M.D. Notes

  • “It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes. ”

    -Andrew Jackson, Seventh U.S. President


    In general I would say that the world has a love/hate relationship with America. It tends to be more hate than love but there still remains a mix. However, I sincerely do not know how long the love will last. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

    - Bil Keane>


    Though I don’t subscribe to a particular religion, the above quote resonates deeply with me. One could easily substitute the word God if one were so inclined with many other words or phrases that also conjure up a similar notion of wholeness or connectedness. Today’s editorial focuses on a small part of my journey towards being more present in my everyday life. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.”

    - -Franklin D. Roosevelt>


    Franklin D. Roosevelt said the above words while gauging what his NEW DEAL economic and social programs aimed to achieve in the U.S. I think most of us would agree that both in the U.S.A. and even here in Portugal that we have been somewhat successful, at least social terms, in achieving a more inclusive society for all. (…)

    Posted , Author


  • Recently my daughter and I were in the car listening to a song sung by a male vocalist. At one point the singer said: “Wearing a headband, waiting for the seven, but not the trip…” The following conversation ensued…

    - “A boy with a headband??” – she said.

    - “Why not?” – I responded – “Probably he has long hair or maybe he believes it will make him look more handsome.” – My daughter didn’t look completely convinced. – “Just think of it like when you put on your earrings so that you look even more beautiful.” (As though that was even possible :))

    - “But I have never seen that before” – she persisted.” (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”

    - William Arthur Ward

    Languages Unlimited has a partnership with the municipal library in Torres Vedras. We started this partnership in 2014 and it involves us offering a story-telling session for children of various ages on a Saturday afternoon every few months. It is free and it always involves an activity. The kids who do show up for it always seem to enjoy both the book(s) and the activities. (…)

    Posted , Author


  • “Maybe I’m not a human being that has consciousness. Maybe I’m consciousness that is shaped into a human being.”

    - Jeff Lieberman


    The ESL tip this month refers to strategies to help learners remember when to use or not to use articles. You remember articles, right? The, A, or An… three little words that sole purpose is to differentiate something out from a wholeness whether it be in a specific, defining way (the = a definite article) or whether something is separated out in a more general way (a/an = indefinite articles). As a communicative tool, these articles come in handy to convey our thoughts, ideas and opinions. They are merely one small representation in the area of language and communication that we human-beings use to create this illusory notion that we are separate entities rather than just part of the whole. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi


    Recently I saw a very impressive TED TALK by Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was about the dangers of the single story, of having only one story as the basis of one’s understanding of a culture, a place, a people or even an individual. The lack of additional perspectives creates stereotypes, biases and prejudices. The writer talks about her own experiences of being seen through the eyes of others as someone coming from Africa… ‘a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”

    Posted , Author


  • “Abstention means you stayed at home or went to the beach. By casting a blank vote, you’re saying you have a political conscience but you don’t agree with any of the existing parties.”
    José Saramago

    While I was sifting through Facebook a couple of months ago, I came upon a link that a friend had posted. It was simply a checklist that followed the phrase ‘If Voting Didn’t Change Anything, We’d Still Have….’ The check-list included all the things that supposedly would not have changed if the public had not voted from ‘No women’s Rights’ to No Social Security’. Upon first glance, I liked it. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • I get it. Layoffs are carried out as necessary exercises in business. They obviously have to occur at times, especially in hostile economic climates such as we are living through now. Believe me, I get it. I have my own business.

    Theoretically, lay-offs are the result of business economics… a sort of ‘survival’ strategy for businesses in order to remain viable and to be able to keep afloat. They are not supposed to be taken personally by either the employer or the unfortunate employee. But, of course, we do take these things personally. How could we not? (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.
    That is the way of a whole human being.”
    Abraham Lincoln


    Anybody that knows anything about me really knows that I am a dog lover. In fact, I am an overall pet lover as seen by my family’s animal menagerie of three dogs, two cats, and two chickens. We consider each animal a family member – each with a name and a personality – contributing to our overall happiness in various ways whether it be by giving us that egg to fry or by giving us that extra nudge to take some exercise or by just the satisfaction of seeing how happy these furry and feathered friends are with simply a little cuddling and petting. These things bring me, my wife, and daughter joy. Isn’t that what life is all about? (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “Love shook my heart
    Like the wind on the mountain
    rushing over the oak trees.” –

    - Saphoo


    I am getting married this July! Yay! It is both a very exciting and stressful time. Exciting because, after all, what’s not exciting about a ceremony honoring and validating a relationship and the commitment to maintaining and nurturing that love between two people. Stressful because what isn’t stressful about organizing such an event. That is especially true if you grew up dreaming of fairy-tales and princesses and want to bring a bit of pure joy to that little girl within that has kept the ‘happy- ever -after’ torch alive for you for over forty years. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” –

    - Thomas Edison


    My intention has always been to eventually become fluent in Portuguese. Honestly! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time… since I first arrived at Lisbon airport back in 2001. I have given myself many mental deadlines to achieve this goal. However, I sit here today sadly typing my confession. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!”

    - Audrey Hepburn


    Following up on last month’s editorial concerning the long road ahead in the quest for women’s equality, I thought it was a good time to now explore issues related to women and girl’s self-image, specifically body image.

    Not so long ago I read an article about a woman who claimed that she loved growing older. She actually loved it! She believed that every wrinkle had its own story.

    Posted , Author

  • Perhaps I am just jaded and, of course, it is true that I don’t know a lot about politics. However, at this point in my life, I feel like it is impossible to find a politician that is able to keep his or her integrity intact, to stand by his or her moral aspirations despite extreme opposition. I am not necessarily saying that politicians have ‘flexible’ values or ethics that can easily fit to whatever the occasion. Although you have to sometimes wonder. :) No… the real problem seems to be that as politicians reach higher and higher positions where theoretically they could make a difference, they are constantly being blocked by powerful oppositional forces. This opposition chips away at their plans until all that is left is either a very watered down version or a completely changed version of an original good idea (e.g. Obamacare and Clinton’s Don’t ask, Don’t tell policies). (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.”

    - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

    INDEPENDENCE. One dictionary defines independence as ‘the freedom and ability to make your own decisions in life, without having to ask other people for permission, help, or money.’ I have been thinking about this word a lot lately, ever since one of my students mentioned (with all the best intentions) that I would be much more independent if I had my driving license. Whenever I’ve been told that (and I have been told that many times), a multitude of feelings arise within me. I feel guilty as though I have somehow failed to comply with society’s expectations. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

    - Nelson Mandela

    There are not many days that go by that I don’t still deeply grieve about those twenty young children who were viciously gunned down in Newton, Connecticut a year ago last December 14th. My soul literally shatters over and over again, often bringing me suddenly to tears in the most unexpected places…while riding a bus, decorating the Christmas tree, teaching a lesson. I try to keep my composure in more public situations but in more private situations, I allow the grief to manifest itself unimpeded. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

    - Nelson Mandela

    Following Nelson Mandela’s death last December 5th, we were showered with politicians from all over the world singing his praises. Although the words of these commemorations held undeniable and wonderfully impressive truths about the great, late statesman, I couldn’t help but feel a sense that several less-than-great politicians used the opportunity to ride Mandela’s coattails… to somehow share in his greatness as a hanger-on. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “When the last tree has fallen, when the last river has dried, when the last fish is caught, you will understand that we can´t eat money.”

    - Native American saying

    I´ve been thinking about this question lately. Actually I don´t have anything inherently against the technological advances and all the “perks” that many people have today. However, those that enjoy those perks are still a very small part of the immense planetary community. What I am against is the inequality within the distribution( or lack thereof) of these advantages as well as, the terrible destruction we are causing to our great home, Planet Earth, and to all the living things that inhabit it. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

    - Rodney Glen King (at an impromptu news conference in LA during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots)


    Recently some students and I were talking about Halloween. One student expressed irritation over the fact that so many Portuguese were starting to celebrate Halloween as they already had their own equivalent holiday, Pão de Deus, celebrated on November 1st. Despite the fact that both holidays have similar origins, I could sympathize. Though the traditions of any given country changes and alter to varying degrees over time, it is sometimes difficult to adjust when the changes seem counter to your happy memories and future anticipation of rituals that you have come to love. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Recently I viewed a TED TALK given by the psychologist, professor and editorial writer, Barry Schwartz, where he mentioned we should not only celebrate moral exemplars but also strive to be ones ourselves. Quite frankly, I was so inspired by his talk that I actually made reference to it in a statement that I was required to make for a recent application process. I have also shown it to many of my EFL groups and individual students in companies where I give training as well as, at the school. As this new month unfolds, I hope you too will watch his talk and be inspired by both the simplicity and common sense of his words. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Initially I thought September’s editorial would be a good time and place to plug the school, namely by bringing attention to our tutoring services. I thought the theme (directed at parents) would go something like this: WHY PUT OFF WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE STARTED YEARS AGO, WHEN YOU COULD START TODAY? Or perhaps something a bit milder like this typical cliché: THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM! Something catchy that would bring attention to not only the school but to a prevalent problem, namely of parents lack of interest in and /or commitment to their children’s education. From a business standpoint, I thought I would focus on how parents consistently wait till the last minute before getting their kids the help they need. The consequence is usually that the student still ultimately fails the exam or he/she passes (often barely) but hasn’t learned a thing

    (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “We all have different abilities, thought processes, experiences and genes – so why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?”

    – Suli Breaks


    To the Parents:

    We limit our children and youth. We limit them by placing more importance on results than process, by educating based on a hierarchy of subjects essentially based in benefitting an industrialized economic system (where the most useful subjects for work are at the top) and by glorifying academic ability while, often simultaneously, stigmatizing non-academic ability. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words
    and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”

    – in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King (1963)

    Following up on last month’s newsletter, I thought we’d continue to look at issues related to civil rights. As a human rights supporter (and sometimes activist), I can’t help myself. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • It is no secret that Portugal holds a predominately conservative image based in Catholicism. In my book, being conservative or liberal is fine as long as it does not infringe upon the bestowing of equal legal rights for all members of society. It’s when we allow biases (often religious-based) to dictate how legal rights will be doled out (usually unequally), that we tend to see the worst side of humanity. It is ironic as most religions uphold common attributes such as love and compassion as the high watermark of their teachings. Nevertheless, there are times when we see real progress, when governments are successful in keeping biases at bay long enough to squeak a civil rights bill by. May 17th 2013 was one of times. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • In our March newsletter, I wrote about the importance of learning phrasal verbs for the English language student. My experience has been that learners are generally resistant to expanding their knowledge in this area. I had mentioned that students found learning them difficult and I agreed. I have since changed my mind on one score. It remains true that learning them is imperative in order to really master the natural usage of the language. However, I now refuse to continue perpetuating the notion that they are difficult to learn because for many of you that too easily becomes distorted. It too easily becomes something more like this: learning phrasal verbs is practically impossible so really… why bother? (…)

    Posted , Author

  • “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

    – Maya Angelou

    This quote is wonderful in its simplicity and truth. When you read it, you think that it is so obvious you wonder why anyone would mention it. I’m hard press to find any problems that were ever solved by hate, but I’m constantly reminded in the many ways that hate has complicated and destroyed the lives of countless. All you have to do is turn on the news at night. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Students often complain about the difficulty of learning phrasal verbs (a.k.a. multi-word verbs). Rightly so. A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb (an action word like look, turn, put) and a preposition or adverb (a connecting word or two, like out, up, over) that gives the verb a new meaning. Therefore, one cannot necessarily understand the meaning of a phrasal verb based on its separate parts. In this sense, we can look at the meanings of most phrasal verbs as idiomatic. Sounds too complicated…why bother? (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.

    – John Dewey

    Furrowed deep inside me lives the little voice of a judge that constantly hands out rulings of either success or failure. Good job! You rock!! Or What were you thinking?? Loser! As an educator, I find that voice counter-productive because I both rationally and intuitively feel that failing is instructional and therefore, shouldn’t be judged in a negative sense but simply accepted as part of the overall learning process. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • I am full of joy and hope despite the grief I feel. In fact, more so because of it. As I sat down to write the first editorial for our first newsletter of 2013, I was at a loss. I had wanted to write something cheerful and upbeat for the first newsletter of 2013 but I couldn’t find a starting point. You see… I’ve been grieving the earthly loss of twenty innocent children and six heroic women, from the shooting massacre in Newton, Connecticut. The idea of being cheerful seemed almost wrong. Those children had walked into their classroom that day with the magic of Christmas on their minds. They were planning to make gingerbread houses. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Back in September, over half a million people marched in cities and towns across Portugal to protest against the government and its austerity measures. I was not surprised to learn that the protests were the largest here since the end of the dictatorship in 1974. Generally speaking, the Portuguese have never struck me as having that spirit of protest that I had been so accustomed to in the States (…)

    Posted , Author

  • What a wonderful saying and so true. You’d be hard pressed (have difficulty) to find a politician in the world that does not revert to some variation of the numerous types of ‘the children are our future’ sayings, especially when his/her country is affected by an economic crisis. Yet you would be even harder pressed to find a politician to really put his money where his mouth is (to do something rather than to just talk about it) in regards to the education of our children… especially during an economic crisis. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Last month I wrote about the importance of productive skills in language learning as an essential method of communicating. The productive skills (speaking and writing) are functional skills. They serve a purpose. Ask any Portuguese who commutes daily on the CP Lisboa /Sintra train line. Many of them could tell you how learning English based on practical needs has come in handy. A good many have surely tried to explain (in English) to some confused, wide-eyed British or American tourists (or other tourists that are using English as their language to communicate in) what stop to transfer so that the lost lambs won’t end up in Mira Sintra –Meleças rather than beautiful tourist-friendly Sintra. So productive skills are functional and therefore very important. However, developing other skills such as the learner’s interpretative skills is also important in language learning. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • In the ESL field, speaking and writing are commonly known as the ‘productive skills.’ They are clearly the most important as both skills are the crux of communication. However, for learners, speaking skills are often considered the most important as speaking is generally seen as the most common way of building interpersonal relations. It is essential if we want to accomplish tasks efficiently, gather information and offer instructions. Furthermore, these days every profession requires some extent of communicative competence and interpersonal skills. Communicating orally at the workplace presents itself in various forms: discussions, meetings, negotiation, presentations, and even debates. And of course let’s not forget… TELEPHONING. Yikes! Various professions (e.g. medical doctors, IT specialists, administrative assistants, etc.) also require communication with clients. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Because U.S. policies affect the entire world, I’m indulging myself this month by expressing my opinions on the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Portuguese readers of this newsletter may find solace in knowing that some Americans actually do see beyond America’s interests.

    Anyway…what to do? (…)

    Posted , Author

  • IS NOT EASY. Fish aren’t jumping. In fact, codfish is presently on the endangered species list. And the only things that are high are the taxes that you and I are paying. It may seem rather more hopeless than anything else, especially when you think of one-in-three people under 25 being out of work, small businesses that are sprinting (not simply going) out of business, and all the austerity measures that we are enduring under the bailout plans of Troika. I think that Robert Hayden’s poem entitled “Summertime and the Living…” is probably a bit more fitting than Gershwin’s song “Summertime” in the heated midst of the economic crisis. (…)

    Posted , Author

  • Children naturally love stories. Stories are magical in that they foster a sense of wonder that we adults tend to lose all too quickly. Stories teach us about life, ourselves and the people around us. Therefore, storytelling is an interesting way to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures. However, it is also especially useful in language teaching and learning. As a learning tool for pre-school lessons, storytelling can encourage early language learners to explore their unique expressiveness and heighten their abilities to communicate thoughts and feelings. (…)

    Posted , Author

← Older Newer →