Flipping Vicky Loras’ Blogging Challenge

Vicky Loras:

I have said many times and I will keep on saying that when I first joined social media, I was not sure at all if it would work out for me. Almost six years later, I have not looked back.

I have met amazing educators both online and in person, and I am greatly indebted to them for teaching me a lot of things and for their friendship, as I have forged super friendships!

One of these people is the amazing Doug Peterson, who is a prolific blogger and edtech specialist. Doug and I connected on Twitter first and then Facebook, and we have shared lots of stories and he also lives in Ontario, where I was born – so one more thing to connect us : )

I am very moved while writing this introduction, both because of his incessant kindness and wonderful words. Doug did something terrific for the blog challenge I started in 2011 with 27 educators who shared their stories…and more revived it at the end of last year and are keeping it going. He flipped them all into one place, and now it is a beautiful collection. We can still keep adding to it.

What can I say, Doug, apart from THANK YOU and I truly hope with all my heart to meet you in person – let’s hope my plans to visit Canada next year come to fruition : )

A huge thank you to Doug and to all the teachers contributing to and supporting this blog challenge – it belongs to all of us!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

Earlier this week, I had shared a story for Vicky Loras’ Blogging Challenge “What’s Your Story?”  One of the things that you have plenty of time to do while suffering from a cold is doing some reflection.

As I reflected on the extent of the content, the stories, and the global connections from her challenge, I really became with how impressive this young lady’s reach is.  I certainly couldn’t even begin to reach the number of educators that she has worldwide and then have them share their story.  So, I hopped over to her blog and posted a reply and then it came to me – her blogging challenge is actually in two parts now.  Wouldn’t it make sense to put them all together in one spot?  I thought of a number of ways to curate that sort of thing and thought that a Flipboard magazine would probably…

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One Word for 2015 #OneWord

(image taken from http://www.mashable.com)

(Image taken from http://www.mashable.com)

These days that we have been on holidays for Christmas and the New Year, I have had more time to read blogs (apart from teach a bit, study a lot for my Masters program and spend time with my family!). I have seen a lot of teachers around the world take up the One Word challenge – a word that will represent them for 2015. I first saw Tia Henriksens blog post and I loved what she had written – then I saw Aviva Dunsiger‘s which I also loved and thought – I would love to write on this too!

My word for 2015 is not an original one, and it is one that has represented me ever since I was a little girl: LEARN. I want to continue to do that on a lot of other levels and topics.

Here they are:

– Even though I have an over full-time job and  business to run, I enjoy both tremendously and do not want to stop learning more about my work and I read various books, magazines and I come into contact with people who do the same and learn from and with them – either face-to-face or on social media. This will definitely continue this year!

– My Masters program is one of the best choices I have made the past few years. In September 2014, I started a MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the University of Portsmouth, UK. It was something I have always wanted to do since I graduated from university with a BA in English Language and Literature. It is an amazing experience and I want to learn more on this fantastic journey! It has already taught me a lot, not only about languages, linguistics and TESOL, but also about time management and writing academically again after a very long time. Here is to another great year of learning!

Language learning! Two years ago, I started learning Turkish with my teacher Dinçer Demir and we have kept on all this time, both battling our busy schedules – so this year we will also continue. I will also keep on learning German, as I am very pleased with my progress so far and I want to learn how to speak and write really well.

– Last year, after summer, I realised I had had such a great holiday, but why wait for the summer to do things for myself? If we are not well physically

A close-up of the scarf I knit for Maggie

A close-up of the scarf I knit for Maggie

and mentally, we do not do good not only to ourselves but also to our families, students and colleagues. So I wanted to start yoga classes, but who would teach me either very early in the morning or very late at night, as those are the only times I am free (preparing for work, or studying, but I have to squeeze in my well-being in there too : )? So I found a brilliant YouTube Channel called Yoga with Adriene. Now, I do not know a single thing about yoga, but I love Adriene because she helps us out a lot, even beginners or inflexible people like myself and I feel really good after each session – I want to keep learning from her this year as well!

– You might laugh, but I have always loved knitting, so I started again last year – I have already knit a scarf for Maggie, my niece and am now knitting one for Nicholas, my nephew – I want to learn more patterns and techniques this year. Thank heavens for YouTube, Pinterest and blogs : )

In general, I want to continue learning and learn new things as well!

Wishing you all a great New Year and may 2015 bring you everything you wish for!



2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

How Much Should We Care? – The Human Touch Series

I am sure at some point or another, we have heard things like these from our family or employers or colleagues:

– You care too much about those kids.

– They already have parents.

– You are only here to teach them, if they have problems they can solve them elsewhere.

– Can’t you just do your job and let go? 

I know that many educators reading this, because I know many who,  think like this including myself, will not even ask themselves this question: how much should we care? I strongly believe and nothing will change my mind, that they are not only there for us to teach them the difference between Past Simple and Present Perfect Simple and then show them the door. We may teach them for several hours a week. Perhaps, only one or two hours, but they do manage to make a mark on our lives.

I have been a teacher for eighteen years and I have seen many students, taught them and spent time with them. Some of them with a stable family life, with studying as their only worry. I truly hope everyone had this as their only worry (and not even a worry, but a pleasure, because that is what learning should be). Unfortunately, there are also students (not only kids and teenagers, but also adults) with family problems, a history of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, mental health issues.

Sometimes they do not even want to be helped, yelling at you to back off. And you try to get closer and help them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and then we ponder about them through sleepless nights. Some of these students find their way out on their own, some do not have a good ending.

There are instances when they come to us on their own, asking for help. What are we to do? Tell them we are not allowed by our employer, or that we have enough problems of our own? I cannot even fathom it. Many teachers cannot think about it and directly think of ways to help these students. And I am happy and moved and proud to know numerous teachers like this, and this was one of the reasons I came up with the idea of The Human Touch as a concept not only for my very first plenary back in March, but as the very center to my life, as an educator, aunt, godmother, sister and ‘second mother’ as some call me. If we can even help one student, that is great -but I know we can help many many more.

Read more on the topic:

  • This post came into my head after reading an article on the great website Teaching Tolerance. Peter Elliott wrote a great blogpost there, called Eyes Wide Open and there are many more to read on the topic of caring. A huge thank you to Peter and educators like Peter who keep inspiring and caring for their students!
(Created on Quozio.com)

(Created on Quozio.com)


Work and Motivation – A Lesson Based on Dan Ariely’s TED Talk

Dan Ariely (Photo from YouTube)

Like many educators I interact with, I really love TED Talks. Some of them are really very good, some inspiring – and some can be used in class too! I love that we can not only watch (parts of the) videos with students, but each video has an interactive transcript (in many languages as well!).

I first found out about Dan Ariely three years ago, when a student of mine at a bank was raving about Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational. He told me what t was about and I read it and loved it. He inspired me especially when I found out he had been a burn patient and all the things he did to keep himself motivated in such a truly difficult situation.

Needless to say, I have watched all of his talks and read lots of his material. In today’s class, we watched the first 6-7 minutes of Ariely’s talk.

  • Before that though, we talked about what motivates us either to work or study or both (they work in full-time jobs and study full-time too – I share their agony as I am doing a MA too!). I made a word-web on the blackboard and we write down all motivating factors around the central idea of motivation.
  • We then watched the video fragment, talked about it and we especially liked the experiment with the Lego. It was a great idea! They gave people Lego pieces to build Bionicles for three dollars. They gradually reduced the amount, while secretly destroying the creations and giving them back the same pieces to build a ‘different’ Bionicle.
  • I then gave them part of the transcript, from which I had removed words that they had to fill in, and also removed words that had to be made into derivatives of other words (they will be examined on Reading Comprehension in October, but I believe it is equally important  for them to read and comprehend in their work and studies as well, and learn new vocabulary and enhance the words they already know. I like them to be able to expand their skills into their everyday lives as well and not only to concentrate on the exam). Here is the document with the gaps and the answer key.
  • We discussed any problems they had with the text and also did some speaking about motivation that came up on the spot.
  • As a final task in class, I gave them a topic to write a proposal on (it is at the end of the gap-fill document).

Here is Dan in action: 

Feel free to leave a comment, how you would use or have used TED talks, or any other ideas you come up with and wish to share!

New Kid on the Block – Joanna Tsiolakis shares her story

Joanna Tsiolakis

Joanna Tsiolakis

Joanna Tsiolakis is a wonderful personality and educator I first met face-to-face in March and I am very fortunate to know her. Here Joanna shares her beautiful story for the What’s Your Story? blog challenge. Thank you ever so much, Joanna : ) 

 When I moved to Greece 21 years ago I was a bit lost to say the least.

The language and finding employment were a few of my stumbling blocks.  Of course, for everyone else the issue of ‘finding a job’ was easy.  “You’re a native speaker, so obviously you’ll teach English”, they said.  What was so obvious to them was not that clear-cut for me.  I did have all of the required English Language Certificates to teach, but what did I know about teaching?  Absolutely NOTHING!

And so, here starts my story.

I consider myself extremely lucky, or blessed if you will, to have worked for wonderful people who not only took a chance on me, but also showed me the way and encouraged me to improve myself and my teaching skills (of which I had none).  Thanks to them, (great heartfelt thanks to them!)  I have completed courses in English language teaching and Methodology and quite successfully if I may toot my own horn. Thanks to them, I have become a teacher I am proud of regardless of the fact that I didn’t go to University for English.   So, where was the problem?

Well, I am a very friendly and optimistic person by nature, so when I first started working at a Frontistirio I was very excited and ready to grab the bull by the horns; ready to start implementing what I had learned.  My first day was unforgettable, unfortunately though, not in a good way.  I was the “new kid on the block” and my colleagues weren’t ready to embrace me with open arms.  I distinctly remember the cold looks I got and the comments which revolved around the common, “So, do you have a degree in English or are you just a certificate holder?”  Which translates as, “Just because you’re a native speaker doesn’t mean you belong here.” “You know nothing about teaching.  You don’t have the fundamental educational background.” I can go on, but I think I’ve made my point.   Of course I lied and said that I do have a degree in English, because I was so overwhelmed by the negativity of these people that I was too afraid to tell them the truth. I think the worst thing was actually thinking that they may be right.

I remember one colleague in particular, we shared a Proficiency class.  This person purposefully didn’t share some very important information about the syllabus, (the part that “I” had to cover) which left me looking like a complete idiot in front of my class (as it was a student who brought it to my attention, in front of the entire class.  Yeah, can you believe it?), and a complete incompetent in front of my boss.   I mean, come on, who does something like that?

In all fairness, I don’t hold a grudge nor do I find fault in their attitudes.  They spent years studying to get their degree, worked hard for it and I come waltzing in, taking a position they thought I didn’t deserve just because I was a native speaker.

I don’t think and I never thought that because I am a native speaker I have something more/better to give to my kids apart from pronunciation and perhaps a better insight of the Canadian culture.

What I can say in all certainty is that it was attitudes like those that made me go further.   The monkey on my back that has, I guess, driven me to reach the goals I have set for myself.  So, perhaps I should be thanking them.

I do not want this to come across as me bashing those who have attitudes like that (really, I can understand your frustration), but I also can’t dismiss the dedication I have to being a better educator and all the hard work I’ve done / am doing to accomplish that.  NOT because I am a native speaker, but because I want to give the best I can to my kids.

I know I’m a good teacher because I love what I do.  I also know I can be a thousand times better because I love what I do.

So, yes.  My name is Joanna.  I am an English teacher who doesn’t have a degree in English.

Whew!  I feel like I’ve just come out of confession. ;)

“What’s Your Story” Is Up and Running Again! – A Blog Challenge With a Human Touch

The “What’s Your Story?” Blog Challenge is running again, thanks to all of you and your support! Some educators have offered to add their stories. If you want to as well, post your story (professional, personal, anything you think represents you) and:

1. Post on your blog and send me the link to add
2. If you do not have your own blog, I can post on mine.

I look forward to reading your stories!

Feel free to use #blogging #blogchallenge #education as your hashtags, or any other ones you prefer, when posting on social media!


I have started adding the new posts here:

Reblogging Achilleas Kostoulas (@AchilleasK): Our IATEFL 2015 Presentation

man-2015-logo-website-use-onlyI am very happy to belong to a panel on Young Learners, which was accepted at the IATEFL 2015 Conference in Manchester! Our panel discussion is called Teaching English to Young Learners: Some International Perspectives.

It is my first time at IATEFL so I am also very excited about that.

The panel, chaired by Achilleas Kostoulas, a colleague of mine from Greece is composed of Juup Stelma, Maria Muniz and Magdalena De Stefani.

You can read more details about the panel members and the presentations on Achilleas’ brilliant blog.

More Than Just A Story – An Interview with Dinçer Demir

Dinçer in action, doing a workshop

Another honour on my blog today – I have just interviewed a great teacher, very good friend, collaborator and my Turkish teacher, Dinçer Demir. It is such a wonderful interview, and yet again I have learned so much from him! Please watch him and all the amazing things he has to say about connecting, teaching and learning.

He and his teaching were also one of the things that inspired my plenary, The Human Touch, in March.

It all starts with a story…that becomes more stories and many, many more things! Thank you to Dinçer for finding this wonderful title for the interview.

Read his blog at http://www.dincerdemir.com/ 

Dinçer, çok teşekkür ederim!

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!