When Being a Hot-Blooded Teacher Is Actually a Good Thing

Teacher Nate has taught with BGL at Tsai Hsing School for the past 7 years. He describes one of the secrets to his longevity below:

I should start with the caveat that “hot-blooded” in Chinese, rèxuè (熱血) is actually a very positive trait. In Taiwan, being a hot-blooded person means you are enthusiastic and full of passion. So when somebody refers to you as being hot-blooded here in Taiwan, they aren’t calling you a “hot-head” like in my native U.S. Rather, it’s a compliment!


This linguistic difference is just one of the myriad cultural nuances to navigate when teaching abroad. This, in turn, is just one of the many challenges you face while daring to pack up your life to live and work in another country. Two more challenges are finding a community outside of work and staying engaged in your professional life. It was these two birds that I killed with one stone: Spartan Races.


Having always been into fitness I was excited when in 2016 these events made their way to Taiwan. Spartan Races are essentially an obstacle course race completed either competitively or as a team-building event. I enjoy both aspects and soon they became a real passion of mine. Through Spartan Races, I have made good friends and recruited others into the sport. This has helped to make Taiwan my home away from home. After enthusiastically helping with some Spartan promotional activities, Taiwan’s Spartan organizers now refer to me as “the hot-blooded teacher” within the Spartan community.


Keeping my life exciting out of the classroom has made me more driven within my classroom as well. Students can be greatly moved by the things that matter to their teachers, and my students know I’m passionate about Spartan Races because I often use the races to make real-world connections and extend content across our curriculum. And so eventually some of Tsai Hsing’s students signed up for the kids’ version of the race. I made sure to run next to them through the course and encouraged them on each obstacle. They might have gotten involved on their own, but I think at least some were inspired to try the Spartan Races because of my “hot-blood.”


This all reminds me that though a person can keep work life and private life separate, they are interconnected. The adage “work hard to play hard” goes both ways, so one could also say “play harder to work harder.” My advice: be sure to find what makes you “hot-blooded” and pursue it, especially if you teach abroad.IMG_7040.jpeg

Want to teach abroad? Go here to see BGL’s teach abroad opportunities in Taiwan and China!

BGL Brings the Sound of Music to You!

Hey teachers!  We hope you’re enjoying the Fall as it slowly turns to Winter.  Some of us may feel it more than others, so stay warm, stay dry, stay indoors, get outdoors – whatever suits you!  Over here at BGL, we’re making lots of noise!


Teacher Jimmy and Teacher Lucas have made a flurry of new songs introducing our good phonics friend Professor Goofball!  He’s joining Sophie Sounds in our phonics universe, teaching all sorts of fun, interactive lessons on single letter sounds, CVC words and phonemic blends. 

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And for those young learners just getting started on their English adventure, we’ve got some great new instructional videos from Teacher Kelly on consonants and vowels, too!

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We’ve been on a video frenzy this month, getting loads of videos up for your classroom, your home or just for your dancing and singing enjoyment.  On our YouTube page  you’ll notice that we’ve got some themed playlists.  Whether you want songs about school, eating healthy foods, numbers, shapes or colors, we’ve got you covered!  So check back often as we’re always updating our page! Don’t forget to subscribe and Like!

Thanks a lot for stopping by!  As always, we want you to stay up to date on the latest news from BGL, because we’re always up to something fun and exciting!  Check below on all the ways you can follow us around the internet and around the globe.  And, as always, let us know what you think about all the great additions being made to our social media!  Check us out below:


Like us on Facebook!

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Learn more about us on our website!

Or follow along with all the news here on our blog!

Join the Big Dayta Project: International Collaboration for K12 Students

Big Dayta is growing and we invite you to spread the word! 


Big Dayta is a collaborative international project that was started in 2015. It has over 900 student participants to date. We provide resources for teachers to use Big Dayta, including an idea guide (all of aligned with Common Core standards for Math and ELA). Recently we’ve developed introductory presentations for teachers to use in the classroom (check out our previous blog post for links and details). In the coming months we’ll be developing a Project Based Learning (PBL) unit for middle school. This will enable teachers to customize the basic project for their students’ interests. We will also be providing worksheets for teachers who want to use Big Dayta for a one-off lesson of a single period that asks Common Core-aligned questions. The sheets update numbers automatically as more students join Big Dayta. 

Now we want to spread the word about the project and its resources, and that’s where you come in! Follow us on Twitter @BigDayta where we’ll be announcing new resources and reaching out toteachers and others in the education field who are not in the classroom. 

Big Dayta is a chance for educators to make use of human curiosity to motivate deep data exploration and dramatic skill development. Check out the Big Dayta website for more information. Follow us on Twitter @BigDayta and reach us by email at BigDayta@gmail.com


Lingoloop Jr. Launches at Tsai Hsing School

Here at BGL we’ve always been proud to subscribe to the tenet that there is no one-size-fits-all model for education. Students have different abilities, different needs and different learning styles and education needs to adapt to accommodate all students.

It is in this vein that BGL is proud to announce the launching of Lingoloop Jr. at Tsai Hsing School.


Unlike other online small group conversation classes like VIP Kid and Tutor ABC, Lingoloop Jr.’s expert tutors customize each lesson based on the abilities and interests of the students. This immersive technique ensures that the learning experience is on-level, fun, and memorable.

Check back here for updates on our students’ progress!


Building a Remote Culture: Using VC for an All-Staff Meeting

A challenge facing an increasingly dispersed, literally global, workforce is how to create a workplace culture when the work “place” is virtual. How does one foster water cooler talk when there’s no water cooler?

One way is to use video conferencing, an ever-improving alternative to meeting in person. Here at BGL we don’t put air quotes around the word “meet” when we say it was nice to meet you over VC. We’re firm believers that as video conferencing services improve, they approach real life interaction.

Into this culture stepped Marty Perlmutter, a new hire for BGL, who arrived just in time to attend our all-staff meeting over VC. Below is his reflection on the experience.

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From Marty:

If there’s one technology (besides VR) that resolutely remains disappointing surely it’s video conferencing. Harnessed to education, video conferences are often frustrating, customarily begin with dead air as hosts struggle to make the kludge work, almost never convey a sense of intimacy among participants, choke when more than a dozen folks are involved… The causes of dismay are as numerous as there are vendors – Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx. Their names legion, their costs impressive, nearly all raise the question of their own existence, to quote one wag.

So it was with surprise and not a little delight that I shared a video conference with 28 distant participants on three continents in the annual all-team meeting of Banyan Global Learning. The system didn’t sputter. The breakout rooms worked. The darn thing operated without a single oops for an hour. Most importantly, I came away feeling I’d actually met these strangers, had begun to have a feel for them, laughed and spoke with them, and felt intrigued by the mission we shared. The presiding person paired us swiftly for breakouts. All sessions worked as planned. There was real conversation and sharing. Wonder of wonders!

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Zoom was the platform. Unlike large Skype calls, we didn’t have to default to audio-only as the works choked. Videos of speakers were spotlighted. Thumbnail video of all participants persisted, and these were useful. We didn’t do tricks with graphic roll-ins but had video clips that were relevant for discussion. 

I came away convinced this system would be useful in a teaching application, as is the practice of BGL. For classroom purposes, BGL provides links to text, video, podcasts, graphics. After just 55 years of patient (and frustrated) waiting – since the premiere of “video telephone” service at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 – we may be ready to roll.

Now, the challenge becomes the instructor’s: Can you keep this experience engaging and informative? Can you catalyze interaction among participants? Can you track the progress of participants? Perhaps most important, can you forge learning circles, subgroups of students, who’ll be motivated to work together to investigate topics and collaboratively construct their understanding? 

Recent evidence is encouraging.

ISTE 2019: A Wonderland for Education Innovators

By Jacquelin Fink, M.Ed., BGL‘s Vice President of Curriculum & Professional Development

As a long-time online educator and first-time ISTE Conference attender, I was blown away by the wonderland known as ISTE 2019. Like an amusement park for innovators in education, ISTE offered dazzling attractions as far as the eye could see. All around child-like joy sparked on the faces of 20,000 attendees, educators from around the world abuzz with the theme “Bold Educators Activate Change.”

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I had the great fortune to be a part of the Leadership Exchange, which was a small group of about 300 education experts, set apart from the crowd by our orange colored lanyards. Dedicated leaders from around the world gathered to engage in courageous conversations about equity, and to explore the landscape of a future in education that we can barely imagine – a future brimming with the possibilities of a tech-integrated system of education that prepares learners beyond the workforce. The kind of future in which global relations and interpersonal skills rise to the top of the value in human contributions to the world.Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 10.26.53 PM.png

My luck began as I sat at a table with the ISTE author of  Innovation Age Learning: Empowering Students by Empowering Teachers, Sam Sakai-Miller. She has invaluable insight after 20+ years in the world of technology in education. Together, Sam and I worked through the Innovator’s Compass, a thoughtful model for answering big questions and solving problems. Throughout the conference, I was excited to see the orange lanyards of these fellow leaders, proud to part of a cohort of some of the most brilliant minds in education.

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 11.14.46 PM.pngLater I wandered through the wonderland of the Expo, falling down rabbit holes of the kind of technology I dreamed of as a child. Robots were everywhere at the ISTE Expo! From simple coding using color blocks to advanced AI capable of machine learning, there was a technology to meet any need or dream. The samurai block robots from ArTec caught my eye, and I was excited to learn that they offer a full curriculum as well as live student competitions. Swivl turned my head too, with its tracking capabilities that allow teachers to move more freely while teaching on camera – perfect for the animated, engaging style of BGL’s Learning Live program. There were also the familiar logos of some of our favorite Edtech providers, like Flipgrid, Edmodo and Peardeck amongst the giants Microsoft, Apple and Google.

Alas, I emerged from the magnificent Expo to a labyrinth of concurrent poster sessions, workshops, pop-up seminars, lectures, discussions and tech playgrounds. A favorite of mine was a session from the co-founder of  the interactive white board tool Explain Everything, Reshan Richards. His session, “10 Research-Driven Teaching Strategies, Augmented with Technology, That Leaders Should Use,” explored some of the fundamentals of teaching as they apply to the world of training and professional development. Most poignant in his animated, sincerely personable delivery of succinct, practical content was an idea echoed throughout ISTE: the most valuable asset to our future workforce, and future society, is our humanity.


Many thanks to Rehshan for gifting me his book Make Yourself Clear. Just a few chapters in, I am reminded of the adage, “just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should.” Technology should be integrated thoughtfully in consideration of the value that human interactions can bring. In other words, just because many jobs can be taken over by robots doesn’t mean that all jobs, or even all parts of jobs, are beneficial for robots to complete.

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Some of the best moments of ISTE came from the connections made with genuinely passionate, like-minded educators. I found just such a person in Todd Lash, research associate at the CSforAll Consortium, and presenter of “Making Computer Science Accessible to ALL Learners,” who is clearly committed to equity in access to technology. His work with students with special needs was particularly touching as the proud aunt and advocate of a nephew who is bravely fighting a kidney disease while navigating the complexities of his teenage years as a teen with autism. Through Todd’s encouraging work and words, I was empowered to continue as an advocate knowing that I’m not alone.

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I met Kasper Hua while signing up for PAECT, a nonprofit organization that supports educational technology in Pennsylvania, and we immediately connected after a brief language exchange and laugh as I practiced my less-than-fluent Mandarin. Over lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, I learned that Kasper and I share many views on inclusion, technology and equity in education. I now have a friend and ally in Kasper who echoes my hopes for a brighter, more inclusive future in education.

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While there was so much to learn from these sessions, the poster sessions were really a blast for me. Given BGL’s focus on delivering high-quality education over video conferencing technology, I was so excited to discover an entire row of other educators specializing in this same pursuit. When you’re on the cutting edge of technology, it’s a challenge to find others who are on the same level. TWICE impressed me with their global, philanthropic endeavors to encourage student collaborations, and eMINTS with their extensive library of teacher training videos.

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At BGL, we’re teachers as well as students, so I was happy to talk with Kiersten Greene, Professor of Literacy in the Elementary Education Department at SUNY New Palz and BGL collective contributor. She was presenting research findings on the preparedness of teachers for the real-world of teaching. Although the current state of affairs in teacher training programs is a bit bleak, it was inspiring to talk with others who are as committed to raising the bar as we are.

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We hear all the time about this exponential rate of change in technology that makes the future uncertain – an idea that can be as intimidating to teachers as it is to students. At ISTE 2019, we learned what an exciting time this is for us as educators as we get to be a part of changing the very fabric of what we call education. When we work together, share our knowledge, and become the leaders we want to follow, our students – and their students, someday are sure to be prepared for our changing world.

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As a Pennsylvania native, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the beautiful sights the City of Brotherly Love had to offer.

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Music Videos for the New School Year

Hey everyone!  While y’all have been enjoying your summer (we hope), we here at BGL have been working tirelessly to make sure the 2019-2020 school year starts off with a bang by creating fresh videos to brighten up your new classroom.  

Songs for Routines

A great way to greet new students and build routines is with classroom songs, like our newly released Hi There! Hello! Good Morning! and See You Tomorrow. The catchy tunes bring such a smile to the kids’ faces as they sing along, simple words make for quick and easy sing-alongs, and fun dances make saying “hello” and “goodbye” a happy part of the day for young learners.  For the silliest song to teach manners while getting out some giggles, check out May I Please!

Songs for Phonics: Sophie Sounds

We all know that phonics is an important part of a balanced kindergarten diet, but it can be less like a boring vitamin and more like a rainbow sprinkle ice cream cone with Sophie Sounds. Young learners can explore the magic world of sounds, letters and words with Sophie and friends. Aligned with the BRIDGES curriculum, students can see words from their book come to life in the short, sweet animated adventures of Sophie Sounds.


Want more?

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the latest phonics adventures of Sophie Sounds and browse our library of free quality educational content for young learners. If you love what you see on BGL’s blog and want to become part of our collective of educators and innovators, see our job postings.

Thanks, Team!

A special thanks to our BGL media production team that brings the magic to life!

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Happy teaching, everyone!