Tag Archives: CELTA

Friends met and made along the way . . .

Aloha Thailand!

Aloha my friends,

Thanks for hitching a ride on this leg of my journey. I’ve enjoyed having your company.

Where am I writing this? I’m in Tokyo’s modern and amazing Narita airport at a lovely and free internet access “cafe.” (That’s in quotes because the only way I see to get coffee, or any other beverage, is via one of those automat machines–like you see at rest stops along France’s highways where I drank many of them with Dad back in our month-long trip, with Mom and sister Hannah, in the Fall of 1999. And I don’t have the local currency for making a purchase . . . but of course they’ve thought of a solution for that, I’m sure, but coffee’s not on my list of beverages right now. The next plan of action is to sleep and try and get in sync with Hawaii’s time and day zone . . . )

After about a 5 hour layover, I’ll hop on the next flight to Honolulu. When do I arrive there? 10:20 a.m. on Sunday. What time and day is it here now? 7 p.m. something on Sunday. Cool how that works. Due to my frugal and practical nature, I don’t arrive on Kaua‘i until Sunday evening (using HAL miles). So, I reckon I’ll take a bus to the beach in Honolulu for a dip and a shower. At least that’s the plan, I’m open to however it unfolds. This “live-in-the-moment-and-keep-my-eyes-and-ears-open-to-all-possibilities” (or litmakmeaeotap®) form of travel has served me really well the past many months.

In moments of daydreaming, I’d imagined that I’d write a “*SJ’s streaming consciousness thoughts and rambles about SE Asia” kind of something. But, at the moment, I’m not feeling it, so I’m not going to. (Okay, some of you are groaning that I already have with my long going on about coffee machines in France and the trip with my family ages ago . . . ) Granted, I may change my mind (or not : ). That’s part of the beauty of following my heart; when it comes, it just flows. If it doesn’t, then I do something else. There’s always something else.

Kay den, ’nuff of that.

Love and blessings to you all. May the light always shine on you; may you always be surrounded by friends (even when you’re “alone”); may you feel peace and happiness from the top of your head to the tip of your toes; may you enjoy each and every day on your journey of life, the best darn gift each and every one of us has been given.

***Sat Nam.


With my gal pal, Chela, who gave me a ride to the Kaua‘i airport early one morning at the end of May.
I had a long layover in Taipei. Prospective English lesson clients? Maybe.
Class #100 at the CELTA English language teaching school in Bangkok.
During the horrible third week (while passing through and/or over the CELTA wall), we couldn’t calculate how much to pay at lunch! And it was easy math!!!
A smart and friendly student from Japan on my right; Isky, the talented actor from Kuala Lumpur, on my left.
The winners of fellow CELTA student Suelin’s very original and unofficial awards (SJ, Alvin, and Isky, short for Iskander).
Moi with my Bangkok Kundalini yoga instructor, Sunderta.
The 12 trekkers from Denmark, France, Taiwan, Spain, and the United States, who first met in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My first pals at FLO: Rick, the cameraman; Emily, the troll; and Kate, the giant.
With one of my students while at the beach with FLO (Future Light Orphanage). Recognize him from the dinner out in Phnom Penh?
And with another wonderful FLO student (who recently graduated from high school and started her advanced education course this month).
The fun summer gang of FLO-fans one evening in Phnom Penh.
One of my favorite students . . . okay, who am I kidding, they were ALL my favs!
Dani and Andrew, fellow FLO volunteers, returning “home” after a fun “getaway” to Phnom Penh.
Some of my younger friends at FLO. (Enjoying an apple, thanks to many of YOU !!!)
She’s the most natural teacher . . . and she’s a talented artist; she gave me a cool going away card that she made.
My friend Dani stopped over in Phnom Penh for one night (after visiting Siem Reap and before heading to Ho Chi Minh). FLO’s wonderful chef, and my dear friend, Chancy, and I dropped everything to join Dani for dinner. That was how I found the perfect restaurant for when I would later accompany eight FLO students to dinner in the city. Look up the Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh for more info.
Remember when I wrote about that amazing last day at FLO when many of us went to the Pagoda? The little guy on the right is the boy who took my hand during our walk to and from the temple. : ) Aren’t ALL three boys vibrant!
Oh, what a special day that was!
And I love this shot too much to not include it in my “wrap-up.” It embodies so much of what FLO is about.
Did I tell you about the storybooks that my older students made? They were as varied and as fascinating as the Ss. “Were there recurring themes?” you ask. Yes.
Making friends (or the wanting of friends). Giants (fighting giants, killing giants, running away from giants). Poor people (who need help, who I want to help but can’t, who I hope to help someday, who I want to come to school with me, who have no food). And magical animals or people (who do all k i n d s of things!).
Yes, I think the storybook project was a success.
We ended up doing the second of two scavenger hunts early on the Saturday morning when I bid FLO adieu.  Why? There was a powerful monsoonal rain the previous afternoon. It worked out well; I was able to pass out all their learning materials (their notebooks, storybooks, tests, etc.) AND give them lots of prizes which I’d gathered. There were even enough lollipops for all the little kids who were hanging out with us. (Thanks Dani, Sean, and Kai!)
How very special it was to look these dear human beings in the eye and know that our bond is eternal. Just the right number gathered for a very personal, unhurried, and precious farewell.
And then I began my “travels” . . .

My new friends from Australia (by way of Ireland) and Canada (Laura, Nick, and Leta respectively). We biked together and shared a tuk tuk in Siem Reap (when visiting the many ancient temples).
Here I was with a beautiful young lady from Laos who was taking her visiting parents on an excursion.
The beautiful young couple from Israel (who found me in Hanoi somewhere and somehow early, early one morning) with our trek guide.
The lovely lady on the left made my delicious (and expensive by Vietnamese standards : ) coffee; she was the only “game” in the market (and she’ll do well)!
I had planned to meet Nat (and her friend, Gerry) the previous evening for dinner, but I went to the wrong restaurant (I initially met them on the boat trip to Ha Long Bay). “If I’m supposed to see them, I will, ” I thought to myself. And sure enough, I did! Yeah, I love those synchronistic moments too. : )
On the boat with the “cook” who made my dinner one evening in Hue (with her son).
Remember the “locals only” café in Hue I told you about? Here we are again.
I met these friendly childhood friends from London while touring Ha Long Bay; we ran into one another in both Hue and Hoi An. While in Hoi An, we decided to share both delightful conversation and a delicious dinner.
A few evenings ago in Bangkok, I met up with some of my fellow CELTA graduates; we ate at a place called Cabbages and Condoms. Yes, condoms. Look it up on-line; it’s a cool place with a good cause (and a tasty restaurant). Yes, it was great to see them again. They’ve all gotten good jobs (yes, teaching) in Bangkok!
Michele, my longtime friend who with her husband, graciously shared their Bangkok home.
I spent all day yesterday at a Kundalini yoga retreat doing white tantric yoga; it was amazing. The exercises are done with a partner. Meet my new friend, Japnan; she’s a beautiful young lady (my nephew Jo Ryan’s age) from Taiwan. Being a self-motivated person, she has her own business and is able to work from her home. Good for her! And she has the most beautiful dark brown eyes. It worked out perfectly that the retreat took place on my last day in Thailand (and SE Asia).

That’s me looking up at the ceiling of Bangkok’s Sunvarabhumi airport early this a.m.; or am I really looking down? What do you think? : )

Aloha Thailand!

*One entry was going to be: Vietnames Airlines, the Big Save of SE Asia, i.e. short line, long wait (thanks Tones for that tag line : ) ; it’s one of his classics.

Another? Cheapest place in SE Asia per my informal survey? Vietnam
(Also, didn’t see nary a McDonalds or Starbucks in **Vietnam, did see one KFC there though, in Hanoi, right in a major tourist area and intersection. There are a zillion KFC’s in Thailand and Cambodia btw; they L O V E KFC in those two countries!)

And another, it’s very L O U D in SE Asia, even in the countryside. Sometimes at FLO (in the middle of nowhere really), it would be SO loud as the neighboring communities blasted out their this’es and thats with the wind. (That was one reason I loved Luang Prabang so much; it was quiet there; it felt so much more restful than in other cities.) “Okay, what about LA?” I can hear you ask. “And NYC? And Detroit?” (Detroit? I’ve never been to Detroit. lol Always thought it’d be nice to visit Augie and Rose though.) Alright, got it; we Americans have very loud places too.

Things like that is was I had been imagining that I’d write . . . but not now, maybe another time (or not . . . I’m not making any promises one way or another).

**Didn’t see one KFC or chain restaurant in Laos, but I was only in Luang Prabang. Don’t know about Vientiane and other areas.

***Sat Nam is similar to namaste, which most of you know.
The following was copied from a website I found: http://www.kundaliniyogablog.com/-2006-11-12-sat-nam-definition/

“The Mantra Sat Nam

Sat Nam is a mantra commonly used in Kundalini Yoga and amongst its practicioners. It is frequently repeated three times at the end of a yoga session. But what is the importance of Sat Nam, what does it mean.
I’ve heard the following interpretations for Sat Nam via my Kundalini Yoga instructors:
  • Truth is my identity
  • My identiy is Truth
  • My True Self
  • Truth is our identity
It has been called the process of naming ones self Truth. It can be used similar to Namaste, (the divine in me aknowledges and pays tribute to the divine in you.) Where the “Truth” is the divine.
Being one who likes to get to “Source” info, I decided to do some further research into the nature of Sat Nam. I made an assumption that Sanskrit is a rather root dialect and that “Sat Nam” in Sanskrit would provide supplemental information on the nature of Sat Nam.
I found this Sanskrit Dictionary, and looked up the words, Sat and Nam.
  1. being
  2. real
  3. that which really exists
  4. the real existent truth
I’ve seen it written that Sat means Be, or more apprpriately Be-ness. Which would be the essence of being. (HPB’s Secret Doctorine) I suspect some careful analysis would find an interesting correlation between Be-ness and emptiness. (For those of Buddhist faith)
but onward to Nam.
  1. To bow
  2. To submit or subject oneself
And so one is bowing to Truth, to Be-ness the essence of being.
And the active interpretation of Sat Nam emerges.
Sat Nam
And for those of you who read this far, this just came in today’s “calendar” email from Julie Redstone:


To experience God one must live in the present, 
for it is in the present that new experience arises.
Let go of thinking and be in the moment.
It is in each moment that God may come to you.

Excerpts from Week One’s Notes . . . okay, maybe a bit long for being just “excerpts.” This entry is for people interested in reading about teaching . . . for those others, perhaps it’s time to take a coffee break : )

My office/desk !
Monday, July 25, 2011 – First lesson of week one:           

Focus: Speaking (I’m not including that portion of the lesson in my glob entry) & Writing

Aim: for the Ss to write a letter to the teacher about themselves

The lesson was essentially the same for each class (Elementary and Intermediate) with adjustments made to make it appropriate to their skill level.

At the very beginning of the very first class, I gave them each a half-piece of white paper and showed them how I had folded it and written my name on the side. Earlier, I’d asked the manager of the school for colored markers (and he fortunately gave me a kit of colored pens). This worked out really well! Each student made a name card; I collected them with their writing book at the end of the class. (He also gave me new writing books for the students, which is also great; I can collect them at the end of class. This way, I know that they won’t lose them, and it will give a record of what they’ve done. Also, I keep the name card with them, which hopefully, will help me learn their names. Their names are very difficult!) . . . I also took a photo of each student holding their name card. This way I can look at the photo and hopefully learn their names with time! (It has been helpful. I made a word doc with 8 photos per page; I’ve printed them and made flashcards for myself with the “correct” pronunciation indicated on the back. No, I haven’t learned them ALL yet; there are 62 names to learn! But I’m “plugging away” as my Mom would  say.)

I started with drawing a mailbox on the WB (whiteboard). I then entered the classroom and mimed taking a letter out of the mailbox. I went on to tell them that this letter was to them and read the letter to them . . . they seemed to get excited about it. They got mail! This was a letter that I wrote to the students, a letter explaining how long I’ll be at FLO (eight weeks) and what we’ll be doing (focusing on speaking and writing).

(Later) I gave the E level students a copy of my letter with gaps to fill-in. I dictated the entire letter to the I level *Ss. It was appropriate for them. (I included this exercise for several reasons. 1. It gave them an example of a letter and what I wanted them to do. 2. It also gave me an opportunity to learn about their skill level.)

At the end of the class when I **played the “Busy everyday song” (track 86, Topic 22, Longman) for the I level Ss, it seemed kind of silly:            “Monday evening,

Ballet class

Tuesday evening,

Piano class

Wednesday evening,

Karate class

Thursday evening,

Swimming class

Friday evening,

Soccer practice

Saturday morning,

English class

Sunday morning,

No classes

I sleep late on Sunday!”

But then I got the idea for them to write: Monday evening _______ , Tuesday evening _____, plugging in whatever they do. It ended up being a very useful exercise. It helped me discover what they do in their “free-time.” They are always doing something!

Both classes were also able to write their own version of the chant/song though it was a little more difficult for the E **Ss, but still doable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – Second lesson of week one:

Aim: to learn to use the expression “I am going to” in conjunction with words of transportation and travel.

I was successful with both levels, however, the text I wrote was too difficult for the E level (I’ve since made the adjustment of writing separate stories/letters/whatever for the two different classes). When I realized it, I made adjustments on-the-spot, and I think it worked out fine. I broke the text down into sections and mimed, drew pictures, etc. to elicit the meaning. I think I was successful in conveying the meaning. I also did CCQs which seemed to really work. I had planned already on not doing the detailed reading section and true/false questions for the E level.

The Clarification/MFP section worked really well with the Elementary level students. It did was it was supposed to. It worked also for the Intermediate, though I didn’t need to elicit the meaning like I did for the Elementary Ss.

With both groups I used the CCQs, “Is this now?” No. I made a time-line which seemed to clearly show them that this is for a future action.

I printed pages 21 and 22 from Longman about Going Places. I taked this up on the wall; I didn’t really use it in the lesson since I only had one copy, but I did write out the phonemic spelling for the words included in their list. I made this into a game with 3 teams with the I Ss. Some of them seemed very familiar with phonemic spelling whereas others didn’t. I think it was a success in terms of giving them a fun opportunity to figure out what they meant.

Essentially the difference between the two classes was that the I lesson was a Receptive skills lesson plan with the students hearing and then reading the text first for gist, then scanning for specific information, and then a reading for detail for the true/false questions.

Whereas for the E Ss, it was more of a Text-based lesson plan where I created on the spot a controlled practice (I wrote sentences on the board with gaps that they were to fill-in) and a freer practice (the 2 chains of students asking each other what they were going to do).

For the lead-in (at the start of the class), I walked out of the room and came back in wearing a backpack. “I am going to take a trip. I want to travel. How can I travel?” I said. Then I elicited different forms of travel and wrote them on the board around the brainstorm sunshine circle. It was interesting how both levels knew a lot of words (the I, however, did know more, such as donkey.) But even though both groups knew this basic vocabulary, the E level did not know how to use it. This was part of why I hadn’t realized the great disparity in their comprehension. The E group simply needs to keep learning how to build sentences and use different tenses, etc. The I level seems to have the basics which they need to practice and refine. The pre-intermediate students have difficulty keeping up with the Intermediates, but they are closer in skill level to the I, however, than the E level students.

Thoughts on Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I had planned on doing a lesson using beach words and “What are you going to do?” “What can people do at the beach?” “What do you wear at the beach?” “Who do you see at the beach?” And then after asking them to list the answers to these (revealing one at a time) in pairs, then on the board, then “teaching” anything they don’t understand . . . I would give divide them into 5 groups of 5 or 6. Each student would pick a card would be either: I am a tourist, I am a lifeguard, I am  . . . Then they would speak with each other using these expressions.

But . . . as I was thinking about it last night in bed, I was realizing how disjointed their learning seems to be. They’ve memorized so many words, some expressions (I think). But they haven’t learned any variations. Also, when they learn an expression, statement, question, etc., it’s just with one pronoun (usually “I”), such as “What do you like to eat?” “I like to eat . . .” So if you were to ask them, “What does she like to eat?” they’re thrown for a loop.

I’ve decided that I’m going to do a different lesson today. I’m going to teach a lesson that makes sure they’re clear about the difference between the present simple and the present continuous. I want to be sure that they know how to use these two tenses before they start their “storybook” tomorrow. (The format for this lesson came from the last lesson I did at CELTA btw.)

Thursday, July 28th’s lesson with the Intermediate and pre-Intermediate students went very well. I realize now as I just glanced at what I wrote earlier, that I did kindof do what I intended (got them to talk about what goes on at the beach). I just prefaced it with an explanation of the use of present continuous (action in progress) with present simple (a habit, an ongoing behavior) in the CELTA style.

I opened by sitting on a chair flipping through a newspaper miming sipping coffee. I then read what I’d written about the teacher not being there . . . using present simple and present continuous.

Narrator: (E, I wrote a different version for I)

Where’s the teacher? The teacher always comes to class by foot at 5:45 p.m. every day. But today, the teacher’s not here? Where’s the teacher?

Teacher at the Café: 

I’m the teacher. Usually, I go to class at 5:45 p.m. every day. But today, I’m not at school. Where am I? I’m in a café. What am I doing? I’m drinking coffee. I’m sitting at a table drinking coffee. I’m also reading a newspaper.

I then did the CELTA thing of having a marker sentence for each tense. CCQs to make sure they understood. Drilled, (MFP), etc. It went well.

I then proceeded to do the controlled and freer practices. What the heck does that mean? The controlled practice were exercises I prepared where the Ss filled in the gaps. They did them individually at first, then checked their answers with their partner, and then there was wholeclass feedback with them writing the answers on the board.

For the freer practice, I divided them into 6-groups and handed out the little slips of paper I’d made saying: 1. a lifeguard, 2. a boat captain, 3. an ice cream seller 4. a tourist, 5. a fisherman (I realize that this is sexist, but I  went for simplicity here), 6. a kid playing.

I then proceeded to elicit the meaning for each one of these by asking CCQs and by drawing on the board. Then I asked how the different people would answer, “What do you do?” and “What are you doing?” going through them one-by-one. This was all very playful, yet I think they were understanding and learning.

Next came speaking in their group taking on one of these identities: asking each other questions, and using present continuous and present simple. There was lively discussion though I heard too much Cambodia. Then it just seemed right to ask them to please try and speak only English; that’s what I’m here for, I explained, to help you learn how to speak better English; you can speak Cambodia already. They really seemed to pay attention to this and promised very seriously (for 12-20 year olds : ) to try and speak only English.

The class ended with three different students coming up and writing a dialogue that they’d said within their group. It was a good example of being more “real” and playful with their language. Since they’d written a short dialogue, I asked the corresponding students to come up and read it; they did. It was good because one of the students is a shy girl who rarely wants to speak, but she did in this setting! That made me very happy to see (and hear).

Thursday, July 28th’s lesson with the Elementary students went very well! I anticipated the differences between the two classes much better, and the adjustments I’d planned worked. The only real difference was that when they were speaking in groups, I wrote some suggestions of what to ask on the board rather than simply, “What do you do?”, “What are you doing?”. For example, I suggested, “What color is your boat?”, “How big is your boat?”, “Is your ice cream good?”, etc. I think I got the point across that they can ask all kinds of questions. It was fun to see the understanding appear on their face after they had been scrunching up their faces with “Huh???”

Also, some of the students in the elementary level class had more difficulty understanding the difference between when to use present simple (a habit, such as I am a boat captain; I drive a boat every day) and present continuous (an action in progress, I am driving a boat now). I did much more repetition and asked more CCQs with the the elementary level class to ensure their understanding.

Most stories are told in the simple past tense, but I managed to find about 13-storybooks in the library that are told in the present tense. I’ll use those as models for the elementary level students. Now I need to write a sample story for each class. Today’s lesson will be task-based. I will be the native speaker talking when I read the example story, which is the model for their final activity.  (It ended up that I only did one lesson on Friday (E) due to all of the festivities. This was very fortuitous because it helped me realize that I needed to break that lesson down into even smaller bite-sized pieces. I’m going to repeat the lesson today with the E Ss and do it for the first time with the I Ss; I expect it to go much better.)

Administering the mostly oral test on Thursday, July 28th (with the younger E level Ss, this isn’t a class that I was technically teaching but rather one that I was assisting) it became incredibly apparent that the Ss have simply memorized sentences without really understanding the meaning. One example is when I asked the students (one-on-one) “What’s this?” while holding a pencil, many replied, “That’s my pencil.” “Yours?” I asked. They had no idea what I meant. (This supports my thoughts about creating situations for them where things are said in different ways . . . that’s one reason I’m on the search for fun games. This past Saturday in Phnom Penh I found a “Harry Potter” version of a Junior Monopoly game. That’s a start . . . !)



This entry is dedicated to precious Fido who left his bodily form 7-years ago on this very day, August 1, 2004.

I made it!

C’est moi! Fini!

Hi Everyone,

The CELTA course is officially over, and I made it! Fortunately, I ended on a high note with my best practice teaching session ever. I decided that I really wanted to have fun, and I did. I still prepared a lesson plan, still had an idea of what I was going to do and what I needed to cover in order to help the students clearly distinguish the difference between present simple and present continuous (I jump every day. Is this a habit? Yes. So it’s . . . present simple. I am jumping. Am I doing this now? Yes. So it’s . . . present continuous), and still met my aim . . . but THIS time, I had fun!

And I think they did too.

One of my fellow trainees told me, “You had me too; I had to watch to see what was going to happen next.” : )

Now that makes me smile.

“So what’s next?” you ask.

I’m not sure exactly.

I have 4-weeks “free” in Thailand before I report to an *orphanage in Cambodia where I’m going to volunteer teach for 8-weeks. They’ve asked me to teach two classes a day: one with Elementary level students and one with Pre-Intermediate students. “The ages of the students?” I’ve been told that the ages will range from 11 to 17. “The class size?” I’ve been told that it might be with 15-20 students or 35 and more. So . . . your guess is as good as mine.

I’m to supplement their regular classes with a curriculum focusing on speaking and writing. My rough sketch is to have a theme for each week, a collection of practical things that they can really use. I’ll take what I learned this last week at CELTA and put it into action. “What are those things?” you ask. Well, for starters, I’ve been told that the students like a rhythm, a pattern, so that they know Wednesday is “story” day and Tuesday is “games” day, etc. Friday will be the “review” day. I think I can use the same theme for each class; I’ll just grade my language (do my best to make it match their level) and adapt the activities for the two different levels.

So, this is where YOU come in! I have already made a very, very rough sketch of what those 8 themes will be, BUT I’d love to hear from you. Get your opinions on what YOU think they should be. I’ll keep you posted on what comes in and what I decide to do.

I’ve got a collection of shots from yesterday’s party. Have fun checking out who I’ve been hanging out with for these past 4-weeks. And you’ll notice me with two other students holding official-looking certificates. The fun gal-pal–fellow-trainee who hosted the barbeque two weeks ago surprised us at the “unofficial” but “real” party after at a Mexican restaurant called “Coyote.” (“Mexican?” Yes, I know. There’s e v e r y t h i n g here! “The food?” It was good, but of course it doesn’t even come close to Marcie’s! No place or person could!) The “winners” of the certificates were selected in a fun happenstance kind of way immediately after she pulled them out of her bag. When you read the label on mine, you’ll see that it essentially says, “Biggest Nerd.” : ) Yep, that’s me. And happily so.

Okay then, time to sign off and enjoy the day as a carefree student who’s just “graduated.” What will I do? Not sure. I may go to that HUGE market at the end of the BTS line that a friend on Kaua‘i told me about just a couple of nights before I left, just a few weeks ago really . . . that seems like ages ago!

And, I’m lucky enough to have been invited to a “Bangkok Vice” party tonight to celebrate the 50th birthday of a new friend’s husband. I’m supposed to “dress to impress—Miami Vice style!” Fortunately, I already have one cool top . . . I’m wearing it in the shot at the top of the page. : ) Thanks to my buddies from the retreat I attended back in February on Kaua‘i, I stepped out of my normal realm of dressing and tried on a “different” looking top from the sales rack at Roots. And this is what I found; I love it!

And I love you too.

Thanks dear friends for coming along with me on this journey. I have a feeling that it’s just getting started.

With warm aloha,


* http://www.flo-cambodia.org/

It just so “happens” that a group from the Honolulu rotary club will be there for part of the time that I’m also there! Ends up they sponsor or help out this orphanage. Yes, small, small world.

Shots from the closing day . . .
International House staff
iH Teachers
The “official” party
Party group shot
New friends . . .
More new friends . . .
And more new friends!
Moi and a new student friend
Trainees and students
CELTA pod THREE plus one
Party grinds. Notice the mangosteen and rambutan?
Class “action” shot 1
Class “action” shot 2
(I was acting out what it is to be a detective . . . it made sense at the time : )
Can you tell that we’re having fun?!?!?
Da certificate close-up . . . I think my smiley face was contagious . . . : )

The Bangkok CELTA gang – June 2011

: )

I fell on my face yesterday . . .

Teaching practice 7 was a complete disaster.

And I didn’t even realize it at the time.

As early as the 1500s (*), people have used the expression “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Yesterday, that was me.

Yesterday, all I saw was the lesson plan. I completely lost sight of the students and the reason I was there.

I’d been told this could happen by one of the three tutors (and the one who critiqued me yesterday, btw). Oh no, not to me, I’d thought. I wouldn’t do that! I’d always realize that the students came first.

Ha! I was so very wrong.

Do you see the egg on my face?

Do you see me walking around in a forest bumping into trees and getting egg all over my face in the process? (**)

I was so caught up in using the correct protocol that I lost sight of why I was there.

I had so wanted to try out this brand-new-to-me “test-teach-test” lesson plan that I had tried to force some square pegs into round holes. Despite my pounding, they never fit.

And, one of the most very (***) important concepts that we’d been taught, and which I’d correctly addressed in written assignment two, had completely escaped landing in my heart of comprehension.

“What in the heck do you mean, Susan Jane, by your ‘heart of comprehension’? Can you not talk plain English?” you ask.

Well, intellectually I’d learned this particular concept about needing a context for each MFP (Meaning, Form & Pronunciation) session. In written assignment two (see below), I’d thought up a context for when someone would make the statement, “If only I’d been more romantic with her!” BUT, I hadn’t gotten it that this also applied to our lesson plan, that it wasn’t just some written assignment we needed to turn in: i.e. If you’re going to teach students some new something or other (grammar, lexis, or pronunciation), you have to give them a context of how and when it’s used (and as I type this, I can feel the teachers still correcting me on some point that I’m yet to fully grasp . . . ).

So . . . was it really a complete failure? you ask. Well, thank goodness, not completely. The students did speak and write using new adjectives of opinion, which was my primary aim. And they did also talk and write about free time activities using things like: “go shopping,” “go see a movie,” “go watch a football match,” which was my secondary aim. BUT, I hadn’t made the context clear. They were confused. “Bad teacher, bad teacher, don’t confuse the students,” a chorus of monkeys is somewhere saying. Use ICQs (instruction checking questions) and elicit the meaning first to make sure they understand the concept or vocabulary, i.e. elicit and use CCQs (concept checking questions) before modeling and drilling.

“What the heck?” again you ask. “This is what we’ve been learning,” I reply.

So, here I sit with three more days of “school.” The egg on my face has been carefully washed away. Though humbled, I’m happy to say that I have one more teaching practice to do before the course is finished. “How lucky is that?” you ask. “Very,” I reply. One of the main reasons I decided to take this CELTA course was because of the practice teaching that would be included, and the experienced teachers who would guide and instruct us (in our blindness, I’d like to add : ).

Three more days and one more teaching practice. Sounds perfect to me.

And oh, the following arrived in my email “in” box just before I left school yesterday. (I subscribe to a daily whatchamacallit.)

“Each moment can celebrate the reality of Divine blessing

or can be filled with blame and regret.

The choice is yours, beloved.

At all times you choose the life you wish to live.”

Yep, I thought the timing was perfect too.

And with that, I shall start my day and give thanks for the many Divine blessings that are ever present.

I love you all.

sj : )

(*) according to the wise geek online

(**) This may be a complete misuse of the second saying, but I can see it; I can see myself walking around and bumping into trees with messy dripping egg running down my face.

(***) most very? you ask. You’re going to be teaching English and you’re writing “most very”???? Yep, I am. It seems to fit in this instance of extremes.

a. “If only I’d been more romantic with her!”

Form: If only I ‘d been

If only + Subject + auxiliary ‘had’ + past participle (V3)

Phonology: /ɪf nliː(GA)/əʊnlɪ(RP) aid ben mɔr(GA)/mɔː(RP) roʊmæntɪk wɪθhər(GA)/hɜːr(RP)/

Meaning: ‘If only’ is used to express regret about an action in the past.

Concept Check

Questions: Am I sorry? Yes.

Do I wish things were different? Yes.

Am I thinking about the past? Yes.

Context: Years ago I met the most perfect woman. She was smart, funny, and pretty. I had no idea then how special she was. If only I’d been more romantic with her.

GA = General American

RP = Received Pronunciation

I’ve hit the CELTA wall . . .

You know that “wall” they talk about in marathons. That place where your legs supposedly turn to jelly and you just want to sit down and call it quits? It’s supposed to happen around mile 20. Twenty divided by 26.2 = .76. Or, think of it as you’ve run 76% of the race and have 24% more to go. The percentage is similar for little ole me sitting here at my desk in Bangkok. 20 days of school; I’ve just completed day 13. Thirteen divided by 20 = .65. There’s only 35% more to go. And there’s a hill facing me. A hill with two bumps in the shape of a lesson plan and written assignment. I hadn’t realized that this moment might come. But just google “marathon wall,” and you’ll see how much has been written about it.

What the heck are you doing, Susan Jane, comparing an English teaching course to a marathon? You’ve got to be kidding!

Well, I’m not. That’s how it feels. I’m at that point where I just want to lie on my bed and watch one Lucy show after another. (I just watched one but somehow managed to kick myself out of bed and up into this chair.)

But we thought you wanted to do this course?

I did. I do. I just gotta find the will to keep going.

What do all those blogs say about getting over the marathon wall?

Essentially, stop thinking about it, and just keep going. Ignore the fatigue. Take one step and then another. One step and then another. Until you’ve distracted yourself and forgotten that you were tired, until you find you’re almost there and can sigh a huge sigh of relief.


(yes, I’m indulging myself and calling my “sigh” card now)

And with that, I’m going to get back to work.

It tasted as good as it looked . . . and the roses smelled delicious too!

Hi Everyone,

It’s 7:01 p.m. on the 12th day out of 20 at this most wonderful CELTA course in Bangkok, Thailand.

Whew! It’s downhill from here on out! (I think : )

I was on my way home from yet another action-packed day (complete with practice teaching, today it was #5 out of 8).

So how is it? I can hear a chorus of you yelling across the byways, highways and seas.

Well, it’s intense.

Duh, it IS an intensive course I hear the teachers saying.

Yep, it is.

But it’s good. The people involved are absolutely wonderful. The teachers are very knowledgeable and caring. The students (who we’re teaching) are excited to be in the class and participate (mostly) fully with an excitement that can be contagious. And my cohorts are absolutely darling people, from the collection of beautiful and smart young ladies from Australia, England, and the U.S. to the varied men of all ages and nationalities.

We’re all here for different and similar reasons. To be with a sister who works and lives here. To be with boyfriends who work and live here. To be with Thai wives who work and live here. To be able to go back home and work (home being Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines). To gain experience before starting a business in Thailand based around language schools. I’m sure there are even more reasons, but those are the ones who raised their hands and said, “Pick me! Pick me!”

What’s a typical day like? I think I mentioned before that the mornings are generally devoted to learning about all (and I do mean ALL) the different types of lesson plans. The below picture I took today during our one-and-only review session with all three teachers present at once.

We (okay, mostly me) were trying to get a handle on all the different types and their particular stages (sections, really, chapters. Pick a word, any word; I bet it’ll fit).

Then we meet with our tutor of the week and go over our plan to see what we’re going to do and if the tutor thinks it’ll work. Gradually, we’re becoming more and more responsible for the exact structure of the lesson.

Then, some people go out for lunch for a hot and spicy 30 BHT soup (30 BHT = $1). Some run downstairs to the British ex-pat who makes a mean tuna fish sandwich for 35 BHT (and a cookie’s only 15BHT), salads are around 80BHT. Some go to the Subway downstairs (haven’t gotten one, so I don’t know the cost). Regardless what they eat, they’re sure to not run out of choices. I’ve never seen so many food vendors in my life.

The mango smoothie in the shot at the top of the page? 30BHT. The veggie spring rolls that I ate (but didn’t photograph) were 100BHT. The going rate for a smoothie is between 30 (watermelon one, yum!) to this high-end mango one for all of 60BHT. I suppose the extra 10BHT are to pay for the wonderful ambience of this little tropical paradise in the midst of Bangkok madness. I feel a bit of Kauai-ness here, AND they have wi-fi. Can’t beat that!

When I left school this evening (around 6:15 p.m.—I generally arrive at 8 a.m. so that I have an hour to get my head on straight, papers in order, copies made, etc.), I thought I was going to grab a quick bite and then head straight home to start in on Written Assignment #3 out of 4. Well, I do still have plans to do the assignment tonight (or at least make major headway, it’s due Thursday by 6 p.m.), but this pleasant outdoor Thai café called out to me. “Susan Jane! Here’s where you want to have dinner. Remember that wonderful smoothie you had last week; you can get pupus too. And there’s wi-fi. And beautiful roses that smell wonderful too.”

Who could resist such a seductive call? Not moi, that’s for sure. So here I sit and type. It’s now 7:24 p.m., the smoothie is just about pau (finished for non-Hawaiians/Kauaians), and the spring rolls are long gone. And the assignment sits in my heavy backpack saying, “Ah, I won’t be too hard on you. Just a little this and that about writing lesson plans on reading, using skimming, scanning, detailed reading . . . it’ll be easy!”

Ha! I’ve heard that mischevious call before. Just last week it came from Written Assignment #2. The assignment that somehow turned into the exercise from *:#(! It just didn’t want to end, couldn’t say goodbye, wanted just one more peck on my cheek before it turned its back on me and found another. But end it did. Just in time for me to be free and go for a pint with all my fellow students at Molly Malone’s. An Irish Pub in Bangkok, you ask? You’ve got to be kidding! That seems so ordinary compared to: Bei Otto, a German restaurant; Chela, a Swiss restaurant; suchandsuch, a Mexican restaurant; somethingother, a Scandinavian restaurant; ad infinitum. You get the picture. There’s EVERYTHING here in Bangkok.

Okay, so there are lots of restaurants, Susan Jane. But what about the teaching? What’s that like?

Well, you know how you got ready for your first date? Did you hair (alright guys, this relates to you just as well as girls!) and nails. Took days to pick out the right outfit. Which shoes to wear? Should I bring that purse or the other one? Should we go to a movie? Do we get pizza first or after? And what if she/he doesn’t like pizza? What if we don’t have anything to talk about? What’s the best move to get my arm around her? Or hold her hand? (And with that: How can I get him to move his arm? Hand?) . . . okay, you get the picture. Remember????

It’s kind of like that. You plan and plan, but somehow it all falls part. Or, the pizza is served cold. Or, something gets caught in your braces and you don’t realize it’s been hanging out of your mouth all night. Or, you reach over to kiss her and you butt heads; your glasses get tangled in hers/his. Stop! Stop! I hear you all calling out! (It’s amazing how you’re all able to speak in unison from all parts of the world. : ) We get the picture; it’s painful!

Yes, it can be painful.

But it can be pleasant too. Remember when you looked over at him/her and exchanged the most precious smile? When you held hands and that warm palpitation rose up your entire body and made your cheeks glow?

Well, it can be like that too. In the midst of the uncertainty, the doubt, the worry. Sweet little moments rise up and say, “Keep going; it’ll be alright. Just smile. A smile goes a long way.”

So with that, my friends, I shall bid you adieu. Yes, the date bells are ringing that it’s time for my next rendezvous.

I wish you all well and thank you so very much for your little notes of encouragement. They mean a lot. Like that timid smile, they’re just what’s needed when you’re painfully aware that you’re in new territory, and the course is unclear.



p.s. photo collection from the past week . . .

Friday watching out the window . . .

What’s all the fuss?

That’s what. A election campaign parade. They’re the same the world over.

Then it was time to head to Molly’s somethingorother Irish Pub.

This was the first time we all got together to blow off steam. End of week two.


It was Howard’s birthday too!

I managed to find a grocery store on my own, and then celebrated (e v e r y t h i n g: end of week 2, being healthy, being in BKK, having wonderful friends, family . . . yes, everything!) with a delicious café latte and chocolate cup of something yummy.

Yep, this is his hang.

Saturday afternoon/evening some of us gathered at one of the student’s beautiful home; she had graciously invited us over for a barbecue and dip in the pool!

And on the way home from the party, I saw yet another political rally. Nope, I didn’t linger. Good night ya’ll!

So much has happened . . . !

But there’s just not time now to write about it all. I completed my third of eight practice teaching sessions this afternoon. Today’s was definitely the best. : ) I turned in my first written assignment this past Monday and am looking at a 13-page document that is the second written assignment; it’s due this Friday.

A rhythm to the school day has slowly emerged. Eighteen people are in the group. Morning sessions run from 9 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. with one of the three teachers presenting information regarding lesson plans, language systems, etc. They somehow manage to do it in an interesting way. Generally, they’re using the teaching methods that they want us to use.

Then, every afternoon around 1:45 p.m. the students begin to arrive. They come from all parts of the world: Thailand, Japan, Pakistan, Somalia, you name it! The 18 split up into three groups of 6. Two groups are currently teaching students at the intermediate level; one group is teaching more elementary level students. Next week we’ll switch so that we all have an opportunity to experience both levels. We’re each teaching two 40-minute classes per week (the first three weeks). The fourth and last week we’ll each teach two 60-minute classes. (I’m down to teach on the last day, Friday the 24th. Talk about coming down to the wire!)

So, that’s the deal pickle. I’m enjoying it, but I’ll admit that when we came across the sentence, “She’s looking forward to the end of the course” in one of our exercises the other day*, I had to chuckle to myself and say, “Well, yes, I too am enjoying it, but I’m also looking forward to the end of it.” What’s the saying? It’s not the destination; it’s the journey? Fortunately, this girl IS enjoying the journey.

Love to you all. Below are some shots of Bangkok life, which the school accurately calls “the charming chaos of your new environment.”



*We were making CCQs (concept checking questions) to see if they students understand the meaning of the underlined portion. This statement’s CCQs were: “Will she be happy when it is finished?” (Yes), “Is the course finished?” (No), “Does she often think about the end of the course?” (Yes is the “official” answer, but from where I’m sitting, there’s not time to think about anything but the course! : )

The dog days of Bangkok

Do you see what I see?

Found a park about 10-minutes away (by foot) from where I’m staying. : )

Soccer-like Volleyball (really fun to watch!)

A nice place to hang-out

Plenty to look at . . .

There are construction sites everywhere!

View from Sky train when enroute to school one day

Thank God for flowers !

First time to practice teach is today . . .


Vocabulary: phrasal verbs connect to family

grew up

look after

tell off (hah!)

carry on

get on with (we say get along in America . . .)

look up to

take after

Wish me luck!

Danke sehr, mahalo, merci bien, kapu kah (how it’s pronounced, don’t know how it’s spelled ; ~ )