Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

When Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes & Hercule Poirot Examine a Teacher’s Desk

Looking for clues on a teacher’s desk. Naomi’s Photos

Thank you all for finding time in your busy “literary lives” as world-renowned detectives to join us here today.

Since all of you are known to have extraordinary powers of deduction,  I would like to give you a small challenge.  Please look at this photo I took of a person’s desk.  What can you learn about the person who uses this desk and his/her workplace from this photo?

Hercule Poirot: I don’t even need to use my little grey cells to see that this is a teacher’s desk. She is clearly grading papers!

Naomi: That is correct, but wait!  You said “SHE” is grading papers. What makes you think that we’re talking about a female teacher?

Hercule Poirot: “Because I am Hercule Poirot! I do not need to be told.” *

Naomi: Haha! With all due respect, if you were my student I would ask for information from the text (in this case, the photo) that supports your claim.

The evidence is clear – The photo was taken on a hot, sunny day. Naomi’s Photos

Sherlock Holmes: I must agree with my colleague on this matter. “You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.”**

Sherlock Holmes: Look carefully at the photo. Great thought and care have been invested in the exact placement of each object and decoration on this desk, indicating not only a woman’s touch but one who is pedantic and clearly interested in style or design. Even the apple, which is only there temporarily, is neatly cut and placed with care.

Naomi: Pardon me for saying so, but you are from another era – there are men today who are admired for their style. Aren’t you just guessing due to the fact that there are more female teachers in this country?

Sherlock Holmes:  I’ll ignore that. Just look at the spectacles on the desk. Not only do they serve as an additional indication, but they are reading glasses. Clearly, this desk belongs to an experienced teacher.

Miss Marple:  Gentlemen, do take a look at yourselves!  You are so easily distracted by the irrelevant issue of gender, while completely ignoring the true significance of all you see on this desk.

Naomi, you must bear in mind that “Gentleman are frequently not as level-headed as they seem” ***

Naomi: Thank you, Miss Marple. What do you mean?

Miss Marple: This teacher, and the teachers seated near her (this desk is obviously one of many), are clearly required to spend a great many hours at school, well beyond those hours devoted to teaching.  One would assume that such hours were allocated as “preparation time” though as someone who specializes in listening to what others say among themselves (certainly not to be confused with eavesdropping!!) I do wonder how much work can be efficiently done when surrounded by so many people…

The investment we see in making one’s workspace comfortable and aesthetically pleasing indicates someone who has decided to make the best of the situation.

Hercule Poirot: (Coughs loudly and pauses before speaking)

My dear Miss Marple, you neglected to mention the evidence that this teacher does not have an administrative role at school.

Naomi: Which evidence is that?

Hercule Poirot: I’m astonished you need to ask that, Naomi. Why even a child would know what being allocated a cubicle (as opposed to an office) signifies…

Lieutenant Columbo: Just one more thing…

(Collective sounds of surprise are heard, as he had not been sent an invitation)

Lieutenant Columbo: Why has no one mentioned that this teacher is not an elementary school teacher? Look at the length of those texts!

Sherlock Holmes: (sighs deeply)

Sherlock Holmes: Even though I did not actually say the following in any of my books, I cannot help myself – we didn’t mention it because it’s E-L-E-M-E-N-T-A-R-Y!

Mali Savir, EFL Teacher at Mekif Yehud High School (Naomi’s Photos)


Many thanks to Mali Savir, for “lending” me her desk for this post.

  • *        “Death on the Nile”, by Agatha Christie
  • **     “The Bascombe Valley Mystery” by C. Doyle
  •  *** “The Body in the Library” by Agatha Christie


Revisiting “A Quote Challenge” – A Refreshing Review of Vocabulary & Syntax

When the pandemic began I forgot about this lesson.  In fact, the thin binder of “puzzles” that it was placed in it fell out of a drawer and lodged itself behind the drawers.

I’m so glad I found it again.

The students enjoyed it and I was pleased with the vocabulary and syntax reviewed.

Here is the post as it was first posted on Jan. 6 , 2016

_ *_ *_* _

Full disclosure: I’ve never began a post this way before.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

There’s no real reason to continue reading this post. Hana Ticha’s lesson “Everyone is a Genius” has everything you could want a lesson to include – vocabulary, grammar, syntax, discussions, general knowledge and FUN! The quote chosen has a such a nice educational message too. So why adapt it? What happened to “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Just go on to Hana’s post!

I had to adapt the lesson because I wanted to use it in my learning center for Deaf and hard of hearing students. Each lesson is for a jumble of  10th, 11th and 12th graders, at all possible levels. This activity is not for all them.

In addition, due to my students’ hearing problems, I would have to write out each clue, as they woudn’t be able to follow the spoken language. That would be cumbersome and time consuming.

In short, I needed a version that students could work on fairly independantly, with me guiding and helping from time to time (and then hopping of to help someone else).

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

So I typed up the lines for each letter of each word of the quote, so the students would have that information as a hint. I also added the first letter of most of the words (not the grammatical ones). I also wrote clues for about two thirds of the words. Some are very simple clues, others demand more of the student.

Here is the word document (two pages):

A Quote Challenge

I’ve done it with a few students so far. One by one (not in the same lesson). They are all students who enjoy a challenge, students who are curious.

They loved it!

Filling it in led to them asking great questions. The students tried to use “he” instead of “it” for the fish, which led to a review of the difference between  “it’s” and “its”. One very deaf student was puzzled by the word in the clue for tree “leaves” which he was positive was only an irregular verb in the past. The whole idea, naturally, of an “f” (leaf) changing to a “v” (leaves) is strange to him. Another student was sure that “everyone” should be plural but could tell that the number of letter spaces didn’t match the word “are” and figured out on her own that the following word must be “is”. The only word they all had trouble figuring out was “if”, even though they got the “will”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have a clue for it, and then it will draw more attention to the conditional form.

The students really enjoyed the detective work! However,they all needed my help in understanding what the point of the quote was. One thought it meant he shouldn’t go off on “wild goose chases” such as looking for fish on trees…

All the students who have done it so far are kind of “loners”, students who don’t always “fit in”, for different reasons. Once they got the point of the quote, they really approved!

When EFL Students Explore a “BIG” Question with OXPLORE

A mixed bunch… Naomi’s Photos

There are times when I wish that instead of teaching in the format of a “mixed-level-learning-center”, all my advanced students would come at the same time for a more “traditional” kind of class.

I could then present a topic for discussion, and we could have discussions in small groups which would lead to the writing task.

In such a scenario I wouldn’t have had to create the worksheet I am sharing today.

Reading Maria Theologidou’s post “Rediscovering Bookmark Favourites, Part 1” introduced me to many sites I was not familiar with, and I truly appreciated the little explanatory blurb for each site. However, one site, in particular, blew me away “Oxplore – The Home of the BIG Questions”. 

The deeper I delved into the site, the more excited I became.

Excited and frustrated.

ONE – Which one to choose? Naomi’s Photos

“‘Oxplore is an engaging digital resource from the University of Oxford. As the ‘Home of Big Questions’, it aims to challenge those from 11 to 18 years with debates and ideas that go beyond what is covered in the classroom” (from the “About” page on the website).

The material there really IS geared toward teenagers. There are short texts, interactive questionnaires, and videos. The graphics are friendly.


There are a great many “BIG QUESTIONS”‘ to choose from!


My advanced Deaf and hard-of-hearing students do not come to class with others on their level, so peer discussions are not an option.

I had to have a written task for them to do, individually.

It took me several weeks to come up with a version I could use.

At first, it seemed logical for me to choose a topic and prepare a task for that specific topic. This way I could ensure that subtitles /captioning of the videos, which my students rely on,  had correct English (the automatic captioning on YouTube is often riddled with errors and makes no sense). In addition, I could create specific questions for each section to ensure the students actually read information from different sections.

On second thought, me, the teacher, choosing the topic for the students was NOT a logical idea.

Not at all!

The site is geared toward choice, for students to go through the topics and choose the one to relate to.

Yes, but…

BOOKS!!! Naomi’s Photos

I ABSOLUTELY adore the video about the four ways books make us who we are. I really wanted all the students to watch it and write about it. The content is important,  the vocabulary used is enriching for these advanced students, and the engaging graphics are a treat. For some inexplicable reason, many of my smartest students with amazing language skills, think books are a waste of time…


So I compromised.

The first part of the worksheet is open-ended, and the students choose their topic. Three of my students are currently working on it (more to begin soon) and each one has chosen an entirely different topic!

The second part is related to the video.

It will be interesting to see how they react to it and what they write about it…

Here is the downloadable worksheet.

An Oxplore Big Question

Would you use Oxplore in class? How? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Useless Unicorn Umbrellas before Final EFL Exams

Useless Unicorn Umbrella
Naomi’s Photos

A unicorn is a mythical animal.

A unicorn is also something desirable that is difficult to obtain.

There is a persistent myth in the weeks preceding a national matriculation exam. Like a unicorn, this myth represents something the students desire but find it to be an elusive goal, because it doesn’t exist!

I’m sure you’ve heard the hooves of a unicorn passing through your classroom at this time of year as well.

This myth goes like this:

The students believe that during the very few lessons that we actually have after the winter holidays (those precious lessons that weren’t canceled due to extra math lessons) and before the National Winter Matriculations, I will impart MAGICAL information that will enable my students to ace their exams.  Some secret knowledge which they seem to think I have withheld from them until now.

Sorry to disappoint you, students.

Now they are upside down… Naomi’s Photos

I tell my Deaf and hard -of -hearing 12th graders that they should be proud of themselves. This national exam is the final section of their overall grade and their previous achievements on the easier sections matter a great deal – they’ve come a long way.

I remind them to come on time and go to sleep early before the exam (I remind myself to bring pens, always needed!).

I point out that there are two dates for repeat exams.

There are plenty of things for us to review before an exam, but there are no golden rules or surefire tips hiding under this unicorn umbrella, waiting to be released at the very last second.

Sorry students.

Go away, unicorn, I know you’ll be back in May.

Have you also heard hoofbeats during the last lessons before a major exam?



Blues in my High School EFL Class

Reflecting on the color blue… Naomi’s Photos
Two Blue Checkmarks

If there is something I’m not using this year because I CHOSE not to do so, are WhatsApp Groups (or broadcast lists) for each of my classes. I spent too much energy, wasted energy, trying to get certain students to actually read the short messages I sent.  I then had to keep track of who had read a message and who didn’t. To add to the confusion, in some cases, a student actually had read a message but I remained unaware of the fact because the two blue checkmarks failed to appear on my screen at all (he/she read the message without opening it).  The students say they are inundated with WhatsApp groups and cannot keep track of their messages and frankly my colleagues with young children make the same complaint.

Complaining… Naomi’s Photos


* Simple announcements such as “There will be no lesson tomorrow at 09:00” – are sent to one of the students to pass on.  That seems to work.

* My classes of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students are small.  I copy a prewritten message, add a name and send it. Messages with a name elicit a slightly higher percentage of responses.  I resorted to sending question marks ( “? ? ? “) to three nonresponding students this year,  and two of them actually apologized for not answering.  I had written words of praise and encouragement, I wanted them to see them! The third student didn’t see the question marks either…

* I’ve completely stopped sending reminders before tests – reminders such as “bring a pen”, “bring your dictionary”, etc. The ones who need the reminders aren’t the ones who read the messages anyway…

You wanted yellow? Plenty of yellow here! Naomi’s Photos


Fact – Some struggling students who have trouble reading, find it easier to read dark blue letters on a pale yellow background. This particular contrast is helpful in certain cases.

Fact – There are many struggling students for whom the SIDE EFFECTS of the contrasting colors make a difference. It’s not that the contrast is directly addressing the source of their difficulties, rather it’s a helpful step in convincing new students that we are truly trying to help them.  When the students see that you made a special worksheet just for them, used scissors to cut their reading passage into paragraphs so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming and even gave them a personal set of flashcards they begin, slowly, to trust you. Trust is crucial…

Here are two samples of such worksheets (the yellow color isn’t as pale as I would like)

All about YOU 2            All about YOU

Head towards the light! Naomi’s photos


*** The new reading glasses I wear around my neck are blue, and their case is too (Monet’s Water Lillies, lots of blue)! As I’ve worn multifocal glasses for many years, having reading glasses is a big change for me.


Feeling Blue

My multi-level, personalized learning center is still reeling from the surprise closure of the learning management system I had been using, Edmodo.  Imagine Google Classroom, but free and very easy to use. It turned out that a small class, one teacher, cannot use Google Classroom. So, thanks to the support of my principal, I’ve begun using a combination of Wakelet (free) and TeacherMade (an inexpensive subscription). While this combination overlaps with a large percentage of the functions I used to have, and both are very user-friendly, the material needs to be organized and posted! I had TEN YEARS worth of organized material there!  All the new 10th graders have heard of Edmodo, as I keep saying things like: “We have a digital version of this, you can sit at the computer… oh wait, we actually don’t… Not yet…

That makes me feel blue…


Onward! Naomi’s Photos

Blue Skies and Blue Waters actually don’t make me feel blue at all – quite the opposite!


New School Year? Seeking “Islands of Stability” Amid the Changes

Which set of keys is the right one for this year? Naomi’s Photos

“Are you sure Teacher T.  didn’t have a baby? I don’t know what to write for someone who moved to a new apartment”, asked one of my 10th-grade students near the end of the previous school year.

“Just write HAPPY BIRTHDAY! – that works for everything” advised another.

As I launched into my “greetings/best wishes lesson”,  I hoped to recreate the lesson we had several years ago when the aforementioned Teacher T. actually did have a baby: “Students Writing for an Authentic Audience Affords a Peek into their Hearts”.

The students back in 2018 were motivated to write, we practiced vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in context. In addition, we focused on  PRAGMATICS, which is something my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students certainly need to work on.


It wasn’t a repeat performance.

I hear you!
Naomi’s Photos

For starters,  moving to a new apartment clearly doesn’t tug at students’ heartstrings the same way that having a new baby does.

I understood that but nonetheless, I handed out whiteboard markers, wrote a suitable title on the board, and attempted to inspire the students by acting out how pleased the teacher would be when she arrived at class and found all these good wishes on the board.

One student actually started off on the right track – he wanted to write: HAVE A GOOD MOOD APARTMENT! So that led to the kind of educational discussion I was hoping to have.

But then a student literally stood with her hands on her hips, gave me a sort of “Are you kidding me” look, and said very emphatically:

“She knows Hebrew.

I know Hebrew.

And YOU want ME to write to her in ENGLISH?!”

She proceeded to shake her head sorrowfully…

The big drop… Naomi’s Photos

The OLD teacher in me immediately began thinking:

“Which of our old “Writing for an Authentic Audience” projects was worth revisiting? Or should I look into new options?  Perhaps we could…”

These thoughts were drowned out by the NEW teacher in me shouting:


This past year was really difficult, despite being back in class. It was a struggle to have a sense of continuity when we actually never had the allotted number of lessons a week. Even those students who didn’t feel the need to skip at least one day of school a week were often absent due to class excursions, lectures, exams in other subjects / getting tutoring hours for upcoming exams in other subjects.

And of course, some students were also absent due to illness. I was too, as a matter of fact. The pandemic hasn’t disappeared yet…

Turbulence… Naomi’s Photos

The NEW teacher in me says “focus on building “islands of stability before thinking about anything else. ”

It doesn’t matter that my summer tradition has always been to find/learn some new tweak, practice, routine, or different take to start a new school year with.

I need to figure out how to bring back what actually worked well before the pandemic hit and was lost or dramatically downsized.

Look back, not forward, before this school year begins.

How’s that for being open to change?

There are tunnels on the road ahead… Naomi’s Photos

Since I teach in a multi-level, mixed-grade learning center, some examples of what I would like to see  once again in class:

… students coming to class, actually remembering what they are working on and independently pulling out the material they need.

… students practicing their vocabulary on Quizlet without asking what the icon for Quizlet looks like …

… getting the WORD STATION up and running again and ensuring the students use it regularly without asking me what to do …

You can read about that “work station” here:        

… reviving the lessons involving the “look up and read” method adapted from John Fanselow’s book “Small Changes in Teaching, Big Results in Learning”.

You can read about that here:


of course…

… seeing students continue to use the one thing that actually was an island of stability for both the students and I throughout the years of teaching alongside a pandemic (including the distance learning part!) , the tool that enabled each student to log on and only see his/her personal assignments, called…


All gone… Naomi’s Photos

The wonderful off-the-school-grid Learning Management System I rely on, Edmodo, is shutting down.

For good.

It was just announced – in Mid August!

School begins Sept. 1st.

I’ve been using it for at least 10 years and have a vast amount of material organized into small units, for different groups, levels and individual students. I even have a small pedagogical library there!

The one thing that was not harmed by the pandemic (on the contrary!) is disappearing.

Writing for an authentic audience?

That will have to wait.

I’m going back to basics first.









Asking the Narrator of a Story to “CHAT” with the Students Directly

“I was prepared to dislike Max Kelada even before I knew him”.

W. Somerset Maugham’s opening sentence of the story “Mr. Know All’ is crystal clear.

This is a story dealing with prejudices.

I should be saying:

“Great, Naomi. You already have a pre-reading task ready on “being too quick to judge”, go prepare something else for the upcoming school year”.

I try to convince myself:

“You even posted about the importance of focusing on the central idea of the story in the pre-reading task, including a quote from a reading expert! Move on!” (Shifting the focus of pre-reading tasks, August 2018)

But I can’t.

Well, I use a computer… (Naomi’s Photos)


Look at the next sentence:

“The war had just finished and the passenger traffic in the ocean-going liners was heavy”.

The war in question is World War 1.

You may think that it doesn’t really matter that my Deaf and hard-of-hearing students haven’t a clue as to when that war ended (some are a bit surprised that there was a WW1 even though the numbering should have been a clue…) but it actually matters a great deal.

For starters, if I don’t emphasize the time frame my students cannot fathom why the characters are spending two weeks on a ship instead of hopping on a plane, spending their time ignoring the other passengers.

There would be no drama without the journey on the ship.

Not a ship. Let’s imagine a horse and buggy, ok? Naomi’s Photos

But then my students get the whole issue of nationalities mixed up.

And it all comes up in the first paragraph.

The narrator was traveling from San Francisco to Yokohama

My students assume the narrator was American (once we ensure everyone knows where these cities are located…) because who else travels from San Francisco?

After my students have already jumped to conclusions it’s much harder for them to internalize the information about the British Empire and who is or isn’t a real “British Gentleman”.

At least someone is sure of himself! Naomi’s Photos

“… I should have looked upon it with less dismay if my fellow passenger’s name had been Smith or Brown.”

Those surnames do not indicate any nationality at all to my students…

In short, I created a new slideshow.

While there are a few spaces where students are required to fill in the missing information (“look it up, students!!), this is not a task meant to be completed independently, without teacher involvement.

While difficult vocabulary items can be glossed, setting the stage for the story is crucial.

Now I can work on updating the glossary…

Here is the slideshow.

Pre Reading Mr Know All.

At Last! An Authentic Conversation with Students about Making Mistakes

Sports Day! Naomi’s Photos

There aren’t many authentic opportunities for a teacher in the school system to truly model seeing mistakes as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

You know what I’m talking about.

We teachers are always being told that we should teach the students to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes.

To view mistakes as a learning opportunity.

Important, right?

A truly important message for my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students learning English as a foreign language.

Yet we are expected to get this message across in a school system geared toward good grades and “getting it right”. A system in which the students trust me to know the material I am teaching them well.

So how do I show my students, at least occasionally, in an authentic way,  how I make mistakes, try to understand what went wrong, and try again? And again and again?


Failing doesn’t mean falling… (Naomi’s photos)

Fast forward to the day after our recent annual national sports tournament day, for schools with programs for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students from around the country.

We’re back at school.

One 10th grade student catches me coming down the stairs on the way to the classroom:

(No hello first…)

” Why didn’t you take a picture of me when I was ‘doing’ the penalty kick?!! The teacher of the other school took pictures of her students! I saw you with the camera by the football field!”

The second 10th-grade student said “Hello” and “Good Morning”. And then (more politely)  wanted to know why I only sent her one photograph of herself at the netball game,  (standing still!) when she clearly saw me taking lots of pictures of her during the first part of the game.

You need to learn to use the keys to unlock the right doors… Naomi’s Photos

Both students got the same candid reply:

“You know, I’m trying to learn artistic photography with a real camera (as opposed to a cell phone camera) and it was really hard for me to take pictures when you were moving so fast. Most of my photos were awful. You still have two more years at the high school. I hope you participate in lots of school events and I’ll keep trying. Maybe in the future, I’ll succeed in taking a good picture of you”.

Their reactions?

The “net-ball girl” – “Okay, I’ll be competing again. You keep practicing and try again. I got one picture, that’s a good start”.

The “soccer boy” – “Well, I’m not blaming you but if it’s hard you should practice. Maybe next year you’ll do better”.

Maybe I will take better photos of sports events and other school activities next year.

Maybe I won’t.

Either way, bringing my camera will work out well!

Additional notes:

  • I ALSO told the “soccer boy” that I got hit by a soccer ball kicked directly at my leg while standing by the field, which didn’t encourage me to stick around. He didn’t really find that detail relevant… A true photographer doesn’t let small discomforts get in his/her way, right?
  • One of the few “action photographs” I do have from the girls’ netball game is actually a funny one of a boy who barged in during the warmup time and caught the ball! You aren’t going to see it though – I don’t post pictures of my students anywhere online.

“Grammar Pens” Caught in a Teacher’s Self “Ping Pong”

What’s the next move? Naomi’s Photos

Ping: “Oh Pong, listen to this! I’ve got a new idea for the next school year. Let’s use…”

Pong (interrupting):  Now hold it right there. Did you just say a new idea? As in a NEW IDEA? Weren’t you the teacher complaining about feeling overwhelmed and tired?

Ping: That was me…

Pong: So convince me why I should even LISTEN to this new idea when you can stick with what you already have. Go ahead, let’s see what you can come up with.

Ping: It doesn’t require much teacher preparation time.

Pong: Not bad. Keep going.

Ping: Making small changes, even “tweaks” to the routine always boosts my work-related motivation level, and I really need some of that after this school year.

And the students might learn something…

Pong: Okay, okay, good points. Let’s hear the new idea.

Hear my words…
Naomi’s Photos

Ping: You see, we’ll have “Grammar Pens” to… (Pong interrupts)

Pong: Wait a minute. “Grammar Pencils” are “A THING”. You can Google them and find sites to purchase them from. Those pencils have confusing grammar points on them, such as “to, two & too” or “there, their and they’re”. Are you already planning out-of-pocket purchases for the English Room?!!

PIng: No, no, calm down. Absolutely not. This idea was just inspired by those products. Our students prefer pens and purchasing things like pencils makes no sense as they aren’t made for long-term use.

Pong: Whew… (sighs in relief).

Ping: You know those students who never bring a pen to class? I once read that in such cases a student should leave something of his/hers until the pen is returned at the end of the lesson. Such a method would be problematic to implement with some of our Deaf and hard-of-hearing adolescents (I don’t what anyone taking off their belt, for example!). However,  I thought that perhaps I could still turn the situation into an educational experience.

Is that Gandalf?
Naomi’s Photos

So, before I let them use one of the English Room pens, they will have to tell me what the difference is between your/you’re,   its/it’s,  have/has, etc. I can add confusing vocab items such as long/no longer too.

Pong: What happens if they don’t know the answer?

Ping: We do what we always do, unrelated to this particular idea – I tell the student, and then the student has to tell it back to me.

Pong: How are you going to emboss/ engrave the target words onto the pens?

Ping:  I’M NOT!  Even if I knew how to do such a thing I wouldn’t.  It’s the same principle that holds true for playing board games in EFL lessons – you don’t want the target item to appear in a fixed place. On a board game, if an instruction or a vocabulary item is written in the top left corner, the students quickly memorize what they need to say or do when they reach that corner, and stop reading the words written.  If the words are permanently on “the red pen”, or the “large pen”, the students will just use such cues to retrieve an answer without focusing on the words written.  The cards can’t have numbers on them, for the same reason.

I’ll place a little box with the target words on cards beside our pen holder.  Easy to shuffle cards or pull out ones that are below/above a certain student’s level.  You get a lot more repetition with cards, compared to “fixed words”.

Take a card, respond, get a pen – easy peasy!

I can use it with the highlighters/colored markers too!

Ha ha ha!
Naomi’s Photos

Pong: If you’ve got all that worked out, why did you call me in? I usually only show up when there’s a problem.

Ping: (Sighs in regret)* There is a problem.

Actually, there are two problems.

Pong: Start with the easier problem.

Ping: It’s a learning center, so not all the students are doing the same thing. If a student began the lesson working on the computer, and then went on to something else, he/she may ask for a pen in the middle of the lesson, not at the beginning…

At the moment they just go over to the table and take one without my involvement.

You must look at it all…
Naomi’s Photos

Pong: Hmmm… What’s the other problem?

Ping: What about the students who ALWAYS bring their pens, pencils, erasers, dictionaries, markers, and anything else they might possibly need for the lesson?

They need to practice these items too…

Pong: Why don’t you ask your readers for advice? Maybe they can offer suggestions.

Do you have any suggestions for me to consider?


  • Can you guess which poem I have been teaching recently, yet again?



Why Teachers Keep Going – A Visual Comment

You work hard every day, sometimes you need to let your imagination run wild… Naomi’s Photos

Before the pandemic, I rarely read blog posts that weren’t written by teachers of English as a foreign language.

As far as I was concerned, “enhancing my teaching skills” meant reflecting on EFL teaching practices, learning new techniques, and getting acquainted with additional teaching resources.

However,  I find the ongoing experience of teaching alongside a pandemic quite stressful. As the months go by of yet another school year rocked by instability I find myself drawn to posts that fulfill a different need.

These are blog posts that support a teacher’s well-being and reflect on what it means to be a teacher.

When I see a new post from George Couros’s blog land in my inbox, I keep it unread until I can sit and give it my full attention. His posts are often about the conversations I’m not having with anyone but wish I did.

The post “Why People Keep Going” is one that needs to be more than just read. I need to personalize it, think about it, make my own version.

Retirement isn’t on the horizon yet (despite teaching for 35 years) so reminding myself of why I go to class each morning is necessary.

In addition, this blog isn’t called “Visualising Ideas” for no reason – I’m itching to liven up some of those grey visuals!

*** George Couros presented sixteen points in his post. I am reflecting on seven of them, and adding one of my own.

  1. Seeing potential
Growth happens even in challenging conditions

Some of my students are making clear progress, despite the difficult conditions.  Therefore, even those students with the sketchiest attendance must still be getting something out of the lessons they do attend – I just haven’t seen the “shoots” burst out yet. I must hold on to that thought.

2. Future  Focused
Take one step at a time
Naomi’s Photos

This is a point which I’m struggling with right at this moment. Having a clearly defined plan of what is expected of them and knowing “where we are going” this semester absolutely does mean something to my 11th and 12th graders. It matters. However, with my 10th graders it’s an uphill battle. It took an incredible amount of energy in the first semester ” to get the information to sink in”, including posting the plan in class, sending them individual messages talking to them and then the homeroom teacher…

Now a new semester has begun and I balk at having to repeat the process. Some students have already made it clear that I must – I should be preparing individual notes for the students instead of writing this blog post…

Yet writing this post reminds me that venting is good, tomorrow is a new day. Right?

3. Recognize Other People’s Struggles
Off balance…
Naomi’s Photos

Bearing this in mind helps. A lot.

4. Work as a Team
We’ve got you covered! Naomi’s Photos

The pandemic has placed a lot of constraints on meeting team members. Not only have many teachers have been out due to the pandemic, I basically stay away as much as possible from the staff room, eating my lunch in the English Room or outside. However, I have found that making an effort to seek out staff members during my free periods is truly one of things that keeps me going.

5. Manage Time
Tea Time! Several Times a Day!

Actually, LETTING GO of “managing time” is what is keeping me going. I am getting dramatically less done (perhaps you have noticed that I haven’t posted about my books recently…) but I find I need more frequent breaks. Lot’s of tea. And time to play “Wordle”!

6. Find solutions
You can’t stop me, I’ll just go around… Naomi’s Photos

Ha! Until I sat down to write this post I hadn’t really considered that I have “my “Special Ed Teacher” skills here on my side! A student needs to take her test at a different hour from everyone else, while another needs a retest, yet another has lost his notebook, doesn’t have a pen, can’t remember his password to the class site – that’s nothing new for me. Pandemic or not – that’s a reality I can deal with!

7. Confident
“Is that you, cousin Bob”? (Dino looking at the cover of “Dinotopia, by Gurney) Naomi’s Photos

Well, Mr. Couros (may I call you George?), I wouldn’t need this lengthy reflection on your post if the experience of meeting certain students 3 hours a month (instead of 4 hours a week!) hadn’t rocked my confidence in my ability to teach them more than they knew before they met me.

It’s a good thing I’m a blogger. Facing fears, in writing, is a step forward.

I do feel better.

                         The following point is not in the original post:

8. Move out of your comfort zone within the safety net of a beloved hobby

Part of taking a good look at myself as a teacher, reflecting what I can and what I must strive to do better, is , well, actually looking at myself.

So, this year’s challenge in my journey to develop my skills as a photographer includes placing myself in front of the lense.

Lessons in confidence, 101.

Self-portrait, holding the book “Dintotopia” by James Gurney


What keeps YOU going?