly to each and every one of the ONE HUNDRED AND TEN people myself.

Then came the drowning sensation. I’ve prepared many talks and usually have a very clear picture of what I want to achieve. Suddenly there was so much data! I could take it in so many directions! For a while I was stuck.

The talk was for “Shema” itinerant teachers. These are qualified teachers who tutor students with a hearing loss in elementary and junior high-school. They teach whatever subject the children  need help with, including English when necessary. But they are not English teachers and most of them aren’t Native Speakers either.

I posted survey questions in Hebrew for these teachers, both as a wake up call to be more aware of services and support they could be getting and aren’t utilizing, and as a way to get more information for myself regarding their needs.  93 itinerant teachers answered the survey questions.

I also created a survey for English teachers, which I posted on our wonderful local network, ETNI. 12 teachers answered the survey in English

I must point out that the part of posting the surveys was very easy indeed, thanks to Adele Raemenr, who introduced me to Google Docs in a session at the Jerusalem  Summer ETAI Conference.

Here are some of the results (note that the numbers refer to actual numbers, not percentages. They don’t always add up to 110 as not all the teachers answered all the questions).

The English teachers did not agree whether or not it was important for a Shema teacher to have her own copy of the teacher’s guide. There was a question of how helpful it could be for someone who was not a qualified English teacher.

Teacher’s Guide

Of the 30 Shema teachers who attended my talk, only one had ever looked at a teacher’s guide in English. In other subjects they had done so.

The Shema teachers, who travel from school to school, were also unaware of what they might find in the school’s “English Closet”. Here is what the English teacher’s had to say:

English Closet

It was very clear from the survey that many Shema teachers do not feel comfortable aksing the classroom teacher to explain material being taught. 61 of them said they would prefer to have a special            reference/resource site for them instead of asking the teacher.

asking the classroom teacher

Considering the Shema teacher’s interest in having a site tailored to their needs (which already exists in a smaller format, yet hasn’t been used much!) I was surprised by the number of teachers who said that they prefer their resource material to be in printed book form – 36!

printed vs online

The explanation was that grammar is the topic most stressful for Shema teachers. They want to own a good book that not only has explanations in Hebrew but also has exercises for the students. They want to have it in printed form, readily available whenever needed.

I asked for information, now I can’t ignore the answers. So, now I had better get cracking on expanding the online resource material for Shema teachers. I just hope they will use it!

IATEFL Dreams Fading Fast

Photo by Omri Epstein

It’s been six weeks since I first requested to attend the IATEFL conference during the school year, following the acceptance of my speaker proposal. The speaker acceptance document  has the name of the school on it and I included it in my request.

I was told that the proposal must go through 3 stages in the hierarchy of my superiors. The final green light must come from the head district’s office. Nobody told me that getting the document through those stages would be like taking on a fourth job – a job that I am obviously not qualified enough for.

The general attitude seemed till now to be “the right way to apply is for us to know and you to guess”. FOUR times my application was returned from second base to first base because something was incorrectly presented. Not only was I not told (till the fourth time) what the problem was, I was also not informed that it had been returned. Endless phone calls led me each time to the discovery of my application’s status.

Still I persevered. After the fourth time I was told, by phone, that all was in order and that as we speak my application was being delivered by hand to the head office.

When I called that office a week later to try and find out how long it would take to receive an answer (and who would inform me that there even was an answer) I was told that no such application had reached the head office.

That’s it. I can’t continue calling people every two days. I don’t even know how to continue after being told that it was being delivered when it wasn’t. I have no flights and no accommodations. I’m trying to have a life here and a fourth job wasn’t in the bargain.  I plan to continue working at this school, and in the national school system, for at least another 10 years. I can’t make a “big stink” over it.

Other interesting things are happening in my life. Building my first online course with Edmodo. Have left my Pilates class in favor of a larger gym which will enable me have both yoga classes and aerobic activity – I spend a lot of time working but not nearly enough being physically active… I feel relief since deciding not to run after these “bases” anymore.

I haven’t cancelled the session at IATEFL yet. I DID set something in motion. It would be awful if I got a letter of approval right after I cancelled. Still, I can’t delay much longer. I think I will wait two weeks.

Perhaps it is for the best. I’m so exhausted (and somewhat hurt) that perhaps I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward at the conference. More importantly, I need to decrease stress. No wonder I’m so excited about my new Yoga class. I’ve only had two lessons so far but there is something very relaxing about it!

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!