From ladders to mountains – cutting Demand High down to size

A Muse Amuses

This is a talk that I first did at the Macmillan Annual Conference at the Anglo on Saturday May 11th 2013.  I then repeated it as a workshop at International House in Buenos Aires on Friday 31st May 2013 at our weekly interschool teacher development meeting.


IH Facebook photo

They were two very different and very worthwhile experiences and they both showed different ways in which using the ‘Demand High’ meme (as Adrian and Jim suggest we call it) can be a very powerful reflection tool for teachers of all experiences in all contexts.


First of all, in Montevideo, Hitting the Heights was much more of a talk, since there were around 300 people present and we were in an auditorium at a conference, so the set up was very talk-oriented.  Hence the use of the following slides, which you can access here: Hitting the Heights

But let me talk you through them…

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A trip down memory lane with Martin Eayrs

ImageMartin Eayrs has posted a fascinating trip down memory lane, nostalgically recalling the early years of International House Buenos Aires on his Blip…forty years is a long time!

Definitely worth a read as we celebrate 60 years of International House…

And remember if, like Martin, you started out with IH, then please do sign up to our Alumni list so we can keep you up to date with all things IH – free teacher development workshops and conferences, free resources, competitions and just keeping in contact with the IH teaching community…

See you at an IH event soon!  Let us know if you use one of the IH60 lessons…

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Happy 60th Birthday International House! Lots of teaching presents for everyone, as Neil outlines here in another of his series of blog posts about the IATEFL 2013 conference in Liverpool last week.

A Muse Amuses

So IATEFL  2013 has come to an end and all of the delegates have left Liverpool.

But in many ways the conference is only just beginning.  Now there’s more time to read and reflect, to revisit and review, to draw conclusions and put into practice.  I hope to continue doing this throughout the rest of April.  But for today I’d like to show you the best bit of the conference for me, in case you didn’t have the chance to visit it – the International House World stand!


The reason being this year International House celebrates its diamond jubilee – 60 years since John and Brita Haycraft set up the first school in Cordoba, Spain.  We’ve come a long way since then and to celebrate we’re giving away lots of fabulous presents to teachers, as well as giving you lots of fabulous opportunities to contribute yourselves and get your students…

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Hits and misses from the IATEFL Day One ‘pool

Neil’s following the IATEFL conference from afar – Sandy, Maggie, Penny and Delia vie for his attention…

A Muse Amuses


So as promised, here’s what I got out of Day One at IATEFL. To be honest it feels like not very much, since I haven’t had much time to dedicate to it at all – just a few visits to twitter and a quick read through a few emails. I was hoping to watch the plenary session by David Crystal when I got home but then I got distracted by an irrational urge to make Delia’s braised red cabbage to go with the left overs from last night’s beef. Sorry, David, I promise I’ll watch it very soon (I have it on in the background as I write this). Here it is if you’d like to join me…

Congratulations too, David, on your new website launched today as well: something else to bookmark and come back to. Although I was all ready to explore The Memors until I…

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I’ve never been to IATEFL…

Neil’s following IATEFL for us, join him for some tip top professional development from the biggest EFL conference of the year…

A Muse Amuses

My 16-year-and-counting career has had its ups (I’ve just finished a fabulous intensive DELTA course and am about to write a synchronous online Delta Module One course) and downs (at the last count I’ve made about 26 trainees / students cry on my courses / in my classes) , highs (I’ve got the longest title in ELT – International House World Organisation Academic Coordinator for Resources and Director of Studies Support)and lows (I’m responsible for co-ordinating IHWO’s Live Online Workshops), ins (I’m a member of the Delta-and-Lancelot-qualified-and-working–in-South-America group of one) and outs (I’ve never slept with a fellow IH teacher)2, but in 15 years of EFLing I’ve never been to IATEFL.


This year’s conference kicks off tomorrow of course and I’m not going.  But, since various moons are colliding…

…I have a ‘slow’ week at work

I haven’t blogged much yet…

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Celebrating the success of the Olympics Opening with a reading lesson for B1 to C2

Wasn’t the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games brilliant?  Danny Boyle and those thousands of volunteers did a fabulous job keeping us entertained for over three hours on Friday night, revelling in the best of British music, history and culture. 

Why not share the brilliance with your students through this reading lesson, based on the BBC  review of the event. 


Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Students

Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Teachers


Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Lesson Plan

and your off!

Hope your students and you enjoy it.  Let us know what you think.

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The Post-CELTA Joys of teaching in Jujuy by Emily Droege

Hi Neil and Fran!

After just over a year in AR (a fabulous year!), I’ve just returned to my home near Albuquerque New Mexico.  I thought I’d give you all a quick update on what I’ve done with my CELTA.  

Emily and her TP group from May 2011

I kept teaching business English for American Forum in Capital Federal until December when my family came for a visit.  Then in January I moved to northwest AR.  At first I volunteered at a youth camp and did a bit of sightseeing until I found work at a couple of English institutes in San Salvador de Jujuy.  I loved it!  That move was the best thing I could have done.  Life has a much slower pace up there, everyone was extremely open and friendly, and the landscapes are just awe-inspiring.  

Awe-inspiring landscapes of Jujuy

People were delighted to have a native speaker as their teacher and I had abundant opportunities to work on my Spanish as I was living with a Jujueño family.  I taught a bit of everything–beginning English for 7-11 year olds, general English intermediate for professional adults, and upper-intermediate for adolescents.  My favorite was definitely the kids even though I was pretty limited in terms of classroom and resources.  Much as I loved being in Jujuy, however, I’ve now returned to the US to complete my elementary teacher certification, hopefully with TESOL and bilingual endorsements…we’ll see how that goes.

Emily’s students on a trip to England

The director of one of the institutes in Jujuy said she would love to employ more native speakers or arrange some kind of cultural exchange if you have any graduates interested in teaching in other provincias.  

I highly recommend the school–it was a delight to work there, not just personally but professionally as well.  Of the three institutes I taught at (one in BsAs and two in Jujuy), this institute was by far the most organized.  Pay is competitive (better than what I generally saw offered in BsAs!) and timely.  Classes are small, up to 8 students, and even though the institute is young they are well equipped with resources and technology.

I hope you’re both doing well in BsAs.  

Best regards,


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IH Teachers Online Conference – 50 years of IH Teacher Training

On Friday 25th May teachers from all of the IH schools around the world (over 150 in over 50 countries) will be coming together online to share experiences and knowledge and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first IH teacher training course, which took place at IH London in June 1962. 

If you work for Intermational house, you can find out everything you need to know about the conference here:

If you are a friend of International House, you studied with us in thepast or used to work with us, then you are invited to attend the plenary sessions:

10.00 GMT Things to do in your summer holiday by Shaun Wilden

Many schools are reaching the end of their academic year and while work may be the last thing on teachers’ minds as they head off for the summer, now is a good time to consider your CPD plan. CPD seems to be one of the buzzwords of this year in ELT. In case you don’t know CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development; a term for the process of taking responsibility for your own development as a teacher.  With the continued growth of the Internet as a teaching resource you can now attend conferences and workshops online, get easy access to research and enjoy the benefits of a global staffroom. Living in digital times means that it has never been easier to find a CPD path that best suits you as a teacher. IH world recognizes this fact and has recently launched a new initiative to help teachers plan their CPD through their career. This talk aims to open the door to self-access CPD, introduce you to our new scheme and give you some ideas for filling the hours either of your summer holiday or simply until your next class!

Shaun’s Bio

Shaun has been involved in English language teaching for over twenty years. He is currently the International House World Organisation Teacher Training Coordinator but also works as a freelance teacher trainer. Apart from that he maintains several online teaching sites including and is interested in the application of technology to teaching.  He is a moderator ELTon nominated  twitter #eltchat group which meets every Wednesday to discuss issues and ideas in ELT and membership secretary of the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG. Feel free to follow him @shaunwilden or read his blogs and  When not sitting at a computer, Shaun enjoys growing food in his garden and then cooking it.

13.00 GMT The Decline and fall of coursebooks? by Simon Greenall

Coursebooks not only continue to get written, but continue to get written about and written off with equal regularity. The Decline and Fall of Coursebooks? will consider the present day polemic in favour of and against coursebooks, and set it against a review of their recent past history. It will examine the dilemmas and compromises which coursebook publishing and writing face today and in the future.

Simon’s Bio:

Simon Greenall has been an ELT textbook writer since 1982, is a past president of IATEFL and is currently an IH Trustee.  He has published many books including exam material, adult and secondary courses, as well as radio and television programmes for the BBC. Since 2000 he has been co-editor in chief of textbook series for Chinese primary, junior high and senior high schools and universities. He also works as a consultant to the ministry of education in Palestine on the teaching of English in state schools. He has given workshops and conference presentations in 45 countries.

17.00 GMT Surviving through songs – words of wisdom for NQTs by Neil McMahon 

The first year or two of teaching post-CELTA or teaching college are usually a wave of hits and misses, successes and insecurities.  In Surviving through song, we’ll look for words of wisdom from the best of the last fifty years of music that will help make our early (and not so early) days of teaching a more comfortable and rewarding experience as we continue to grow as teachers.  At the same time we’ll see a variety of ways of exploiting songs in class to promote engaging and personalised skills and language work and get the students thinking as well as singing.

Neil’s Bio:

As IHWO Academic Coordinator for Resources and DoS Support, Neil is responsible for developing and editing resources and materials for schools across the International House affiliate network, while supporting DoSes of IH schools in their day to day work.  Neil was a DoS himself for four and a half years, at IH Belgrano, Buenos Aires, before moving across town to become a full-time teacher trainer at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training.  He also tutors various IHWO courses on OTTI and gives conference presentations for both IH and Macmillan.  Before arriving in Argentina at the beginning of 2002 he worked in Prague for four years, where he began teaching and working for IH.   If he ever gets a break from the above jobs, he loves going for a run, watching football, cricket and opera, eating out or relaxing at home with his wife, two cats, a good book and an Argentine red, all of which he then records for posterity on his blog at

If you sign up to receive our alumni newsletter you will be sent all the information you need in order to attend these sessions.

You can also follow events at the conference online leading up to and on the day by following the Twitter hashtag #IHTOC50.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Spring 2012 edition of the IH journal out now!

We are very pleased to be sending you the spring edition of the IH Journal – issue 32.   In this issue we have included the new special interest columns – Developing teachers and Young Learners.
The contents page below will give you a taster of what you can find in Issue 32

Celebrating 50 years of teacher training

Classroom Matters

  • Listening and self-access: a perfect partnership – Arizio Sweeting
  • Politeness and pragmatics in NNS interactions – Chia Suan Chong
  • Surviving your first year as an ELT teacher: what the CELTA doesn’t prepare you for as a NQT – Lewis Waitt

 Management Matters

  • Delegation – Letting go or losing control? – Maureen McGarvey

 Teacher Training and Development

  • The first ever IH Teachers’ online conference: ‘a proud moment in IH history!’ – Alastair Grant
  • Observations on observations – Chris Ożóg
  • IH CPD scheme – Shaun Wilden
  • Leaving a mark – Colin Barnett

Special Interest Columns

  • Young Learners – Kylie Malinowska, IHWO YL Advisor
  • Developing Teacher – Sandy Millin, IH Newcastle

Speak Out series – reviewed by Stefano Federici, IH Rome Manzoni
Digital Play – reviewed by Shaun Wilden, IHWO
Communicative activities for EAP – reviewed by Norman Cain, IH Rome Manzoni
Teaching the pronunciation of ELF – reviewed by Chia Suan Chong, IH London

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Two Years On – looking back on my CELTA experience

Lorraine Kipling, who took the CELTA with us in August 2009, looks back on her experience and how it helped during her first two years of teaching:

My CELTA training experience at IH Belgrano was entirely positive. Of course it was stressful at times, but that was to be expected.  Anyone who says they got through the CELTA month without the occasional wave of anxiety either has nerves of steel or pants on fire. Looking back, it makes me smile to think of the hours spent scrutinising the planning for a brief practice lesson. Oh for the luxury of such time in the real world! During training, however, there is so much to take in, and the intensity of being a trainee was both exciting and exhausting. It was also an invaluable introduction into a professional and communicative approach to teaching which I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Although I ultimately ended up back in the UK to get stable teaching experience, I am very glad that I chose to take the CELTA course at IH Belgrano. In addition to living abroad and immersing myself in a different culture, an experience which I would recommend to anyone considering becoming an English teacher, it was also useful for logistical reasons. For me, relocating to a new country meant that that I had to arrange my resources in advance, so that I would be able to dedicate my time to training. I didn’t want to be tempted by paid work, and being abroad also minimised other distractions that may have arisen had I stayed at home. I truly admire those who are able to train part time while continuing their day jobs, but I’m very glad I chose the full-time option abroad.

One thing I would have planned differently, though, is that I would have given myself more time to adapt to life in BA. Regrettably, I arrived just two days before starting the course. I was fortunate in that my fellow trainees were all lovely, and we would go out to eat or attempt tango lessons together at the weekends. However, the intensity of the course prevented too much socialising or tourism, and by the time I finished, I felt that I still hadn’t fully seen all that BA has to offer. I would certainly recommend that future trainees who are able take an extra week, or month, to get to know the city a little before the CELTA lockdown takes over.

In the end, I did get to see more of Buenos Aires. When CELTA was over, I got work with three different agencies teaching in-company at various locations around the city. I can’t count the number of times I crossed 9 de Julio in a week, dashing from class to class. In contrast to the stability of classroom teaching I had experienced at International House, this type of work wasn’t for me, and so, after putting my time in, I decided to look for positions outside of BA. That’s how I ended up back in the UK, and I am happy to say that I have been working in a very supportive Academy for over two years now.

I cannot stress how valuable it has been to find work in a supportive environment where I have continued to develop my teaching skills and build on the foundation CELTA provided me. To a teacher fresh out of CELTA, it can be very tempting to accept whatever work is offered, but I would earnestly recommend that people think about what is best for them as a teacher, and what they want to do with their teaching in both the short and long term. For me, though I had not imagined the CELTA would take me back to the UK, it has been the best thing that could have happened in terms of my progression as a teacher.

I am now thinking about working abroad again, and am doing so with confidence in my abilities as a teacher and an eagerness to continue developing my skills. One of my colleagues once said that CELTA is not just a teaching qualification; it’s a licence to learn how to teach. I couldn’t agree more.

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