Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer adventures: #30Goals E-Conference: Reflections

Somewhere along with the beginning of the year, I got a message from Shelly asking me a simple question: "Would you like to be a keynote at the 1st #30Goals E-Conference?"
My answer: "Who would say no to this?"

So summer came and here I was!
I have to say that I always look forward to these summer conferences! I get to meet people, learn new things.... and #30Goals is not just a movement for me... it's a cause... it's something that keeps me alive.

This time I asked to help out as well.... So I was behind the scenes for Vicky Loras, Marjana Smolec, Naomi Epstein, my "on the air partner" Fabiana Casella and my best friend Christina Chorianopoulou. I got really stressed out because people did not actually ask questions, but expressed themselves with comments and I was not sure which one to mention first!
I got stressed out because some times there were technical issues, like with Vicky when we could not see her slides.

I got to see a lot of wonderful talks starting with 11-year old Joshua Williams and his organization to help poor people.
I got the chance to see my friend Sylvia Guinan describing her wonderful work, which I admire very much!

My "On the air partner" Cristina Silva and all the wonderful student exchanges she takes part in!
I got to meet Rosemary Ribera, Sarah Thomas and Jake Duncan on the rehearsals, I watched (live and recordings) the one and only Tyson Seburn, Rose Bard (I love her calmness) and Debora Tepovich ( I love her energy), Noah Geisel who also said something about the "Be someone's hero"movement, Cecilia Lemos and Teacher Burnout (I have always admired Cecilia btw), Ayat Al Tawal and the work she does with her students and my personal friend Vicky Papageorgiou talking about blogging.

I have to say a big thank you to everyone who mentioned me (I love you guys!!)

Coming to my keynote:

#30 goals hero from Theodora Papapanagiotou

 I talked about my best friend and how he inspired me to do something and raise the awareness of my students on disabilities and chronic conditions. It was not much of educational suggestions and I thought that my keynote should not be strictly about teaching English.
I have to thank Shelly for letting me have this opportunity, for all the badges and her book Learning to Go  and I would gladly be a part of this again (behind or in front of the scenes!)


Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer adventures 2015: 15 minutes of fame!

A couple of weeks ago, I received an interesting e-mail asking me for an interview!!
Andromahi, a student if Warwick University decided to interview me among other Greek teacher-bloggers for her dissertation.
It felt a bit strange, since I am not a famous blogger nor do I have a fancy blog full of lesson plans.
I would describe my blog mostly as a reflective one, and I don't think I have many readers but anyway!
I was really happy to help Andromahi out with her work! And when we had our Skype call I met the sweetest, most enthusiastic girl in the world, treating me like a rock star!!!!

I thought I could post some of the questions she asked with the answers- which may be a bit different because I never remember what I say LOL! ( these questions are great for a blog post btw!)
  • How long have you been blogging? Forever? I think I was one of the first in Thessaloniki to blog after Craig Wherlock (who I met through his blog btw. and I am very grateful that I met him and got in the world of blogging!!!)
  • Why did you start blogging? Because it's a great way to express yourself, to show your work to let off steam!! (I usually do that in my Greek blog and I am always nagging in that one!!)
  • How do you choose the postings? I write when I feel like it! I have some titles in my little "goal-list", but I write whenever I have to say something - may it be work of feelings!
  • Why do you continue blogging? What does motivate you? Because I LOVE expressing myself!!
  •  Has blogging changed your professional life in any way?Through blogging and blog challenges I have met wonderful teachers from around the world, I have learned new things, I have taken part in conventions (online or live) and I have actually found a wonderful job!!! So I guess it's worth it!!!
Summer adventures 2015 to be continued...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Adventures 2015: Translating

Actually this is not a "summer job", but an all-year-round job.
My favourite type of texts and what I prefer doing is working on articles that have to do with sports, new types of exercises and trends,  muscles, injuries, rehabilitation...
I just love this kind of terminology, I love doing research, watch videos on the subject, learn new things I can also use on my training!
What I have learned this summer:
If you have pain in a joint, the problem probably lies on the joint above or below... So if you have knee pain, it's probably because of your ankle or your hip...
In order to be a great coach, you have to have relationship of understanding and trust with your trainees. That goes for teachers as well (my comment).
And also... the speed ladder is useless... it does not help in co-ordination if you are not a kid the movements you do cannot be applied at any sport.... (this is a message to my cross-training instructor btw)
More to come!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer adventures 2015: IELTS teaching and learning

One of the things I have been doing this summer is ... getting informed!
In our job, it is necessary to be informed in what's going on with exams, old and new, books, new editions ... you always have to know. Things change, methods change and also people need to take other kind of exams.
Years ago, people just wanted a certificate in order to use it for a future job or just to prove that they can speak a language. I usually had young learners. Nowadays, people tend to take other kinds of exams, usually because they want to study or work abroad or ESP (Business English or something to help them in their jobs)
Last year I took an iTDi course with Vicki Hollett about Business English which helped me a lot and gave me the strength to open a new horizon and get new customers.
This year, although I have had students taking IELTS, I decided to do a little more research, since this is the "job" of the future! I have discovered a beautiful course about the exam from Future learn, it is mainly a description of the exam with some examples and lots of links that could help a learner. It is not a preparation course, but describes in detail what is all about.
Some more links I have found interesting: 
I am sure that you can find more links, info, free tests if you google around!
Take care and good luck!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer adventures 2015 - part 1: Dutch learning

Summer has come again and it is the first time I don't feel useless, since I am working full time since February!! I have to say that I am fighting SAD with a lot of confidence this year. But I'll write about both in another post.
Like every summer, I am not teaching much, since almost all my students are on holiday. School exams are over, language exams are over  I only have one student taking exams next month (and I am writing about her some other time as well), so this means free more evenings for me.
Free time is limited, but at least there is some free time.
This summer I have "discovered" a site called "Future Learn" , where you can actually learn a lot of interesting things. I enrolled in various courses and the first one which had my complete attention was a beginner course for Dutch. I had started Dutch a long time ago, even before my son was born, with a private tutor at home!! I loved the language - I always considered it something between English and German. Let's say an easy German or a difficult English....
  • If you speak both languages, this can be both a blessing and a problem. It gives you the sense that you can understand everything, but sometimes the words that remind you of a familiar word mean something else. There are a lot of false friends between Dutch and German / English.  For example: 
Bellen: in German it means "bark", in Dutch it means "call on the phone"
Meer: in German "sea", in Dutch "lake"
beef : in English the meat beef, in Dutch "tremble", "earthquake"
boom: in English a big sound, in Dutch the "tree"
  • Dutch Grammar is a n easy version of German in my opinion. If you know the rules in German, this is a piece of cake
  •  Pronunciation IS a big problem. I still can't pronounce words like "mooi" or "huis" correctly. It needs a lot of practice. 
  • Listening comprehension is also a problem, if you listen to native speakers, since they talk really fast for a beginner and there are sounds you cannot even pronounce yourself!!!
All in all I am happy with my progress... 
This course is designed for 3 weeks, which in my opinion is impossible, since it also has a lot of video lessons and detailed Quizlet exercises.
 They are also giving you the chance to get a certificate with a small cost, which I am probably going to do. 
So, that's it for now!
You can find information about the differences between Dutch and German / English over here and here!!

BTW with this one, I have managed to fulfill 18 of my 30 New Year's small goals!!  

Keep learning and enjoy your summer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Joanna's #firsttimetaching

Hey, I know this took me ages and I apologise for that.  I just wanted it to reflect the EXACT feelings I had all those years ago (which let me tell you took me a while to remember!)  and not just write some generic crap which sounds good, you know?  Anyway, please let me know what you think and more importantly if I got the gist of what you wanted this to be about.
Thanks again Theodora.  J

I remember feeling extremely nervous and afraid as I walked into my first adult class 20 years ago.  I remember thinking that I was nuts to think I was prepared for this.  I had no clue what I was walking into because I had no formal training.  Actually, I had NO training whatsoever, formal or basic.  So, I think my feelings of trepidation were well justified.
My employer told me that it was a piece of cake.   I had the books and the entire school’s library at my disposal.  There was one problem though; I had to KNOW what I was doing.  I was walking into a classroom filled with adults who were expecting me to guide them towards their goal. Feeling a great deal of pressure would be an understatement.

As I look back, it was also the misguided assumption I had of how I was “supposed” to project myself. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a “cool” teacher like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds.  I mean who wouldn’t want to be like Michelle Pfeiffer?
However, it takes more than throwing candy bars at your students, and talking about everything under the sun to create a feeling of unity/ progress in the classroom.  These students were adults who were paying a hefty fee to learn English because each and every one of them was there for a serious reason and not to be best buddies with their teacher.  My mistake. 

That said, I wasn’t completely in the dark, I got familiar with the books and knew what my goal was for the year so I tried to prepare as best I could, yet I still felt that I was missing the main piece of the puzzle.  I felt that whatever I did just didn’t quite meet my class’s expectations.  My lack of formal training always made me feel that I had to work harder to prove myself.   That’s the way I saw it.  I know that it’s only natural to feel nervous when you first start out, but my feelings were magnified because of it.  And let me tell you, feelings of inadequacy don’t do much to boost your confidence. 

That has been rectified.  I did not continue teaching for a couple of years, but took courses in teaching to prepare myself and be better qualified the next time I walked into a classroom.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that having the books and going by the books wasn’t enough to make me a good teacher.  For me, it was mandatory to have some type of basic / formal knowledge in teaching.  Just because I’m a native speaker didn’t mean I was qualified to teach. 

In retrospect my first classroom experience wasn’t the catastrophe I’m making it out to be, but I know that if I had had some type of training, I would have felt much more confident about my abilities.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

German teaching one-day-conference in AUTh - Impressions

It's my first time in this kind of conference, I have to say. Although my first "specialization" is in DaF (teaching German as a foreign language), the way they "spread" this kind of information from the University is a bit limited. I got a message from Goethe Institut's newsletter that there was going to be a conference, but the deadlines, if you wanted to present had already passed. That is a pity, though, because presenting in German is one of my next goals. Anyway no problem there, I'll be more careful next time I guess...
It's also sad to say that I felt like a stranger because when I went there, in the beginning I knew nobody.... (in contrast with the ELT field, when I go to seminars and conventions, I know everybody and everybody knows me...) That's really sad, I guess...
When time passed though, I met some of my old professors and one of my fellow "classmates" ( I don't really know if this is the correct word - do you have classmates at university? anyway....)
I will not go into each of the presentations I saw, but I will just comment.
  • My impression was that there was too much theory, I mean only lectures and presentations of work. No direct workshop and learning by doing (as a kinaesthetic person that's the best way I learn actually)
  • There was a mix-up on "blended learning" in one of the presentations. Except the fact that there was again too much theory, which is acceptable and I have a lot of respect towards a person who has studied so much and has been into research and owns so many degrees and doctorates, but.... "Blended learning" is exactly what the word suggests: "Blended" (auf Deutsch: gemischt). It does not have to do so much with complete learner autonomy. This means that we use the computer, the podcast, the film, the moodle (or whatever else) together with face to face teaching (or skype or whatever form of communication). The computer does not abolish the teacher. 
  • All the projects I have seen were really interesting. I believe that the teachers have done really great work. All the projects I have seen were done in public schools with e-twinning (or alike) programs. I am really glad that there are some teachers who work with the kids this way. What happens with us who are not in the public sector though and DO NOT have access to e-twinning, teachers4europe and this kind of things?
  • I also have to say that things that we have been doing for years in the private sector  and in the ELT (like projects, games, kinaesthetic activities) are considered a luxury in the public sector and again my hat off to people in the public sector who devote the time to do it. But.... I am sorry, I have not learned anything new. I don't want to criticize anyone and I don't consider myself the best teacher there is... but there are a lot of us who have been doing things like that for years now, but do not have people to support us and remain unknown for some reason.
  • Another thing I did not like was that public teachers were characterized in the conference schedule as ΠΕ07 while private sector teachers were characterized as "German teachers". For God's shake, we have all graduated from the same faculty!!!!
  • Next year I am applying for a presentation. I am convinced that we need an active workshop to lighten things up a bit. ( I know that after this critique I might not be accepted but anyway....)

It was nice to see my buddy Kostas Ververis and remember the good old college times, dear  Gianna Kerkinopoulou and my facebook friend Sofia Modrinou! Keep up the good work guys!!!