June 2, 2011

Let’s face it, reading teaching blogs can get quite intense.  In fact, I do not classify myself as a teaching blogger.  I use my blog as my journal, but I happen to refer a lot to teaching in it, since that’s what’s mostly on my mind.  However, I need some down-time from teaching, and thus I have added some new blogs to my reader.

I was very pleased when this post appeared on my reader from New York blogger, Joanna Goddard, featuring a list of prohibited words given by editor of New York magazine to his staff.  I love words, so this topic was quite inspiring, and I thought wouldn’t it be great to make you aware of the words that really get up my nose.  And the best bit is, you can use it as a lesson idea!

So, for starters, here are some words I would love to see/hear a whole lot less of (and this post is sure to get regularly updated as new annoying words reveal themselves to me!):

to go as in “coffee to go”.  Where is the coffee hoping to go to, exactly?

Connect with meaning to communicate with/engage with/chat to on occasion.

Get students to do…. I just hate the idea of forcefully obliging people to do something, so “get them to do” just sounds a bit crude.

Pop as in a pop of colour.  This just sounds really childish.

Gotten used in British English.  Yes, I’m just a snob.

Here’s the thing as used to introduce a new theme.

On the weekend instead of at the weekend.

Pardon?  I hate that word and far prefer Sorry?   It reminds me of another word I hate.  I’ll let you guess which word that is.  And it’s accompanied by the memory of being constantly told off as a child for saying “What?”

Uggghhhh? As used by impolite students who aren’t listening properly.  Usually used by the younger generation. (Listen to me, I sound old!)

I’ll publish more soon.

What about your most annoying words?


Pares e impares

June 1, 2011

Dunno if I’m even spelling that correctly.  It means evens and odds, or odds and evens.  Literally pairs and unpairs.

I never learned that before coming to Spain.  I’ve learned some equally useful expressions that uni failed to equip me with: me rindo (“I give up”), lo cojo (“I get it”), no me enteré (“What’s the teacher going on about?  I must have been nodding off during that last bit”), tomaaaaaa! (“get in” when you get an answer right, or “take that, you idiot” when you say it accusingly to your classmate for doubting your ability to get an answer right).

Anyway, odds and evens.  Pares e impares.  Just some incidental language for learners and teachers alike.

A quick post since it’s late.

Did you ever remember that weird toy shaped like a ball which you would ask questions to, and it would say yes or no?  Well, the magic dice does it just the same.  Odd numbers mean no, and even numbers mean yes.  The students practise their yes/no questions by asking the dice a question.   Then they throw the dice and find out the answer.  It causes lots of giggles.  I used it with a class practising “will”.

eg Will I be famous?  Will Juan be a football player?  Will Javi take over the world?

Try it.  Trying to manufacture situations to practise questions is difficult, so the sillier the better.

Getting my Blood Extracted

May 30, 2011

Extracciones, read the sign outside the door.  They couldn’t have made it sound any less pleasant an ordeal.

My first experience of the Spanish GP surgery was fine.  I was pleasantly surprised.  She actually listened to my symptoms patiently as I stammered them out in Spanish, remembering the words I´d had to look up the day before.  The kind of words I got through my degree quite happily without, but which amused me nonetheless, and the kind I thought I´m quite happy to add to my repertoire.  I haven´t always had such a patient ear from British doctors, who often seem to want to throw you out their office with a prescription of some sort (if you’re that lucky; sometimes they make you feel like a time waster). She had the typical air I’ve come to know from Spanish women: the kind who are maternal in the way that they think they know what’s best for you whether you want to hear it or not.  Often I don’t.  I don’t want some brusque Gaditana telling me how I should be cooking my peppers, or telling me I’m rubbish at riding a bicycle.  However, this time, I rather appreciated that stern air gently scolding me for getting myself worked into a tizzy thanks to googling my symptoms.  “If your washing machine doesn’t work, you don’t look on the Internet for a solution; you call the repair man,” she asserted.  Having said that, I probably would try looking on the Internet, but then I am contrary.

Today’s experience was rather less comforting.  As I waited in what seemed like a cattle market, I felt myself become irritated with the whole system.  How was this supposed to make me feel at ease?  I asked myself, straining to hear them call out my appointment time.  Upon hearing my number (ocho y treinta-y-uno!) I shuffled nervously to the desk, fearful of what the nurse would say. Having seen other patients produce urine samples, I was struck with horror at the idea that she might make me have one.  I was sure it was just going to be blood, but what if?  They can’t make me, stamped the Karl Pilkington side of my brain.  I won’t do it, they can’t make me!  No, it was just blood bottles she handed to me.  What a relief.  I motioned to Mr Kites to come and stand next to me.  Screaming was heard coming from the adjoining room: a child having his jabs.  The inner child inside wanted to cry, or run away.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t even scared of the needle, nor the blood.  I was afraid of the watching eyes.

Sitting in a chair awkwardly while the nurse tied an elastic band around my arm, clearly from office stationary, I willed myself to somehow disappear.  I exchanged a few light-hearted remarks with the nurse, in between her talking to her colleague, who showed her a phone.  Jesus, cried the Pilkington-like voice.  Why are they doing using a mobile phone here!  This is MY BLOOD!  They should be concentrating!  Taking my blood seriously!  What happens if they mix my blood up?  What if I get diagnosed with prostate cancer because of human error?  This is not on! 

Upon emptying the last drop from my bloodstream, the nurse handed me a piece of cotton wool then spewed me back out into the crowded waiting room to hurriedly find an exit, holding my arm pathetically out, thinking Oh my God.  In England there had been no pressing cotton wool to my arm for five whole minutes, and no sympathy, but the whole experience had been strangely more dignified, and far more discreet an affair.

Stay Tuned

May 30, 2011

Teachers who read this, stay tuned!  I’m branching out from my usual whinging to interview a mmber of my virtual staffroom.  This post will appear over the next couple of weeks.  I’m stating my commitment to this challenge here and now so that I actually do it, and if I don’t, you can all pester me!



May 29, 2011

It’s no secret I am somewhat a worrier when it comes to my job. Put simply, I’m scared that I’m rubbish. I have so many lessons where I think I am a failure. Sometimes it feels as if I am baby-sitting children and not much more. I can never create enough interesting activities to seem like a good teacher. I just don’t have time to make materials. I’m all out of games and interesting ideas. i need a break. Let’s just use the book and not much more. I’ll tell them all the grammar rules explicitly because it doesn’t go in whether we play games or do grammar drills. At least with the grammar drills, I’m getting them to write notes that perhaps their parents can help them with.

Worrying and getting depressed about it has resulted in feeling unnecessarily ill. I’m going to the doctor’s for a blood test tomorrow, the results of which I hope will tell me I am fine and it’s all in my head.

So, having decided to remember that this is only a job and not my life, I have come up with the following philosophies.

1. It’s okay to not be the best.

This realisation was a moment of epiphany for me. I don’t have to be the best to do my job well. I don’t have to write materials, I don’t have to create something that no-one’s already done before. I can use the textbook, and steal other people’s ideas. It’s all fine and perfectly legal in teaching circles. Not every lesson has to be mind-blowing and enlightening. And they are not going to remember every grammar item after only one lesson. I’m not a failure.

2. I’m going to tell myself I am the best teacher in the world.

It doesn’t have to be true to everyone else, but if this equips me with the confidence to go forth and present a decent sort of lesson, then I’m going to believe I can do it. I’ve had the record stuck for too long on “I’m rubbish, I’m a fraud, I can’t do it” for too many years now. It’s time to listen to a new tune that goes “I am the best, I can do it, I’m a genius”.

3. If you convince yourself you are rubbish, you do a good job of convincing others, too.

The mind is a great thing. It can make you produce physical symptoms with no physiological reasoning. The mind can inhibit you and cripple you if you let it. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, the chances are that you won’t be able to do it because you’ve already decided it to be so, or you feel under pressure so you inevitably crumble. Ex-Liverpool footballer, Fernando Torres, was the laughing-stock of the nation after his move to Chelsea for not being able to score any goals for his new team. It’s clear that he is not playing as well as he was at Liverpool. He looks less confident on the pitch now. He is the perfect example of someone who can’t seem to pick himself up after some knocks to his confidence. I’m sure I look like this in the classroom.

I have a degree in French and Spanish. Despite living in Spain since September, and all my language credentials, I can’t manage to meet anyone and speak to them. The accent in Cadiz is impossible to decipher, and I foolishly admit to everyone that I can’t speak Spanish that well. At the beginning of the year, my boss reluctantly gave me a student for tutorial because she wanted someone to tutor her who could explain the grammar in Spanish. I had to insist that I was able to take this student on. Why did I have to insist? Why did she see me as less capable than other teachers? Because I gave her the impression that I wasn’t capable because I think to myself that I am not capable.

If I give the impression that I can’t teach, or that I can’t do something well, they begin to believe this. I have to get rid of this idea that I am incapable. I have to show others that I believe in myself, so they should believe in me too.

4. I am a creative who works as a teacher.

First and foremost, I am an artist and creative. I am a linguist and a philosopher. Teaching is my work, and I hope I can use teaching to channel my creativity in my own way. After a holiday, of course.

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May 29, 2011

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Normal Service Resumed

May 29, 2011

There have been several reasons for this most recent blogging hiatus. Mostly, I have been busy with real life.

I’ve been delighted and annoyed in equal portions in recent weeks. My father came to visit in the first weekend of May, which made me very pleased, but also rather sunburnt with fat feet. No I didn’t put cream on my legs. I know, what was I thinking? Yes, I’ve been putting it on ever since.

That visit was promptly followed by a nasty cold, and then I had a peculiar week of experiencing many strange symptoms that forced me to go and pay a visit to my Spanish “head doctor”, which is more like a general practitioner than a psychiatrist. Strange expression, “head doctor”. Head of what? Head of the board of doctors? Head of me? Anyway… and what’s the Spanish? Medico de cabeza? Who knows.

Anyway, long story short, I’m getting a blood test tomorrow, but it looks like it might be anxiety.

In a bid to be selfish, I’ve taken a vow to do more “me” things and less “teaching” things. This has resulted in a few trips to the beach (no mean feat, that, getting off that sofa to walk the few yards to the beach.), spending less time planning, not planning at all after I come home from work, and reading a few more pages of that Spanish novel I got in January.

So there we are, an explanation.

More Embarrassing Moments – (Do not read if squeamish)

April 22, 2011

I’d better immortalise them in case they ever make good stories.

Yesterday, I swallowed a fish bone.  A big, uncomfortable, sharp one.  I spent the next hour drinking water, swallowing bread and poking the back of my throat with my finger until it proceeded to dislodge itself.  It stuck and drew a bit of blood.  Lovely.  Embarrassing since at 25, I should be able to chew my food by now. It was rather painful and nearly had me crying.

Today, I was walking along the street and a fly flew in my eye and really stung.  Not so embarrassing as “Why do these things keep happening to me?”  I think its corpse has just come out my eye, in the form of a black ball.

Like: my Facebook note.

April 21, 2011

Do you think one day, we can simply have conversations like this:

“I think I’ll have a cup of tea. Do want one?”


“I’ve just had my hair done. What do you think?”


“Ive booked my holiday for June”


“The Government are losers.”


Because every time I see a blog I like now, I don’t want to go to all the effort of leaving a comment. I just want to “Like” everything. Facebook has made me even lazier.

Belated Birthday – 14.01.2011

April 20, 2011

I never did show off my birthday presents.  I think at the time, I had no batteries for my camera.  As well as showing off my gifts, this post serves as an aide-memoire, just like the Christmas post, because every Christmas and birthday has a nasty habit of morphing into one in my memory, and I really want to preserve the memories on this blog.  Above, you see my new Radley bag.  Those among you who are more observant than me will remember that I got a Radley purse for Christmas (pictured below), so from time to time, I leave the house feeling like a lady (though not the Emily Howard sort!) with a proper leather bag and purse.

The pink background on these pictures is the little fabric bag that the Radley handbag came in.  Thank you, Mum and Dad, for these wonderful things!  One day, I’ll be able to afford nice things myself, but until then, presents of this sort are welcome!  🙂

And to complete the leather purse and bag set, I naturally need something leather for my keys, with an apt reminder of where I should lose my keys (ie not down a lift shaft!).

A lovely, sparkly bangle from my sister.

My new best friend, Milky the Cow.  If you squeeze her tum, she moos.  From Mr Flykites.

From the man who stole my heart, he gave it back to me with a lady bird!

And he gave me a witch.  Perhaps he could see the ressemblance!