Seven years of blogging – sometimes often, sometimes not so often…
A few weeks ago, Doug Peterson wrote a post about Starting or Reflecting on a Blog – and I thought it was great to write on at least some of the points he mentions, and what I have learned in the process of these seven years. There is so uch more to learn – and share!
I will make that seven points – to keep to the theme of seven : )
Have a plan when to write and what: I honestly admire bloggers like Doug and Aviva Dunsiger who write very often and on so many different topics. I still do not have a plan and just post when I think I have something to write about. Let’s see if that changes : )
Make it social: I try to share my posts and other posts everywhere. Now that I am not on Facebook anymore, I use Twitter and LinkedIn.
Content is king! I think so too. In the beginning, I would only share what I did in my classes. Then I started sharing more general or more specific topics. This year, I also tried something different, which I was a bit doubtful of at first – my blog became a bit political, as last month we had a referendum here in Zug on pay cuts for teachers, people with disabilities, people in the medical profession, the elderly and lots more. I thought it was very important to make my little mark as well – we won!
Blogging is a huge learning platform. I cannot even begin to mention how many things I have learned from other people’s blogs, as well as from their comments on mine or other blogs. They have made me think, taught me things, they have inspired me!
Disagreeing is not a bad thing. I remember the first time someone disagreed with what I had written. I was crestfallen. However, after some time I thought that I am not always right of course and the person was very polite in doing so, and above all…made me think! It all depends on how the person disagrees with an opinion. As long as it is civilised, it is a great exchange of opinions and learning opportunity.
Sharing is super! I love sharing blog posts I have read or have taught me something. Think of how many people we can reach just by sharing! The community of learning keeps growing. Here I would like to share another great post on blogging, by Jennifer Aston, an educator in London, Ontario!
Writing improves! I sometimes cringe when I read some of my first blog posts and have been tempted to correct / delete them, but I have decided to leave them there. We can only improve and learn, right?
Thank you all so much for being with me on this amazing journey, for sharing, for teaching me and helping me become a better educator!
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!
Péter Medgyes is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest. Previously, he was a school teacher, teacher trainer, vice rector of his university, deputy state secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Education and the ambassador of Hungary posted in Damascus. Professor Medgyes is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Non-Native Teacher (1994, winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition), Changing Perspectives in Teacher Education (1996, co-edited with Angi Malderez), The Language Teacher (1997), Laughing Matters (2002), and Golden Age: Twenty Years of Foreign Language Education in Hungary (2011). His main professional interests lie in curriculum studies, language policy, and teacher education.
A huge thank you to Péter for this honour!
Vicky: Professor Medgyes, first of all I would like to thank you for this interview – I have admired your work since I was in university!
Professor Medgyes: Thank you very much, Vicky. But frankly I’d much prefer if you called me Péter. It’s far more informal. My students call me Péter too.
Vicky: Thank you so much, Péter! Let us start from the beginning of your career. You started your career as a school teacher. How did you enter the field of education?
Péter: My mother was dismayed when she learnt that I’d decided to become a teacher. “Oh no! You don’t want to become a slave, do you?” she cried. What she hinted at was the low status of teachers in Hungary at that time. Trouble is that teachers are still not given the credit they deserve. Teachers of English were a little better off though, because English was considered a trendy language. The Beatles, jeans, American movies – you know what I mean.
Vicky: What has changed since then? What challenges, if any, remain?
Péter: Well, if English was trendy 30 years ago, it’s since become the unparallelled lingua franca. We can’t breathe without English in our wired-up world. It’s no longer a foreign language, but some kind of a second mother tongue for billions of people. It should become part of basic education all over the world. Kids start to learn English at an ever younger age. CLIL is introduced in more and more schools.
Vicky: How did you move on to the field of academia?
Péter: I taught in a comprehensive school for some 15 years before I became a teacher trainer at university in Budapest. Truth be told, vanity played a part in my decision to move on. But then I’ve never lost touch with school-life. My research has always been rooted in the classroom. In the early 2000s I went back to teach in the same school where I’d started out. I thought, well, with all the experience that I’d accumulated over the years, I’d be a much better school teacher than I was. Sadly I didn’t – I forgot how to teach teenagers, so I quit after a couple of years.
Vicky: You have been very much involved in the topic of native and non-native teachers. Do you believe the distinction is still necessary today?
Péter: The native/non-native issue is a tricky one. Dividing English teachers into natives and non-native is pretty arbitrary. Yet the fact remains that I’m a native speaker of Hungarian and a non-native speaker of English. Having said that, it’s true that the demarcation line is getting more and more elusive these days, due to the fact that the English language competence of non-native teachers is rapidly improving. Thanks to a number of things in the contemporary world.
Vicky: I agree. Now let us move on to your writing and other activities. Have you got any projects in the works? Could you tell us a bit more about them?
Péter: Together with Marianne Nikolov I’ve just finished a longish report on language pedagogy research done in Hungary in recent years. It’s due to be published in ‘Language Teaching’ in the autumn. At present I’m busy working on compiling an anthology of papers and conference presentations I’ve produced in the past 30 years. Each essay is introduced with an imaginary interview between me and a reporter in which I speak about how those pieces came about and lots of other things. Some kind of retrospection.
Vicky: Very interesting projects! I am looking forward to reading more of your work. Now what would you like to advise new teachers, who are reading this interview?
Péter: Huh, this is a difficult question! As a teacher trainer all I can teach my students are visible and tangible things. However, whatever really matters in education is hidden and intangible and so it can’t be taught.
Vicky:What exactly is hidden and intangible?
Péter: The spark in the students’ eyes. Once I notice that spark I know that I’ve done a good job. I’ve managed to pass on the ultimate secret of teaching – love. Love of your job. Love of your students. No more – no less.
Vicky: This has been a great interview. Thank you ever so much for this, Péter! I wish you the very best.
I started this blog four years ago, after being motivated by the one and only Ken Wilson – these four years bring so many thoughts to my mind:
How reluctant I was to start it: back then I was thinking, who will read it – will anyone be interested?
I don’t even have a job – what is this going to offer me? But I did start it, and I am happy I did so!
How much it helps me reflect. I read another educator’s post that inspires me and gives me insight into my own teaching, so I go ahead and write about it. Or when a class goes well, or even not so well, here is always where I turn to, so as to get my thoughts in order. I can see what went well or wrong, and then come up with ways of what I could do better or what I could do again.
I should write only when I feel I have something to say. In the beginning, I felt that I was obliged to write often, or felt bad if it took me up to three months to write. Nothing comes out of it, if I write just to say that have written something – instead, now that I write when I feel like it, it feels much more natural.
I love the fact that there are not only my own posts on the blog. I had seen it on Ken’s blog, and later on many others, that guest bloggers were invited to write – I did it too and it is great! I have read some amazing posts. So thanks to all my guest bloggers!
I love interviewing other educators. I see their stories, their experiences, and I learn from them. Thank you so much to them all!
Thank you to all of you who read the posts, share them on social media, comment and teach me!
I am thrilled to have an educator I admire very much on my blog, not only for his teaching and his sharing, but also for his studies and blogging as well! I would like to introduce you to Osman Solmaz – originally from Diyarbakır, Turkey – now in Tucson, Arizona for his PhD studies.
Vicky: Thanks so much for accepting my invitation for this interview, Osman!
Osman: Thank you for the offer! It is my pleasure to be part of this!
Vicky: Thank you so much – I admire you so much as an educator! My first question is that exactly, how did you decide to enter the world of education – has it always been a dream of yours?
Osman: I had (still have) an amazing teacher of English that helped me a lot to become who I am right now. I think the influence of the teachers like him affected my decision; because I have personally witnessed how a teacher can have a deep impact in the lives of his/her students. Besides, I have always had an interest in learning languages and foreign cultures. Even though I started learning English at high school, I loved the whole process of developing a competence to express myself in another language. I hope to help my students to enjoy this process and much more as much as I did.
Vicky: You are also contiuing your studies – you are doing a PhD in Second Language Acquisition & Teachingat the University of Arizona. How did you choose this specific program? How are you enjoying it so far?
Osman: Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) is an interdisciplinary doctoral program in which 17 different departments participate. So, when you are enrolled in a program like this, you have a chance to collaborate with almost 80 professors. Even though this rich variety of options can be challenging for students, the steps to take in your PhD quest in the program are clearly stated. Needless to say, it is one of the best programs in the country partly thanks to its unique nature. Therefore, SLAT was in my radar from the first day I came across the program on the web. It is my second year at the moment here and I have truly enjoyed the people, the program, classes, professors, and beautiful Southern Arizona so far. People in my program are really friendly and they make us feel like a family. For example, we have had a Halloween party few weeks ago and it was mostly for international students to experience the Halloween culture. We have a Thanksgiving dinner on the corner!
Vicky: Before Arizona, you were in your beautiful country, Turkey. Can you tell us what you were involved in while you were there?
Osman: I studied at the department of English Language Teaching at Dicle University in Diyarbakır (hometown), a historical and vibrant city in southeastern Turkey. After teaching English to adults in a private course and then high school students at a private school, I have lectured at the university for a couple of years before Arizona. While teaching at the department of foreign languages, I received my M.A. degree in Applied Linguistics / ELT from Dicle University. I hope to be back once I am done, but it is early to speak yet.
Vicky: You engage a lot in social media. How did you become involved in them, and how do you think they help educators?
Osman: When I posted my very first tweet, I had no idea how powerful this tool would eventually be. I must admit that I was very lucky to come across #eltchat which helped me grow up as a language teacher and introduced me to a great group of colleagues with similar interests. I think of the social media as a giant and efficient teachers’ room where educators are constantly in touch. Social media helps educators become better teachers since the engagement and activity on the ‘virtual teacher room’ help us be exposed to education-related news and materials all the time. I think this makes us become critically aware of the process of learning and teaching. In the meantime, social networking allows users to form friendship and give us some friends to chat and hug when we attend a conference, instead of just presenting and coming back home. The process of getting involved with potential conference participants starts long before than it used to be and I think it is great! Last but not least, I believe we all should try to understand the core promise of how a technological tool can assist us with our teaching. It is Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest today, but there may (and will) be different technologies in the future and we should prepare ourselves for them. Therefore, I am interested in researching the connection between technological tools and how we educators can make the most of it.
Vicky: You also have a beautiful blog, idiolectica. I love how you incorporate various topics – apart from teaching, you have literature and recently you added a new category, Joys of Life. Can you let us know what inspired you for the name of the blog and what inspires you to write?
Osman: Thank you! I made up the word idiolectica! I haven’t personally seen that word anywhere. Idiolect is the unique linguistic system of an individual and –ica is “a collection of things that relate to a specific place, person etc.” (-ika in Ancient Greek). This makes me come up with the word idiolectica referring to the collection of things related to my own linguistic system. I chose this because I am thinking aloud in my blog and I like writing about the things I read and come across. In addition to that, my individual perspective is clearly reflected on all the blog posts (except guest posts). I think living in a foreign country, being enrolled in a graduate program far from home, having various interests, and surely reflecting on educational / linguistic / sociolinguistic issues are among the factors that make me write. It is definitely not a typical educator blog but I hope people like it and encourage me to continue writing. About Joys of Life, there are many small things in this life that can make us happy and happiness is most valuable when shared. That is why I started that category and I want to continue sharing the joys of life!
Vicky: That is so important and thank you for reminding us and helping us focus on all the great things in life! What would you like to tell all the educators who are reading your interview right now?
Osman: As teachers, we should have the desire, passion, and the knowledge to help our students become better learners. In order to achieve this, we must be great learners ourselves. Remembering our teachers being proud of us for being who we have become and students appreciating our efforts help a lot along the way.
Vicky: That is an amazing statement to close our talk. Thank you so much for this interview and I hope we meet up in person soon!
Osman: I thank you for helping educators meet educators through those great interviews and I am sure we will meet in one of the language-related events very soon!
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”.
And the last post in the PD in Focus series is here. All about blogging!
I started blogging almost four years ago, during a not very nice time in my life, which you can read here. I connected with Ken Wilson on Twitter (creating a Twitter account was something I was also wary of doing) and while we were exchanging emails about my situation, he motivated me to start a blog. I wasn’t particularly warm about the idea at first, not because I didn’t trust Ken, but I was thinking:
– Who is going to be interested in what I write?
– What if I write something silly?
– I don’t have a job, how can this help me feel better? (Unemployment really threw me down and my feeling of self-worth had never been so down before.)
So I started and I love it! I don’t always have the right answers – but I try to share as much as possible, good moments and bad, I try to intearct with others and I absolutely love the exachange of opinions. There is agreement, there is disagreement that makes you think, as long as it is constructive criticism. There are so many ideas you get from other educators and so much inspiration! Many are the times when I think what a great idea someone has had, how much I would like to apply someone’s ideas for the classroom and appaud them on that as well.
There are so many things that can be done through blogging:
– Writing and sharing. Something you think is a simple idea for you and you have been doing it for many years in the classroom, could be a revelation for someone else. Just go ahead and share! Your experiences, troubles, happy moments, lesson plans, anything you can express yourself through! There is a welcoming and supportive community of teachers out there waiting to read.
– Blog challenges. An educator invites others to contribute to a common theme – for instance, it can be about vocabulary teaching, or Business English, or teaching idea at all. Some call it a blog carnival, which sounds fun! I held one on my blog a couple of years ago, called What’s Your Story? and 27 educators shared their stories on it: some very personal moments, teaching experiences, anything that they wanted to share. And I really appreciated it. And a lot of people did and we saw ourselves in those stories, and we felt better. We are not alone! There are others out there who share the same experiences as we do.
– Pages. Blogs can become treasure troves of ideas and different kinds of posts: you can organise your blog into pages and have different topics there. Lesson plans, different areas of ESOL, photos, whatever you think expresses you.
– Reflection. A blog can be a journal. There are educators out there who blog every single day about their teaching, education in general or various educational issues that interest them. That doesn’t serve everyone, though. It can be once a week, once a month, or whenever you have inspiration – you will find your own pace: as long as you use it as a reflective tool, a journal that you can revisit and see what has changed, what has improved or not. It has helped me tremendously as an educator and I feel I am constantly changing and evolving. Still making mistakes but learning from them!
– Guest posts. You can invite other educators whose work you admire to write for you! The reflection coming from these posts are amazing. Plus, you get to network with these educators and exchange ideas. My first ever guest blogger was George Couros, all the way from Alberta, Canada.
It is a firm belief of mine that blogging is a great way for educators to develop professionally, as you can reflect and learn from your teaching – it is also good to write these thoughts down, as you can revisit them. Yesterday, I got to read an amazing post by Dean Shareski, who is an educator from Saskatchewan. (The post was actually tweeted by George – which led me to Dean’s article…the beauty of social media! A whole different post though.) He sums it all up perfectly in How to Make Better Teachers and is honestly one of the best posts I have come across on blogging and professional development. The post is from 2010 and as current as ever.
I truly thanks Ken for motivating me to start my own blog – it has helped me in so many ways! No matter if you are a new teacher or an experienced one, a blog is one of the best things you can do for your own learning.
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.
I was very honoured to present for the first time at this year’s TESOL Greece Convention. Here is my presentation, as well as the notes the participants received at the end. Many thanks to those who were there and everyone for their support!
Another very important aspect of professional development is reading and writing for educational journals and magazines. Almost every teaching association in various countries around the world has one, be it a paper journal or online or even an online newsletter, which is shorter. Some associations offer the journals included in the membership fee, which can be very helpful – however there are also magazines that do not belong to associations but are related to language teaching, like Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional, to name a couple.
Why is it so important to read them? Well first of all, to learn from them. So many colleagues share loads of teaching ideas in their articles, which we can adopt and adapt in our own classes. They can keep you feeling inspired and motivated for the next class!
It can also make us think critically, because we cannot possibly agree with everything written. We can choose what fits our classes and our methodology and use it accordingly.
Some articles focus on research or other theoretical issues and can help teachers enrich their knowledge, or even help them with their studies, as many educators continue their studies.
Share your ideas with other educators! Write for journals and magazines – it helps you to also practise your writing skills. A lot of educators reading your articles might then contact you to give you feedback on your writing, for instance how much it helped them, or any kind of feedback, which is also welcome. Then you can see what you can continue writing about, what you can improve and so on. Just try doing it!