Goal 10: My Bookprint by @dorapap72 #30GoalsEdu

198004_513461212006980_973484126_nThis tenth goal has been suggested by an educator I admire tremendously for her work, her inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm in everything she does, be it teaching, blogging, or going to the gym – Theodora Papapanagiotou!

This goal has been on my mind for quite some time.

I love books so much, that every time I go into a bookstore, I struggle not to buy yet another – I have around five hundred in my small apartment. There is always a book in my bag, so I can read if I am commuting to a class by train or bus, or travelling in general, or out for coffee, I always have one on hand to read. I do not like all books (for instance crime novels or science fiction are not my cup of tea), but my favourite kinds are those that have to do with my work, any book by Orhan Pamuk or Amos Oz (my top two favourite writers), books about people and feelings and places.

(Image of book cover taken from www.morebooks.de)

(Image of book cover taken from http://www.morebooks.de)

A book that has left an indelible mark on me and is about teaching is Teach With Your Heart by Erin Gruwell, a teacher in inner city America, who was assigned a group of low-performing kids. She and the kids worked so hard together that a lot of them graduated from college and went on to excel professionally and get away from drugs, gangs and prostitution. Erin encouraged them to write their stories in a journal – they both learned to write, as some of them had trouble with writing per se, but it also served as a catharsis for most of them – a catharsis from their problems at home, or illegal activities they were involved in.

She is an amazing educator, as in her interviews she is still very humble and always speaks about her students with such love and about teaching with great passion. Her story even became a motion picture and she has written books about her experiences with her kids. Erin even worked three jobs at the same time at the beginning, in order to give them bags full of books at the end of the school year, because her headteacher told her the books the school had would be a waste on the specific kids. Erin believed in them though and still does. Her work is remarkable.

She even managed to bring Miep Gies (the lady that helped Anne Frank and her family hide away in the Secret Annex) to the school – the kids listened to her speak and interviewed her – what a life-changing moment for them! Erin also brought her students into contact with Zlata Filipović, a Bosnian girl who wrote Zlata’s Diary, a memoir of the siege of Sarajevo and the horrors of the war she lived through.

It is a book truly worth reading, and not for educators only. It is for anyone who loves kids and believes in their potentials. Because they all can do great things!

Goal 5: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone #30GoalsEdu

Part of my German homework : )

Part of my German homework : )

As an educator and as many also uphold, learning is key to our careers and development in the field. I have been learning various things during my teaching career so far: new skills, tools to use, methods and so on, but until I moved to Switzerland four years ago, I had never tried to learn another language. I never had to, because English and Greek was enough for me before. This was a completely wrong perception I had, as learning languages are not only about the place you live, or just asking for something in another language. I have come to understand it is much more than that.

When I first came here, I started learning German but then I had to stop, with the excuse (it was true back then) that I was getting more and more work and I had no time. Then, Zug is a very international city, so even when I start to speak German with people, they immediately pick up on my English accent and most of them immediately switch to English. Even when I insist they switch back to German, they keep speaking in English – that is how polite they are!

Last year, in the college that I teach twice a week, we had to attend two obligatory courses on pedagogy and methodology…in German. The night before the first course I hardly slept. Why am I doing this? I thought. I will never manage to do it. I will disappoint my director (special thanks to Philipp Hediger, who has believed in me and supported me since day one – we are very lucky to have him, as he has supported our professional development to a great extent) and myself. I can’t speak or write in German and never will.

I did attend both courses, and I should say, that neither was a walk in the park – we had homework, which my classmates could do in half an hour – I needed seven or eight hours for the same amount. The course lasted eight hours each time, the other was for three hours at a time – for me, it was not only learning about methodology and pedagogy, I was literally being immersed into the language. I learned a great deal in those three months! I could not believe it. I pressured myself, pushed myself to the limits, had great classmates who would explain to me (in German) when I didn’t understand something and great teachers (another huge thank you to Max Woodtli, my instructor).

This year I have decided, along with my sister, to start proper German lessons. Even though we speak quite well now and understand more than we think sometimes, we have started everything from the beginning and we are immensely enjoying it! Our teacher is supporting us every step of the way and is so passionate, we truly expect every lesson to come and learn from her. I have decided to step out of my comfort zone in English and tackle German. And you know what? I am also going to restart my Turkish lessons! I feel like my eyes are open and I can see my new home in a different light – I can talk to people, I can write and I can pick up German books in the bookstore and read! Above all, I feel that I can understand my students – how they feel, how they approach learning languages, the challenges they face in English and how they can overcome them.

Goal 4: Revisit an Idea #30GoalsEdu

I have mentioned in previous posts that my sister Eugenia and I have made our dream come true and opened a brand new school in Switzerland, The Loras Network! It is like a continuation of The Loras Academy that we had in Greece, but apart from language lessons, we have added even more children’s events and teacher training. Especially with the children’s events that we used to do in Greece as well, this is something that we really enjoy doing and this is the idea we are revisiting for this fourth goal in the 30 Goals Series!

Every month on a Wednesday, we invite our students, but also all kids from outside the school are invited – and we hold an event under a specific topic: Transportation, Summer Day, Clifford the Big Red Dog, or what we had today – Animals with a Halloween Twist!

During these events, we do educational games with the kids on worksheets, like mazes, wordeasearches related to the topic, puzzles, we play games on the theme, match words to pictures, read books…and language relevant to the topic (and not only) is produced! Even when they are doing crafts, or colouring, they are still producing language – and they are learning the language of following instructions: we will cut this with our scissors, stick it on the paper…and the kids enjoy themselves and learn at the same time!

Here is a short video of what we do:

Teaching English Affectively – An Interview with Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe

Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe

Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe

This new interview shows a lot of things to me and you will see them too: it is with Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe, with whom we have never met in person, but we have collaborated perfectly online! Juan created a video for our children at our school – we all adored it. The power of connecting on social media! I really appreciate Juan as an educator and human being, as he has so many ideas and is a great sharer.

Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe is a teacher and teacher trainer based in Canada, whose passion is the affective learning of English by young learners. He is interested in learning, sharing, and discussing how the integration of play, creativity, and student engagement promotes language learning. He founded together with his sister Sosô Uribe a language school for children, Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo, where children learn English affectively through play, projects, games, storytelling, and puppeteering.

 Juan has a Bachelors degree in Pedagogy from the Catholic University in São Paulo (PUC-SP) and he holds a Masters in Education in the area of Human Development and Applied Psychology from OISE at the University of Toronto. He writes a blog called Children Learning English Affectively and moderates a facebook page called Affective Language Learning.

A huge obrigada from me, Juan!

Vicky: Juan, first of all, I would like to thank you very much for accepting to give me this interview. I am so happy as this is one more collaboration between us – we had another last Christmas, with the video you made for our school and our kids loved!

Juan: Vicky, it’s my great pleasure to be here chatting to you and your readers. It’s very true that we have had a lot of learning, sharing, and fun in our exchanges. I have a cup of tea and my two dogs by my side now. Let’s chat!

Vicky: Fantastic! Tea is one of my favourite drinks. Let’s start with how you became an educator. How did the world of education attract you?

Juan: That’s a good question. I have had great teachers and have always enjoyed learning, especially languages. At first, teaching English was a fun way I found to pay for my travelling, doing something that I was good at. But what really made me stay in education was the possibility of being with children, seeing their development, creating a methodology, and running my own language school at the same time.

Vicky: You are an expert in teaching Young Learners. How did you become interested in this particular field?

Juan: I think that I was first involved in education when I was a child and I had the dream of having somebody come to my house and teach me English while I was playing with my playmobil. This fantasy stayed dormant until I was teaching at a language school and got invited to teach English through play to André, who was four years old at the time.  Some years later I was already only teaching young learners, which led me to quit my Engineering course and start Education at university.

I find it very fascinating to study and observe the social, emotional, and cognitive aspects involved in how children learn. I am particularly interested in how play, creativity, and respect boost both their self-esteem and language learning. I’m always learning and discovering new techniques and concepts that allow me to see their learning from a new perspective. I think it is beautiful to have been able to grow in the same field even after so many years.

Juan is a specialist in teaching Young Learners

Juan is a specialist in teaching Young Learners

Vicky: Speaking of play and creativity, you are doing absolutely amazing work with puppets, and especially one puppet, with which you also make amazing videos – can you tell us more about this special guy and the videos?

Juan: I have a chubby frog puppet called Buddy, who is a big friend. Buddy has been a companion in my classes and school events since 1994. More recently, we started travelling to interesting places and filming what we experienced as a way of showing the world to children. Buddy and I have shopped for clothes in Egypt, relaxed in parks in France, explored Macchu Picchu in Peru,  and eaten Sukiyaki in Japan.  I always also try to get him a traditional  outfit from the country we are visiting. I have made lots of friends because of Buddy. Last I have to thank my patient wife Ana Luiza for filming me and helping me edit the videos.

I like Buddy goes Ballooning!

Vicky: This is actually one of the first videos of you and Buddy that I watched! I love it. Apart from teaching and tarining and travelling the world with Buddy, you also own a language school in Brazil, Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo – can you tell us more about it? How it started and where it is today?

Juan: Back in 1994, my sister Sosô and I started Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo with the dream of creating a language school in which children acquired English playing . We taught around 20 students in their own homes and we had over 300 books, puppets, and games in our bedrooms at our parents’ apartment. Almost 20 years later, we are now teaching around 250 students both in their homes and also in small groups at our lovely school, where we have seven beautiful classrooms.

I am proud to say that the students, parents, educators, coordinators, directors, and all the staff have been able to create together a truly remarkable school. I get very happy when I get e-mails from students, parents, and staff telling me how special it is or it was to be part of our school. This very same school, which one day was just a dream. Vicky, you probably know how much I miss it, as you also had a school in another country. I am very happy that you and Gina have founded The Loras Network in Zug!

Vicky: I truly understand how much you miss it, Juan! Thank you so much for your support and kind wishes! I also wish you the very best in everything you do. I hope to visit your school some day! Another thing you do is you also blog. I love the name: Children Learning English Affectively! Can you let us know what inspires you and what you write about?

Juan: I love writing and sharing about how young learners learn languages, as this focused practice allows me to relive, organize, and make sense of what I have experienced with them. All my posts have affect as the thread that links them, making an interesting patchwork on how play, creativity, and respect can boost language learning. I usually integrate theory and practice in my posts so that teachers can be aware of how and why learning happens. I particularly like to write about the small details that might not be noticed by many, but that when put together make a big difference. I also intend to stitch all the posts together as a book in the future.

Vicky: Wow! A book. That sounds so interesting, I am sure a lot of people look forward to it. Let’s move on to more things about you, for instance your new home. You live in Toronto. What do you like about living there? Are there any challenges?

Juan: I immigrated to Toronto in 2010 with my wife and a little dog. Even though we are in one of the most thriving cities in the world, I like that life here can be simple. We live one block from the beach and we take our dogs for a swim in the lake once a day. I also enjoy very much living the seasons, which is something I couldn’t truly experience in Brazil.

Immigrating to a country has brought us many challenges, which have also been fun because we are always learning. Even though we have been here for three years, we still do not know how many things are called and what we are supposed to do in some situations. Even hammering a nail was once a challenge here, as we had to find the stud behind the drywall. Professionally, my challenge has been finding opportunities to work exclusively with young learners, as I haven’t found language schools for children.

Vicky: There’s a good idea! I am happy you feel comfortable in Toronto,  my hometown. How did I meet you, from Brazil and now living in Toronto? You are very active on social media, and that is how we initially connected, in fact. How do you think it can help educators? What are the pros and cons you see for yourself?

Juan: Social Media certainly helps us to connect, share, think together, and collaborate with educators who share the same values. I find this digital communion to be simply beautiful as educators from all over the world empower each other through their listening, validation, and dialogue. I usually alternate periods of being active and non-active in social media. I feel that I get overwhelmed with so much information and I feel that many times trying to keep up with what is happening can be stressing. But then, after some time I miss all the buzz and I come back. I have had the chance of meeting, chatting, and learning with many great educators around the world. It’s also a real treat when we are able to meet each other personally!

Vicky: It sure is and I hope we meet in person soon! Would you like to close our interview with a piece of advice, or a wish to the educators reading your interview?

Juan: Sure!

Go after what you truly like. See the person inside your students. Be yourself. Reflect about your work. Share it with the world. Leave your mark! I would like to wish everybody a very rewarding journey!

Juan and Buddy with their little friends!

Juan and Buddy with their little friends!

With all her love for education and collaboration: Interview with Ika Chieka Wibowo

Ika Wibowo

Ika Wibowo

I am delighted to present an educator from Indonesia in an interview she has given me: Ika Wibowo from Indonesia! I connected to Ika on Facebook from my first days there, about a year ago and I admire her for her passion to teach, connect and share! Over to Ika.

Vicky: Ika, thank you so much for accepting my invitation for an interview on my blog!

Ika: It is a great honor to be invited for an interview on your blog, Vicky.

Vicky: For those of our readers who meet you for the first time, can you introduce yourself?

Ika: My name is Ika Sari Lestiyani Wibowo. But, please call me Ika. I am an English Language Teacher at one of the English Schools and also at my own English School in Depok, Indonesia.

Vicky: That is great, Ika – you teach and run your own school! How did you make the decision to become an educator?

Ika: I think it will be very long story if I tell you all about myself. So I will you my short one. I’m being honest that after I graduated from University I did not want to be a teacher or an educator, as most of my family members are teachers. I tried to work at the office as a Public Relation Staff. But, after a few months I felt my heart was not there. Then, I decided to apply a job as a teacher at an English School, New Concept English Education Centre. In NC I feel like I am home. I enjoy every moment with my students. Until now, I’ve been teaching here at NC for about 8 years. “Don’t only teach your students but also educate them”; that is what my father always reminds me of. Here I am. I am proud of being a teacher and an educator.

Vicky: And we are all happy you became an educator! What do you like the most about your work? What are the challenges you sometimes face?

Ika: Being a teacher make me always feel young, as I have to always light my effort to share new knowledge and experience to my students. By sharing I will always be cleverer. Those are two things I like about my work. Indonesia is not an English-speaking Country, that’s why there are still many people who think that English is not important. So, most of students feel that they shouldn’t learn English seriously. This is a big challenge for me as an ELT. I have to always support my students to be willing to learn English then they will love it. Never give up.

Vicky: Let’s move on to social media. You use Facebook and other platforms to connect with teachers all around the world, and you are very active as well, sharing a lot of information and links. How did you become involved in this way of connecting in the first place?

Ika: The first time I knew about learning and sharing through social media was from the iTDi Workshop in February 2013. I met some great English teachers from other countries such as Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Chuck Sandy, Eric Kane, Yitzha Sheila Sarwono, Adi Cerman and Karl Millsom. Yitzha is the first person who introduced me to the PLN; then I met you, Vicky Loras. I learned a lot from you. Then, I fell in love with social media and I made more new friends after that.

Indonesia, Ika's beautiful country (Image from http://www.lonelyplanet.com)

Indonesia, Ika’s beautiful country (Image from http://www.lonelyplanet.com)

Vicky: Thank you so much, Ika – I really appreciate your kind words and I am very happy we have connected! Moving on to conferences now. You are presenting at a conference in Indonesia very soon. Would you like to tell us what your talk will be about and what you are looking forward to?

Ika: You are right, Vicky. At the end of this month I am having a group presentation at The TEFLIN Conference at University of Indonesia with Nina Septina and Budi Azhari Lubis (both of them are ELTs and my friends in the iTDi Community). We will be guided by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto. It’s my first time for me to join this kind of conference. It’s challenging for me. My short talk will be about my personal development as an English teacher after I joined iTDi Community.

Vicky: Where do you get your inspiration for your teaching and your talks?

Ika: All of my ELT friends at iTDi Community, my ELT friends from the social media and also all of my students in my school and my students at the social media are my big inspiration for my teaching and my talks.

Vicky: What is your dream for the future?

Ika: In the future, I have some dreams which I have to pursue. The first, I want to learn more seriously about teaching – learning in order to be a better teacher. The second, I want to join seminars in other countries and meet all of my ELT friends in this social media. The last, I want to build a Free English School in my home village.

Vicky: They all sound amazing plans, and your last plan sounds wonderful too. I hope they all come true! And to close this interview, what would you like to tell all the educators reading your interview?

Ika: To all the educators who reading my interview, I just want to tell you something:

“ Teach with your heart and soul.”

Vicky: Thank you so much, Ika! I hope we meet each other in person soon.

Ika: You are always welcome dear Vicky. I hope so. I am looking forward to meeting you in person, too. Thank you for all the readers.

Ika's students after they have made robots!

Ika’s students after they have made robots!

Guest post by Dimitris Primalis (@dprimalis) – Information gap tasks with the aid of technology – Part 1

Dimitris Primalis

Dimitris Primalis

It is an honour to host once again on my blog: Dimitris Primalis. A huge thank you to Dimitris!

Dimitris Primalis has been teaching EFL for 20 years. His experience covers a wide range of groups including young learners, teenagers, adults and exam prep classes. He has written 5 test books for Macmillan and works at Doukas, a Microsoft Mentor School in Athens, Greece. Dimitris and Chryssanthe Sotiriou won the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG scholarship.

Teachers by definition are asked to bridge social, racial and cognitive gaps. Yet, creating gap activities can help students bridge communication gaps and develop their speaking and writing skills primarily as well as listening and reading (depending on the activity). Technology can revive this old technique whilst developing 21st century skills like the “C”s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication). In the context of flipped classroom and using a Learning Management System (LMS), such activities can be used even more efficiently by assigning watching, reading or listening at home. Thus,  classroom time can be exploited for more language production as you will read below.

What exactly are information gap activities?
According to wikipedia: “An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps.It is often used in communicative language teaching and task-based language learning. Information gap tasks are contrasted with opinion gap tasks, in which all information is shared at the start of the activity, and learners give their own opinions on the information given.”

Why try them in class?

Because they:
1. motivate learners to use language meaningfully by sharing info in order to solve a problem
2. require collaboration through pair or groupwork
3. are open ended and there is no correct or incorrect answer
4. encourage creativity by stimulating students’ imagination
5. involve students and urge them to communicate with peers in L2 so that they can bridge the gap
6. integrate skills (a combination of speaking, writing, reading and/or listening depending on the task)

Bridging...the gap (Photo of Arta Bridge, Epirus, Greece by Rakesh Bhanot)

Bridging…the gap (Photo of Arta Bridge, Epirus, Greece by Rakesh Bhanot)


1. Split viewing/listening for speaking/writing activity
Choose a video that narrates a story. Divide the class into two groups: the viewers and listeners. Ensure that the latter are your audio type learners or the ones whose listening skills are developed. In the former group include the visual types as well as the weakest students.

Give viewers a couple of key words. Ask them to leave the classroom and try to anticipate what the story is about.

Listeners listen to the narration/dialogue and the sounds (unplug the IWB so that there is no picture)  and take notes.
Then listeners go outside, share notes and exchange ideas on what the story is about.
Viewers come into the classroom and watch (sound off) taking notes. Allow them a couple of minutes to exchange notes and ideas.
Invite listeners into the class and ask them to form pairs or groups with viewers. Each pair or group should have at least one listener and one viewer. Ask them to join forces, compare notes and try to come up with the story.  The only rule is that they will have to use L2 throughout the activity. This can be a speaking activity or depending on the time available, it can be a group writing activity.
Each group reports to class their version. As follow-up students have to write the rest of the story.

I have tried it with an old black and white film “Rebecca” ( 01:34-03:56) has stimulated students interest and inspired them to produce interesting stories. The viewers saw the man ready to jump but the listener heard the woman’s voice shouting “No…Stop!!!”

1. Let the director of studies know beforehand that student groups will be outside the classroom for brief periods of time. Alternatively, do the activity with another colleague so you can have listeners in your classroom and she can have viewers in hers or vice versa.

2. Stop viewing or listening when suspense heightens. It does not have to be at the same point.

3. If the film or video is based on literature, ask students to read the next chapter of the book/reader to find out what happened next.

Flipped classroom: if there is a LMS or a wiki, you can upload the mute version of the video and the audio version in mp3 form and ask students to do watch/listen (depending on the group they are in) and take notes. This saves time for more communication and interaction in class.

In the second part of the post you can read about jigsaw reading.

Goal 2: Avoid Burnout #30GoalsEdu

I wake up in the morning and I still feel exhausted.

My doctor told me to take it easy, because I am always getting sick.

I don’t enjoy teaching anymore.

If you have heard colleagues or yourself saying one of the above statements, then that means you are on the way (if not already there) to burnout. According to Wikipedia,

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.

Unfortunately, as much as we love teaching, it is a line of work that requires a lot of work in our free time, after school and at the weekends.  Not meaning to underestimate other jobs, but it does happen like that. We can all see it from personal experience, from other teachers in our staffrooms and educators around the world that we are connected to on social media. Marking, preparing, thinking of ways to help out students with learning issues, but perhaps personal issues too – as we tend to get involved in their lives as well (some say it shouldn’t be so, but that is material for a separate blog post). The reason could also be working with difficult employers or colleagues, or in an unfavourable working environment (classrooms wothout certain facilities or large numbers of students). All these might suck up any energy we have and reduce our motivation.

So how do we avoid this monster called burnout?

- Make sure you sleep well and take care of your voice – advice from the amazing Ken Wilson, during our interview at ISTEK ELT, when I asked him what advice he would give teachers. Insomnia or little sleep can cause temporary problems like nerves, stress but also can extend to long-term physical problems. Changing your sleeping patterns to the better will make a difference. This year, I have convinced myself to take care of this and I have seen a huge improvement. Apart from the fact that I am more relaxed and focused during the day, problem-solving is not as hard or nerve-wracking as it used to be and I also feel physically better.

- Talk to someone about it. Sometimes we refuse to tell other people that we feel the way we do, because we are ashamed or don’t want to disappoint others – especially our students, if we are not feeling well. It could be a friend, family member or in general a person you trust. Exteranlising your feelings could help you tremendously, as you do not feel alone anymore and sometimes that other person listening can help you in aways you wouldn’t even think of.

- Try to make time for things you like. That could be anything at all, something you like, a hobby you haven’t done in a log time or never pursued. A trip. Reading a book. Watching a movie without any distractions (and lots of popcorn!). It is unbelievable, how small steps for yourself can make such a difference. I have started doing this much more this year. I do things I love to do and look out for Vicky a little bit more. I visit a gallery. Drink coffee without looking at my watch. Talk with friends. No one will blame you and you will be in top form – a different, better mood and more positive outlook on things. I try to remind myself of this every day – we are all in this together! Let’s look out for each other.

Here is an article I found in The Guardian: Can teachers ever have a work-life balance?

Loving teaching and taking good care of yourself can make every day look like a brand new one.

There’s a feeling that I got that I can’t give up/
Feeling in my heart that I can’t get over/
I know that it’s coming let the sun come up/
Tell me do you feel the same, everybody say

It’s a new day/

it’s a new day

Goal 1: Define Your Moment #30goalsedu

Shelly Sanchez Terrell has posted the brand new, fourth cycle of her 30 Goals Challenge! 30 inspiring goals, to remind us of what we are doing well, what we need to restart, improve on, start doing for the first time…here is Goal Number One – Define Your Moment!

I would like to dedicate this post to the amazing Rose Bard, an educator from Brazil, who is an inspiration to myself and many others! Rose and I discuss our edu-moments on Skype almost every Sunday. She is the kind of person who is the definition of this goal. She is living her moment! A million thanks to you, Rose!

Those of the readers that know me face-to-face or from our connection on social media know that this year has been pivotal in my teaching career, as I have made my dream of re-opening a school reality. In a different country: Greece before for ten years, now Switzerland. English teaching in the previous one, that and teacher training, as well as events for children and teachers in the new one. My sister Eugenia and I said let’s do this and we did! With difficulties, but the daily satisfaction of doing things we love and the way we love doing them, as well as collaborating with amaizng students and teachers worldwide, makes up for any hardhsip and gives us strength and motivation to keep going.

This is our moment that we wish to share with educators everywhere:

- Do you have a dream? Go out there and grab it, start it and don’t be afraid!

- Are you stuck in a routine of teaching? Change it and talk to others about how they have changed theirs as well.

- No or very little financial resources to do things? There is a crisis looming almost everywhere in the world now and all governments are cautious. There are so many free resources online and so many educators we can be inspired by, that no crisis and no problematic government can take away our strength and motivation to give our students our very best.

- Keep up developing professionally! Nothing else can give us the oxygen to keep our teaching going. Just think of how you feel when you leave a conference or workshop where you have learnt a great deal and interacted with other educators.

- Do something new. Eugenia and I are planning our very first international event on bilingualism and multilingualism this September, with great speakers and we are expecting lovely educators to join us! We are so happy and excited about this.

So, for all of us, wherever we are in the world, this is our moment – let’s go!

Let’s go

Make no excuses now

I’m talking here and now / I’m talking here and now

Let’s go

It’s not about what you’ve done

It’s about what you’re doing

It’s all about where you’re going / No matter where you’ve been

Let’s go!

Through the Eyes of the Student Tutors: Yeditepe University Writing Center by Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

I am very honoured to have this blog post by two amazing young ladies, Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur, who are student tutors in the ELT Department of Yeditepe University. I was introduced to them by their outstanding professor, Ece Sevgi – and was delighted to meet them in person at the ISTEK ELT Conference in Istanbul, last April. Here, Deniz and Ceren write about the Writing Center they have in their university, an amazing programme! Over to Deniz and Ceren, who will surely become great educators.

Yeditepe University in Istanbul is one of the most prestigious universities that tries its best to help its students prepare for their professional lives. It is an English-medium university.  This has its own downsides and difficulties since some of the students enter the university with no or little knowledge of English. Even if they spend a few semesters in preparatory classes trying to master English as a foreign language, they may not become proficient enough to cope with the language level in their classes.

This is the reason why some universities here in Turkey have followed the lead of their counterparts in other countries and established Writing Centers in the aim of fostering the students’ language ability in one of the productive skills, writing. Writing Center at Yeditepe University is a unit which helps students by editing their written work, giving feedback, and guiding them to correct their language mistakes. The use of error code, multiple drafts, and progress tracking system aims to develop learner autonomy and raise awareness about the points to consider in the students’ written work.

Yeditepe University Writing Center does not only help students but also supports academicians at the university. It offers a free edit service to support and encourage academic publications in any field. It is the only unit at the university that organizes Creative Writing Contests. We now have a brand new website (http://writingcenter.yeditepe.edu.tr/) where you can find information about the Writing Center, and a wiki space (http://yuwritingcenter.wikispaces.com/) where we post written tutorials about academic writing. To us, having a Writing Center is more than a luxury; it is an essential unit at a university teaching in English in a non-English speaking community.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Mirror Mirror on the Wall (From left to right: Secil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca and Ezgi Ozel)

While opening a Writing Center is not an original idea, Yeditepe University Writing Center has done something for the first time by allowing its students to become members of this family during the course of their studies. The Student-Tutor Program is a pioneer programme in this field, and has significant benefits for the chosen students. These selected student tutors, who are students of English Language Teaching, and Translation and Interpreting Studies Departments work voluntarily at the Writing Center Office to help prep and undergraduate students with their written assignments. They are chosen meticulously with a suggestion from their Academic Writing instructor, and then receive training on how to give written feedback before they start offering this service at the Writing Center.

Under the supervision of experienced tutors working for the Writing Center, student tutors also prepare and present academic writing workshops for the university students and faculty. You can meet many of our student tutors at ELT conferences held in Istanbul. Four of our student tutors, for example, were concurrent keynote speakers at ISTEK ELT 2013 Conference with their talk Mirror Mirror on the Wall…, and shared the stage with Ken Wilson, Herbert Puchta, Teresa Doğuelli, and Jamie Keddie.

Using Facebook – PD in Focus 7

Facebook logo (taken from www.facebook.com)

Facebook logo (taken from http://www.facebook.com)

Thousands and thousands of educators around the world use Facebook to connect with others around the world. Some have two Facebook accounts – one for personal use and one for professional. Some can balance the two in one account.

To be honest, I had had a Twitter account for three years and flatly refused to open a Facebook account. It was not that I found anything intimidating about it – I just thought of it as just another distraction. Why open a Facebook account when I can already connect to educators via Twitter? [Now, this isn’t a comparison post between the two. One works for some, the other works for others, some educators (like myself now) use both in different ways.]

Until my Facebook mentor, James Taylor (as I like to call him!) explained it to me in detail – the advantages and disadvantages of it, the uses and so on. What did I find great about it in the end?

  • First of all, if it works for you (like it eventually did for me), it can be a super tool for professional development. It allows you to connect with educators all around the world – you can read their profiles, see who they are connected to and adjust your saftey settings, if you do not want just anyone friend you/ You can approve all the people though.
  • What I really like about Facebook is that it is very visual. You can see photos right away, add links and anything you like. It is very colourful and pleasant to read, most of the times.
  • There is no word or character limit (the character limit on Twitter can be a bit of an issue) – however, I find you can write as much as you like, but again, being laconic (as much as possible) can be an asset.
  • I absolutely love the fact that you can join groups related to topics that interest you. You can hold chats there, post relative links and photos, they can become great communities to share and learn!
  • Another thing I like are pages. I have pages related to my new business, where I can post information, new events and developments and the people who have ‘liked’ my page can always get updates. Similarly, I can get updates on the pages of others I have also ‘liked’.

There are surely so many other uses for Facebook for teachers and I am still learning – feel free to link any posts you have written or leave more ideas in the comments below.