Burcu Akyol is an amazing professional and person in Istanbul, Turkey. Anyone who is active on social media (and not only) knows her for her professionalism, fantastic and widely-known educational conferences she organises and wonderful smile and character!
Burcu tagged me in her Eleven post and I decided to expand on one of her questions and turn it into a blog post. Burcu’s question was: What would your advice be to a new teacher?
I have been teaching for almost seventeen years. The beauty of our profession is that we keep on learning practically every day, and every beginning of the school year feels like the first time. I read somewhere that it is one of the few professions where we can start again from the beginning, every year : ) If I could give some advice to new teachers, first of all I would give them a huge welcome to this wonderful field.
Welcome and we are all in this together.
It is a great field, which can give so much happiness, but disappointment occasionally as well. Use this disappointment to improve on and reflect.
It really is okay to admit you do not know something, or have made a mistake. It took me a couple of years to realise it, but the students are mostly understanding and really appreciate it.
It is absolutely essential, and to the benefit of both yourself as an educator, and to your students as well and above all, to continue developing professionally. It doesn’t need to be endless hours consumed in sessions or giving up altogether on sleep. Connect with other educators on social media – and there are lots out there to help, support and motivate you. And you can do the same for them! And it can be as little as 5 minutes interaction per day. Believe me, once you start it, you will love it! You can go to my series of blog posts on how to start, either online, offline or both.
Reflect on what went well – it is so important, as we mainly tend to focus on where we didn’t do so well. Both in balance are great to do – reflection on good points helps in keeping it up, and reflection on negative aspects helps bring on improvement.
I am very happy to present Aphrodite Giouris, an English language teacher in Greece who does amazing things with her students! Aphrodite is a firework – she is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers I have ever met and feel privileged to feature her here. She blogs at ELT Inspired. Over to Aphrodite!
Vicky: Aphrodite, thanks so much for accepting to give me this interview! We have met once in person, but also connecting with you on social media has been great for a variety of reasons we will go into in this interview.
Aphrodite: The pleasure is all mine, Vicky! I still remember the time we met in person during the last TESOL Greece Convention in Athens! At the end of your presentation on blogging, I told you that if I ever manage to have my own blog, I will tell everyone, that it was because of YOU! You have been my inspiration to start blogging, Vicky and I love following you on social media. Your positive energy, passion, kindness, professional commitment, sweetness, friendliness and above all, inspiring aura, are what make you a very special person!
Vicky: Thank you ever so much for all your kind words, which give me a lot of strength! I am so happy you have started to blog, because you have so many things to teach us and share. Let’s go a bit back in time now. How did you become a teacher, Aphrodite?
Aphrodite: I was only 12 years old when I wrote in my diary: “Dear Diary, when I grow up, I want to be either an English teacher or a journalist”! I was lucky enough to have experienced both, so far … I spent most of my time, when still in university, writing for newspapers and magazines in Athens and worked for about two years for a local TV channel, as a reporter. I have also been teaching English, since I was a university student!
I remember that, I used to walk outside school buildings when I was a teenager and think to myself: “This is where I want to be working, in a few years’ time”! I knew from an early age what I really wanted to do…
I became a teacher because I believe teachers can make an impact.
I think about my impact on the world often, honestly, sometimes too often. Teaching kids and dealing with them feels good, as in no other job. I feel great about the fact that I might be playing a significant role to inspire them build their future and that feeling enriches me with a sense of responsibility.
I have always wanted to impact lives and improve the quality of education; considering the fallout in my country’s educational system. My Greek teacher in high school Mr Vasilis Siouzoulis, has being a great inspiration. I love the way students regard him despite decades of passing through his tutelage. He was passionate about what he did. He motivated me with his unique teaching style. I love children and gearing their developmental stages positively. I believe it is earnestly imperative to groom conscientious, focused, purposeful students who will combine efforts with already laid brass tracks to build a great world. I want to be known to teach my students beyond their books.
Why I became an English teacher in particular? Well, I just love communicating with people all over the globe! And foreign languages, especially English which is an international language, is the most powerful tool to do that! The English language has helped me to be the person I am today. I have gained my education because of that ability to comprehend, use & manipulate the English language. I have repeatedly informed my students about English being a weapon for them to use in order to obtain knowledge, progress in life, achieve their dreams and be the best that they can be. I learned english because I wanted to succeed in my life, too. It is as simple as that! I love to know more about the world around me, the planets, the stars, the universe, the mysteries … the language with which I can know more about so many things & wonders is mainly the English language.
I personally believe that English is very important nowadays… This is not merely being said, because I am an English teacher but the reality is simply that it is an extremely useful medium to achieve your goals, gain knowledge, progress in life, share and obtain information without much misunderstanding, for business, for commercial reasons, for updates in technology, for science & medical reasons and I can go on & on … And this is what I wish to teach my students, too. I usually tell them that “English is an open window to the World” for them …
We are not in this profession for money! Our students’ love and appreciation are all we need to feel happy! I sometimes wonder why I get paid for something I love doing so much and which is so rewarding ! I could have been a teacher, even without a salary! It’s merely because I love what I do! I really do!
Vicky: I couldn’t have said it better – your passion and dedication shine right through. Now about the lovely people in your classes – can you tell us a few things about your wonderful students? What levels and ages do you teach?
Aphrodite: I currently teach primary school students aged 9-12 but I used to teach all levels and ages in the past. I worked in the secondary sector a few years ago and in local Technological Institutes and private schools and institutions. My school is a small school in the suburbs of a Greek town in central Greece. There are about 180 students in my school and 25 students in each of my classes this year! Difficult to teach in such large classes but I try to do my very best, regardless of the negative circumstances! The majority of them come from Greek middle class families. We also have many students whose parents have come to Greece from other countries to find a job.
The Greek financial crisis has affected us all at school, in several ways… Teachers, as well as the majority of our students’ parents, have suffered dramatic wage cuts, but we are not fighting for money or privileges, as many people think. We are fighting to save education. Most of our schools lack all the basics and all our students have been affected directly or indirectly by the crisis. When I step into the classroom every morning, I leave all my problems outside! I start the day with a smile! My students deserve my best smile!
I teach them life skills during the first week. I teach them goal setting. I want them to be optimistic, hardworking, dreamers, fighters….they are the future of this country! What we put in, we take out! I personally put emphasis on team work! When students form a group, social skills kick into action. Kids must learn to work together and cooperate. This is an opportunity to make friends and talk with others — networking can start in the classroom. This is a chance for the kids to expand their vocabulary, work on patience and learn how to take turns. Conflict resolution may also become part of the learning equation. Each student can benefit on a personal level from teamwork. She can feel like a valued part of the group as she contributes to the project and shares her ideas, which can build confidence and self-esteem. The student will be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking, which can expand her personal view on the subject. Teamwork activities can be the time for each student to shine and show others her skills and talents.
Days can get long and dull when you have a group of kids that are disconnected and staring at the walls. Group work is a welcomed change in the normal routine and gets the kids out of their seats. Schoolwork becomes more enjoyable and rewarding,then….I have recently written about the importance of teamwork in my class in my Blog!
My students are adorable but, my classroom is not…paradise on Earth! I hope, when all this is over some day, to have made the difference in, at least, ONE of my students’ life!
I am thankful for my students! I have aways been…
Vicky: One of the things I truly admire about you, is that – against all odds, in a time where education gets very little financial help in Greece these days, as you mentioned – you have managed to build an amazing environment in your classroom for the kids, full of colours, projects and visible thinking, to borrow the term from Project Zero. What gives you the inspiration for all these ideas?
Aphrodite:My students are my number ONE inspiration! I want them to feel happy and learn in a friendly environment. My classroom is full of colours and all the walls are covered with students’ project work, arts and crafts! Their imagination and creativity, makes it as beautiful as it looks… My PLN is my second source of inspiration! In order to be able to put my ideas into action though, financial help is really important … I have been struggling to raise money to run my projects and work in class, either by asking – begging the parents’ associations for support as well as the several publishing houses out there (which, at least, have donated some books to our English library) or by organising school bazaars, just to be able to keep a small amount of the money earned, for our English class needs. It has been HARD work all these years, have to admit that!
Many years have passed since the beginning of my teaching career … but, nothing much has changed! I mean, I keep working on several projects with my classes, we continue exchanging our projects with more than 6 schools all over the globe every school year, I still do my best to have at least one -handmade – magazine made each school year , but still….. I work in schools with no computers or other facilities, I work extra hours .…earning nothing but my students’ love, have had no chance to take part in a Comenius partnership yet (due to several reasons which have NOTHING to do with my willing to do so).
There’s nothing more rewarding for a teacher than to see how happy , engaged and enthusiastic her students become when they work on something that makes sense and connects the class with the world! It’s priceless! Believe me! It’s worth any effort!It brings the class together, it helps the teacher connect with the students more and the students connect with their peers all over the globe by means of an international code of communication: English!
My most favourite quote, comes from Albert Einstein:
If the longing for the goal is powerfully alive within us, then we shall not lack the strength to find the means for reaching the goals!
Vicky: You have started an amazing pen pal project with other countries. One I have seen in detail is with Annie Tsai’s class in Taiwan (Annie is one of the next educators to be interviewed on the blog!). How did it start and what kinds of exchanges have you had so far? Can you give us some insight into your students’ thoughts and feelings? I am sure they are thrilled!
Aphrodite: Annie Tsai has been a blessing for my students! She is an amazing educator in Taiwan and I am so thankful we have been collaborating for some years now! Well, I have been working on projects since the beginning of my career as an English teacher. When I had to to travel all around Greece to work. Even when I had to change the school I worked in, every single year or I had to work in 3 different schools in the same day!I had to walk long distances carrying my heavy bag and some years later, had to drive to a different village school during the…. break.
Our first partners, were colleagues I had met in my seminars abroad or, my own ….pen pals ! My first pen pal, when I was 11, Julie Barbie, who still lives and works in North Carolina, USA, was one of my first partners! We both became primary school teachers and it was so touching to have our kids experience the same thing.
When I started working on pen pals projects, nobody thought I was doing anything exceptional, but my students! Most headmasters used to refer to my extra working hours on those projects as ‘useless, worthless and a waste of time’. I used to beg for money to buy stamps and had to carry those parcels to the local post office on foot! When I asked one of the headteachers in a Karditsa area village school, to support financially our -handmade- class magazine (which was photocopied and distributed to students) he just refused. He even said: “What’s the use of this? You don’t get any extra money for all these extra hours you spend putting this magazine together…that’s silly!”
I have practically collaborated with schools in almost all continents. Yet, one is missing: Australia, which is my next target. Project work, goes like this: we send our partners a project on a topic we have both decided upon. They reply by sending us the same topic project. How fascinating for our students to share and compare!
Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects! Unfortunately, there is not an Arts teacher in my school. I am the only one who can help my kids with the artistic part of the projects.
Due to the fact that, we have no computers at school, I always print lots of pictures and display them on our notice boards, for all the students to be able to see…
Some projects come in the form of a magazine a poster or a booklet. All projects are put up on each class projects corner, for everybody to see ,untill a new project takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad! Snail mail projects are more fascinating for students than emailed ones because it’s real stuff! You can touch them, hold them, smell them, take them home, display them on the classroom walls, share them with your friends, attach little presents to them! Kids are so very proud to present our country to our foreign friends! The projects are always presented in class before they are sent abroad. It’s team work therefore, the teams decide how they wish to present their project….it can be a poster presentation, a class board game, a teams game, a quiz, a skit and so many more! I ask them to use their imagination , when it comes to presenting their projects in front of the audience! Albert Einstein once said:
Imagination is more important than knowledge because, it has no limits.
Drama plays a very important role in project presentation..Project presentations become more interesting, when drama is involved! Kids really have lots of fun – but the most important thing is that, these projects don’t remain in our classroom. They travel away to other classrooms! It’s just amazing for my students, to see their project work in another classroom, so far away from home! ….Sharing and comparing, is what makes this projects exchange with schools abroad, a unique experience for my students!
Vicky: All this is fantastic Aphrodite! I hope one day I can visit you classroom and see you all in action. Speaking of sharing and learning, you also engage in social media. How do they help educators?
Aphrodite: In Greece and everywhere, teaching has always been an isolated profession. Teachers were limited to sharing the experiences of their colleagues in their building or district. If they were in the group of a fortunate few, they might have gotten to experience a professional conferenceechnology historically allowed learning to expand from face to face contact to distances beyond the limits of both time and space, and the Internet has moved that to a whole new level.
In my school, there is ONLY ONE computer in the headteacher’s office. I usually work on my home computer, and have yet managed to connect my classroom with more than 70 other classrooms all over the world during the last 15 years or so , mainly with the help of social media and my PLN. I wish I had a laptop in my classroom …I could have managed to acheive so many more with it! Still, I am going to start an Etwinning partnership soon ,using MY own laptop and a projector! Nothing can stop me! Answering your question, I would say that I know for sure that online platforms enable users to:
create, share, adapt and reuse content engage in digital dialogue and collaboration
create links, groups and communities
have peer-to-peer contact
have social interactions with other users
create and maintain their own user profiles and IDs
I am grateful for social media and my PLN, in particular! If it wasn’t for them, I would never have had the chance to connect and share with you, my awesome partners all over the world and have been able to learn so much and become a better educator myself!….
Vicky: Aphrodite, you have recently started an amazing blog with a lot of sharing of great ideas. Can you tell us more about it?
Aphrodite: I have to repeat, that it was because of YOU, dear Vicky that I started thinking about creating my own Blog! YOU were my inspiration, when I watched your presentation on blogging , during the TESOL Greece convention in 2013 in Athens! I can’t thank you enough for that! Blogging has already opened new perspectives in my teaching career… In today’s social media world, many of us share the details of our lives with friends on Facebook or by text message. As a teacher, I have a powerful opportunity to model blogging as thinking, using a teacher reflection blog or a teacher area within my blog. Share my teaching philosophy with colleagues, model blog writing style, and show my openness to comments and feedback by participating as a blogger “in front of” my PLN and the world! I can show that me , too, enjoy learning every day. I do my best to post regularly so everybody can see that I value blogging (maybe every week or two?). My blog is only about 2 months old…It is about various aspects of my life as a teacher. I talk about teaching ideas and tips, about my life as a teacher of ELT,and sometimes about things outside the classroom.
My intentions are to share:
my feelings about school life
what excites me about that I see in my class
what I learned from summer travels or seminars and conventions I regularly attend
cool websites or other blogs I find
cool ideas and good teaching practices in my class
My Motto is: SHARING IS CARING
I was surprised to find out a week ago, that although my Blog is a newcomer to the blogsphere , has already been nominated for the “ABC award”! I have to thank “Sincerely Kate” ( http://sincerelykaterz.wordpress.com) for this honor!
Vicky: That is absolutely fantastc news! And now, we have reached the end of the interview. What would you like to tell everyone reading your interview right now, as a closing comment?
Aphrodite: Being a teacher means being there, giving everything I can, making sure I am as knowledgeable as I can be about my content and about my students’ lives; it means sacrifice for the sake of helping kids in need and it means caring about students unconditionally. I am not a teacher for me–I am a teacher for my students. When teaching becomes about me, I assure you, I will know it is time to stop teaching. Being a teacher is exciting, enjoyable, and REWARDING!!!! I get no greater thrill than seeing my students achieve. I am constantly in awe of my students and their abilities.
Being a teacher is NEVER about counting down the last days of the year, but rather, to rue them, because I will lose yet another class to the high schools.
I am JUST an ordinary teacher, Vicky! I just happen to love my job.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my work in a small Greek classroom with the world!
Vicky: Thank you so much, Aphrodite and I am so happy we will meet again face to face in March!
I have mentioned in previous posts that my sister Eugenia and I have made our dream come true and opened a brand new school in Switzerland, The Loras Network! It is like a continuation of The Loras Academy that we had in Greece, but apart from language lessons, we have added even more children’s events and teacher training. Especially with the children’s events that we used to do in Greece as well, this is something that we really enjoy doing and this is the idea we are revisiting for this fourth goal in the 30 Goals Series!
During these events, we do educational games with the kids on worksheets, like mazes, wordeasearches related to the topic, puzzles, we play games on the theme, match words to pictures, read books…and language relevant to the topic (and not only) is produced! Even when they are doing crafts, or colouring, they are still producing language – and they are learning the language of following instructions: we will cut this with our scissors, stick it on the paper…and the kids enjoy themselves and learn at the same time!
This new interview shows a lot of things to me and you will see them too: it is with Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe, with whom we have never met in person, but we have collaborated perfectly online! Juan created a video for our children at our school – we all adored it. The power of connecting on social media! I really appreciate Juan as an educator and human being, as he has so many ideas and is a great sharer.
Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe is a teacher and teacher trainer based in Canada, whose passion is the affective learning of English by young learners. He is interested in learning, sharing, and discussing how the integration of play, creativity, and student engagement promotes language learning. He founded together with his sister Sosô Uribe a language school for children, Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo, where children learn English affectively through play, projects, games, storytelling, and puppeteering.
Juan has a Bachelors degree in Pedagogy from the Catholic University in São Paulo (PUC-SP) and he holds a Masters in Education in the area of Human Development and Applied Psychology from OISE at the University of Toronto. He writes a blog called Children Learning English Affectively and moderates a facebook page called Affective Language Learning.
A huge obrigada from me, Juan!
Vicky: Juan, first of all, I would like to thank you very much for accepting to give me this interview. I am so happy as this is one more collaboration between us – we had another last Christmas, with the video you made for our school and our kids loved!
Juan: Vicky, it’s my great pleasure to be here chatting to you and your readers. It’s very true that we have had a lot of learning, sharing, and fun in our exchanges. I have a cup of tea and my two dogs by my side now. Let’s chat!
Vicky: Fantastic! Tea is one of my favourite drinks. Let’s start with how you became an educator. How did the world of education attract you?
Juan: That’s a good question. I have had great teachers and have always enjoyed learning, especially languages. At first, teaching English was a fun way I found to pay for my travelling, doing something that I was good at. But what really made me stay in education was the possibility of being with children, seeing their development, creating a methodology, and running my own language school at the same time.
Vicky: You are an expert in teaching Young Learners. How did you become interested in this particular field?
Juan: I think that I was first involved in education when I was a child and I had the dream of having somebody come to my house and teach me English while I was playing with my playmobil. This fantasy stayed dormant until I was teaching at a language school and got invited to teach English through play to André, who was four years old at the time. Some years later I was already only teaching young learners, which led me to quit my Engineering course and start Education at university.
I find it very fascinating to study and observe the social, emotional, and cognitive aspects involved in how children learn. I am particularly interested in how play, creativity, and respect boost both their self-esteem and language learning. I’m always learning and discovering new techniques and concepts that allow me to see their learning from a new perspective. I think it is beautiful to have been able to grow in the same field even after so many years.
Vicky: Speaking of play and creativity, you are doing absolutely amazing work with puppets, and especially one puppet, with which you also make amazing videos – can you tell us more about this special guy and the videos?
Juan: I have a chubby frog puppet called Buddy, who is a big friend. Buddy has been a companion in my classes and school events since 1994. More recently, we started travelling to interesting places and filming what we experienced as a way of showing the world to children. Buddy and I have shopped for clothes in Egypt, relaxed in parks in France, explored Macchu Picchu in Peru, and eaten Sukiyaki in Japan. I always also try to get him a traditional outfit from the country we are visiting. I have made lots of friends because of Buddy. Last I have to thank my patient wife Ana Luiza for filming me and helping me edit the videos.
I like Buddy goes Ballooning!
Vicky: This is actually one of the first videos of you and Buddy that I watched! I love it. Apart from teaching and tarining and travelling the world with Buddy, you also own a language school in Brazil, Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo – can you tell us more about it? How it started and where it is today?
Juan: Back in 1994, my sister Sosô and I started Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo with the dream of creating a language school in which children acquired English playing . We taught around 20 students in their own homes and we had over 300 books, puppets, and games in our bedrooms at our parents’ apartment. Almost 20 years later, we are now teaching around 250 students both in their homes and also in small groups at our lovely school, where we have seven beautiful classrooms.
I am proud to say that the students, parents, educators, coordinators, directors, and all the staff have been able to create together a truly remarkable school. I get very happy when I get e-mails from students, parents, and staff telling me how special it is or it was to be part of our school. This very same school, which one day was just a dream. Vicky, you probably know how much I miss it, as you also had a school in another country. I am very happy that you and Gina have founded The Loras Network in Zug!
Vicky: I truly understand how much you miss it, Juan! Thank you so much for your support and kind wishes! I also wish you the very best in everything you do. I hope to visit your school some day! Another thing you do is you also blog. I love the name: Children Learning English Affectively! Can you let us know what inspires you and what you write about?
Juan: I love writing and sharing about how young learners learn languages, as this focused practice allows me to relive, organize, and make sense of what I have experienced with them. All my posts have affect as the thread that links them, making an interesting patchwork on how play, creativity, and respect can boost language learning. I usually integrate theory and practice in my posts so that teachers can be aware of how and why learning happens. I particularly like to write about the small details that might not be noticed by many, but that when put together make a big difference. I also intend to stitch all the posts together as a book in the future.
Vicky: Wow! A book. That sounds so interesting, I am sure a lot of people look forward to it. Let’s move on to more things about you, for instance your new home. You live in Toronto. What do you like about living there? Are there any challenges?
Juan: I immigrated to Toronto in 2010 with my wife and a little dog. Even though we are in one of the most thriving cities in the world, I like that life here can be simple. We live one block from the beach and we take our dogs for a swim in the lake once a day. I also enjoy very much living the seasons, which is something I couldn’t truly experience in Brazil.
Immigrating to a country has brought us many challenges, which have also been fun because we are always learning. Even though we have been here for three years, we still do not know how many things are called and what we are supposed to do in some situations. Even hammering a nail was once a challenge here, as we had to find the stud behind the drywall. Professionally, my challenge has been finding opportunities to work exclusively with young learners, as I haven’t found language schools for children.
Vicky: There’s a good idea! I am happy you feel comfortable in Toronto, my hometown. How did I meet you, from Brazil and now living in Toronto? You are very active on social media, and that is how we initially connected, in fact. How do you think it can help educators? What are the pros and cons you see for yourself?
Juan: Social Media certainly helps us to connect, share, think together, and collaborate with educators who share the same values. I find this digital communion to be simply beautiful as educators from all over the world empower each other through their listening, validation, and dialogue. I usually alternate periods of being active and non-active in social media. I feel that I get overwhelmed with so much information and I feel that many times trying to keep up with what is happening can be stressing. But then, after some time I miss all the buzz and I come back. I have had the chance of meeting, chatting, and learning with many great educators around the world. It’s also a real treat when we are able to meet each other personally!
Vicky: It sure is and I hope we meet in person soon! Would you like to close our interview with a piece of advice, or a wish to the educators reading your interview?
Go after what you truly like. See the person inside your students. Be yourself. Reflect about your work. Share it with the world. Leave your mark! I would like to wish everybody a very rewarding journey!
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.
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.
About two months ago, I had a guest post on my blog from two student tutors from Yeditepe University. Here is a part two from a whole group of lovely student tutors, reflecting on the Writing Center they take part in, under the guidance of their professor, Ece Sevgi. A huge thank you – Çok teşekkürler to: Ece Sevgi, Şafak Ezgi Özel, Seçil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca, Deniz Aryay and Ş. Ceren Cessur!
Here they are:
“Actually, being a part of the Writing Center was not a “decision”; it was just one of the most important coincidences of my life. I was taking a course from Ece Sevgi, and she announced that she needed about ten students to hang posters for the announcements of the workshops prepared by the Writing Center. Later, she made another announcement saying she was looking for student tutors to do peer-tutoring. After a training period, I started working as a student tutor, and I think it is a great experience for me to develop my skills in teaching. I learned a lot about the ELT world during this process because I was introduced to many big names at ELT conferences, practiced teaching how to write essays through one-on-one sessions with my peers, prepared workshops, and learned how to write better articles. Now I feel ready to become an English teacher even though I haven’t graduated yet because I have learned that experience and self-confidence are the most important parts of this job.”
Şafak Ezgi Özel
“I started working at the Writing Center in Spring 2012, and then Ece Sevgi wanted us to participate in IATEFL 2012 to assist the conference organizers. I really enjoyed being a part of that organization, but when she said that they were also looking for tutors to help students in their academic essays, I was not sure about whether I could manage it or not. However, I realized that I could really like being a tutor after working with my first students from the psychology department. Apart from our students, we also found an opportunity to improve ourselves in our fields. I think, my turning point in my career is probably the Writing Center. I always had wonderful teachers showing my way, but I guess Ece Sevgi is one of the most important ones.”
“… The moment I entered there, I felt that I could be helpful to others even though I was still a student. Thanks to this program, other students who are also our friends, learned from us, and in return we’ve learned from them since we gained experience in teaching. This program proved us that textbooks, lectures, and teachers were not the only sources to receive information, and we realized that we could learn from each other as well. With the help of this program, we understood the importance of team work once again. The Writing Center opened many doors to all of us. It was not only about the student tutor program; it went beyond that point and improved all of us. I believe with this experience and good memories, these moments will be one of the best moments of my university experience.”
When I first heard of the Writing Center and the Student Tutor program, I was in the first year of my university life, just trying to get used to being a university student, and I did not know which path I should follow to become a good teacher. Ece Sevgi told us about tutoring as a student and learning from each other with this program. I think the most important and valuable contribution of this program for me is gaining experience in the ELT field by working with our peers and learning from all the mistakes through the tutoring process. I have also learnt a lot by giving sessions about academic writing in the workshop weeks of the Writing Center, which has changed my perspective and personality from a shy and stressful person when in front of people to the one who is more confident and open to improvement as a life-long learner.
“I was getting feedback on my essay when I first learned about the student tutor program, and the first thing that occurred to me was “Oh my God!”. Being very straightforward indeed, I assume it can briefly summarize the importance of this opportunity in our lives. The Writing Center allowed me to feel like a teacher after only a semester spent on this field, which made me realize how accurate my choice was. We were not only helping our friends, but also learning to teach. I believe, this is a chance which won’t happen often, and I’m more than glad to be a part of this family. I have enhanced my writing, my English in general, and obviously obtained new skills such as being more attentive and patient. The Writing Center has opened a new path ahead of me, and I’m tremendously thankful to everyone who made this possible.”
“… Ece Sevgi, who was my instructor for the Academic Writing course at Yeditepe University, changed my perception about making mistakes. I was visiting the Writing Center to get one-on-one feedback. Then, I learned that we, as students, also have the right to work at the Writing Center as student tutors to help our fellow friends to improve their writing skills. When I became a member of the Writing Center, I learned how to conduct a conversation on a professional basis and I realized that the instructors were far more interested in our development than we thought. I can voluntarily help in the establishment of a Writing Center for the school that I will be working at in the future. If you ask whether or not I would want my students to work there, my answer is “yes”.
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.
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.