Sunday, August 31, 2014

5 Minute Magic

I used to write using a timer in 20 minute sessions. When I wrote with students, I reduced it to 15 minutes...and then 10 minutes.

Recently, we've been writing in 5 minute sessions! That's 300 seconds.

Words that have been produced by students working with me have been nothing short of phenomenal!

I've called our Writing Group "Creative Sparks" because the words that come out of our sessions are like electricity.

...but why 5 minutes?

- People are lazy to read long texts.
- They have short concentration spans.
- Writing in a shorter time frame forces the writer to choose/use only the best words.

Quality over quantity.

As I said recently:
Use fewer words, and make those words powerful.

I'd like to add that Creative Sparks has helped me with MY writing. Thank dearest "Sparks" :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Write what's in your heart

Today in Creative Sparks...
We wrote what was in our heart

(Written in 5mins)

Many people cross our path in life. They inspire, entertain, help, motivate...even hurt.

These people are our teachers, or as I like to call them, "angels of evolution."

I could write pages of the names of people who have come into my life. I will remember some of them fondly or with heartache. 

Some of them have lifted me to heights I cannot explain. Others have crushed my heart to pieces. Leaving me as if I walk barefoot on tiny pieces of glass.

Nevertheless, if it weren't for these "angels of evolution", I know - as I know my name- that I would not be who I am today if it were not for them. 

So, for the laughter, love and pain...

...all I say is, "Thank you"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"You taught me more than English"

From Google Images
From Google Images

Hailed by Time Magazine (Europe) as one of the "10 Best Movies of the Year 2005" from around the globe, Black is an Indian drama film about a blind and deaf girl, Michelle McNally. A prisoner of darkness, which is the only world she knows, Michelle grows up to be a violent and uncontrollable eight-year-old child. As the saying goes, "There is always light at the end of the tunnel" and for Michelle, it was in the form of an eccentric teacher, Debraj Sahai who sees himself more as a magician. Michelle's parents don't approve of Debraj's unconventional teaching methods, yet...he persists.

Slowly, he teaches her words and their meaning through sign language.

When everyone was about to give up on Michelle and send her to a mental asylum, it was her teacher who saw that inner "something special". Years later, Michelle becomes the first deaf-blind person to gain admission at a university to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. Little does she know, that her teacher starts to develop Alzheimer's disease. After an uphill struggle to attain her BA, Michelle gives a speech to her graduating class. She tells them how for the past 12 years, her teacher would bring her to the graduation ceremony and tell her, "I want to see you there one day." And while he may not be there there to witness her graduate, she tells her class that the reason she is not wearing a graduation robe is because her teacher should be the first to see her in it.

At a mental asylum, Debraj has lost his memory and is even unable to speak. Ironically, after all the years that have passed, it is his student who becomes his teacher. The film is inspired by Helen Keller's life and struggle and certainly evokes a lot of emotions. It had me in tears...for a number of reasons. This film inspired me to write the following.
With students outside the school
With students outside the school
I have had some incredibly memorable teachers throughout my years of schooling. I remember many of my teachers, and I'm still in contact with Mrs Felton, my high school English teacher. I believe that she nurtured the curiosity I had of the English language. Since I was able to read, I had a love for words. Books became my friends. I wanted to create magic like the works of Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl.
It is for this reason that my love of writing developed over the years. This is why I thought I would pursue a career in Journalism (even after obtaining my BJourn).

For me, no power is stronger than the power of the pen.

Now that I am in the capacity of being an English teacher myself, I realize that my "job" is so much more than that. Being a "teacher" is merely just one of the many labels I wear. At the best of times, I am also a sister, a confidant and a shoulder to cry on. 

When I look back at some of the letters and messages I have received from students over years gone by, I sometimes sit in awe. Words which I feel are far too great for me, often brings me to tears. Probably the best line I receive from students is, "You taught me more than English." That's when it dawned on me.

My work is merely the platform I have been given to inspire, motivate and manifest magic from these people who are my students.

I can't explain the thrill I get when I see a student blossom before my very eyes. When I see progression, development and hidden talents surface...I sit back and beam with pride. Becoming too emotionally attached to ones work is, of course, a risk and I guess I have been guilty of that too. I know that deep down I have this desire to stop war and poverty.
With my High Int class (2013) at The Heart Museum
With my High Int class (2013) at The Heart Museum
Realistically speaking, I may not be able to put on my super(s)hero cloak and save the world from war, MY own way, I can be a (s)hero in my own world to my students - whether it's from my office or in front of a whiteboard in a classroom, even if it's standing under a tree outside the school. We need to remember that many of our students look up to us in so many ways. Whether we like it or not, we DO become their family away from home.

I have many names at school: "Teacher", "my sister" and sometimes (to my surprise) "mother" or "mum". I take no offence to this. In fact, I embrace the title and for as long as I am able, I too...will shine the light on all those who bring light to MY world.

I extend my deepest gratitude to my colleagues who understand my passion. Not just for English, but for people and understanding what their needs and wants are. Then, to my students (past and present) who challenge me day after day and whose hunger for knowledge is most inspirational.
Thank YOU for reading my piece!
With my Pre-Intermediate class from 2013
With my Pre-Intermediate class from 2013

What have you stolen?

by Sheetal Makhan
14/08 (written in 10mins)

Carefully, slowly, quietly, without being noticed, I confess that I have stolen. 

I stand on the sidelines watching them. They go by in haste. All on their own mission. 
Being a hypocrite.

This saddens me to no end. There are days when I feel like the world is falling apart. 
Like a freshly baked cookie, it crumbles to dust in my fingers. Before my eyes.

Who is responsible for this? Humanity.
I watch in disgust as they... no, we...hurt each other. So much.

This can't be right. I feel it in my heart.
I make a decision that I don't want to be that. I want to live my life peacefully. Wholesome. 

When I was born, the world rejoiced while I, as a baby, cried.
I want to live my life so that when I die, I will rejoice and the world will cry. 
I want a life lived with good moral intentions.

So what have I stolen? 
I have stolen the knowledge of knowing what is right and wrong. 
What is moral and what is not.

We are here to learn from each other and to make informed decisions of what is right and wrong. 
What is black and white.

Who will cry when you die?

Even if it's alone

by Sheetal Makhan
12/08 (written in 5mins)

I've been running ever since I can remember.
Sometimes fast,
Other times, not.
Surrounded by the protection of my parents, family and friends.

I reach a crossroads and I don't know which path to take.

One is filled with the beauty of flowers. Birds are singing in the trees. 
The sun is smiling upon the millions of people there.

But the other path. 
It's empty.
Perhaps it mirrors my inner feelings.
Lined with bare trees. No fruit, flowers or leaves.

The sun? It's absent.
Just like in my heart.
But i'ts raining.
Just like my heart is crying.

And this is a road I know
That I must take.

Even if it's alone.

My pillars

Taken from Google Images

My Pillars
by Sheetal Makhan
Written on 7 August

When we hatch from our eggs, we take our first breath. 
But is it the beginning of our life? 

We have safety and security from the one who birthed us, who loves us sometimes more than she loves herself.

At the age of 31, I look back on my life. 
Years gone by. Successes. Wins. Tribulations. 
There were many times that I flew. 

But the number of times that I fell are uncountable.
There were days that I fell into a deep, dark hole. It was like there was no end to my pain. My heartache. My darkness.

Then, like an angel's touch...soft, gentle, kind, loving, reassuring.
I would fall...into unconditional love. 

Love from my parents. 
Transcending distance & time zones.

My mother. My father
My parents.
My pillars.

My mother. My blood. My life...

In one of my classes recently, we spoke about patriotism and what it really means. What does it mean to be patriotic

Well, this morning, I had a surprise when one of my AY students, Otman Eltalis appeared at my office door. I was surprised because he told me that he wasn't coming to school today as he had to run some errands this morning.

He said: "I just came to give you this," as he handed me a sheet of paper. A piece of writing to mark? Sure! It was nothing out of the ordinary. Until I actually read it. The best way of knowing if something was written from the heart is if it gives the reader goosebumps. It did more than that for me. I could feel Otman's emotions.

With my extra writing sessions that I have with my students, I tell them that they only need to do one thing when they write: Make your words jump off the page and dance!

I interviewed Otman on his very first day at EC Cape Town. He has grown in leaps and bounds, not just with his English, but as a person. I'm so proud of him! With his permission, I would like to share what he has written.
Otman Eltalis from Libya
Otman Eltalis from Libya
by Otman Eltalis 
My name: Libya
My nationality: Libyan
My phone number: Libya
My biography: Libya
I am a patient. I am a villager. I am a national. I am a soldier for protect my country. I am peaceful.

I extend my appreciation to my country everyday. It is my mother, my blood, my life. I left because I was forced. I didn't like homesick, but this is for you. I hope to accept my excuse. I can't forget when you gave my nationality, happiness. I am proud if I say I am from Libya. Sometimes, people ask me, "What is your dream in your life?"

I just have one answer. I say, "My dream when I see my country the first country in the world. When I see my people living in the security. When I see many scientists there. If I see illiterate 1%."

I am not frustrated, but when I remembered Japan in 1945, they lost many buildings and people, but now Japan is first world.

If I to speak English, I will fly in the sky, because this isn't for me.
This is for Libya.

Let me, my teacher, write any word in my mind. I can't stop to learn English until I see my country happy for me. I know Arabic language is people's language for paradise, to learn the language of the people of the security of their evil. I wish believe me, my country. It is my mistress. It is before anyone. I will be write, write, write and write.

I hope smell your soil.
I hope send my greeting with the stars.

I miss my country.
I can't forget it.
This is promise.

Written on Monday, 25 August 2014

Your son, Otman (Libya)
I will keep going...

Life Advice from Abdulgader Alsharif

As part of a writing activity recently, my students had to give advice! As we know, life can be complicated at the best of times and and we often wish there was a handbook for us to refer to, right? Using the letters of the alphabet as prompts for each piece of advice, this is what my AY student, Abdulgader came up with. Enjoy...and take heed!
Abdulgader Alsharif from Libya (taken from Table Mountain)

dvise everyone to good ways or avoid people with dangerous ways.

e smiling everyday, for everyone.

ontinue what you started. Don't give up!

eal with problems in a simple way.

asy life = huge success.

eel your own feelings, but don't be selfish.

ood friends guide you to a good life.

appiness will get a happy life and reach your achievement.

'm possible = I'm pleased.

oke around with your friends close to you.

eep life easy.

Love. Love. Love.

ake fun for yourself and for others to enjoy.

othing is impossible.

ld people have quiet wisdom.

ride of your work leads to success.

uality is magnificent.

ead before writing or speaking.

imple = happy = success. Don't be silly!

ry to always have an open heart.

se your brain for every moment.

isit your friends and family to live in peace.

isdom is your leader.

erox [copy] your good memories.

ield your negative thoughts.

ero is the beginning of your steps.

I can speak English

Ahmed Abujarida from Libya

I have many students who do extra writing for me, over and above what they do in class. One such student is my Academic Year student, Ahmed Abujarida from Libya. He left this piece of writing for me to mark and I felt that it was really written from the heart and I had to share it with all to read.

by Ahmed Abujarida (Libya)
I am going to talk about how I learned English.When I came to Cape Town in April, I didn't know how to speak English with people, but I started to learn English. Also, after three months, I started to speak English and learned a lot of things. For example: vocabulary, listening and grammar. I am really very happy at my school. I would advise everybody who wants to learn English just to speak English. If you're Arabic speaking, speak English even with Arabic students!

If someone speaks Arabic (or their native language) everyday, they will not learn English. Also, I would like to advise people to speak English in the streets - while shopping or anywhere. Then they will improve quickly.

When I started studying at, I started at Elementary level and then I moved to Pre-intermediate level after two months.You will be able to practice and do exercises everyday. Guys, I want you to always speak English at school and in class. I saw a lot of people speaking in their native language and not learning English. I learned this from my teacher, my friends from different countries and my host family.I couldn't believe myself after three months. I can speak English!

Guys, please! I want you to speak English as much as possible, because this is very good, worthwhile and important for you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's my responsibility

I was prepared to teach the unit on "Medicine" with grammar points and listening exercises. I could instantly feel that the energy levels weren't to my satisfaction. Some students sat there, clearly preoccupied. It didn't take long before the energy affected others in the class.

After I set them off on their first speaking activity, I could see that it was going nowhere.

"Do you trust me?" I asked my class.
"Yes, of course," they replied.

"You know that nothing I do with you will be a waste of your time, right?" I asked.
They nodded.

"Please close your books and clear your desk. You only need a piece of paper," I instructed.
They followed my instructions.

And so...using the same picture as I did with my group yesterday, I gave them 10 minutes to write about whatever emotions were evoked when they saw this.

From Google Images
Some students wrote vigorously. Others sat tapping their pencil on the desk. Paper, blank. I refused to believe that their minds were blank, too. If anything, it was the opposite.

I paused next to one of my solemn-looking students. I could see he was battling. We looked at the picture again. Slowly, I could see him opening up and he started to see beyond the surface. It wasn't planned that my students would stand up and present their pieces with the rest of us, but it turned out to be a really good exercise. Some students spoke with a lump in their throat, while others showed a much softer side to themselves.

I sat there in awe. Beaming with pride. When the class was over, they admitted that their hearts felt lighter.

One of my students, Mohi, happened to be in my office just after my class. I shared what happened in my class with him. He noted that I was very sensitive about my students and their feelings.

"How can I not be?" I asked him.

I thought about this further during the day.

How am I possibly meant to teach (anything) when my students sit in front of me looking and feeling listless. With their minds preoccupied, far far away, of course it affects me, their teacher. I may as well not teach anything.

I sometimes need to break through to them before even attempting any kind of activity. Whether I do this by means of a joke or a short piece of music, it is by all means, my responsibility to ensure that they are fully with me during my lesson.
Anyway, just wanted to shared that today...
Hope YOU had a great day!

The Mohamed Abogila

The Hope
by Mohamed Abogila (in Libya)

I can do something.

You can do something.
We can do something.

What's going on?

First of all, I would like to say I am from Libya!
Which means I am proud to be Libyan.

I am a person who likes his country very much and I always speak about the real history

What's going on?!
We don't have..!
We have to..!

Libya is going down. It's going to hell.
Sorry to say that, but it's the truth.

Why? Simply, this country misses the hope and the hope and the hope.

They give up.
They are impatient.
They are selfish.
They are weak.

Hope to be challenging and
do to have, do to get.

Hope to be patient and take breath and relax without any stress.

Hope to be humble and friends and smile.

Let me tell the world something.

Libya is fire. To burn even you.
You can't touch or do something.

The people are the dark, which means...
You can't see if you want to think to steal or destroy something..

I am like the air.
Free and fresh...
Which means
If there is a problem, I can push it away.
Far away.

Are we ready?
Ready to do...

This word, "do" means a lot.
If you agree, we should do.

I am sure I know we have the ability,
but when are you going to start?
When are you going to feel?
And when are you going to win?

Life is a game and I will win.

Hope to be a strong, powerful hero.

We are here.
Today, but tomorrow...
We don't know.

Where will we be?

This country could be the best and the worst.
About the people, actually.

People can do, feel, make, hurt, decide and hope.

They can make this country.
He loves to show the fire on the ice. How is it?

Libya. Yeah, it's one word, but it means the power.

I've been to many places.
They asked me, "Where are you from?"

I just give a big smile. With myself, I am self-confident and I reply, I am from LIBYA.
I feel like the King in the castle or fire to burn or dry to die.

Libya is not the problem.
The real problem is us.

Any country has bad things, but also - there is a solution.

It's like a game.
You have to be the winner.
To survive.
To be free.

Like the lion in the jungle.
Strong, smart and organized. 

Am I crazy?
Simply, no...

I am too crazy of loving my country.
It's my morning to the evening...until the night.
It's my blood.

No one can live without blood.
Which means we have to love our country.
To defend from any bad things.

Libya is a country and it will fly, shine, high in the sky.
In the world.
On my paper.
And in our hearts.


Monday, August 4, 2014

I will Sheetal

From Google Images

The world thinks I'm small.
I'm at the bottom of the food chain.

They all underestimate me. Think I am nothing.
Ha! They don't know that their ridiculing actually fills me up.
Each fall is a reason for me to rise.

There is possibility for me to die. Everyday.
But I know, now is not my time.
Each day is a challenge. A new beginning.
I know where I want to be.

I smell success.
I can taste it.
But how will I get there?
That is a question I ask myself everyday.

The world laughs at me.
Says I'm stupid. Ugly. Worthless.

I will show them. I will win. I will conquer.

Every night I go to bed. Exhausted.
But I wake up invigorated.
I know my purpose.
And I will rise.
To the top.

The Abdulgader

From Google Images

by Abdulgader (Libya)

Our life.
Easy. Difficult.
Everything makes us either annoyed or comfortable.

What do I want?
What do I need?

If you are a hard worker, nothing is impossible.
Even small animals works to feed herself
or for her children to grow up being joyful one day.

Start in the morning until late in the evening.
Ants. People. Elephants. Bees
They like to try many difficult things in their lives.

The more you jump, the more you grow.

Don't give your heart to the hopeless.
Keep going to the top.
Nothing is impossible.

Larger than its Marwan

From Google Images
Larger than its size
by Marwan (Libya)

This picture is very expressive (it carries good meaning). It talks about the ant. It's a small animal, but it has incredible activity. It works all the time and does not feel bored.

This picture teaches us how to work without boredom and to face challenging difficulties.

The ant works hard and co-operates with each other to build their castle and storage for food.

The meaning? The ant has a job that is larger than its size.

It still has the Mustafa

From Google Images

It still has the power
by Mustafa (Libya)

The picture appears how the ant is working. How it lives in the desert. On the rocks. Besides the sea, on the beach...and it still has the power until sunset.

It tried to live in hard areas and with multiple difficult interventions, like who can get her food and living facility?

It is an amazing picture and I hope that the human must know how difficult it is to get a good life without hard work.

No pain. No gain.

I won't Mohamed

From Google Images
I won't surrender
by Mohamed (Libya)

I can see the ant.
It will try to do something difficult.
With the end of the day, it keeps trying
...and it's tomorrow.

It's a new day.
And I will try again.
So whatever.
I will try again and again.

And I won't surrender.
Every day is a new start.

If the world doesn't support me,
I can support myself.

When I fail in something,
I try to go to the top.
I will try and I will do.
Finally, I do.

Nothing is impossible.
I am possible.

No pain.
No gain.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Let me go with Mohi

Many know that I can gush about my students. But who can blame me? At the best of times, they produce little pieces of treasure, like the one I'd like to share in this post. I beam with pride and want to share it with as many as I can.

I have a group of students who meet me on a weekly basis. For a set period of time, we all (myself included) write on a given topic / prompt. My purpose is not to improve grammar or "teach" so to speak. I do this because I want my students to see words as I do. I want them to see that words are powerful. If used correctly, they can lift off a page and dance around - evoking all kinds of emotions.

For this particular piece, I gave students the first line, which they would have to continue writing on.
They all did so well, but I'd like to share one in particular today. Very well-written, Mohi!

by Mohidin Amar Esaadi (31/07)
"Darling, it's beautiful...thank you!"

Oh, my dear. You always surprise me. 
Do you believe me? I always wished for this gift, especially from you.

You are so late to arrive at my party. 
It was so boring without you, but now -  I forgive you.

My love, you are inside me...reading my thoughts, my feelings. 
You suspect my reaction to everything.

You have all the keys of the doors to my heart, running inside me like blood.
You are my world. My air. My spirit. 
I'm with you felling love, stability, peacefulness. 
Feeling like I have everything. 

Without you, I'm lost in this world feeling alone and sad. 

What are you doing to me?
Who are you?

Are you breathing like us (people)?
Eating when you're hungry, drinking when you're thirsty?
I don't think so. Maybe you are an angel from the sky. 

Let me go with you...far away from this sad world. 
Maybe to the moon.