Assumptions Not to Make in the English as an Additional Language Classroom.

The last two weeks have been crazily busy with family related things. My youngest turned 8 which required parties and presents, grandparents and cakes. These things are all fun, but did require some serious time for planning and execution.

My oldest, is getting ready for high school next year.  The big transition from Year 6 to Year 7 is looming. And the main issue for us is that we are out of zone for the school that we would like him to attend. So we have been going on school tours and making up application packages. Everything has now been submitted and we have to wait until August 9 to find out where he is off to next year.

Last week at school I was hit by some assumptions that I was making but probably shouldn’t when teaching six and seven year-old New Arrivals in Australia. So for a laugh, here are some photos and some assumptions not to make in the EAL classroom.


1: Don’t assume that students have had the same access to physical development programs as in your own country.



This photo shows part of the Physical Education program that we run for the younger students at our school. We try to teach the language of ‘balancing’, ‘jumping’, ‘hopping’, ‘skipping’ and so on as part of the program. The students also need the body confidence and awareness to be able to learn effectively in the classroom. A lot of this learning would typically occur in Australia in Kindergarten programs and in the first year of school. My students are being prepared for the second and third year of school in Victoria. Three weeks into the term and most of our students are running up the ramp and over the A-frame with a jump onto the mat. This child has developed in confidence also, but is still hanging on with her hand as she negotiates the top of the A-frame.


2: Don’t assume that students will correctly colour in the flag of your country.



This is Australia’s ‘official’ flag in terms of country recognition. I know we have our Australian Aboriginal flag but that concept is a little too much at this point for my learners. So despite talking about the Australian flag being red, blue and white and talking about the stars and the parts of the flag, and having a flag on display one student gave me this.

After all, stars are yellow, aren’t they?

They are, especially if you have a Chinese background, and you are six years old.


3: Don’t assume that copying is easy.



This student was so proud of his work and I realised “Copying is so hard….” He copied the date and the sentence ‘Yesterday was ANZAC day.’  The second sentence was his. Compared to his peers, his drawing lacks maturity. There is a lot of work that needs to be done with this student both academically and in terms of overall maturity.


4: Don’t assume a student knows how to use a scrapbook.



This student completed a task at the start of his scrapbook. The next task was glued into the middle of his scrapbook and the last task was glued in near the end of his scrapbook. Oops! I had to get out the date stamp and stamp everything for when I go back through his work. Needless to say that this child is now on my ‘got to get to first’ list when we start new tasks so I can get him to the next page. Hopefully he’ll get the hang of it soon.

What assumptions have you made in your teaching or work? I’d love to hear some of your stories.



One week down, ten to go.

I heard someone once say, that teachers always know when the next lot of holidays are. That is so april calendartrue. It is ten weeks until the winter holidays. But we have ANZAC day this Tuesday and the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in June first.

I got home yesterday and crashed on the bed for half an hour before I could do anything.  It hurt to even think. There is research out there that says teachers make a lot of decisions every day. I felt like I had blown my weekly total.

I have a totally different class from last term. At the end of last term, I had ten students who were staying for this term so I thought I had a chance of retaining some of them. Nope. Not one. We had a huge influx of very young students and all of the older students moved up to other classes.

I now have 13 different students with five from the class below me and one from two classes below me. I have seven brand new students including two gorgeous little identical twin girls, with very similar and hard for me to pronounce names. So the process of starting with teaching routines, procedures and expectations begins again.

I haven’t done any more of my writing course this week other than to submit my assignment on Tuesday, for which I did really well.

Five things people I am grateful for this week include:

1 – My husband – who allowed me to ‘crash’ on the bed last night, before I could even think straight.

2 – My mother-in-law – who comes down and helps get the kids to school most mornings and does my washing and ironing for me.

3 – My mother – who came and took the kids on a long bike ride and picnic on Monday which enabled me to get the house cleaned before school started.

4 – My teaching partner – who is also in shock along with me over how young our classes are. She’s great to bounce ideas off and for the most part we think along the same lines with what we need to do with our classes which helps with consistency at school.

5 – The soy-chai-latte maker – I grabbed a soy chai latte on my way home from work on Friday as I had a ripper headache and couldn’t just go straight home. Sometimes it can be like going from the frying pan to the fire. Anyway, this barista served me a soy chai latte and a complimentary hazel-nut chocolate. Yum.



Why I choose not to do yoga

I have to explain why I am doing this post. For my writing course, I had to write an article for a fictitious yoga studio. The purpose of the assessment task was to show an understanding of different aspects of writing web content. The title of the article had to be ‘Boost Your Mental Power with Yoga’. Personally, I have tried yoga in the past but after going to a prayer healing night I decided that I needed to give yoga up.

Researching and writing this article have caused some personal tensions. On the one hand I want to do well with my writing and demonstrate that I can follow a writing brief. On the other hand I want to remain true to myself and my values. Should this have been a real life situation, I possibly would have needed to tell the client to choose another copywriter. For now, I have written a counter post to my article. My article you can find by clicking on my portfolio page.

I recognise that not everyone shares the same views as me. Should you wish to disagree with me in the comments section please do so.  Just be gentle.


Why I choose not to do yoga

Reason 1: I wanted to show God that He is first in my life

‘You must not have any other god but me’ is a commandment that I want to follow.  Not out of fear, but out of love and respect, I wanted to show God that He is first in my life. When yoga has its origins in Hinduism, there is the potential for competition between the gods of the Hindu religion and the God of the Bible. My God needs to be first for me.

Reason 2: Our bodies say things even when our mouths do not

Sun salutations may be a form of sun worship, which again does not make sense when it is a created thing and not the creator.  It could be argued that sun salutations are not true, but metaphoric. However metaphors often point to deeper things. There are many different poses in yoga and many of them are not explained within a yoga class. Without that explanation or understanding, what things might we be saying without realising?

 Reason 3: Yoga has been marketed to middle-aged Western women

I can say this, as I fit this market.

Yoga has been marketed to fit the west. Kamna Muddagouni in her article Why white people need to stop saying ‘namaste’’ writes:

Yoga, a spiritual practice with Hindu roots, has since been distorted into something more palatable for white audiences – a way to exercise and connect with one’s spirituality.

She goes on to say:

It’s about considering whether you can practise yoga without spiritually harvesting a culture and religion that is not yours when you have no deeper understanding, or desire to understand, the historical and social roots of the culture yoga comes from.


So in the West, yoga can be seen as the ‘in thing’, a commodity and a lifestyle choice. You can spend a lot of money on this trendy lifestyle choice and many people don’t know and don’t care about its origins.

Reason 4: Not knowing the deeper things behind yoga

If I wanted to I could find out the deeper things behind yoga, but I don’t really want to nor have the time to do so.

In the article

‘8 Signs Your Yoga Practice Is Culturally Appropriated – And Why It Matters’

(May 25, 2016 by Maisha Z. Johnson and nisha ahuja)

the authors write:

But lots of people include sacred objects in their yoga practice without realizing the significance of what they’re using.

Many people are ignorant not only of the origins of yoga, but also of the sacred objects and their meanings and that can include some yoga teachers!

Ignorance about yoga or other faiths is not uncommon but should we be doing things we don’t understand? In my classroom at school, I try not to the let the students say “Oh my god!” or even “omg!” or sit in different yoga poses for the reason that most of them don’t understand what these things mean.

Reason 5: Creek from ‘The Trolls’170414_Bg-creek

Creek from the movie ‘The Trolls’ didn’t leave a great impression for the things yoga and Eastern mysticism stand for. In some ways, he is actually taking the micky out of this life style. Creek reflects the Western way of doing the Zen way of life – it’s romanticised and diluted. And whilst anyone can turn on their friends, the fact that Creek sells Poppy and the other trolls out in order not to be eaten certainly doesn’t help his image. One could say that it is karma that he gets eaten along with Chef at the end of the movie by a forest flower!

(Picture sourced from Dreamworks Wiki)

Beating the ‘Back-to-Work’ Jitters

The Merry-Go-Round of life is about to kick off again this week. After two weeks of holidays, it is back to school tomorrow for me and the children. And starting back gives me the jitters. For me it is the fear of the unknown. Which student will need extra support? Which student (or students) will provide behaviour challenges? Every term I have a new cohort of students as our students stay for six months (twelve if they are refugees) and then move on. An hour in tomorrow and everything will be sweet again. The unknown will be on they way to becoming known.

So how to beat the jitters?

Keep busy

Today I have cleaned the house, which whilst not exciting, was definitely needed. And it kept me physically busy. I am also trying to finish an article for my next assessment piece that will be posted on my blog’s portfolio page very soon. That has been cheerfully keeping my brain busy.

Distract yourself

A movie the day before work goes back is one of my favourite distractions.  With a big screen, lots of sound, some popcorn and a coffee, my senses are overwhelmed to the point where there is no room left in my brain to think about work.

Other distractions for me include going to the gym, spending time doing something with the family…but I don’t think I can recommend Monopoly…

Be prepared


This is my work program. Blank pages are scary. So I have filled in some details for tomorrow. Again though, it won’t be until I meet my students and get to know them a little, that I can plan for the rest of the week. Flexibility is also important.

So I’m off to keep working on my article for my assessment and then play ‘Banagrams’ with my daughter.

How do you beat the ‘Back-to-Work’ jitters?




Developing my blog, challenging my brain.

OK, this writing course is stretching my brain and to think this is my holidays!

For someone who only joined Facebook just over a year ago, I am a little behind in understanding the world of social media, the web and IT. Developing this blog is definitely growing my IT skills (hopefully in a good way). I have watched so many YouTube tutorials to try to understand what I am supposed to do to upload things and even navigate around my blog. I think a part of my issue here is that I expect things to be easy. Like when Siri tells you what to do.

Fingers crossed, I have managed to upload my first article on my Portfolio page. It was an assessment task for my writing course. I chose to write an educational handout on How Rome Began. I had a lot of fun learning how to scribble with the copyediting symbols all over my earlier drafts and learning how to copyedit onscreen. I am actually proud of my article and found it fascinating watching my own progression from first draft to final piece.

I’d love it if you were able to read and comment on the article. What do you like? Can you see any areas for further improvement?

Let’s start at the very beginning…

It’s a funny story how I ended up doing a writing course and maybe I will tell it one day. But in November last year, I was under the impression that I would be teaching art again in 2017. Knowing that I didn’t have to assess or write reports, and thinking that I would revisit some of my art lessons and tweak others, I thought why not sign up for a writing course? It was five weeks before Christmas, as if life wasn’t busy enough…

One week before Christmas I found out that it was back to the classroom for me in 2017. …so back to assessment….and back to reporting…. and not being able to plan too far in advance because of the nature of the students in our school. I knew that 2017 would be a juggling act with trying to balance work, study and life.

The reason I began the writing course was that I believe there is a gap in the market for older English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners. (EAL is the term we use for our students. Other places might refer to this as ESL or EFL learners). Our students need simple texts that are age appropriate. Something that works for beginning language learners at five, doesn’t work for a twelve-year-old.

question marksSo I’m now four months into the course and the juggle is real. I try to get ahead in the course during the school holidays for when I get too busy during the term. The problem with this is that the kids are missing me. Even though we’ve been to the movies or done something ‘fun’ for the day it’s still –  “Mum, when are you going to come out? You’re always in the study!”

I’d love to know how others juggle the work/life balance. Or the work/study/life balance. How do you make things work?