Blog Archives

Let’s start thinking outside the box!

I think this video to be totally self-explanatory. I believe that the most important conclusion we can derive from it is not to let the fear of the unknown paralised us. We should open our minds, explore, stop complaining and try to find a way out. Sometimes the most implausible of the solutions is the key that will get us out of the box. Narrowmindess emprisons us, let’s liberate our minds and our students’ too.

” You are out of jail, out of the cage; you can open your wings and the whole sky is yours. All the stars and the moon and the sun belong to you. You can disappear into the blueness of the beyond….Just drop clinging to this cage, move out of the cage and the whole sky is yours. Open your wings and fly across the sun like an eagle.” Osho Christianity, the Deadliest Poison and Zen… Chapter 6

Understanding  that the cage has always been open, or that the world has always been there outside the box  for us to explore, can make us feel a little shaky at first. It’s fine, and natural to feel like that, but we shouldn’t let it prevent us from enjoying all the blessings living outside the box has to offer us.

A few questions to reflect about this: what are the implications of this video for education? And for the use of new technologies in education? And most important of all, how can we apply it to life in general?. I have already talked about the importance of developing critical thinking and thinking outside the box in this post, if you want to keep on reading. Your opinions in Spanish or English will be more than welcome… Have a nice weekend!

Just Feel the Music…

Itay Talgam, an orchestra conductor,  has discovered that the secrets of good conducting shed light on leadership in general… and I can add that it is very relevant to teachers too. First, have a look at the video and enjoy the music.

Talgam opens his speech by saying that a conductor’s ability relies on just using a small gesture to create order out of chaos. A teacher’s dream come true! A finger-snap and all the students on task… Well, we all know that this is an impossible mission to achieve, so let’s try to figure out what is behind that small movement that creates a ripple effect.

The secret apparently has to do with finding equilibrium, not being authoritarian, and at the same time keep on being the authority figure. YEAH,  we all know that… but how can we achieve that  F***ING  balance that is being preached everywhere in this new-age, zen era we are living in.

Talgam in his video shows us different styles of conducting, from which we can derive some practical ideas. Let’s start talking about  Ricardo Muti’s style. He has a strong sense of responsibility. He wants to be so clear that he becomes overclear (what an irony!). There’s only one interpretation of the music and that’s HIS (we all have our little egos in there apparently)… If we transfer this to the classroom, it reminds me of  the teachers who consider that it’s THEM the only ones that possess THE KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is given, it is not a construction. It is not developed in the classroom. It is a finished thing, to be introduced in the student’s mind. Things have to be done, in the way they have always been done. There’s no room for innovation, and therefore, there’s no room for development.

Maybe, these teachers suceed in having quiet students, who follow their orders to the letter and repeat parrot-like whatever it is they have “taught” them. But, have they learnt? Is this the aim of education? Are we teaching the students or the book, as the third conductor presented by Talgam does?  Do we want students who just mirror us and repeat our stories? or do we want to learn with them and create a trascending story constructing knowleadge together?

By taking into account the other conductors’ methods presented in the video, we can conclude that they believe the musicians need to have a voice too, which derives,  following our metaphor,  in students having a voice in our classrooms. We should just guide them and not give orders to them. Why? Because in this way we are really teaching them, we are giving them space to find their own way of doing things, of telling their own stories… As Talgam explains, this method without clear instructions works because it’s as if the musicians are on a rollercoaster. The forces of that process put the action into place. You know what to do and you become a partner. This experience is exciting for the players. The “teacher-conductor” is just there effortlessly enjoying the music.

But what if someone deviates from what he’s supposed to be doing? Then, the “teacher-conductor” enters in action. He is still a figure of authority, but he is not authoritarian. The authority is there,  but authority is not enough to make people partners. The teacher should keep some control in the classroom, but not all of it. Let’s overcome our fears and start giving students more control … we may be surprised at the results (let’s allow them to solve their conflicts, choose the topics they would like to discuss in class, and so on and so forth). We may feel at the beginning that we are loosing authority, but that’s not true; we are becoming partners, we are creating together and sharing the responsibility of making the lesson and the course a successful one.

Little by little, step by step, empowering our students, we may get to the wonderful point of “doing without doing”…  because

If you love something, give it away…

Virtual Beams

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. I’ll try to participate as much as I can.

The first goal presented by @shellterrell in the following video is: BE A BEAM.

The academic year has not started here in Argentina yet. For that reason, it is a bit difficult for me to achieve this goal. However, I’ve managed to do so, as I have a very close friend who is a teacher too. She has been through a kind of crisis with her career as a teacher. Fortunately, today I was able to listen to her and to make her look at the situation on the bright side. We always talk about our profession and support each other during the hard times. We’ve been friends since we were 6 years old, so she is very special to me.

This has made me reflect about the importance of having peers, who are going through the same situations and difficulties, to suppport and encourage each other. That is to say, that become beams to each other.

I have been very lucky to have found a lot of support, help and inspiration from my PLN. For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, for having always been there.  As Julie Cunningham wrote in her own post for the challenge:

I feel like everytime I dive into the world of Twitter or my Google Reader feed that I’ve been ‘beamed up’.  Educators around the world show a wealth of exciting things happening.  And just like returning from a  trip to the Bahamas or even just a “Calgon-take-me-away” bubble bath, I return to my daily life refreshed and renewed.

My PLN and my virtual teacher friends have become so valuable in my professional life, that I believe, it is extremely important to transmit this experience to other educators who are not here yet. I would make this my long term goal, and I would like to invite you all to follow my example. I’m sure: THE MORE; THE MERRIER.

English Teacher vs Educator

My students from 5th grade have suggested me working in class with Pink Floyd’s song: “Another Brick in the Wall”. I was surprised by the demand as 10-year-old students are not supposed to like those songs. And without even noticing, as I was preparing the song worksheet, they made me reflect a lot about my role as an English teacher.

As regards their English level of proficiency, they are elementary students (A1). Of course they will find the song very challenging, but that didn’t worry me. They are very motivated to listen to the song and I’m sure they will manage with the help of the you tube video and some guiding questions.

While I was writing them, I realised that  I cannot use this song in class without having a thorough discussion about its meaning. What is education? What type of education do we want? Are there right or wrong answers?  What is the importance of  having our own ideas? Most probably my students won’t be able to discuss these issues fully in English. Nevertheless, I believe that even if they speak Spanish, the debate will be worth it. After all, I’m not teaching just English, I am trying to be an educator.

And this brought me to my perpetual professional dilemma one more time… The issue that faces me with cyclical professional crisis. What am I doing there in those crowded classrooms? Teaching English? I don’t want to do that, I don’t believe in that. English is just a language, a tool. Very necessary and important. Yes, of course. It  has opened me lots of doors.  It has put me in contact with lots of very interesting people. It has let me access books in the authors’ mother tongue and has surrounded me with poetry and hundreds of magical stories. However, we shouldn’t forget it is a TOOL, just like Spanish is.

I’m not saying that I don’t want to teach English anymore. No, I love what I do. What I don’t want is  to teach JUST English. English is not the object of study in my classes. It is the MEANS to access a bunch of knowledge. It is the tool that will allow me and my students to access lots of information, to get to know new cultures, different ways of thinking, different points of views; that will allow us to reflect on important issues, defend our opinions and why not, also get to know each other more. That’s what education is all about after all: developing CRITICAL THINKING and SOCIAL SKILLS.

It sounds pretty simple, though, how difficult it is to teach that! To teach our students to think by themselves, to defy our (the teacher’s) points of view. It is very difficult to get them used to the idea that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. And of course, sometimes it is even difficult for us , the teachers, to give them more freedom to think and take control of the class. It is easier not to do so. We should overcome the resistance to change. Students should be in control of our classrooms:  rethinking and reinventing knowledge; learning collaborately with the teachers as facilitators, not as THE ONES WHO POSSES THE KNOWLEDGE.

Well, that’s all for now folks. What do you think about all these incoherent ramblings of mine?

Blogs Worth Taking a Look at…

I am very honoured because Philb81 has tagged me in his wonderful blog Classroom201X as one of his 10 blogs worth taking a look at. This is a new  initiative in the ELT blogosphere at the moment. If someone tags you in their list of 10 recommended teaching blogs, you then prepare your own list of 10 other blogs you would be willing to recommend, paste the logo above into your post and link back to the person/blog that initially tagged you. So here goes my list of 10 blogs to recommend (they are presented in alphabetical order):

  • David Truss Pair-a-dimes: Great reflections on education, technology and learning.
  • ELT notes : I always find a lot of food for thought from Claudia’s reflections.
  • English Raven: It helps me to have a look at TEFL from a different perspective
  • Kalinago English: I have taken lots of ideas from this blog and I have already tried many of her lesson plans. Thanks Karene for all the hard work!
  • L_missbossy’s ELT PLayground: A great blog about TEFL for Young learners
  • Marisa Constantinides- TEFL matters: Reflections on TEFL from a teacher trainer.
  • Movie Segemnts to Assess Grammar Goals: It contains a series of movie segments and activities to assess or practice grammar points through fun, challenging exercises. Thanks for sharing Claudio!
  • Succesful Teaching: A blog where you can get some strategies and ideas in order to have a succesful teaching experience. Thanks Pat for all the inspiration.
  • TEFLclips: A site dedicated to the possibilities for YouTube and other video sharing sites in the classroom. I love using videos in my classes and this site has helped me a lot. Thanks a lot Jamie.
  • Tu remanso: A blog in Spanish worth having a look at for some good reflections on education. Thanks Cinthia for sharing your reflections.

Hope you’ve found some new blogs WORTH TAKING A LOOK AT…

Glogster- Poster Yourself

I have just learned about Glogster thanks to a tweet by @jenverschoor (thanks a lot Jen!). With this application you can create an online poster. You can mix graphics, photos, videos, music and text into slick Glogs.

The great thing is that now there is an edu-glosgter page. You are allowed to create up to 200 students accounts for free. If you are wondering why bothering to use Glogster, in their webpage they provide you with some reasons:

  1. A fun, imaginative, and powerful learning experience which fosters independent creative self expression, positive learner-teacher relationships, and teamwork on collaborative class projects.
  2. A vibrant, multi-sensory learning experience which integrates learner’s knowledge and skills into traditionally text-oriented subjects and motivates learner’s desire to explore topics in which they may previously have been less interested.

I think it is worth giving it a try. If you do, please share with us your experience. Maybe, we can also share ideas on how we can use it in our classes. Looking forward to your comments.

Happy Teacher Day!

cactusEn Argentina mañana 11 de Septiembre se celebra el día del maestro y no quería dejar pasar esta oportunidad para saludar a todos los grandes docentes que me he encontrado en la vida cotidiana y en este maravilloso mundo que es la web 2.0. No puedo hacerles un regalo muy suntuoso, ya que como sabrán soy docente en esta Argentina siglo xxi… para que entrar en detalles… Bueno, asi que simplemente voy a retransmitir un pensamiento que me regaló hoy la directora del cole y aqui va…

Ser maestro es como ser un artesano cultivador de cactus:

Él trabaja con plantas que parecen fuertes, duras. Soporta los pinchazos de sus espinas a pesar de que se acerca con hacendosas manos para ayudarlos a crecer. Les arrima todo el sol del que es capaz y les ayuda a soportar las peores sequías… Todo eso, porque sabe que su interior es tierno, lleno de vivificante agua. Y porque sabe que un día, casi inesperadamente, les regalarán su inmensamente bella flor.

Les recuerdo y me repito a mi también… No nos olvidemos cuando nos desesperamos, cuando nos preguntamos ¿por qué no estoy enfrente de una computadora trabajando de 8 a 17?, cuando sentimos que no sirve lo que estamos haciendo, cuando queremos tirar todo por la borda porque la clase no salio como planeabamos, cuando no llegamos a fin de mes, etc y mil etcs que tarde o temprano nuestros cactus desplegarán su flor y nadie me puede negar que ese momento es totalmente mágico, inigualable, inexplicable y nos hace sentir que vale la pena seguir estando al frente de un aula. Es en esos momentos donde pensamos que ésta es una de las profesiones que mas gratificaciones le debe traer al ser humano y volvemos a elegir el ser docentes.

Monsters Inc. (Present Simple and Present Continuous)

As I have already told you in this post I love Claudio’s blog: Movie Segments to Asses Grammar Goals. I have been inspired by him so I will share with you one lesson plan I have prepared to revise the use of  Present Simple and Present Continuous. It is based on this scene from the movie Monsters Inc. You should start watching from minute 4:50 onwards :

And here go the activities:

1) Complete the sentences with the appropriate tense ( Present Simple and Present Continuous)

a)      Every day, Sulley _______________ (drive) to work. However, today they ____________ (walk)

b)      Right now, Mike _______________ (talk) to Sulley’s mum on the phone.

c)      Afterwards, they often ______________ (watch) tv, but today they __________ (also / star) on a tv commercial.

d)      Sulley and Mike _____________ (not exercise) together. Sulley ______ (do) his routine and Mike __________ (guide) him.

e)      Then, Sulley always ______________ (brush) his teeth.

f)        Sulley usually ____________ (get up) at 6:00 but today he ____________ (still/ sleep) at 6:05.

2) Watch the film and put the sentences in the correct order.

3) Write 5 sentences about what the monsters Sulley and Mike encounter on their way to work are doing at the moment.

4) Did you like the scene? Why (not)?

Hope you like it and find it useful. If you have used it, please share your experience with us. If you have more ideas to work with this particular film or with movies in general, don’t hesitate to share your views.

¿La escuela mata la creatividad? (Parte 2)

El post anterior dio mucho que hablar. Tuvimos muchas preguntas y pocas respuestas. Sabemos que la creatividad es un elemento primordial para motivar a nuestros alumnos y sacar lo mejor de ellos. Pero la gran pregunta es ¿cómo hacemos para ser más creativos? Una vez más,  Sir Ken Robinson me dio varias respuestas en este post de TED talks: TED and Reddit asked Sir Ken Robinson anything — and he answered . Es bastante largo y está en inglés pero es muy recomendable.

En unas pocas palabras él considera que lo más importante qué podemos hacer para favorecer la creatividad es empezar ya mismo desde el lugar donde nos encontremos. No esperar a que los cambios se produzcan desde arriba. Tres factores a tener en cuenta son:

  • Estimular la imaginación
  • Plantear problemas con respuestas abiertas
  • Fomentar el trabajo en grupo

Espero que les haya servido el link. Cualquier idea, pensamiento o reflexión no duden en compartirlo…

¿La escuela mata la creatividad?

Necesitaba escribir este post en castellano. Creo que cuando uno toca un tema en el cual los sentimientos se interponen, uno necesita hablar en su propio idioma. Este tema me esta dando vueltas en la cabeza hace bastante tiempo. Hoy, viendo este video de Ken Robinson me dieron ganas de ponerme a escribir.

La verdad es que  tengo muchas  preguntas al respecto y pocas respuestas. Por no decir casi ninguna. Y van las preguntas…  ¿ El sistema educativo, la forma en que enseñamos en las escuelas, los programas que nos bajan desde el ministerio, etc. , etc, etc favorecen a la educacion de nuestros alumnos? ¿Nuestras escuelas no estan plagadas de situaciones en las que los profesores son los que poseen el saber y lo bajan a los alumnos de forma vertical? ¿No es hoy cuestion de sentido común que hay varios tipos de inteligencia? ¿No deberíamos favorecer el desarrollo de todas ellas y no solo el de las “socialmente prestigiosas”? ¿ No debería la escuela favorecer el desarrollo de inquietudes por parte de los alumnos y ayudarlos en la búsqueda de esas respuestas? ¿ No deberíamos los docentes aprender a decir con humildad “no se, pero juntos podemos encontrar la respuesta”? ¿ No deberíamos empezar a salir del aula cada vez más y favorecer la experiencia directa con el conocimiento?  ¿La escuela no debería ser el lugar donde se les presenten a los alumnos todos los caminos posibles para que ellos encuentren su vocación? ¿ Pero si hay materias que no se dictan en las escuelas secundarias (especialmente las relacionadas con las artes), como sabrán nuestros alumnos que esas también son opciones válidas? ¿ Por qué si hay muchas escuelas en las que los docentes de forma aislada estan tratando de buscar formas alternativas y mas efectivas de enseñar, desde arriba no se hace nada para que estas experiencias sean intercambiadas y se aproveche este nuevo conocimiento adquirido para cambiar nuestro sistema educativo que esta tan deteriorado? Y la última pregunta que da título a este post: ¿la escuela mata la creatividad?.

Mi única respuesta, mi humilde opinión. Yo creo que no es la escuela la que mata la creatividad. Lo que mata la creatividad es la construcción de escuela que nos metieron en la cabeza. La escuela donde hay que estar bien sentados y en silencio. La escuela donde el que se mueve mucho o no presta atención es el que se PORTA MAL. La escuela que no permite creer que quiza ese chico tenga otra forma de aprender. La escuela que considera que donde hay mucho barullo no hay aprendizaje. Esa es la escuela que no favorece la creatividad, que nos ata, que no nos deja pensar libremente, que no favorece la diversidad de opiniones, la diversidad de formas de llegar al aprendizaje, que no favorece la diversidad de nada. Esa no es la escuela en la que yo quiero estar. Espero que desde nuestros pequeños granitos de arena logremos construir una escuela donde haya diversidad y creatividad por doquier. Y yo me quedo pensando, y ustedes que piensan?

Si quieren seguir leyendo, en la segunda parte de este post aparecen algunas respuestas.