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!
Dimitris has been teaching EFL for 20 years. His experience covers a wide range of groups including young learners, teenagers, adults, exam prep classes and Business English. He has also written 5 test booklets for Macmillan and is a freelance materials designer. He also served as TESOL Chair and very successfully ran this year’s TESOL Greece Convention.
Chryssanthe has obtained a BA in English Literature from the English Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and a postgraduate diploma with distinction in Translation from the University of Mons-Hainaut in Belgium, being a scholar of the ‘Alexander Onassis’ Foundation.
They will also be presenting Literature strikes back! The return of a vanishing art or how to teach literature with technology at IATEFL Conference on Wednesday , 10th April at 15:05 (Hall 11b).
Thought that literature is dead with the advent of technology? Shouldn’t books be permanently exhibited in history museums next to dinosaurs and other fossils? Can a computer whiz kid be persuaded to read a romantic novel written by Daphne du Maurier?
For those of us who thought that literature had been wiped out by the invasion of technology in our daily teaching, the answer is : literature is too hard to die!!!
Web 2.0 tools, YouTube clips and social media/collaborative platforms seem to have become powerful allies of books in teachers’ efforts to stimulate learners ‘ interest and initiate them in the magical world of words.
Brought up in a world that gadgets are deified, teenagers only find it natural to spend more time tapping or clicking; browsing webpages rather than reading the masterpieces their parents and parents once loved. Is mere exposure to genres found on the internet enough to help our learners enrich their vocabulary and use proficiently a wide range of linguistic features that will need later on in their personal and professional life? Let’s compare a typical story on Facebook and one in a book. They may both narrate a similar story but they employ different means of illustrating the story line. The former may feature videos or photos, emoticons and chunks of language whereas the latter uses a wide range of words to convey feelings, describe actions and background and convey messages. Students can benefit from both worlds provided that teachers adopt a clearly structured methodology. It is pedagogy that makes the difference and technology is its most powerful ally.
Apart from enriching lexis, literature can also serve as a stimulus for discussing ideas and morals while provoking heated debates on eternal dilemmas. Love, friendship, struggle for wealth and power, leadership, corruption, ethics are only a few of the issues that are raised through literary texts and our students cannot afford to miss them.
Literature empowers, enlightens and broadens horizons … it simply allows you to dream and use your critical thinking instead of reacting mechanically.
December 10th is my third blog birthday! I decided to pay a tribute to three new bloggers, to celebrate my three years of blogging! First of the three, Dinçer Demir – an educator from Turkey, that I was fortunate to meet in person last weekend at the YTU 1st ELT Conference.
Vicky:Dinçer, thanks so much for accepting to give me this interview for the celebration of three new bloggers and the third birthday of my blog!
Dinçer: You are welcome Vicky. Actually I want to thank you because it is an honor for me to have an interview on the special anniversary of your blog.
Vicky:It’s an honour to have you on the blog. Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your work?
Dinçer: I am a 27-year-old teacher, who has been teaching for more than 5 years. I am from Turkey and I live and work in İstanbul. I am teaching English to both young learners and teenagers. In addition to these, I have had experiences of teaching English for communication to adult learners.
Vicky: How did you decide to pursue a career in education?
Dinçer:At the very early stages of my education career, I was not so sure if I wanted to be an educator. During university, I started to discover myself and my skills and I thought that this was my job. Today I see that I was right. I feel like I was born to be an educator, because I enjoy teaching, I like being part of a changing process, I like learning. So I can easily say that I don’t work, I do my hobby.
Vicky: That is great! You teach primary school children. What do you enjoy the most working with these ages?
Dinçer:In my opinion, teaching young learners is more difficult than teaching adults. What makes a teacher tired is classroom management and keeping students engaged. However, my experience shows that young learners learn easier and faster. As a teacher, you can be more motivated with them when you get results quickly.
Vicky: You are active both on Twitter and Facebook, connecting to many educators. How does this reflect in your work?
Dinçer: You are right. I am an active social media user. At the beginning of my social media life, I used to use it just to socialize. However, I use these tools to learn and share, especially Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I have broadened my vision, I have realized different points of views, I have seen many best practices. To sum up, it has changed my way of teaching and learning.
Vicky: There are several educators who would like to connect with other educators, but are a bit wary of social media. What would you advise them?
Dinçer: It is impossible not to grant them right. But every field may be a bit risky if it is not used accordingly. I want to highlight that especially Twitter (not Facebook, because it may include much private content) is a great tool to refresh themselves and enter into a huge sharing world. Maybe they can be more careful about who they follow and who follows them and they had better not share private information about themselves.
Vicky: Can you share one of the best moments in your teaching so far?
Dinçer: There are lots of them, of course. It is hard to choose. If I have to choose one, I prefer a theatre event in Şanlıurfa (in the south east of Turkey). I was doing my military service in Şanlıurfa as a teacher. I was teaching 4th grade. The city is not one of the most developed cities of Turkey. But we, me and my students, managed to perform Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (in English) in spite of inadequate opportunities. Their effort was unforgettable for me.
Vicky: You are a new blogger with new and fresh ideas. What inspired you to enter the world of blogging?
Dinçer: My first serious attempt at e-learning was an online TESOL Certificate Course. After I had completed the course, I liked e-learning. Afterwards, I have started to search about this and I have found lots of great inspiring blogs. So I have been a blog reader and follower for a long while. Finally I thought that I was ready to make a start on blogging and I did.
As long as you keep blogging, that means you keep learning. The idea of learning forever inspired me for this.
Vicky: Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Dinçer and I wish you all the best!
It is my absolute pleasure and honour to introduce you to Tony Sinanis, a great educator I have connected to recently on Twitter and admire for his passion and excellent work with his staff and students. Tony is Principal at Cantiague Elementary School, in Jericho, New York which has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon, about which he will be talking about in this interview.
If it is in the best interest of children, then it is the right thing to do!
Vicky: Tony, you have been in education for fifteen years. Can you give us some background as to how you chose to pursue a career in education?
Tony:Initially I went to college to become a pediatrician but after a few science courses I realized that it was not for me – dealing with sick kids seemed depressing to me so I switched majors and became a theater major (talk about switching gears). As a member of the theater program I had to complete a certain number of community service hours so I decided to do volunteer tutoring at the local elementary school in their after school program. Within a few weeks all I could focus on was these kids and the whole theater thing became unimportant. I looked forward to my tutoring sessions each week and making a difference in the lives of the children was so important to me. So after discussing it with my family and friends, I realized I could put this passion to good work by switching my major yet again and devoting myself to the field of education. My focus was Early Childhood and Elementary Education, where I was one of only a few men in the program.
Vicky: Very interesting! I did not know the turn your studies took. One thing is for sure: education is happy to have you! Moving on to you role, this is your fifth year being an administrator. What do you like the best about your work?
Tony:The highlight of my work as an administrator are my many opportunities to interact with my kids, staff and the community at large. I often say that I am not the best administrator because I am not always timely with “administrative” tasks but I am 1000% devoted to the instructional end of my work because if we can implement the best and most current instructional approaches in our school than we are doing what is best for kids and that is my main goal each and every day. Additionally, I think the social/emotional well being of our kids and staff are of the highest priority – if people feel good about themselves and feel supported they can accomplish ANYTHING! So my goal is to serve and support the Cantiague Elementary School community.
Vicky: Each job comes with its own challenges. What are the challenges for a school administrator?
Tony:Yes, there are many challenges I face as a school administrator. There are budget issues, federal and state mandates and standardized testing requirements just to name a few. With that being said, I think my greatest challenge is time… finding the time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish for our kids, staff and school in general. There are so many things I want to do.. and so many things I need to do that finding the time to get through it all is such a challenge! And then consider my family and the doctoral program I recently began, I might have to find a way to invent the 48-hour day! 🙂
Vicky: I would love for that type of day to be invented as well! I am sure educators who are also parents need a lot of time to balance family and schedule. You are a dad to Paul who is seven – how does being a parent tie in with being an educator?
Tony: I can honestly say that being Paul’s dad has redefined me as an educator. My son is my heart and soul outside of my body – everything I do in life is for and about him. So, when I see my students in school, I know that someone at home feels just as strongly about them as I do about Paul and that is so important to remember as an educator. Every decision I make is one that I consider as the building administrator but also as a dad. The bottom line is this… if it is not good enough for Paul, then it is not good enough for our kids at Cantiague. I want Cantiague to be the most amazing elementary school in the world because that is what I want for my own son! Layer on top of that the fact that my son has various medical issues and requires additional support in school and I am extremely sensitive to the needs of our special education students. I strive to make sure that every child in our school has whatever they need to provide them with a level playing field because I know that has made a difference for my son.
Vicky: Your school has received a great honour, Tony – it has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon. Can you tell us more about that?
Tony:Our Blue Ribbon nomination is such an exciting opportunity! The state of New York nominated 19 schools to the United States Department of Education for the national Blue Ribbon award. The nomination is based on the fact that our school has performed extremely well on standardized assessments over the last few years. Although I don’t put much stock in these test scores, I know that our kids do well because our teachers are amazing – their instructional approaches and techniques go far beyond preparing our kids for a test and the results support this idea! In regards to the Blue Ribbon, we find out in the next month or so if we won it, which would be so exciting because the entire community – staff, kids and parents – were apart of the application process we completed after being nominated.
Vicky: You told me during a short discussion that your school has integrated the Bucket Filler philosophy – I would love to know more about that and I am sure our readers would too.
Tony:The Bucket Filling philosophy we have adopted at Cantiague is anchored in the text Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carole McCloud. The idea behind the whole philosophy of Bucket Filling is that people carry around imaginary buckets with them all day, every day. And when we are good to other people not only do we fill their buckets but we fill our own, which feels great. On the other hand, when we are not nice to others, we are being bucket dippers because we are taking out of someone else’s bucket, which is not nice! Our Bucket Filling philosophy is rooted in the idea of the Big Five… we must always remember to Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Safe, Be Positive and Be Kindbecause if we follow the Big Five, we ensure that we are filling our own buckets and those of the people around us. Each week at Cantiague we celebrate Bucket Fillers of the Week who are nominated by teachers or other kids – and Bucket Fillers of the Week are kids who do something that fills the bucket of another person. I can honestly say that the Bucket Filling philosophy has changed our way of life at Cantiague. Bullying issues have decreased, incidents of harassment are down and our kids are using a common language, which is very child-friendly, about what it means to be a positive and successful kid in our school. I highly recommend reading this book and thinking about the importance of adopting this way of life at any school!
Vicky: I love the idea and the values that it creates for children! I believe it is a great idea for other administartors to incorporate in their school culture. Moving on to your newer colleagues, what would you advise an administrator starting now?
Tony: For any educator considering entering the world of administration at this point, they need to be in this for the kids. Being an administrator is not about being the boss or a figure head. It is about advocating for the needs of the entire community – kids, staff and the community at large. You need to understand that you are there to serve others and be their voice when needs are not being met. You have to be passionate about learning and teaching – a building administrator must be the lead learner of a school – not just a paper pusher. We have to model and espouse what we expect from those around us.
Vicky: You have a very busy, but pleasant and creative day. What does your day look like when you are not busy in school?
Tony:I am usually in the building by 7am each day where I spend about an hour checking email, checking out what’s going on in the Twitterverse, assigning subs and chatting with staff who are in early. By 8am I am connecting with the Main Office staff to review what needs to get done that day. Then at 8:15 our kids arrive and the day just moves in fast forward from there. I try and spend the morning in the classrooms and then I am in the lunchroom on most days and outside at recess playing games with my kids as much as possible. Spending time out of my office is always my goal during the school day. After recess I usually have some minor issues to address and then before I know it, it is almost 2pm and we begin getting ready for the dismissal process. After all our kids are safely on their buses, at about 3pm, I spend some time checking phone messages and getting back to parents. I also usually meet with teachers and staff after school because that is when it is quiet. Then after everyone is gone, at about 4:30pm, I go into my office and get all my administrative stuff done – emails, memos, etc. I usually leave school around 6pm on any given night.
This was such an interesting interview! It gave us a great insight into you as a personality and an educator. Tony, thank you so much for this interview! I hope to meet you in person some day.
During the holidays, I spend a lot of time with my sister and her two children, Maggie (seven years old) and Nicholas (three).
Maggie and I love doing activities together: writing, sticking, cutting, creating…so one day, during our Christmas holidays, we were talking about healthy eating and we decided to put our learning into pictures, make our learning visible – so we made posters, one with vegetables and one with fruit! Just using simple things, old newspapers and magazines from where we could cut out pictures, scissors and big pieces of cardboard for the background – we had so much fun learning and creating. Maggie was so excited about it!
We looked through magazines and newspapers to find pictures, cut them out and paste them onto coloured paper. Maggie also wrote the names of the fruit and vegetables, learning some that she had not heard of, like starfruit which we also saw at the supermarket a few days later.
We also had two great people cheering us on throughout the way: Mieke Kenis from Belgium and Ann Loseva from Moscow to whom we tweeted pictures of our posters! Ann made beautiful posters with her two sweet nieces, Olya and Polina!
It is with great pleasure and honour that I feature a wonderful educator on my blog, Icha Sarwono who is based in Indonesia. Icha teaches at a Kindergarten and Preschool and is active on social media. She is also an iTDi Associateand has a blog. Here is Icha!
1. Icha, how did you become an educator?
I suppose it’s in my blood, as I come from family who works either in education or a health institution. I don’t think I know any other thing to do, as even my first part-time job during my junior high was tutoring my classmates in English. Then during my college year up till now I coach the school’s drumband (that is kind of a teaching activity too right?) . I suppose I became a teacher because I remember how my teachers used to have an impact on me, personally and of course educationally. So, though teaching has never been on my list of goals growing up, I chose this line of work because I want to influence and help people in a little way.
2. What would you like to have known back then, that you know now? What would you advise Icha the beginning teacher?
Well I would love to have known that teaching doesn’t always equal educating. I used to think that it was easy easy to transfer knowledge but it hasn’t always been the case as I found out. The first thing you need to do is to inspire them, so they will be excited in learning themselves. I would advise the young 24-year-old Icha (that’s the age I started teaching full-time) to take it easy, don’t get frustrated when the class doesn’t go as you plan, because the unexpected is much more fun for it opens up a new adventure! Oh, and remember that you cannot judge a student simply by his grades, because as Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
3. You teach at Kidea Daycare. What are the things one needs to keep in mind when teaching little ones? What are the pros and what are the challenges of teaching such young ages?
Actually it’s Kidea Preschool and Kindergarten and I am now teaching a K2 class, a bunch of 5-year-old students 🙂 . I think what we should have in mind when teaching young learners is that you cannot force them in accepting all you have to give at a certain time. They need time to bloom. We should know also that it is better for the kids if they can experience themselves rather than asking them to visualize. I mean, I know people say that kids are full of great imagination, but if we don’t lead them then how would we know we have pressed the right button? I believe in concrete to abstract concept in Montessori teaching because once my kids have got the concrete concept, it is easy for them to grasp the next lesson for they have it imprinted on their mind. The thing I love most about young learners is that they have always been enthusiastic in knowing new things, they cannot wait to be able to master something. The problems are a lot too, but mostly come from the outside, like from the parents. The biggest thing for me would be parents who are questioning our approach and skeptical about it, because I believe in teaching young learners, we need trust from them as we must have their support and sometimes it is not an easy case. I am very lucky that the parents of my class now back me and it has made it easier to give my all for their children.
4. What is the ELT scene like in Indonesia?
I must say I don’t know much as I haven’t been in touch with TEFLIN (the ELT organization I belong to) for quite some time as I am now teaching kindergarten rather than English – but I would say that it is still kind of divided in groups for we haven’t got a strong foundation. It is merely a political thing as each year there has always been some sort of new change in the school curriculum that can lead up to changes in English lesson too. Teachers here are trying hard to cope with the latest in ELT world, and I think we’re doing pretty well though we have lots to conquer still.
5. When you are not teaching, what do you do in your free time?
Oh, I love reading! And watching TV channels like NatGeo or NatGeo adventure , Animal planet and the Food channel. I love cooking, I cook a lot for my class and involve them in my cooking activity. I also love playing around with my 4 (soon to be more) cats!
6. What are your plans for your career in the future?
Simply being a better teacher. As I was introduced to Montessori teaching 2 years ago, I’d love to learn more about it, if possible attend a class on it. I would also love to engage in more discussion like #ELTChat or #ASIAElt to improve myself and my teaching. Hopefully I can contribute more to the education in Indonesia.
Icha, thank you so much! ELT and education are very lucky to have you.