Thursday, 25 February 2010

R U Listenin? by Terry Bianchini

R U Listenin'? published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers was written in 2008 by Terry Bianchini. Terry worked in and around the prison service in the Uk for over 20 years and his vast experience in dealing with young male offenders forms the backbone of the book, which aims to help "defiant men to realise their full potential". However, this book is much more than that. It has a simple, but very powerful message. Namely, we are all capable of creating our own prison. Our own inner four walls which prevent us from achieving our full potential. We can become our own jailers. Terry skilfully shows us how we can release ourselves from our self-inflicted prison, whenever we wish to do so.

From the Abyss
I have read R U Listenin? from cover to cover many times. I keep it to hand. The style is honest and down-to-earth. It calls a spade a spade. It is a practical self-help book for use by professionals, counsellors, facilitators, and anybody wishing to learn how to stay focused, as well as a criminology, anger management, psychiatry, psychology, forensic psychopherapy, sociology reference book. How do you inspire angry young men as in Terry's specific experience or indeed, any person, who has lost faith in the social system or themselves? How do you motivate someone enough to prevent them from "repeat offending"? How do you instil faith in a person, who is in despair? How do you begin to help someone, who for whatever reason, is in a dark tunnel? How do you bring someone back from the abyss? I believe you will find the answers in this book.

Prison life
The idea of describing the routine of a real prison environment matched with how a person can at any moment create a prison of their own making, was a revelation for me. How people can create their own prison sentence is described in detail. I had never thought of this analogy before. Terry has cleverly managed to intertwine the real world prison with the idea of a self-imposed prison. Practical solutions are offered as to how you can turn your life around if you lack motivation or are feeling trapped, in a rut, or depressed. For example, imposing self-discipline will give you control over your life. Taking care with your diet. Taking exercise. Above all, dedication and discipline are key to your success. Without these two factors, it would be difficult to come out of a self-inflicted prison sentence.

Be The Master of Your Own Destiny
The fifteen chapters are followed by exercises which can be used by facilitators to reinforce the message imparted in each chapter. The book contains fascinating and insightful case studies of people whose lives were turned around by realising that they alone had the key to unlocking their habitual offending behaviour. How to change negative feelings into positive feelings, how to set achievable and realistic goals, how to be the master of your own destiny, are themes which are fully explored by the author. Believing your way out from within is the key to solving a lot of problems.

Follow your Dream
Terry had wanted to write a book for a while, because he felt that his experience of working within the prison service could be applied to a much wider audience. He had never written a book before, but he was determined to write one, however long it took him. So he set about it slowly but surely, writing a few chapters here and there, rewriting, researching information, talking about it with friends, family and colleagues. He never once waned in his determination and motivation to realise his dream. Self discipline and dedication are at the centre of the book. Terry applied these two factors for himself and he was able to make this seemingly difficult goal of becoming a published author, a reality. Terry shows us how you can achieve anything you want as long as you really, really, truly, truly want that thing. Stay focused. Never lose faith. Believe in yourself.

Take Control
I have wanted to write a review of R U Listenin'? for some time now, and so I asked Terry, who is married to my sister Adua, when I was in England last week. He was very happy for me to go ahead. I hope I have done his book justice. I believe you will enjoy reading it. It will certainly make you think about how to prevent yourself from becoming a prisoner in your own mind. It has helped me to analyse the onset of negative feelings and inspired me to take control of the situation in a swift and positive manner. I would hate to put myself in a prison of my own making. I am grateful to Terry for making me aware of how to prevent this from ever happening.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Teaching Village: "Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know" series

I have recently had the great honour to write a guest post on Barbara Sakamoto's excellent and informative Teaching Village blog. Barbara has been running a very successful series called "Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know". I was invited to write up a guest piece (via Twitter) and I immediately accepted without any hesitation. I sat down and thought about the title first and the rest came flowing. You can read my post "Do It Your Way" here.
Other recent guest posts have been written by Anita Kwiatkowski, Vicky Loras and Hadley Fergueson, to name but a few. I have enjoyed reading this series on Barbara's blog as well as another series called Stories From the Frontlines of EFL. Read through them yourself and be greatly inspired!

Future Guest Post
I have also written a guest post for the innovative and groundbreaking Bits'n'Bobs/Show and Tell blog. I believe my post will be published soon in March. Watch this space.

Forthcoming Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques Book Review

I have been invited to do a book review of "Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques" by Susan Smith Nash and William Rice, published by I look forward to reading it and I plan to publish the review sometime in March.

R U Listenin?

I will also be reviewing "R U Listenin"? by Terry Bianchini. This book imparts a powerful message. I will reveal more in my book review, coming soon.

And Now There are Five!
Dearly departed Nikita has been replaced with 2 more of the same ilk. I hope they will last..... Kelly has taken to guarding them very closely, which I trust is a very good sign?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Images4Education 2010

This is my final week of the excellent six-week EVO (Electronic Village Online) Images4Education 2010 course. I have enjoyed it immensly and I am sad it has come to an end. I have created a Slideshare presentation below, which I hope will give you an idea about my experience of the course. Will it tempt you to join the course in 2011?
Please press the full screen icon to get a better view of the presentation.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

My Mother, My Self

The choice I made a few weeks ago was simple and unequivocal. I had the chance to spend a whole week with my mother in Italy amongst her close family and friends. K picked her up in England and accompanied her to Mosciano Sant' Angelo, in Abruzzo, where I joined her. Just the two of us, my mother and myself.

A Lifetime Bond
The complex and quite often symbiotic relationship between a mother and daughter is one which is unique and unbreakable. This bond is forged even before birth. There is an innate "natural instinct" to protect and nurture, love and cherish, til death do us part. For the past week I have devoted myself to the person who gave me my life. Her own life hung in the balance just under a year ago. The family was in turmoil. A new era had dawned. With remarkable spirit and determination, my mother was able to pull herself out of the long, black tunnel she so unexpectedly and violently entered, to come back smiling in her inimitable fashion into the daylight that now surrounds her.

A Heartfelt Thank You
A big thank you to everyone who came to visit my mother while she was in Italy last week. It meant so much to her to be back amongst her close family and friends. Her "joie de vivre"was palpable and infectious. Everyone was amazed to see my mother again after all that she had been through. She is indeed a fighter.

Delizia!I had no access to technology during my week away from home. I did not blog, tweet, take part in Ning discussions, Moodle, Google-Wave or do any course work. So, with my mother comfortably tucked up in bed usually by 7pm every night, I whiled away the evening hours by reading "Delizia!" by John Dickie. It was an excellent choice. The epic history of the Italian people and Italian food was a riveting read. I was fascinated to discover more about the mass emigration of Italians to the USA. In addition, all the major cities which have food named after them were mentioned. In particular, I enjoyed reading about the history of Naples and its food, which were vividly depicted. I would love to visit this city which has undergone so much of a turbulant past. I would also love to read Sofia Loren's cookbook called "In Cucina con Amore" published in 1971 in America. Her huge smile in the picture below says it all.

Image above from the book found courtesy of Google search. Other images used found via Google Images.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

And Then There Were Three

IT happened last night. The Wordle above shows the story of the grizzly events. The protagonists are 3 dogs and 1 chicken.

Below is the main culprit.

Here is the accomplice

Is this the only dog that really knows what happened afterwards??

Sadly this chicken is no longer with us.....

I blame myself for being so naive. I read the Absolute Beginners' Guide to Keeping Chickens and noted this particular question. Will my dog hurt chickens?
Anyway, I picked up some of the many feathers scattered around the garden and I hope to use them all when I create my homemade cards.

I honestly thought that all the animals were coexisting harmoniously, but I was wrong. So, now I will wait for K to begin the animal behaviourist training which is obviously necessary, if the other three chickens are to have much hope of lasting longer than the one above. Thank goodness he is back tomorrow.

Thank you PLN
I have been alone in the valley for a whole week. This is another first for me. Only myself for company. Not a soul has been here apart from the postman once, briefly for one second. Very late last night a crowd of hunters were out with their huge searchlights wandering across the fields below. They were looking for the wild boar which roam freely in this area.
I haven't felt lonely because I have had my PLN around me virtually. It's kept me busy and I appreciate the contact I have had with everybody via my computer. Thank you very much for your great company.

I will be offline as of next week. I hope to rejoin you after that. Please feel free to continue my Digital Story, if you wish.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Digital Story

Background Information
This week in my fab Images4Education course we had to create a digital story using any form we wished. I chose to make up a story using pictures from my folder and create a Power Point presentation. I then easily uploaded my PPt to Slideshare. I let my imagination flow. The characters consist of the ever present Princess Arabella, Victoria, Joseph and two farmers. It has an enigmatic ending because I would like you, my dear readers to think of what happens at the end. I will be away for the next week with no Internet connection and so, it would be lovely to find some suggestions when I get back. If not, the story will end enigmatically forever, and that will also be ok!

A Week of Firsts
My first time with Slideshare, Power Point and GoAnimate. Which of these tools have you used before? Do you have any tips you would like to share? I look forward to hearing from you!!

Friday, 5 February 2010

My Very First GoAnimate! Production

I've done it! After losing most of the data last night to recovering it just now, I am proud to present my first GoAnimate! slidecast. Many thanks go to Alex Francisco from Zarco English, for her excellent tutorial via the Moodle4Teachers "Web 2.0 Tools" course that I have recently joined. Please click on the link just above the video box to see it in a bigger screen. Introductions and Icebreakers by Janet Bianchini

Like it? Create your own at

My first creation is very basic but I am so glad that I persevered. Next time, I will work on moving the characters a bit more and also try to create a dialogue.

I'd like to include a link to Alex's GoAnimate! Screencast which she made in order to introduce the tool to her students, who have created amazing video animations.

This is another video that Alex has created to present the school where she works. I think it's brilliant! Our School by alexgfrancisco

As you can see from what can be achieved, my first rendition is pretty basic in comparison and one-dimensional, but it's a start!! By the way, did you notice the moving desk? I didn't mean it to move, but never mind :) Also I like the fact that you can introduce your own photos as background and add your voice, to make it a truly personal show. Why don't you have a go and try it out? This tool is great for vocabulary exploitation and dialogue building purposes. It's free and easy to use. I'm going to present mine as an icebreaker and speaking activity with a group of EFL teachers I will be teaching in April at the wonderful Lake School of English, Oxford.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Read all about it! 15th EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival

The 15th edition of the EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival has just been published by the amazing Shelly Terrel from Teacher Reboot Camp and it is a very comprehensive and fascinating read. There is a wealth of input and Shelly has organised all the entries very well. My blog is also included in the Technology section! I would like to say a personal thank you to Shelly for giving me the encouragement and opportunity to participate in this wonderful carnival.

Among the excellent posts included in the blog carnival, and there are too many to mention them all, I particularly liked the following.
It's the Small Things that Count by David Deubelbeiss. The post gives some great pointers on how to conduct a class effectively and highlights some of the small details of day to day teaching that in fact are so important in the bigger picture.
Powerpointing Me by Karenne Sylvester on her Kalinago English Blog. I found this post useful because it shows what can be done with PowerPoint Presentations. Allowing students to create their own presentations to teach grammar points is a great technique and one which is very rewarding for the students.
2010-The Year of the Personal Learning Network? by Graham Stanley on Blog EFL, caught my eye. PLN is an acronym I didn't really know about until last year so it's interesting to read Graham's thoughts on what lies in the future for these 3 very powerful letters.
You will have to go over to Teacher Reboot Camp now to read all these articles in addition to the other fantastic ones in the carnival. I am sure you will enjoy them!

The 30 Goals Challenge
Shelly Terrell has recently run a brilliant series of challenges on her blog called "The 30 Goals Challenge". A free e-book is now available and you can share it with other teachers in your PLN or embed it in your blog as a reference for what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it. I have found this series to be very inspiring and have already set myself some goals which I hope to achieve in 2010.

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