When you give up the next time…

Last summer my colleague Olga suggested that I should try my luck and write a speaker proposal for the upcoming IATEFL conference 2016. I remember those days in July 2015, they were not only stuffed with expectations and hopes. Sadly, I accidentally injured my neck and I was experiencing a terrible pain those days, every day was just a nightmare,  so I should say writing a speaker proposal turned out to be a real pain in the neck. Along with a proposal I was preparing 7 to 9 applications for IATEFL scholarships, don’t remember the exact number. Thinking, drafting, editing – I love these words, they are symbols of those summer days. But everything comes to its end, sooner or later. In august I spent wonderful weeks in the Crimea with my family and came back to work full of hope. But there was nothing to hope for. My scholarships applications did not win, but it was only September, and my speaker proposal could still be chosen and I started waiting for the e-mail from IATEFL. And I got it, in late November. Due to some considerable reasons my company could not pay for my participation and that meant I was not about to attend it anyway. To tell the truth, I was upset and completely frustrated about all this. Of course, presenting a talk at IATEFL conference was my dream, though it might sound banal and even trivial. The only difference is that all it was about MY dreams…

Last Friday I was traveling home when I heard a twit-twit sound of my smartphone announcing an email received. It was a message from a certain Patrick, I wasn’t very interested at first sight. The email ran, that though I hadn’t won the scholarship, Macmillan was very impressed by my entry and they were about to propose a special prize for me, including the excerpt of my entry published on the Scholarship page and a 6-month free subscription to Onestopenglish.com. Truth be told, nothing could compare to my elation and joy when I received that message. There were days full of dismay and despair, and now there are days full of sunshine in my soul. On Saturday I called Olya and told her about it, I wanted to share my feelings. And I also thanked her for such an unforgettable experience.

Now I´m back to work, surfing onestopenglish.com in search for new activities for my students. I´m happy to see the excerpt of my entry and my name together with names of teachers from Romania, Italy, Taiwan, Switzerland… I´m happy to be here among those who love teaching. Now I know for sure:

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Thanks for reading!

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A “thank you” post and a “to do” list

Hi everyone!

Today is Monday (thanks, Cap) and this means the new working week has just started. This also means that my business trip is over and now I’m sitting at my desk in the office, having only several minutes to create this blog-post. It’s not easy to write after 3 amazing days of networking and socializing with teachers from my company; after being introduced with new extremely interesting ideas to do in the classroom; not easy because my thoughts are still somewhere and there’s nothing I can do. I just need some time to get them collected and expressed.

But today I would like to thank teachers around the world who helped me with my survey (A plea for help). It was amazing to get so many responses and comments and to be sure everyone is ready to share something useful. Thank you Joanna, Marc, Sandy, Rachel, Vedrana, Rose, Olya, Anya and others. Your blogging experience has helped a lot with presenting the idea of blogging as one of the ways of teachers’ development.

These days I’m short of time because of workload, but there’s something I want to do this week.

  1. To collect ”your favourite blogs” and create a separate blog-post.
  2. To post “Blog Challenge Part 2” (see part 1 here).
  3. Carry on sharing my ideas and things that worked because this is the essence of my blogging experience.

I remember my favourite quotation of charming Audrey Hepburn.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping others, the other for helping yourself.

I’d add: you also have your blog.

Thanks for reading!

thanks

A plea for help

Hi everyone!

It´s been a while since my last visit here, because after the vacation I was in vague feelings about how to stop being still at the seaside in my thoughts and start working. I hope I´ve returned. And I need your help.

In early October I´m going to participate in an internal event for English teachers in the company where I work. With our Curriculum Manager Olga Sergeeva we have discussed the possibility for me to present there and here we are: I am going to be presenting the topic which has become the most important for me over the last months. Blogging. I’ve been doing it since March ’15 and this is probably the most outstanding thing that has ever happened to me. With my teaching reflections being posted here I also have some responses from real teachers worldwide (e.g. ELT Flash Mob) who support me in my ideas and practical things.

I do believe, blogging considered as a process of self-development is very successful for most of the teachers I know. But it does not only deal with self-development, I believe. But what else? For finding answers to this question I need to analyze three specific things related to blogging. Here they are:

  1. Why do English teachers blog?
  2. Why do English teachers read ELT blogs?
  3. What ELT blog is your favourite one and why?

So, my plea for help goes to real English teachers, my followers or those who are interested in answering. If you leave a comment to my post with answers to these questions above, it would be just wonderful! Lots of thanks!!!
I hope they will be very helpful at the preparation stage and I’m sure I’ll gain new ideas and I’ll share them with you.

Thanks for reading!

Hope to hear from you!

Literature Summer 2015

What is self-development? Does this only mean attending conferences, participating in seminars, reading professional books on teaching? Absolutely not! Thanks to British Council in Moscow there are more opportunities for that, for sure. And one of them I was lucky to attend: Literature Summer Festival in Moscow.

The program was astonishing and the event itself as well, and it was obviously worth visiting: English novelists and poets along with Russian writers were presenting their talks on various topics: literature tricks, literature and theatre, modern and contempropary literature in Russian and in Britain, the art of book publishing and advice for those who write and dream about their books to be published someday…

The weather was awful. It was pouring hard all day long. Organizers were mentioning the weather quite a lot of time during the talks: it was really London-like and time was worth spending with a good book and a cup of tea. Nothing could spoil the atmosphere of the event. One of the sponsors was a famous tea-company and that’s why there was nothing to do with catching cold if you were having a cup of hot tea in your hands. “There’s no summer without a good book”, as organizers say, was one of the leitmotivs of the event.

One of the lectures I attended was a talk of British poet and novelist Adam Foulds. This talk was aimed very much to those writing books themselves: he was describing ways of creating weird characters, for instance, a genious or a man from the mental asylum. With his examples of characters from his numerous books, author’s feelings towards his characters were obvious. No matter how positive your characters are, the author in any case feels sympathy for them, they are the product of his imagination. Like people who surround you, characters must be complicated and open. I found the talk very informative and useful. Someday I´ll be creating my characters, who knows.

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Along with English writers, participants could listen to Russian writers, publishers and film-makers, whose talks were gathering thos interested in Russian literature and theatre performances. I was happy to listen to Kirill Serebryanikov and was lucky to ask a question during Q/A session. Personally, I believe, his films and theatre performances are quite provocative for modern Russian society, but as he said, everything new one day could be provocative, like many years ago, for instance, paintings of Salvador Dahli or Kazimir Malevich. One of the positive reasons of attending such events is an ability to meet a famous person, who, as it can turn out, is a sublte artist, sentient and intelligent.

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One of the most brilliant talks of the festival was a talk given by John Mullan. He is a professor at Univercity College London, a specialist in the eighteenth-century literature, the best of the Booker Judge in 2008. He’s currently writing a 1709-1784 volume of the Oxford English Literary History. His presentation was about tricks in contemprorary English literature, how authors attract readears. The idea of the presentation was to give the listeners lots of quotations from English books, letting them to analyze, to reflect and to be sure to want to read this or that book as soon as possible. That was John’s talk! After the session some of the highly excited participants, including yours truly, were really lucky to ask John questions in private. He spent more that 40 (!) minutes talking to us, answering our questions about our favourite books and discussing our literature interests in Russia. Of course, he could not avoid talking about “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. By they way, we could know one interesting fact. John Mullan is the author of What Matters in Jane Austen? which is very popular among those who are interested in English classical literature. John agreed to send me some of his articles and notes on literature, so I’m really looking forward to hearing from him soon…

There were lots of other attractive things to do: taking a picture with Mad Hatter, or in Alice’s costume, also there were interesting performances for children. And evidently, there were lots of opportunities to make friends or get useful contacts. I made some, I´m happy about it.

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Also I´m ready to share a list of books, to be read soon (they were mentioned by John Mullan):

1. Ian McEwan “Atonement”, “Sweet Tooth”.

2. Jane Austen “The Northanger Abbey”.

3. David Mitchell “Cloud Atlas”.

Despite the bad weather, this event lifted my spirits up. I love reading and I was happy to be surrounded by people who also find it exciting to become utterly absorbed by a new book. And summer is nice time for doing it. I’ll no longer be waiting and I’m going to start right now.

Thanks for reading!

What motivates me in my job?

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Source: http://bodiesthatwork.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/motivation.jpg

Having classes with my Upper-Intermediate students, I can be sure each lesson turns out to be thought-provoking and demanding. The same with topics. Our next unit is called ‘Motivation’ and it is strictly important for them. First of all, as you may know, I’m a Business English Teacher, so my students are highly interested in an appropriate English level because many things depend on their skills. Secondly, as they told me during our analysis stage, topic ‘Motivation’ is definitely necessary for them to talk about it during their annual Assessments. These Assessments are supposed to provide employees with the opportunity to get promoted, to increase their salary and to achieve their personal goals.

One of the assignments for this topis is to write an essay (or just an answer to the question) ‘What motivates me in my job?’. I decided to write an answer myself, but not as an example of how to do it. It is rather for me to have one more chance to reflect about my job and occupation and about things that make me happy.

So… What really motives me in my job?

I’m ready to answer honestly: an opportunity to communicate. I believe, it is more than that, it is my own happiness and joy to speak to people in Russian, in English, in Spanish, whatever. I’m so lucky, because I have lots of chances to communicate at work. I speak during our classes, I speak in the morning with a cup of tea in my hands, I speak during ‘funny lunches’ as we call them, because so many people get together in the working kitchen and we chat, tell anecdotes and funny stories. I’m a chatter-box, that’s true, but people around me are happy to talk to me, too, and that’s the point.

A foreign language teacher must strive for excellence, and that’s why self-development is a thing that is really wholesome. I believe, at work I have lots of possibilities to develop as a teacher, as a successful teacher whose students increase their level from year to year and they master their English skills. It definitely motivates me! Also I should say something about my blogging experience, it is absolutely awesome in terms of self-development and it is like you kill two birds with one stone. “I write my teaching reflections” means I develop as a teacher. Writing is my thing!

Colleagues also motivate me. I have got plenty of people surrounding me who are talented and gifted and who inspire me. Talking about my students, they are also my colleagues, and taking my teaching into consideration, they are people who bring me opportunities to develop as a teacher. My blog’s name is Enséñame, I have written about the reasons here, and the main idea of that post is to tell my followers and readers that I´m also a learner and a person who is somehow “greedy” in the framework of learning. Teaching is learning, an everlasting process for me, I´m happy to have realized that.

What have I forgotten?

Work-life balance. I’m a part-time teacher, although I find time to read professional literature at home in the evening when I’m alone and no one is watching me. When you have a family and children, a part of your thoughts are devoted to them, but another part is with your students. Several years ago it was difficult for me to balance work and private life, even though at that time there were no people who I had to take care of. Now with my 5-year-old son it is possible to spend half a day at work and another half with him, sometimes providing him with the opportunity to watch an English video on youtube or recite an English nursery rhyme together. I guess, I’ve found an ideal balance, and I’m happy with that.

Many things can motivate. I’m really happy to be here as an English teacher who has got a great amount of things that makes her happy.

Looking back, I should admit this post has turned out to be very sincere and openhearted. I invite my followers to share their thoughts about motivation at work. What motivates you? What makes you happy?

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you!

And… thanks for reading!

New group, new ideas, new reflections

This week I’ve started a new group, Upper-Intermediate. There are many students in our office with levels of higher than B1+, or B2. That’s why we decided to create a new group and include those who… Who what? That was probably the most interesting and challenging question for me. Before actual start I tried to talk to each of my potential students and ask them about their goals for learning English. I should say, some of them are completely busy working with customers on their projects, and it can influence their learning process, and I guess, the situation with attendance might be different, at least different from the first lesson. I was warned about it and nevertheless I decided to start. I was lucky to prepare for the lesson with lots of new activities, new for me as for a teacher, and also new for students, though I guess for them many activities will be new for some time, just because they hadn’t had much English at work, talking about English classes, in particular. I can’t say I managed to recognized their goals and ideas about accepting an invitation to come and study English, but all of them mentioned improving their skills and mastering the existing ones. I believe, in this case we will cooperate and work together to achieve results.

As for the first particular lesson I was in look out for an ice-breaker, a good ice-breaker for a starting point and just in order not to rush into materials of the textbook. Though, I should admit, a year or so ago I would do like this, without a game in the beginning or even without letting guys know each other. Thanks to our Curriculum Manager Olya I was completely sure about ice-breakers I was going to use, just because one of the them I tried myself, being a trainee at the Teacher’s Training back in 2014. It’s called “A Map of Me” with symbols helping others to know more about my life. So students did the same with their maps, they created their own maps and discussed in pairs.

Here’s my map. Not bad, I guess.

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Also thanks to Olya I found a nice board game from book ‘Speaking Games’. “Needs Analysis Challenge” is its name and now I can say it is the most interesting thing to start a new course. Its goal is to find out students’ knowledge about some methodological points, say, learning grammar or different ways of practicing vocabulary, and also their personal goals and ideas of how they could learn English. Instead of rushing into the material of the textbook they just spent about 20 minutes playing this board game, and I’d say it worked perfectly. Thank you, Olya!

My personal reflection is very simple. When you start a new group or a new course, spend some time letting your students know each other. And let yourself know their personal goals, why they study English. It will help you to plan future lessons, having in mind those things your students told you. And one more thing. There are lots of activities described in methodological books, but sometimes they just stay in books. You are free to try them out and create your own understanding of what works and what does not. Don’t be afraid of trying them out, just don’t be afraid. And after that you’ll see you’ll have a lot of things to reflect about in your blog.

Thanks for reading!

What makes me happy?

A very psycological question. Not even just psychological, but very personal, imprinting my own ideas and thoughts on what I am going to consider things making me happy.

  1. Preparing for my classes. I adore this part of my work, when it’s up to me to decide what to give to students, what to introduce at the lesson, what to talk about. Of course, that does not mean we don’t use any textbooks, but even with a textbook and an area you would like to work on with your students it’s up to the Teacher to create a lesson plan. I would like to admit, I prefer to think that a language lesson is a performance at the theatre, and the teacher is a director, or a conductor. Maybe that’s why in all my reflections I prefer to use word “to conduct” a lesson. And I do believe that preparing is the most important stage of my work.
  2. Making classes funny. That’s not very easy, not at all. You should be a funny person yourself to joke, to make someone laugh and smile. It is not easy to prepare for a funny lesson, but if you’ve got good memory and some anecdotes at hand, you will definitely succeed. I don’t of course always tell anecdotes, but something I’ve recently heard and something hilarious which is appropriate for the lesson and the exact situation.
  3. Reflect on my classes. It’s difficult to say what I prefer more: to prepare or to reflect afterwards. One the one hand, reflections give me a chance to write down my thoughts, on the other hand, reflections are worth having especially when my lesson was not as good as I had expected.
  4. Trying something new. I would never be a successful teacher without ideas and tips I get from my colleagues’ blogs. When I see something that worked for my colleague and it is suitable for my topic, I can adapt it to the level, or to the topic, if possible, and I try to use it as soon as possible. Some ideas seem to be very simple to realize, some not, but in any case, then I can share them with my colleagues, once I tried something new, and I love this part of my job, too.
  5. Reading books. In my childhood I was a fan of reading, but year after year, especially when my son was born, I could not read something serious, and I should admit, once my everyday readings were women-like magazines and cheap novels, because I felt like I was not readt to read something more interesting, I simply did not have a wish. I don’t blame myself for that period of time, let bygones be bygones, but now I am changed, and I want to read every single minute. I read books on my way to and from work, I read books while I travel, I read books to my son and I read them aloud, if possible, because I believe, this kind of thing helps me in mastering of my native language, if I read in Russian.
  6. Learning something new. I can admit, all the things I have mentioned, are about learning something new, be it reading or trying tips of my colleagues. I never know what happens tomorrow, but I do believe, everything done today is my future tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!