Blog Challenge – What’s Your Story?

My sister Gina and I, both educators, made a big change in our lives – What’s Your Story?

I am very happy to announce my first ever blog challenge called: What’s Your Story?

After writing on my blog about my experience on moving to Switzerland after closing our school in Greece, my adjusting to a new country, new job(s) and a new life in general, I would love to hear your story! For me, writing about it was like a catharsis, revisiting a difficult time in my life, which turned out to be the best decision I have ever made!

If you decide to take part in the challenge, it can be about anything you consider important in your life or career, that has helped shape you as a person or educator. You can decide what to share!

  • Have you made a big move?
  • A career change?
  • Have you been teaching and living in a country for a long time, but have seen changes in yourself as a person, educator or both?
  • Are you thinking of a change in the future?

You can choose! If you have your own blog, post your story there and I will also add the link on my blog, on this post, if it is okay with you as well. If you do not have a blog, feel free to send me your post at vickyloras@yahoo.ca and I will post it on my blog! Or ask a friend who has a blog, anything you like.

Thanks for reading and I will be very happy to read your stories – as I am sure lots of people out there are too!

Posts on What’s Your Story:

  • Matt Ray writes on his blog: I woke up that morning screaming in pain, struggling to move my legs. No doubt, I put quite a fright into my parents who, in the midst of our summer vacation, were confronted with their 6-year old son suddenly being unable to walk. [...]
  • Sue Annan writes her own story on her blog: When I left school I applied for the local Teacher Training College and was accepted. I was half way through the programme when… [...]
  • Sharon Hartle has shared her wonderful video-post Where English Has Taken Me Now for the challenge.
  • Paco Gascon shares how he went through a dilemma in his post: The point is writing about some kind of turning point in our life and/or career, so, I’m going to tell you about how I had to decide – in a matter of hours – whether to take up (again) a career as a secondary education teacher or to stick to a juicy full time contract at a graphic design studio. [...]
  • Read Tyson Seburn‘s post Turning Points in You Story: Do your colleagues know much about your language teaching background beyond a list of qualifications and positions of employment? Sharing where you began, your process of growth, and goals for the future can help inspire, foster and contribute to growth in members or your community, not to mention build a connection to individuals where there may have been little before. I hope sharing mine supports one of these. [...]
  • Read Lesley‘s post for the challenge: I’m going to tell the story about how I came to be an English language teacher. The last thing I thought I’d be when I was at school was a teacher.  Being a librarian was probably the second last thing.  But I’ve been both! [...]
  • Tinashe Blanchet has written This Is My Story: In response to Vicky Loras’ “What’s your Story?” challenge , I am posting a little of my personal story this morning in hopes that it will shed further light on why I do what I do. [...] I grew up on the west side of Chicago as the only child of a single mother. There were many issues between my mom and me, especially as I got older and began to test boundaries. [...]
  • Tuba Bauhofer explains how she learned a third language and how much it influenced her life in her post Bilinguality and Literacy by Manjula Datta: I read this book when I was doing my research for the assignment I had to write in my course. I liked how the writer referred to her own language learning experience as a foreigner in the UK. [...]
  • Faisal Shamali recounts a story of a student of his in his post Finally I Did It: My name is Musallum. I was in level One in FPU. I studied Speaking course with Mr. Faisal. I want to tell you about my story clearly and honestly. [...]
  • Tara Benwell has submitted a super video post about her story: How she has developed a great learning community on My English Club!
  • Read Janet Bianchini‘s beautiful and moving story The Abbruzzo Dream – My Story: Worlds apart yet a destiny foretold. My blood is 100% from Abruzzo, my heart is 100% British. Two countries forever intertwined from the moment of my birth. [...]
  • Read Luiz Reikdal‘s post of how his teaching and life changed through the use of technology: [...] Since November last year I started using and testing technology myself. That was breathtaking…by just visualizing the potentiaIity of Web 2.0 in the classroom. [...]
  • Fiona Price from England has written her beautiful story as well: My Story: [...] It was back in 1977, in the days of the Magic Bus, which involved a very long and extremely exhausting three-day coach trip to Athens with an overnight stop-over in Austria. [...]
  • Lu Bodeman from Brazil writes about her story: How she got into teaching and her beautiful multicultural background: [...] Well, I stumbled into the English language teaching profession, really. I never took formal language lessons, but discovered early in life (7 years old) how languages and culture would be important in my life. [...]
  • Naomi Epstein writes about the time she immigrated from the States to Israel, an eleven-year-old girl: [...] I was able to identify with her story of immigration as I moved to Israel from the United States when I was eleven years old. [...]
  • Arjana Blazic writes about her transformation as an educator: [...] Do I lead such an amazing life? Do I have such a story? I’ve never lived anywhere else but in Croatia. I’ve never done anything else but teach. I’m not thinking about a change in the future… [...]
  • Vicky Saumell writes about how she transformed into a full-time teacher: First of all, I want to be straightforward about the content of this post: it is not about technology. So I want to apologize in advance to my techie audience but I have wanted to write about this for a while and this is the best space for it, anyway. [...]
  • Işıl Boy  writes her story originally written for Dave Dodgson‘s great blog: First, I want to thank my dear course mate Dave for offering me to write a guest post on his insightful blog. We are both doing our master’s at the University of Manchester, Educational Technology and TESOL. [...]
  • Liam Dunphy takes us on a trip around the world with his beautiful story: [...] I grew up in Dun Laoghaire, a pretty seaside port town on the south side of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. [...]
  • James Taylor celebrates his blogoversary and tells us his great story: [...] I studied Media Studies, specifically television production, at university. I studied it because I was, and still am, an avid consumer of the media and the arts. [...]
  • Mieke Kenis recounts her beautiful story of her love for teaching and England: [...] My story is a long one, as I have been teaching for 31 years but it’s a simple story as teaching is all I have ever done. I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. [...]
  • Dave Dodgson tells us his very interesting story:  [...] Over the last few weeks, I have thought a lot about what to write – the story of how and why I decided to enter the world of TEFL in the first place, what me me come to and stay in Turkey, how I ended up teaching kids, when I started to see this as my career and not just a way to live abroad or pay the bills…. [...]
  • Brad Patterson, a very good friend in France, has published his photo-blog story: Beautiful post and pictures! : Imagine a pilgrimage… where you trekked for month after month… and each step took you somewhere you’d never been before… [...]
  • Wiktor Kostrzewski writes his wonderful journey through English on his blog: [...] It’s late in the evening. We’re sitting in the kitchen, my Dad and I. We’re going through the first few pages of my first English textbook. My Dad asks a question, and I think long and hard before giving an answer. “Yes,” he says, surprised. “That’s not what the answer key says, but that’s also possible.” [...]
  • Ana Luisa Lozano writes her beautiful Ecuadorean story on her blog: [...] It has been a long learning and teaching path  since 1998, wonderful time in which  I have had the opportunity to teach  English to  Primary, Secondary and University students. [...]
  • Ann Loseva from Moscow writes her inspiring story – and gives us all a lot of inspiration and strength: [...] How have I become the teacher I am, the personality I think I am? Well, it does look to me like a pretty tough question to tackle. Many things have been happening shaping my teaching style and affecting my personality. [...]
  • Fiona Mauchline writes her story in parts and she has offered to add them to the blog challenge – parts of her childhood, parts of her life… The Art of Being Different Part One, The Art of Being Different Part Two, The Art of Being Different Part Three.

#MoreThan140 – Get to Know Matthew Ray

Get to know more about Matthew Ray, a special education educator based in New York City and the person behind the More Than 140 project. Matt talks about his super projects with his students, speaks some Greek and discloses his culinary talents! Enjoy.

 

To receive updates about other “More than 140″ interviews, make sure you follow Matt Ray (@mrmatthewray) and Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), follow the hashtag #MoreThan140 and watch this blog.

#More than 140 – Get To Know Your PLN

A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).

Watch the video to find out more about our project:

***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.

Vicky Loras
http://www.twitter.com/vickyloras
vickyloras.wordpress.com
http://www.youtube.com/vickyloras

1st collector for More than 140 – Welcome
Follow my videos on vodpod

Number Fourteen – Build An Ideal Classroom Culture – The 30 Goals Challenge

An ideal classroom culture is achieved when everyone enjoys being there! (Picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics, taken by Adam Simpson, @yearinthelifeof)

The fourteenth goal is, in my opinion, a very strong foundation for the rest of the goals to materialise. An ideal classroom culture has been successfully created when:

- Students feel comfortable in their classroom and view it as a place where they love to learn.

- Educators and students co-operate and see each other as members of a great learning team.

- Parents and caregivers are welcome to come in and visit at times, in order to enjoy the great learning atmosphere.

- There is mutual respect and everyone is valued.

- Students do not leave immediately when the lesson is over, but enjoy staying at school and working on their school material or helping each other. (Sometimes they even stay after school to help the teacher tidy up the classroom, which is very nice and reflects the atmosphere of helping and co-operation!)

- Educators feel comfortable in their classrooms, love what is happening there, that they even go there on weekends or stay longer after school (as long as they don’t overdo it!).

Number Thirteen – Help Them Reflect On Their Failures – The 30 Goals Challenge

Maths... (Image taken from atc.co.uk)

Maths was one of those subjects that I was not particularly fond of, but didn’t dislike either. Perhaps I favoured Geometry much more and Algebra less. I was pretty good at it. Or so I thought.

I was a freshman in high school and had a new maths teacher who was constantly challenging us with interesting stuff and I liked that. Until we had our first major test and…I did not do well at all. I was a bit disappointed when I got my paper back but thought that next time I should try a bit harder and check where my weaknesses were. What totally shot me down was my teacher’s comment after class. “Well”, he said, “you saw your test result. We are not all mathematical geniuses and you are well…more of a language person and I don’t think you’ll ever be good at maths, like some other kids. That’s life.”

With this short comment, this person completely shot down my interest in the subject and more importantly, my self-esteem. He did not even sit with me for one minute to explain where I had not done well, what could have been the cause and so on. His comment just translated for me that no matter how hard I tried, I was going to achieve nothing.

Of course after I graduated and became a teacher, some of my students had this same teacher who did it to some of them as well. It made me wonder: this person was working in schools, with kids who had dreams, thinking he was teaching (well he may have given them his knowledge daily in class), but was he missing the point or what: kids are going to fail for some reason or another. Perhaps they do not study as much. Perhaps it was a bad day – they might be students whose stress takes over them and who can perform well in those circumstances? Maybe they have a learning disability which hinders them from performing as well as they would like to and with some help could do wonders.

We can help kids reflect on their failures - by motivating them constantly, they will try to do better next time and always learn! (Image from commercialappeal.com)

What students need is constant encouragement and motivation. Does a failure define them as personalities or the rest of their lives? We should see it as an opportunity to teach them much more than the subject itself.

I have written about this before in a post on Goal Number Two. There you can read about one of my students I had in Greece who is really brave and faced his failure by trying even harder, even though he was disappointed at first.

I am positive and confident there are a lot of educators who constantly encourage their students and help them overcome failures. Congratulations to all of you and keep up the excellent work!

My post for Marisa Constantinides’s Blog Challenge-A Disabled-Access Friendly world: Lessons for the ELT classroom

Many thanks to Marisa Constantinides for suggesting this blog challenge – and for reminding both teachers and students all that disabilities do belong in the classroom and we should always keep in mind people who have some kind of impairment.

(Image taken from cyborgbeetle.deviantart.com)

The lesson I have prepared especially for this blog challenge is a poem, one of my favourite kinds of literature to teach with. I like using poems for various topics and I believe that this poem by A.C.Leming called Dreams, which is about physical impairment, would be suitable to include in such a lesson.

In my opinion, poetry is an excellent medium of language which conveys messages, thoughts and feelings in a special way and gives students great food for thought. Plus, it can give the students a lot of inspiration and a new way to examine a topic!

I would use the specific poem with upper-intermediate or advanced students.

A pre-reading activity could be to make a word cloud out of all the words of the poem and have the students write their own poem, using all the words.

They can then look at their own work and the poem itself, compare and discuss why they wrote their own the way they did and why the poet chose to write hers in another.

My word cloud - I chose the shape of a moon, to go with the title of the poem (dreams - night)

Some questions as they are reading/looking at the poem could be:

● Look at the poem. What does the shape remind you of? What does it look like? (A staircase. Why?)

● Why do you think the title is Dreams? (Any idea can be accepted, as it is poetry)

A.C. Leming

DREAMS

My

dreams

consist of

climbing stairs,

one by one, feeling

muscles clench and relax

at the direction of the nerves driven

by my will to ascend up and up, away

from the darkness of waking, immobile, in

my hospital bed.

After you have read the poem:

● What feelings has the shape and the poem itself generated?

● Why is she separating my and dreams, in your opinion?

● Now that you have read the poem, what is she dreaming of?

● What kind of words is she using to show direction (up, up, away, ascend – why does she use words that all show upward motion?)

● Why is the last line at the far right end of the rest of the poem?

● Ask them if they can draw any images that come from their reflection on the poem. The images can depict their feelings or any images evoked after reading the poem.

After analysing the poem, the conversation can take a more general direction:

● How are people with impairments treated in your country? (Are there facilities for them, like special rehabilitation centres, special entrances, ramps and special restrooms in buildings)?

● This question can be a bit sensitive, so you can ask them generally if they know of someone with an impairment. They do not have to tell you who it is, but they can explain to the class what kind of impairment the person has, how s/he handles it in everyday life and anything else they can think of.

● Throughout the lesson you can focus on vocabulary pertinent to the subject, such as visually -, physically- or mentally impaired and so on.

● As an after-class assignment, they can write a letter to the Minister of Education of their country on a topic such as: What solutions can be found for disabled people to be integrated into society?

December 3rd is International Disability Day. The lessons on disabilities can be used then, but I suggest choosing any day to remind everyone of people with disabilities.

Marisa Constantinides

Marisa, thank you so much!

(Many thanks to Marisa for recommended the drawing activities, the word cloud and the last writing assignment – I had come up with something different, but I liked Marisa’s idea much better!)

Number Three – What Do You Believe About Learning? – The 30 Goals Challenge

Learning – my favourite topic. I love the mottos Learning can happen anywhere and A good teacher is also a good learner. But I will just put all my thoughts in order…

The Teacher As Learner

The best thing teachers can do for themselves and for their students as a consequence is keep on learning. About and through anything. What I have found  fundamental to my learning and motivating myself are:

  • Twitter. I never thought, when I first joined in 2009, what a great school that would be. I learn through other teachers who post links, from reading their blogs and from participating in a weekly chat English teachers have every Wednesday, ELTChat.
  • Workshops and Seminars. I am very fortunate for the reason that here in Switzerland we always have something going on. I know it can be costly, but it is definitely worth it. I always learn something and come back super-motivated, especially if the workshop or seminar was a good one!
  • Observing other teachers. You can learn a great deal from other educators, if you get the chance to sit in on their class. You can get great ideas, or even (and I hope this does not happen too often) learn from the mistakes they make.

A cornfield as your classroom? Yes! (Image taken from http://www.bloomingblossoms.com)

For students, I am a great believer that learning can happen anywhere and sometimes even when we have not planned it!

  • Hit the road, Jack! Last year I was working with my kiddos on plants and suddenly I thought: hey, why don’t we put on our jackets and go out? We have a cornfield nearby the school and the children got to see the plants, learn what a stalk is, where the corn they eat comes from and what happens after they cut off the corn. They still remember this lesson and keep asking when we can go outside again! Which reminds me, we should do it soon…
  • Go ahead and use the tech! Students can learn a great deal from technology. Start a wiki or blog with them. Skype with other classrooms (numerous educators on Twitter have done this and the results are great! The kids love it and learn about other classes all around the world). Books are great, but not the only thing kids can learn from.
  • Try to visit libraries as frequently as you can. “My kids don’t read”, say some teachers. Have you provided them with the stimulus, if you have not got a library in class or the school? Let them roam through the aisles and you will see them picking up books on subjects they like (or a specific one if you are teaching a particular unit) and immediately taking them to tables…or even sitting on the floor! I love images like this.

Learning opportunities are great both for teachers and students. Classrooms become hubs of learning and knowledge!

And to close, I absolutely love what a great educator, David Deubelbeiss , says: When one teaches, two learn.