Goal 5: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone #30GoalsEdu

Part of my German homework : )
Part of my German homework : )

As an educator and as many also uphold, learning is key to our careers and development in the field. I have been learning various things during my teaching career so far: new skills, tools to use, methods and so on, but until I moved to Switzerland four years ago, I had never tried to learn another language. I never had to, because English and Greek was enough for me before. This was a completely wrong perception I had, as learning languages are not only about the place you live, or just asking for something in another language. I have come to understand it is much more than that.

When I first came here, I started learning German but then I had to stop, with the excuse (it was true back then) that I was getting more and more work and I had no time. Then, Zug is a very international city, so even when I start to speak German with people, they immediately pick up on my English accent and most of them immediately switch to English. Even when I insist they switch back to German, they keep speaking in English – that is how polite they are!

Last year, in the college that I teach twice a week, we had to attend two obligatory courses on pedagogy and methodology…in German. The night before the first course I hardly slept. Why am I doing this? I thought. I will never manage to do it. I will disappoint my director (special thanks to Philipp Hediger, who has believed in me and supported me since day one – we are very lucky to have him, as he has supported our professional development to a great extent) and myself. I can’t speak or write in German and never will.

I did attend both courses, and I should say, that neither was a walk in the park – we had homework, which my classmates could do in half an hour – I needed seven or eight hours for the same amount. The course lasted eight hours each time, the other was for three hours at a time – for me, it was not only learning about methodology and pedagogy, I was literally being immersed into the language. I learned a great deal in those three months! I could not believe it. I pressured myself, pushed myself to the limits, had great classmates who would explain to me (in German) when I didn’t understand something and great teachers (another huge thank you to Max Woodtli, my instructor).

This year I have decided, along with my sister, to start proper German lessons. Even though we speak quite well now and understand more than we think sometimes, we have started everything from the beginning and we are immensely enjoying it! Our teacher is supporting us every step of the way and is so passionate, we truly expect every lesson to come and learn from her. I have decided to step out of my comfort zone in English and tackle German. And you know what? I am also going to restart my Turkish lessons! I feel like my eyes are open and I can see my new home in a different light – I can talk to people, I can write and I can pick up German books in the bookstore and read! Above all, I feel that I can understand my students – how they feel, how they approach learning languages, the challenges they face in English and how they can overcome them.

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!

Through the Eyes of the Student Tutors: Yeditepe University Writing Center by Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing
Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

I am very honoured to have this blog post by two amazing young ladies, Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur, who are student tutors in the ELT Department of Yeditepe University. I was introduced to them by their outstanding professor, Ece Sevgi – and was delighted to meet them in person at the ISTEK ELT Conference in Istanbul, last April. Here, Deniz and Ceren write about the Writing Center they have in their university, an amazing programme! Over to Deniz and Ceren, who will surely become great educators.

Yeditepe University in Istanbul is one of the most prestigious universities that tries its best to help its students prepare for their professional lives. It is an English-medium university.  This has its own downsides and difficulties since some of the students enter the university with no or little knowledge of English. Even if they spend a few semesters in preparatory classes trying to master English as a foreign language, they may not become proficient enough to cope with the language level in their classes.

This is the reason why some universities here in Turkey have followed the lead of their counterparts in other countries and established Writing Centers in the aim of fostering the students’ language ability in one of the productive skills, writing. Writing Center at Yeditepe University is a unit which helps students by editing their written work, giving feedback, and guiding them to correct their language mistakes. The use of error code, multiple drafts, and progress tracking system aims to develop learner autonomy and raise awareness about the points to consider in the students’ written work.

Yeditepe University Writing Center does not only help students but also supports academicians at the university. It offers a free edit service to support and encourage academic publications in any field. It is the only unit at the university that organizes Creative Writing Contests. We now have a brand new website (http://writingcenter.yeditepe.edu.tr/) where you can find information about the Writing Center, and a wiki space (http://yuwritingcenter.wikispaces.com/) where we post written tutorials about academic writing. To us, having a Writing Center is more than a luxury; it is an essential unit at a university teaching in English in a non-English speaking community.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Mirror Mirror on the Wall (From left to right: Secil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca and Ezgi Ozel)

While opening a Writing Center is not an original idea, Yeditepe University Writing Center has done something for the first time by allowing its students to become members of this family during the course of their studies. The Student-Tutor Program is a pioneer programme in this field, and has significant benefits for the chosen students. These selected student tutors, who are students of English Language Teaching, and Translation and Interpreting Studies Departments work voluntarily at the Writing Center Office to help prep and undergraduate students with their written assignments. They are chosen meticulously with a suggestion from their Academic Writing instructor, and then receive training on how to give written feedback before they start offering this service at the Writing Center.

Under the supervision of experienced tutors working for the Writing Center, student tutors also prepare and present academic writing workshops for the university students and faculty. You can meet many of our student tutors at ELT conferences held in Istanbul. Four of our student tutors, for example, were concurrent keynote speakers at ISTEK ELT 2013 Conference with their talk Mirror Mirror on the Wall…, and shared the stage with Ken Wilson, Herbert Puchta, Teresa Doğuelli, and Jamie Keddie.

Word of the Week and Other Ideas for Business and General English – BELTA Day, 2013

(Photo by Krishnan Coenen)
(Photo by Krishnan Coenen)

On June 1st, the 1st BELTA Day took place. BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers’ Association, was formed in January 2013 by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis and Guido van Landeghem and since then many people have joined the board: Jurgen Basstanie, Ellen de Preter, Krishnan Coenen and myself as Editorial Officer of the blog. I was therefore honoured and moved to present at the 1st BELTA Day, which was an amazing experience. I saw fantastic sessions, learned a great deal and met amazing educators, from Belgium but also worldwide!

Here is the slideshow of my presentation:

And here are some notes:

BELTA Day 2013 Presentation – Useful Notes

Using Facebook – PD in Focus 7

Facebook logo (taken from www.facebook.com)
Facebook logo (taken from http://www.facebook.com)

Thousands and thousands of educators around the world use Facebook to connect with others around the world. Some have two Facebook accounts – one for personal use and one for professional. Some can balance the two in one account.

To be honest, I had had a Twitter account for three years and flatly refused to open a Facebook account. It was not that I found anything intimidating about it – I just thought of it as just another distraction. Why open a Facebook account when I can already connect to educators via Twitter? [Now, this isn’t a comparison post between the two. One works for some, the other works for others, some educators (like myself now) use both in different ways.]

Until my Facebook mentor, James Taylor (as I like to call him!) explained it to me in detail – the advantages and disadvantages of it, the uses and so on. What did I find great about it in the end?

  • First of all, if it works for you (like it eventually did for me), it can be a super tool for professional development. It allows you to connect with educators all around the world – you can read their profiles, see who they are connected to and adjust your saftey settings, if you do not want just anyone friend you/ You can approve all the people though.
  • What I really like about Facebook is that it is very visual. You can see photos right away, add links and anything you like. It is very colourful and pleasant to read, most of the times.
  • There is no word or character limit (the character limit on Twitter can be a bit of an issue) – however, I find you can write as much as you like, but again, being laconic (as much as possible) can be an asset.
  • I absolutely love the fact that you can join groups related to topics that interest you. You can hold chats there, post relative links and photos, they can become great communities to share and learn!
  • Another thing I like are pages. I have pages related to my new business, where I can post information, new events and developments and the people who have ‘liked’ my page can always get updates. Similarly, I can get updates on the pages of others I have also ‘liked’.

There are surely so many other uses for Facebook for teachers and I am still learning – feel free to link any posts you have written or leave more ideas in the comments below.

Note (23.08.2015): As of two weeks ago, I no longer use Facebook – no issue with it, but I realised that with work and studies getting busier and busier, something needed to go. It is up to each educator, to choose which one(s) they will be using and for how long! It is enough even on one social medium, or five minutes on one selectively – we can always learn anywhere!

Mike Griffin: Reflecting and Reviewing, But Not Ranting : ) (@michaelegriffin)

Mike Griffin (Photo by Mike Griffin)
Mike Griffin (Photo by Mike Griffin)

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 after a workshop (Photo by Mike Griffin)
Mike after a workshop (Photo by Mike Griffin)

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/)  was the 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.

Mike's reading recommendation (image taken from http://www.amazon.com)
Mike’s reading recommendation (image taken from http://www.amazon.com)

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!

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!