Question: What risks do you like, and what’s your survival kit?

I’ve been called a control freak by people who actually call themselves my friends. So what do my enemies call me? I think it’s a teacher thing, wanting to be prepared for all eventualities. Yet I’m fascinated by teachers who “teach barefoot”, taking nothing but a smile and a good night’s sleep. I know that will get you far, and I do it too, quite a lot, actually. But I only do it when I know the terrain, when I figure that I have enough tricks up my sleeve to handle pretty much anything that can happen. So while I hate taking blind risks, I love taking calculated ones.

I always take my survival kit with me. These days it consists of a high tech gadget, my multimedia MacBook Pro hooked up for wifi, which is really worth having made me computer-poor, along with my low tech tools: index cards, empty sheets of paper, colored pens, pins, sticky tape. A key element in my survival kit is my beloved Moleskin diary in red – so I can always find it, even when my desk is a mess – containing not only my appointments, but lists of all kinds: ideas and to dos, completely illegible to anyone but me. I love my Moleskin, and if I lost it, well, I might just take a lengthy holiday to run away from my clients and creditors.

How about you? What risks do you like taking, and what’s your survival kit to get through them?

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

8 thoughts on “Question: What risks do you like, and what’s your survival kit?”

  1. I once presented in Osaka to huge (yeah, right, Pat) crowd of teachers that included two commisioning editors from NYC I was particularly keen to impress. I was SOOOO prepared. Mr. Ready, I was. I had a beautiful powerpoint, burned a CD with all the music I was going to use in the proper order so as to avoid fumbling. The publisher I was presenting for was going to bring the 10-page handout I had sent her by email.

    I’m sure you can guess what happened.

    1. The super-high-tech projector in the classroom wouldn’t work. Shrugs all round. Never mind…we have the CD and the handout.

    2. The CD wouldn’t play the CD. Wrong format. Never mind. I know all the songs backwards, I’ll wing it and the lyrics are all in the handout.

    3. The rep said ‘Handout?’ like I had asked her to bring the Holy Grail or the Java Trench or something. I had sent it to my sister instead.

    There I was, bare-handed, bare-foot, bare-xxxxx and wishing that the earth would swallow me up. Of course there’s a happy ending and the presentation went swimmingly. Lots of laughs and it certainly taught me a lesson about what really constitutes being prepared.

    Furthermore, I was able to find out that the audience was full of talented people whose skills we drew on much more than planned. You won’t believe this but it even turned out that both the editors were highly musical. One of them had been a professional singer and performer, treading the boards “as lead singer in lavish musical revues including the Acapulco Princess Hotel in Mexico, the Mikado Nightclub in Tokyo, the Bahamas Princess Hotel, the Sheraton Walker Hilton in Seoul, Korea; and in Las Vegas at the Hilton Hotel”.

    Bet it was the first time she wore a potato suit though! (the only prop that technology couldn’t deny me)

    The polished presenter can sometimes forget that it’s really all about the people in the audience. Come to think of it, the people in the audience often forget it’s all about them (and their students) too.

  2. Yes..that’s a picture of Brian Cullen who wrote and performed the songs and Rie Kimura who illustrated the books. There’s a story there too.

    Brian went to Japan as an engineer, worked in a company for a couple of years before deciding his future lay not in bridges but in ELT. He became a professor at Nagoya Institute of Technology. He always played music and performed around town in Irish pubs. We became friends and Brian did the Potato Pals songs. Great fun we had too and not an inconsiderable number of pints as you can probably imagine.

    Now for Rie’s story. She came to Nagoya from Mie and worked for a couple of years in an engineering firm before becoming a classroom assistant at a kids’ English school. There she met an Irishman (yours truly) and together they created a series of readers which were published by OUP.

    So where’s this story going? Get this…On the day the photo was taken Brian and Rie discovered that ten years previously they had worked for the same engineering firm, at the same time and even shared an open plan office…for two whole years!

    The moral of the story? You never know who you’re going to work on a textbook project with!

  3. BTW, there’s an interesting discussion going on with Scott Thornbury about whether eschewing technology, getting back to the good basics of teaching and Dogme are really all the same thing. Scott says:
    “Read the article “Two movies and a metaphor”. Do you agree with the argument that language teaching has “lost its way”? I.e. that the basic flow of interaction between learners and teacher has become “clogged” by unnecessary materials and technologies?”

  4. My survival kit contains a memory stick with lesson activities (mostly powerpoints with lots of pictures – no help if there’s a ‘puter glitch or log on problems, but useful if not). A print out of speaking task ideas in case my mind goes blank. (Wonder this list might be a bit some in your diary, Anne – I sleep better at night knowing it’s there) And my top favourites: 5 or 6 envelopes with word games and discussion prompts on cards and coloured slips of paper. (Handy as ten minute fillers and might us lead somewhere else…)

  5. I have mini sets of my conversation sets (sorry sounds like I’m marketing but am not, I just really do).. these prompt cards are in the pocket of all my various bags – so no matter what happens in the class I always have something to teach – can do an on-the-spot-cover for any teacher without notice.. and the students still choose and steer the topics (as a dogmeist..that’s very important..LOL).


  6. Well I too have a Moleskin, (like the idea of getting a bright red one!) and in mine there are a list of keywords at the back to prompt me for word games and conversation tasks. There are some appalling illustrations there too to prompt me for some grammar review tasks. However I have a whole heap of stuff on the group pages at plus my own office there. With our frequent moves and corporates dotted all over, this is my virtual lifeline.

    For anyone that is interested there is a learning hub tour at tappedin on Monday evening where new members can familiarise themselves with the features and functionalities of tappedin which is a free community for educators all over the world, I love it there, it’s professional, it’s personal and you can teach there too. Perhaps TI can be your safe haven too?

  7. More good ideas and tips! Seems we all combine pocket-size analog, digital and web resources to keep our teaching options open. Perhaps the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG has outlived its reason for being. Or do you think we’ll be opening a Moleskin SIG soon?

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