Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Trust is everything (story of a student)

As a tutor, I have to do with people. Students and parents.
I am the person who goes to their home very often.
I am the person who meets the whole family.
I am the person who sees everybody in their pyjamas (most kids don't even bother to put other clothes on)
I am the person who has to be trusted, since parents are not always at home.
I am not only a language teacher, I am the babysitter, I am the psychologist, I am the councillor, I am the friend, I am the trusted adult.
So, it is crucial from the very beginning to have a good co-operation with the parents. If the parents trust me and my work and work with me, it is way easier for me to do my job.
I have never seen my job as a real job. I mean it is a paying job and I need the money to support my own family, but... my students will always be "my kids". That's why I try to keep in touch and I am so grateful that the kids keep in touch as well, even the ones who have grown up.

This time I am going to tell a story.
A story of a student.
Somebody had recommended me and I went to meet her and her parents.
She was a shy girl, an early teen.
Very different from the teens I know (as a mother of a teen myself)
A very bright girl who was not in a hurry to grow up.
An excellent student.
But... The thing with English learning....
Every time she attempted to go to an English school, she failed. Due to health problems, she had to miss a lot of classes during the winter. When she returned, she couldn't catch up with the others.
Although she studied the books, although she knew the rules by heart. She just couldn't...
So she started hating the language. She didn't find it necessary to learn. It was just another subject, right?
Well, the first year with me, she kept trying to learn the rules.
I tried to reach her, to find what interested her, tried to give her the motive to go on.
We put the course-book aside and started reading fairytales and books and watch movies in English. I went really slow at first.
The first year at school was difficult as well. In the final school exams she didn't do that well. Her mum was annoyed. After all we had been working for a year but she didn't know any grammar rules (?)
I asked her to give me one more year.
She did. The next year the girl got more confident. Again, we did not have to do much with the school books. We talked a lot. In English. She spoke to me about her dreams, her hopes, the places she went, the movies she saw. She wrote about them. She communicated with people. She did research on the internet about her school, about music... She now knew the need of learning a foreign language. She wanted to learn the rules, not by heart, but to use the language correctly. She learned vocabulary because se needed it to understand.
She had excellent results at school. She passed the language certificate exams. She continued to learn more advanced English. She passed the next exams as well.
Her mother understood. Because sometimes parents do understand, if they are open minded.
And this happened because the mother, the parents were there. They were there to see the progress, to ask questions, to help in anyway they could.
And this happened because they decided to trust me.
Of course this does not happen overnight. But it does if you are willing to communicate.
I have a lot of stories with students and parents. Some are very happy and positive and some are negative. Because you can't be compatible with every person you see. Not if they don't give it a try as well.
I just wanted to share this story, now that the school year is beginning.
Soon with more stories...

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Exams...not again!

Not so long ago, I had prepared a presentation about alternative ways to teach exam classes.
This was also published in the HLT Magazine last February.
The thing is, why should we take exams and acquire language certificates in the first place?
In my country, Greece, when you learn a foreign language, the goal is to get the certificate. That's when you have "finished"with the language, you "know" everything. So parents "encourage" their children to get the "valuable certificate" from a very young age.
Imagine that in Greece, children as young as 13-14 sit C2 level exams. Why? Because  the sooner they "finish" with the foreign language, the better.
So there has been a whole industry involved with that. Publishers, exam institutions and of course, we, teachers.
I am not saying that certificates and exams are useless. Of course you have to have something to prove that you have reached a certain level of a language. Because you are going to USE this language in order to get a job (and actually USE it to speak or have correspondence with clients), to study (to read and study foreign bibliography and do research in that language), to travel (and USE the language to shop and ask for directions), to communicate...
Unfortunately people / parents in Greece do not UNDERSTAND that. Our main goal is to GET the CERTIFICATE.
When clients come to us teachers, they don't actually say "I want to learn English", they say, "I want to pass the certificate exam".
But this is not possible if you don't actually LEARN to USE the language.
A lot of parents nowadays interfere with our work, as if they know what method , book or projects is good for their kids. Because the certificate is our goal.
So the question for me as a teacher but also as an entrepreneur is...
Do I do what the clients want in order to actually have clients or do I teach THE LANGUAGE they way I believe it should be?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

#8weeksofsummer The end

 8 weeks ago, I found out about a blog challenge for educators. It was supposed to take place during summer holiday (at least for the colleagues in the US, here in Greece we have one more full month to go.
The challenge had a prize, which I had not realised until the last week.
Taking part in a blog challenge is always something that motivates me to write. First of all I have something to write about, it saves me the trouble to actually find the subject on my own.
Secondly, since it is a challenge, there are a lot of other people taking part, so I have something to read and also I have some more readers of my blog.

Here are the questions of the challenge. They gave me food of thought. Even if you don't write or that the challenge is now over, these questions give something for every teacher to contemplate.

I have never thought of using my blog to earn money or actually win a competition. 
But to my surprise, I did!
I won 100$ to buy anything I wanted on Amazon!

 To your surprise, I didn't buy books or teacher stuff.
I bought shoes. Trainers tore more exact.
Because I saw it as a chance to challenge myself a bit more and set new goals.

A bit thank you to Penny Christensen for organising this wonderful challenge!! Promise to be there next year!!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

How will you keep Reflecting

This post is week 8 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators

How do I commit on reflecting? That's a tough one.
I have had this blog for a lotto years and it has had its ups and downs.
In the beginning I just kept, lets say a diary with activities with my students, posted students' projects,  book-, seminar- and convention-reviews, which I continue to do, but I have realised that blog challenges keep my motivation and make me think of new things to try out with my students.
The first challenge I took part in was Shelly Terrell's 30 goals and through this experience I met so many people and I have learned so many things that helped me be a better teacher and a better person.
After that I have found a lot of people wanting to share their thoughts and ask and answer questions, for example:

  • How I started teaching
  • Sandwich reflection (share two positive experiences and a bad one)
  • Random facts about you and your teaching habbits
  • Advice to your younger self

and so much more.
This year I intend to write one post a week, sharing activities, experiences and of course I am open to any blog challenges and questions. (depending on my free time that is)
Comments and discussion are a great motivation. So, people who read this, don't hesitate to express yourself - it will be a great help!
It has been a pleasure to participate in this wonderful blog challenge!!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Share favourite strategies

This post is week 7 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.
I have never liked books. I know that we can't live without them, but I am always trying to find ways t make my lessons more interesting for students.
So, every year, we try a new project.
I believe in Project Based learning as well as Inquiry Based learning. Below are some examples of student projects / inquiries over the years.

Learning missions / projects
Learning outside the classroom

I also love kinaesthetic activities, as well as using music, visual stimuli and whatever suits the student's personality (differentiated learning).

Playing with words
Running, story telling and more
Drawing, playing and singing

As far as organisation is concerned, I just live lists!
Lists of rules, lists of "to do things", lists of students, lists of projects, preferably hung on walls so that everyone can see.

Next time will be the last post of this wonderful challenge. I am really grateful I had the chance to take part!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Incorporate Summer PL Back into the Classroom

This post is week 6 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

Some people believe that teachers sit around all summer long, preferably lying on a beach drinking cocktails. And this would be an incredible summer, but people keep forgetting that because we are teachers, we have to plan for the next year, get informed and even try to learn more things and develop professionally.
Summer is still young in Greece, we are in the middle of July and my lessons will start in the middle of September. And many of us take the time to read a bit more, attend a few seminars and courses, experiment a bit on new methods and projects.
So far I have attended a few seminars, webinars and conferences, but as I mentioned, summer is still young and there is still lots to do.
Here's a list of what I have attended so far:
1. OUP Webinars on:

  • Inclusive practices
  • Project based learning
  • Learning difficulties
  • How communicative Testing helps Learning
  • Mental Health
4. Hueber / Karabatos seminar on:
5. Klett conference:
6. National Geographic/ Cengage seminar on:
  • Teaching global citizens 
7. Burlington Books seminar on:
  • Humor in the classroom
  • Lively German lessons with children 
9.  Online courses with Future Learn:
  • Social Media 
  • Teaching English online
  • Italian for beginners
  • Spanish for beginners
I still have a few webinars to attend and the big book exhibitions here in Greece are held in the end of August / beginning of September, so there is still much to learn.

Knowledge is good, but only if you use it. So I intend to use most of the techniques I have learned in my classes, use more technology and games.
I want to organise more projects about "the world", with subjects like "understanding", "tolerance", "accepting" and "communication" with my students. Teaching languages is not only about the language itself but how this opens a new window to the world. 
Taking part in seminars about behaviours, learning difficulties and inclusion has made it easier for me to understand more things, to be more tolerant, have patience with "difficult" students and be more insistent  when I face difficulties. 
Finally, the social media and teaching online courses will possibly help me this year to build a new audience (and clientele) 

To be continued with a new challenge....

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Summer experiences - back to teaching?

This post is week 5 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

Summer is a wonderful time for both teachers and learners to rest, to unwind and to live new experiences in order to cope with the pressure of the school year.
What they do depends on a lot of things. Maybe they visit family in the country, maybe they travel, maybe they learn new things. Time is free and choices are unlimited for both.
Well, I have to say that maybe teachers do not rest that much since they have to plan for next year, maybe attend seminars and read to learn new things so that they can somehow "enhance" their teaching.
Summer will be over soon and we will get back to school.
Students will be full of energy and it will be weeks before they get used to their new schedule with school, extra curricular activities, studying and responsibilities.
So what better time for a new project?
Students can describe their holidays, not with the "traditional essay": how I spent my summer, but in a more advanced way.
What did they do during the summer?
Did they visit another place? Even another country? Did they take pictures or videos on their mobile phones? How about a project with information about this place and a power-point or a video presentation? (This could also be in collaboration with a geography, history or music teacher if you work at a school)
How about a new hobby or activity? This could actually be a group project "summer activities". (in collaboration with the gym teacher, again if you work at a school)
This way students can be engaged into something new, start the new school year with motivation and do something out of the ordinary.
( I don't really know if I am in the subject today, but it seemed like a good idea...)