Seeing, Singing, and Sharing

In this issue we present classic posts on Seeing, Singing, and Sharing by Chuck Sandy, Nina Septina, and Vladimira Chalyova. Please, read, enjoy, and share.

Chuck Sandy
Chuck Sandy
Nina Septina
Nina Septina
Vladimira Chalyova
Vladimira Chalyova


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A Magic Musical Path – Nina Septina

A magical, musical pathNinaSeptina

– Nina Septina

Music is the language of the universe. It links people all over the globe by breaking limits and going beyond boundaries. It’s all around us, it’s in the atmosphere. No one can avoid music communicating through their heart and mind, speaking to their souls. Life has given meanings to songs they sing. Many people can’t live without music; I am one of them.

Music has greatly influenced me throughout my English learning history. Listening to English songs a lot, trying to sing along with them, writing the lyrics myself, composing my own songs, and playing music in a band were some of the things I enjoyed doing while I was a teenager. Though now I have given up playing with the band, those musical experiences have contributed deep-seated changes to my English and shaped the way I teach my students. In class, music has always been good company for me and my students when doing activities. And finally this passion for music unexpectedly became my first ride on my professional development journey and brought me to a role I didn’t previously envisage.


It all began when I taught a group of university students back in 2009. Music bestowed its energy on bringing us closer together in our first meeting. The ice was melted as I played my guitar and asked them to sing along. Nonetheless, later on the next meeting I found out these students had a problem with their English pronunciation and fluency. Their unclear pronunciation made it difficult to grab the meanings of words they were saying. It was hard for them to even to say one single sentence smoothly. Pauses of hesitation were everywhere, making sure the intonation didn’t come out right.

I knew I had to do something. Knowing we had a common interest in music, I tried using its power as a way out of this problem. I reflected on my own musical journey and I believed that by engaging them with a “thing” that tickled their fancy they’d enjoy their learning more! Another consideration was the plausible theory that songs present opportunities to improve pronunciation and accelerate fluency, which are the main cognitive reasons for using chants in language classrooms.

Thus in almost every meeting we had a special session for around 20-30 minutes where we sang English songs together. I started it with an easy pop song and continued giving them more challenging songs with more vocalizations. By varying the drilling techniques, students didn’t get bored. On the contrary, they seemed enthusiastic. Furthermore, they would leave the class humming or singing the song we practiced. Some students also told me that they couldn’t help singing the songs outside the class as those melodies and lyrics got stuck in their heads. I said to myself, wow, they drilled the language themselves, effortlessly! They could remember the lyrics, the chunks, and the intonation patterns fast. The repetitive exercise gave them the chance to memorize both words and pronunciation well.

At the end of the term, I distributed questionnaires to see how students perceived this treatment. The results revealed that students were pleased to be able to sing in class. This, according to them, had revolutionized their usual classroom routines; they also stated that their English had improved, especially in terms of pronunciation and fluency. And furthermore, students demanded to continue this singing treatment in the next term. In addition to this, I also observed their progress reports and was startled when I saw they could really make an improvement in their pronunciation and fluency as shown in the average class scores.


My supervisor encouraged me to put this case into a research paper. This was quite a challenge to me, as I had never done anything like this before. Moreover, hitherto I found writing as the most challenging task for me compared to the other skills. However, I took up the challenge and I made myself believe that this would be as challenging and at the same time intriguing as writing a music piece, and I would enjoy this as much as I musically enjoyed writing verses for my very own song.

Eventually I finished my first research paper and it got accepted for a presentation at the TEFLIN International Conference. At this conference, I met some inspiring people who then escorted me to see the bigger world. A world of wonders in which I could meet many more great people online and offline and build my PLN. This was something I had never imagined before. My musical journey has brought me here, on a pathway where I’ll go, grow and glow with others in iTDi, becoming a better me, personally and professionally. – Nina Septina


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Learning to See – Chuck

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please   — Chuck Sandy


When I first came to Japan, I lived in Tokyo and worked not too far from where I’m sitting now in the Ginza area of Tokyo. For several years, I’d finish classes and head to Ginza to wander the streets. I can honestly say that I’ve never been lost in Ginza– until this morning.

Yesterday, I traveled to Tokyo from rural Japan for a conference.  As usual when I’m in Tokyo, I booked a hotel in Ginza but this time reserved a room at a new hotel – a few blocks from where I usually stay. This morning, I woke up there with a lot on my mind and went for a walk.  I had no destination in mind. All I wanted to do was walk. I confirmed the check out time. 11 AM.  I had two hours to wander and off I went.

As I walked, I thought about a loved one going through a difficult time, about a conversation I’d had in which I was unable to express my ideas clearly or kindly enough. Soon, I was remembering advice my father had once given me that would have been useful yesterday.  Meanwhile, I was reminding myself to email this person or call that one, thinking about this blog post and where I’d write it, and deciding what order I should do what.  That’s when I looked up and saw that it was 10:45 and I was lost.

I looked around for landmarks, spotted one, and headed in what I was sure was the right direction. It was the right direction, but while I was out construction workers had put scaffolding outside my hotel, making it look like nothing I’d seen before. I passed right by it in a panic.

I started mentally rehearsing the language I would use to explain why I was late checking out. What form of the verb should I use, and why hadn’t I just checked out before I went for a walk?  Why had I even booked this hotel? Gosh, Chuck, you’re such an idiot., I told myself.   While having this internal conversation, I walked by the hotel three times before asking a construction worker for directions.  “It’s right in front of you,” he said, “You’re looking at it.”

My internal chatter, my increasing panic, and my stored mental image of the hotel entrance had blinded me. I’d gotten lost inside myself.  It happens. It happens to all of us, and it happens frequently in the classroom.

I’m reading a book called The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. In this book, Singer writes about the voice inside all of us, about how that voice can get us to believe it is who we are and is reality itself. It’s not. “What voice?” I can hear you asking.   Say the word “hello” silently in your mind. Make your inner voice say “hello” several times.  Hear that? That voice.  Make it shout “hello” inside yourself. Make it say, “I’m not good at ______.”  No, stop. Don’t complete that sentence. Make the voice say, “I’m really good at ______.  Complete the sentence in different ways. Listen to yourself. Now, think about this.

Inside all of us, writes Singer,  “there is a voice talking, and there is you who notices the voice talking and you listening.” Are you the voice, the observer, or the listener?  Think about this and you’ll realize you are the one who listens, not the one who’s talking. You’ll also understand that your inner voice isn’t reality. It’s your mental model of reality and when you pay too much attention to it or let it get out of control, it can get you lost and panicky.

In the classroom, this is the voice that can say things like this isn’t working and that student is causing problems and I should have planned better and I’m not very good at …. .  Stop it.  You’re getting lost. Take a deep breath. Look for landmarks, spot one and head in that direction. Better yet, before you get to class, take some moments to quiet that voice.  At the very least, get it to tell you something good.

As always, I’m writing about something I’m trying to get better at myself. Obviously, I fail sometimes and wind up lost and panicky. What’s clear to me is that if I want to see clearly what really is, I’m going to have to keep working on this while telling myself this noisy chatter inside me is not me.  I am good enough. This IS going to be FUN. Now, will you please be quiet please? 

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Rules We Follow – Vladka

Rules, Principles, and Change  – Vladimira Chalyova

A rule, law, or regulation is a prescribed guide for action. That could be the definition you can get from any dictionary. For me, a rule is something that you try to keep in mind as a line that shouldn’t be crossed  — unless it is unavoidable.

There are two types of rules: rules people create consciously and set for others to follow and rules we form as we grow, learn and become aware of the world we live in. These are the rules we follow subconsciously. Or can I say we follow such rules at all? Isn’t it more what we call the way of life? And are not such rules in fact the principles we form our own lives around?

As a teacher, often seen as a leader, a decision maker and the ruler,I feel I have a responsibility and maybe even an authority over the space that is there in the learning environment and that can help learners create their own rules and principles —  not to control the situation and people. In this light, I want to share a rule that even though it was formed by someone else and was just passed on to me several years ago, I did internalize immediately. It hung on the wall of my office throughout all the years I spent at my first school and when I was leaving I intentionally left it on the wall to pass on the wisdom to a newcomer.

” Thou shall not steal the time of them that follow thee.”

There was, has been, and always will be something appealing about it. Now, let me share how that single rule changed for me over time, yet still suits me now as a teacher.

At first, I saw in it the time I am with my students and during which I should give them as much information, knowledge and advice as possible – to fill the lesson full!

Later on, when my own role in the class had changed, it started to resonate with something a bit different. The more I see students, the people who found the time to come, share and learn together, the less is that time about me in there. It has transformed to the time that’s their and for them to express themselves, to find their own ways and to form their own rules, principles and beliefs they feel content about and happy to apply outside the classroom as well.

I do not want to steal that time anymore.

Whether we’re talking about rules from the first or the second group of rules, over time we may find ourselves questioning them and may find them unsuitable for the present situation. That is the moment we can be called rule-breakers, inconsiderate or even insane.  That is the moment we look for change and a way to overcome a present situation that no longer allows us to grow. That’s when we change.

Some may have more of such moments in their lives, and some just a few. And the courage to deal with such moments may vary from person to person and time to time. Whatever the case may be for you, fear not.  Such moments help us form the new principles that we later go on to live through and abide by. They help us find our true path.