The Human Touch Series

A screenshot from our kickoff event at the iTDi Summer School MOOC with Jason Levine and Chuck Sandy (by Leo JC)

A screenshot from our kickoff event at the iTDi Summer School MOOC with Jason Levine and Chuck Sandy (by Leo JC)

A year ago, I was asked by the amazing Chuck Sandy to write a blog post for iTDi under the title The Ideal Classroom. I thought about it and a few minutes later, I had a clear picture of an ideal classroom.I thought of all the environments I have worked in: some were picture-perfect, others much less so – no lighting, having lessons in our coats and gloves. But which is the best kind? The ideal one?

Some of them are hi-tech or bare floor. Some are in beautiful modern buildings, some do not even have windows or roofs. Others have tablets and computers for the students;  in other schools kids sit on the ground with little chalkboards, or even draw in the dirt.

Which is the best one? Or even better, what do they all have in common, which makes them all ideal classrooms?

The people in them. The students and the teachers. They are what make classrooms special, and ideal, and amazing.

It is the Human Touch in them.

In March I gave my very first plenary talk at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Convention. I thought that this topic would be the one for me to talk about – and I hope that the teachers who would come to listen would connect with it. I shared my own story and the difficulties I faced during my first years in Switzerland. I found other teachers I had met online or face-to-face, who each represented a specific story and I included them in the plenary talk. The teachers in the talk found themselves in these stories, and I found myself in theirs.

Then I did the same plenary for RSCON5 and the opening keynote for the iTDi Summer School MOOC. More teachers, more students, more amazing stories to share! That is why I always say: every person every student and teacher, has their own story. No one has had ot easy at some point or another, and we need to be there for each other. We are there for each other, to help and motivate one another, and that is what makes education beautiful, in addition to all the learning that takes place.

This is the beginning of a series of stories, by you, the teachers and the students.

We don’t get down
No we don’t get down
We can turn this round
And maybe
It’s today

 

 

 

 

The Disabled Access Friendly Campaign (@DAFCampaign) – Thank you!

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I have decided to write this post as a huge thank you to the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign, started by the equally amazing Katie Quartano and Paul Shaw in Thessaloniki, Greece. It started in 2010, after an article in the Athens News was published under the title of A day in the life of a disabled person. The campaign was born as a Facebook page and at this very moment has 976 followers!

DAF has a great website full of free lesson materials, created by teachers all around the world – lesson plans and videos listed by level A1 to C2, according to the CEFR. They are designed to create awareness in the ELT classroom and outside of it. If you have any great ideas about lessons, share them with Katie and Paul!

A few days ago, they included me among their Ambassadors. I am deeply honoured and happy to be part of this great project! I will do my very best to help spread this great campaign. Other ambassadors are Hassan Ait Man, Julia Aliverti, Lindsay Clandfield, Jeffrey Doonan, Adir Ferreira, Ben Goldstein, Jamie Keddie, Sue Lyon-Jones, Gerard McLoughlin, Eleni Nikiforou, Waleed Nureldeen, Aleksandra Strahinic. 

The best news lately has been that the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign has won an ELTons award for Innovation in Teacher Resources. If you click on the link you can see a video of Katie and Paul’s red carpet interview (at 34:25 mins), the winning announcement and their acceptance speech (at 1:32:33).
http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/eltons

Congratulations to everyone at DAF and thank you again so much for everything you do!

Watch this video The Wheelchair, from the Disabled Access Friendly YouTube channel, with David Gibson and Luke Prodromou:

 

 

 

 

 

 

BE DARING!! – Vicky Loras’ advice on CPD

Vicky Loras:

Almost five years ago, when I first started to join various social media, I did not even realise what I was doing, what was happening.
Now, I never look back on that decision! I have connected to so many amazing educators around the world, from whom I learn, with whom I collaborate and sometimes even become friends.

Today, was another one of those instances. Laila in Spain, watched my webinar for BELTA and wrote a beautiful, reflective post afterwards, which I share with you here. We are now connected on social media too – after having “cyber-bumped” into each other, as Laila put it very well!

A million thanks, Laila and I look forward to learning from you and with you!

Originally posted on elt-fun@ics:

Today, right at the equator of my webinar watching marathon challenge, I cyber-bummped into Vicky Loras’ webinar about Professional Development on the Sundays with BELTA archive and I couldn’t help write about it and share my excitement :)

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This photo of my lovely Moma, staring eagerly at the open sea, mirrors how I have often felt about my teaching career so far: 

I’m stuck here and there’s so much more out there. 

 “I’VE LEARNT MORE OFF TWITTER THAN IN MY 4 YEARS AT UNIVERSITY” – Vicky Loras

This didn’t come as a surprise to me at all. That’s why I am writing this post, to share all I have been up to in the last 4 months ever since I decided to BE DARING :)

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Just like her, I threw myself in and the rewards have kept coming since then. 

6 years vs 4 months 

Although I have been…

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The Day Sting Came to Our Classroom – A Lesson Plan on “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”

As I have mentioned in other blog posts, I love teaching with songs – and students love it too, even if they have never heard the specific songs before! I must admit that very often I use songs I personally love – and today’s is one of them. Sting is one of my favourite artists and the particular song is super too, I think.

I have also realised that I have a lot of lesson plans with songs and I will share them more often in the future!

The song I have chosen and have used with my students in Greece and now here in Switzerland is If I Ever Lose My Faith in You. Depending on the context and country, it could be slightly controversial – but the activities I have created are pretty neutral. I hope you enjoy them and if you have more ideas, feel free to share in the comments!

Here is the video:

And the lesson plan.

Tesol Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece – The 21st Annual International Convention – Teach and Seek

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There is a wonderful conference coming up in Thessaloniki, Greece, on March 29-30 – organised by the hard-working and tireless team of an amazing association, called TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

First of all, here is the dream team:

  • Chair – Roger House
  • Vice Chair/Treasurer – George Topalis
  • General Secretary – Anastasia Loukeri
  • Membership Secretary – Nathan Pratt
  • E-bulletin Editor – Margarita Kosior
  • Convention Secretary - Fani Dafnopatidou
  • Member-at-large – George Raptopoulos
  • Member-at-large – Emmanuel Kontovas
  • Member-at-large – Efi Tzouri
  • Member-at-large – Elsa Tsiakiri
  • Member-at-large – Aspa Georgopoulou

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The two-day conference has a lot of exciting events:

Plenary Talks

  • Kieran Donaghy – Using Film to Teach English in a World of Screens
  • Dr Terry Lamb – Perspectives on 21st Century Language Learners
  • Carol Griffiths – Using Narrative as a Strategy to Teach Language
  • Vicky Loras – The Human Touch

I am so honoured to be doing my first plenary talk ever, and in Thessaloniki as well, where I lived for almost four years and went to university!

Pecha Kucha Session

An event not to miss on Saturday evening! There will be not one, not two, but SEVEN Pecha Kucha sessions! I am so excited about this. The MC for the Pecha Kucha will be Margarita Kosior, who is also the E-Bulletin Editor for TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

The Pecha Kucha presenters are:

And there will be lots of workshops and talks during the two days of the conference. Here is the Preliminary Programme 2014, so you can choose your sessions.

I am looking forward to it – this is going to be a conference definitely not to miss!

Thank you so much, everyone at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace!

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Presentations in English – The Students Take the Floor!

I would like to introduce you to a group of 9 talented young ladies : )

Some Saturdays a month I teach them at our local college, the KBZ. They attend a seven-hour course in English (and other subjects, such as Finance, Correspondence in German, Computing and others), in order to be qualified PAs (Personal Assistants) in companies, to CEOs, chairpeople and directors. I truly admire them because apart from three days a week of courses, homework and studying, they also work, do a lot of activities, have families, personal lives, hobbies and even so, they are always full of energy! Our course starts at 07:35 am and finishes at 13:45 pm.

This course will go on for two years, and they will sit an exam. Their English exam includes a lot of parts, such as reading comprehension, translation (German into English and vice versa) and they will also be asked to make a presentation. Today, we prepared our first presentation! I chose a very broad, general, simple topic, as their first. I wanted to give them almost no directions apart from the topic, which was: Who is the ideal employee? They gave me so many ideas for other classes as well. I love when the students take ownership of the learning process! This is all theirs, and I would love to share their work with you all (having obtained permission first).

The only other thing apart from the topic that I did was provide them with materials, so they could present any way they liked.

materials kbz

I split them in pairs and a small group (unfortunately two were absent today and hope they feel better soon!) and gave them about 25-30 minutes to prepare for an 8-minute presentation. As they were preparing, I went around with a notepad writing down all the amazing language they were using, making small corrections and helping out if needed. I cannot even begin to describe their enthusiasm as they came up with ideas, what materials to use and who would say what. So in the end, we had three amazing and varied presentations. Let’s have a look in the order that they were presented:

The Flowchart

These ladies took blank sheets of A4 paper and made a flow chart, which they attached to the wall with magnets. I loved how they followed their own way of presentation – via the use of questions. They tried to find the ideal employee by asking us questions, and made it clear that the answers would come from us – which I thought was a great way of approaching such a broad subject.

Here is their flowchart:

marliessandra

The Board Display

This group of three ladies chose the chalkboard to write down bullet points, which they then analysed (each one took a bullet point in order, explained why they had chosen it and also gave us examples! I loved this way of presenting as well.

Here is their presentation:

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The Poster Presentation

These two ladies used the poster paper. They brainstormed any words or phrases they could think of when taking the ideal employee into consideration, and wrote them in different colours, which made the points stand out. It was colourful and a great visual aid for their presentation! Then they stuck the poster to the wall with magnets and explained each point, which they also illustrated with examples.

andrearenata

I can’t wait to explore many more topics with them and other types of presentations as well. I am so grateful because they are so motivated and willing to learn, that is absolutely contagious for me too! I will be sharing more on the blog.

A little message for them – and for all my students:

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Really Value Your Network

Vicky Loras:

Doug Peterson is one of the reasons I am delighted to have joined social media and will never look back – I learn from amazing educators like him, and I am grateful for the motivation I get from him. Thank you so much, Doug!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

I’ve never met Vicky Loras but she has opened up so many doors for me.

I think I probably got started with social networking like most people  I was curious about Twitter or Facebook and started an account.  Then, I read a post “Top 10 People to Follow on Twitter” or the like.  You end up following the “A” Crowd which turns out to be a cadre of people flogging books or their next presentation and not much else.  I liken it to an elevator that doesn’t go to the top floor.  It wasn’t satisfying so I turned to the person next to me, found out his name and followed him.  It was more satisfying and from there, it just kept snowballing.

So often, I read people bragging that “I gots a PLN” and it’s always interesting to ask just what that means.  “You know, I talk to people on…

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Feat No 23: Behind the scenes… behind it all!

Vicky Loras:

The Loras Network has moved! Read Eugenia’s post to see what happened all this past week!

Originally posted on Eugenia Loras:

What a week! What a long, hard-working, stressful yet blissful week. During the two-week Sports Break here in Switzerland, our family is working out… by working.

We have been in the process of looking for new facilities the past 3 months as it would be much more professional and practical to each have permanent separate offices. Many of our lessons are simultaneous and have increased recently.

Literally, last minute, on Friday 31.01 we found the best possible facilities, received the keys and managed to move everything out of the old and into the new during the weekend. That means that as of today we are ready to welcome you to our offices at Uptown, General-Guisan-Strasse 6, Zug in the Premium Business Center.

The main entrance is on the side of their vast parking lot. You can almost always find parking space there. There is also free parking in the “Hertizentrum”…

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Interview with Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest. Previously, he was a school teacher, teacher trainer, vice rector of his university, deputy state secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Education and the ambassador of Hungary posted in Damascus. Professor Medgyes is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Non-Native Teacher (1994, winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition), Changing Perspectives in Teacher Education (1996, co-edited with Angi Malderez), The Language Teacher (1997), Laughing Matters (2002), and Golden Age: Twenty Years of Foreign Language Education in Hungary (2011). His main professional interests lie in curriculum studies, language policy, and teacher education.

A huge thank you to Péter for this honour!

Vicky: Professor Medgyes, first of all I would like to thank you for this interview – I have admired your work since I was in university!

Professor Medgyes: Thank you very much, Vicky. But frankly I’d much prefer if you called me Péter. It’s far more informal. My students call me Peter too.

Vicky: Thank you so much, Péter! Let us start from the beginning of your career. You started your career as a school teacher. How did you enter the field of education?

Péter: My mother was dismayed when she learnt that I’d decided to become a teacher. “Oh no! You don’t want to become a slave, do you?” she cried. What she hinted at was the low status of teachers in Hungary at that time. Trouble is that teachers are still not given the credit they deserve. Teachers of English were a little better off though, because English was considered a trendy language. The Beatles, jeans, American movies – you know what I mean.

Vicky: What has changed since then? What challenges, if any, remain?

Péter: Well, if English was trendy 30 years ago, it’s since become the unparallelled lingua franca. We can’t breathe without English in our wired-up world. It’s no longer a foreign language, but some kind of a second mother tongue for billions of people. It should become part of basic education all over the world. Kids start to learn English at an ever younger age. CLIL is introduced in more and more schools.

Vicky: How did you move on to the field of academia?

Péter: I taught in a comprehensive school for some 15 years before I became a teacher trainer at university in Budapest. Truth be told, vanity played a part in my decision to move on. But then I’ve never lost touch with school-life. My research has always been rooted in the classroom. In the early 2000s I went back to teach in the same school where I’d started out. I thought, well, with all the experience that I’d accumulated over the years, I’d be a much better school teacher than I was. Sadly I didn’t – I forgot how to teach teenagers, so I quit after a couple of years.

Vicky: You have been very much involved in the topic of native and non-native teachers. Do you believe the distinction is still necessary today?

Péter: The native/non-native issue is a tricky one. Dividing English teachers into natives and non-native is pretty arbitrary. Yet the fact remains that I’m a native speaker of Hungarian and a non-native speaker of English. Having said that, it’s true that the demarcation line is getting more and more elusive these days, due to the fact that the English language competence of non-native teachers is rapidly improving. Thanks to a number of things in the contemporary world.

Vicky: I agree. Now let us move on to your writing and other activities. Have you got any projects in the works? Could you tell us a bit more about them?

Péter: Together with Marianne Nikolov I’ve just finished a longish report on language pedagogy research done in Hungary in recent years. It’s due to be published in ‘Language Teaching’ in the autumn. At present I’m busy working on compiling an anthology of papers and conference presentations I’ve produced in the past 30 years. Each essay is introduced with an imaginary interview between me and a reporter in which I speak about how those pieces came about and lots of other things. Some kind of retrospection.

Vicky: Very interesting projects! I am looking forward to reading more of your work. Now what would you like to advise new teachers, who are reading this interview?

Péter: Huh, this is a difficult question! As a teacher trainer all I can teach my students are visible and tangible things. However, whatever really matters in education is hidden and intangible and so it can’t be taught.

Vicky: What exactly is hidden and intangible?

Péter:  The spark in the students’ eyes. Once I notice that spark I know that I’ve done a good job. I’ve managed to pass on the ultimate secret of teaching – love. Love of your job. Love of your students. No more – no less.

Vicky: This has been a great interview. Thank you ever so much for this, Péter! I wish you the very best.

What is the best thing about being an educator? Inspired by Roseli Serra (@SerraRoseli)

Where I imagined myself a long time ago...

Where I imagined myself a long time ago…

This post has been inspired by an amazing lady and educator in Brazil, Roseli Serra. Roseli is a teacher trainer and developer, e-moderator and ELT consultant. She included this question in her Eleven challenge, which I have used as the title of my blog post.

I love Roseli for her enthusiasm in her teaching and everything she does in life! She blogs at http://roseliserra.blogspot.com.br/ and I cannot wait to meet her in person. Thank you for the inspiration, Roseli!

If you asked me this question over twenty years ago, I would have: a) answered: How should I know? I want to become a lawyer. b) shrugged my shoulders and answered great, I think, if a teacher likes what they’re doing or something like that.

When missing Law School for a fraction of a fraction of a percentage meant me getting into studying ELT at university, I thought my world was tumbling down.

Little did I know what a journey this would become!

What do I love about being an educator? I could fill numerous blogposts with this topic. Here are a few reasons why I love my work:

  • I have the opportunity to grow and learn every single year. We are so fortunate to have so many conferences, workshops, webinars, other teachers we can learn with and from, in person or online.
  • I can teach students of all ages, all walks of life and every culture I can imagine, especially in my new context in Switzerland. I learn so much from them, be it about their countires, their interests, the things they learn in other departments. I cannot thank my students enough for every single thing they teach me, and above all how to be a better teacher and person.

    ...and here I am today!

    …and where I am today!

  • I can explore new ways of teaching. I love how we can be versatile, change what we do one year into something else the next, experiment (in the positive meaning of the word) and grow and move ahead. In this way, we can also see what works and what doesn’t. With whom does an idea work, and with whom not.
  • Some people may see it as an issue, but I love the fact that we are one of those professions that spills into our free time as well (as long as it is on a healthy basis). There are so many ideas around us that we can use in our classes. We see a lesson plan in any object we see, any idea we get from watching a tv programme, a song we listen to – a lot of us do this and get great ideas from everywhere!
  • I love that my students feel comfortable enough to take initiative and give feedback. Initiative helps us vary our lessons, as they may email me an idea or bring me an idea they have in thenext lesson for us to use. Feedback helps me improve my teaching, see what has worked and what I need to rethink.
  • No exaggeration – but I thank my young and teen students for making me feel like a mom with lots and lots of kids! I am sure a lot of us feel like this. Lots of us care for the kids, apart from teaching then the tenses – and we want to teach them values as well…this, among pulling out a tooth here and there, touching their foreheads to see if they have a fever, laughing and having fun, getting and giving lots and lots of hugs!

So, here I am today! Away from courtrooms and objections , but in a place I love and cannot imagine myself without.