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November snuck up on us here at Teach Away, and we still can’t believe December is just around the corner! An impending staff party (the infamous Secret Santa) finds us all with our thinking caps on–-not only do we need to be sleuth-like in our selection of the ‘perfect’ silly gift, we need to figure out who our sneaky Santa is.

With all these creative juices flowing around the office, we’ve begun to ponder the benefits of encouraging creative expression in the classroom. Why not take it one step further and allow a little bit of supervised silliness? We must have been on the same page as children’s author Gary Taxali, because his recently released children’s book promotes a good dose of silliness as part of the learning process.

And this month’s teacher story is about a teacher who uses her own sense of creativity to teach outside of the box. But let’s not go overboard! When looking for work, presenting a silly-looking resume is just plain silly-–read on to learn about our new Teach Away tutorials, which focus on creating a purely professional resume.

Here’s to a fun-filled November!
-The Teach Away Team

In this issue:

Interview with Gary Taxali, author of “This is Silly!”

This is Silly Book CoverInternationally renowned illustrator, author, and toy designer Gary Taxali is serious about the merits of being silly! Although the term “silly” can often bring with it negative connotations, Mr. Taxali’s work is an acknowledgement of silliness as an outlet for creativity which may not necessarily conform to the norm –- an outlet which should not be stifled by parents or teachers, but instead encouraged with some healthy boundaries.

Gary shares with us the secret to his success: “My story had an early beginning. I had a horrible slew of teachers growing up and one in particular, would also tell me to “Stop being silly”. At home, I had the opposite reaction…it was the confidence of my mom’s love and encouragement that made me feel OK to make zany and funny pictures, and of course, eventually pursue a professional career.”

Teach Away got in touch with the talented Mr. Taxali to get some teacher tips:

Teach Away: You mention some very uninspiring teachers in your youth, and how your mother’s encouragement was the perfect antidote for an education which may have otherwise stunted your creative growth. What do you think you would be doing today if everyone in your life had told you to “stop being silly”?

Gary Taxali: When I was a small child, I always had dreams of being a lighthouse keeper and other than becoming an artist/author, I think I would be living by the sea watching the ships. To this day, I still sometimes dream about that. I suppose I would have passed the time by sketching ships, too. I do think though I’d be drawing pictures, no matter what. A person’s nature is ingrained and I believe all of us are born into this life with that passion inside us. I think teachers and parents should really seek to encourage and inspire small children to find their true nature and yes, being silly is definitely a conduit to realize that. It’s sad how many people have jobs they define themselves by that make them unhappy.

TA: Within the context of a classroom, how much silly is just too much?

GT: I think silliness goes too far when it becomes about being mean and hurtful to other children, verbally and physically. Sometimes small children push boundaries, which of course is a healthy part of growing up, but they need adult supervision to curb that silliness. Children often react without thinking, so I think it’s important to encourage silly exercises that hone skills that couple creativity (art, dance, music) to instill mental discipline as well as curious exploration. Sometimes “silly” has a negative connotation and becomes synonymous with embarrassment (eg. “I feel silly doing this, etc). We should stop using that word for that meaning and instead describe silliness as being a positive thing to describe creative expression, fun, humour, laughter and joy. “I feel silly” is a good thing!

TA: What type of silly behaviour or habits should be encouraged?

GT: Lots of laughter! Playing, jumping, dancing, drawing, making faces. I have an idea, how about “Silly Time” directly preceding “Nap Time”? I truly feel that if this word were used in a positive, strong, loving and encouraging way by teachers and adults, we’d have a lot of really happy children in the school system. And who knows, that may positively affect the career choices they make down the line.

TA: Can you recommend a great activity primary teachers may want to include in their lessons to stimulate students’ creativity and bring out their inner Silly Willy?

GT: I think anything that fosters the imagination is really fun. For example, reading them stories without showing them the illustrations and having them create their own is a good activity. Another fun silly game, which I also play as an adult when I make my art, is to make up silly words and names. I like to name my characters and that helps spawn my silly imagination.


Well, there you have it. Words of wisdom from an award-winning artist who embraced silliness and became a major success! The next time your students come up with something outside of the box, why not consider encouraging them instead of enforcing conformity? They just might turn out to be the next Picasso or Andy Warhol!

Teach Away Contest: Listen up, Teachers! Submit your ‘silly story’ to Teach Away (kathleen [at] for your chance to win a selection of Gary Taxali retro wooden toys – a perfect addition to your already creative classroom!

Teacher Story: The Art of English

-by Shelley Suzuki

Teacher Story in JapanTeaching has been my dream since I was in grade 2, and I have been lucky enough to be able to combine my second love, art, with my first love, teaching. I’ve been teaching art (with a good friend of mine) in Japan at my own English language school for 6 years now. A common interest in art brought us together, and we eagerly poured over ideas for what to do for our first class.

We chose to do an underwater ocean scene using several techniques—from stenciling and paint splattering, to marbling and bubble-blowing. We taught the students the English words for several sea animals, as well as terms such as “paint,” “bubbles,” “cut,” and “glue.” The students were really enjoying the process, and while they were happily painting, gluing, and sticking, an interesting incident occurred.

At the bubble-blowing table, we taught the word “blow” by modeling the action to the students—but to a 4-year-old, seeing does not necessarily mean understanding. I will never forget looking over at one little girl, only to see the blue paint, snaking up her straw, about to be ingested rather than blown. It appeared to rise in slow motion, as we both ran to try and rescue the child from an un-tasty end, but alas, we were too late. The surprised child opened her mouth, the non-toxic blue paint dribbling down the sides of her chin. We quickly cleaned her up, rinsed her mouth, and she went on to make a fabulous underwater scene complete with giant octopus. But she probably still remembers the words “blue paint.”

Over the years, we have experienced many challenges and funny incidents, but mostly we have impressed many people with the beautiful work of our students. We have also given those with an aversion to textbooks and worksheets a different way to learn English. In Japan, students are taught to memorize, with very little opportunity for creative thinking. When I see a child come to my classroom and produce these fantastic creations, they are most certainly “thinking out of the box.” After all, in this ever-changing, fast- paced world, the key to survival is the ability to handle change and problem solve. I believe that art is the ultimate vehicle of change, and I am happy to say that I have found art in teaching English.

Let’s Get Serious! No More Silly Resumes

Resume TutorialHere at Teach Away, we certainly see our share of silly resumes! The internet can be a great resource when it comes to giving your resume a renovation; however choosing the right format can often be a daunting task. Sometimes when we are given too much choice, we simply stick to what feels comfortable and familiar. Always remember: A resume is essentially your first impression, so… dress to impress!

Teach Away has some good news for job-seekers who want to spruce up their resumes ASAP! We’ve launched a series of tutorials which will talk you through the process of creating a resume that gets you that call back you’ve been waiting for. Your new and improved resume will impress potential employers with its clarity and professionalism. Not only will we demonstrate what constitutes both a good and bad resume, we’ll make sure yours turns out great! If you find our first video helpful, make sure to be on the lookout for upcoming Teach Away Tutorials.

Photo Contest Nears its End

As November draws to a close, we can’t help but wonder which of the photos (which so wonderfully captured your first impressions of your new homes) will get the most votes. If you haven’t voted yet, please do on our Facebook Page. You have until November 30th to have your say.

The lucky winner of a Polaroid digital camcorder will be announced in the December issue of The Telegram. Good luck to all participants!

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