Are You Playing or Learning? – Both!

 

VickyReadingontheFloorI am in my nineteenth year of teaching and I have taught in Greece and Switzerland so far, the latter being my home for the best part of the past seven years. I teach students of all ages and levels. When people ask me why I like teaching Young Learners, I tell them that I love it because it is

  • creative
  • I learn so much from my little ones
  • fun!

First of all, let us look at who these lovely little people we call Young Learners are. We have Very Young Learners (VYLs), who are 3 – 6 years old and then we have Young Learners (YLs), who are 7 – 12.

When I teach them, as do many teachers I know and have seen when visiting their classes, I love to incorporate the element of fun. Children learn in a much more pleasant environment and much more effectively, I believe. To be honest, all students and even adults like the element of fun in their classes!

Sometimes however, I have been asked the following question: “Are you playing, are you just having fun, or are you learning?” I have been asked this both by parents of students or caregivers, and also by a few teachers – rarely the latter category, but it has happened!

I understand their concerns, and especially in contexts where children need to follow a specific methodology in order later on in life to sit for a language exam. However, I still think that even in those contexts, fun can be part of the lesson – if not the whole time, even ten minutes at the end can help!

Fun ideas are loads to be found, either from colleagues, other teachers we connect to on social media, or social media themselves as resources, like Pinterest for instance.

st-jerome-wedo-wingard2
(Image taken from http://thegreatadventurelab.com

Some fun ideas I use in my classes are:

  • Story Cubes! They are dice with pictures on them and I discovered a specific kind from a Canadian teacher, Aviva Dunsiger, whom I am connected to on Twitter. They are called Rory’s Story Cubes and there different categories. Kids shake them, throw them on a surface and depending on the pictures that come up on the dice, they have to put them in the order they want and then they can tell the story they have just created. They come up with some really fun and funny stories, and above all they practise their speaking skills (they can even write down their story as a small task in class) and learn and consolidate a lot of vocabulary! If you do now want to buy cubes, you can even make your own. There are so many templates online and you can draw or stick pictures on them – even better, along with the kids! They will love it and again, learn so much.
  • You’re the teacher today! Sometimes I let the kids know beforehand that in the next lesson they can be the teacher for a while. They can teach us something as long as they do it in English! I go and sit along with the other kids, either in the chair of the teacher-student or on the floor with the kids. Some teach us dances, some bring in things like their favourite Lego creations…and they just love teaching us! They love the responsibility that comes with it and they always take it very seriously.
  • Books! Some teachers and parents say that their kids do not love books…well, I think that children need to be exposed to them first of all. There are books all over my school. Not only on bookcases, but also on plastic boxes and baskets on the floor, on the window ledges. You can just see them picking them up on their own, finding the topics they like and sometimes they want to read them out loud in class! What could be better? We can also organise trips to bookstores or libraries with them. Read-alouds once a week or as often as we deem necessary. Kids just loving listening to grown-ups read to them, especially if we change our voice for every character!

These are only some ideas for Young Learners. The list is endless!

Let’s keep in touch! I would love to know what you do with your kids. Just remember to have fun with them and they are still learning no matter what.

Wading the Waters in Education #TheHumanTouch

Abdul Malik and his students (Image taken from http:///www.ndtv.com)
Abdul Malik and his students
(Image taken from http://www.ndtv.com)

His name is Abdul Malik.

He is one of the most inspirational educators I have ever come across. One of the stories I have included in the Human Touch presentations I have made in person and online, is that of Abdul.

The men and women who have the right ideals . . . are those who have the courage to strive for the happiness which comes only with labor and effort and self-sacrifice, and those whose joy in life springs in part from power of work and sense of duty.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

Every morning he sets off to cross the river in his town, in order to get to school. He could use a vehicle or public transport, but it would take him over three hours. By wading in the river, he arrives in fifteen minutes and to his students much faster, as he says. He swims with a tyre-tube around him, and his clothes and food in a plastic bag over his head. When he reaches the river bank right across, he puts on some dry clothes and walks uphill for another ten minutes, arriving at school where his enthusiastic students are waiting for him.

Apart from teaching them the school subjects, Abdul also teaches them how to swim. He not only shows interest in the kids’ learning, but also their well-being, by teaching them how to swim and avoid the danger of being in the water. He teaches them great human values by swimming in dirty waters every morning to get to them on time.

This story makes me think about teachers all around the world, and what they do in order to get to class, to teach their kids. Each one of them is wading their own waters.

A teacher:

  • using their own money to equip their classroom
  • pretending they are ok when they are sick / with a throbbing headache / with problems at home
  • taking multiple types of transport to reach school
  • skipping lunch to help kids during the break
  • fighting adverse administration at school
  • working with no moral / financial support from anyone
  • missing out on free time or time with their families to get work done.

When we think of the students and what progress they make and how much they can be helped, as much as how much they teach us during the week, it makes it all worth it. 

So in one way or another, we are all wading our own waters, metaphorically or literally, just like Abdul.

Here is a video about him and his wonderful students:

My #YoungerTeacherSelf post for @joannacre’s blog challenge

Where it all started - the old building of the Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Where it all started – the old building of the Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Joanna Malefaki has created an amazing blog challenge, where teachers write to their younger selves, called the #YoungerTeacherSelf blog challenge. What a great idea and what lovely posts we have read so far!

I had to start teaching almost as soon as I got into university, for the reason that I was studying far away from my family and they could not fully afford my studies. Therefore, I had to dive right into it, but I was fortunate enough to have great professors and colleagues to help me out in this difficult, but incredible journey.

Here is my letter to 18-year-old Vicky and a few years after that, when I was a scared teacher, afraid of many things and mainly how it was going to be. 

Dear Vicky,

I know that your whole life you had been dreaming of becoming a lawyer, and that education was your second choice. I assure you that this is a choice you will never look back on – you will absolutely love it and you will be happy you accidentally got into it!

You will have lots and lots of students and you will learn so much from them and from teaching them. They will come to you with dreams, enthusiasm or lack of it, a great variety of talents and each and every one of them will leave their mark on you. Mistakes are part of the deal, but don’t worry, you will always make them. You want to learn and become better, don’t you? These mistakes are there to remind you of this.

Some day, you will be connected to so many educators, not only face-to-face, but also through the internet. Especially through social media. What is all that social media stuff, you ask? You don’t believe me? Wait and see! You are excited about emails so far, but just wait until you see what other things you will be using in a decade or two! And you will learn so much from and with these educators, who come from all over the world.

It is absolutely fine to deviate from the coursebook. Do you think that task on page 76 is not appropriate or does not help your students? Skip it! Change it! Weave it into something else and don’t worry. Not all students learn the same way and not all tasks work out as they are designed. You want the best for your students, right?

Be happy you did not take that professor’s advice, who told you in your second year not to become close to the students at all, because they will only “take advantage of you” and “you are there only to teach them, not help them with their lives in general”. Regardless of their age, students are all human beings with feelings and if we can help even one of them with a problem they may be facing, it is so important. They are not only there for us to teach them the difference between Past Simple and Present Perfect and then shove them out the door.

Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. You will never know everything and that is super! You will always be developing and growing as a teacher, through reading, writing, attending conferences, learning sessions. This is something you will tremendously enjoy. Keep going and keep learning!

Love,

36-year-old Vicky

What’s Your Story? – Learning a Language as an Adult by Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess
Katie Burgess

I had my share of language learning experience as a child. This is the time when you don’t question the grammar rules or their exceptions, when it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes, be corrected or a tad embarrassed in front of a whole class because you don’t really care.

Then you grow up… All of a sudden, you are conscious of making mistakes, you want to understand the logic behind every grammar rule and yes, and you will be mortified when making mistakes. Why? Because you are an adult, an educated person expressing yourself at a level of a young child and that is just disturbing: you have your ego protesting and screaming: hey, I am not stupid!

I have been learning Chinese and that is not an easy task. Set aside the tones – it’s  like learning to sing  – the wide variety of dialects, not to mention  the many words that sound alike, with different meanings, of course. So while you are trying to say I am a teacher you might be actually saying I am an old rat…

So naturally, most the time when I am mingling with the locals, trying to get the right breakfast on the street, I do feel like a small child – however, and not a smart one…

It all ended when Frank, a well-educated engineer started taking English classes, at a beginners level.

I sensed his frustration, because he really wanted to express himself but couldn’t. How could he? He had just started his journey of learning English at the age of 38.

And last week, after failing to get his message across, he just burst out: “I am stupid! I like 5-year-old!” And that’s when it hit me: I did understand his frustration because I have been feeling the same way.

(Image taken from  http://finance.yahoo.com)
(Image taken from http://finance.yahoo.com)

So I told him: “Yes, you are right: you do sound like a 5-year-old. But that’s okay! Because you are learning! It will get better, I promise. Then I told him: “I also am a 5-year-old… “– in Chinese…

He smiled and was grateful. I assured him: nobody thinks he is stupid, it’s only the beginning.

Frank also helped me, inadvertently. I no longer care if a local gives me that weird look,  or even laughs at my fragile attempt to express myself in Chinese. I just gently remind myself: “It’s okay. It will only get better!”

Do Your Own Thing! – An Interview with Božica Šarić- Cvjetković

Božica Šarić- Cvjetković
Božica Šarić- Cvjetković

On the first day of March, we have our new interview ready! I would love to introduce you to a great teacher and friend based in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia – Božica Šarić- Cvjetković! She is very active on social media, and a lot of you know her already – those of you who don’t, follow what she is doing! She is great!

What do conferences and airports have to do with the interview? What does she do with her primary school students? Why and how does she use social media? For the answers to all these questions and more, watch our interview!

Here is Božica! Hvala!!!

 

Be Creative! – An Interview with Vicky Papageorgiou (@vpapage)

Vicky Papageorgiou
Vicky Papageorgiou

Our February interview is HERE! This time, with a great educator from Thessaloniki, Greece – Vicky Papageorgiou! Vicky and I met in person last year for the first time and she is the amazing generous person you can see on social media, engaging every day and sharing great content.

Vicky Papageorgiou is a foreign language teacher (English, Italian, Greek) with approximately 20 years of experience with mainly adult learners. For over 15 years she has been preparing students for English language exams of various exam boards. She holds an MA in Education (Open Univ. of Cyprus) and an MA in Art (Goldsmiths College, UK) and she is currently studying at University of Wales Trinity Saint David for her PGCE in Technology Enhanced Learning. She studied in Greece, Italy and the UK but also participated in an international project for the McLuhan program in Culture and Technology for the University of Toronto, Canada. Her fields of interest are Inquiry-Based Learning, ESL and Art, translation, use of video. She is currently based in Thessaloniki (Greece) working as an Adjunct Lecturer at AMC College for the past 5 years, preparing students for IELTS, teaching ESP and General English.

Vicky has not one, but two blogs: 

And here is her interview:

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

What’s Your Story? Mona Arvinte Interacts from Iasi

Mona Arvinte and her little daughter
Mona Arvinte and her little daughter

Here is another story, number 55, all the way from Iasi, Romania and Mona Arvinte, an English language teacher who has written her beautiful story! Read on about how she found her way into teaching and interacting with other teachers. 

Thank you so much, Mona! Mulțumesc!

When I first saw Vicky’s post I wondered : “Do I have a story?”

Of course, we all have stories and we all like stories. Am I ready to share, to put it on paper? Hmm, that’s a totally different story. Let’s see.

My story is really simple.

I’ve been a teacher all my life. I’m not that old, though. 😀

So hard to look back. That’s a real challenge to me, I think.

I chose to be a teacher for all the wrong reasons, I guess. I didn’t like kids, I had no patience whatsoever, didn’t like assigning or checking homework either.

That has changed over the years now. I’ve come to realize it’s best to interact, share and change ideas.

If you asked me what I’d be doing in 5 or 10 years’ time, I wouldn’t know. Probably the same but who knows? Life’s full of surprises.

I became a teacher about 13 years ago. Back then I did not even know I wanted to be a teacher. It’s not like I’ve been dreaming to be a teacher all my life. Let’s just say I had to, not that I wanted to.

I come from a small town and there were few opportunities for teaching English at that time. I remember quite well the look on the kids’ faces when the head teacher introduced me to the class. To say the least English was totally strange to them and so was the teacher.

So I entered the classroom. They did not pay any attention to me, nor to my words. That left me in a corner, not knowing what to do next. I began by telling them who I was. Well, I was so naïve to think they might actually look up to me for the simple fact I was a teacher. But no, that didn’t work.

I had to do something and quick, so I tried to improvise something. I remembered my first English lesson. I was about four or five. We were having so much fun, my English teacher at that time did her best to keep us motivated by involving each and every one of us in many engaging activities. I am positive I owe a lot to my first English teacher as to my teaching style. She was a fine lady.

Teaching is about sharing. I used to think teaching is just a job like any other job, you just go into the classroom, do your job, take your books and get back home. I was wrong, I guess.

Over the years I realized these kids have feelings, too. They aren’t like little robots that will do whatever you ask them to do just because you want them to.

No! They care, they have feelings and they also have their own stories that they like sharing, too.

As to my professional development, I’ve started to attend training courses and webinars that you can easily find online. That’s a whole new world to me. I didn’t think that would have been possible in the past. Or at least that hadn’t come in use to me not until last year. And I’m very happy about it as I get to learn a lot. As a teacher you never stop learning. It’s a long journey.

I am currently teaching 5th to 8th graders. It’s not that easy, not all are good students but it’s something that I love doing. Teaching is an excellent job, very rewarding. It helps you stay young at heart. Not to mention holidays! 😉 Just kidding.

Plans for the future? Well, I kind of like to live in the present.

Start blogging? Have my own website page? Become an online teacher? All these trends are very appealing to me. I like trying new things all the time.

Definitely yes, if the time is right!

So this is it. My life, my story!

No time to think it through, I just do what I think it’s best for me and my students.

Time to turn the page to a new chapter, hopefully!

 

How Much Should We Care? – The Human Touch Series

(Image from www.clipartpanda.com)
(Image from http://www.clipartpanda.com)

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

– You care too much about those kids.

– They already have parents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on the topic:

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

 

“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: