Goal 6: Choose your battles – #30GoalsEdu

Pick your battles, now there’s some good advice. . .

In this crazy world it seems we are called to fight battles every day, on the streets, at home, at work, even in our own head (my personal favourite, since I like to come prepared). It’s important though to know when to fight and have a clear idea of what it is you’re up against. Focus on the significant issue, not the insignificant.

Another battle around the corner?

Another battle around the corner?

But how often can we be certain of the significance and magnitude of a problem? Is there a concrete way to distinguish between important and unimportant issues? One of my biggest fears is to wake up one day and realise that all the problems I deemed small and unimportant have merged into a massive insolvable issue. It hasn’t happened so far, but. . .

That’s why I try to find the root of the problem before attempting to deal with it.
It can actually be a fun process: Put yourself in the investigator’s shoes; gather the clues, make assumptions, ascertain the facts and try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And as any self-respecting investigator, you should have your sidekicks. I usually assign that role to my family, my friends or my colleagues who, depending on the issue at hand, often offer invaluable advice and sometimes the imaginative solution.

gathering clues . . .

gathering clues . . .

Once you know what the actual problem is, decide on the best tactic and move ahead. Personally, I find it more productive to choose tactics that eliminate the possibility of failure – not the brisk, super-hero confrontations with unpredictable results. If we are to see ourselves as generals, leading the way in everyday battles, we might as well be great generals.

”Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter.”
Winston Churchill

 

Step out of your comfort zone Goal 5 – #30GoalsEdu

Stepping over a shadow in my back yard

Stepping over a shadow in my back yard

Next Wednesday, the 31st of July, I’m celebrating an anniversary quite unlike others in my life: fourteen years of teaching English as a foreign language.  I was 17 when I first started as a volunteer teacher at a local youth club, an experience that follows me to this day and each time I’m reminded of it I smile with the biggest smile I’ve got.

I’m usually asked why I got into teaching at that time, when I could be having fun and preparing for further studies.
Did I know all along that I wanted to become a teacher? My answer is always no. I simply knew nothing back then, I was testing myself, trying things. And I didn’t consider my work as ”teaching”, it was a lot more like ”sharing”. Sometimes I think that those first years at the youth club totally defined me as a teacher. I’m not much different today really. I still see myself as more of a motivator and a guide rather than a teacher. I’m still a student, even though there are things I know well and practise well, and which I share with others.

When I became a professional EFL teacher and started teaching at language schools, I found my comfort zone. I knew the ropes, I could handle the pressure and I could anticipate difficulties. It was easy to sit on the educational side of the table. Not to mention how much I enjoyed it.
Things change, however, and so should we. Taking a step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown might not always be the preferred choice, but it might be necessary to guide you towards what’s best.
In my case, it’s not a step out of the comfort zone, it’s a push. That’s the problem with comfort zones, you feel confident in what you have and forget to look around to see what’s happening. I’d been devoted to the teacher and had left all other parts of me behind and it took a series of some fortunate and some unfortunate events to wake me up from the slumber of assurance.

I thought it over again and again; at this time in my professional life I’m prepared to take steps that will benefit me, for a change. As things become more challenging around us (Greece being a prime example of a challenge right now) and my level of tolerance seems to be reaching a new low every month, I think I’m ready to open the door to the unknown. I’ll give a try at freelancing for a while, to see how it suits me. I’ve never done that before with teaching, so it will be a learning opportunity, in the very least.

So a big step, or push, out of my comfort zone takes place now as I’m making my way as a freelance teacher.

Goal 4: Revisit an idea – #30GoalsEdu

Ideas…and a mind full of them. All sorts of things running through your head, before, while and after your teaching, possible small miracles that you need to see come forward and take their place in the whirlwind of your life.
I suppose it’s not very original to say that you can’t always put all your ideas into action, but the opportunity to revisit an idea can be absolutely innovative, given that an idea you’d had a few years back will be approached from a new angle, the point of view of someone more experienced and further educated: you.

It was about three years ago when a class I was teaching brought forward the opportunity to combine two of my favourite subjects, English learning and creativity. In a usual cartoon-style fashion, a light bulb appeared and ”Art of English” came to life (have a read here). In the following years, ”Art of English” became bigger, better and a lot more tech-driven, brought together teachers and students from different schools and made me think that I’d got something there, something that I ought to push further. At the time, though, it seemed that there just wasn’t enough time or people to work more on it. It remained, therefore, in one of the boxes in my head, under the labels  ”Creative Teaching”, ”Projects”, ”Sometime in the future”.

#ArtOfEnglish #worldwaterday #creative learning

Art of English Drawing & Painting subgroup – preparing for World Water Day Event

Reflecting upon it during the last few weeks (reflection that has thankfully led me to all the things I’ll discuss in my #Goal 5 post!) I think I’ve decided that now is a good time to revisit this idea; It seemed that ”Art of English” had closed its circle, but only when approached as an extra-curricular activity of a school. What if it were to open up to everyone interested? What if there could be an independent group of students that wished for a more creative approach to language learning?

So, there I had it. An idea that could prove worth revisiting and reorganising, firstly in my head, then in a practical, day-to-day scheduling and promoting. I decided to start with some scouting and have put together a small group of students who found the idea appealing. I’ve arranged for a friend’s garden to be available once a week for our meetings. We’re still working on the what and how, and maybe this time it will all come together quite differently, but wonderfully nonetheless.

A view of the garden in Athens where Art of English will reform

A view of the garden in Athens where Art of English will reform

As most of this project is still working away in my head, somewhat behind the scenes, I’m not sure how it will develop, but I’ll be sharing all progress in the hope that it turns out as magnificent as I imagine and want it to be!

5 Myths About Teaching Learners With Special Educational Needs

Really good thoughts on how to approach SENs in your class.
Putting labels aside is the first and biggest step, I think, although it can be difficult at times, particularly when your students and their parents are already somewhat prejudiced themselves. It’s an odd circumstance, when they feel they will be treated differently, mostly because – in my experience – they are used to that behaviour from previous schools or teachers. You as a teacher might not consider a student with SENs as someone who needs to be approached in a particular way, but what if their parents expect you to?

Oxford University Press

Group of friends in a circle from belowMarie Delaney is a teacher, trainer, educational psychotherapist and author of ‘Teaching the Unteachable’ (Worth). She has worked extensively with pupils with Special Educational Needs and trains teachers in this area.

Do you have learners with special educational needs (SENs) in your class? Have you had any training for teaching these learners? Probably not.

In many countries across the world governments are promoting a policy of inclusion for learners with SENs. However, there is often a gap in training and resources for teachers to implement this. This has led many teachers to feel anxious and insecure about their teaching skills. There are some common fears and misconceptions which make a lot of teachers anxious.

5 myths that make teachers anxious

  1. You have to be a specially trained teacher to teach learners with SENs
    Not true. Good teaching strategies will benefit all learners. Good classroom management and a positive attitude are things…

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Goal 3:My personal theme song – #30GoalsEdu

”Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Victor Hugo

#kitten #amp #music views

Andrea’s favourite sleeping spot!


It seems that in every single moment of my life a different melody was playing in the background. I remember myself humming songs randomly, while studying or cooking and loving games like ”conversation: musical” where you have a discussion in lyrics.

It’s really hard to choose one song, so here are some I really love, each for completely different reasons:

– Because it pops up in my head every afternoon

Stereophonics-Hurry-Up-And-Wait

Stereophonics-Hurry-Up-And-Wait

– Because it makes me feel lighter than air and Labri’s voice is incredible

Carrickfergus - Labri Giotto LIVE

Carrickfergus – Labri Giotto LIVE

– Because of its powerful lyrics and because some of my students said ”I haaaad to” listen to it (they were right!).

''Sing'' - My Chemical Romance

”Sing” – My Chemical Romance

Goal 2:How to avoid Burnout – #30GoalsEdu

Burnout? Oh yes, I’ve been there. Unfortunately, it usually takes someone else to point out to me that something’s wrong and only then do I realise and react to it. Something I need to work on, surely.
Burnout also bothers me because it’s sneaky; it creeps up unnoticed while you do things you love, things you never thought could get you tired or fed up.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my work is the continuous studying and learning of tools and methods to enhance my teaching skills.  It’s true though that it can be my one-way-ticket to burnout if not done at the right pace.
When I find myself caught up among too many different new tools, applications and even ideas that all need to be explored, learned and used, I try to pause and take a small quiz I’ve put together to help me avoid being overwhelmed:

1)How important is this tool for my work?
2)Do I need to learn and use it now?
3)Has it got good feedback from peers?
4)How much time will I need to fully explore its potential?

It’s a quick and easy way to prioritize and has so far kept me on track.

To be honest, though, most of the times I don’t realise I’m burned out before it becomes too obvious , so here are my few good ways to deal with it when it’s already underway:

– Spend some quality time with friends and discuss everything BUT work!

– Get blogging. Not only does it help get things out of your system, but it’s also an excellent way to review what you’ve learned, exchange experiences with other bloggers and get feedback on what you’ve been working on.

– Go away for a while. A change of scenery always helps reorganise your thoughts.
Since it’s not always easy to just get up and leave, having a nice picture to look at and travelling there in your thoughts can be equally helpful. This has been my savior many times (and my screensaver for about three months every year!):

The view from my front yard in Corinth

#seaside #rock formation #beach

A view of the Corinth Gulf in Derveni

Goal 1:Define your moment – #30GoalsEdu

 

I think I came across the 30 Goals Challenge at a very appropriate time for me and I’m really excited to have become part of it. This past year has been quite difficult (have a read at my recent post here) and I’ve been looking for ways to re-inspire myself, so the #30GoalsEdu is a real blessing! A big thank you to Shelly and the amazing community of teachers for sharing their ideas.

So, defining my moment…

Reflection is one of the keys to the future, going back a bit to see what worked and what didn’t. I spent a lot of time reflecting, sometimes by myself, sometimes with others (to whom I am eternally grateful for their insightful observations and putting up with me!) and this process has helped me reach a decision:

This is my moment to move forward.

Pack my bags with all my rights and wrongs and head towards a bright, new future, one full of inspiration.
Taking baby steps at the moment, but this journey has begun:

Step 1
I closed the door to negative people. The whole world is in a crisis, constantly moaning about it cannot change it. I try and look at the positive things instead, whenever, wherever I find them.

Step 2
I continued learning. I took up again the two language courses I’d put on hold and started a course on design media. Every day is definitely a school day!

Step 3
I rejoined the world of social media. How awesome is the ELT community? Extremely awesome.

Step 4
I’m going through options for PD and will hopefully soon start another TESOL course.

I just keep moving forward!