Zoom Classes: You cut my hours, you slash my wages and you give me these ?

27th July 2021

Teacher suspended after appearing topless during Zoom video lesson | Nestia
Google Images. A teacher was reported suspended after appearing shirtless on Zoom

In a previous blog I tried, against my nature, to show a positive side to Zoom teaching. Teachers, TAs, admin staff are kept in employment, albeit with significant pay cuts, while the students are able to practise their English skills … should they choose.

I’m trying to keep this light-hearted, but all anecdotes are true, based on my experiences of Zoom. CUT TO last year, our first period of lockdown.

I can’t turn my light on, I’ve got no power

First up, back in the early days, teachers went to campus and used laptops to hold Zoom classes. The first five or ten minutes were spent waiting for late-comers, asking people to put their cameras on, then to KEEP their cameras on, ditto mics. One character, a teenage boy was sitting in darkness … this was a daytime class and Sai Gon in the day in bright, big time. Said teenager claimed that he had no electricity in his house, therefore could not put on the lights.

Do you sense a ‘however’ coming on ?

However … his laptop was working (sure, maybe it was running on battery). His wifi was working, but, the smoking gun … a slither of bright light from the corner of the room. Yes, said young gentleman had drawn his curtain and was ‘claiming’ he had no power.

Do you sense another ‘however’ coming on ?

However … I had an ace up my sleeve for, off-screen but next to me was my manager. I updated Mr No-Power on this development. A native teenager lying to an English teacher is not so unique. But would he lie to his Vietnamese manager. Damn right he would.

Just the tip of the iceberg. My camera’s not working

The teacher asks, politely requests, a student to put the camera on. This is after the class has seen a slide giving class rules AND a video in Vietnamese explaining what is expected. It is expected that students will put on their cameras. CUT TO a black screen, and yet another (here is where a teacher needs the patient of a whole temple of Buddhas) invitation to turn on the camera. Student claims camera is not working. Unfortunately, student had turned ON the camera and we could all see, in glorious Technicolor, the student, bold as brass (but thick as a brick). The mistake was then realised, and the student could be seen reaching for the lower corner of the laptop, and camera fades to black.

But that’s just one or two rotten apples, right ?

Are you kidding ? I teach IELTS which is the serious subject; a good grade here is a passport to a different country, to study, to live, maybe get exposed to different points of views, philosophies and outlooks. So you would think the students would be really motivated, right ?

Think again, pucko !

I had one IELTS class with about eight or nine students, including professional people and even a doctor. Guess what … despite the rules being reiterated, the Vietnamese-language video, I end up speaking to eight or nine black screens. Every lesson.

Doesn’t your campus kick ass ?

Kiss ass rather than kick ass. They go, half-heartedly through the motions, make rules but lack the balls to enforce them.

The reasons are clear. Firstly, this is not a state school, the students are CUSTOMERS … they generate revenue. It is a business axiom that the customer is always right. A business needs to keep and expand its customer base. My campus wants customers to return, to tell their friends, schoolmates, family members, each and everybody, they produce Disneyesque promotional films of photogenic children saying how they love learning here, and how they love their teachers (ya never see the fat ugly kids with buck teeth do ya).

Oh, man, you must be puttin’ me on ?

I wish ! You can look for yourself on YouTube, though not too soon after eating; there are stomach-churningly nauseating. Furthermore, the punters are locals, they are Vietnamese. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of a South African man explaining a similar situation in China. When push comes to shove, the natives support each other. Always. Teachers are a dime a dozen, they come ‘n’ go, and who can blame them ? Customers are more valued, they will always take precedence over a foreigner (that is how we are designated). Ready for one or two final delicacies ?


But teenagers are famous for their good behaviour

Haha, yeah good one. Just a brief entrance here. I had one class, back at campus, with some teens. I began saying hello to each student. Some would just stare at me, refusing to say a word. Then they initiated a new game; I would call a customer and rather than answer immediately, the teen would say, “Me ?” with terrible over-acting, faux surprise. This carried on with every subsequent teen. Finally, a teen, let’s called her Mary, copied her classmates, to wit:

Me: Mary, what’s number 3, please ?

Mary: Me ?

Cue the Beethoven

Beethoven as a Child and His Father's Alcoholism - MagellanTV

Me: Is your name Mary ?

Mary: Yes.

Me: Then answer the question and stop wasting my time.

I went on to explain that I will do everything to help anyone who really wants to learn. However, those who just want to insult me and disturb my lesson … well, let’s Samuel L. explain:

GIF jules winnfield and i will strike down upon thee with great vengeance  and furious anger ezekiel 25 17 - animated GIF on GIFER - by Grilace

Finally, (though you can guess this one could run and run), another IELTS class. I was given a real motley crew of unmotivated, unanimated, lifeless schlimels (if you don’t know what that means, look it up, I ain’t doing all the work for you). One schliemel was a teenage boy, a poster-boy for gormlessness. He informed me, by chat box, that his mic wasn’t working. Now, IELTS is all about speaking and practising, it ain’t just watching the teacher, it ain’t TV, dig ? You’ve gotta join in or you are wasting your (parents’) money.

Did you strike down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger ?

I farmed out that hit. Stopped the lesson and let everyone see that I was contacting Customer Care who, in turn, phoned gormless schliemel. Lo and behold, the mic miraculously started working. The guy would have been happy to sit and listen for an hour or two without contributing anything. After, he could go away and laugh that he hadn’t done any work.

If the job sucks, why d’you do it ?

Good question. I’ve spoken to many teachers, in various countries, and the answer is generally, ‘What else can I do ? It’s my profession’. And, at the moment, I don’t need to tell you, travel just ain’t as easy as it used to be.

Is there anything good about it ?

No. OK, I’m pulling your leg. A minority of students are sweet, respectful and polite. They really want to learn, and I can see the progress week by week. Occasionally, very occasionally, an adult student can become a friend, while the younger kids provoke avuncular feelings. Very rarely, one gets to meet a Princess. But these, as stated, are the minority.

“What a piece of work is man ?” What indeed

These situations are hardly isolated.

I saw an interesting site that highlighted some deplorable behaviour by participants. Read the full page here: https://skierscribbler.com/9307/news/inappropriate-behavior-in-zooms/

A new set of guidelines, according to the article, has been set following recent misbehaviors:


Camera’s must be on during online classes, students that fail to comply with this rule may be marked absent (unless there are extenuating circumstances).


In all zoom calls there is now a mandatory waiting room.


Students are no longer allowed to change their names.

Backgrounds must be one of the default zoom backgrounds or a solid color.


If students have a profile photo, it has to be of themselves.


In some classes, chat restrictions have also been implemented.

The teachers are all taking a massive financial hit to keep these lessons going. ‘T’is a pity the customers display contempt and disrespect. C’est la vie.

Zoom Classes: A dream or a nightmare ?

21st July 2021

Zoom booking system: Taking your fitness classes online with TeamUp's new  Zoom integration and On Demand feature | TeamUp
Zoom exercise class with a motivated student. This bears absolutely no resemblance to my classes. Taken from Google Images

Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”

Eric Idle 1979

First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.

Have a look at Haoyan’s blogs which you may access here: https://haoyando.net/

Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom

“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”

The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966

Rainy Season in Sai Gon

Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …

1: Avoid going out in the rainy season

My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.

Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …

2: No lesson planning

I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.

Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …

3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons

I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).

Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?

Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.

Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all

4: Environmental

Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).

So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.

Love and Chaos Part 8(H) Alan 2

6th July 2021

CAFE CINEMA, Berlin - Mitte (Borough) - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone  Number - Tripadvisor
A typical Berlin art bar, showing films, staging poetry slams etc. This one is in Berlin Mitte, from Google Images

Part Eight. Berlin. October 1995

Alan sat alone at the small desk, hunched over a tiny film viewer, watching and rewatching a section of film. The wall was covered with thin strips of film of varying length. The top of each one had a piece of white paper, giving information that anyone but Alan would find incomprehensible.

He turned the handle, watching magnified images pass through the tiny monitor. He consulted his notes and selected the best takes from each scene, then the exact frame to be cut. He marked the frame with the puncher on the monitor. Carefully, lovingly, he removed the film from the cog wheels and held it up to see the tiny indentation. He aligned this on the spokes of his film cutter and guillotined the end. The selected piece was then labelled and stuck on the wall, at a precise point, between the scenes coming immediately before and after it.

Alan picked up the film curled on the table, held it up against the light, squinting as he saw with his eye where the next scene began.

He ran this piece of film through the monitor to find the exact spot where it should begin.

So he spent the whole evening, editing his short film.

He loved everything about making films. He loved getting the initial idea, the casting and telling the actors about the story and the style he intended to use. He loved the filming, meeting up, drinking take-out coffee, preparing shots. Now he loved the end stage, the editing and splicing. He was alone, peaceful, and had complete control over the images.

He couldn’t wait to run the rough cut through the monitor, make the final micro cuts, then play it through the projector, and see his work on the cinemascope that was the bedroom wall.

He laughed to himself when he looked at the projector. He had told Vincent about needing a better quality one, and the actor had suggested the flea market by Tacheles.

Sure enough, on the muddy wasteland there were two or three tables that had old cine equipment. Alan asked one stall holder the price of an exquisite machine and was ignored. Vincent came over and winked at Alan. He picked up the projector and then put it down. He asked the price of a totally different item, appeared uninterested and seemed to wonder off. The Stall holder sat down, back to his wurst roll. Vincent walked away; clutching the projector. Alan saw and was shocked, but played along. He stayed looking at some bits, then slowly turned and walked away at a very casual pace, showing that his hands were clearly empty and that he had absolutely no connection whatsoever with that other gentleman.

This acting lark was really easy, he thought to himself. Procuring equipment apparently posed no problems. Now for presentation.

Vincent had said that the film could be shown in the bars all over east Berlin. It was no problem to organise movie nights, and he mentioned some bars in Friedrichshain where he was known. One named Kinski stood out.

Alan still couldn’t believe it; actors, equipment, a processing studio and venues in which to screen. An audience ready and open to new work.

And Julie.

Alan was spending a lot of time on the close-ups of Julie. He had deliberately shot more than was required. He slowly turned the handle, so that no individual frame would stay too long under the lamp and burn.

He told himself that he was just admiring her beauty. Looking for her best angles, and deciding that all angles were her best.

He had several new scripts ready. The money for film stock and processing could easily be earned and Vincent had introduced him to a number of actors, would-be actors and people who had agreed to take part in the no-budget films.

His plans began to get more elaborate, longer films, dialogue, screenings at festivals. All was possible. He simply had to make it happen, stay focused. Berlin was his.

He followed these thoughts with others of a more personal nature, until he remembered he was on a deadline. The film could get it’s premier next Friday, if it was ready.

Alan got back to work, passing over the image of Julie with a gentle sigh.

But Alan hadn’t been prepared for the nerves. He had always imagined this moment, the screening of his first film, showing his work, his ideas, to a public of strangers.

The experience was different.

The venue, an official bar, was run by a group of young people but looked and felt like some of the more organised squat bars.

Vincent enjoyed the attention, the hugs and slightly exaggerated greetings, and Alan tried to get some of his energy and confidence. More and more people were coming into the bar, a large cine screen already in place, the projector protected. When Alan made some tests for focus, there was always someone to make rabbit-ear shadows on the screen. It got a little tired after ten or eleven times.

The time approached, as far as bars like this kept to schedules, and Vincent looked at Alan and suggested they had better start soon, or everyone would be too drunk to care.

But no Julie.

“Ja, sometimes rehearsals go on longer, maybe they had to do some new scenes. It is next week, things need working on.” Vincent referred to a play that Julie was in, a radical reworking of Baal, as Julie had described it, with a hint that radical was a very polite and optimistic description.

“Come, we show it now, then later, if she comes.”

Vincent, without waiting for a response, whistled to the bar man, who turned off the music. He put in a tape that Alan had prepared. The lights went down, to sounds of claps, cheers and whoops.

Alan’s heart froze. He was almost paralysed with fear. He reached out for Vincent’s beer and took a swig that drained the bottle. Then he hit the switch. The sound of the motor turning, a beam of light hitting the large screen. He indicated to the bar man to play the cassette, and as the first image of Vincent, in Close-Up appeared, five foot tall on the screen, the melancholic notes of Debussy poured into the room.

There were immediate claps and wolf whistles, followed by a general hushing.

Julie was next up, but the sight of her, in a short dress, sitting on the grass, just caused more and more screams. But this was good. Alan felt Vincent put his arm around him. He kept it there for the entire film.

The entire film was little over five minutes and got a further two minutes of non-stop applause. Alan beamed. His nerves, totally gone, he knew he would never again be nervous, his ideas were good, his films would get better and better. He would be a film director. He was a film director.

By the next screening, demanded by the audience, Alan was too tipsy to gauge the reaction. He had been congratulated by friends and strangers. Others had come up and pleaded with him to be in his next film. Others asked where else he was screening, had he heard about certain festivals, other Berlin venues ? Until the beer hampered his senses, he made a note of everyone, very clear, with name and contact number or address.


When Julie finally appeared, very apologetic, he greeted her, and she was noticed and lauded by the drinkers, not allowed to pay for her Sekt.

She apologised for missing it, leading Alan to suggest that she come over tomorrow and have a private screening. To his amazement, she accepted the offer and they set a time.

Vincent asked about the play and they spoke about the director, who changed his mind scene to scene, demanded re-writes, re-casting, costume changes. The actors now came in holding out their hands for new instructions, an in-joke being, ‘what was wrong with the last re-write ?’

“Not like Alan,” she said, patting him on the shoulder and leaving her arm there. “So, tell me, how was the film, tonight ?”

Vincent spoke, but Julie was looking at Alan. They smiled at each other.

The following night, Julie appeared exactly on time, as if she had arrived early and was counting down to when she could knock on the door.

She really liked the film, the style and the camera work. She was a little shy about seeing herself, but viewed it professionally and made tiny criticisms, all of which Alan dismissed.

Over coffee, Julie was relaxed enough to speak openly about the play. She had considered it a breech of professional conduct to be critical of a production, but she felt it was going to be a disaster. When asked why, she took her time and chose her words carefully,

“For one thing, there are too many people. The cast should have been cut, and actors doubling up. We never have a rehearsal with everyone there, always someone having to stand-in, and it’s hard to work up an reaction to someone reading a script without emotion.

“Then the constant script changes. We learn a part overnight, and find it’s been cut. Most of the actors don’t accept this and half an hour gets wasted when everyone shouts out their opinion.

“And we all have to work as well, there is no way we will get anything out this, financially. Not that it matters. But most of us work and have to give up our spare time. Can’t bear to see it so un-productive. There, enough moaning.”

Alan told her it was OK, he liked to hear an actor’s perspective and asked for tips. Julie thought for a little while, then began, tentatively,

“If I can make one tiny suggestion, it would be . . . how ? OK, just to be more confident. You know what you want. The actors don’t. It is up to you to tell them, what to do, not to get their suggestions. Because most actors will just suggest endless Close-Ups of themselves.”

There was a slight pause before Alan and then Julie laughed

“So I should follow Mr Hitchcock’s advise and treat actors like cattle ?”

“I didn’t say that !”

The conversation continued effortlessly. Alan said that despite the weather getting colder, there was still enough light to film in October. Julie laughed and said,

“Not for much longer. You’ll have to start directing theatre, because you won’t be able to film outside until April or May.”

Alan had never thought of this, but, of course he had an immediate cinema reference point.

“Like Ingmar Bergman ?” he said referring to the Swedish film and theatre director. “He would keep the same group of actors for both. Must have helped to develop a close working experience. Well ? Would you like to do some theatre with me ?”

“You have something ?”

“Well . . . I just might.”

As autumn once again became winter, there were other changes over Berlin. Alan would start to study theatre from the books available to him. Julie would start to get more and more attention for her craft. Daniel would rethink what medium he should use for his artistic expression. Chris would be very careful about what women he would fall in love with. A lost music student would search for direction. A Philosophy student would find his first semester harder than he ever imagined and would consider changing courses. And Richard would fall in love with a German girl who would make him happier than he had ever been, until, that too, went horribly wrong.

Russell Shaw – building a career in the Arts

28th June 2021

Russell Shaw - Photos - StarNow

Russell and I met many years ago in London, when he was an aspiring actor. His career, in this notoriously fickle business, is really taking off but I’ll let Russell present himself, and share his journey.

Hi Russell. How’s it going ?

It’s a good day actually because I’ve just been cast in this feature film called ‘Witch’. I’m one of the leads. It’s probably going to the biggest movie that I’ve been in. We start shooting in the first two weeks of October, so that is very, very exciting.

Could you describe your hometown

I’m from Halifax in West Yorkshire. It’s a lovely place in the valleys, surrounded by countryside. Halifax is a small town near Leeds and Huddersfield, and about thirty miles from Manchester. It’s got a lovely place called the Peace Hall which is incredible … but the football team’s not doing too well.

Peace Hall, Halifax, West Yorkshire

At what point did you decide that you had to be an actor ?

There was no deciding. I was working as a welder at the time, doing sixty hours in a factory and I used to go home at Christmas to be with my mum and my sister and my brother. I was also going out with this girl who lived in London. I think her life, and being around her university friends, influenced me, how she was doing what she wanted to do.

I really struggled. At Christmas I would speak to my mum and ask, ‘What do I want to do ? I don’t want to do what I do anymore’. And she just said, ‘What did you like to do at school ?’ I mentioned acting, so we decided that I would get into performing arts, do a course in acting, just to find out what I wanted.

I did a two-year diploma at Arden school of acting in Manchester, and I ended up with six distinctions. I got in at Leicester and did four years in Performing Arts. I got a BA (Hons), ended up with a 2:2 for my dissertation.

For me, the real acting, the real work starts when you’re not in that bubble anymore, when you’re just out there, getting the experience, getting your showreel together, getting an Equity card, getting headshots. Getting your first professional credit. Finding out what you want to do; is it film, is it TV, is it musicals, is it theatre, is it commercials ? Is it music videos, murder mysteries ? I did them all !

There was a lot involved and I struggled a lot when I first started getting into acting, I was seeing a counsellor, one-to-one sessions, and I continued to do a lot of work by myself. I work on myself all the time, reading books. I’m a graduate in ‘More to Life’, I’m a graduate in ‘Landmark Worldwide’ which is all about how language creates your world and how the mind can run your life.

So, it’s not just a case of changing your career, it’s not easy. But I did it and I don’t give myself enough credit and I’m aware of that.

What were your influences ?

My mum and my sister. They said do what you want to do, what makes you happy. I had two cars and a motorbike when I was twenty-one but it wasn’t about the money, it was about what made me happy.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the Arts ?

Believe in yourself and be aware there’s lots of negativity out there as well as positivity, and for people that haven’t had much success, it’s very easy for them to say that it’s really tough out there, and it’s this and it’s that. But if you listen to that, then you’re taking on their journey, not your own journey. For me, everybody’s journey is different, no matter where you are in life, in your career.

Be strong, always keep thinking outside the box. Develop your skill sets, keep getting the experience. Keep saying yes to opportunities and never stop learning. You’ll be learning for the rest of your life, there’s always something new to learn.

As an artist, one is inevitably going to face disappointment. How do you deal with this ?

One of the things I do, which fits into the Landmark Worldwide, is when you have a disappointment rather than say, ‘It’s me, I’m not good enough,’ what I say is that I wasn’t right for that particular part … but there will be a part that I am right for.

Always be amiable, go into everything with an open mind, like you’re learning for the first time. Don’t assume that you know everything.

Where can my readers see you ?

Russell Shaw - IMDb

I have my own website, I’m on Spotlight, IMDb, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m also on YouTube, so I’m everywhere, really.

https://www.russellshawactor.com/

https://www.spotlight.com/9332-0169-3114

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2388401/

https://www.facebook.com/RussellShaw4/

https://twitter.com/Russ_ShawActor2?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

I also did an eight-part TV series for TV called ‘Unexplained: Caught on Camera’, which was incredible. Look out for a monologue called ‘Borys the Rottweiler’ on Sky Arts, in which I play a dog.

Additionally, you can also see me in the Arctic Monkey Video, ‘When the Sun Goes Down – Scummy Man’.

The biggest things have been ‘Adventure Boyz’ & ‘The Lockdown Hauntings’ but the biggest thing is going to be ‘Witch’.

Russell Shaw - IMDb
Russell Shaw - IMDb

I’ve done loads of radio and commercials including one for Halifax Banking, which is on TV still.

What does the future hold ? Any exciting news ?

Yes, I’ve just been cast for a commercial. It’s on hold for TV and cinema but, I’ve been told, it’s going to be out on the 14th July. It’s a commercial for National Rail, and I play a father who wants to take a shortcut home to be with his wife and child. I walk across a rail track … and get zapped ! It’s basically National Rail safety. My wife is played by Miranda Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s (‘Dunkirk’, ‘Inception’, ‘Batman Begins’) cousin, so I’m looking forward to that.

The exciting news for me is that ‘The Lockdown Hauntings’ is actually being shown in Singapore, right at this very moment, at the Shaw Theatre, which is really beautiful. I’m thinking it’s going to have an American release soon.

Russell Shaw (@Russ_ShawActor2) | Twitter
With some cast and crew of ‘Adventure Boyz’ https://twitter.com/russ_shawactor2

The other big thing for me, just confirmed yesterday, is that I’ve been confirmed as one of the leads in ‘Witch’, directed by Marc Zammit and written by Craig Hines.


Marc Zammit@zammit_marc
After 3 months of auditions. We were completely blown away by @Russ_ShawActor2 performance! The moment we saw his self tape we had goose bumps and knew he was going to be working with us! Playing one of the Leads in feature film WITCH #THOMAS@WitchMovie1

Image

The film will be coming out in 2022, and it’s getting a lot of exposure. Marc Zammit is connected with Universal, Lionsgate and Paramount, so it’s definitely going to be the biggest movie that I’ve been involved in. I play a character called Thomas. It’s a 16th Century supernatural horror film.

Six Years Gone
Unexplained: Caught on Camera

I’m also doing a Radio 4 play next week as well as a voice-over for Medtronic which will be heard all over Europe. I seem to be doing a lot of feature films. This year I’ve got ‘Six Years Gone’ in which I play a detective. That’s coming out end of September. I’m also in another film, a black comedy called ‘Psycho List’, and I’m also in a short film which we’re shooting next week.

Tangled Net, Bite-Size, Edinburgh Fringe
Tangled Net, Bite-Size, Edinburgh Fringe

So, that just about wraps it up. Believe in your dreams, believe in your own path. Stay away from any negativity. More than anything, believe in yourself.

Russell Shaw: Actor - Brighton, UK - StarNow

Listening exercises Part 1

10th June 2021

Women in China - Wikipedia

Listening Practice 

A compilation of video clips and comprehension questions to encourage you to listen to native English speakers.

Video clips and links

Contents:

Sai Gon Red

Ordering in a cafe

Cat

Computers

Top Gear (Robin / German border / )

Austria (plus comprehension)

New York

Working life in Germany

Listening general (Queen, IELTS)

Native speakers in central London

British accent: filming

Snow

Travel Vocabulary / phone numbers

Sai Gon Red

What phrases can you hear ?

Does the man like the beer ? What is the proof (what does he say) ?

Comprehension (0.00 – 1.58)

1 What time does the man say it is ?

2 What kind of beer does he think it’s going to be ?

3 What kind of ‘head’ does the beer have ?

4 What colour is the beer ?

5 Before he drinks, he uses an expression: which one ?

Listening skills: ordering in a cafe:

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/ordering-food-cafe

For his main course, Andi chooses For dessert, Andi chooses and to drink ?

Cat

https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening/intermediate-b1-listening/favourite-things

B (girl) Start at 0:50 – 1:41


“My favourite thing? Does my cat count as a thing? She’s not really a thing, but anyway. She’s a really beautiful little cat. I’ve had her since she was four months old. You know how some cats are really independent and hardly talk to you? I know cats don’t really talk, but you know what I mean. Well, she’s not like that at all. She’s really affectionate and comes up to me as soon as I get home, purring away like mad. She makes a lot of noise for a tiny thing. She loves being stroked and comes and curls up next to me when I’m on the sofa. She’s great company.”

Questions:

1 What is her favourite thing ? Her cat

2 How old was the cat when the girl got her. Four months old

3 Is the cat friendly ? Yes, ‘she’s really affectionate.’

4 What does the cat like ? Being stroked

5 How is the cat described as being ? Good company

Computer terms

Do you use a computer at work ? Is it essential or just useful ?

What words do you associate with computers ?

Top Gear

Real dialogue:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRGuMKVqNzA (0.16 – 0.42)

Listen for: “oh,dear”, (oi troi oi, mild) “that’s marvellous” (very good) “he’s not pleased”

New vocabulary:

flawed– something bad, a mistake inspection– to look at something closely

what staggers me– what surprises me fronts a band– lead singer

a trifle– not important, a very small time stabaliser– stop something falling over

Can Jeremy improve the design ? (0.55 – 2.48)

What does he do ? Where does he go ? How successful were the improvements ?

2) Listening practice:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0K8AXUEH8E(0 – 0.52)

How much petrol do the chaps (men) have ? How many points for getting to the border ?

What is the phrasal verb for using all the petrol ? What is the punishment for this ?

What does Richard say about this ? Which country has the closest border ?

Listening: Vienna, Austria 

New Vocabulary:

Adjectives– spectacular, dotted with, grand, magnificent, chic, huge, stunning, iconic,

legendary

Expressions– as a result, make sure, must see, strongly recommend, book in advance

Nouns– promenade (walking streets) landmarks (famous buildings), fee, lookalike 

Adverbs– truly (really), extremely

How many rooms does the Hofsburg Palace have ?

How old is St (Saint) Stephan’s Cathedral ? How many stairs does it have ?

When was the Ferris Wheel built ? Which is the tallest structure in the city ?

New York City guide

Listen for short periods (10 – 15 seconds). Answer questions about the dialogue. Can watch again with captions. Make a note of any new phrases or interesting words.

Answer the following questions:

How many people live in NYC ? 8 million

What do New Yorkers think their home is ? Centre of the world

What two adjectives describe NYC ? Loud and fast

What is the collocation with ‘energy’ ? Pulsates

Visitors can find the city … ? overwhelming

Manhattan is the … heart and soul of the Big Apple

What is in Lower Manhattan ? Financial district

Where is Central Park ? Upper East and West sides

Working life in Germany:

(01.26 – 02.07)

How long do they work in Germany ? How many breaks does the man have ?

What do you think about his situation ? How does it compare with VN ?

Listening

1 The Queen 

When was their first meeting? During the G20 conference in London 2009.

Who came with President Obama ? Wife and two daughters.

When did they last meet ? Almost two years ago.

IELTS student (0:46 – )

Does she work ? No, she’s a student Where ? Manchester / Studies ? Business

Introducing a friend

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/introducing-friend

personal information

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/library-giving-personal-information

BBC News – durian

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/witn/ep-150708

New words 

pungent

an acquired taste

is shaping up to be

bumper crop

Native speakers in central London

Filming(0.13 – 1.17)

Listen out (phrasal verb) for these words / phrases:

therefore / out and about / footage (what has been filmed) 

basically / you see / obviously / annoyed 

Listen out for changes in intonation (stressing words in a sentence)

What did he film ? Why couldn’t he use the footage ? What did he leave at home ?

(0.20 – 1.30)

What is the date ? Listen for the adverb ‘finally’ Why doesn’t Mum like the snow ?

Travel vocabulary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shGha68qLvY

Listen for: ‘go through’ ‘depends’ ‘take off’

You are flying from Sai Gon to Hue. Where do you go in the airport ?

What two things will you do at check in ?

What documents do you need ? How can you check in ? Two ways …

What seat does the man want and why ? What happens at security ?

Write down the phone numbers that you hear

Mindset 2, Lesson 1: Say it, feel it, ace it !

15th April 2021

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Are you ready for Level 2 ? All right, let’s hit the books !

First up, new and familiar idioms:

it costs an arm and a leg

piece of cake

I’m burning the candle at both ends

once in a blue moon

pass with flying colours

turn over a new leaf

it’s raining cats and dogs

Another string to (your) bow – a new skill or learning experience

bear with me – please wait a very short time (usually spoken as opposed to written)

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

down in the dumps – depressed, unhappy, feeling gloomy

hit the ground running – to start something immediately and with all your energy

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, normal, usual, boring

up in arms – to be very angry about something, to protest strongly

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

NOW … your turn … what idioms fits ?

Lunatics Paradise: Australia's Renewables Fiasco Like Living in a Madhouse  – STOP THESE THINGS

At breaktimes, all the younglings come pouring out of their classes, screaming their little heads off …

it’s ___________________________________

Students protest against tuition fees - BBC News

Students are unhappy about tuition fees

They are _____________

You still can!': Music teacher champions adult students learning violin

She can speak five languages, do karate and is now learning violin

She has added __________________________

Yawning Girl Reading A Boring Book Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free  Image. Image 19559231.

She thought the novel would be extremely exciting.

Unfortunately, for her, it’s just a ___________________ story.

Street Photography in Austin - Assignment Chicago

Some areas of downtown are no-go areas.

You really _________________________________________ if you go after dark and alone.

buster-keaton-396846_640

Poor Buster is so funny, yet he always looks _______________________

Oh, dear …

This beautiful young lady seems to be upset about something.

Angry woman screaming against her husband with his face deformed - eniGma  Magazine

Possibly something the man said is a ______________________ with her ?

Excited Motivated Multiracial Business Team Stock Footage Video (100%  Royalty-free) 1037298239 | Shutterstock

We’re going to have a tremendous success with our new product which we shall be launching in Europe, the US and parts of Asia.

We’re really going to ________________________________

Marcello Mastroianni

Excuse me, I have to take this call _______________________

Extra exercises may be found on this blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/10/12/ielts-8-1-2-chasing-8-1-2/

IELTS students always need to concentrate on expanding their lexical resources. Having said that, I feel this class needs extra work on fluency and pronunciation. To that end, some exercises to assist:

Exercise 1: Just a minute. In pairs, one student has to speak for one minute without repetition, hesitation or deviation.

The subjects are: Your favourite gift // your neighbourhood // what you like about your city // shopping // your family

Exercise 2: Newsreader. Read the following extracts with appropriate pronunciation, intonation and stress, not forgetting body language.

Some stories are sombre (sad, solemn), others convey information that is somewhat depressing or raise concern. However, we end with some lighter entertainment gossip and football transfer speculation.

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II returned to royal duties just four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, with her first in-person event Tuesday.

The queen hosted a ceremony at Windsor Castle for William Peel, who retired after serving for 14 years as lord chamberlain, the most senior aide in the royal household.

A report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, or WTTC, has revealed the full extent of the damage done to the global travel industry in 2020 after business was devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Globally, the sector’s income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year. In 2019, travel and tourism was linked to one in four of all new jobs created around the world. But in 2020, more than 62 million jobs were lost.

HCMC – The Ministry of Health has confirmed 16 new imported Covid-19 cases in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Hanoi, Danang, Quang Nam and HCMC, taking the country’s tally to 2,733 as of tonight, April 14.

Five of the new cases were reported in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. The patients, aged between 29 and 39, returned to Vietnam from Russia on Flight VN5062 on April 12. They were immediately transported to Ba Ria-Vung Tau for quarantine after arriving at the HCMC-based Tan Son Nhat International Airport. All of them are being treated at Long Dien District Medical Center.

Who is Hey Stephen by Taylor Swift about?

The song is about a crush Taylor had on Stephen Barker Liles, who’s in the band Love and Theft.

The two reportedly met in 2008 when his band was opening up for her on tour.

Speaking to Access Online, Taylor said: “The song is actually about a guy who I had a crush on and never told him.

“So I wrote everything that I was thinking down in the song instead of telling him.”

Manchester United are eager to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus – according to Sai Gon Post.

The Red Devils will consider an exchange deal that would see Paul Pogba return to Turin in order to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer.

United are on course to receive a big payout for finishing in the Premier League’s top four again, and plan to put those funds towards the re-capture of a club legend.

See you next week

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Vietnam festival, London 2012 … it was raining cats and dogs !

IELTS Mindset 1: Lesson 5 Review

14th April 2021

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Do you want to join Thay Paul’s class ? “I willl give it my utmost consideration.”

New vocabulary

unique – one of a kind, nothing else like it

imminent – going to happen or start very soon

you get what you pay for (or you pay for what you get) – if you buy something cheap, you get bad quality

to romanticise – to make something ordinary more interesting

to fantasise (fantasize US English) – to wish for something great to happen

use your imagination / give your imagination free reign – it is OK to pretend, to make up a better story

I will give it my utmost consideration – I will think about it very, very carefully (and then say ‘no’).

firstly, secondly, additionally, another point is, on the other hand, however, finally, in conclusion, to sum up, all things considered – all ‘signpost language‘, to help organise your ideas.

Are you ready to rock ?

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Miss Ngoc in Sai Gon … hey, ho … let’s go !

I’ll be burning the candle at both ends because my IELTS test is _______________ .

Remember, you don’t have to tell the absolute truth in your speaking test. It’s totally OK to ________________________________ .

I picked up this shirt at Saigon Centre and, yeah, it cost an arm and a leg, but just feel the quality … you ____________________________________ .

We booked a really reasonable room at the beach, but the water was cold, the sheets were stained and there were bugs everywhere. We totally _____________________________________ (use past tense).

Thay Paul, we have a new class of students. They are extremely lazy and unmotivated and only want to play with their phones. Would you like to teach them ? ________________________________________________ .

What did you do last weekend ? “I sleep.” Is that all ? Ah, c’mon, do better, ______________________________________ .

Quick – fire round

No photo description available.

You planned a day out for my friend Ethan. Describe these photos using as many IELTS features as you can:

No photo description available.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.
Highlands Coffee opposite the Rex Hotel 2012

Areas to focus on: being confident about answering the Part II questions, so we shall work on fluency and developing the ability to speak for longer periods without hesitation.

Just a minute

Speak for one minute on:

Food in your country

What you do in your free time

Your family

Holidays in your country (e.g. Tet, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc)

A link to last week’s notes: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/04/07/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-4-review/

See you next week

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Young Learners, Level 6: adjectives and adverbs review.

8th April 2021

No photo description available.
A typical Vietnamese breakfast; pork, noodles, fresh vegetables and noodles.

Objectives:

Encourage students to speak in long, interesting sentences.

Making the use of adjectives and adverbs a natural part of their English

Develop their ability to express themselves, giving reasons (because) and examples (like, such as)

Show them how much fun English can be by the use of idioms (once in a blue moon, it’s raining cats and dogs)

VOCABULARY BANK

Match the word(s) to the meaning

gigantic / enormous __________ everywhere

tiny / petit _____________________on time

delicious / mouth watering ___very rarely

difficult ________________________ yummy / tasty

once in a blue moon ______ big / huge

punctual______________________ clever

intelligent ____________________ hard

ubiquitous ____________________ very small

IDIOMS:

once in a blue moon

piece of cake (very easy, no problem)

it’s raining cats and dogs (very heavy rain)

NOW … practice:

Street food in Vietnam is (everywhere) ___________________ .

No photo description available.
Traditional English fish and chips. Very yummy … but what are better words for ‘yummy’ ?

Thay Paul loves fish and chips because it is (yummy)_________________ and _____________________. However, it is not very healthy so he only eats it __________________________________________(very rarely)

The man is (very big) however the lady is (very small)

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Mr Paul is saying hello to an elephant which is a very (clever) __________________ animal.

This rabbit is always (on time) _________________

Is it (hard) ____________________ for a gorilla to play drums ? No, it is easy – it’s a piece of cake.

Don’t believe me … OK, just watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La7B8mBnTXs&ab_channel=TomSinger

The capital city of Viet Nam is _____________ . It is a large( very busy) city. Motorbikes are (everywhere) ___________________. Street food is cheap and (yummy) __________________________.

However, sometimes it rains very heavily. In this photo, Thay Paul was (not happy) because ____________________________________.

No photo description available.
Ha Noi 2015, raining cats and dogs.

Adverb practice

always

usually // often // normally

sometimes

rarely

once in a blue moon

never

EXAMPLES:

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I always eat fruit because it is extremely healthy

No photo description available.

I usually read a book when I drink coffee because I love reading.

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I sometimes drive my car to work because it is fun. However, driving in Viet Nam is ________________________.

No photo description available.
Singapore 2019

I rarely go to Singapore because it is extremely expensive.

No photo description available.

I only go home to London once in a blue moon because it is so far away

I never smoke because it is extremely unhealthy !

NOW … your turn: tell me what you do and why.

I always … because …

I usually … because …

I sometimes … because …

I rarely … because …

Once in a blue moon I … because …

I never … because …

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Goodbye, Thay Paul

See you next week

IELTS: Mindset 1, Lesson 4: Review

7th April 2021

No photo description available.
Photo by Thay Paul. Sai Gon

Vietnamese coffee kept warm in a three lions bowls, the lions being a symbol of England. If you love coffee, you’ve come to the right place; coffee shops are _________________ in Sai Gon, and throughout Viet Nam.

The missing word … ?

24 Ubiquitous Antonyms. Full list of opposite words of ubiquitous.
Google Images

New vocabulary:

disappointed

faith (noun) faithful (adjective) faithfully (adverb)

endeavour

genuine

reasonable

on the ball

This is gonna be a doodle !

How to use them ?

Lady Thu stated that she would (try) ___________ to learn more vocabulary.

I expected the students to pass with flying colours, but instead I was very _______________________ by their low scores.

Mr Sang knew every answer, he was really _________________________ last night.

Passing a driving test in Vietnam is easy. _______________________________ .

Those Armani T-shirts are absolutely fake ! At that price, no way are they ____________ .

Street food stalls are ubiquitous in my neighborhood; the food is (tasty) ______________________ and the prices are quite ___________________ .

Mr Lee (adverb) _____________ promised me he would be on time for the meeting.

We also covered some basic introduction phrases which you categorically have to memorise:

Some standard opening lines:

That’s a very interesting question

Well, that’s a great question

Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?

It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …

As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …

And now, a typical IELTS question: What do you do in your free time ?

Remember the first rule of introductions: never answer the question immediately. Remember the second rule of introductions: never answer the question immediately.

So, how to pass with flying colours ? Ah, c’mon, Man, you should know by now ! OK, breaks down like this. Give me:

A great introduction

An organised speech, point by point (use ‘signpost’ language).

At least one idiom

Several L-FWs

Ideas linked by discourse markers

Appropriate intonation, stress & body language

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Thay Paul, can you give us an example, please ?

Sure thing

Well, that’s quite an interesting question because, as a young Vietnamese student, I don’t really have much free time. I have to study all day, then do homework in the evening; I’m really burning the candle at both ends. However, when I have time to myself, I like to hang out with my friends and forget about school.

Firstly we meet in coffee shops, which are ubiquitous in Sai Gon, and talk and laugh. Highlands in my favourite because it has free WiFi as well as being very comfortable although some of the coffee prices are sky-high.

Additionally, I love swimming which, in my opinion, is incredibly healthy, and it doesn’t require much equipment. Subsequently, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

However, my absolute favorite past time is to sing karaoke, which I believe comes from Japan, in a private, sound-proof room. For me, it’s a perfect way to relax and forget all my stress about work, life and my parents !

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Piece of cake, right ? 23 / 9 Park, District 1, Sai Gon

A link to previous blogs for this class may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/03/24/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-2-review/

Ethan Hawke Sticks Up For Texas, Reps Beto and Turns a Dead ...

Next Lesson, you’ll be planning a day out in Sai Gon (or your city) for my friend Ethan. You can read up here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/12/16/ielts-planning-a-day-out/

IELTS: Final Run Through

25th March 2021

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Students at 23/ 9 Park, District 1, Sai Gon

OK, let’s hit the ground running, no time to shimmy shammy, speaking test is next week, let’s go !

A previous blog has exercises for you to test your adjectives as well as your ability to link ideas fluently with discourse markers. Said link may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/08/ielts-last-chance-saloon/

Thus, a quick warm up featuring standard, run of the mill IELTS topics such as:

FAMILY

Who do you live with ?

An all too familiar answer would be, “I live with my mum, my dad and my brother.”

Remember, you have to impress the examiner with your impressive command of all aspects of English, so get those complex sentences working, flex those adjectives and act out your answers.

Allow me to introduce my family to you. Firstly, there is my mother, who has a heart of gold, always caring about others before herself. My father, who is an engineer, burns the candle at both ends, so I rarely see him. He works extremely hard for his family, I look up to him. Finally there is my brother. Well, what can I say about him ? Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a slacker by which I mean he’s very lazy. Hopefully he’ll turn over a new leaf and start contributing more to family life.

Notice the complex sentences – I explain just a little about each member, while adding two idioms and some fixed expressions into the mix.

Think how you would pronounce this – the mother is positive and sweet, the father is busy, the brother lazy.

NOW … Your turn … are you ready ?

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Yes, Thay Paul, we’re ready !

FAMILY

Who do you live with ? Compose an IELTS-style answer

You live with your mother (makes you study very hard), your grandfather (loves swimming) and your sister (spends time making herself beautiful, buying clothes and taking selfies).

Onwards and upwards, try a Part II question. There will be a topic followed by four points for you to include in your answer (here you have a minute to make notes, so try to think of suitable idioms and L-FWs). You are expected to speak for up to two minutes, and the examiner can not assist you.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time ?

You should say what the activity is

Who you do it with ?

Where you do it

And why you enjoy it

Make It Easy on Yourself – Dionne Warwick – 1970 | seventies music

Make it easy on yourself

Choose a topic you can speak about at length, one that has many avenues to explore, such as music:

Do you listen to music ? If so, what genres do you like and why ?

Who are your favourite artists ?

Can you play an instrument ? Have you tried ?

Would you like to in the future ?

Have you ever been to a live concert ?

Do you listen or play alone, or with friends ?

We can work on this in class. Remember, if you get under 6.5 in my class, I will KYA !

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Jammin’ in the park with the guys