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:

Goal 3: What’s Your Personal Theme Song? #30GoalsEdu

I was talking about this with Shelly Terrell the other day – and we both agreed that we have special songs for ever kind of moment in our lives…but I will try to keep it short here!

One of the songs that amazed me when I first heard it! I thought, they know me, they know my life – Paradise by Coldplay:

This one by the Stereophonics reminds me that there is always tomorrow to do new things and dream about, never despair or give up – and find my way home.

I get excited very easily, be it about a new idea, project, even the mention of simple things like cake! And because I use Wooohooo! or Whoop whoop! a lot, I think this one is appropriate – it also uplifts my spirits when I need it:

The last one is a bit nostalgic and a bit funny too, come to think of it. In those old times when not every home had a VCR, my dad used to rent us one (the machine) every Christmas and two videotapes: one was always Annie (we loved it and have seen it numerous times!), the other one my dad would choose (so happy he didn’t go into gender stereotyping with us :) ). Once it was Superman, once it was Rocky ; ) This movie and theme song reminds me of when we would watch this movie – dad would always point out: “Look, he keeps on trying no matter what. He is a fighter and so are my girls!” It gives me a lot of motivation and strength when I need it – what a memory can do, right? I loved how he wouldn’t stop running in this movie scene!

Blogging – PD in Focus 8

And the last post in the PD in Focus series is here. All about blogging!

I started blogging almost four years ago, during a not very nice time in my life, which you can read here. I connected with Ken Wilson on Twitter (creating a Twitter account was something I was also wary of doing) and while we were exchanging emails about my situation, he motivated me to start a blog. I wasn’t particularly warm about the idea at first, not because I didn’t trust Ken, but I was thinking:

- Who is going to be interested in what I write?

- What if I write something silly?

- I don’t have a job, how can this help me feel better? (Unemployment really threw me down and my feeling of self-worth had never been so down before.)

So I started and I love it! I don’t always have the right answers – but I try to share as much as possible, good moments and bad, I try to intearct with others and I absolutely love the exachange of opinions. There is agreement, there is disagreement that makes you think, as long as it is constructive criticism. There are so many ideas you get from other educators and so much inspiration! Many are the times when I think what a great idea someone has had, how much I would like to apply someone’s ideas for the classroom and appaud them on that as well.

There are so many things that can be done through blogging:

- Writing and sharing. Something you think is a simple idea for you and you have been doing it for many years in the classroom, could be a revelation for someone else. Just go ahead and share! Your experiences, troubles, happy moments, lesson plans, anything you can express yourself through! There is a welcoming and supportive community of teachers out there waiting to read.

What's Your Story? (A screenshot of my blog challenge)

What’s Your Story? (A screenshot of my blog challenge)

- Blog challenges. An educator invites others to contribute to a common theme – for instance, it can be about vocabulary teaching, or Business English, or teaching idea at all. Some call it a blog carnival, which sounds fun! I held one on my blog a couple of years ago, called What’s Your Story? and 27 educators shared their stories on it: some very personal moments, teaching experiences, anything that they wanted to share. And I really appreciated it. And a lot of people did and we saw ourselves in those stories, and we felt better. We are not alone! There are others out there who share the same experiences as we do.

- Pages. Blogs can become treasure troves of ideas and different kinds of posts: you can organise your blog into pages and have different topics there. Lesson plans, different areas of ESOL, photos, whatever you think expresses you.

- Reflection. A blog can be a journal. There are educators out there who blog every single day about their teaching, education in general or various educational issues that interest them. That doesn’t serve everyone, though. It can be once a week, once  a month, or whenever you have inspiration – you will find your own pace: as long as you use it as a reflective tool, a journal that you can revisit and see what has changed, what has improved or not. It has helped me tremendously as an educator and I feel I am constantly changing and evolving. Still making mistakes but learning from them!

- Guest posts. You can invite other educators whose work you admire to write for you! The reflection coming from these posts are amazing. Plus, you get to network with these educators and exchange ideas. My first ever guest blogger was George Couros, all the way from Alberta, Canada.

It is a firm belief of mine that blogging is a great way for educators to develop professionally, as you can reflect and learn from your teaching – it is also good to write these thoughts down, as you can revisit them. Yesterday, I got to read an amazing post by Dean Shareski, who is an educator from Saskatchewan. (The post was actually tweeted by George – which led me to Dean’s article…the beauty of social media! A whole different post though.) He sums it all up perfectly in How to Make Better Teachers and is honestly one of the best posts I have come across on blogging and professional development. The post is from 2010 and as current as ever.

I truly thanks Ken for motivating me to start my own blog – it has helped me in so many ways! No matter if you are a new teacher or an experienced one, a blog is one of the best things you can do for your own learning.

Here is a great list of ELT blogs, by Chiew Pang: http://chiewpang.blogspot.com/

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!

Number Four – Reveal Their Strengths – The #30Goals Challenge

I read a really great blog post today that made me think once again about the potentials kids have and how we should encourage them to externalise them and applaud them when they do. George Couros, a great educator from Canada (and my very first guest blogger!) wrote In Spite of Schools – definitely worth reading.

This post pointed me to Shelly Terrell‘s 30 Goals Challenge for 2012 and specifically to Goal Number Four.

As educators, apart from the actual teaching we are there for our students, to show them what they can do and highlight their abilities. Sometimes, educators tend to tell their students what the can’t do, where they are not so strong and focus mainly on the problems they may face in their learning. I think it is equally, if not more, important, to show them what they are great in and how they can become even greater! When they can do something, they gain confidence and build on their abilities even further.

An example that comes to my mind is a student of mine in Greece who wrote poetry – her poetry was beautiful and at the same time she practised her English, as she was learning it as a foreign language! She was developing two talents at the same time, her writing and her language skills. We recognised it early on and she developed it a lot on her own – her autonomy as a learner simply grew from there, as she could find where and how she could learn.

Chuck Sandy and Vladimira Michalkova, two amazing educators and the co-founder and associate of iTDi respectively, have developed the idea of Surpr@ise, through which you find a student or teacher who is doing a great job and surprise them with praise! Watch Chuck describing it in this YouTube Video:

You can also see Chuck and Vladka’s Surpr@ise presentation for the Virtual Round Table.

Number Three – Ask A Learner – The 30 Goals Challenge 2012

Shelly Sanchez-Terrell (Image taken from Shelly's blog)

Shelly Sanchez-Terrell, an educator who has inspired literally thousands of people with her 30 Goals Challenges (and with her blog, tweets and Facebook page and the numerous talks she gives around the world) is coming back this year, with the 30 Goals Challenge for 2012 – Dare to Believe!

I would like to start doing them again this year – join in and inspire us all with your videos, posts and experiences.

I am going to start with Number Three – Ask A Learner! You can also read Shelly’s post and watch her video on Goal Number Three.

As a great number of educators out there, I have always enjoyed being a learner. Be it a language, skill or so. In class, regardless of the age of the students I teach, I share with them what helps me learn. I like to point out what works for me, so that they can look inside them and see what works for them. When students and particularly kids see their teacher as a learner, that gives them extra motivation.

Especially with younger students we try to discover what helps them learn and we remember that everyone works and learns in a different way. I have heard teachers get annoyed because some children lip-read or whisper when they read. Not all of them read silently.

I remember a student of mine who loved visual cues – we used that to his advantage and he learned so much. Others are audio-learners, others kinaesthetic, others learn better taking down notes…a diversity that makes learning such a great experience!

Asking the learners also brings to my mind asking for their feedback about their learning in general – if they like what we do in class, what more they want and how we educators can help them. Surely we are there and can see what they need, where they are doing well and where they need improvement, what they like and what not – but giving them ownership of their learning and showing them that we care about and respect their opinions and presence in our classes, gives them motivation for their learning.

A Super Year!

I hope this has been a great year for all of you!

2011 has been for the main part a great year for me – I would like to say thank you to all of you for making it so special! I have felt so inspired this year, be it from working with great people and students, participating in conferences, online chats on Twitter (such as ELTChat and finnedchat) with amazing educators from around the world from whom I have learnt and who have challenged my thinking, interviewing some and being interviewed as well, meeting some for the first time and seeing old friends, writing blog posts, taking part in fantastic projects like the iTDi project!

May 2012 be great as well, full of health and happiness for all of us. 

I wish everybody Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! All the best!