Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lerner autonomy?

Long after Sugata Mitra's Iatefl plenary about how children learn on their own and so many blogs and negative reactions on this subject, I decided it was about time I wrote something about it.

Surprisingly enough I was not annoyed by what I saw and heard. I was a bit surprised with the "passionate" reactions of many teachers around the world.
In my opinion, this was not an experiment against teachers. I do not think that teachers will ever be replaced by machines.
But how about autonomy to the learners?

Here's what I found on the dictionary:


noun \-ˈtä-nə-mē\ : the state of existing or acting separately from others

Do our learners feel the need to do something on their own?  Or do they need a "push"?
From my little experience so far, every learner is different. We cannot apply the same methods to everybody.
Some students want to learn, some don't.
Some are self-motivated, some are not motivated at all.
Some want to come to our lessons, some are obliged to come.

So for me, it has to do with the personality of the students.

Let me give you some examples of some students:

N., a straight A student, detested English just because her school teacher made her learn 20 pages of vocabulary by heart, with no sense of purpose whatsoever. The vocabulary is there to be learned, the exercises are there to be done.
Result: N. had unanswered questions, no motivation, no goal, felt useless, had bad marks, felt bad about herself.
Now she has the chance to work with somebody else, new technology, lots of research on the internet about things she likes (music, fashion etc). Does she learn the vocabulary? yes, sometimes she learns even more? Does she do extra activities and grammar- voc. exercises? More than she has to... Does she work alone?  She is completely autonomous. Why? Because now she has the motivation to do it.

Second example. I. a young adult, unemployed wants to find a job in a foreign country. Intensive lessons with lots of materials. Lot's of studying on his own, the teacher is only there to guide him. Does he learn? Again yes... Why? because he has the motivation to do it!

Last one: A. 15, school-student, lazy, goes to school only because he has too. Teacher gives him the same homework with first student N. Does he do it? Not all of it! Will he do extra? Probably not! Will he do it if the teacher or the parent is there beside him? Yes, he will!
This autonomy thing isn't working for him!

So there are different factors in learning.
Will the children learn how to play a game even if it the instructions are in Swahili? They will probably make it!!

I did an experiment myself some years back. I got a football game for the PlayStation and changed the language to Dutch. My son was 5 at the time knowing only  his mother tongue (Greek) and some basic English). He managed to play. Not because he is cleverer than any other child nor because he had somebody to explain. It's because he wanted to.

So, I guess our jobs as teachers is to make them want to learn, make them curious,with or without us.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pecha Kucha evening, TESOL Macedonia-Thrace convention 2014 - Reflections

 When I first saw people taking part in the Pecha Kucha event in 2013, I immediately knew that I wanted to do this. I knew what I wanted to say before summer!
Of course I didn't know that TESOL would give me the chance, but I had started writing this back in September.
The text changed and changed and changed!!
Until the time came! And I had the luck of presenting with 7 more wonderful people!!!
In the beginning I just froze... I mean I had never talked in front of so many people!!
I was the only one talking about personal experiences, I don't really know if people liked what I said, I just poured my heart out.
This Pecha Kucha was definitely the challenge of the year! (Moving on to the next!)

I'd like to thank the TESOL Mac-Thrace board for giving me the opportunity to do this, and all my co-speakers:
Margarita Kosior: MC
Kieran Donaghy , Božica Šarić- Cvjetković, Dimitris Primalis, Despina Karamitsou, Katerina Kiriakidou, Efi Tzouri, Despina Vardaki

Original post on TESOL's blog over here 

P.S. I go fourth ( at 26:15)!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vicky's Human Touch

This year I had the luck and the honor to take part in a wonderful TESOL convention, right here in my "neighborhood", in my hometown, Thessaloniki.

I loved this convention because it mostly had to do with the people.... Their dedication to do something different, to contribute in one way or another.

Another reason why I have these wonderful memories, was my friend, my internet-sister, Vicky Loras, who was able to join us.

Except for her wonderful company, Vicky held two presentations, a very informative workshop on professional development online ( report on this  in the TESOL Macedonia-Thace blog - by myself, yes I insisted doing this!!) and a very emotional (for all of us) plenary talk, called the Human Touch.

Call me a fool, but I couldn't stop crying... Not only because she mentions me in her talk, which is a great honor.
I got really emotional, because I can see that there ARE teachers in the world who actually care more about the kids then the exams.
I am glad to see teachers with no means whatsoever to fight for their students' right to learn.
I could see Vicky being one of those teachers.

I feel so blessed that Vicky is my friend, not just a fb acquaintance, but a person who really cares.
A big thank you for being there!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The #Sandwichreflection

Recently I was tagged by Joanna Malefaki on a very interesting challenge. In her blog she describes how her year was, reflecting on positive and negative experiences.

So I thought, why not?

The sandwich 


Good moment- accomplishment

The year started with me organizing the first on-my-own project, "On the air". I was not actually "on my own" since there were four wonderful teachers and a bunch of very gifted students all around the world taking part in this, but it was the first time that I actually had to organize something by myself.
It was a great feeling to make your ideas happen and an even greater feeling that I saw that my colleagues believed in my idea, worked hard on this and the results were excellent!! 

My weeknesses

Every year has negative moments as well... sometimes you know why, sometimes you don't.
  • In the beginning of the year, I started with a new student and after a few lessons they stopped with no particular reason. It got to me, because I am always open to discussion and always try to work things out. (Story here) I guess I will never know...
  • Sometime before Christmas (and just before the exams) I had some parents doubt my way of teaching. I know I am NOT perfect. But doing things behind my back really did hurt. I say it again, I am always open to discussion. From what I found our way later, these kids did not pass their exams. And I know that they are going to blame me because I didn't insist on doing 100 tests before the exam, but one thing I have to say. So many kids did pass the exams my way. Yes I do have responsibility for my students' failures, but I am not the only one. When the students pass an exam, nobody says it's entirely because of the teacher, but because of the students' hard work. 

A few more good moments

  • The rest of my students did pass their exams with honours (A's and B's) and I've had people who found jobs and got accepted to universities abroad having no problem with the foreign language at all, which I consider an even bigger success.
  • I have set a goal plan and I keep completing and adding small goals every day, so I make my days more interesting and I try to make myself  more useful both in my personal and my professional life.
  • I completed my dream of going to a School of fitness and acquiring the Spinning instructor diploma (I know that I will probably never find work in this section, but I consider this a big accomplishment) 

My action plan:


  • Continue writing on my goal diary. It has helped me a lot to find myself!
  • When I start with new students, I have to be clear to parents on my work plan. I have to tell them what I do and what I don't do and how I feel about certain teaching methods. This way I can avoid misunderstandings and everybody will be happy.
  • Keep having dreams. Yes, dreams do come true (most of the time)
I did enjoy this school year. More to come .... Every day IS a new adventure. And even if it's not, we make it happen!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

#30Goals Challenge : Me Manifesto

I have always wanted to make something like that!
Here is my Me Manifesto: Follow this link:


Monday, June 9, 2014

#30Goals Challenge: Learn to play

This challenge was proposed by Dave Dogson and it is about "gamification".
To tell you the truth, when I heard this term, I didn't really know what it meant... I still don't ...

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, such as to improve user engagement, physical exercise, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning. A review of research on gamification shows that most studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.

(From Wikipedia)

As I understand it, it is using the games to make students produce language...
So I thought of 3 ways to make that happen:

  • Ask students to talk about their favourite game. You don't necessarily have to make a video, they could just talk in class about it or write a composition about it. Below is a video of my student Alex describing his fave game.
  •  Students can go further and use power point and make a presentation on the subject. You can organize a "Game-day", they can invite friends and family to see what their "project" is all about.
  • Or, in a more advanced level, ask students to write a guide how to play this game, with tips and explanations.
And don't forget! Always have fun!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My first online course... impressions

May was a really wonderful month full of knowledge...
I've had the luck of taking part in ITD's Contrasting Conversations course with John Fanselow.
It was the first time I have tried something like that.
First of all I have to say that all the advice and suggestions John gave us, made me see my teaching way differently.
Recording and transcribing our lessons does help us see what went wrong, what we did right and how would somebody else sees what we do.

Lots of interesting people talking part from all over the world with lots of different views.

John Fanselow is an amazing professional, with good words for everybody and time to answer privately to all messages (I don't really know how he does it!! I really admired him for that)
I did the first assignment completely wrong because I didn't understand what  we were supposed to do, but he appreciated the fact that I had a different aspect of the task.

Unfortunately I have not completed all the assignments, due to to lack of time and workload and the fact that I am not disciplined enough to work on my own. This is something to work on...

Taking part in ITDi's course was a wonderful experience which I am sure will help me improve myself as a teacher, not only in the present but continue to evaluate myself as the time passes.

I would highly recommend  an ITDi course to every teacher for personal and professional development.