How to make a Halloween mini golf course

Every year our school organizes Halloween workshops for small kids from other schools to attend. We prepare various games and competitions and the participants can win small prizes. The students preparing the workshops work in heterogeneous groups – each group consists of kids of different ages and levels of proficiency. It’s fun but also demanding because the teachers have to come up with something new each year. As this is a low budget event, my colleagues and I do our best to invent interesting ideas that cost little money. This year a group of my students made Halloween mini golf course.

First of all, we needed a couple of shoe boxes and other boxes of various shapes, which I had collected from my extended family members and friends. The kids then made the boxes into various shapes (obstacles such as tunnels/tubes, ramps) and cut holes in them. 

In addition, apart from the obvious things (scissors, glue sticks, rulers, and markers), we needed a lot of black crepe paper, and magazine pictures of Halloween images (monsters, ghosts, spiders, witches). We covered the boxes with black paper and put on some Halloween decorations. My little son lent me his plastic golf clubs and balls, which we also covered with black crepe paper.
Finally, to make the golf alleys, we used a big role of white paper, which we cut into strips of approximately the same length (of about 1.5m). The kids used black markers and drew Halloween symbols on them. They tagged each of the ten alleys with a number.

Here comes a little bit of testing before the installation.


And the mini golf course is ready. All you need is enough space to squeeze in all the alleys and kids in Halloween costumes can start playing. The players take down their scores in grids similar to those used in real miniature golf. But that’ll come tomorrow. I can’t wait to see all the scary happy faces!

Update your digital footprint

My son’s feet. Also available on Flickr (eltpics)

Everything we do in the physical world leaves a trace, either concrete of abstract – touching our coffee mugs each morning, walking across our gardens, ironing the clothes, kissing our beloved family members, you name it. In the same manner, we leave ‘fingerprints’ and footprints in cyberspace. In technical terms, digital footprint is the data trail left by the interactions in a digital environment, i.e. traces of personal information about ourselves available to others online. In other words, digital footprints are the captured memories and moments, built from the interaction with various kinds of digital equipment. This description includes what people clicked on, searched for, liked, where they went, their location, their IP address, what they said, what was said about them, their login and logouts, visits to a web-page, accessed or created files, emails, chat messages or any other material showing the activities undertaken. It can refer to the size of a person’s online presence measured by the number of individuals with whom they interact.

Looking at the characteristic above, one would argue that it’s not easy to maintain a positive digital footprint or the one we would like other people to see. There are so many aspects to take into account; so many things to be careful about. As people sometimes unintentionally leave negative traces in the ‘material’ world, they can leave ones they are not proud of in cyberspace as well. I believe I maintain and update my digital footprint every second of my online presence because the things I like, the comments I leave, the messages I post, the content I suggest, etc. are reflections of what I am like at the given moment. And as I develop every second of my life – I change and grow a little – my digital footprint inevitably changes too. So I believe that as we develop and evolve, our digital footprint automatically ‘gets updated’. And yes, there are some cool tools, such as Vizify but they only collect the information and traces one has already left online. But the hard work still remains to be done by ourselves.

Here are several simple rules I try to follow in order to keep a positive digital footprint in cyberspace :

  • Think before you post and interact.
  • Be recent and relevant.
  • Don’t spam people with irrelevant information.
  • Connect with positive and knowledgeable people. 
  • Be positive and avoid negativity.  
  • Let your positivity be contagious.
  • Be polite even if you’d rather be rude.
  • Encourage and support whenever you can.

Errors – a nightmare or the spice of L2 learning?

Typos have always been a nightmare for me. The thing is that I can never spot them in my work. Not that I’m a careless person. On the contrary; since I started sharing my blog posts publicly, I’ve been extremely grammar conscious. Ironically, the more I look for typos in my writing, the worse. I always run a spell check which, unfortunately, often perfectly camouflages some types of typos. ‘I hate when my computer brakes down’ sounds perfectly all right for my spell checker. Anyway, homophones are always tricky (my ‘favourite’ ones are ‘I love plane clothes’ or the non-existent ‘I’m really greatful’). For obvious reasons I usually follow a tedious procedure of reading everything I write three times at least, spell checking it and coming back to it the next day. Leaving out one step can be fatal.
It’s the same with speaking. There are certain types of errors which, when uttered in a spontaneous speech, remain unnoticed by the speaker, even at very advanced levels (My brother sleep in the other room or Where did you went yesterday?). Not to mention the notorious error of confusing he with she and vice versa, which occurs across all levels of proficiency, and which, I suspect, has little to do with L2 development. Here I come to the point: what does this mean for the language classroom?

  1. Our students don’t usually make mistakes on purpose. Neither I nor my students speak and write incorrectly because we think it’s cool. We all want to become perfect in the end (or at least good). Our students simply make errors because their language is developing. The question is: should we penalize L2 learners for slips of the tongue and various kinds of typos? Should we subtract points for incorrect use at all? My answer is: no, provided learners do their best to avoid errors. In other words, L2 learners should undoubtedly become grammar conscious, more careful when producing L2 but definitely not discouraged by constant correction and failure. The problem is that we usually compare students’ performances with standards and against each other’s. If we compared a student’s performance against his/her previous one, it would be much more objective and just.
  2. Our students don’t sometimes notice their mistakes unless we highlight them in some way (even by encouraging peer correction). Well, the question is whether learners would finally improve without explicit correction. Some maintain they would because  kids eventually acquire their mother tongue without really getting much correction from their parents. But in an L2 classroom, the situation is diametrically different. L2 learners are not exposed to the target language so intensively. Moreover, in homogenous classes (those consisting of learners with the same L1 background), errors may become fossilized because the learners don’t experience communication breakdowns, i.e. everybody understands everyone and so everybody is happy. 
  3. Our students make progress but each of them at a different pace. So while some learners need just a slight hint to spot an error, others need more time, practice and feedback. Not to mention the fact that spotting and becoming aware of an error doesn’t necessarily mean one will use the language item correctly next time. This is not always respected at schools. All students are supposed to acquire the matter at the same time – ideally by the time of assessment. This expectation is unrealistic; it’s like expecting all babies to start walking at the same time.

The aim of this post is to raise awareness among teachers. I’m trying to spread a message. I only ask for more patience because I know what it feels like to fail. I also ask for more meaningful practice. Once our students get real audience, they’ll naturally want to improve. So let’s do our best to promote written production, such as blogging, in our classes. Let’s do more team work and project work because correction occurs spontaneously and naturally there. Let’s encourage our students to get used to being listened to. I have no doubt that those who’ve read this post don’t need my advice anyway, but isn’t it good to know that there are some teachers out there on the same wavelength?

PS.: If you spotted an error while reading, please let me know. You are my real audience, after all 🙂
*Goal 12/Cycle 3: Define & Spread Your Message

Creation versus consumption

I often hear people criticize internet users for being mere consumers of the content. These critics say that nowadays kids spend a lot of time online but they only consume but rarely create. Well, yes, but do we really encourage our kids to be creative?

When I was at school, I mainly experienced learning via lecture-style instruction, where there was little space left for making something new and authentic. The knowledge had already been created by the great minds and we were supposed to consume or ‘acquire’ this knowledge. I got few opportunities to create things of my own or respond creatively to someone else’s content. Yet I’m presently the kind of person who reads an article and immediately, often already in the middle of it, feels the urge to react, respond, reply, create. Yes, I’m a little impatient and I often have to force myself to read to the end to make sure my opinion will be relevant. I believe that by expressing opinions, readers add a new dimension – a new layer – to what has been written. That’s why I love online discussions and blogs where I can respond and have a dialogue with the author and other readers; I feel that I’m not just a passive consumer of other people’s thoughts and ideas and I actually re-create the original text. 

I believe that all people love creating something of their own, something that will leave a trace, a mark, even if just for a while – a wooden table, an essay, a photograph, a house, a cake, or a paper plane. It’s something as natural as the desire to be loved. Very small kids enjoy playing, as well as drawing and painting pictures, building sand castles and cube towers, which they are eager to share with their peers, teachers and parents. And they are free to do it when they are young and cute. Nobody tries to stop them; nobody makes them just look at the works of other kids. They wouldn’t accept it anyway. So what later forces us to gobble up the knowledge created by others and we don’t (or can’t) even protest. We slowly learn to conform to this way of learning. But having become conformists, we don’t stop craving for the opportunity to create. Some of us are lucky and we are enabled to create, but others feel they will never get the chance. However, people don’t have to ask for permission; they just need the confidence to take action. Nevertheless, people often give up because they feel they can never come up with something worthwhile and new. But as everybody is unique, the things they create are unique as well. Two fellow cooks can never make identical dishes, two kids will never draw identical pictures and two people never see the same rainbow. And that’s it. Let’s stop being shy because we believe that what we’ve ever created was crap. It may be true but next time it can be a masterpiece and by creating ‘crap’ one actually learns more than by mere consuming.

This post was inspired by a group of my students who are in the process of creating their own video. In the beginning, they were really enthusiastic; they had big plans and they wanted their work to be amazing, professional – simply flawless. Now they are in the stage of ‘Oh, it’s not as wonderful as we thought it would be’; they feel their plans have fallen through. Well, they’ve come to the inevitable point in the process of creation – doubts. But I believe this will be valuable experience for all of them; they will learn from their ‘mistakes’ but they will also learn to be more realistic in their expectations next time. Some tasks that appear to be a piece of cake may actually require a lot of skill, effort, efficient team work (and a bit of luck too). Anyway, I’m convinced that they will like their work in the end, especially if they get support and positive feedback. I keep my fingers crossed for them.

Shake Things Up and Enjoy the Silence

Silence is a friend who never betrays

We all follow a basic routine throughout the week. We make our lesson plans, interact with our colleagues, teach our lessons and so on and so forth. This may become really tiring and boring. Nothing demotivates so much as when you do the same thing over and over again. But honestly, we sometimes forget that our students often feel the same way. So not only do we need to step out of our routine from time to time in order to get inspiration, but we also need to shake things up for our students. Not just because we can’t stand the bored faces in our lessons but also because keeping our students unmotivated will probably limit the range of possibilities in their future lives. How can we trigger their creativity if they feel bored to death? How can we possibly inspire them for their future adventures if there are none at school? I simply love inventing new tasks and activities. I enjoy being innovative in every possible way because I love to watch the happy faces and glowing eyes of my students whenever I come up with something new, unexpected. However, I’m not going to describe an activity or provide a lesson plan as usual. I’m going to shake things up a bit.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of powerlessness when something vital for the lesson breaks down or fails? As I wrote in one of my previous posts, I always have a few items in my teacher’s survival kit in case something goes wrong. But what if you lose something that can’t be replaced at all? I’ve been teaching for almost twenty years now but this has never happened to me before – I’ve completely lost my voice for the first time in my career. It’s been an interesting experience, though and it’s literally shaken things up because I dared it and decided to teach the lessons as usual.

First of all, I realized I talk too much. It actually sounds ironic to me because I believe my students generally get plenty of opportunities to express themselves in the lessons; I often let them provide each other with various kinds of feedback and they can ask and answer each other’s questions freely. Surprisingly, they behaved differently when I (involuntarily) remained silent. They listened more carefully to my occasional whispering but also to each other. They didn’t interrupt or disturb their peers. In other words, they concentrated on their tasks like never before. Interestingly enough, I noticed things I had never noticed before because I listened more closely. As I couldn’t correct their pronunciation, I had to leave the students to their own devices. When I spotted an error, I only made a gesture and encouraged somebody to correct it. All I did was eliciting answers. I had to make my instructions as simple as possible, using my facial expressions, hands and fingers to point, indicate, show, encourage, and stop. I virtually felt like an orchestra conductor; I didn’t play myself but I was there, responsible for the students’ well-being, making sure that learning occurred. Luckily, I had technology at my disposal, so I could play the recordings, show images, words, texts, etc., and the students got plenty of input to build on.

I’ve recently heard an intriguing interview with Sugata Mitra on Steve Wheeler’s blog. And it’s no exaggeration to say that Sugata Mitra shakes things up. To cut it short, Mitra maintains that we don’t need the education system any more because it’s simply outdated. He’s an advocate of auto-didacticism, i.e. when children are in small groups, left to their own devices, they will teach themselves an extraordinary amount of new skills and knowledge. In other words, Mitra argues that kids can easily do without teachers.

Mitra’s ideas and my vocal cords infection made me ask myself a few burning questions. Don’t I interfere too much when teaching? Could I do more to satisfy the students’ need for autonomy? How do my students actually feel when being left to their own devices? Well, let’s remain silent for a while and ponder …

My Survival Kit

Like all teachers with some experience, I’ve also learned that it’s wise to have a few items at my disposal whenever I enter the classroom, or at least somewhere nearby. First of all, it’s my cup of coffee. Well, seriously, one of my invaluable allies is the coursebook. Not that I stick to every single exercise but I can simply use it to my advantage and exploit it to the full in many different situations. Apart from the obvious things one does with a coursebook, students can, for example, use it when they want to hide something, such as a text or picture, from the sight of their peers during various games, mingling and information gap activities. But primarily, it’s a great resource of coloured, high-quality images, which can be recycled in every lesson. As I believe that learners generally love pictures, I always have a collection of interesting magazine images on my desk. I’ve also found it useful to have a set of dice (at least one die for each pair is a must), a pack of word cards, a few pelmanism sets, Rory’s Story Cubes, an hourglass and blank sheets of paper. Finally, students’ mobile phones with recorders, cameras and dictionaries will always make things easier. All these items come in handy and often save the day when I need to come up with a short and quick activity, especially if high technology doesn’t work or if something unexpected turns up. Interesting enough, this is when some of the most amazing activities can be discovered, virtually by chance.

I’d like to share an activity that was originally supposed to be only a slot-filler but eventually evolved into a complex task with a lot of pedagogical benefits.
You all know it; you ask your students to talk about a specific topic but as soon as you turn your back to them, they start talking about their favourite PC game. Once you start listening again, they quickly come back to the topic, looking at you with that guilty look. If you teach small classes, you can control this easily but with big classes it is a big issue. You might also have experienced another problem: your students stick to the assigned topic but they avoid using specific language features – especially those you wish they practised. The following activity has always helped me keep the learners talking and using exactly those language items I wanted them to use. I’d like to point out that this activity works best for those students who are quite fluent but need to work on their accuracy.

1) Students work in pairs. Each pair gets a die and a suitable magazine picture to describe. Before you get your students to start speaking, elicit some functional language for expressing opinions and display it on the board. Ask each pair to draw a chart and to copy the functional language in the following way (the numbers are just examples of students’ possible scores).

Student A
Student B
I think/guess ….
5, 6
I’m not sure but I think …
4, 3
3, 0
Perhaps/ Maybe
It looks as if/ as though + clause
He looks + adjective
He looks like + article + noun
In my opinion/view
I’d say

2) Student A throws the die. The face of the die that is uppermost when it comes to rest provides the value of the throw. So if the number is 5, student A can get 5 points, provided s/he makes a correct sentence about the picture, using the functional language from the chart. At this stage, student B has to listen carefully to spot any mistakes in student A’s sentence. If s/he spots an error, student A gets a zero and it’s student B’s turn. The players put their scores in the appropriate columns.

I didn’t actually invent the chart myself; it was one of my students who created it to make the game more transparent for him and his partner. I thought it was a great idea and adopted it immediately because I realized it drew attention to the target language and guaranteed that all items were used during the game (although at some point you may ask Ss to cover the left-hand column and try to use the language randomly, from memory).
The most obvious advantage of the activity is that students have to concentrate on the language they produce but they also have to listen carefully to their partners. The game element encourages peer correction and the teacher needn’t interfere at all in most cases, only when asked for help. However, you might want to set the minimum of words a sentence should consist of because some learners tend to avoid long sentences in order to avoid mistakes.

*Goal 11/ Cycle 4

Dare them – One Chapter Each

I’ve always been a fan of social constructivism, collaboration and project-based learning. I love the moment when, after having spurred on and activated the students, they take over control and follow their own path. I love to watch them discuss various alternatives, argue, fight and finally come to a conclusion.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do but I haven’t had the courage yet; I’d like a group of intermediate students to write their own book collaboratively. The idea has been ‘floating around’ for some time but it finally got its shape thanks to at least three people: Cristina Monteiro Silva, Theodora Papapanagiotou and Shelly Terrel and their posts for 30GoalsEdu. The aim of this venture is to introduce Kidblog to my students, encourage them to write more in English, and also enable them to feel the sense of accomplishment.

Here is my plan. First of all, I should stress that this will be a long-term project; I suppose it will last a couple of weeks, even months. To start, we’ll create a Facebook group where the participants will ask questions, vote, discuss the strategy, etc. From my experience, this works best because there is little time in the lessons to squeeze all the planning in. The students’ initial task will be to agree on the genre of their book (I suspect that horror story might be in the lead). I’ll ask them to choose their favourite book written in the selected genre and get them to look at the structure of the book. We’ll discuss this in the lesson. Each student will then write one chapter. The group will agree on a person to start (it might be advantageous to be the first one but it may also be challenging). This person will have one week to produce the chapter. The next person will always have to pick up and elaborate on the previous chapter (that’s the most challenging part). So every Monday, for example, the book will be ‘handed over’ to the next student who has to continue the story. The students will be encouraged to read the book all along the line – not only when it’s their turn to write. They will discuss the content, comment on anything they like or dislike, suggest how to go on and how to improve the work as a whole. However, the final decision will always be left up to the person ‘in charge’ of the chapter. I don’t want to restrain my students very much but I suppose that each chapter should be of approximately the same length (1-2 A4 pages), or I might well have to set the minimum of words. I’ll ask some creative students to illustrate the chapters with images and design the cover. Alternatively, each student could use #eltpics for this purpose and add images to his/her chapter. The last student will have to come up with a good ending of the book, or this might be done collaboratively. The students will then choose an appropriate title. Finally, we’ll print the book out and/or share it with other classes online.

The most interesting part about this project is that nobody actually knows what it’s going to be about until it’s finished. It ain’t over till it’s over. Keep your fingers crossed for us! We’ll see how it works in reality.

What do you believe about learning?

Lucy, 13 years old

The theory that there are various types of talented learners has been around for some time. Teachers are generally aware of the fact that students have different learning styles, i.e. natural or habitual patterns of acquiring and processing information in the learning process. Unfortunately, from my experience, this notion is treated as mere theory or even worse, as an unpopular cliché.

The other day, I was sitting at the school canteen, having lunch with a bunch of colleagues. They were discussing a class of final-year students and their alarming results. However, one of the teachers added in passing that she was quite surprised that the class had achieved fairly good grades in a recent exam. According to her, it was a challenging exam including questions across all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Not only were the students required to remember facts but also apply and analyze information and think critically. The other teachers were shaking their heads distrustfully but then she went on describing a few activities she had used with the class to present and practise the matter. To cut a long story short, she gave an excellent example of project-based learning where the students were working in groups, looking up information in encyclopaedias, taking down notes, sorting out the facts, collaborating, discussing, etc. This probably led to a greater depth of understanding of concepts and appropriate application of the knowledge in the test because it is just striking that a class that everybody had long written off suddenly achieved such amazing scores. So, had the predominant learning styles of these learners been neglected in the past? Or was it sheer coincidence that they succeeded in this single exam?

There’s one more experience I’d like to share. I work at a grammar school so I mostly teach children with a high level of cognitive intelligence (I’m deliberately avoiding the words intelligent or clever, which I believe are totally inappropriate for the reasons I’m about to introduce). In English lessons, like in other subjects, it sometimes happens that a student with a slightly lower level of cognitive intelligence strives to keep up with the others. I should stress that this student would otherwise be excellent in a different environment. However, this girl, 13-year-old Lucy, really struggles with her English, written or oral, vocabulary or grammar. Moreover, or as a consequence of this, she is quite shy and unconfident, and she needs to learn to perform in front of the class. In order to help her improve her speaking skills, I came up with a suggestion that she could choose two related pictures from the coursbook (or elsewhere) for every lesson to describe and contrast. She is only required to use simple language such as present progressive and preset simple tenses.
A couple of days ago I asked her to show me what she had prepared for her first presentation; I asked her what pictures she had chosen. To my amazement, her answer was: ‘I drew them myself’. You can see (above) that her work is quite elaborate and that it must have taken her a while to create it. But, apparently, it was worthwhile because the language she used naturally emerged from her own ‘world of imagination’ and she succeeded.

To conclude my post, here are a couple of thought-provoking questions… Do we really experiment with different methods to help our students get better results? Or do we strictly divide our learners into the talented and the incompetent types? Does this dichotomy exist at all or is it just a convenient illusion? What do we truly believe about learning? And do we actually apply what we believe or do we sometimes try to find an easy way out? These are some of the issues that must be raised by every single educator, every single day and every single minute of each lesson. Otherwise the multiple talents and intelligences of our students will remain hidden and lost forever.

*Goal 3/ 2011

Revisit an idea and reinvent the wheel

When I first thought about this goal I couldn’t think of anything huge, interesting or innovative to write about. So I discarded the idea to reflect on this topic and went on with my usual daily routine. But then something made me come back to the idea. Ironically, the fact that I’ve eventually come back to the idea of writing a post about revisiting an idea means that I’ve actually revisited an idea.

This wordplay brings me to another point: teaching itself is all about revising ideas. Don’t we revisit ideas every day? Don’t we try to reinvent the wheel all along the line? I think we do. We revisit our own ideas but we also get inspired by fellow teachers and our students. It happens on a daily basis that a student calls out: “Wow, I loved this game. Please, teacher, can we play it again next time?” At that moment, based on the student’s wish, I decide to revisit an idea. Even if I feel my students were bored and felt discouraged during an activity, I don’t give up. I’m not afraid to revisit the idea, although next time I get rid of what was redundant, replace what went wrong and improve what was mediocre.

The funniest thing about teaching is that revisiting a wonderful idea will not always guarantee an excellent outcome. Of course, it’s highly probable that a great activity will work as well as it did last time, or even better. However, it can well be a total disaster. One never knows in teaching. And this is what I love about my job – the prospect of insecure results, the challenge, the need to create, revisit, change, improve … Nothing ever happens exactly the same way it happened last time, not even with the same classes.

Enough of theory, I’d like to share an activity which I think worked really well with one of my classes of 13-year-olds. Chinese Whispers is nothing new under the sun – I didn’t invent it and I’ve done it many times in many variations. I love this game because it can be easily adjusted for students to practise various language areas. I especially like it when it’s linked to grammar and translation practice. Grammar exercises are notoriously unpopular with students. Why not make them fun?

  • Choose a picture in your coursebook you need to focus on (I chose one focusing on comparatives/superlatives and clothes items).
  • As a preparation stage, ask Ss to look at the picture for a while. Ask a few questions to make sure everybody has seen all the details.
  • Ask Ss to close their books. Their task is to say as many sentences about the picture as possible from memory. They work in pairs and take turns. They get one point for each sentence. Go around the class and monitor.
  • Divide the class into two teams (this works best with a class of up to 16 students) and ask them to stand in two rows with one person from each team standing at the board.
  •  The first person from each team gets an A4 piece of paper and a pen. They invent a sentence about the picture and whisper it the next person in their team. This person then sends the message further on.
  • Meanwhile, the person who’s invented the sentence must write it on the paper.
  • The last person to receive the message writes the sentence on the board.
  • The sentence on the board is then checked against the one on the paper. 
  • Each team can always score two points; they get one point if the sentence on the paper is identical with the one on the board and one point if the sentence is grammatically correct.
  • They change roles after each round (the writer becomes the inventor, the inventor becomes a whisperer, the whisperer becomes the writer, etc.)
  • If the students tend to make very short sentences to avoid mistakes, you can resolve this by giving them one point for every correct word in the sentence (the longer the sentence, the more points).

This activity works particularly well with younger learners because of the game element. Everybody is involved; some students practise listening and speaking (especially pronunciation – they must be understood to succeed), while others practise writing, spelling and grammar. The best part about this game is that the students invent their own sentences. They are not forced to use some complicated grammatical structures, so the activity perfectly suits their level. The more advanced the learners are, the more complex structures they’ll use, but this will happen quite naturally. The language will simply emerge as they play.

Next time I revisit this idea, it will probably be slightly different. I’ll be working in a different classroom and/or with different students, and by that time I’ll have changed a little as well. If you decide to try this activity, it will never be the same either because you are not the same. Our lives and everything we do are truly unique. So revisit ideas, reinvent the wheel and keep changing.

What do you believe?

Why is it that we believe certain things and not others? Why do we accept some things as true, real, legitimate, undeniable and others as false, disputable, invalid, questionable or doubtful? Every day we use and hear phrases like be certain of, be convinced of, have faith in, have no doubt, have the fate, put confidence in, etc. But where do beliefs come from. How are they actually born?

When we were kids, our beliefs were labelled as ‘false’; we believed in angels, fairies, ghosts, monsters and other fictional creatures. Ironically, it was the adults who convinced us of their existence. Have you ever asked yourself the question why our parents let us believe in all the unreal? I’m certain they knew how wonderful it feels to believe in the unbelievable, imaginary, supernatural…Perhaps they also knew, as we do now, that to believe means to feel safe, protected and alive, and that every time we lose our faith, we feel a little weaker.
When we grew older, our beliefs became more ‘real’ and diverse. This diversity of beliefs means that as adults we are attracted to people with the same opinions and sometimes avoid people whose points of view are diametrically opposed to ours. But we also influence each other and talk people into believing what we believe. Reciprocally, we allow ourselves to be convinced and persuaded. So what we finally believe is mostly the result of interaction and experience.

I’m a teacher and an educator. I have no doubt that to be able to make our students believe, we need to believe ourselves. There’s no point in pretending; our students will always sense our hypocrisy and they will, inevitably, lose their faith in us, teachers. What we believe is closely related to what our students are inclined to believe at the present time and what they are likely to believe in the future. Like their parents, friends and idols, we have the power to change their assumptions about the world and life in general. Why not grab the opportunity? Here is a list of my deepest and most passionate convictions, which unavoidably and undeniably affect my actions and consequently each student’s viewpoint:

I’m utterly convinced that if we believe

  • that our students try to do their best, they will do even better.
  • that our students can achieve things, they will manage.
  • that our students are creative, they will prove it.
  • that our students are endowed with many talents, they will show us.
  • that the time spent with our students is worthwhile, they will want us to be there.
  • that our students want to learn, they will ask for information and search for answers.
  • that our students want to improve, they will look for ways of making progress.
  • in our students’ dreams, they will want to make them happen.

Now I could now turn the positive statements into negative ones, such as if you don’t believe in your students’ dreams …. No, I won’t do it. This is neither a warning nor a list of dos and don’ts, and I’m not preaching; I’m trying to inspire and motivate. I’m trying to make you believe…

Inspired by What do you believe? Goal 19, 2010 cycle