Well, where do I start? A lot happened between my previous post and now. It is Day 36 since the Russian invasion began in Ukraine. At the moment I am not ready to write about the war (yet). All I can say is that I am in Ukraine, in a relatively safe city in its western part. I know I am luckier than many of my colleagues and friends who had to leave their homes (often saying goodbye to their husbands, brothers or fathers), or stayed in their home cities being bombed for a month. My country is in pain, and all the Ukrainians are fighting for their independence and a better future. #PrayForUkraine.
In this context, blogging, sharing ELT ideas, or celebrating creativity do not seem timely or appropriate. At the same time, I am inspired by the Ukrainians who continue the fight for freedom and make voices heard. My friends, family members and colleagues in do it by sharing their stories, making pictures/collages, writing poems, organizing ELT events (check out this 8+hour Teacher’s Voice ELT Marathon session recording from the past weekend), teach lessons in the shelters, interpret sessions for doctors and nurses, volunteer, host families in their apartments, and do a hundred more big and small things. Colleagues abroad help the Ukrainians who left their homes by offering places to stay, dinner to share, language lessons to attend (English, or the language of the country they are in), connect with the language centers offering positions, collect and send humanitarian aid (and evidently, do a lot more than I can list here).
At times, I feel very small and helpless, unimportant and weak. In such moments I feel as if nothing, literally nothing is my control (is there anything in this life truly ‘in our hands’?) At other times, I think of ways I may apply my skills, professional background, and creativity in a constructive way. Maybe, what I share in this project will help someone with a classroom idea, an insight for a training session, an activity to chat about with a colleague on a break or even a someone in a family. Or maybe it will just offer an idea to think about.
A couple of years ago I was planning to create a set of Reflective Practice Activities so that teachers could use them with their students, with each other, and for themselves. I never found the time, discipline or motivation to sit down and get started, even though I have lots of notes and even sessions/presentations with practical examples. I hope to get that done some time in the future.
For now, I am starting a small personal project sharing activities you can easily do in class, or for yourself. All is needed is a piece of paper and your own hand to make an outline. Here is a sample template, to show the idea.
You can use an A-4 (letter size) piece of paper, as in the example above, or you can work with a smaller-size (A-5) notebook, as in the example we created with my 4-year-old nephew.
You can even use a pocket-size (A-6) notebook, as you can see in the picture below. [Note: it is activity #13 in the list]
I know that many of my readers would easily get the idea for these activities by just looking at the template and the activity titles: many are self-explanatory and do not need an extra note to add. At the same time, knowing the creativity and reflective skill of my colleagues, in addition to the variety of the contexts they are living and working in, I can see a lot of potential for expanding each one and exploring the topics in more depth. They can be quick ice-breakers, or 30-minute speaking and writing activities, or possibly, last for the whole lesson.
Here is one (slightly modified) example shared earlier this year (and yes, it can be a slide, and you can use most of the activities if you teach remotely).
This new page on this blog offers the list of the ones I have brainstormed for now. I hope to be adding new posts and making each item an active link. There are 36 of them at the moment (yes, you guessed right, it is the number of days the war lasts here). Some were written before 24 February, and some were created during the time in a shelter, with air alarms on. Important note: these are not the activities meant to be used as a way to help students or colleagues process the trauma from the war, or to offer to the people who are now in the conflicting areas. Some can be adapted for that, but this needs to be done with lots of thought, care and awareness. It is a subject for a separate conversation.
I hope the
list of activities war ends soon. And I know that if I fail to keep adding new ones, there will be more ideas from my readers, colleagues and friends. I hope to add posts on how to use the ideas in class, and why this Hand Metaphor/Analogy seems to be so appropriate for the context now. Or for education in general.
In 2022, it seems to me that the Reflective Practice skills, especially in the intercultural context(s) are vital, and the absence of them can lead to dangerous consequences.
Thank you for reading, stay tuned and #StandWithUkraine!
P.S. ‘Come Back Alive‘ is an NGO where I personally donate. They started their project in 2014 when Crimea was annexed and the first part of the war began. Here is their site and donating options: https://www.comebackalive.in.ua/
In the future I will be adding links to the educational and cultural projects in or for Ukraine, for those of you who would like to contribute.