Another very important aspect of professional development is reading and writing for educational journals and magazines. Almost every teaching association in various countries around the world has one, be it a paper journal or online or even an online newsletter, which is shorter. Some associations offer the journals included in the membership fee, which can be very helpful – however there are also magazines that do not belong to associations but are related to language teaching, like Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional, to name a couple.
Why is it so important to read them? Well first of all, to learn from them. So many colleagues share loads of teaching ideas in their articles, which we can adopt and adapt in our own classes. They can keep you feeling inspired and motivated for the next class!
It can also make us think critically, because we cannot possibly agree with everything written. We can choose what fits our classes and our methodology and use it accordingly.
Some articles focus on research or other theoretical issues and can help teachers enrich their knowledge, or even help them with their studies, as many educators continue their studies.
Share your ideas with other educators! Write for journals and magazines – it helps you to also practise your writing skills. A lot of educators reading your articles might then contact you to give you feedback on your writing, for instance how much it helped them, or any kind of feedback, which is also welcome. Then you can see what you can continue writing about, what you can improve and so on. Just try doing it!
I am extremely happy to present you with an interview I have been thinking about for a very long time with one of the people I admire tremendously. Mike Griffin! I connected with Mike in December 2011 on Twitter initially – he stood out for being one of those educators who has great opinions and ideas on education. He also has an amazing sense of humour! I was so happy that he started his own blog, which contains super pieces of writing. Mike blogs at ELT Rants, Reviews and Reflections. Heeeeere’s Mike!
Vicky: First of all, a huge thank you for accepting to do this interview – as you know, you are one of my favourite people on Twitter and Facebook, so this is a huge honour for me!
Mike: The pleasure and honour is all mine! #Whoop! Thanks so much for having me. It has been such fun getting to know you on those channels.
Vicky: You teach in South Korea as a lot of us know, as you are one of the most well-known people in the PLN and offer lots to educators on a daily basis. However, can you tell us where and what kind of classes you have, for the people who meet you for the first time?
Mike: I live and work in Seoul. My “day job” is teaching in the graduate school of a university here. I guess it is easiest to say that I have two different jobs within that job. In the first, I teach Business English, Academic English, or Discussion-focused classes for grad students in the International Studies major. In the second I run weekly seminars in simultaneous interpretation for students doing an MA in interpretation and translation. Students come into class with a Korean speech that they read while others interpret simultaneously and I frantically listen to as many interpretations as I can. After that students give each other feedback on what they heard and then I do my best to answer questions and give feedback on what I heard. Everyone always wonders if my Korean ability is good enough for this. It’s not. I actually just listen to the English anyway.
Additionally, I have been (co-)teaching Curriculum Development on the New School MATESOL program for a few terms. I also work on a trainer/mentor training course for public school teachers. I feel pretty busy after writing that.
As for being well-known, that is news to me!
Vicky: Well, it’s the truth! Was teaching your first choice as a profession?
Mike: Not really. Kind of. I am not sure. I actually entered university as an Education major but switched to History shortly thereafter. I thought I might like to be a history teacher for a while but then the allure of living in other cultures was too much.
Vicky: How did you get to Korea in the first place and what do you like the most about living there? Was there anything that surprised you in your first few months there?
Mike: I decided in my final term during my undergrad I wanted to teach and travel. Korea jumped out at me for a few reasons. It was far away and seemed different. At that time (12+ years ago now) not a lot of people knew about Korea, especially as compared to Japan. I was interested in going to a place that was not so widely known. I was also interested in how Korea was changing so rapidly and had undergone such dramatic changes in the past 50 years. I was lucky enough to get in contact online with a Canadian guy that was leaving his job and I appreciated how honest he was about the good and not-so-good things about the position.
The most surprising thing for me in my first few months in South Korea is the thing that still surprises me the most. Buildings go up so quickly! It is amazing. You might go somewhere you haven’t been in a month and see 3-4 new buildings. Even after all this time it still surprises me.
Vicky: You are a huge proponent of Reflective Practice in Teaching and one of the founders of the first RPSIG (Reflective Practice Special Interest Group) in the world, based in Korea. How did you enter this area of interest? How did you start the SIG?
Mike: Wow, great question. I was lucky enough to see and get connected a bit with Dr. Thomas Farrell at a special day-long workshop in 2008. Reflection was also a big part of my MATESOL at the New School as well as my training to be a World Learning/SIT Teacher Trainer. I saw a lot of benefits when I started trying to see my teaching as it was and started talking and writing about it. I guess reflection and reflective practice appealed to me before I even know what they were or what they were called.
Vicky: You present a lot at conferences throughout the year and do a lot of workshops for teachers. What do you enjoy the most about them?
Mike:I absolutely love the sound of my own voice. Wait, no, that is not the right answer. For the past few years I have been averaging about 1 presentation a month, which is something I am looking forward to cutting back on in 2013. I truly enjoy presenting and giving workshops, though. I find it is great learning opportunity for me to discover my hidden beliefs on certain areas as well as to explore thoughts and ideas that I was not so familiar with. The other thing I enjoy is helping teachers see how their experiences and thoughts matter and how they can make their own decisions about their classes.
Vicky: What would you advise teachers who are a bit reluctant to present?
Mike:Just start by starting. Don’t worry about being perfect or blowing people’s minds. Audiences are generally very supportive (especially if you come off as a fellow explorer and not an expert telling people what they *should be doing). I think it can be pretty nerve-wracking at first but it gets easier. My other advice would be that you don’t need to start out with big huge presentations but can start with smaller sessions for your colleagues or friends or something along those lines. I’d also advise being patient and not taking it personally if and when rejections come.
Vicky: Let’s move on to your blog, which is one of my absolute favourites. If I have to choose the top 5, yours is definitely among them. How did you start it and what inspires you to write?
Mike: Thanks so much! It is always great to get positive feedback but even better to get positive feedback from someone that you respect (and someone that has an excellent blog themself!).
I love blogging. I can’t believe it took me so long to get into it. I did dabble with student blogs and blogs that I ran for students back in the olde days of 2007 but I never thought about having my own blog. The constant nagging encouragement of my dear friend Josette LeBlanc (@josetteLB) who has an amazing blog over at tokenteach(http://tokenteach.wordpress.com/)wasthe main push for me to blog. I joined Twitter in 2011 just after the KOTESOL International Conference after Chuck Sandy encouraged the audience in his fantastic presentation to do so. From there after engaging with the community having a blog seemed like a natural next step. I think Twitter is fantastic but the tyranny of 140 characters can be a bit strong at times so it is nice to have a space to share some thoughts.
As for my inspiration to blog, there are a few ideas and rants that I just needed to get out of my system and blogging has been great for that. I have noticed how the simple fact of just having a blog changes my thought process. For example, something interesting or strange might occur in class but now that I have a blog I sometimes think about these events under the lens of “How would I write about this in the blog?” and I think it tends to give me more/different insights than I would have otherwise. I guess I didn’t really answer your question about what inspires me to write but it is partially things I need to get off my chest, lessons I have learned that I want to share, questions I am working through, funny (in my opinion at least) stories I want to share, or other people’s ideas I want to share.
Vicky: You are very active on social media and share a great deal with educators all around the world. Can you give us some insight into how you use each medium and what you see as a benefit? Which downsides are there?
Mike:“Very active on social” media is a very nice way to put it. Haha. I am on the computer a lot for work and Facebook and Twitter are enticing breaks. I mostly use Twitter for professional things (though I am not afraid to be silly and whimsical) and Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family and sharing random thoughts and links. In the past 6-10 months I have been adding more and more Twitter friends on Facebook and it has been interesting. I suppose “worlds colliding” could be a potential downside but I have been lucky enough (as far as I know) to not experience negative impact from merging my professional and personal digital selves. I think there are always risks inherent in any sort of communication but I have been very pleased with my social “networking for professional development experiment.” I guess I mostly share links and try to connect with people. I have been thrilled to discover amazing people who work in similar as well as drastically different contexts in Korea and around the world. Pooling knowledge and ideas with educators around the world has been an inspiring experience.
Vicky: Before our interview, I asked you which your favourite ELT book is and yours is Understanding Teaching Through Learning. Can you give us some details about it – why would you recommend it? By the way, I have already ordered it and thank you for that!
Mike:That is great news! That book was a great intro for me about many things related to teacher training and reflection. It is also a great source of ideas and material for running workshops. I think the authors did a great job of taking complicated ideas and making them accessible and engaging. Something I especially love about that book is how it offers something for teacher across all experience levels.
Vicky: Now let’s move on to Mike outside teaching. What do you enjoy doing when you have a spare moment?
Mike:I don’t have as many spare moments as I would like but traveling and reading are at the top of my list. Combining the two and reading on a beach in a new country is blissful for me.
Aside from my big interest in ELT am also interested in sports, movies, comedy, business, politics, and suddenly social networking.
Vicky: I asked you about your favourite movie before I interviewed you and it is The Big Lebowski – to be honest, I have never seen it, even though I have heard about it before. I had homework to do and learn more about it! Please tell us more about it and why you like it.
Mike: You have to see it! It’s hilarious. It is also one of those movies that gets better the more you see it. I don’t just recommend watching it once, I recommend watching it at least 5 times. Then things will make a bit more sense. I found it extremely witty and funny and I was especially impressed with the dialogue. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. I imagine when you (finally) see it you might recognize some of the lines because people have been saying them around you for years.
Vicky: Nerdy question coming up: have you ever taught with it?
Mike:That is a really #TESOLgeek –y question! It is also a great idea because I have never used it in class. Some of the dialogues would be great. I am imaging it now. I think you might be a bit out of your element if I start telling you what scenes would be good so I will wait for you to get back to me.
Vicky: Mike, a huge thank you for this interview, for your insight and your time. I really hope to meet you face to face soon!
Mike:Thank YOU. Thank you for having me. Thank you for all the support. Thanks for all the laughs and smiles. Thank you for all the sharing and community building that you do. And thank you for being you. Rock on!
(I am very much looking forward to meeting you face to face. I am willing to go on record that all the cake you can eat will be my treat!)
Vicky’s Notes: I would like to thank Mike very much for helping me find a title for his blog – wordplay on his blog title! And thank you – I never say no to cake!
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!
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!
Adam Simpson, aka @yearinthelifeofon Twitter, teaches English at Sabancı University, on the outskirts of beautiful Istanbul. He has a great blog called Teach Them English. He has recently invited all blogging educators to pick out twelve of their favourite posts for 2012 and share them.
I will choose three I like – for my three years of blogging : )
1. Using Advertising in the Business English Classroom I wrote this after a great class we had with one of my groups. My students made it into one of the best ever! They really took ownership of their learning and showed the whole class commercials they liked and made the best mini-presentations ever! Next year I will incorporate it with other groups as well, not only Business English ones.
2.Back to … the Future I have mentioned many times how much we loved The Loras English Academy, the school we had in Greece and how connected we were and still are with a lot of our students – we see them when we go back to Greece, we talk on Skype, via messages, I have connected to most of them via Facebook and Twitter…I wrote this post after I went to Greece in July and saw lots of our kids. How much they have grown, how many dreams they have…we love each and every one of you!
My third guest for this special celebration is Carol Goodey, an educator from Scotland who was one of the first people I connected to on Twitter. I admire her work immensely and there were times when I wished she would start blogging – and she did! You can read her great blog at http://cgoodey.wordpress.com/
Vicky:Carol, welcome to my blog with this interview for the celebration of three new bloggers and the third birthday of my blog! I am so happy as you have been one of the first people I ever connected to online three years ago, and we have been in close connection ever since.
Carol: Thank you for asking me to be part of this celebration, Vicky. It’s a real honour to be featured on your blog. Congratulations on your blog’s third birthday!
Vicky:For those of our readers who meet you for the first time, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your work in education as well?
Carol: I live in Scotland and work with the local authority in community learning and development as an adult literacies and ESOL worker. I get to work with a range of people who want to improve their literacies, numeracy and English language for use in the different contexts of their lives. I work with people who have moved to the area from around the world and people who have lived here for much longer, including people with learning disabilities. I really enjoy the variety.
Vicky: How did you decide to become involved in education?
Carol: I first started as a volunteer literacies tutor and, working with ESOL learners, decided I wanted to find out more about language learning. I had already done studies in the English language and was happy to have an excuse to do more! While I was pursuing further studies, a paid literacies post became available. I applied and got it. I worked there for a few years before moving on to work with university students but quickly realized that I missed the community learning and development approach and was fortunate to be able to get my job back.
Vicky: You have chosen social media to connect with many teachers around the world. How did you start out? What are the benefits and challenges, if any?
Carol: I was following an English Language Teaching discussion group. Some of the contributors mentioned Twitter and so, out of curiosity, I investigated. It took me three tries to finally get the hang of it. I’m glad I did because, through it, I’ve got to know some really interesting practitioners and learned a huge amount. More recently, I’ve been using Facebook to connect with other educators but I’m still getting used to that.
Vicky: There are several educators who are not connected to others on social media. What would you like to tell them?
Carol: Give it a go! It can be overwhelming at times, particularly when you first start but if you build up the people you follow slowly, get to know them, add the people they are chatting to, and don’t try to read everything, it can be a very worthwhile and enjoyable experience.
Vicky: Can you share one of the best moments in your teaching so far?
Carol: I’m really excited about a project I’ve been working on with a Community Learning and Development colleague which aims to bring people from different parts of the community together to learn about, with and from each other. We wanted to promote social inclusion and increase awareness of different people’s abilities, backgrounds and beliefs. We started with big engagement events – a ceilidh, food night, singing workshop and beetle drive – and are hoping to continue with similar events alongside more regular and sustainable activities such as sporting groups, international coffee mornings, etc. It’s been really enjoyable and we’ve had a lot of really positive feedback. While not teaching exactly, there have been lots of valuable learning opportunities. ESOL learners have had the opportunities to use English and get to know more local people. Other community members have learned more about people from other countries and have developed their own skills in communicating with speakers of other languages, making integration and inclusion that wee bit easier.
Vicky: You have recently started a blog. How did you decide to set up your own?
Carol: It’s taken me a while to set up my own, but I’ve been enjoying and learning from others for so long I felt I should make a contribution too. I had put it off because, with so many great blogs out there, I didn’t see what I would have to add. I was also a bit nervous about the time commitment, or spam, or other unforeseen hassles. But now that I’ve started, I’ve found that I really enjoy the process of writing. I find it absorbing and relaxing. It’s good to have a space whenever I feel I have something to share.
Vicky: Can you close with a wish to all educators, with the holidays getting closer?
Carol: If you do have holidays over the next few weeks, I hope you get the chance to have some space for yourself and take time to enjoy the small pleasures in life – whatever they might be for you.
Vicky: A huge thank you, Carol! I hope to meet you in person sometime next year!
Carol: It’s been a real pleasure, Vicky. Thank you for having me and I look forward to meeting you soon!
My second special guest for this three-year celebration is another educator from Turkey, Güven Çağdaş Gündoğdu, who has an amazing blog where he does a lot of reflecting and always makes me think. Visit his blog TeachersReflect at http://teachersreflect.wordpress.com/ Congratulations to Güven, who has been nominated for an Edublog award in his first year of blogging!
Vicky:Güven, thanks so much for accepting to give me this interview for the celebration of three new bloggers and the third birthday of my blog!
Güven: It is an honour for me to be presented with this opportunity, Vicky. You have always been a source of inspiration for me; I’m so glad that I am interviewed by you for such a special occasion.
Vicky:Thank you so much, Güven! It goes both ways, I am happy to have you on the blog. Can you tell our readers a few things about yourself and what you do?
Güven: Well, it has been 11 years since I got my BA in English Language Teaching and I have been working at Anadolu University School of Foreign Languages for the past 8 years. I had a chance to work at Middle East Technical University for some time when I first finished university before I got a job at my current institution. I must say I also worked in the exports division of an international firm as a representative after leaving Middle East Technical University.
Vicky: How did you decide to become an educator?
Güven: Honestly, I had never thought I would be a teacher even though I studied ELT. However, I began to like it as I taught my first group of students in a language school before graduation. They were a class of very young learners, and they made me decide to be a teacher because I really loved it when I saw the joy and excitement of learning in their eyes.
Vicky: You teach in university. What department do you teach in? What do you enjoy the most working in academia?
Güven: I teach in the Basic English Department, which means I work with young adults at a range of levels from A to B 2.2. It is quite a challenge because students come straight to our school prior to their actual departments, and they must reach B 2.2 level even if they mostly come as complete beginners before they can study their majors.
Although it is a big challenge, I love it because I meet new students every 8 weeks. Each new group teaches me something new, and I do my best to adapt myself to teaching at changing levels. It may sound strange, but I feel it helps me develop more as a teacher for each group has different needs.
Besides, I am in charge of a unit of 10 teachers, and I am responsible for organizing their classes, materials, and maintaining their motivation at times. I sometimes feel tired, but it is amazing to exchange ideas and tips with my unit. It surely teaches me a load of things.
And the best thing about working in a university is I have access to any source that I need. Anadolu University really has it all from software to hardware available for use, which is something every language teacher dreams about. We are also supported extensively by the board of management for professional development.
Vicky: You are active on Twitter, connecting to many educators. How does this reflect in your work?
Güven: My Twitter experience keeps me up to date with latest information about teaching. This is an important factor for self-development for me. Whenever I learn something new, I try to put it into practice, and I can create a difference in my classes. Doing it helps my students grow more enthusiastic about learning, which in the end gets them to like English.
Secondly, I have known many new people thanks to Twitter, and this has given me a good range of personal learning network. It is due to my PLN that I can always seek advice from great professionals and find solutions to problems that I might encounter.
Most importantly, I have you as one of those great people whose work always inspires me. It was made possible by Twitter.
Vicky: Thank you so much for your kind words, Güven! I really appreciate it. We are connected, but there are many people in education who would like to move beyond the staffroom and are a bit wary of social media. What would you advise them?
Güven: I would say there is nothing to worry about. Social media is magical and it makes wonders in one’s life. Personal experience is the evidence that social media transforms teachers into facilitators and sharers.
Any teacher who wishes to be a part of this magical medium can do it easily. All they need to have is the desire to exchange ideas. It is also good to see that nobody judges nobody, and everybody feels responsible for the learning of others. It should be clear to those who are wary of the social media that once they are in, they will never want to be out because it is a whole different world with countless opportunities for professional development.
Above all, what is there to lose?
Vicky: I completely agree! Let’s go back to your teaching. Can you share one of the highlights in your teaching so far?
Güven: Last year, I volunteered to teach a group of students who were to repeat A level for the fourth time. A lot of colleagues thought I was crazy because they believed those students kept failing due to lack of interest or laziness. However, I believed that those students lacked motivation and guidance.
There were 21 students in the class, and they had lost all hope to pass to the next level. At least they said so. But I told them that we could change things around if they put aside their prejudice and retain that last bit of hope they had as they were there for another try. I also promised them that they would never walk alone, and I would always be ready for assistance outside class hours as well.
By the end of the module (after 8 weeks), those students were able to communicate in English. Even the director of the school witnessed that when she visited one of our lessons on special request from the students. The word she used to describe the class was Impressive.
18 of those 21 students sat for the end of module exam because 3 of them had decided to go to another university, and all those who took the exam passed. This is one thing I will always remember with a smile on my face, and my colleagues now think that I was not crazy when I volunteered to teach those students. They understand that impossible is nothing.
Vicky: That’s amazing! We can see your enthusiasm in your blog posts as well. You are a new blogger with new and fresh ideas. What inspired you to enter the world of blogging?
Güven: A master of teacher education and motivation, Tony Gurr, got me into the world of blogging. One day I was lucky enough to attend a presentation about reflective teaching by him, and I was fascinated. The very next day, I wrote my first reflection ever on the lesson of the day and shared it Tony. He loved it and encouraged me to write more.
As I did that, I became more aware of myself, thus revising and changing certain points about my teaching practices. That being the case, I decided to share my experiences with the world as was advised by Tony and Aysun Güneş, already well-established bloggers.
Do I regret that? Definitely not!
Vicky: In your first year of blogging, you have been nominated for an Edublog award! Congratulations! Can you describe how you felt when you found out?
Güven: When I first found out, I felt over the moon! It was both surprising and exciting. I had never imagined it could happen because I know there is some really serious stuff out there on the blogosphere. Being one of the nominees is great news for it shows that my work is recognized and appreciated, which means that I am doing a good job as a blogger, too. It is also an extra responsibility as it means that I have to improve my style more and more, and I love that responsibility!
Thank you so much for this interview, Güven and my warmest wishes to you!