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But You Aren’t There – In Homage to the Late EFL Teacher Yaron Adini

The late Yaron Adini in a costume, photo taken at a school Purim Party, 2022.  Passed away at the age of 48 

I look for you as I enter the teacher’s room on Sunday morning, before the first bell. It’s usually not a good time to say more than “Good morning” to anyone, but you and I both have a free period at 08:00, so we don’t have to worry about the bell. I’m curious to hear about the interesting activity you have planned for today for your classes. Truthfully, my interest in the activity is secondary to my desire to bask in the glow of your passion for teaching. Seeing your face light up with enthusiasm is so very inspiring.

But YOUR spot is empty.

You aren’t there.

I scan the two rows of computers – surely you must be, once again, helping one of the teachers who is struggling to make our computerized grading software understand what she wants it to do. No one even needs to ask you for help – the minute you register sounds of frustration, you are there at their side, explaining and guiding in your calm, gentle voice.

You aren’t there.

Oh, so you must be in the vice principal’s office again, helping make the workflow more efficient. Your background in High-Tech comes in handy.

I wonder if all those years spent with computers, who never loved you back, gave you such passion for teaching when you made the switch?

I don’t teach students with “normal-hearing”  but I do hear them gossip when I’m doing yard duty, or when they come to volunteer in my special learning center. Students gossip about their teachers.


You aren’t there.

Never mind, so you are busy, fine. We share another free period at the end of the day on Tuesdays. We’ll talk then, right? We can unwind and talk about things unrelated to teaching. I usually let you lead the conversation as I’m constantly amazed at the breadth and depth of your general knowledge. You have lived abroad, you speak several languages and in fact, are fascinated by languages. What were you telling me about the complex beauty of Greek recently?

Tuesday comes and goes.

You aren’t there.

So, you must be absent again, having a bad spell with your illness.

I’ll write to you – you often find it distracting when you are bedridden to correspond about things such as which ed-tech solutions actually are helpful and to tell me about some tool you discovered that might be helpful for my special needs students. You offer to help me understand how to use it if needed, even though you have never used it yourself.

No reply. 

I wait, truly patiently, because sometimes it’s a really bad spell and I need to wait till you get stronger and start replying again.  Always in written form. You don’t like phone calls or visitors. When you come back I don’t ask the questions you don’t like, about your health. What matters is that you are here.

Was your passion for teaching also related to your fragile health? Did it make you more aware of how wonderful it is simply to be able to come to school and teach?

I never asked.

My message box remains empty.

You aren’t there.

Now you will never ever be here.

And it’s hard to comprehend.

Thank you, Yaron Adini, for touching my life with your kindness, patience, generosity, and enthusiasm. Your amazing smile will be engraved in my memory.

You left us far too soon.

I’m grateful to have been fortunate enough to be your colleague.

You will be remembered!




“But Teacher, I Knew the Answer, I just DIDN’T NOTICE that…”

Look at me! Naomi’s Photos

“Hey, look at me. I completed the test really quickly!  See? I’m leaving the exam room and you all are still at it. So who’s the smartest student in this class? ”

_________________ (add relevant students’ names. You know                          who these students are!)

So what are these “speedy students” missing?

Lots of things.

But for the moment I’m only trying to tackle one specific point that causes students to wildly jump to conclusions – line numbers.

Lines – CAUTION!   Naomi’s Photos

True, if a question is phrased like this, students know where the answer will be found.

  1. What does the writer explain in paragraph I?

However, what happens when the line numbers only denote the source of the quoted phrase, while the answer is located elsewhere?

  1. What does the word “this” ( line 6) refer to?

We know what happens.

All those who work quickly without paying attention to every word of the question, lose a lot of points…

Here’s a short interactive, self-check worksheet, intended to highlight the different ways locations in a text are referred to on reading comprehension questions.

Where Would I Find the Answer in the Text?

Hopefully, the students will get the point and not lose points…

Time for a Book: “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder”by Fraser

Naomi’s Photos

This book is fascinating in so many ways.

I too read “The Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilders avidly as a child. I think I read the entire series three times before the age of 10.  I tried several times to create a “china doll” out of clay for the mantlepiece at a family friend’s art studio (even though I have never owned a mantelpiece!). When someone mentioned the word “Calico” I thought of the dresses from the book, not cats. The “older-me” later watched the TV series with the neighbor’s children who would come to us after school.  The names of the family members have been etched into my brain.

I had assumed that this book would interest me as I would learn more about Ingalls Wilder’s real life compared to the one she portrayed in the books she wrote. I had no expectations regarding anything else.

I learned far more.

Away from fairy tales…
Naomi’s Photos

Fraser (who shares the name Caroline with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother) ties in the in-depth research into the family’s history with the history of the United States in a clear and engaging way.  The historical context not only highlights what happens to the family but echoes current events.

Seriously. What is going on in the U.S.A today is complicated, but some of the origins of it seem clearer after reading this book.  If you were wondering why STARVING  people refused help from the government’s New Deal in the 1930s, you need to go back to the late 19th century.

For example, scientists of the day warned the government NOT to encourage settlers /homesteaders to settle in the Dakota territory. It’s not that these scientists were concerned about the rights of the Dakota Indians (it doesn’t seem that anyone was…) but they clearly laid out information that the climate and the soil were not suitable for farming wheat. But those who sought to reap benefits from the westward move (both in the government and out of it) scoffed at scientific information and advertised ads tempting impoverished people looking for a break: “The rains will follow the plough”.

Does scoffing at information from scientists sound familiar?

Well, guess what. The process of farming where the thin topsoil took forever to form caused severe droughts, horrific fires, and widespread starvation.  The same government now reminded the starving people that government is not about supporting the people as pioneers are self-sufficient…

Waiting for the white rabbit… Naomi’s Photos

There was a great deal more going on than a simple tale of” the small pioneer family that went West and overcome all problems all by themselves because they worked hard and lived off the land.  Even Laura’s origin family and her married one survived only thanks to additional non-farming work. While Laura herself first turned to writing columns in farming newspapers as a means of supplementary income, she continued to promote the myth that living completely off a farm income was within anyone’s reach…

The only part that I found difficult to read in the book was the far too lengthy details regarding the daughter, Rose. She is an inseparable part of the story of how the “Little House Books” were written, but this part of the book was tedious.

Otherwise, I was fascinated!

Oh, and I had never heard the origin story of the Japanese version before! Who knew!

Visualising a Discussion Prompt for Students on Studying Habits at Home

Humor helps!
Naomi’s Photos

Suddenly, everything changed.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve moved to Daylight Savings Time, we are all actually on “Corona time”.

Who knows how long this will last…

Now that my Deaf and hard of hearing adolescent students (some of whom NEVER do any school work at home) have to study from their bedrooms/living rooms or kitchen tables, I needed an amusing prompt to enable me to discuss study habits with them.

It turns out having a blog is quite useful for finding forgotten goodies. I learned of this video years ago on Sandy Millin’s Blog. 

Just what I was looking for.

I can use it with all levels because this video works best without sound and without students reading the captions.

All you need to do is watch the video and ask the students what they do. The video is very clear.

The mustard dripping on the notebook is a great touch!

Honestly, even if your students hear EXTREMELY  well, you don’t want the sound here.

I did prepare a written “companion” to the discussion because I need that with my students. I’m not sure I can call it a proper worksheet because the level of complexity is mixed. But it wasn’t designed to be done by a student working independently. In any case, I’m adding the downloadable file below.

I hope you find the video amusing and useful!

Wishing you all the best of health!

How to Make Homework Less Work – Download by clicking on the title


Saturday’s Book: “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Harrow

“Doors with a capital D” according to the book.
Naomi’s Photos

This book was a “YES” “YES” kind of book with two “but” “but”s.

I knew almost nothing about the book when I began reading, just that it was advertised as a book that people who love books and believe in the power of words would enjoy reading.

That certainly caught my attention!

It’s a wonderful story about storytelling and about “Doors” (with a capital D) which really do appear in some form in every story when you start to think about it. It’s a tale where words have power and young people strive (naturally, against all odds) to write (write = create) their own life story, the way they want it to be.  There is a clear message that being “different” isn’t a bad thing. It’s a book full of different worlds, unusual places, characters and exotic objects all described in rich detail.

The book has even been shortlisted for the Nebula Award!

No, I’m not going into the plotline. Trust me, you don’t want to read more details about it in advance – let the story unfold at its own pace for you!

So, with all these compliments where do the two “buts”  come in?

Naomi’s Photos

Well, there can be too much of a good thing sometimes. While I delighted in the rich descriptive language, the amount of metaphors and similes used in this book is staggering! Sometimes I wished the author would simply let a character complete her/ his action or have a quiet moment without it being compared to anything…

The other comment has to do with length. I believe the book would be even better if it were a bit shorter – there are certain points where I felt the storyline got bogged down a bit.



Where are my Students REALLY From?

Look closer…    Naomi’s Photos

My students spill out of taxi cabs each morning, rubbing their sleepy eyes after early morning pick-ups, napping or texting through the traffic jams on the long way to school.

Some are from homes where no one gets up before they do,  to see that they leave without breakfast and have packed nothing but party snacks in their school bag for the long day…

Others are from big hugs and best wishes for their day at school, armed with the knowledge that someone is interested in knowing how the day turns out.

They are from blindingly new cell phones, complete with accessories, screens lighting up their lives, from shame masked by annoyance at teachers who insist on such unattainable things otherwise known as pencils and schoolbooks, knowing notes to parents will go unheeded.

Some are from a lifetime of dodging communication pitfalls, guessing meaning from partially heard sentences, tiring easily by the necessity of being constantly alert, at home and at school. From relief at coming to a school where they are no longer the only student with a hearing aid in the entire school – always conspicuous, sure that whispered conversations are about them.

Are you listening?
Naomi’s Photos

Others are from a world full of hands in motion, sailing confidently in a sea of visual vocabulary from birth, signing their pride to be Deaf and their frustration with the world which doesn’t use Sign Langauge, while resenting school organized efforts to create shared experiences between hearing and Deaf peers.

Teenage students of mine come from long trips abroad with their parents during the school year, from dealing with the anger of the same parents for then doing poorly at school, while trusting these parents to bully their teachers into forgetting about the missed material, evading the demand for buckling down.

Adolescent students of mine are from dependence on parents to navigate the world for them, from apron strings tied with double knots, cell phones bridging the distance, tightening the knots that need to be loosened.

My students are from a belief that I always                                                               know where they are really from.

Day in, day out, I give it my best shot.


Where are YOUR students really from?


This post was inspired by the following talk:

The power of digital storytelling | Emily Bailin | TEDxSoleburySchool



Saturday’s Book: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

A window of opportunity
Naomi’s photos


What a great title that rings so true – we aren’t one thing all our lives and that’s it. We change, we evolve, we “become”. I became a woman, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a blogger, a “dabbler” in photography, just to name a few. Who knows how many more things I will become in the future. A great point to make at the start of an autobiography!

The part that fascinated me the most in Michelle Obama’s tale of “becoming” is the part about her childhood and education. My mother had felt that section was too detailed but I was so interested in all of it. One one hand it highlighted the powerful role of parents who prioritized education for their children despite hardships and fostered curiosity and literacy skills.  On the other hand, it also highlighted the frightening aspect of  “lack of opportunity” and plain “luck”. Michelle Obama’s mother fought hard to get her daughter tested, out of classrooms where she wasn’t learning anything and into better educational programs.  And Michelle Obama worked extremely hard to excel in these programs. But what if she had been born a few years earlier? When there was no program that accepted talented inner-city children? Or was just as talented but didn’t secure one of the limited places? What if a child with her abilities had remained stuck in a classroom where no real learning was taking place?

These points are highlighted sharply in the story of an inner-city high-school Michelle Obama visited while she was The First Lady. The students couldn’t physically make it to school on some days because they were so afraid of the gang violence going on in the streets. She discussed the fact that education can be a “ticket out” but it isn’t so for everyone.

There are too many children out there who are left behind!

In short, I admired Michelle Obama even before I read the book and I found many more reasons to do so after reading.

I’ll be interested to read about what she “becomes” next – she can do and be whatever she decides to be.

Visualising School – Photo Pause


Visual notes from a busy teacher’s long days at school:


How to start the day with a smile…

(Just outside the school gate!)

Naomi’s Photos


When the sky meets the schoolyard…

(The front courtyard)

Naomi’s Photos


Shhhh… Just watch the drop…

(The view from my classroom window)

Naomi’s Photos


Tunnel of chairs – what’s on the other side? 

(More chairs…)

Naomi’s Photos


Evidence-Based Praise for Adolescent Students Struggling with EFL Reading Comprehension Tasks

Some need extra attention…   Naomi’s Photos

Raise your hand if you have high school students in your EFL class who:

* have a shockingly limited vocabulary.

* have trouble matching upper case / lower case letters (which makes using the electronic dictionary much harder).

* you suspect can’t really decode.

* still seem surprised (STUNNED) that you expect them to sit down and be ready for a lesson with actual pencils, notebooks, and books when the bell rings.

* take one look at a text and give up immediately – they can’t even look at it, they totally believe they can’t deal with it. They don’t even want to try.

Hmm, it seems we may face some of the same problems with our struggling EFL students in high-school.

The same students we are supposed to prepare for their national final exams…

Epstein family photos

“But this bridge will only take you halfway there–

The last few steps you’ll have to take alone”.

From “This Bridge by Shel Silverstein” 

I visualize most of my teaching work as a bridge that can lead the students up to the point where they are able to take the last steps alone and be independent. The students take the hand that I have offered and we walk together. That’s why I quote this poem so often on my blog!


There is a problem when it comes to these students.

A BIG problem.

These students aren’t even on the bridge and many of them won’t simply take my hand and let me show them the way. In fact, they have to prove they are right in saying they unable to learn and won’t succeed by resisting help. It’s as if they haven’t heard the maxim “If you are in a hole, stop digging”!

I believe my first job is to get such students on the bridge.

Reading Comprehension strategies are useless to a student who won’t try.

The students know they are weak students, don’t lie to them or praise them in a way that isn’t true. RIG THE SETTING FOR SUCCESS, BUT DON’T LIE! Make sure there is “evidence” as to why the student was praised.

Here are some of the things I do in class to get the students to “step on the bridge” and feel that it is worth giving reading comprehension tasks a try:

Growth can come from unexpected directions…
Naomi’s Photos

Disappearing texts:

I create very simple basic texts on the board from some “tale” a student in class shares. I write the tale in English,  even if the student tells it almost completely in mother-tongue (eliciting words from the other students as much as possible). I focus on expressing a sincere interest in what happened to the student.  Like this text, for example:

What Happened to Sara This Morning?

Sara got up at 06:15.

She left the house at 07:15.

Sara didn’t take an umbrella.

When Sara arrived in Yehud it was raining hard.

Sara got wet.

Sara wants to call her Dad.

By erasing words, having students fill in the relevant missing words on the board in response to basic “WH” questions, I get the students to focus on the text and the words. They know the answers because they were involved in the process of creating the “text”. I finally erase the ENTIRE text and ask WH questions about it. The students can deal with it!

Answering in complete sentences is not the point! If students can answer a “when” question with “07:15” and a “who” question with “Dad” (and not vice a versa!) then I have a good reason to praise them. They are reading and answering questions!

Note: A visual explanation of how to use the disappearing text method with all students can be found in Jason Renshaw’s post, here:  Going Going Gone

There is life!
Naomi’s Photos

“Chopping” Real Exam Papers

The students know as well as I do that their final exams won’t have self-created texts on it. Bringing in a real exam paper from a previous year, chopped into “bite-sized” pieces, makes it easier to “swallow”.

Each paragraph of the text is pasted on a separate page, with only the questions related to that paragraph pasted below it. So now the text is chopped up into several short pages.

On page one there may be only one question but on page two we can show the students that THREE WHOLE QUESTIONS  can be answered based on SIX measly lines!

That is much less intimidating than seeing the whole text and a long page of questions.  Particularly if you highlight the “WH” question words, names and numbers in the text.

A student doesn’t need to answer all the questions to get a high-five  – remember? We’re talking about students who wouldn’t even start working on a text! Lay on the praise for every question answered. Make your check marks extra big!

In it together…
Naomi’s Photos

Divide the Dictionary Work (include the teacher!)

Many of these students gave up on their electronic dictionaries very quickly. Like any tool, you need practice in order to use it quickly and well, yet they won’t touch it. By writing unknown words from a paragraph on the board and dividing the work of looking them up, the students can be convinced to start the laborious process of typing the words they are in charge of.  It is slow work for them because some students have trouble matching lower and uppercase letters and they have to copy every single letter, one at a time. However, the more they do it the easier it will get.

It’s important that the teacher shows that he/she is also contributing to the joint effort and fills in some of the translations. While it’s good for morale, that’s not the point! The teacher chooses to translate the words that have several meanings and writes only the suitable one. The students do have to learn to deal with such an issue, but only after they have begun moving along the “bridge”!

Create your own version of a “Proud of You” board!


I know that most teachers don’t have the option of having a wall devoted to praising like I do.  I don’t know what you can do instead, but I’m sure you’ll think of something.

“The last few steps you’ll have to take alone” (Shel Silverstein)