In the middle of exam week, when I’m trying to finish up my marks, get in a few days with Pam before she leaves for Thailand for a week, and get myself packed to come home, I volunteered to conduct a workshop at Taylor’s. I’m thinking twenty to thirty teachers in a classroom, with lots of desk space to spread things out and lots of hands on activities. Instead I get a hundred teachers in a lecture theatre. I found out the day before my English exam, and three days before the event the true nature of this ‘workshop’. The last two days I have been retooling what I thought I was going to do in a classroom into what will work for a larger venue and a much more restricted workspace.

In my usual ‘get prepared way over the top’ way I had about four hours worth of stuff ready, so I had no problem filling the two hours I was scheduled to speak. The audience consisted of Malaysian High School teachers from a number of disciplines, mostly the sciences. But I teach English, so that is what I taught. Poetry, to be precise. The topic of my talk was Interactive Learning, and over the years I have found poetry to be one of those parts of the curriculum that is most interactive. I did the usaul: poetic rhythm and Haiku, but in my research I came across Ghazal, an ancient Persian poetic form that is well suited to interactive learning. In Ghazal each member of the group write one couplet on a theme you assign, and all the member of the group put their couplets – or shers, as they are properly called – together to form a poem. The ones on the subject of money were very clever. The ones on lonliness were most touching.

My group was a little reluctant to get started. Those of you who know me know that I can be a bit formidable at first blush. But after a few minutes of me running up and down through the auditorium soliciting volunteers they soon loosened up, and by the end I had a hard time getting them out of there for lunch. We had a lot of fun together and we all learned something from the experience.

I sat for lunch with a very articulate and well educated group of them who worked in a school of four thousand students, with classrooms of forty students each. Their English was impeccable and they knew full well the challenges that they and their country faced to bring Malaysia into the first world. They earned my admiration for the enormous job they do, and my appreciation for a very rewarding teaching experience. For more information on Ghazal and great review of Haiku, go to: