More Excellent Winners of Mental Health Friendly Lesson Plan Competition.

WP_20151023_011Over the last two weeks it has been a great pleasure to meet more of the mental health lesson plan competition winners. Paul Connell travelled up from Tarragona for the day with his wife, Helen, to officially receive second prize, a free on-line teacher training course, donated by Oxford House. Paul and Helen can be seen in the centre of the picture (taken in the gardens of Oxford House). Paul received his award from Duncan Foord,  Director of Training at Oxford House (on Paul’s right in the photo). Paul is a very experienced teacher from Escola Idiomas Tarragona (formerly Inlingua) and it was a real delight to talk with him and Helen about his excellent lesson plan and our plans to take the Mental Health Friendly project forward. In fact, with the agreement of Oxford House, Paul chose an on-line course in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) and generously donated the course to a teacher friend who works in the Sate Sector, where CLIL has taken on a real importance over the last few years.

WP_20151029_001Then there was the pleasure of meeting Anna Conway a teacher here in Barcelona at Merit School. Anna won third prize which was an extremely generous pack of teaching materials donated by Macmillan Education. Anna and I can be seen in Macmillan’s office  where she kindly popped in to receive her prize and talk about the project. Anna is also studying Public Health here in Barcelona so it made it an particularly interesting conversation for me.

Hopefully, we will be able to share all the excellent lesson plans with you in the new year, when working with the winners, Macmillan and La Federación de Salut Mental de Catalunya, we can ensure these excellent lessons have maximum impact inside and outside the classroom.

A really big thank you to everyone who participated in the competition.


Reach Out: Resources for Helping Young People with Issues of Mental Health

We wanted to share the excellent website ReachOut Professionals with you. It is an Australian based website designed to help reachoutprofessionals raise awareness of mental health issues among young people and help those same young people build resilience to the many stressful experiences they have faced, are facing and will face.  In their own words:

“ReachOut Professionals provides recommendations and advice for youth support workers, health workers and education professionals on a range of online interventions, tools and resources that can be used to support young people experiencing mental health difficulties and to build young people’s wellbeing and resilience.

There are many tools and resources there for teachers. We have only just started  making our way around the site but would particularly recommend: “Destigmatising mental health difficulties” , “Embracing the F…. Word” , and “Supporting LGBTIQ Students”.

If you use  any of the resources, please let us know how you get on; how effective they were, how well the class responded, whether you would recommend them, and whether you would suggest certain adaptations before using them in the English Language Training classroom.

The Danger of a Single Story

We wanted to share this TED talk with you as we would argue that, the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, raises a crucial point about seeing the whole person and not reducing them to a single narrative. This, we believe, is an essential part of a truly socially inclusive classroom. Not only being aware of those many stories, but also giving students the opportunity to tell their own stories.

It could also make a very good class for higher level students so we attach the link to the original TED site where the transcript for the talk can be found


Are Teachers Therapists? Maybe!

We came across this very interesting short article by Joe Bussutil in IATEFL voices concerning the links between Teaching English as a Foreign Language and psychotherapy. Joe draws the link most positively between his former training as an occupational therapist in Mental Health (influenced heavily by the work of Carl Rogers) and the way Rogers as a learning theorist has shaped the TEFL environment in which he currently works.

Whilst we would certainly agree that this is a powerful and important link, we would disagree slightly with Joe in that we do not believe teachers are therapists (or indeed should try to be) but rather that participating in well-constructed mental health friendly classes is indeed therapeutic. The irony is that it is therapeutic because we are not therapists and, vice-versa, some therapy might be very educational precisely because it is not education.

We hope that is food for thought

Getting it Right

Big thanks to John Stone at the University Autonomo de Barcelona for sending a fascinating article from the Guardian UK concerning social inclusion and education. I was struck by this particular extract: “Dixons Trinity, which opened in 2012, draws its pupils from one of the most deprived parts of Bradford, a town yet to regain the prosperity it enjoyed in its industrial heyday. Around half of the pupils live in the city’s five poorest wards. Many are the children of immigrants from Pakistan or India, and many do not speak English at home. But its students out-perform the UK average in English and maths, and the ones who enter Dixons Trinity with the lowest achievement levels do better than anyone else. This is a source of particular satisfaction to the school’s principal, Luke Sparkes, who tells me that the school is designed around its most vulnerable pupils. “If you get it right with them, you get it right with everyone.” You can read the whole article here.