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
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

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.