A brilliant feeling of fulfillment

13 08 2011

I’ve just spent the last two weekends in Montevideo, Uruguay, a three hour ferry ride across the world’s widest river from my home town, Buenos Aires.  They have been a hugely rewarding, fun, stimulating, knackering two weekends full of new faces, interesting ideas, invigorating enthusiasm, knowledge retrieval,  developing teachers, welcoming smiles, new learning, lovely lunches, three-hour wifi-less ferry crossings, delightful dinners, unwanted 5am car alarm wake-up calls, and informative note-swapping with like-minds in different contexts.  Challenge, creativity, responsibility and learning were all there in abundance.  And they will continue to be there for the next four months of this blended Delta One preparation course (mostly the next two months with a lull before the mock in November and the exam itself in December).  A veritable fulfillment fiesta!

I have been challenged to prepare 22 teachers of varying backgrounds, experience, knowledge and motivations to take the Delta 1 exam in December; to design a course that suits their varying needs and wants, to deliver that course in a short timeframe with only two weekend visits available for face2face sessions; to design a blended learning support system from scratch wihout incurring costs; to organise and motivate the teachers to continue with the course through to the exam.  And I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

I created an entire Delta One course, 12 face2face sessions and 9 weekly exam practice modules.  Ok, that’s not strictly true.  I adapted the face2face sessions from the face2face course we ran here in Buenos Aires 18 months ago, stripping down the super sessions created by my colleagues to 90 minute mosaics of Delta Module mayhem, attempting to introduce, remind, extend and exhume the candidates knowledge and experience of the Delta syllabus.  Pretty creative stuff, nevertheless.  A challenging and enjoyable jigsaw where I had to throw away half the pieces and add in a few of my own to complete the picture as best I could.

Mangling the raw material of a past paper and welding it onto an online wiki space to create the Delta One online exam practice equivalent of a Michaelangelo was an entirely different creative kettle of fish, but just as fun in its unique and unruly manner.  And I loved it.  And I’ve been feeling fulfilled. 

I am now deeply immersed in the responsibility of giving these teachers the best possible chance to do themselves and their uncountable talents justice in the pressure cooker of a Cambridge-invigilated exam hall.  I’m responsible for keeping them on track, for covering the syllabus, for supporting and facilitating and guiding and cajoling and pushing (and maybe shoving?) and relaxing and invigorating and picking up and adjusting and entertaining and…and I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled.

And, my oh my, am I learning and learning and learning.  Almost certainly learning more than my charges are.  Had to learn the wiki back to front in no time.  Had to learn how the charges learned and where they were at and how they’d get to be in next to no time.  Had to learn how to deal with my fast-fading memory of all things organisational in I can’t quite remember how much time.  Had to relearn all I’d learnt while on the Delta myself and while last doing the course all those months ago (a great gorging of gratitude to Jim (R.I.P. wherever you are, you live on within so many of us) and Dana in Prague and my colleagues here in Buenos Aires for all the knowledge I’ve acquired from you) in a matter of days.  And I’ve loved it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

But I also feel human and I know it’s only part of my work and while I’m involved in the doing and the challenge it brings and the creativity it demands and the responsibility it brings and the learning it offers I feel fulfilled.  But I’m still left wanting something more.  What’s wrong with us humans? 

All in

12 08 2011

Actually a new song I whipped off on the ferry last weekend, hence the waves and the horizon.  It’s a shape song, like many of them seem to be.  Perhaps short a verse or two, what you think?

Waves crash down as I try to run

Heart beats fast under the setting sun

Horizon shrinks as I push on down

Spinning around can’t make a sound

I’m sinking

I’m thinking

I’m drinking

You all in

Lights flash round as I cry for fun

Legs leave last as the day is done

Horizon shrinks as I rush around

Dancing in town can’t bring me down

I’m thinking

I’m sinking

I’m drinking

You all in

I’m drinking you in

I’m taking you out

I’m thinking you’re skin

I’m sinking your doubts

I’m thinking

I’m sinking

I’m drinking

You all in

You all in

B2 Listening & Vocab Lesson Plan – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

11 08 2011

B2 Listening lesson – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

This is a lesson I’m teaching Monday morning as an observed lesson on the CELTA.  It’s based on Unit 3A of Straightforward Upper Intermediate (Kerr & Jones, Macmillan 2006) – an excellent course book, as course books go.  

The worksheet provides a lead-in and a test-teach-test vocab pre-teach stage. 

The second page is a word grab which can serve as both the freer practice for the vocab and the gist task for the listening.  If you don’t have the Straighforward book for the detailed listening, I’m sure you’ll find the links online.  

Enjoy, and as always if you do use the materials please let us know how you get on.

Post-Lesson Update

The lesson went well this morning and the students did lots of talking, learnt some new idiomatic (and I think quite useful) vocab and did some intensive listening practice.  They said they enjoyed the song and their continued exploration of British tribal culture (I wonder if the Celtees will mention the riots at any point?)

The level was actually more challenging than I’d thought it would be, for quite a strong Upper Intermediate (B2) class.  The vocab was mostly new, as expected, and they were motivated to learn it and try to use it.  In the teach stage we looked at flatter and flattered as well as flattery – all useful stuff.  Some fun drilling ensued, with me giving them compliments or criticisms and them replying I’m flattered or reacting angrily to criticism.  

The listening was challenging.  The vocab grab was fun,. but there was a lot of misgrabs (probably because of all the f-words), so it needs careful monitoring.  They were able to decide on the correct part of speech successfully most of the time but had quite a bit of trouble deciding which words went in which gaps – this needs plenty of time and careful monitoring to be successful, but it’s a more worthy exercise than just listening and filling – it really gets them to think about the meaning of the vocab and how to decide what goes where through context.

Just wish I’d got through the warmer quicker and left more time for feedback after the detailed listening, but at least I know now this will be a whole 90 minute lesson with my Advanced Ones tomorrow.  

Post Advanced One Lesson Update

As suspected, this material easily filled up an hour and a half at Advanced One level (C1).  They had a lot to say about the best brands and why they liked them and we corrected their pronunciation of a few labels and clothes words.  I was surprised to find they didn’t know any of the pre-teach vocab words except one student who knew flatter, so the test stage was a tad demotivating for them.  But they enjoyed learning the new vocab and we had lots of personalised examples of flattery and flitting and fads (apparently fur-lined boots are the fad of the moment?). They were able to do the part of speech exercise very well and that helped them a lot to predict which words went in which gaps, but it took them time and they didn’t get them all, but once they listened most of them were able to fill the gaps correctly.  Definitely a challenging listening, motivating vocab and it fitted in nicely with a word formation exercise in their course book (Advanced Expert – Page 61) about fashion and buying trends.  All in all a fun and useful lesson – I recommend it!

C2 Lesson Plan – London Riots

10 08 2011

C2 Reading London Riots Independent article

Read this great article after a twitter recommendation from @harrisonmike and immediately thought it would make for a better lesson for my Prof Twos this evening than what Proficiency Gold had in store for them.

It’s a reading lesson, that leads into further reading, summary writing and then full-blown article writing.  It’s in first draft mode at the moment, will update it after the lesson and following on from your comments.

Just a worksheet for now, reflective lesson plan to follow tomorrow hopefully after the lesson.  I realise there’s no vocab focus in a lexically rich text, but I only taught this class twice so not got much of a grip on what they’ll know or not, so will let them lead me on that – opening that can of worms I always tell my Celtees to leave on the shelf.

Wish me luck with the lesson and I hope it’s helpful to some of you too.

Post Lesson Update

A stimulating lesson – the students hadn’t heard much about the riots and were surprised such things were happening in the land of five o’clock tea.  They have much more experience of this type of thing happening much closer to home.  

In the lesson we did Task 4 before Task 3 – when creating the worksheet I was thinking the paragraph exercise was more gisty than the detailed task, but before class I decided they needed to understand the text in detail to be able to do this task justice and that was borne out in the lesson.

They were surprisingly critical of the article and the paragraph summary led to the realisation that the author was narrowing down the argument to promote her charity (paragraph three got particular criticism – mentioning social media just to sound trendy and cool?).  Having said that, it was interesting to see the students tended to summarise the paragraphs rather than discuss what their purpose was.  This will definitely lead in to a writing lesson where they try and emulate the paragraph model.

My worries about the vocab challenge of the text ended up being unfounded, they didn’t have problems with it all.  There were a couple of phrases (e.g. insidious flourishing) they didn’t quite get but nothing that detracted from their understanding of the article.

Am looking forward to their summaries – getting into the mind of the mob mentality was the follow up article they chose.  What about your students? Which article did they chose?

C1 Lesson Plan – Reading: Facebook, more harm than good

9 08 2011

C1 Reading lesson – Facebook, more harm than good

I’m on a roll today – another tweet (can’t remember who from I’n afraid – if you know, let me know) tipped me off to this article on facebook so I’n gonna use it as a springboard to discuss how to use Facebook with my Advanced One class.

Another reading lesson with the detailed task focussing on the opinions put forward in the article and a follow up speaking that encourages critical thinking and has built in preparation time. 

Unlike the C2 reading on the London riots, this lesson does also have a vocab focus – will be interesting to see if it works – will let you know.  Looks like Scrabble will have to wait for homework.

Post-Lesson Update:

I was very pleased with how these materials went in the class.  The students are bright and demanding fifteen year old kids and thankfully they found the topic engaging.  Obviously they didn’t agree with the premise of Rosen’s study but they were able to come up with a long list of possible harm that Facebook can cause (although none of them seem to happen to any of them or their friends, of course) which meant the gist task was effective.  

The detailed task also worked well, since there were some disagreements about a few of the questions, so they really had to go back to the text and give evidence for their answers.  And then they were able to use the vocab phrases successfully on the whole, although they did need some cajoling to go back and try and use the context to think of a further example.  It was interesting to see that ‘feeds in to’ caused lots of problems, not least for me to think of other possible uses off the top of my head (I could only think of the Argentine President feeding in to the country’s love of football and using it to win her election campaign) – has anyone got any other suggestions.  

We didn’t have time for the discussion section, which was a shame, since that was the task I most wanted to see if it worked – next time round.  Homework was to use the vocab phrases in a connected paragraph and post them to the Facebook group page, oh, and start playing Scrabble on Facebook too.  

Would love to hear from anyone else who’s used the materials.  Sorry for the typos btw, will fix them when I get to work.  More lesson materials coming soon…

MY CPD & I – What fulfills me?

8 08 2011

Surely I should be fulfilled enough as it is, you may ask?  Well, maybe, but suffering from the human condition as I do, I’m afraid to admit I want a little bit more.  I want a little bit more challenge, I want a little bit more responsibility, I want a little bit more creativity, I want to learn as much as I can a often as I can and I want a little bit more wonga. 

I feel most fulfilled when I’m challenged, really challenged.  Challenged to think, to find soultions to problems, set goals to achieve (preferably lofty ones); challenged to help others overcome their own challenges and achieve their goals. 

I feel like I have responsibility when I am included in the decision making processes that affect my work and that of my colleagues, when my opinion ore sought and when I am listened to and asked for ideas, contributions to help the team move forward.  I also feel responsibility when given challenging tasks to complete by myself for the good of the whole and left to complete them, my way and my time.

I feel creative when I’m given the opportunity to design learning programmes, the space and resources to experiment with new ideas and am asked for help with solving problems, refining systems and developing new income streams and ways of doing.

I feel like I’m learning more when I’m involved in new experiences, working with new people, encountering new perspectives on known information., I also learn from being included in the information flow within the team and given the opportunity to share and learn from others within and beyond the team.

Personally, I also need the time and space to reflect, alone (hence this blog) and with colleagues, on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it and where we’re taking it.  This reflection helps to bring the challenge, responsibility, creativity and learning together and produce results and new goals to move on to.

And I would feel like I’m getting moderately more wonga if I were paid the going rate and perhaps had the opportunity within the above to receive some extra if irregular spin-offs andbenefits to top up the monthly wage and guard against the rampant inflation.  Much as I believe it shouldn’t and doesn’t need to exist, money does still make the world go round.  

My CPD and I – Developing my fulfillment

7 08 2011

I’ve recently been enjoying the company of a lot of disparate thoughts knocking around inside my empty head, some of them appearing as a result of writing this blog (what great personal and professional development blog writing and reading and commenting are!), as well as a result of the various jobs I do and roles I play in the different areas of my life.

Some seeds have been sown which are shooting up and about to bloom into ideas and thoughts and questions and hopfully flower-lined paths towards a richer and more fulfilling future.  These thoughts have been about where I’m at, where I’m going to, and where I should be – am I still pushing myself sufficiently?  Am I being held back?  Am I being impatient?  Am I missing opportunities?  This series of blog posts (My CPD and I) is where I go delving into my own development.

I guess I’m doing it as a kind of catharsis, a reflection and a way of planning how to move forward.  I’m doing it aloud to keep the motivation going; to hopefully find some similar thinkers out there who may recognise similar struggles; to maybe help someone through reading my thoughts on the process they’re going through and most of all, selfishly, to get some help from some of you with the moving forward part – all supportive comments welcome.

Comment on Atletico Bilbao match thread on SC

7 08 2011


Two things I love about this thread:

1) David’s brilliant summary of the match for those of us that weren’t there and his patience and insight in follow up posts, keeping the thread as a whole together and relevant and helpful to those of us who live too far away from WHL…


2) the emergence of more support for my theory that buying VDV actually cost us fourth place last season. I know, I know, it was only a friendly and all that, but it seems patently clear to me that, while they all have their limitations, PC, JD and Super Pav are all much better players playing with each other in a combination of 442 than they are playing 451 with VDV. Like the rest of you, I hope we can find a way to buy the improvement striker we all crave, but at the same time I hold out hope that if we can’t bring it off, at least we can make the most of three of the strikers we’ve got by playing 442 rather than just one of them by playing 451.

Nowhere fast

7 08 2011

Wonder if anyone noticed I haven’t posted a run for over a week now?  Really bad timing for two reasons too.  A trip to Montevideo meant an opportunity for one of my favourite runs – 10km up and down the promenade from Pocitos in towards Downtown, getting overtaken by the real runners and enjoying watching the locals out for a lazy afternoon stroll.  And today was the Reebok 10km, one of my fave races of the year for the entertainment of dodging overconfidently lined up ankles and the exhilaration of running with 10 000 other like-mindeds on a Sunday morning, including Mer who guardia-ed on Thursday and would have run despite my absence if it hadn’t been for an attack of Bronchitis.

Right foot is playing up.  I imagine it’s just a case of overdoing it and stressing the bones on the outside of my foot but it’s been pretty painful the last two weeks and means I limp when I walk, sometimes quite badly.  I’ve applied plenty of the RIE of RICE but don’t have an appointment with the Doc for another couple of weeks, so won’t be able to confirm I haven’t done anything worse until it gets better or I go see him.  Let’s hope the former is the case and sooner rather than later, since back to Montevideo next weekend and losing out on the promise of the promenade twice would be careless.  So no running thoughts to offer you, but plenty of time for other thoughts elsewhere on the blog.  Hopefully the Garmin, the running thoughts and I will be back running roads soon. 

All day and all night

6 08 2011

I’ve just been singing this one along to myself to check it scans and see if I can actually make it fit a tune and it made me wonder two things:

1)  Would adding me singing along badly and acapella through something like audioboo add to or take away from this section of the blog?

2) Why are the majority of the songs I wrote as a child blatant punk riffs and simple in the extreme?  I’m always banging on about keeping it simple but song-writing-wise I do seem to take it to an extreme.  Although saying that, when I do go more sophisticated it’s usually not as simply successful (Going round in circles, for example).  Anyways, enjoy the simplicity…

I’m gonna be here if you need me

I’m gonna be here when you want me

I’m gonna be here night and day

I’m gonna be here anyway


I don’t really care if you say yes or no

There’s no way I’m ever gonna let you go

I’m gonna be here right by your side

And I’m gonna love you all day and all night


I’m gonna be here when you’re right and you’re wrong

I’m gonna be here when you’re weak and you’re strong

I’m gonna be here when you’re happy and sad

And I’m gonna be here though it drives you mad


I don’t really care if you say yes or no

There’s no way I’m ever gonna let you go

I’m gonna be here right by your side

And I’m gonna love you all day and all night


I’m gonna be here when you have a bad time

I’m gonna be here when you’re out of your mind

I’m gonna be here when your spirits are low

I’m gonna be here when you close the show


I don’t really care if you say yes or no

There’s no way I’m ever  gonna let you go

I’m gonna be here right by your side

And I’m gonna love you all day and all night


And I’m gonna love you all day and all night

And I’m gonna love you all day and all night

And I’m gonna love you all day and all night

All day

and all night.

All right.