Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Learning Communites

I have been asked to take on the responsibility of leading IATEFL Hungary's Culture and Literature Special Interest Group, starting this summer, and am very honoured that the leadership thought of me.  One of the tasks is to put together a dynamite SIG afternoon for the upcoming autumn conference, the theme of which is "Empower(ed), Learning communities"  So that is one of the things that has been on my mind, thinking of possible presentations and presenters along this theme.  I post this information here in the hopes that some of my blog readers may add there ideas as to what they might find thought provoking and enriching in connection with this theme.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Jamaica Day - IATEFL Hungary's reflection

The following link will take you to what my friends at IATEFL Hungary had to say about Jamaica Day, and some more photographs.

IATEFL Hungary - 2010 Conference, Looking Back

As the invitation to the 2011 IATEFL Hungary conference has just come out, it seems an appropriate time to look back, especially since I have not done so yet.
I was once again honoured to be asked to fill the role of "Conference Crier", that is MC, for the third time, working again with a terrific team of dedicated organizers and having the pleasure of meeting great presenters.  I cannot do justice to them all here, suffice to say that I found all the presentations I attended informative, and enriching.  I will though mention a personal highlight...

The Friday afternoon SIG events are a strong start to the weekend, and it was no different last autumn.  I'm a member of the Culture and Literature Special Interest Group, where we had the opportunity to see a demo lesson.  Mark Andrews, ELTE English Methodology, presented a lesson with students from the nearby secondary on the tragic events in Kolontar and Devecser, involving the red sludge and alumna mine catastrophe. He took a multidisciplinary approach to the material, using images, colours, fruit, props to educate and teach.  I share Mark's views on using current events in the classroom and in searching for ways to teach English through creative and sometimes unconventional means.  I believe strongly that any class, for that matter any subject is an opportunity to help students to think critically and reflect on the world around them.  Language teaching is an area that seeks to use authentic material in its context, and moving, at least for a moment beyond the paradigm defined by the text book and syllabus is a way to add meaning to a lesson.  By meaning I refer to a further dimension, beyond the mechanics of the language being learnt, but in symbiosis to it, that is thoughts, questions, truth, and information about "life".  I feel that we teachers often fear to move outside of the safe artificiality of a given course's "material", or if not fear then simply do not take the time and energy.  It is something I feel is increasingly relevant, because we live in a world that is information driven and students of all ages consume vast amounts of information, at present without any guidance on how to read, digest, select, find, question etc the hoards of data.  It is, however not only a question of guidance, but possibly at first an encouragement to use the information technology available not only for entertainment but enrichment.  It was good to be part of an event that inspired teachers to engage their students in a provocative yet fun way.
On a personal professional note, the lessons my students have found the most engaging, the most memorable, and I believe were the most educational were those ones were I took the time to expand the given material at hand by opening a window on the world, something I try to do more and more in my teaching practice.
I must stress that there were many other notable moments for me at the conference, and I may blog about them later... until then have a look at the pictures and the IATEFL Hungary website.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Blessed Saint Patrick's Day!

Wishing all Irish, those of Irish descent and those of Irish spirit a very blessed day today!
My celebrations are a bit low key this year, having taken a sabbatical from teaching at the high school, where I went all out in terms of Irish fun in past years.  Contrary to habit I didn't mention Saint Patrick and Ireland at yesterday's classes at the University, we did "book work", something we were a bit behind on.  There are so many dramatic events happening nowadays, that having a look at them during class can "slow down" the the pace of progress according to the syllabus and lesson plans.  We've been looking at the Middle East (using in part a Sean Bannville lesson, many thanks!!!) and took some time for Wales and Saint David.  I think next week I'll digress again and have a look at events in Japan, especially since some of my students are Japanese majors and minors and also mention Ireland and Saint Patrick.  As those who know me, and my students past and present will attest I believe strongly in using EFL/ELT lessons as opportunities to integrate cultural and social studies into language teaching.  A practice I find  possibly more important at a university, though maybe just as important at secondary school level...hm...
Anyway, just some musings on St. Paddy's day.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Happy Saint David's Day

Happy Saint David's Day to all Davids, Welsh and everyone...  One of the things I have yet to blog about is an amazing trip to Wales last year... so "stay tuned".

Sunday, 27 February 2011

"Jammin" Jamaica Day a Hit!

Yesterday's event was a great success. We packed room 104 with 25-30 participants who all enjoyed a bit of island spirit.  The guests were university and secondary school students and teachers, from various institutions,  from fields as diverse as history, theology, law, Japanese studies, language teaching, (English, German and French) and even medicine.
The presentations gave insight on the musical, linguistic, cultural/spiritual tradition and the relevancy of Jamaica's heritage. For the detailed program see below
I would like to again say thank you to the sponsors of the event (MM Pub. ELT Hun., OUP, CUP), who added colour, materials and flavour to the event. And to our patron the Honourary Consul for Jamaica.
I am also indebted to some former students, Gabor, Kristof, David, and Jozsi who came and helped with the food, decorations, IT, and so many other little but crucial things.

And thank you to the presenters who made it all so very enriching!

Here are some comments from participants:
"Fabulous event - great variety of sessions, very colourful, great balloons and rum and nibbles.  Good venue - very thought provoking, good topic" - Mark
"I was happy to be here, it was really interesting. Tasting Jamaica was the best idea, I think." - Zoltan
`The organization was fantastic!!! I was really amazed how many details I learned today about Jamaica." Andrea
"Wonderful, positive, relaxing, super-duper... let's have more of such events" Gyorgy
"Very interesting, instructive, a sphere I wouldn't have got to know otherwise"  Maggie
"Further motivation to learn more about Caribbean and other worlds" Tamas

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Resurrecting the Shark

WOW, it's been a long time since I blogged, and so very very many terrific things have happened both professionally and personally... so it looks like I have to do some catching up in sharing some of these. What I just posted is an event I'm organizing this Saturday and am very excited about, that is Jamaica Day.  If you are in Budapest Saturday drop by.

Jamaica Day

Jamaica Day
2011 Saturday, February 26th
Károli Gáspar University, Faculty of Arts,
Reviczky utca 4.  room 104
 An academic development day organized by the:
 Károli Gáspar Reformed Church University’s Foreign Languages Centre together with the
Károli Gáspar Reformed Church University’s Faculty of English Linguistics
 in cooperation with
IATEFL – Hungary
 and under the patronage of
Dr. András Batizi, Honourary Consul for Jamaica


10:00   Opening words,  Coordinator Andrew Mile, KGRE Foreign Languages Centre
10:10  Introducing Jamaica, Dr András Batizi, Honourary Consul for Jamaica
10:30  “The Home of Natty Music”, the History of Jamaican Music, 
Gabor Demeter, MA student at KGRE
11:15  Jamaican English, Dr. Dóra Pődör, KGRE Faculty Head, English Linguistics

12:00 Coffee Break with Jamaican treats, Sponsored by MM Publications, ELT Hungary

12:30 Colourful Jamaica, Religious life in Jamaica, Viktor Batizi
13:00 “Stir it up”, Reggae in the classroom, Andrew Mile, KGRE Foreign Lang. Centre
            Jamaica Quiz, prizes sponsored by Cambridge University Press, Hungary

Materials sponsored by Oxford University Press, Hungary

          For more information please contact Andrew Mile andrew.mile.elt@gmail.com

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My Love is Like a Red Red Rose by Robert Burns

A Robert Burns Day and Saint Valentine's Day "joint venture" was the learning and dramatizing of the poem My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.  Have a look and tell us what you think.  I would like to mention and thank young Mr. Istvan Sarhegyi of class 10.a for doing the cutting work on this short film.  He is also one of the stars of the production.  Enjoy!

Monday, 1 March 2010

The Almost Naked Chef strikes again... Calorie Bomb

This time in beautiful Fonyod, on the Balaton, at King Matthias Secondary School where they were celebrating Matthias day last Friday.  Many thanks to English teacher Gabor Szilasi for inviting me to work with the students. As part of the festivities I worked with a group of about thirty enthusiastic young people to prepare a full traditional English breakfast; eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast; a veritable calorie bomb!  This was finished up with pancakes and maple syrup.  We worked in a math classroom that had been transformed into a kitchen, it was terrifically done, we had everything needed.  After watching and listening to me go from start to finish the kids had their turn and tested their culinary skills.  The five groups each prepared a dish for judging and gorged on the rest of the food.  We had the principal and the kitchen ladies come and be the judge deciding on best prepared and presented food.  I took some video footage and hope to cut it into a short film to post here.  


I've done translating before but never a play, most of the work that comes my way is not exactly my cup of tea, I'm thinking of documents like the weapons catalogue or the thesis in microbiology.  It was a terrific surprise when my sister Kathy, (with contacts in the theatre world) got in touch with me about doing a translation of Turgenev's A Month in the Country.  No I haven't learnt Russian, it was from Hungarian into English. The background to the story is that director László Marton has decide to present the piece at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre, he is regular guest director there and his desire was to use the Hungarian adaptation of the play that he knows and loves.  My job was to translate that adaptation into English as faithfully as I could.  The piece was then passed to the theatre's adapter.  I have to say that I enjoyed the challenge (even with a short deadline)  and am curious to see how the work was molded further into the play to be performed in Toronto this summer (though I probably won't be able to see it there).  If you are in TO this summer have a look and get back to me.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

IATEFL Hungary Pancake Day

On February 6th I had the pleasure of hosting fellow IATEFL colleagues At Saint Angela's in my classroom where I demonstrated two recipes that can be done in the ELT classroom with students; pancakes and trifle.  Needless to say we had a terrific time and gained weight...  You can see pictures of the event on the IATEFL website here.
I got the best feedback of all from Tünde Bajzi, who put what I presented into practice and cooked with her students.  The pictures below are of her students enjoying a bit of trifle.

Latest reads

It hasn't been easy to find time to read in the past weeks, or months for that matter.  I have however been able to make my way through a couple of books.

On the lighter side I've enjoyed too lighter reads by the American author Martin Cruz Smith, Havana Bay and Polar Star, I found both books in a used books store here in Budapest while looking for something that can be read on the bus, streetcar, subway etc.  They were quite satisfying reads.  For me at least the key to their success was the hero, Arkady Renko, a former Soviet/Russian police investigator and a professional failure, but with a knack at solving crimes.  He is far from a romantic figure, he struggles as much with his own demons as with discerning others.  The novels do suffer from a reliance on luck and coincidence a bit too much and that did cause me to emit an inaudible sigh a few times.  I would and have recommended them as reads, Havana Bay is still on loan to a friend, as they are good crime stories and do provide a pleasant 'escape'.

Desiring a read with greater 'substance' but still 'fun' to read I turned again to one of the great masters, Graham Greene and a read one of his seminal works, one that I surprisingly had not yet read, Brighton Rock.  Well, it's brilliant.  It does what all his works do, which is to tell a story but also to provoke thought and reflection and to give hints as to an amazing understanding of human nature and the human condition.  In Brighton Rock he deals with the metaphysical more 'blatantly' than in other novels and with such simple tools; a set of simple characters, a flat setting, a short time period and relatively few actions.  The greatest questions are presented and we are made to feel uncomfortable by them; good and evil, right and wrong, Heaven and Hell, sin and redemption...  I put the book down with the feeling that it will be one of those that I return to and reread in the future.  

Blessed Saint David's Day / Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant

I'd like to wish all people of Welsh background and anyone named David, especially my cousin David Mile and one of my dearest friends David Novak a blessed Saint David's day.  It is of special significance this year as we at the school prepare for a trip to Wales this April.

Vancouver 2010

It has filled me with great pride to see Canada hosting the world, the best of the best in Vancouver this year for the Winter Olympics.  To my greatest dismay the vast span of time zones has made watching events live almost impossible, though I may stay up for tonight's hockey gold medal match between Canada and the US.  And, well watching events after the fact... well it just is not the same... a definite lack of tension.  I hoped in vain that Hungary may somewhere somehow win a medal, well we'll have to wait until London.  The daily host videos available on youtube have been a terrific way to follow the sporting and cultural events during the games.  I've shown my spirit by wearing an Olympic cardigan from The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) sent by my Mum and the official Olympic red mittens sent by an Aunt, though the warming weather here in Budapest has made the mittens a bit impractical (they are very warm). My students too have had to 'bear' seeing the opening ceremonies and learning about the various winter sports.
So Congratulations to Vancouver and British Columbia and GO CANADA!!!

Thursday, 25 February 2010


I write this post as some of my grade eleven students write the pre-test of the Theolingua B2 level English language exam.  As I have previousy written I volunteered to do the pre-testing of all levels of the English exam.  Well this has turned out to more work than I thought.  It has though given the opportunity to reflect on various different test types - multiple choice, fill in the blank, full sentence answer etc.  Also to think about various text types, styles and lengths.  Have I come to any great conclusions, as I pour over lots of filled out tests and weigh the 'fairness' of the various tasks?  Far from it, I have more questions now than ever about testing and exams and the 'fairness' of different task types. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Standing Out or Being Outstanding


Exploring new normalities in the classroom

IATEFL Hungary is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We all recognise the dramatic changes that have happened in almost every segment of society during these decades. What once seemed rare and unusual, went unnoticed or did not even exist are today everyday realities. How are these changes being realised in our classrooms? We invite you to discuss with us your strategies on how to handle new normalities.

Have a look at the IATEFL Hungary website for more information on this year`s conference, visit iatefl.hu
Hope to see you there
Meanwhile have a look at a short film of our last conference here in Budapest... see if you can spot yours truly.

Presentation on Canada and its First Nations

Last Thursday I was invited by King Géza I School in Vac to give a presentation on Canada and to act as their judge for their pronunciation competition.  I chose to talk about some well known and lesser known aspects of Canada and included material from my presentation on Native Canadians.  The audience were English teachers and a group of about 60 secondary school students.  I would like to congratulate the winners of the competition, who recited the very moving poem Tichborne's Elegy. In addition I would like to thank Mrs. Edina Fördős from the school for a warm reception and MM Publications ELT Hungary for sponsoring the competition and my participation.  You can visit the school`s website here www.igk.hu

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Have a look at this talk... and think about the ideas that Sir Ken Robinson presents.  His ideas are so simple but so provocative, at least I think they are.  

Catching up

My goodness I have fallen behind on my personal publishing... again.  What am I up to now?  The Theolingua language exam is coming up in March and I've been entrusted with the proofreading and what's more the pre-testing of the English language exam at all the levels B1, B2 and C1.  This is consuming more time than I expected, the students have been great and found the opportunity to write and reflect on a "real" language exam useful.
In the past weeks second semester has started up at the University and I'm very happy that the terrific C1 level group that I had in the first semester has reformed - with additions, I look forward to having more fun with them, and I think I'll allow myself some greater freedom with the syllabus and introduce some fields of personal interest in terms of introducing more cultural topics.
With my high school students we continue to "plug away" I am still very satisfied with the creativity and positive attitude of my grade nines and the improving relationship to learning with my grade elevens.  The grade tens are proving to be a struggle and are very erratic; it has saddened me to see what I feel has been a dampening of their spirit this past school year.  My next post will link to a TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson asking the question Do Schools Kill Creativity?, this short talk has provided a lot of food for thought and having seen it many months ago I still ponder the validity of what he spoke about and its ramifications.
On a less significant and as a preview to a culinary post coming up I have been introduced to the pleasure of a late afternoon coffee (real coffee) due to my mother sending some Starbucks House Blend decaf.  I love coffee but if I have one after about three in the afternoon it robs a bit of the nice deep sleep that I love.
Anyway I'll try to "keep you posted" and return to being a better blogger.

Saturday, 12 December 2009


I'd like to wish all those who read my blog a Blessed Advent season.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Happy Saint Andrew's Day

I'd like to wish all my namesakes a blessed St. Andrew's day and of course to all Scots.

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave in Oroshaza

I would like to thank Ildiko Kristof and the entire English department at the Tancsics Mihaly Secondary School in Oroshaza for having me over to speak about the USA.  It was a pleasure to present to a group of about 90 students.  The school really is a beautiful institution( http://www.tancsics-ohaza.sulinet.hu/ )and they are hosting a week dedicated to the USA.  My talk was sponsored by MM Publications - ELT Hungary.  We looked at a bit of history, literature, sport, popular culture etc.  Hope to see you all again.