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!!!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Weekends #reflectiveteacher #paragraphblogging

While browsing on the net to find something to write about, I found a really interesting blogging challenge.  Although this challenge has ended last year, found some very challenging questions I would LOVE to answer!!!
First one... What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching??
To be honest, I can't tell that I am having a rest at the weekends!! I continue working, sometimes even more hours on Saturdays...
Sundays are a bit different, I usually have the mornings off...
This means, I do not teach, but, I have to do the housework (cook, clean, do laundry and everything I cannot do on weekdays), plus studying an planning for the next week, a webinar or a seminar maybe and off to teach in the late afternoon...
I don't know if this helps...
On the one hand, weekends and holidays are important, first because we need the rest and the time to do what we like, "re-charge" batteries...
On the other hand I am a person who cannot actually sit around do nothing... Some people are like that, they return home from work and just lie down or sit on the couch and do not move...
Sometimes I am so tired from work and I sleep really early, but if I stay laze for more than a day, I get crazy....
I try to find ways to keep busy...
Summer holidays make me mad!!!
So I don't really know if weekends and resting actually help my teaching except maybe that it gives me time to plan the next week...
(I am strange, I know....)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Let's Roll the Dice - Games with Dice for Young Learners - Guest Post by Vicky Loras

It's a great honour to have the one and only Vicky Loras write a guest post for my blog!! Enjoy!!!


Games with Dice for Young Learners

A few years ago, I saw a few teachers from Canada discussing story cubes. Up to then, I had no idea what they were, nor how they were used. Then they explained, after my asking them, that they were using a specific brand of story cubes to help their students develop their storytelling skills.
One brand I later on used myself (not advertising them here, there are many kinds but mentioning which ones I use) are Rory’s Story Cubes. There are many kinds: action, voyages and so on. Each box has 9 dice, which in turn have pictures on every side. The kids take them, shake them and throw them on a surface, a table, the floor and depending on which pictures land face up, they then have to make up a story, either orally or even written! They absolutely LOVE them! The stories they come up with are so cute and funny – sometimes dramatic…with a funny ending which crack us all up! The important thing is that they learn through having fun. They practise vocabulary, grammar, everything.
If you do not want to buy them, another even more creative idea would be to make your own. There are a lot of free templates online. Then you can download them print them on heavy paper and have the kids draw their own pictures on them. A colleague, Evridiki Dakos wraps them in clear tape to laminate them – and she makes big ones out of carton boxes!
The possibilities are endless. Have fun

Monday, April 20, 2015

How it all started - Guest post by Anastasia Pistopoulou

 It's a great pleasure to host another wonderful person on my blog. Anastasia used to be one of my very first students. She has always been diligent, hard-working and enthusiastic learner. Now she is all that as well as a passionate educator and a loving mother. Here is her post on her first time teaching:

To be honest, I don’t remember details of the first time I entered a classroom. I do remember that I had just graduated from the School of English (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and found a job at a foreign language centre. I mainly taught grammar at all levels, from beginners to C2 level.
Although I had chosen to become a teacher in order to make lessons more interesting to learners, my first thoughts were to do the basics so as to “survive” having to deal with 10 children at the same time! The number sounds small, but this isn’t how you see it when you are totally inexperienced!
“The basics” meant that I explained the relevant grammar rule and then proceeded with exercises and lots of homework. That seems to be enough, right? That’s what I thought then, but completely changed my mind a few years later. Incorporating engaging activities that make learning meaningful has been an integral part of my teaching since then. Every year I think about my learners’ needs and interests and try to renew my creative activities.
Anastasia Pistopoulou is a BA holder of English Language and Literature (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). She has been working as a permanent English teacher at secondary schools in Greece since 2004 and since 2013 she has been teaching at the 2nd Vocational Senior Highschool (EPA.L.) of Amaliada.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Once upon a time....

A few weeks ago I asked my dear friend and colleague Theodore Lalos to write a guest post for my blog and he asked me if I had a particular subject in mind. I know that free writing is really difficult, so I said, why don't you write about your first time teaching?
When his post came out I thought ... this could be a great blog challenge!
So I am too going to write about my#firsttimeteaching today!

Well, I was still in my last year at the Aristoteles University, studying German lit. and language. In fact I only had 2 or 3 exams to get my degree, but I had to wait for a year since the one course was from the winter semester and the other two from the spring semester. So imagine that this was almost a gap year for me.
I had already started tutoring my cousins from my first year at the university but this does not really count for me.

That summer I went around the city giving out my CV to almost every language school there was, east, west, north and south, went through endless job interviews - people were saying to me, you are inexperienced, you don't have your diploma yet, but I kept going.
In the end I found a "job" for 3 hours a week, German beginners, kids.
My employer did not have a clue on teaching German, so I had to go to various book exhibitions and book stores and get the books, which was good because I  got the ones I liked!
So I put on my good clothes and make up, got my books and went into the classroom.
I did not know anything about pedagogy, methodology, psychology.
Just got in and started writing letters on the board "teaching" them the alphabet.
The kids were really curious to see what tis new language was about, so thank God for me they were not bored!
After practicing the letters and pronunciation we started talking about Germany showed them pictures and maps and then taught them some fixed phrases like "what's your name" and  "how are you"?
When I finished my lesson I was really happy that I pulled this through.... but now I know that I was not prepared well. I did not have a lesson plan, did  not ask advice from anyone, did not lay any games to make it more interesting for the kids.
This was the beginning ... during these 20 years I keep making mistakes, learning and sharing....

You can find the #firsttimeteaching posts over here:
The tale of a not that good novice teacher by Theodore Lalos
My First Lesson by Vicky Loras
How it all started by Anastasia Pistopoulou
First time teaching & first blog challenge by Rachel Daw 
Value the unexpected by Sophia Khan 
In Reverse by Christina Chorianopoulou 
Joanna Tsiolakis #firsttimeteaching experience
Waiting for your contributions. Send me a message if you would like to be on this list!