Keeping a journal keeps me sane

There are plenty of articles and videos on how journaling can help you focus, clear your mind, process your thoughts and so on. But if you are like me, you probably don’t really believe them.

I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 8, when my school teacher read us passages from Anne Frank’s Diary and made me want to try too. At the time I had just been given a very girly little notebook, so I decided to start my very first journal (even giving it an name as Anne had done).

I haven’t stopped since. I might have had moments when I was writing daily, and others when I would write one entry a month, but in all this I have never stopped to think what was driving me to pick up a pen and write my thoughts.

Since the beginning of 2019 I have decided to try to write something daily, and so far I have more or less kept to my resolution. I just did it because I wanted to have a nice record of my year, but as I started doing it I began to realise how much it actually helps — and how all those articles and videos might have a point after all.

As a teacher, journaling helps me reflect on my teaching. It also helps in stressful moments to keep some perspective, vent my frustration or get rid of negative thoughts. It is amazing how writing down how you are feeling or what you are thinking can help see yourself from the outside, so to speak.

Personally, it is not just a fun memory-keeping exercise, but it also helps give me a sense of achievement . When I look at my diary now, I don’t feel like my days have just slipped by. I can actually see how I’ve been spending my time and what has kept me busy.

So I guess my point is: try it. It might not radically change your life, but the worst that can happen is that when you go back to read it later, you feel like a fool for having fixated so much on such a small thing, or having worried so much for nothing.

73 cows: a video about sustainability

I have recently watched this short film and I found it so compellingly beautiful that I thought about creating a lesson around it.


73 Cows is an award-winning short documentary about the journey and personal conflict of Jay Wilde, the first farmer in the UK to embark upon transitioning from beef farming to entirely organic plant based farming.

The message it gives is so important that I simply cannot be ignored. I haven’t used in class yet, but I thought I’d share the resource. Maybe someone wiser or quicker will be able to create an interesting lesson based on it, and help show the way forward. 🙂

Delta Module 2

After a long hiatus since my Module 1 exam, I have finally started Module 2. I will be working on it all through the summer, and hopefully will have my certificate by September.

The good thing about it is that it is helping me to feel motivated again — a lack of motivation is what stopped me from writing on this blog for all this time since my last post. And I have to say it felt really scary from the distance, but now that I have started working on it I have the distinct feeling I can manage it.

I will probably not be posting much through the summer as I will be busy trying to write my LSAs and lesson plans, but I hope I will still feel motivated enough in September to come back and report on my impressions and my experience with this part of the Diploma.

How it all starts

I love writing — it helps me organise my thoughts and give them perspective. I write a daily diary, I write letters, and as of today, I’ll be writing on this blog.

I have had blogs since I was a university student. I don’t know what it is about blogging, but I am constantly drawn to it. I start a blog, I write for a while (my latest adventure lasted about 3 years), and then I inevitably end up getting bored of it.I am starting this new one for many reasons. First of all, I missed blogging. I stopped writing on my last blog last year, I was getting tired of writing about work all the time. I am now creating a place where I can share whatever comes to my mind, my life as a whole rather than compartmentalised.

Secondly, I feel the need to share some of the thoughts and experiences I write on my diary about with a wider audience. I don’t think many people will actually read this blog, but knowing that my thoughts are out there gives me a sense of sharing and community that writing on my diary does not.

And lastly, I hope to make this into another outlet for my writing and a chance to practise my English. Excuse my mistakes or awkwardness, but English is not my first language. This is just another way to use it, and improve it.

 I am grateful to A/I for all their hard work, and for providing this amazing service.

Yoga and the performance principle

I have recently had the pleasure to visit a contemporary art exhibition in Vienna, whose main focus was the experience of alienation. I am by no means an art expert, therefore I am in no position to judge or comment on contemporary art, but among all the amazingly thought-provoking installations and artworks I witnessed, one struck me as particularly relevant to my own life and profession.
Crisis & Control by Burak Delier is a short video where the author and other professionals talk about their work, their struggle for success and the difficulties they met on the way while performing yoga poses in a totally alienated and surreal office environment.

Equalimity, concentration, and flexibility, the paradoxical ability of being “at one with oneself” while constantly going beyond one’s limits, are fundamental virtues of both yoga and neoliberism

The introduction to the video in the exhibition catalogue might seem like a provocation, but it actually succeeded in making me think about my relationship with yoga, and about my own struggle to find a seemingly elusive work-life balance.
Is yoga actually helping me, or is it just a palliative? Can relaxation and self-discovery really occur in everyday life, when it is hard to find the time to take my dog for a walk? How much of the responsibility to reach a balance in life lies on me, and how much of it lies on my employer, on our society, on our governments? Is it neoliberism’s victory to have convinced us our hapiness depends solely upon ourselves?
I find myself constantly torn between two opposite poles: trying to do my best at work, striving to improve and to prove my worth, and on the other hand trying to find peace and happiness in my daily life. Are these two opposites even reconciliable at all? And if not, which one should I choose?
This work of art definitely succeeded in making me question what I do and why I do it. It helped me think more deeply about my motivation for taking up such activities as yoga and meditation, and about whether I will ever be able to fully develop any of these aspects of my life while I try to pursue both — self-discovery and the performance principle.

I missed blogging

I have to admit, I almost closed this blog a few months ago. I thought I was done with it, that I didn’t have anything else to say. I also felt slightly burnt out, so the idea of spending my free time thinking and writing about ELT wasn’t appealing any more. Nothing major had really happened, I just couldn’t bear the thought of it.
I don’t really know what has changed. But suddenly last week I started to feel the urge to write again. I came back here and felt really nostalgic about this place, and of my PLN in general, so here I am again.
I don’t know if it is going to last or not, or if I’ll have anything interesting to write. I just wanted to get started with this first post, hoping that it will give me the push I need to start writing again.
I hope you have all been great, I can’t wait to catch up on all the great posts I’ve missed in these months. ????

#IATEFL2018: ELT as emancipatory practice by Steve Brown

Here’s another set of notes from a talk I attended yesterday.


We live in a world where people who are in position of power are using it to further disadvantage people in an already disadvantaged position.
We are assisting to the commodification of language, learning and teaching!
Wheere is power located in ELT?

  • school owners
  • publishing companies
  • examining bodies /qualification providers
  • education policy-makers
  • employers

Where is power low or lacking?

  • teachers
  • students
  • writers
  • ELT methodologists

ELT is a neoliberal profession!

Ways of looking at education include:

  • education as censorship or disempowerment (teaching to be ‘thick’)
  • education as indoctrination or imperialism (imposing a majority agenda on minority communities)
  • education as empowerment: people developing capacities to act successfully within the existing system and structures of power –> but this implies no transformation
  • education as emancipation: give people the power to critically engage with the status quo and find ways to transform it for the better

Empowerment is not enough. We need an emancipatory approach, using teaching as a means of affecting change: analysing Ss needs, working with what they need, finding ways to include critical thinking in our lessons.

Ideas for the classroom

Fpr teacher trainers — here are some alternative questions to ask about our teaching (instead of “did you reach your aims?”):

  • Who benefits most from the lesson?
  • What underlying values and assumptions axist within lesson content?
  • How (if at all) does the lesson address issues of injustice and inequality?
  • What impact (if any) does this lesson have on the wider world around us?

Pushing ELT along the continuum:

  • education as priority instead of profit
  • using a co-created syllabus instead of having a pre-determined one
  • moving from ‘banking’ methodology (T ‘deposits’ knowledge into learners) to participatory methodologies
  • moving from bland, generic topics to topics that challenge beliefs and focus on social justice
  • from trying to create ‘apolitical’ institution to institutions that acknowledge the intrinsically political nature of education.

Concrete ideas

For Institutions

  • apply SLA theory to curriculum design
  • take a more critical approach to material selection
  • use more localised materials
  • localised CPD, not just international TESOL qualifications
  • exploit 21st century skills agenda (including critical thinking)
  • bring critical thinking into the assessment process!

For Teachers

  • include PARNSIPs!
  • tap into alternative sources of motivation –> going from personal, self-centred motivation to community-oriented one, that take into account the wider world
  • don’t be afraid of “cans of worms”
  • include space for co-operation
  • encourage reflection on societal positioning and underlying reasons
  • encourage reflection on societal positioning and underlying reasons
  • and so on!

#IATEFL2018: Making PARSNIPs palatable by Rose Aylett

Here are my notes from this very interesting and thought-provoking session I attended yesterday.


PARSNIPs are left out of classroom practice because of:

  • institutional policies
  • local culture
  • lack of materials
  • fear of Ss reactions

However, they are important and Ss often need the language to talk about these issues. So why boycott them?

How to approach PARSNIPs

Some essential ingredients to deal with them:

  • help Ss understand politically correct/incorrect language
  • equip them with adequate functional language (giving and exchanging opinions)
  • help them develop useful sub-skills (hedging, polite interruption)

Furthermore, Ss need to develop non language-related skills such as:

  • empathy
  • critical thinking
  • intercultural awareness

Practical ideas for teachers

  • focus on the LANGUAGE rather than on topic (make it a language lesson rather than a topic lesson)
  • develop empathy through activities such as:
    • radical listening: really listen to what the other person is saying, without any interruption only backchanneling
    • human angle: who picked the beans who went into my coffee this morning? –> think about the person behind an object: who picked the beans, what’s their life like? How do they feel today…?
    • shoe swap: see one side of a debate/issue, role-play two actors in an issue, describe how you’re feeling in 1st person (e.g. Arianna Grande concert: first read texts about the facts, then role-play situation)

How can I use PARSNIPs in the classroom?

  • Experiment with these topics including them in only one part of the lesson or one specific activity. This will give you try them out before committing to a full lesson. The disadvantage can be that you touch on them too superficially.
  • Centre your whole lesson around them. This will give you an opportunity for deeper understanding of the topic, but can be risky if you don’t know Ss reaction or don’t know your class very well
  • On the spot, responding to Ss interests if and when they bring up a topic in class or show interest on it


  • some books (Taboos and Issues, Instant Discussions)
  • create your own materials! 🙂 Possibly from authentic texts –> work on assumptions of texts, reading/writing skills
    • sourcing materials: websites, social media, art, festivals, literature…

Dealing with difficult students

What happens when a S makes a difficult statement or shows bigotry?:

  • aknowledge the contribution (don’t rush on)
  • challenge the statement, not the person!
  • if you can, exploit the statement for language purpose
  • encourage a plurality of perspectives
  • use real-life examples
  • have realistic expectations (this is not about changing Ss minds!)
  • prepare to have your own opinion challenged!


  • face your fear
  • be proactive, not reactive!
  • move from sides to mains
  • play the devil’s advocate

I'm tired

I apologise for the rant that follows, but sometimes I just need to get things out of my chest, and this is one of those times.
Despite the best efforts of the institution I work for to actively promote equality, we still get loads of requests for madrelingua (native speakers). And do you know where these requests come from most of the times? From other NNESTs. This is so disheartening.
We often do something called ‘lettorato’, which means we teach in class during school time (with the class teacher present), to provide a communicative component to classroom teaching. We do this in all types of schools, from primary to high schools, and we generally get very positive feedback.
However, I also often get the oh-so-you-are-Italian look from the class teacher, especially in higher-level schools such as high schools. The students themselves generally ask me if I’m from London, from the USA or from England (Australia, South Africa, Ireland or Scotland are not in their mental map of English-speaking countries, apparently). But then when I tell them I’m Italian, they just accept the fact and get on with things.
But teachers look bitterly disappointed. They sometimes go as far as to tell me not to mention this to the students — why exactly is not clear. We even had schools complain and require us to change teachers because some of us were not madrelingua. This starts to feel a lot like Uncle Ruckus in the Boondocks, really.
I also have positive stories of students requesting madrelingua, and then being happy with me and seeing the progress. But again, what hurts the most are those I regard as colleagues believing I am not capable of doing my job just because I was born in the same place where they were born.
I don’t know who or what taught them to think like this. I just hope one day they will change their mind. Otherwise the war is already lost.

My #tdsigcarnival contribution: peer observations

This post is in response to TDSiG request to share teacher development success stories as part of their 2018 Web Carnival. In my experience, one of the most successful and useful TD activities we do where I teach are peer observations. In this post, I would like to explain why.

1: Quick and easy tricks

The most obvious reason is that it is easy to learn and immediately put into practice ideas from peer lessons. This does not only mean lesson ideas or activities, but also — and most importantly — classroom management strategies, board work, ways to build rapport.
These are the things that are usually neglected (or given a back seat) in teacher training, yet they are so important in creating a positive classroom environment that is conductive of learning.

2: An outside look

Peer observations are the only opportunity to relax, seat back and enjoy lessons as an observer, especially if — like myself — you are not a teacher trainer. They provide a unique angle from which to observe a lesson, as the observer is not evaluating the teacher.
Instead, you can observe student reactions to different techniques, see from the outside what a certain activity feels like and form a more complete picture of what a lesson looks like from the outside.
From the observed teacher point of view, peer observations take away the pressure of being evaluated, and once again provide a different look on the lesson.

3: Self-confidence

As a NNEST and a person who tends to under-estimate herself, I find that peer observations greatly help my self-confidence. Seeing that more experienced colleagues do things the same way I do makes me feel more confident about my teaching skills. Observing students feedback to such practices also reinforces my beliefs and practices, or helps me understand what works and what doesn’t in my own practice.
In conclusion, I can say that there are many arguments in favour of this simple yet incredibly useful CPD practice, and — from a teacher point of view — I would strongly recommend any DoS or school director to implement it as part of their teachers development strategy.