A Morning Walk – ELT Lesson Jam

This is a lesson for B1-C2 levels that encourages students to communicate, collaborate, and share their ideas. It can be used for both f2f and online lessons

Introduce the topic by asking some questions about Ss’ favourite part of the day and whether they like taking walks. Then, Ss read a short story A Morning Walk and answer some questions on a Story Padlet (created by you). After collecting all the answers/ideas on the Padlet, discuss them in a plenary with the whole class.

After the plenary, ask Ss to imagine the characters’ first conversation.

(Although starting a conversation with strangers might not be appropriate in certain cultures, explain that this is an imaginary situation, just a story.)

Ss work in pairs (in breakout rooms if you teach online) and come up with a short conversation between the main characters. When everyone is finished, ask the pairs to read out their conversations or give them an option to record them as voice messages and send them to you (FB Messenger/WhatsApp/Instagram…).

Spotlight on you (personalisation): Ss share their own stories/experiences about an unexpected friendship.

Over to you: This part can be set for homework/follow-up task. Ss find more stories about unexpected or unusual friendships and create a Padlet or a poster (Canva is user-friendly and offers a lot of templates for free)  about a story of their choice using text, images, videos, audios. They share the Padlet/poster with you and the whole class.

You can download the PPT here.https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OnGcjPL6MYWssCHJWpPZiCw05X18M99F/view?usp=sharing

Let me know how it goes.

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My little COVID universe

The symptoms started on November 4. I woke up just before midnight congested, quite similar to one of my usual allergy episodes. Then I noticed that my sense of smell was a bit off, so I started sniffing things around the house like a hound dog. When I couldn’t smell my favorite Jimmy Choo perfume, I knew it (there is no way you cannot smell Jimmy Choo). I had COVID.

I tested positive a couple of days later with good blood test results and my doctor decided not to give me any antibiotics to let my immune system respond. It was responding well until day 6. You hear doctors, epidemiologists, ministers of health, and everyone else talking about COVID fatigue but this was unimaginable. I could not get out of bed, speak, move. I felt like there wasn’t an atom of energy left in my body. I couldn’t open my mouth to eat or drink. It took me 20 minutes of inner dialogue one day just to make myself pick up a glass and have a sip of water. 20 minutes! I had to go and see my doctor every two or three days. I needed help getting in and out of the car, walking to the doctor’s office. The stairs were killing me.

Every word was precious. Every breath was and still is precious.  

It took me 6 days to feel capable of getting out of bed and going to the bathroom without saying ‘No, I don’t want to. I can’t.’ Every step was like walking in space, slow and contemplated. I was finally in space, my own little COVID universe. 

Taking a shower – now, that was mission impossible. First shower, my lips turned blue (that did not look pretty). I had to sit on the toilet seat cover for 10 minutes catching my breath before attempting to dry my hair. I couldn’t even hold the hair dryer. I left my hair wet and went to bed. It was just too much.

Friends sent messages. I sometimes replied, sometimes I just left them sitting in my inbox. I could not type because that meant lifting my head and looking at the screen. Every bigger movement meant losing my breath and I could not afford that. 

I could not sleep at night without the light on because all bad things happen in the dark. I was afraid that I might not be able to breathe or I might stop breathing completely. The anxiety and fear kept me awake at night. My phone was constantly by my side in case I needed to call for help. I was thinking of ways I could communicate if I couldn’t speak over the phone- tapping my screen or just trying to say one word, any word, let them know I needed them.

Today is day 16 of COVID and I still have problems breathing and talking, still sleeping with the light on. It will take time to regain my full strength and go back to teaching and writing, but I am extremely grateful I made it, me, a person with only mild symptoms. I cannot stop thinking about others with this vicious virus who have much more serious symptoms or who have lost the fight (already lost two close people to COVID). I was lucky. I am lucky to be with my family and friends today ready to leave my little COVID universe and enjoy life, again.

P.S. My ELT community helped me immensely and I am forever grateful. My ELTAM MK family, friends from MaWSIG, Teaching for Success Tunisia project, friends from all over the world sent messages every day. 

I guess this is the biggest strength of ELT community – relationships, friendships made over the years at conferences, working on projects, writing. 

(There were also people who forgot I was sick and were quite inconsiderate, but I hold no grudges. That tells me more about them than me.)

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Principles of materials writing

adapted from

Designing materials to instruct and support EFL students in the Republic of Macedonia in using reading comprehension strategies through the application of the Guided comprehension model for English learners: Writing a children’s fiction book with e Teacher’s guide to facilitate the application of the Guided comprehension model for the first time in the Republic of Macedonia

a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Arts (MA) by Aleksandra Popovski Golubovikj, 2016

Note: Although I wrote this 4 years ago, I find the principles and rationale behind them still relevant and applicable. Although principles of materials writing are not universal and every author has their own set of principles (or at least should have one), I think they give a framework necessary to keep ELT materials writers on track.

Initially, when I first started writing the materials that would become part of my MA dissertation, my decision was not informed by any data collected through research. The driving force behind the materials was my intuition; what I felt would be interesting for my students to exploit in the classroom. Prowse (1998) makes a reference to intuition as an influential factor in the process of materials design.

However, when I decided to continue designing the materials and use them as the focus of the dissertation, I conducted a simple survey on the reading habits of my students and afterwards constructed my own set of principles for materials writing.

1.         Materials should encourage creativity.

In 2008 the Ministry of Education introduced a 9-year primary school system for the first time and in the school year 2012/2013 it introduced the ‘external examination’. The external examination is a computerized test on two subjects, which are randomly selected for each student through a computer system, taken at the end of the school year. It is necessary for the students in both primary and secondary schools to pass both subjects in order to complete their current grade successfully and move onto the next one. The external examination has produced a lot of negative reactions from teachers, students and parents who feel that teaching and learning taking place in the classrooms around the country is too exam-focused.

In a system such as this one, creativity is completely lost. The teachers and the students are only concerned about tests and grades, without paying any attention to more creative activities. Sir Ken Robinson (2006) refers to this phenomenon of schools educating children out of creativity in his famous TED talk because schools are too exam-focused. In 2016, it seems that things have not changed at all. Fostering creativity in our students is as important as teaching them how to read and write. Creativity is not just about making new things. It is about novelty, new ideas, approaches, insights – looking at the world in a different way and noticing things other people cannot see. Both children and adults must be given the opportunity to express their creativity regardless of the fact that ‘society often perceives opposition to the status quo as annoying, offensive, and reason enough to ignore innovative ideas’ (Sternberg in Sawyer et al., 2003: 98).

Maley suggests that one way of introducing creativity is through widening the choice of text types, emphasizing ‘literary texts, which expose students to more creative uses of the language’ (2014: 179). He points out that these literary texts also include social, cultural and human issues that contribute to more general educational purposes, not just language teaching.

(the external examination was suspended in 2017)

2.         Materials should be engaging.

Active engagement is connected to learners’ motivation to learn. Brophy (in Dornyei and Ushioda, 2011: 106) points out that ‘developing your students’ motivation to learn involves socializing it as a general disposition as well as stimulating it situationally in the process of implementing lesson and learning activities.’ In addition, the organization of the activities is crucial because it is important ‘to build up a co-operative group atmosphere both to enhance language learning and develop the self-image and motivation of the group members’ (Williams and Burden, 1997: 195). Materials that exploit topics that are of interest for the learners and they can relate to, together with activities that encourage pair work, group work and active participation of every learner, are likely to succeed.

3.         Materials should help learners to develop learning-to-learn skills.

Materials for language learners should not be written without a clear purpose. They are aimed at assisting learners in the process of learning. Furthermore, they use activities that help learners to develop their learning-to-learn skills, i.e. how to use different learning strategies. These strategies are important because ‘they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence’ (Oxford, 1990: 1). Strategy instruction, therefore, needs to be part of the materials in order for learners to become aware of the strategies and learn how these strategies can be used to assist them in the learning process. This is not only important for their language learning, it also equips them with the skills that will help them with real-life tasks.

4.         Materials should be innovative.

Innovation – for me – does not mean that materials should try to do something that has never been done before. Innovation can be in the format of the materials. For example, instead of the usual format of a coursebook, the materials could take the form of a graphic novel and still exploit the same topics, lexical units and grammar structures. The materials can also adopt a different perspective on teaching the four basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening and approach them through different methodology.

5.         Materials should be teacher- and learner-friendly.

Materials should be user-friendly. They should be well-designed, with a good page layout and visual elements should be appropriate for the type of materials (coursebook, workbook, reader, etc.)There should be a clear indication of where one module or chapter ends and the next one begins, and which skill is the focus of a certain module or unit. There should be enough space between exercises and enough space for learners to write their answers. Also, the instructions in the student’s book and the teacher’s book should be simple, comprehensible, and easy to follow. Ellis and Ellis (1987) list four characteristics of a well-designed coursebook: 1. at a glance recognition of what is happening on the page; 2. clear information paths; 3. accessibility to target group; and 4. encouraging motivation to use the information from the material. I find two of them more important than the other two: quick recognition of the theme, its purpose and intended result and ‘clear information paths which help the EFL learner and teacher to understand the relationships between the texts, exercises, artwork and photographs so that they know where to go/what to look at next’ (Ellis and Ellis, 1987: 91).

6.         Materials should cater for different learning styles.

It is very important to take into consideration the fact that learners are not all the same. They come from different backgrounds, they have different personalities, attitudes and opinions, and they learn in different ways. Learning styles are defined as ‘[an]individual’s natural, habitual, and preferred way of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills’ (Reid in Lightbown and Spada, 2006: 59) and Lightbown and Spada point out (2006: 5) that ‘… the goal of the sensitive teacher is to take learners’ individual differences into account and create a learning environment in which more learners can be successful in learning a second language.’

7.         Materials should raise cultural awareness of one’s own culture and other cultures.

Too often when we refer to culture in EFL we mean the culture of the target language. In fact, ‘learning a foreign language becomes a kind of enculturation, where one acquires new cultural frames of reference and a new world view, reflecting those of the target language culture and its speakers’ (Alptekin,2002: 58). I do not agree with the view that language learning or language learning materials should reflect only the culture of the target language, in this case English.

Alptekin (1993: 138) argues that

            ‘most textbook writers are native speakers who consciously or unconsciously transmit the views, values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings of their own English-speaking society – usually the United States or United Kingdom. As such, when learners acquire a new set of English discourse as part of their evolving systemic knowledge, they partake of the cultural system which the set entails.’

Although learners of English need to understand the culture of the target language, it should not be the primary culture when learning the language. I would argue that learners of English as a foreign language, first of all, need to understand their own culture to be able to understand another culture. This ‘defamiliarization’, or ‘seeing one’s own language and culture refracted through the medium of a foreign language and culture’ (Pulverness and Tomlinson, 2014: 447) needs to be included in ELT materials as much as possible. First, the learner needs to become familiar with their own culture and then explore the culture of the target language or other cultures through the target language. Byram (1997) refers to this as ‘intercultural communicative competence’, the ability to understand one’s own culture and other cultures as well, and to use this knowledge and understanding for successful communication with people from different cultures. 

8.         Materials should achieve impact. (Tomlinson, 1998)

Tomlinson (1998) emphasizes the importance of impact of materials on learners as a tool for encouraging curiosity, interest and increasing attention. He lists several means of achieving impact such as novelty, variety, attractive presentation and appealing content. Pulverness (2007: 6) finds that ‘extensive reading of stories that are amusing, scary, exciting or romantic offers a wide range of contexts that will make new language easier for learners to recall – and to use.’ I would add that materials need to appeal to learners’ emotions and feelings by using characters learners can relate to, situations that are familiar to them, and topics that are not usually exploited in traditional coursebooks but reflect learners’ realities. Rinvolucri (1999) raises his voice against the usual topics found in coursebooks around the world, coursebooks that follow the PARSNIP (Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex. Narcotics, Isms, Pork) rule of excluding certain taboo topics from materials design and says that ‘the EFL discourse world avoids the shadow side of life with little or no reference to death, poverty or war’ and that topics such as jealousy, ambition, betrayal, etc.  are ‘far from the soft, fudgey sub-journalistic, woman’s magaziney world of EFLese’ (p.14). At the time of publication, his ideas were met with great resistance and negative reactions, but when viewed in the context of the world today, I think that his ideas are increasingly relevant.Being exposed to so many different sources of information (television, radio, but mostly the internet) means that taboos are no longer taboos. Everything we want and need to know is one click away.

9.         Materials should expose the learners to listening to a text first before reading it. (Masuhara, 2014)

Masuhara (2014) argues that learners will have a more positive experience of the text if they listen to it first because they will be free from the strain of multiple processing of visual stimuli, syntactic and semantic units, extracting meaning and connecting it to their previous knowledge, all at the same time. Also, adding features such as prominence to mark situationally informative pragmatic meaning and reading with appropriate affect will make the text more accessible for the learners (Masuhara, 2014). I would add that exposing learners to listening to a text creates a more positive learning environment and they can approach reading a text more relaxed, without experiencing the cognitive load ‘of processing scripts and sounds at the same time.’ (Masuhara, 2014:379)

10.       Materials should enable the learners to create multidimensional Mental Representations in the Reader’s Mind. (Masuhara, 2014)

Masuhara (2014) and Tomlinson (1998) discuss the use of mental imagery or visualization as one of the key features of reading comprehension. Tomlinson discusses several experiments he conducted on visualization, reporting that a small number of language learners visualize when reading L2, and that those language learners who used visualization had better comprehension and recall. Masuhara goes further and says that ‘meaning construction in a reader’s / listener’s mind is achieved in a multidimensional way, deriving from the integrated neural interactions of the various parts of the brain (i.e. the sensory, motor, cognitive and emotional systems)’ (2014: 381).’ Popovski-Golubovikj (2014) conducted a small-scale research project on the use of visualization as a reading comprehension strategy and reported active engagement and interest during the lessons. In fact, combining listening to a text first and creating mental images while listening has been one of the most useful strategies for my primary age learners (6-12). They get comfortable in their chairs, close their eyes, and I can see a range of emotions, reactions on their faces as I am reading a text. They are cognitively and emotionally engaged.

References:

Alptekin, C. (2002) ‘Towards intercultural communicative competence in ELT’, ELT Journal, vol.56, January, pp. 57-64.

Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence, Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z. and Ushioda, E. (2011) Teaching and researching motivation, 2nd edition, Harlow: Longman.

Ellis, M. and Ellis P. (1987) ‘Learning by design: some design criteria for EFL coursebooks’, in Sheldon, L.E. (ed.) (1987) ELT textbooks and materials: problems in evaluation and development, ELT Documents 126, [Online], Available: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/F044%20ELT-33%20ELT%20 Textbooks%20and%20Materials%20-%20Problems%20in%20Evaluation%20and %20 Development_v3.pdf

Lightbown, N. and Spada, N.N. (2006) How Languages Are Learned, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Masuhara, H. ‘Materials for Developing Reading Skills’, in Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (2014) Developing Materials for Language Teaching, 2nd edition, London: Bloomsbury.

Maley, A. (2014) ‘Creative approaches to materials writing’, in Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (2013) Developing Materials for Language Teaching, 2nd edition, London: Bloomsbury.

Oxford, L.R. (1990) Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know, Boston: New York, NY: Newbury House / Harper & Row.

Popovski-Golubovikj, A. (2014) ‘Enhancement of reading comprehension through visualisation’, MATYL Assignment.

Prowse, P. (1998) ‘How writers write: testimony from authors’, in B. Tomlinson (ed.) (1998) Materials Development in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pulverness, A. (2007) Reading Matters: The Guide to Using Graded Readers, Helbling Languages.

Pulverness, A. and Tomlinson, B. (2013) ‘Materials for Cultural Awareness’, in Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (2013) Developing Materials for Language Teaching, 2nd edition, London: Bloomsbury.

Rinvolucri, M. (1999) ‘The UK, EFLese Sub-Culture and Dialect’, Folio, 5, 2, 12-14.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

Sternberg, R.J. (2003) ‘The Development of Creativity as a Decision-Making Process’, in Sawyer, K.R. et al. (eds.) (2003) Creativity and Development, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (1998) Materials Development in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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The three Es of materials writing

A guest blog post for the IATEFL MaWSIG based on my plenary delivered at the ELT Malta Conference 2019

MaWSIG in Malta: The Three Es of Materials Writing

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I’m a teacher, business owner, and terrified about the future

Since the start of the pandemic we have seen a wave of love, support, and kindness for teachers and education in general. I don’t really have a problem with that but I do have a problem with the fact that this wave of positivity has come as a result of such an unfortunate situation. Our profession needs, must, has to be loved, appreciated, and respected at all times.

I wonder just how long this positivity will last. 

I’m saying this because I’m a teacher (in a small country) who owns a language school that I might have to close in September. 

I’m anxious, worried, terrified about the future and this is something that a lot of my ELT friends are thinking but not saying out loud.

If all those parents who have such positive messages about teachers on their social media decide that informal education and our work is not important, we will be out of work. We will not be able to provide for our families. We will have to lay off our teachers who will not be able to provide for their families. However, the parents are not the only stakeholders here. The government should step up and recognize the importance of informal education and provide relief for us, not partial, but full relief. 

So, there are two things that could happen here:

First, the parents see the true value of informal education and decide that we are as important as state schools and their children continue with their informal education. The schools don’t have to close and we’re not unemployed.

Second, the government recognizes the importance of informal education and provides relief for us. We do not close our schools and keep providing for our families, our teachers and their families.

Now, what I think will happen is this:

First, the parents DON’T see the true value of informal education and decide that we are NOT as important as state schools and their children DO NOT continue with their informal education. The schools HAVE TO CLOSE and we ARE unemployed.

Second, the government DOES NOT recognize the importance of informal education and DOES NOT provide relief for us. We CLOSE our schools and DO NOT keep providing for our families, our teachers and their families.

 That is why I am anxious, worried, terrified but still hoping I’m wrong about the future.

 

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Blog post for ELT Consultants

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything ELT related so writing a blog post for ELT Consultants was a bit of a challenge. Here it is – 3 activities you can do with your students f2f and/or online:

https://www.elt-consultants.com/blog/teaching-online

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Za nju

Ne mogu da pišem o mami na engleskom ili makedonskom. Mogu samo na jeziku koji mi daje osjećaj da je još tu.

“Sljedeća dva sata su kritična.”

Bila sam na sljedećem avionu za Skoplje. Stižem, ali su zabranili posjete bolnicama – korona.  Koje sam ja sreće, čovječe.

Zovem je, a ona jedva diše i još teže priča. Kažem ja njoj “Samo da znaš da sam tu, vratila sam se. Ne sekiraj se, biće sve u redu.” Ali nije bilo. Znala je ona da neće biti.

Odemo do bolnice da joj odnesemo njen karmin,  garderobu,  i knjige. Sigurno se smiju sestre – ko još čita knjige u tim godinama.

Moja mama.

Prođe tako vikend u čekanju i iščekivanju.

Ponedeljak

Zračenje. Za nju nada za izlječenje a za mene  prilika da je vidim.

Iznose je iz vozila a ona drži bocu sa kiseonikom kao malo dijete majku za ruku , svoj jedini oslonac u svijetu. Boji se, vidi joj se na licu.

“Znaš li ti ludačo jedna, kako sam se ja uplašila ono jutro kad si otišla.” kaže ona meni. “Pomilovala si me po ruci,  probudila i rekla da krećeš na aerodrom, a tijelom mi prođe jeza. Mislila sam da se nećeš vratiti.”

“Evo me, mama, tu sam. Vratila sama se, živa i zdrava.”

“Ali ja nisam.”

“Ma jesi, živa si. Možda nisi zdrava, ali jesi živa.”

Utorak

“Što su ti lijepe naušnice. Odakle ti?”

“Stare su, mama. Možda ih ranije nisi primjetila.”

“Možda, ali lijepe su.”

Guram kolica do aparata za zračenje. Boji se, vidim joj opet na licu. Stisnem je za rame i kažem:“ Ne boj se, sve će biti u redu“.

Ulazimo u kola a nju odvoze nazad u bolnicu. Mašemo ali ona samo odsutno odmahne,  pogled joj je odlutao negdje u daljinu.

Srijeda

Puste nas da je vidimo kroz staklo. Mašina diše.

Četvrtak

Mašina diše.

Petak

Mašina diše.

Subota

Uđem u sobu tiho da je ne bih probudila. Zaboravim da ništa ne čuje i ne vidi. Mašina diše.

Ne daj se. Biće sve u redu.

Ponedeljak

Mašina diše.

Utorak

Mašina diše.

Srijeda

Mašina diše.

Četvrtak

Mašina diše.

Petak

Kažu budna je. Šok, uzbuđenje, nada.

Subota

Mašina je prestala da diše.

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Guest blog post for EVE:Changing my name to get ahead in ELT — eve: Equal voices in elt

These days many ELT professionals and initiatives are trying to fight the NS-NNS discrimination, EVE included, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Why am I saying this? I was recently told I should change my name, anglicize it if I wanted to be published since I was a non-native speaker […]

via Changing my name to get ahead in ELT — eve: Equal voices in elt

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December 5, 2018 · 7:28 pm

Educate and Empower – the 10th ELTAM International Conference

As President of our national English Language Teachers’ Association of Macedonia-ELTAM, I was given a task to write a welcome letter for the conference brochure. It’s not an easy thing to do because you have limited space and number of words, and you have to think about who your readers are (200 something English language teachers from different countries, not an easy crowd to please). Of course, I couldn’t get out of it so…

Dear conference participants,

we bid you a warm welcome to the 10th ELTAM International Conference – Educate and Empower. This year we are celebrating not only our 10th jubilee conference but also our 20 years of work in the field of ELT in the Republic of Macedonia. ELTAM has had two decades of challenges, struggles, friendship, and laughter. I believe I can say with utmost confidence that ELTAM has empowered a great number of teachers, professionally and personally. That is why we have chosen Educate and Empower as the theme of our conference.

Empowerment has recently become the key concept in promoting social engagement across the globe. Movements and initiatives such as #MeToo, #ELTtoo, EVE= Equal Voices in ELT, Women in ELT, calls for more inclusive education for children with special educational needs and members of LGBTQ community – all these have empowerment at their core.

 As educators we are responsible for providing our students with the skills and knowledge not only of the subject matter but also the skills and knowledge for life in a world of constant change. However, we cannot empower our students if we are not empowered ourselves as teachers. Frances Bolin (2002) defined teacher empowerment as “investing teachers with the right to participate in the determination of school goals and policies and to exercise professional judgment about what and how to teach”. Understanding what teacher empowerment is IS crucial. It will help you, us take that first tentative step towards true empowerment.

Therefore, educate and empower yourselves and your students.

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20 years of teaching (1997-2017)

Final thoughts for 2017, i.e. some things I have learnt after teaching for 20 years.

  • Teaching is not a job. It’s a volunteering position. Teachers give up their free time and social life to make a change because we are hopeless optimists.
  • Teaching is both amazing and terrifying. Don’t let the terrifying part take over.
  • Teachers have an extended family of 50-100 kids per year. It’s an everlasting love-hate relationship.
  • Teachers can make a person but also ruin one. Tread carefully!
  • Threats and fear have no place in the classroom.
  • Teachers are parents, best friends, worst enemies, a shoulder to cry on.
  • Teachers are fighters.
  • Teachers are life-long learners.
  • Teachers are not just teachers of content but also teachers of humanity. We teach kindness, mutual respect, self-confidence, integrity, humility.
  • Students don’t remember what you are but who you are. Be the best you can be!
  • Teachers are allowed to have bad days, just be honest about them. Kids respond better to truth than lies.
  • Teachers change the world one student at a time. Be patient!

 

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

Aristotle

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