What inspires me?

Recently the participants on a teacher training course that was finishing up asked my co-trainers and I to share  our ideas for resources that sustain our energy and enthusiasm. In lieu of original content today (since nothing that has been simmering on the back burner seemed quite ready yet) I decided to repurpose what I wrote  for the teachers on our course.

One of the concepts that served us quite well on the course is talking about our different roles and identities as hats that we wear. The basic one is our human hat, but at different times we wear other hats, like our teacher hat and our supervisor, or trainer, hat. The resources are organized by those categories.


Wilma’s resources and inspiration

Human hat

Desert Island discs podcastshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/desert-island-discs (You can listen online or download the podcasts through iTunes.)

Guests chose eight songs that they would take to a desert island and are interviewed about their lives and careers. I really love listening to these interviews and learning about people from so many different walks of life.

Stationery stores – new notebooks, pens, post-it notes. For example, finding post-its in the shape of leafs (the day before our 2nd F2F started) directly led to thinking about and planning the wrap up session on the last day.

Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach  A wonderful book that combines two things I love – literature and teaching!

Movies about teaching – sometimes when you’re feeling discouraged about teaching and wondering if it’s time to try a different profession, an inspirational teacher movie can provide just the encouragement that you need. For me it’s more about realizing again that teaching is a worthwhile and important job, not in realizing that I’m such an inspirational teacher.

Dead Poet’s Society – a classic for many reasons.

Mr. Holland’s Opus – I love the message of how a teacher can have an impact on students’ lives without realizing it.

Finding Forrester – It’s mostly about writing but there are aspects connected to teaching as well.

Akeelah and the Bee – It’s about a girl who works/studies hard to become a champion in spelling bees. Great scenes between her and her coach.


Teacher hat

My own teaching journals – I like reading them again after several years. What’s still important to me? How have I changed or grown? What have I forgotten? What do I want to do differently this year?

Songs for listening lessons – Using music in the classroom (both background music & using songs as the focus of listening lessons) is something that’s important to me. Choosing songs with positive messages for the Ss also helped me (because I would have to listen to the songs over and over again!)

All of the youtube links below are to versions that include the lyrics.

Ordinary Miracle, by Sarah McLachlan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rweU-FFE6Ww One of my favourites. It has a great message about the things we often take for granted.

Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LanCLS_hIo4 The song that I’ve used the most and keep coming back to.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy, by Bobby McFerrin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ou8hdqyCRBE This is a good song to start the semester with. I got tired of this song for a while and then started using it again.

The Rain Don’t Last, by Hope http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL1zNDsq984 Kind of an obscure song, but it’s more contemporary and it also has a great message for students (along with some great idioms).

I Can See Clearly Now, by Johnny Nash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjJHkuabRYw This is another positive message song. Other singers have covered this song and might have versions that are clearer and easier to understand.

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer. I can’t say enough about how this book has influenced me and how it gets to the heart of teaching and learning. It helped me to understand the connection between our beliefs about teaching and our classroom practice.

Working with Teaching Methods: What’s at Stake?  (a reworking of his classic “Teaching Languages: A Way and Ways”) by Earl Stevick

Earl Stevick’s ideas have influenced me quite a lot. This quote encapsulates what has become one of my most fundamental principles of teaching and training, “… success depends less on materials, techniques or linguistic analysis, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom. … the most important aspect of “what goes on” is the presence or absence of harmony:  it is the parts working with, or against, one another.”

JALT (The Japan Association of Language Teaching)

When I lived in Japan I was quite involved in the Hokkaido chapter of this professional organization and helped with organizing monthly meetings and conferences. I also gave presentations and workshops both locally and at several national conferences.

I’ve taken online courses from various sources including ed2go.com. “Teaching ESL/EFL Reading” was quite useful and comprehensive. (But I just noticed that course prices have more than tripled since I took that course in 2006).

Onestopenglish.com This is a great resource for teaching ideas as well as discussions about teaching. A lot of the resources are available for free but there is much more available if you subscribe.

Conversations with other teachers – in the staff room before and after classes.


Trainer hat

Participatory Workshops: A Sourcebook of 21 Sets of Ideas and Activities. by Robert Chambers. A really practical collection of ideas, for example “21 Ways of Forming Groups” and “21 Energizers.”

Teaching Language Teachers: Scaffolding Professional Learning, by Gabriel Diaz Maggioli. A useful combination of theory and practical ideas.

Articles by Carol Rodgers who writes about various aspects of reflective practice and teacher identity. Here’s a list of links to a number of her articles.

Conversations with other trainers – face to face and online. I’ve learned so much from the trainers that I’ve worked with over the years!

My training journals – yes, I have those too! I collect session ideas, quotes, notes on previous courses, notes on other trainers’ sessions, ideas for new sessions, good teaching/training practices. When I’m in need of inspiration or ideas it’s the first thing I go to. In the back of my journal I have a section with the names and/or pictures of all the teachers that I’ve worked with on courses over the years.

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