2012 in review

December 31, 2012

Here’s the 2012 annual report for my blog, prepared by the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys. Thank you to YOU, those who read, like and comment on the posts.  Here’s to another great year of blogging in 2013.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.


The Administration of English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs: Striking the Balance Between Generating Revenue and Serving Students

December 30, 2012

Critical Perspectives on International Education Sarah EatonI am squealing with joy to share this news with you. Four years ago, Dr. Yvonne Hébert, a professor of Education at the University of Calgary invited me to submit a chapter for a book she was co-editing with her colleague, Dr. Ali Abdi.

I submitted a chapter that focused on the difficulties managers of ESL / EFL programs face when it comes to the pressures they face to generate revenue for their institutions and focussing on students’ learning.

You would think that an administrator’s first priority should be to serve students. Morally and ethically that may be true. In terms of practicalities, the reality can be quite different. Many program administrators face great pressure to “put bums in seats”. This chapter addresses some of those difficulties.

“The Administration of English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs in Higher Education: Striking the Balance Between Generating Revenue and Serving Students” (pages 149-162) is my contribution to the new book called Critical Perspectives on International Education that has just been published by Sense publishers in Rotterdam.

The book is now available in paperback and hardcover:

ISBN Paperback: 9789460919046 ($ 49.00)
ISBN Hardcover: 9789460919053 ($ 99.00)

It may also become available as an e-book in 2013.

There has been so little published about the difficulties that English language program leaders face in terms of the moral, ethical and business decisions they must make every day in their administrative roles. More conversations and dialogue need to happen to help managers and directors make wise decisions.


If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

5 Great resources on asset-based community development (ABCD)

December 17, 2012

Creating space for strength in Calgary - Eaton International Consulting Inc.I have been working with two other consultants on a project called “Creating Space for Strength: An Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) and Research Project Focussed on Calgary’s North Central Communities”. Our approach to the work is strength-based, using the ABCD model. We are working with some amazing people and organizations who are deeply committed to making to the lives of the people who live in their communities better.

As part of our work, we are helping them to build their understanding and capacity around the ABCD approach. Here are 5 of our favorite resources on asset-based community development:

  1. Coady Institute. (n.d.). An asset-based approach to community development: A manual for village organizers Available from http://coady.stfx.ca/tinroom/assets/file/resources/abcd/SEWA%20ABCD%20Manual.pdf
  2. Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets. Skokie, IL: ACTA Publications.
  3. Kretzmann, J. P., McKnight, J. L., Dobrowolski, S., & Puntenney, D. (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University: http://www.abcdinstitute.org/docs/kelloggabcd.pdf
  4. Nelson, B., Campbell, J., & Emanuel, J. (2011). Development of a method for asset based working Available from http://www.nwph.net/phnw/writedir/da0dNW%20JSAA.pdf
  5. Miller, S. (n.d.). Asset-based community development.   Retrieved October 15, 2012, from http://www.slideshare.net/sadierynmiller/asset-based-community-development

We gratefully acknowledge the organizations who have made this project possible:

  • Project Origins – NorthernHills Constituency
  • Project Funders – Government of Alberta (CFEP Grant); United Way of Calgary and Area; Aspen Family and Community Network Society; NorthernHills Community Association
  • Project Supporters – NorthernHills Constituency; City of Calgary; Aspen Family and Community Network Society; NorthernHills Community Association; United Way of Calgary and Area

Related post: Webinar recording: Creating Space for Strength http://wp.me/pNAh3-1wI


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Top 10 affordable and unique Christmas gift ideas for teachers

December 10, 2012

Swirl of giftsIt is that time of year again when parents and children want to acknowledge teachers’ hard work and commitment to education with a token of appreciation.

Over the years, teachers collect dozens of boxes of chocolates and coffee mugs, so avoid those and instead opt for affordable gifts that your teacher is sure to appreciate. Here are some gift ideas for teachers, educational aides and volunteers, do not cost a lot of money and say “thank you” in a unique way:

1. Specialty tea

Choose black, green or herbal teas that are organic and high quality. Visit a local speciality tea shop and choose one that your teacher will love. Avoid the temptation to present it in a mug though. Many teachers already have a hearty collection of mugs, comprised of previous gifts from students.

2. High quality coffee

If you know for sure that the teacher drinks coffee, then the gift of java will surely be appreciated. Opt for high quality ground coffee unless you know for sure that the teacher uses a coffee grinder. Look for organic, fair trade or direct trade coffee from a local distributor.

3. Hand-made soap or lotion

Body products are another typical holiday gift for teachers, but many of the commercial products contain unhealthy ingredients. Opt for naturally-made, locally produced products that are scent-free or only lightly scented. This increases the chances that teacher will actually use the bath product.

4. A bottle of wine

Only give this gift if you know for sure that the teacher drinks alcohol. If she or he does, then a high quality bottle of wine can go a long way to help a stressed teacher relax once the term is over.

5. A gift card for classroom supplies

Did you know that many teachers buy their own classroom supplies? Some teachers love strolling the aisles of office supply stores, looking at markers, paper, pens, pencils and other classroom supplies. A gift card to an office supply store is a wonderful way to help teachers help kids.

6. A box of elegant, high quality blank cards

An exquisite box of blank cards is a great idea because it means that when the teacher is too busy during the term to go out and buy a special occasion card, they have one handy. Choose high quality paper with a design that can be used for a multitude of purposes.

7. A gift certificate for housecleaning services

This is another great idea from a group of parents. Many teachers find themselves so busy during the term that their house keeping chores just do not get done. If it comes to preparing a lesson plan or cleaning their toilet, teachers will opt to focus on their students. A gift certificate for maid services for a day can provide welcome relief. Choose a well-known service with an excellent reputation.

8. Gift certificates to a locally owned restaurant

Pool resources with a few other parents and buy a gift certificate to a local fancy restaurant. A group gift that allows a teacher to take their special someone out for a complete dinner with wine will be appreciated and remembered for a long time to come.

9. Gift certificates to the movies, live theatre or a concert

This kind of gift sends the message, “You deserve to relax.” A gift certificate or card for entertainment allows the teacher to take a break and forget all the day-to-day stresses of their job.

10. A gift made by you and your child

A gift handmade by your child, together with you, is a surefire way to touch a teacher’s heart. A handmade card, bookmark or other small token is enough to say, “We appreciate you!”

Avoid sugary or sweet gifts such as chocolate, cookies or other sweets. The school staff room is probably full of high calorie treats and many teachers end up laden with boxes of chocolates that they do not particularly want or need.

Instead, show your appreciation to teachers with small, thoughtful gifts that are unique and sure to be appreciated. Choose gifts that do double-duty of helping to support ethical business and local entrepreneurs and you’ll be giving a gift in more ways than one. You are guaranteed a great big smile on the teacher’s face when you do.

Related posts:


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Update: April, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.5 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

How checking things off your “to do” list is different than solving problems

December 7, 2012

I am in the middle of a small war with the management company of our condo complex. As the board president, I constantly liaise with our property manager about problems that need to be solved on the property. A recent issue is an excellent example of the difference between management and leadership.

There are 110 town homes in our condo complex that are approaching 40 years old. Structural wear and tear is starting to be a problem. This year, one unit had a major ant infestation. We got an exterminator to deal with the problem immediately. He said that the ants were entering through small holes under the kitchen window and in addition to his extermination services, he recommended that we fix the exterior by plugging up the holes that the ants use as entry points to the house.

Since the beginning of August I have been sending in requests to get the holes around the exterior of the windows fixed. I am not an expert in windows or building envelopes or exterior structures, but it was pretty clear where the holes were. I sent in a request to have the caulking around the outside of the window

The property manager has a construction company that they send out on a regular basis to do jobs on the property. I have met them and they are actually great guys. They know what they are doing. They arrive on time, they do a good job, they clean up after themselves, and they are pleasant to all the residents who live here. It doesn’t really get much better than that.

But this ant issue has recently turned into an all out war.

Last month I said, “I have been asking for this to be done for 3 months. Please have the work done.”

His reply, “I have talked to the contractor. He says the work has been done.”

Yesterday I looked at the unit. The entry points for the ants are still visible.

I wrote again, saying “Four months have now passed since I sent in this work request. This work has not yet been completed. Please have the work done.”

The reply came back, “The contractor assures me that he has caulked around the window. Can I give the contractor your phone number and you can deal with him directly?”

I went outside and looked. Indeed, the area around the metal frame had been caulked, but the entry points for the ants were still wide open. I took some pictures. I highlighted the areas where ants were entering:

Ant photos.001

Here is the second photo:

Ant photos.002

I sent the photos together with this letter:

Dear John:

I’ve been thinking about this. If you say to a guy, “Go caulk around the window.” He’s going to come over and caulk around the window. The job is done because the job was “to caulk around the window”.

 If you say to the guy, “This place has an ant problem. The kitchen wall is covered with thousands of ants. The exterminator says they are coming in from outside, specifically from around the kitchen window. Go over there and have a look at the outside of the kitchen window. Figure out every possible entry point for the ants to get in around that window. Plug each and every last one of those holes up, so the little buggers can’t get in.”

The job is done when the window is turned into an ant version of Fort Knox. No one — not one little ant — gets in.

That is an entirely different job than, “Go caulk around this window.”

The job we need to have done is the second one — plug up every possible entry point for ants from around that kitchen window.

If you need to give the contractor my number to explain that, then go ahead, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea about what we are after here, which is a solution to the problem of blocking how the ants get into the unit.

Every time you send a guy — or a couple of guys — to our property to do a job, they are not just checking off items from a “to do” list. They are solving problems for the people who live here. In doing that, they are making their life better.

I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, but every time one of your guys comes to our property to fix a problem for a resident, they get a chance to be somebody’s hero. They do that by solving a problem that the owner can not solve by themselves, because they either do not know how or they do not have the skills, expertise, materials, or maybe just the time. That’s one reason people live in condos.

I guarantee you that the single lady who lives in that unit does not have the skills or materials to fix this problem herself — or she would have already.

Your guys have all that — skills, talent, expertise and materials. We rely on you to hire smart guys and you do that. We see it time and time again. They’re smart, they’re capable and they can solve problems. In a small way, they can be somebody’s hero.

So tell your guy that this is his chance to be a hero for Marilyn, the lady who lives there.



When it comes to leadership, it is important to give people all the information they need to solve a problem. If you hire smart people, then do not simply give them items to check off their “to do” list. Engage people’s skills, expertise and problem-solving abilities to make them part of the solution. In doing so, you are likely to make their work more meaningful… and both they — and their work — will have a greater impact on those they are helping.

I believe deeply in people’s capacity to solve problems, help others and do meaningful work.

Checking items off a “to do” list does very little to connect the work to the people who may benefit from it. Besides, work that only involves checking items off a “to do” list often lacks meaning, especially when that list is assigned to you by someone else.

Engaging smart people to develop sustainable solutions helps everyone over the long term.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

5 Easy Christmas Blogging Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers

December 5, 2012

With Christmas right around the corner, teachers are scrambling to finish up the semester before the holidays. If you are a blogger, you probably do not have much time for your blog at the moment. Here are five easy ideas to keep you blogging through this busy time of year:

1. A guide to Christmas away from home

Do you have students from other countries who are missing their family and friends back home? Write a post with your top suggestions on how to survive the holidays away from home.

2. Local Christmas traditions and events

Many areas have special events such as craft fairs, light displays or free ice skating to celebrate the holidays. Tap into your local community to find out what is going on. Write a post that highlights some free or low-cost options for your students and their families.

3. Christmas crafts for young and old

Believe it or not, doing crafts can be an excellent way to build literacy and language skills. You must read instructions, follow directions and use a step-by-step method to complete a task.

Create a post with links to simple crafts that are appropriate for the ages and language proficiency of the group you teach. A link to a YouTube video is always a great idea.

4. Christmas carols for language learning

Sarah Eaton blog photoAs children we learn Christmas carols without really thinking about the words. What does it mean to “deck the halls with boughs of holly”, anyway? If you live in an area where holly does not grow then you may have never seen real holly.

Write a blog post that de-mystifies some of the language and phrases in common Christmas songs.

5. Multicultural Christmas traditions

When I was a teenager my Mom befriended a lady from El Salvador. That first Christmas we exchanged stories about our different Christmas traditions. Marta told us that setting off fireworks after their turkey dinner was part of their tradition. We had a wonderful conversation as we learned about what the similarities and differences were between our two cultures.

Write a blog post that highlights some of the traditions of your students, friends or family members.

Christmas time is one of the busiest times of the year for many people. Keep your blog posts simple and light during this time of year. Focus on joy and sharing and you’ll continue to enjoy your own blogging through the holiday season.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

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