Monday, April 7, 2014

#30GoalsEDU: Get rid of the unnecessary weight

Thinking about Hana's goal... We are all carrying some kind of burden in our personal or professional life...
It reminded me of the last time I worked at a language school actually.
First of all, I have to say that I am NOT against language schools. Most of the owners do give their life in there, fighting as teachers, as administrators, as accountants, as everything...


Let me take things from the beginning...
At the very first moment of the job interview, I knew it would be a challenge... The boss seemed like a really "strong" person and I knew that a lot would be demanded from me...
That's why I accepted the job... I am not afraid of hard work... I love being in a classroom...

What I experienced of course was something very different.... Yes, A LOT was demanded from us teachers, yes, the control was unbearable, written reports every single day, comments on students every single day, meetings every week, staying up late almost everyday, phone calls at midnight to organize the next day's lessons, too much material to be covered, very competitive colleagues, no co-operation whatsoever.

NO TIME for personal life (not that I have that much of free time now but it is different)

YES at the end of the year, they let me go... (I was too expensive and too rebelious they thought)
YES I would have stayed, because I work for a living, I needed the money....
YES it did me good to leave, good for my sanity...

I miss working in a classroom.... but I think it was the right move to work independently for a while.
What happens now? Well Nobody can predict the future...
Be well...

Monday, March 31, 2014

#30GoalsEDU: A case study

When I suggested this particular goal, I had a couple of students in mind, that were a "particular" case to study, but, I soon realized that each and every one of our students are a "Case study", more or less...
 As Vicky Loras said in her plenary talk yesterday at the TESOL Macedonia Thrace Convention, they are not mixed-ability classes, but "multy- human classes"
Let me give you the definition of this collocation first:
Case study
A detailed analysis of a person or group, especially as a model of medical, psychiatric, psychological, or social phenomena.
So, why do we use this term only when something "bad" happens?
 Maybe because the "good" students, "great" achievements, "big" accomplishments are something to be expected?
What happens to the other students, who have problems in their families, who are going through a hard time with puberty, who have learning difficulties? Are they our "case studies"? 
Let me share a story of a student now:
When I started teaching , it was my second, third year, I was assigned with this class, second year German, students in their early teens.
Among them:
  • A very good student, very serious, talked like an adult actually, very organized, very strict with herself and with others.
  • A student with learning difficulties, could not write well, mixed the letters, could not read well, mixed the words, parents did not admit he had a problem, refused to seek professional help, student trying soooo hard to keep up with the class, with no result.
  • The school- gossip, a girl in her teens who had to know everything and tell it to everybody.... Sign of puberty? sign of character?
  • The class "entertainer", who always had to do something "funny" because he had to...
  • And last but not least... the classroom "bully"... this guy just had to do something bad to EVERYONE, including the teacher (that would be me... )
I have to confess that in Greece, when you study to be a teacher, they don't teach you psychology, they don't teach you classroom management (at least when I used to go to university, we just studied the language we were going to teach and some kind of methodology) 

As an inexperienced and untrained teacher, I didn't quite know how to handle the situation... Not to mention that I did not have any kind of support from the director of the school (all students are clients, therefore money...)

So, avoid the problem? Ignore it is not happening? 
Back then I felt so frustrated... Now when I think about it, after so many years, I am calm... 

  • Good students never bothered me... On the one had it is really annoying when somebody does everything for the good grade and becomes hysterical when they don't get it, but that's not a real problem... the real problem is when the parent becomes hysterical if their child gets an A minus!!
  • The learning disabilities ARE a problem, especially if you are not trained to deal with it...What to do? Try and convince the parents to do the best for their child...
  • The school - gossip? Well... IGNORE?
  •  The "entertainer" Well these kids need attention... why? Maybe they don't get it at home? Usually they are very clever... Give them responsibilities, thank and praise them... Yes it works..
  • Well the "bully" ... this is a problem.... Punish? Will it make a difference? Being strict never made the difference... These kids need attention, support and not punishment... Can we find out about them? What happens at home? Who's to blame for such behavior?
I am sure that all of us have encountered such "case studies".
How do you deal with them? Any particular ones?  Care to share?

Thoughts on this year's TESOL Macedonia Thrace Conention

Monday morning, 31st of March! A very full weekend has come to an end!! To my surprise I don't feel tired at all... It has been a wonderful weekend full of people, new experiences, new ideas, new friends.

First of all it's been a great honour to be in Kieran Donaghy's plenary talk and presentation! He shared with us so many interesting ideas, I owe him A LOT (My lessons wouldn't be the same without them)

 The Pecha Kucha event... well... what can I say?
It was a frightening experience (LOL)... No, it wasn't, although I froze for a moment and I was really nervous... I have never spoken in front so many people in  my life!! What I said come from my heart (although I think I was the only person who spoke about personal experiences)! A big thank you to all who came and congrats to all my other co-presenters!! You all made a difference in this!

 What made a real difference this year is that I met my dear friend Vicky Loras again face to face. She has been a real inspiration for me, a friend, a supporter,  a mentor, somebody who has been encouraging me again and again...
A big thank you for your mention in your plenary presentation.
I knew she was going to speak about me, but I hadn't actually realize that she values me so much....
Vicky words are not enough... You made me cry from happiness... Thank you...
 I have met some really wonderful educators these past days, I had lots of fun, learned an awful lot, re-charged my batteries... The presentations and the plenaries I have been to were all wonderful and informative. A big thanks to Maria Sachpazian for her continuous support ( I will always say that - ΒΤW Fantastic presentation, I loved it)

 I have to apologize though, because I couldn't go to everybody's presentations. It's not that I didn't  want to, it's that I had to write reports for the TESOL Macedonia blog and I was assigned to different rooms!!!
 I have to thank my dear student Eleni Vasdoka who dedicated her whole Sunday to help me with the interviews and the pictures!! You made the difference dear...

Another person I would like to thank is my partner in crime, Jo Psarra, for co-operating and for your hard work and support. (BTW, Spread Literature into the world was a big hit! Congrats)

My experience as a roving reporter was exhilarating.... Although I was running around all the time, I had so much fun.... Guys, I am going to do this again, that's a threat!!! :P 

All in all I'd like to thank the board for giving me the chance to challenge myself.
Now that everything is over, let's plan our next endeavors...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The time has come!!!

TESOL Macedonia Thrace convention is just around the corner and  this time I am more actively involved into it  and I just can't wait!!!
I have to say that Thessaloniki's convention is becoming better and better every year with some wonderful speakers around the world.
Four great Plenaries, a Pecha Kucha Event and a reception party.
I will not mention the speakers, everybody who is part of this convention are people with lots of new ideas, determination, willing to share their thoughts with the rest of us.
There will be some very experienced and well known educators, but also some new educators with lots to say.
So this time I would like to ask you people to give a chance to the "new blood" and support them anyway we can  to "open their wings" to the ELT world.

I'd like to thank the board for giving me the chance to take part to the Pecha Kucha, it's a dream come true, actually, although I know that I will be the only person who is going to talk about personal experiences, I will give it a try!!
I'd also like to thank Jo Psarra, George Raptopoulos, Maria Sachpazian and Vicky Loras for their constant support and my new friend Theodore Lalos for his very valuable observations and suggestions!!!
Keeping it short because you will get sick and tired of me (don't forget Jo Psarra and myself will be reporting live the whole weekend from ACT!)
Waiting to see you all this weekend!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We are on the air! (TESOL Greece 35th convention)

We're on the air from Theodora Pap

As promised I uploaded my presentation for the 2014 Athens convention! This was a collaborative project between my students  and Georgia's students in Greece and students from 3 more countries; Argentina, Czech Republic and Portugal.

You can find our videos over here
And the views of the colleagues and wonderful educators who took part:
Hana Ticha
Christina Monteiro
Fabiana Cassela
Georgia Psarra talked to us live at the convention, that's why I don't have her view over here.

A big thank you to the students and the teachers who participated, to all the people who came to see it and to my friends and colleagues who took all these wonderful pictures and videos, which you'll find on our facebook group

Monday, March 17, 2014

Assessing the unassessed (TESOL GREECE 35th Convention)

Although, this is not exactly my field, I always attend Maria Sachpazian's presentations, since I get to know something new, something that happens beyond teaching, something that has to do with schools as a "business".
This time Maria explores the subject "School assessment"

First question:
Why should a school be assessed?
  • to set quality standards
  • to change infective practices
  • to ensure continuing investment on the outcomes of teaching
  • to make sure we stay on course
How can we tell if a school is good?
What is the difference between experts and non-experts?

What happens to the data collected after an evaluation?
Might evaluation impede teaching?

Evaluation is complicated.
 We should consider:
  • Relationship issues
  • CPP/UR issues
  • student achievement
  •  Added value
  • Accountability
  • Educational issues
One thing is for sure, Maria gave School owners Food for thought!!
And as the person next to me said: "This is  one very sensible lady!"

You can find Maria's presentation (the real stuff) over here!

Spread literature into the world (TESOLGREECE 35th convention)

Since I have been following this project step by step from the very beginning, it was natural that I would be THERE!
Georgia Psarra is on of the most dedicated, committed and enthusiastic people (and educators) I have ever met and George Raptopoulos is a person with vast knowledge and experience and a wonderful presenter.

The project is a wonderful idea of having the students translate or should I say interpret Greek Literature (poems and texts) into English.
Since it is not  a word to word translation, the students get to talk a lot (in the target language ) in order to understand and realise the meaning of each text or poem.

 ( I loved the quality of the paper and the colors in the leaflet, it is definitely something I am going to keep)

Both Jo and George explained to us the steps of their work.
We were then shown videos of the children's views of the project, as well as a song composed by one of their students inspired by the poem they were working on.

This was really a wonderful job by both the teachers and their students. A big bravo!