Animal Hybrids – Animators, Animals, and ELT

Each remaining English class at Film School Zlín (closing down in summer) is a blessing for me. I try to treasure it with my whole heart and I’m blessed with students who actually make it very easy.

My first year animation students had a trip to the great Zlín ZOO last week to observe and draw animals. There was no English class, as they were spending the whole day there. Having heard about the planned trip the previous week, I decided to do a class on the natural world, making the lesson, as well as the upcoming trip, relevant to both English and animation. We spent some time at the end of the lesson discussing the possibility of creating animal hybrids – a unique cross of any two species, with special qualities inherited from the parent species, with unique features.

The students left the class with a form, which you can see below, so that they could use it for observations in the ZOO and create their own animal hybrid, with detailed description and, hopefully, a drawing. I was hoping it would inspire them, but I had no idea what I would end up getting back.

Thanks to my students’ wonderful creativity, perceptiveness and love of drawing, the result exceeded all my expectations.

What follows are a few examples of what I got from them today. We spent two hours comparing, discussing and being entertained by these, making up stories, adding weird and wonderful details to each creature’s characteristic.

To quietly observe the inspiration flowing freely in the classroom was one of the main reasons why I love what I do.  Two weeks ago, it was a simple idea. Thanks to my students’ love of what they do, this is what it has grown into:

RISH -- Rattus cyprinus

RISH - Description

TIGLE -- Tigris accipitrida

BEECAT -- Apoidea felis

OCTOFFE -- Octoffe erectus

OCTOFFE - Description

SNORSE --Serpentes ferus

SNORSE - Description

NOCERON -- Rhinocerotidae leo hominini

Thanks, everyone! Can’t wait to see more marvels from you;)


Surpr@ise Day in Košice: How the magic happened.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vlaďka Michálková (@vladkaslniecko) and Chuck Sandy (@chucksandy) (both at iTDiInternational Teacher Development Institute) did just that and organised an unforgettable event in Košice.

Vlaďka and Chuck’s passion and willingness to make a difference created enough gravitational pull to allow magic to happen – the magic of planting seeds in unexpected, surprising places, allowing motivated teachers to motivate teachers to motivate other teachersand so on, ad infinitum, so that teachers could make a difference themselves, too.

Yes, far too many teachers consider themselves as far too ordinary to be able to make a difference.

What Vlaďka and Chuck showed is that making a difference is in everyone’s capacity. They planted a seed – almost at the borderline of interest of the mainstream ELT world, by inviting teachers in and by letting their inspiring energy do its magic.

For a day, Štátna jazyková škola in Košice turned into a beautiful garden where professional development by teachers and for teachers happened in a way that was previously unavailable, even unheard of, for most teachers in the region. It would have remained unavailable, had it not been for the willingness to plant seeds of inspiration by a couple of teachers who decided to change things for the better.

From the eloquent, enthralling and intimate opening by Luke Meddings (@LukeMeddings) on the power of visual arts in the classroom, right down to the moving, mesmerizing closing talk by Chuck on the power of planting seeds of motivation, the day was an incredible experience that still feels almost unreal.

With contributions from Lenka (@LenkaPelikan, Czech Republic), Barbara (Hungary), Alexandra (Russia), Terry (UK), Katerina (SK) and, of course, Vlaďka and Chuck, a couple of weeks ago, it would have all seemed like wishful thinking.

I wouldn’t have imagined meeting these wonderful people in person, in Košice, let alone dream of sharing a spot in the same programme with them.

Click to see the programme and list of presenters at the Surpr@ise Day Košice

My poor phone camera does little justice to the reality of this weekend, but I don’t suppose any camera would capture its beauty anyway.

Some things will stay in my mind for a very long time: the intimate and warm atmosphere and the magic of our “non-stop Pension” accommodation, hidden away in a quiet street in the heart of Košice. Meeting Chuck at the Košice bus station and sharing a pre-event evening walk and dinner with Vlaďka, Lenka, Barbara, waiting for Luke and Alexandra to arrive.

The fact that Alexandra made it to Košice all the way from Moscow, despite all the impossible administrative obstacles getting visa to Slovakia and that we could all sing her a happy birthday, sharing a meal after the event in a homely little restaurant with traditional Slovak cuisine.

Above all, the conversations. The feeling of a connection, of meeting with people for the first time and yet, feeling like meeting good friends and doing meaningful, or silly things. Seeing how we all prepared our items in the programme alone, and yet, feeling they were all connected with a common thread that bound them together.

There will be more photos from other sources, soon, I’m sure, but I’d like to share these three. I took all of them at night, with my poor old phone camera. Their grungy, underground feel is telling and it creates a wonderful contrast to the glorious, sunny Saturday when the Surpr@ise Day took place.

This was guerrilla teacher development.


The front of the nocturnal “Non-stop Penzión”. Chuck Sandy ‘behind bars’.

The seeds have been planted, with infinite possibilities.

Many thanks Vlaďka and Chuck for making it happen and many thanks Luke, Lenka, Barbora, Alexandra, Terry, Katerina and everyone at Štátna jazyková škola in Košice for an incredible day of Surpr@ising in Košice.

Hope to hook up again soon;)

Wake up, teacher.

It’s happening.

and it’s happening now – there’s no future perfection to wait for. All there is, and all there ever will be, is here and now.

I used to think the real aim of professional development was to wake up the ideal future teaching self that was sleeping inside me. One day, by a process of trial and error, I would allow it to thrive and blossom. I used to think that the present was only a preparation for the future, for the Real Teacher Me that would come later.

One day, perhaps. But not now, not yet.

In some way, it was true. The present moment was, and always should be, seen as a possibility to open up future possibilities, by learning, preparing, trying things out.

However, what I then became to realise was that the ideal teacher self wasn’t something to wait for, nor was it something to save until it was ready.

It was, always has been, there – available in each present moment I lived through.

The present moment is the only real opportunity to be as perfect, as ideal, as we possibly can.  There’s no need to wait, no need to hold back for fear of failure. Imperfection is as natural and beautiful in the ideal as it is in a da Vinci painting.

Professional development and perfection are happening right now, hand in hand. There is no universal, one-size-fits all, Ideal Teacher that we should strive to become, and no blueprint for perfection.

By reflecting, observing, learning, contemplating, experiencing, imagining new possibilities, creating, enjoying and doing one’s best, we can be the best we can now.

Professional development is about obtaining, owning, and personalising skills. It’s about learning to use them as only you, I, or each and every other person would use them, each in our own, special way.

Professional development is about opening up to the possibility of being ideal – right now.