My journey to become an ESL teacher by Katie Burgess – What’s Your Story?

Katie Burgess
Katie Burgess

Next up on the What’s Your Story? Blog Challenge…Katie Burgess! She takes us on a trip from Hungary to the US to China – what a beautiful story about how she became a teacher.

Köszönöm, Katie!

I knew I was meant to be a teacher when at age seven I gathered my stuffed animals and my reluctant little brother into my room, having them sit in a circle around me, paying close attention to my small chalkboard, introducing them the world of numbers and letters.

My inspiration was my first grade teacher, Miss Varga who taught all 42 of us how to read and write. To me, as a small child it was such a remarkable experience that in a short time I could put meaning behind those characters, the letters which at first looked so intimidating, foreign and scary.

I admired her patience and wisdom. It seemed nothing less than a Miracle that I was introduced to the world of letters and numbers and I contributed it to her Power. Yes, to me, she had the Power of knowledge which she has passed on to us.

And I wanted that magical Power.

I come from Hungary, a small European country with a unique language. From 3rd grade we already studied French and continued with Russian from 5th grade on. I kept studying both because I was fascinated by languages and cultures entirely different from ours.

At university, I majored in French and Latin was mandatory for 2 years. I continued with Italian, just for fun, which seemed relatively easy after the two other romance languages. Then in my 2nd year of studies when I picked up applied linguistics as a minor we were asked to study English so that we could read related articles and that’s when I met English, for the first time.

Even though I had plenty of experience with languages, when I first bumped into the word enough, I became frustrated: how can you possibly write this word this way and then pronounce it in such an unexpected way?

I quit English shortly after enough– it’s too hard… doesn’t make any sense…can’t pronounce certain sounds…

Two years later I was in in the US, in Miss Chloe’s evening class, along with a number of other freshly arrived immigrants, having one common goal: to learn English because it’s a must in order to survive in the New World.

I respected Miss Chloe, our ESL teacher: her dedication to us, her everlasting patience when we have all struggled with the weird sounds and I knew, right there: I want to become an ESL teacher. I want to be there, in front of a class where everyone needs to learn English, for their career, their promotion, for their education, or simply to survive.

So I did learn English. Two years later I passed the TOEFL test, with flying colors and went on studying at University of Oregon.

When later my family and I relocated to my home country I started to teach English. And there was no stopping me, after that.

I continued my education at Cambridge University, eventually got my Masters and have been attending seminars and workshops to better myself.

In my almost 20 years of teaching I had the chance to teach Mexican immigrants’ children in the US, college students in Hungary and over the past 2 years I have been teaching in China.

I feel blessed to have those amazing and encouraging teachers early on and as a tribute to them, I do my very best to continue their paths and be as inspiring to my students as my teachers were to me.

When Education Comes From Enthusiasm – An Interview with Roseli Serra (@SerraRoseli)

Roseli Serra
Roseli Serra

I am absolutely delighted to have a new interview on my blog today – the first of the year, with a super enthusiastic, supportive and hard-working educator – and a very good friend: Roseli Serra!

Roseli and I connected three years ago, and I immediately was drawn to her enthusiasm about everything education. She is an educator, teacher trainer, materials developer, you name it – and blogs at Roseli Coffee Desk. Another love we share, that of good coffee. She is one of the people that you see on social media and your heart immediately fills up, as she always has something beautiful and positive to say!

I am very happy that this summer we will finally meet in person! Here’s Roseli in our interview.

And here is the book she mentions in the interview: Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, by Anne Wilson Schaef

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!

 

 

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

(Image taken from http://www.g-codemagazine.com
(Image taken from http://www.g-codemagazine.com)

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!

A HUGE THANK YOU!

I have started adding the new posts here:

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!

Storytelling and Language Learning with Picture Dice

One of the things I love about being connected on social media is that I get new ideas for my teaching practically every day. It must have been three or four years ago, when I was on Twitter and I saw an educator (apologies for not remembering who it was!) posting about using story cubes in class and then a lot of teachers got into the Twitter discussion, talking about how there were using them in class, others said they were also discovering them then and there like me…I found it a brilliant idea and they work a treat, not only with Young Learners, but also with my teenage students – I have also used them with adults and they loved them!

I also mentioned them in one of the workshops I did about three weeks ago, invited by the amazing Larissa Teachers Association in Greece! The teachers there have inspired me to write this post.

On to the picture dice, or story cubes now…

They can be used as a filler at the end of the lesson, for them to unwind and still learn, as a warmer for the beginning for the class – even though they might get really excited and not want to continue with other things – including the adult students!

One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)
One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)

This is not an advertisement for the specific product, but I also got this idea from a teacher on Twitter. There are actually ready-made story cubes, called Rory’s Story Cubes and they come in various topics. Actions, Voyages, Original, and many more. They are actually quite affordable and their material guarantees that nothing will happen to them.

How we use them:

  • The student holds them all together and shakes them, and then throws them on the table or floor as they would with normal dice. Then, they have to spend a few minutes thinking about the order in which they want to connect the nine cubes, in order to tell a story.
  • Sometimes, if we have time, we mix up two or three boxes and they can make an even longer and funnier story!
  • Two or three students can work at a time, preparing what they want to say and then, when the time comes for them to tell their story the collaboration and improvisation that comes up is spectacular!
  • One student throws the dice and starts telling the story, while the other(s) have their backs turned to the storyteller and they try to guess which picture the storyteller is talking about!
  • Students practise so many things with this game. Their grammar, and mainly their tenses and also vocabulary. They learn new items of vocabulary and they use them again and again in their next games, and they do it in a fun way too!

If you prefer not to buy, and create your own, or even better create your own along with the students, I have found a Paper-Cube-Template, online, which you can print on thick paper or cardboard so that it is even sturdier to use and lasts longer.

We can then:

  • Draw or cut and paste pictures on them with the students so they can create their own character and stories.
  • Add splashes of colour on each side of the die, so they can learn the colours, if they are beginners – we can do the same with numbers, or words, anything!

There is an educator in Istanbul, Evridiki Dakos, who did something last year that was terrific! She created her own huge dice using cardboard boxes, and then laminated them with clear tape so they would be more durable and the pictures could stay in excellent condition. Here is a collage of her work and you can find more super ideas from Evridiki on her blog, ELT Teacher Development.

Evridiki's amazing creations!
Evridiki’s amazing creations!

Always an Educator, Always a Learner – An Interview with Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth)

Steve Wheeler  (photo his own)
Steve Wheeler
(photo his own)

I first heard Steve Wheeler in an online plenary for RSCON in 2011 and was very impressed. I then followed him initially on Twitter and then on other social media too. I learn so much from him and read his blog, which is one of the richest ones in education – both in quantity and absolutely quality.

I was honoured to interview him earlier tonight for my blog and I thank him very much for his time and valuable insights!

Read his blog Learning with ‘e’s and here is his website.

Enjoy the interview, where he talks about so many amazing things – and how much he learns from his students!

Interviewing Dimitris Tzouris – A Google Hangout

Dimitris Tzouris
Dimitris Tzouris

It has been quite a while I have wanted to interview Dimitris Tzouris, a great educator in Thessaloniki, Greece. Dimitris does great things with technology in education. We initially connected on Twitter five years ago and then on other social media. Last March we finally met in person. And today, our first interview!

Here is our interview on a Google Hangout we did – and many thanks to you, Dimitris, for the interview, for everything you teach us every day, for being a great example of a learner (and for helping me with the Google Hangout!).

 

The Human Touch Series

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

A year ago, I was asked by the amazing Chuck Sandy to write a blog post for iTDi under the title The Ideal Classroom. I thought about it and a few minutes later, I had a clear picture of an ideal classroom. I thought of all the environments I have worked in: some were picture-perfect, others much less so – no lighting, having lessons in our coats and gloves. But which is the best kind? The ideal one?

Some of them are hi-tech or bare floor. Some are in beautiful modern buildings, some do not even have windows or roofs. Others have tablets and computers for the students;  in other schools kids sit on the ground with little chalkboards, or even draw in the dirt.

Which is the best one? Or even better, what do they all have in common, which makes them all ideal classrooms?

The people in them. The students and the teachers. They are what make classrooms special, and ideal, and amazing.

It is the Human Touch in them.

In March 2014, I gave my very first plenary talk at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Convention. I thought that this topic would be the one for me to talk about – and I hope that the teachers who would come to listen would connect with it. I shared my own story and the difficulties I faced during my first years in Switzerland. I found other teachers I had met online or face-to-face, who each represented a specific story and I included them in the plenary talk. The teachers in the talk found themselves in these stories, and I found myself in theirs.

Then I did the same plenary for RSCON5 and the opening keynote for the iTDi Summer School MOOC. More teachers, more students, more amazing stories to share! That is why I always say: every person, every student and teacher, has their own story. No one has had it easy at some point or another, and we need to be there for each other. We are there for each other, to help and motivate one another, and that is what makes education beautiful, in addition to all the learning that takes place.

This is the beginning of a series of stories, by you, the teachers and the students.

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