This tenth goal has been suggested by an educator I admire tremendously for her work, her inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm in everything she does, be it teaching, blogging, or going to the gym – Theodora Papapanagiotou!
This goal has been on my mind for quite some time.
I love books so much, that every time I go into a bookstore, I struggle not to buy yet another – I have around five hundred in my small apartment. There is always a book in my bag, so I can read if I am commuting to a class by train or bus, or travelling in general, or out for coffee, I always have one on hand to read. I do not like all books (for instance crime novels or science fiction are not my cup of tea), but my favourite kinds are those that have to do with my work, any book by Orhan Pamuk or Amos Oz (my top two favourite writers), books about people and feelings and places.
A book that has left an indelible mark on me and is about teaching is Teach With Your Heart by Erin Gruwell, a teacher in inner city America, who was assigned a group of low-performing kids. She and the kids worked so hard together that a lot of them graduated from college and went on to excel professionally and get away from drugs, gangs and prostitution. Erin encouraged them to write their stories in a journal – they both learned to write, as some of them had trouble with writing per se, but it also served as a catharsis for most of them – a catharsis from their problems at home, or illegal activities they were involved in.
She is an amazing educator, as in her interviews she is still very humble and always speaks about her students with such love and about teaching with great passion. Her story even became a motion picture and she has written books about her experiences with her kids. Erin even worked three jobs at the same time at the beginning, in order to give them bags full of books at the end of the school year, because her headteacher told her the books the school had would be a waste on the specific kids. Erin believed in them though and still does. Her work is remarkable.
She even managed to bring Miep Gies (the lady that helped Anne Frank and her family hide away in the Secret Annex) to the school – the kids listened to her speak and interviewed her – what a life-changing moment for them! Erin also brought her students into contact with Zlata Filipović, a Bosnian girl who wrote Zlata’s Diary, a memoir of the siege of Sarajevo and the horrors of the war she lived through.
It is a book truly worth reading, and not for educators only. It is for anyone who loves kids and believes in their potentials. Because they all can do great things!
Shelly Sanchez Terrell has posted the brand new, fourth cycle of her 30 Goals Challenge! 30 inspiring goals, to remind us of what we are doing well, what we need to restart, improve on, start doing for the first time…here is Goal Number One – Define Your Moment!
I would like to dedicate this post to the amazing Rose Bard, an educator from Brazil, who is an inspiration to myself and many others! Rose and I discuss our edu-moments on Skype almost every Sunday. She is the kind of person who is the definition of this goal. She is living her moment! A million thanks to you, Rose!
Those of the readers that know me face-to-face or from our connection on social media know that this year has been pivotal in my teaching career, as I have made my dream of re-opening a school reality. In a different country: Greece before for ten years, now Switzerland. English teaching in the previous one, that and teacher training, as well as events for children and teachers in the new one. My sister Eugenia and I said let’s do thisand we did! With difficulties, but the daily satisfaction of doing things we love and the way we love doing them, as well as collaborating with amaizng students and teachers worldwide, makes up for any hardhsip and gives us strength and motivation to keep going.
This is our moment that we wish to share with educators everywhere:
– Do you have a dream? Go out there and grab it, start it and don’t be afraid!
– Are you stuck in a routine of teaching? Change it and talk to others about how they have changed theirs as well.
– No or very little financial resources to do things? There is a crisis looming almost everywhere in the world now and all governments are cautious. There are so many free resources online and so many educators we can be inspired by, that no crisis and no problematic government can take away our strength and motivation to give our students our very best.
– Keep up developing professionally! Nothing else can give us the oxygen to keep our teaching going. Just think of how you feel when you leave a conference or workshop where you have learnt a great deal and interacted with other educators.
– Do something new. Eugenia and I are planning our very first international event on bilingualism and multilingualism this September, with great speakers and we are expecting lovely educators to join us! We are so happy and excited about this.
So, for all of us, wherever we are in the world, this is our moment – let’s go!
Make no excuses now
I’m talking here and now / I’m talking here and now
It’s not about what you’ve done
It’s about what you’re doing
It’s all about where you’re going / No matter where you’ve been
It is my absolute pleasure and honour to introduce you to Tony Sinanis, a great educator I have connected to recently on Twitter and admire for his passion and excellent work with his staff and students. Tony is Principal at Cantiague Elementary School, in Jericho, New York which has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon, about which he will be talking about in this interview.
If it is in the best interest of children, then it is the right thing to do!
Vicky: Tony, you have been in education for fifteen years. Can you give us some background as to how you chose to pursue a career in education?
Tony:Initially I went to college to become a pediatrician but after a few science courses I realized that it was not for me – dealing with sick kids seemed depressing to me so I switched majors and became a theater major (talk about switching gears). As a member of the theater program I had to complete a certain number of community service hours so I decided to do volunteer tutoring at the local elementary school in their after school program. Within a few weeks all I could focus on was these kids and the whole theater thing became unimportant. I looked forward to my tutoring sessions each week and making a difference in the lives of the children was so important to me. So after discussing it with my family and friends, I realized I could put this passion to good work by switching my major yet again and devoting myself to the field of education. My focus was Early Childhood and Elementary Education, where I was one of only a few men in the program.
Vicky: Very interesting! I did not know the turn your studies took. One thing is for sure: education is happy to have you! Moving on to you role, this is your fifth year being an administrator. What do you like the best about your work?
Tony:The highlight of my work as an administrator are my many opportunities to interact with my kids, staff and the community at large. I often say that I am not the best administrator because I am not always timely with “administrative” tasks but I am 1000% devoted to the instructional end of my work because if we can implement the best and most current instructional approaches in our school than we are doing what is best for kids and that is my main goal each and every day. Additionally, I think the social/emotional well being of our kids and staff are of the highest priority – if people feel good about themselves and feel supported they can accomplish ANYTHING! So my goal is to serve and support the Cantiague Elementary School community.
Vicky: Each job comes with its own challenges. What are the challenges for a school administrator?
Tony:Yes, there are many challenges I face as a school administrator. There are budget issues, federal and state mandates and standardized testing requirements just to name a few. With that being said, I think my greatest challenge is time… finding the time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish for our kids, staff and school in general. There are so many things I want to do.. and so many things I need to do that finding the time to get through it all is such a challenge! And then consider my family and the doctoral program I recently began, I might have to find a way to invent the 48-hour day! 🙂
Vicky: I would love for that type of day to be invented as well! I am sure educators who are also parents need a lot of time to balance family and schedule. You are a dad to Paul who is seven – how does being a parent tie in with being an educator?
Tony: I can honestly say that being Paul’s dad has redefined me as an educator. My son is my heart and soul outside of my body – everything I do in life is for and about him. So, when I see my students in school, I know that someone at home feels just as strongly about them as I do about Paul and that is so important to remember as an educator. Every decision I make is one that I consider as the building administrator but also as a dad. The bottom line is this… if it is not good enough for Paul, then it is not good enough for our kids at Cantiague. I want Cantiague to be the most amazing elementary school in the world because that is what I want for my own son! Layer on top of that the fact that my son has various medical issues and requires additional support in school and I am extremely sensitive to the needs of our special education students. I strive to make sure that every child in our school has whatever they need to provide them with a level playing field because I know that has made a difference for my son.
Vicky: Your school has received a great honour, Tony – it has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon. Can you tell us more about that?
Tony:Our Blue Ribbon nomination is such an exciting opportunity! The state of New York nominated 19 schools to the United States Department of Education for the national Blue Ribbon award. The nomination is based on the fact that our school has performed extremely well on standardized assessments over the last few years. Although I don’t put much stock in these test scores, I know that our kids do well because our teachers are amazing – their instructional approaches and techniques go far beyond preparing our kids for a test and the results support this idea! In regards to the Blue Ribbon, we find out in the next month or so if we won it, which would be so exciting because the entire community – staff, kids and parents – were apart of the application process we completed after being nominated.
Vicky: You told me during a short discussion that your school has integrated the Bucket Filler philosophy – I would love to know more about that and I am sure our readers would too.
Tony:The Bucket Filling philosophy we have adopted at Cantiague is anchored in the text Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carole McCloud. The idea behind the whole philosophy of Bucket Filling is that people carry around imaginary buckets with them all day, every day. And when we are good to other people not only do we fill their buckets but we fill our own, which feels great. On the other hand, when we are not nice to others, we are being bucket dippers because we are taking out of someone else’s bucket, which is not nice! Our Bucket Filling philosophy is rooted in the idea of the Big Five… we must always remember to Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Safe, Be Positive and Be Kindbecause if we follow the Big Five, we ensure that we are filling our own buckets and those of the people around us. Each week at Cantiague we celebrate Bucket Fillers of the Week who are nominated by teachers or other kids – and Bucket Fillers of the Week are kids who do something that fills the bucket of another person. I can honestly say that the Bucket Filling philosophy has changed our way of life at Cantiague. Bullying issues have decreased, incidents of harassment are down and our kids are using a common language, which is very child-friendly, about what it means to be a positive and successful kid in our school. I highly recommend reading this book and thinking about the importance of adopting this way of life at any school!
Vicky: I love the idea and the values that it creates for children! I believe it is a great idea for other administartors to incorporate in their school culture. Moving on to your newer colleagues, what would you advise an administrator starting now?
Tony: For any educator considering entering the world of administration at this point, they need to be in this for the kids. Being an administrator is not about being the boss or a figure head. It is about advocating for the needs of the entire community – kids, staff and the community at large. You need to understand that you are there to serve others and be their voice when needs are not being met. You have to be passionate about learning and teaching – a building administrator must be the lead learner of a school – not just a paper pusher. We have to model and espouse what we expect from those around us.
Vicky: You have a very busy, but pleasant and creative day. What does your day look like when you are not busy in school?
Tony:I am usually in the building by 7am each day where I spend about an hour checking email, checking out what’s going on in the Twitterverse, assigning subs and chatting with staff who are in early. By 8am I am connecting with the Main Office staff to review what needs to get done that day. Then at 8:15 our kids arrive and the day just moves in fast forward from there. I try and spend the morning in the classrooms and then I am in the lunchroom on most days and outside at recess playing games with my kids as much as possible. Spending time out of my office is always my goal during the school day. After recess I usually have some minor issues to address and then before I know it, it is almost 2pm and we begin getting ready for the dismissal process. After all our kids are safely on their buses, at about 3pm, I spend some time checking phone messages and getting back to parents. I also usually meet with teachers and staff after school because that is when it is quiet. Then after everyone is gone, at about 4:30pm, I go into my office and get all my administrative stuff done – emails, memos, etc. I usually leave school around 6pm on any given night.
This was such an interesting interview! It gave us a great insight into you as a personality and an educator. Tony, thank you so much for this interview! I hope to meet you in person some day.
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 Associateand 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.
I read a really great blog post today that made me think once again about the potentials kids have and how we should encourage them to externalise them and applaud them when they do. George Couros, a great educator from Canada (and my very first guest blogger!) wrote In Spite of Schools – definitely worth reading.
As educators, apart from the actual teaching we are there for our students, to show them what they can do and highlight their abilities. Sometimes, educators tend to tell their students what they can’t do, where they are not so strong and focus mainly on the problems they may face in their learning. I think it is equally, if not more important, to show them what they are great in and how they can become even greater! When they can do something, they gain confidence and build on their abilities even further.
An example that comes to my mind is a student of mine in Greece who wrote poetry – her poetry was beautiful and at the same time she practised her English, as she was learning it as a foreign language! She was developing two talents at the same time, her writing and her language skills. We recognised it early on and she developed it a lot on her own – her autonomy as a learner simply grew from there, as she could find where and how she could learn.
Chuck Sandy and Vladimira Michalkova, two amazing educators and the co-founder and associate of iTDi respectively, have developed the idea of Surpr@ise, through which you find a student or teacher who is doing a great job and surprise them with praise! Watch Chuck describing it in this YouTube Video:
As a great number of educators out there, I have always enjoyed being a learner. Be it a language, skill or so. In class, regardless of the age of the students I teach, I share with them what helps me learn. I like to point out what works for me, so that they can look inside them and see what works for them. When students and particularly kids see their teacher as a learner, that gives them extra motivation.
Especially with younger students we try to discover what helps them learn and we remember that everyone works and learns in a different way. I have heard teachers get annoyed because some children lip-read or whisper when they read. Not all of them read silently.
I remember a student of mine who loved visual cues – we used that to his advantage and he learned so much. Others are audio-learners, others kinaesthetic, others learn better taking down notes…a diversity that makes learning such a great experience!
Asking the learners also brings to my mind asking for their feedback about their learning in general – if they like what we do in class, what more they want and how we educators can help them. Surely we are there and can see what they need, where they are doing well and where they need improvement, what they like and what not – but giving them ownership of their learning and showing them that we care about and respect their opinions and presence in our classes, gives them motivation for their learning.
A few weeks ago, Brad Patterson, a fantastic person and educator located in France, and a person I am honoured to call a friend, posted a blog challenge on his blog A Journée in Language – Brad asked us to say which quote defines our teaching style. In the comments section, there is a huge number of amazing and inspiring quotes! I mentioned one that I (still) cannot remember who said it or if it was exactly said that way: A good teacher is always a learner.
I was going to write about that one. This morning though, as I was getting ready for class, drinking my coffee and checking out Twitter, I found this by Chris McCullough in Red Deer, Alberta:
The best part of my job is that it has inspired me to always be a learner… #teaching#abed
It hit me! This is it! A short, beautiful sentence that sums it all up so perfectly. Lots of us wake up so inspired every morning to go to work, which is so inspiring and motivating, it cannot even be called work. On a daily basis we all strive to do our best…and learn.
From social media: numerous are the posts and articles that mention Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to name but a few media that have greatly assisted educators worldwide to connect and learn from each other. It is unbelievable to see how many collaborations have begun, posts been written, conferences organised and educators connected face-to-face thanks to social media.
From books (paper, electronic or audio): a lot of educators continue reading about education wherever they are. Commuting on a train has become a joy for me as I can find lots of time to read – and I learn a great deal in the process!
Studies: Many decide to continue their studies and go on to Masters or PhDs, or do further courses to enrich their knowledge and benefit their students as well.
Mentoring: Educators learn daily from other educators with rich experience and advice which can help them in their profession.
Conferences and workshops: A great number give up their weekends and free time in general (and great amounts of money, very often from their own budget) to attend conferences and workshops, very often far away from home and their families. It is another great way to learn and network with interesting people.
So, keep up the good work of learning every day! You are doing something great for yourself, as a aperson and educator, and your students can only see benefits from it.
A big thank you to Chris McCullough for his fantastic tweet-quote that made my day and my teaching career! You can visit Chris’s blog The Pocket Rocket to read some very inspiring posts.
A big thank you to Brad Patterson for an inspiring blog challenge, that collected a great number of great quotes from all over the world.