Podcasts, Prince and UnPlugged – An Interview with James Taylor

I am delighted to present you with the first interview for 2016, with one of my favourite educators ever, James Taylor!

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Today’s guest is an invaluable ELT colleague and friend: an English teacher, blogger, co-founder and former President of BELTA Belgium, TEFL Commute podcast co-producer, iTDi mentor, ELTChat moderator, conference and webinar speaker. He is very active on social media and we all learn such a great deal from him on a daily basis.

James joined me from Brasília, where he now lives.

Enjoy this amazing interview and listen to James talk about everything from ELT, life experiences and travelling around the  world as a teacher, podcasts, books, music and more!

A huge thank you, James!

(And thank you, James for coming up with the brilliant post title!)

Goal #1 2015: Support a Movement #30GoalsEdu


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support-a-movement

Back to the amazing 30 Goals Challenge by Shelly Sanchez Terrell!

Here is Goal #1 for 2015 – support a movement. I am very fortunate to be part of several movements for educators – I learn so much from being part of them, interacting with the educators involved in them and I feel that they help me grow as an educator. Some movements I am a member of:

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  • The International Teachers Development Institute (iTDi). The motto of iTDi is For teachers, by teachers and that is the core of it: it is a community owned and staffed by teachers. There is a blog which is regularly updated around a specific topic, there are online courses which can last up to four weeks and are superb learning experiences, and there is also a forum where teachers from all over the world can get answers to many subjects and can interact. I am very honoured and proud to be one of the materials writers and bloggers for iTDi! I have learned so many things and the topics that have come up have made me think about my own teaching.

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  • BELTA Belgium. The Belgian English Language teachers Association is a three-year-old association which was co-founded by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis, Guido Van Landeghem and Ellen DePreter. It has already achieved so many things: there is an annual one-day event called BELTA Day, which attracts a great number of teachers not only from all over Belgium, but from all over the world! There is also a social event and train the teacher event, as well as Sunday webinars. There is also a blog and a Bulletin, of which I am the Editor! I am so happy to be part of this amazing new association for many reasons: the board members are all people I can call friends, we all share the same passion for education and it is great to see what new ideas constantly come up!

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  • TeachingEnglish blog by the British Council. I am happy to be one of the bloggers on this site. Every month, Paul Braddock gives the team, comprised by teachers from all over the world, some great topics to blog about and the interaction is great! I have been away for a short while, but will be back blogging in June!

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  • ELTChat. This is a superb resource – a weekly chat on Twitter, around a voted topic. This year, I am not able to take part in the live chat due to my heavy schedule, but every week after the chat, one of the educators who has taken part in it writes a summary. The summaries are so useful and I always get new ideas or tools to use.

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  • Last but not least…The Loras Network. It is exactly what our name says: my sister Eugenia and I have created a language and teacher training school, which is not only made up of us – it is made up of a network of all the educators we interact with on social media, we collaborate online or in person, we learn with and from. We hold an annual event, The Loras Workshop, and do workshops and talks everywhere! It is our dream come true!

Reading and Restaurants: A Long Story of Learning for @iTDipro

George Loras - my dad!
George Loras – my dad!

Here is my post for the Special Issue of Outside Influences for iTDipro. I hope you enjoy this story!

When I remember myself as a little child, I always remember a rather quirky child that disliked pink, princesses and fairy tales, and most toys – instead, I loved reading, as I could read from a very young age. I read anything I could. I was also an absolute klutz when it came to anything graceful, like ballet. I disliked being in big crowds.

I loved another thing along with reading: listening to “real” stories.

I was and I am very fortunate to have someone in my life who taught me that I was not weird, and he taught me so much more. He has nothing to do with ELT. Most of his working life was spent in restaurants, with grueling schedules, either as a waiter, chef, owner, or all three together. He is my first teacher and a huge part of who and what I am is thanks to him. He is my dad.

Despite his very long working hours, sometimes working 16-17 hours or more (he has always gone on very little sleep which is something I have also got from him), he was always there for me, either on the phone, in the morning before he went to work, or at night, after he returned. What have I learned from him? Numerous things, but I will mention a few:

  • No matter what you do in your life and how far you get, you are equal to everyone else and never forget where you come from. I always saw this in the interaction with his customers, the good ones, the difficult ones. He treated everyone the same and had a joke and a smile for everyone.
  • You always need to be polite and not load other people with your bad mood. You can talk about that with people close to you. He also told us that you know when a person is genuine and kind by how they treat waiters and children 🙂
  • Pay attention in school, but also outside school. You can learn from anyone, anywhere.
  • He told me real stories. Even though I was only 11 at the time, he told me about the Berlin Wall. He told me about the war in Vietnam. He introduced me to people like Martin Luther King and Neil Armstrong.
  • The first movie I watched with him was…Rocky! Still one of my favourites. “Now what’s the message? Not that I want you going out there punching everyone…but see how much he tried for what he wanted?”
  • He showed me a love of reading. He was and is always reading something, be it a book, newspaper or on his tablet – at 69 years old! He always loves talking about what he is reading. Now that I live far away from him, we still do this over Skype! He always starts like this: “Hey Vicky, listen to this…I read…”

Thank you Dad for all you are and all you teach me and have taught me. I am so grateful for every single day.

Education As a Happy Place – An Interview with Priscila Mateini (@Priscilamateini)

Priscila Mateini
Priscila Mateini

I am delighted to present you with one of my eduheroes, Priscila Mateini from Brazil. Priscila is a teacher, a super-mom and a great person I have connected to on social media and I am very happy to learn from and with her. This interview really touched my heart, because in Priscila’s words you can see the enthusiasm and love for what she does, exactly the same way one sees them in her words when she writes on Facebook or Twitter.

She uses the word happy numerous times throughout our interview, which is the essence of education and our work as educators, I believe – Priscila is the embodiment of this, and that is why I have decided to give that title to the interview as well; it is all inspired by her!

You can read more about her work on her blog My Reflection on Teaching and Learning.

And here is her interview – obrigada, Priscila!

The Human Touch Series

(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)
(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)

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 2014, 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 it 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.

Watch this clip from the film The Freedom Writers, based upon the true story of educator Erin Gruwell and her students.

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!

My Learning in 2012 – A Post for @iTDipro #iTDi

(image from http://www.flero.net)
(image from http://www.flero.net)

The great educators at iTDi, The International Teachers’ Development Institute, have been writing post on the website about what they have learnt in 2012.

This year has been a great year in learning for me, not only for my profession but for myself in general.

  • Once again, I have attended amazing conferences and workshops, where I have learnt a great deal and networked with amazing educators.
  • A very important thing I learned – pretty late, but better late than never! Facebook rocks for teachers! I absolutely love it. I had only been on Twitter for three years and my great friend James Taylor and Ania Musielak managed to get me to take the plunge – I really wonder why I hadn’t done it earlier. It is much more visual for me and I can learn a lot from various groups I have joined. It is truly a buzzing community of educators. Plus when I joined, I really felt like I opened a door to a house full of friends!
  • I am really trying to improve my German – both for myself and out of respect to this wonderful country. I am trying to learn it the way I can best, the way I learn other things as well  – by looking and listening. Not through traditional methods and I completely refuse to follow them. For me they just don’t work, as I feel I am running into a wall. For that reason, I observe and try to speak with people and friends around me as much as possible. I also listen to lots of podcasts and that has improved it quite a lot.
  • I have started learning Turkish for the past three weeks, ever since I returned from lovely Istanbul. I have been learning on an online programme and will start lessons very soon! I love how it sounds. I would love to be able to communicate next time I go there again!Quote-287
  • I have learned to make time for myself, for things I like – be it a simple thing that makes me feel good. It can be reading a book, having a nice cup of coffee or eating cake. If I feel okay, I am healthy and then I am feeling fine for my students as well!
  • Most importantly, after fifteen years of teaching, I have learned (and I am actually applying it much better than I thought) not to self-flagellate when something goes wrong, either in my teaching or in life in general. I see every mistake, every mishap as just one more thing ahead and that I will try no matter what to correct it or not repeat it.

I hope 2013 is full of health, happiness and even more learning for all of us! I wish everybody a Happy New Year!

Our Poster Post with Maggie!

During the holidays, I spend a lot of time with my sister and her two children, Maggie (seven years old) and Nicholas (three).

Maggie’s vegetable poster

Maggie and I love doing activities together: writing, sticking, cutting, creating…so one day, during our Christmas holidays, we were talking about healthy eating and we decided to put our learning into pictures, make our learning visible – so we made posters, one with vegetables and one with fruit! Just using simple things, old newspapers and magazines from where we could cut out pictures, scissors and big pieces of cardboard for the background – we had so much fun learning and creating. Maggie was so excited about it!

Maggie’s Poster with Fruit

We looked through magazines and newspapers to find pictures, cut them out and paste them onto coloured paper. Maggie also wrote the names of the fruit and vegetables, learning some that she had not heard of, like starfruit which we also saw at the supermarket a few days later.

We also had two great people cheering us on throughout the way: Mieke Kenis from Belgium and Ann Loseva from Moscow to whom we tweeted pictures of our posters! Ann made beautiful posters with her two sweet nieces, Olya and Polina!

The poster with animals we started after fruit and vegetables – Maggie wants to be a vet when she grows up!

Interviewing Icha Sarwono (@yitzha_sarwono), Indonesia

Icha, whose aza-aza mantra gives us all motivation! (photo by Icha Sarwono)

It is with great pleasure and honour that I feature a wonderful educator on my blog, Icha Sarwono who is based in Indonesia. Icha teaches at a Kindergarten and Preschool and is active on social media. She is also an iTDi Associate and has a blog. Here is Icha!

1. Icha, how did you become an educator?

I suppose it’s in my blood, as I come from family who works either in education or a health institution. I don’t think I know any other thing to do, as even my first part-time job during my junior high was tutoring my classmates in English. Then during my college year up till now I coach the school’s drumband (that is kind of a teaching activity too right?) . I suppose I became a teacher because I remember how my teachers used to have an impact on me, personally and of course educationally. So, though teaching has never been on my list of goals growing up, I chose this line of work because I want to influence and help people in a little way.

2. What would you like to have known back then, that you know now? What would you advise Icha the beginning teacher?

Well I would love to have known that teaching doesn’t always equal educating. I used to think that it was easy easy to transfer knowledge but it hasn’t always been the case as I found out. The first thing you need to do is to inspire them, so they will be excited in learning themselves. I would advise the young 24-year-old Icha (that’s the age I started teaching full-time) to take it easy, don’t get frustrated when the class doesn’t go as you plan, because the unexpected is much more fun for it opens up a new adventure! Oh, and remember that you cannot judge a student simply by his grades, because as Einstein said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

3. You teach at Kidea Daycare. What are the things one needs to keep in mind when teaching little ones? What are the pros and what are the challenges of teaching such young ages?

Actually it’s Kidea Preschool and Kindergarten and I am now teaching a K2 class, a bunch of 5-year-old students 🙂 . I think what we should have in mind when teaching young learners is that you cannot force them in accepting all you have to give at a certain time. They need time to bloom. We should know also that it is better for the kids if they can experience themselves rather than asking them to visualize. I mean, I know people say that kids are full of great imagination, but if we don’t lead them then how would we know we have pressed the right button? I believe in concrete to abstract concept in Montessori teaching because once my kids have got the concrete concept, it is easy for them to grasp the next lesson for they have it imprinted on their mind. The thing I love most about young learners is that they have always been enthusiastic in knowing new things, they cannot wait to be able to master something. The problems are a lot too, but mostly come from the outside, like from the parents. The biggest thing for me would be parents who are questioning our approach and skeptical about it, because I believe in teaching young learners, we need trust from them as we must have their support and sometimes it is not an easy case. I am very lucky that the parents of my class now back me and it has made it easier to give my all for their children.

4. What is the ELT scene like in Indonesia?

I must say I don’t know much as I haven’t been in touch with TEFLIN (the ELT organization I belong to) for quite some time as I am now teaching kindergarten rather than English – but I would say that it is still kind of divided in groups for we haven’t got a strong foundation. It is merely a political thing as each year there has always been some sort of new change in the school curriculum that can lead up to changes in English lesson too. Teachers here are trying hard to cope with the latest in ELT world, and I think we’re doing pretty well though we have lots to conquer still.

5. When you are not teaching, what do you do in your free time?

Oh, I love reading! And watching TV channels like NatGeo or NatGeo adventure , Animal planet and the Food channel. I love cooking, I cook a lot for my class and involve them in my cooking activity. I also love playing around with my 4 (soon to be more) cats!

6. What are your plans for your career in the future?

Simply being a better teacher. As I was introduced to Montessori teaching 2 years ago, I’d love to learn more about it, if possible attend a class on it. I would also love to engage in more discussion like #ELTChat or #ASIAElt to improve myself and my teaching. Hopefully I can contribute more to the education in Indonesia.

Icha, thank you so much! ELT and education are very lucky to have you.

Taking Up @AnneHendler’s Blog Challenge – My Laughing Diary

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A couple of days ago I read a post which had a great impact on me: The Best Medicine by Anne Hendler, an educator I have recently connected to on Twitter and whom I enjoy following very much! Anne teaches in South Korea and writes a great blog, where she shares her teaching and life experiences, as an expat teacher (which I completely empathize with, being an expat in Switzerland myself!). Anne asks, what makes us laugh?

As everyone, sometimes I get stressed about my teaching, or everyday things in general. A couple os years ago I went through a very stressful period – it is incredible how your mind starts looking for all the pleasant things out there to overcome the stress and despair you can feel. There are a lot of things that make me happy and laugh:

My family: Skyping with my dad, mom and sister can make my day in no time. It can even take two minutes talking to them and I just feel that lift instantly!

My niece and nephew, my sister’s children who also live in Switzerland. They do and say a lot of funny stuff, but lately they have taken to singing I Like To Move It from the children’s animated movie Madagascar. They march around the living room and jump around – I can’t describe how it makes me feel!

Being on Twitter: learning, reading and very often, laughing with some funny links or messages I am sent! I feel great when learning, or reading about something I find difficult and is solved in no time.

My students: regardless of their age, they always say or do something funny and we all have a lot of laughs – it creates a great atmosphere and our lessons just take off : )

Writing: either on my blog or good old-fashioned paper notebooks, there is something about writing that just drains away all the stress or negativity I may feel.

Books and bookshops: my second home! I love being there. Either going through my books at home, or at a bookstore, a huge smile appears on my face.

What makes you laugh? What helps you overcome difficult moments?

Thanks Anne for a great blog challenge!