I am positively thrilled that my latest guest blogger is the incomparable, slightly eccentric and enormously prolific Sean Banville.
Anyone in the ELT world who is not familiar with Sean’s amazing website BreakingEnglishNews.com should go there immediately. Sean has solved the problem that dogs all ELT teachers – how to turn current news stories into useful language teaching material. He writes lesson plans based on breaking news events. Not only that, he publishes them within hours – no, within MINUTES – of the news story breaking.
You can bet your bottom dollar that, should Colonel Gaddafi fall from power, Sean will have a 20-page lesson plan ready before Muammar’s plane lands in Caracas.
Sayings that work
There are many sayings that we learn, come across, are told, etc, throughout our life, starting from when we are children. I never really gave them much thought when I was younger. I never really got too excited about whether a stitch in time saved nine, two or nothing. I was equally indifferent to whether a miss was as good as a mile, a metre or an inch. I always thought these adages, maxims, proverbs, etc. were simply stuff from books that people said to each other in situations when they couldn’t think of something interesting to say.
This was until I set about creating the first of my ten websites (OK – one’s a blog). Suddenly, every time I came across a saying, it was perfect for providing me with confidence to go on when things were going wrong, sometimes horribly wrong. It’s amazing how they have all proven to be so very true.
These quotes and motivational phrases have spurred me on to create ten websites, and then buy the domain names for eighteen more.
I’ll share some of them with you in this guest post for the equally motivating Ken.
Just Do It (Nike)
Even though I can’t slam-dunk, sink a birdie or break the four-minute mile, this is my favourite saying – AND you don’t have to be good at sport to adhere to it. I DID just do it. In early 2004, I had a brainwave about becoming an instant millionaire via a website I would call BreakingNewsEnglish. I gave up a good job in Japan to just do it, and then watched my life savings and hair disappear.
The site made no money. I am not a millionaire. I lost my house and life in Japan and left the country completely broke and almost bald. But…just doing it worked. Five years later, I have ten websites that I hope will keep me just doing something until retirement and beyond. If an idea you think is fantastic ever pops up in your head, Just Do It. Or put your money where your mouth is, take the bull by the horns (because fortune favours the bold) and walk the walk after talking the talk – In for a penny, in for a pound.
You Can Do It (My Dad)
My Dad told me this throughout my younger days. It was great to have his confidence in me when my own in myself was often missing. These words were and are the most important for me in this post.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
I knew my website would be a success from the moment the idea came to me. My head instantly flooded with ideas about website design, slogans, lesson plans and marketing. The problem was I had never made a website before and knew nothing about marketing. I bought a “how-to-make-a-website” book and did all of the lessons in it three times each.
The first hurdle was over. There were hundreds more to follow – how to set up a domain name, how to upload a website, how to make an RSS file, what to do when your website disappears….
Some of these gave me major panic attacks. I remember one anxiety-ridden Sunday evening about a month after my site went live when it “disappeared” from the Web. I thought life as I knew it had ended. I woke up in the morning and checked my URL, and there it was. I’ve since learned that whatever problem arises, there is always a way to get over it if you have the will.
Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight (Japanese Proverb)
I like this saying. It’s the Japanese equivalent of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This most applies to my initial attempts at creating my first web pages. Everything looked OK on the design page but then took on Picasso-esque dimensions when I looked at it in a browser. It sometimes took several dozen times to figure out why images didn’t appear where I wanted them or why my 8 x 6cm table was 2cm wide and 20cm deep. The same with my RSS files. It took weeks to find out that an apostrophe in the code of RSS means the whole thing will not appear in your browser, that you must put “'” in place of the apostrophe. Patience is a virtue. Tomorrow is another day. I don’t even notice the falling nowadays. My knees are now nicely hardened and spring me right back up.
A Thousand-Mile Journey Starts With a Single Step (Confucius or Lao Tzu?)
Not sure which one said it, but another favourite of mine. This really does make any project seem so doable no matter how big or daunting it might initially seem.
I first realized this when I decided on the title of my eBook, “1,000 Ideas and Activities for Language Teachers,” and gulped. I thought it’d take me years. I did my first 10, 15, 20 activities and then soon realized that 20 a day would only take 50 days and then hey presto, you’re done. After that, everything was a numbers game.
I decided to start my ESL Discussions site started with 500 pages, each with 20 questions about different topics – Fifty questions a day for 3 months and hey presto I was done again. The most important thing really is take that first step, no matter how long the journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Make your steps regular and, hey presto, you’ve journeyed the thousand miles. Great oaks from little acorns grow.
Every Wall Is A Door (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
How many times have you thought something was impossible to do, then you did it, and then became so confident a whole new world opened up and people thought you were an expert on it? This has happened numerous times while making my websites and teaching using technology. Websites were once a wall for me, now they are doors. The same goes for most technology.
100% Of The Shots You Don’t Take Don’t Go In (Wayne Gretzky)
You never know until you try. Again, it’s a numbers game – the more you try, the more successes you’ll have. A rolling stone gathers no moss, eh? Make hay as the sun shines because as you sow, so shall you reap, and that. No pain, no gain and nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The World Is Your Oyster (Adapted from William Shakespeare)
It took me a long time to realize how true this is. When I was growing up, my world was the small town around me. It was expected I’d go to school and then get a job – any job. No one really told me there was a whole world out there and I could see it all and be whatever I wanted in it.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, my cousin went on a school trip to Egypt. I remember thinking this was unbelievably amazing. I knew I would never, ever be rich enough to go to Egypt. From the age of eleven, I decided to be an accountant because I had heard accountants were rich.
Then I went to university (studied accountancy) and understood the world really was something to explore. Fortunately, I was poor enough to go to Egypt – backpacking on a budget. Went to 46 other countries, too.
I also knew when the idea of BreakingNewsEnglish entered my head that it would take me places, and it has. I’ve even made it onto Ken’s blog 🙂
As a parent, this is all useful experience and knowledge. My nine-year-old son wants to be a marine biologist – He knows he can be the best – I’ve told him. My eight-year-old daughter wants to be a rabbit when she grows up. I’ve told her to start hopping now. I know she’ll hop with the best of them.
Go Confidently In The Direction Of Your Dreams (Henry David Thoreau)
I’ll leave you to reflect on this one. It’s a real goodie, and it works.
Sean is webmaster/materials writer of ten different websites including Breaking News English.com, Business English Materials.com, Listen A Minute.com, ESL Discussions.com, Famous People Lessons.com and ESL Holiday Lessons.com. He started his first site in 2004 after creating news lessons for many years for his students in Japan. Ideas for a further 27 sites soon popped up and eight of these are now online.
Sean started teaching in Japan in 1993. He spent thirteen years there before moving to the UAE to teach at a government college for tertiary education in 2006. He also blogs, tweets and messes around with educational technology. He’s very happy when he’s with his two young children and when Arsenal Football Club win matches.