Category Archives: Guest Posts

Learning to Accept a “NO” – Lessons from a Teacher with a Red Nose

“No”. That’s not something we teachers find it easy to hear, or to accept. We put so much energy in explaining, clarifying, supporting and encouraging. We volunteer our own time and try to go the extra mile. It is difficult to understand that sometimes what is truly right for the other person at a certain moment simply is not what we are trying to give.

The author of this guest post, Dorit Renov, shares her experiences and insights on dealing with “NO” as a response. Dorit has been an EFL teacher for over 40 years. Besides teaching, Dorit volunteers as a medical clown, is an actress, and taught art for many years. This post is an excerpt from her upcoming book.

Looking at things from a different perspective
Dorit Renov

 

“Fill in this space, you still have some space on the page.”

The 18-year old volunteer at the center for mentally-challenged adults pointed to the white space around a cluster of colored brush strokes.

“Here, you have place here for some more color.”

“Well, actually,” I told her later, “If you remember from my instructions, white space is fine. We don’t have to fill in white space. We, in fact, don’t have to do anything for our people here at the center. They can decide on their own how much white space they want to cover, and they can decide what colors to choose.”

“So what do we do?”

“We assist them physically if they need it. And we provide friendly company. We don’t decide for them.”

“But what if they want another page and they haven’t finished that one?”

“There’s no such thing as finishing a page. Each individual is capable of deciding when she or he has completed that work and wants to move on to the next, regardless of that individual’s IQ level.”

Paper
Naomi’s Photos

 

We strive to touch the individuality of the person, to help that person express himself or herself. We talk of self-expression as an important aspect of education or interaction with those tutored. And then we fill in their white spaces?!

Making decisions is a vital part of our independence and it is an expression of our very essence. I choose x rather than y because my essence wishes, has an affinity for, x.

Making choices is vital.

And it lends dignity to people in all situations and conditions.“Help the people here make their own choices. When Lior chooses red he has expressed his own-ness, his self. His self wants red there. And when he says or indicates ‘Enough’, that means that he has chosen to see this page as complete. It is not our place to question that, for we are not him. And he has been him.”

“Um…”

“Um, okay? Um, I understand?

Um, you’re digesting this?”

I respect your um, and you respect the white space.

White spaces on paper
Naomi’s Photos

 

So one day, we – the staff – thought our young adults could take further part in the decision-making, and vote for certain programs at the club. Sitting in a circle, they were introduced to the program, what it would include – in a simplified manner, of course. The voting began and each one could say “Yes” or “No”, whether or not the program should be implemented. After a few yeses, the nos began. The first one to say no said it for his own reasons and the avalanche of nos that followed seemed to simply echo the first no, in the sense of “No” sounding good.

And so, a perfectly lovely program that I had devised was now not to be implemented, simply because no sounded good to say, it being fun to say “No”.

“What shall I do, Adva?” I asked our team leader.

“Well, wait a while and maybe we won’t vote in the near future.”

Making choices it would seem is best done within the limits of one’s capabilities. Voting yes and no may be a tad more difficult than choosing whether or not to fill in that white space on the page.

When color knocks on the door…
Naomi’s photos

 

Clowning at the adult cancer center at a local hospital, I look past the open door of a room in the ward, to a woman lying in bed while a younger woman is sitting beside her. I ask quietly, and with a smile, if I may enter – my appearance leaving no doubt as to my intentions. I have a red nose, a chicken-hat on my head, a colorful vest and equally colorful trousers. Not too much color on my face, just red to emphasize my smile.

The woman in bed shakes her head, so I send a kiss in the air with my fingers toward her, smile, wave and disappear. I am very pleased that she said “No.”

The hospital is a place where one can seldom express one’s will. We are not asked what we would like at the hospital. We are told what to do, and people barge into our rooms with no prior permission or notice. Medical staff, cleaning staff, visitors – all enter at their own will.

I may be one of the few who asks permission, and I therefore consider it a great privilege of the patients to state their desire to have one refrain from entering.

May I?
Naomi’s Photos

I can definitely say that I am just as pleased to receive a “No” as to receive a “Yes”, since for just one moment that particular patient has exercised her or his will. I consider that moment to be the most I may humbly contribute, for I have no knowledge of anything more.

That is the moment of being oneself, touching one’s own essence, touching the healthy and oft-forgotten side of one’s being.

 

And so, the word “No” may be very pleasant to one’s ears in certain circumstances, and in the hospital it warms my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post from an English Speaker learning Hebrew through Russian

After recommending Tyson’s Seburn’s post “Z is the 1st letter of their alphabet” , related to the experiences of American children studying at a school in Moscow, I heard from a number of teachers who found the video fascinating. One of them is Sharleen Harty, who has had the unique experience of learning a language she doesn’t know through another language she doesn’t know!

Photo by Gil Epshtein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Here is what she wrote.

Sharleen Harty is a new immigrant to Israel & can be contacted at sharpersona@aol.com or visit her website:

www.grieve-study-teach.info

How I am learning Hebrew – in 2012

by Sharleen Harty

 

Never before as a ‘linguist’ (I studied English, French, German and Italian at University of Cape Town; English, Afrikaans and French at school in South Africa; on-line Spanish in a USA college), have I had the opportunity to explore a language in the land in which it was born, died and then revived. Sixty-four years after Israel became an independent state, Hebrew is alive and well – with a meaning much as it had in Biblical times.

During the first five months as new olim (immigrants) in Israel, most non-Hebrew speakers attend five hours each day of intensive (and free) Hebrew exercises at Ulpan. However, my twenty fellow students in Akko were entirely Russian speakers (which is not unusual in the north apparently), and the teacher spoke very little English – so at the end of each day my output was more Russian than Hebrew.

I was confused on many levels by the daunting process of learning a new language and alphabet (Hebrew) through the context of listening to another language (Russian) that I did not know. Even the homework was largely presented in Russian and Hebrew. With the help of various (free) computer programs I was able to: observe and listen to a clearly articulated Hebrew audio track on-line (as opposed to the dominant Russian heard in class); cultivate a more authentic Israeli (and less Russian- or English-sounding) Hebrew accent using transliteration and audio playbacks; learn the Hebrew alphabet, and build a small vocabulary that I could use through the daily words posted on Facebook – visit http://www.hebrewpod101.com

By Gil Epshtein
By Gil Epshtein

The best classroom, however, was definitely out and about in the sleepy, 6,000-year-old fishing village of Akko itself. I learned Hebrew words and context from each memorable encounter, much as a child learns his or her mother tongue (English for me) until it becomes ‘habitus’ or second nature. Another creative way to acquire Hebrew vocabulary was to listen to Israeli musicians (my favourite was Idan Raichel), while following the transliterated meaning and English words on-line. If only I could sing it would be an even more useful way to form and practise my Hebrew accent.

All Akko wanted to practise their English so I assisted two single Russian moms studying to be English teachers, taught oral bagrut at the local high school and was treated like a celebrity while teaching in Arab and Druze village schools. I may have stumbled on a new career as the sole, native-speaking English teacher in and around Akko. If more Anglos settled here I believe that we could easily start an English school – or at the very least teach the meaning of words and sentences through mime/charades.

I stopped the ‘Hebrew in Russian’ input after one month and several migraines of being “Lost in Translation” (a must see movie for those who are experiencing the sensation of being lost in a new language, culture and environment)*.  However, I continued to acquire knowledge as I set up a home in Akko, made friends, networked and found work in the schools. Being creative with my Hebrew language procedure allowed me the freedom to prioritize my daytime activities, and study at night if necessary. I even indulged my passion for archaeological meandering and exploration in the old Crusader-now Arab city, followed by a swim at Akko’s country club and processing Hebrew during my laps.

According to http://www.aaci.org.il/ new olim have eighteen months in which to use free Ulpan lessons, so it remains an option if my anthropological hypothesis does not bear fruit within a year. If observing while participating does work, however, Arabic is next on my list…not to mention Russian.

*Two hilarious miscommunications during Ulpan: I thought I understood – to my horror – that a Russian student wanted to “drive drugs” in Israel (actually trucks) and that Israelis like to go to the store to buy “snakes” (actually snacks)

P.S. I moved to Nahariyya in 2013 and will resume my Ulpan practise there to supplement and speed up the Hebrew I imbibe daily.

 

Guest Post: “Going Going Gone” with Low-Literacy Learners By Clare O’Nolan

I’m pleased to introduce my first guest on this blog – Clare O’Nolan!

Clare is an ESL and ESOL teacher and teacher trainer based in London. Interested in teaching underprivileged and homeless. Spare time scuba diver and birdwatcher. Clare tweets at @Clareonolan

I was lucky enough to be able to share my excitement about the adaptibility of the disappearing text method for special needs students (I’ve been posting about my experiments with it recently!) with Clare. Although she works with an entirely different kind of population we found that the system works for her too!

So, here’s Clare’s post!

(Note: The original Going Going Gone” post is from Jason’s Renshaw’s blog.)

My class and I had great fun with this last Thursday!

I used the 5 sentences from the current ‘chapter’ of material we are using. The students (5 women, 2 men from Afghanistan, Yemen, Morocco, Somalia & Bulgaria) had read it with me and the pictures before hand. Each sentence was boarded alongside the picture (instead of the questions in Jason Renshaw’s version) and drilled with slightly exaggerated word stress. I thought remembering the rhythm might help later with the word order.

1st round: removed unstressed function words; dismay all round – replaced them on the board by eliciting from students. (More dismay – we did it!)
2nd round: removed same words again plus prepositions. (Less dismay this time.) I gave the students a copy of what was left on the board as a 1/2 page handout. They worked in pairs to restore both sets of words by writing in the gaps. We checked as a class using the board again, them reading aloud.
3rd round: removed all previous words plus verbs from the board. This  version was shown on the second 1/2 of the handout and the students filled the gaps again. They took longer but succeeded. (Proud dismay all round!)
4th round: fast worker only. On another handout provided I had taken out everything except initials for the names and the nouns in the story. She had to write back in all the missing words. (Success.)

I found it useful for little things like showing them collocations are waiting, for a bus, are going, to the zoo etc. They practised the connection between what they saw (familiar pictures), what they heard (reading aloud), and what the wrote to fill in the gaps.
I tried to avoid your problems with too much copying from the board (!) but fell into the trap of not allowing for large handwriting in the gaps. I needed to leave more space. Also whilst wanting to show how many words were missing, I confused them with dashes like this ——– (they assumed each dash was a letter) when I should have used a line _______ . I also like the way the task could be easily differentiated for the variety of abilities, even in this small class. I will definitely do it again with the next chapter of our material.