Game it!

I might be away on project work, but great things are in store and just wanted to share the excitement 🙂

So here’s a little preview…until the end of September when I’ll be meeting & sharing with excellent educators at the TESOL Greece Start-of-the-Year event!

Advertisements

#MindtheGap

And…it’s been three months since my last post – normally I’d wonder where all this time went, only I know quite well where and since that’s a place I have moved on from, what better way to celebrate than with some writing here?

Gap

Those three months were basically full of two things: work and worry. Not a good combination, I should point out. How can you work when you worry all the time? Ok, you can, but maybe the outcome isn’t what you were hoping for – at least it wasn’t in my case. Through my superficial reflection it seemed that taking up many responsibilities was the problem, but the truth is: if you naturally worry too much about things it certainly affects your balance, no matter if you are doing one thing or ten – which sounds perfectly logical now that I have written it here, but took me a useless right hand, (too) long hours of sulking and deep reflection to realize.

Not all was bad of course.

*Reminding and convincing myself to use the left hand was fun, not to mention what a breakthrough it felt like to actually manage it. My biggest issue with that no-good right hand was that it affected my expression -as I talk with my hands too, at times it seemed I just wasn’t getting through to anyone. I couldn’t write either, so I spent many hours hating that right hand; but it also led me to the smoking-free zone, and I remain there.

*Kids. And teaching. When your doctor has scared you so much that tomorrow seems, if nothing else, horrible and improbable, all you’ve got is now really. Spend ‘now’ productively and keep trying to make a difference in one or a million lives. Unsurprisingly, your learners are there for you and the only way is forward.
(/end of empowering message/)

*Goodness in the background; and by that I mean all the wonderful people who still went ahead with me in mind, so now that I’m the right place, in more or less all aspects, there are great things for me to do. In most cases, I didn’t even say a word –  thank you Universe of Thoughtful People.

Standing too long in the gap might be frustrating, but sometimes it is necessary; so is silence and being mindful, towards yourself and everyone.
This is not a revelations post, no.
It’s a reaffirming, getting back to where you should be post. And I used both hands to write it.

Forward, then?

(PS: interesting search results while looking for an appropriate image – gaps of all sorts are apparently a much debated topic online.)

#TogetherWorks – Presenting at Greek TESOLs 2016

It is remarkable how many connecting points you can discover when talking to a fellow educator, most of them underlying, present at all times, surfacing gradually as you share your joy or worry over a cup of coffee.
Theodora Papapanagiotou and I first connected online three years ago and all through this time of sharing between us, both on a personal and a professional level, we always talked about presenting together. We felt we needed to share the love we both had for our learners and our profession and the commonality in our approach to teaching and learning. After several missed opportunities, for many different reasons (especially last summer on my part), the time finally came to put this together and invite our colleagues to discuss alternative and creative ways in exam preparation at the two TESOL Conventions in Greece.

Chris&Theo

The certificate-hunting culture still holds strong in our country, resulting in ever younger learners being pressured into taking exams, inevitably being forced to memorize vocabulary out of context and drilled into grammar rules completely unconnected to their function. We are still sacrificing fluency and meaningfulness at the altar of certification, of proven “knowledge”, and not only in foreign language learning. In full honesty, I don’t want my learners’ first question to be “what percentage should I get correct to pass the exam”. Unfortunately, it is the first question I hear from most of them. It is a challenge to try and shift their focus to their abilities and needs, to how learning a language can help them progress further in anything they attempt and to that any certificate is a positive result of their personal efforts, not the end goal.

Making the exam preparation process meaningful for them is not difficult really; as with all courses, we start with the learners and build on what they have, what they want and what they hope to achieve. We can do this through projects, through adding creative tasks to the material we are using, through exploring different approaches and giving our learners the space to find their voice. We can get a learning community going, blend our lessons and use appropriate technology effectively and encourage self- and peer- assessment to keep learners motivated.
Moving away from traditional quantitative into qualitative assessment, by building personal and class portfolios, gives both our learners and us a clear view of what we have achieved and what we still need to work on.

We will both be sharing more in future posts and articles. For now, a big thank you to everyone who joined us in our talks in Athens and Thessaloniki, for their input and feedback!

You can view the slides of our presentation here

Links and webtools presented during our talk here

Only good and forward

2015 came to an end and what a year it was. Full of learning and meeting people, full of hardship and sorrow, so full of single moments making it all worthwhile. It had been two months since the last post on this blog before the end of the year and though I had been writing traditionally, in my silence and on my paper, it seemed better to keep that writing to myself. You see the blog is all about bouncing thoughts, but not negative ones. I won’t allow them. I decided to let the time pass and bring goodness back and, not surprisingly, I’m already on that track. Stubbornly positive me.fb146373008214a6504c4270a5e7a2ef

Instead of lingering on things passed, which are nevertheless kept and worked upon inside, let the first post of 2016 be about now and the hope for tomorrow.

The here and now

  • Still on my holiday break, the perfect opportunity to prepare for when lessons begin in about ten days. Most of the classes and students I’ve taught for years have reached the end of our journey together, but the new year has come with a great gift: new journeys are due, with teens and, after some time for me, young learners. I simply cannot wait!
  • Still (and always) a language learner. Last time I checked, I’d left my Turkish at B1 and hadn’t taken up Arabic yet. Time to move forward.
  • Back to translations. It was only when I submitted a sample that I realised how much I love and miss this challenge.
  • More writing is also due. Here and elsewhere. I don’t see myself as any sort of expert nor a writer, it’s just that writing has over the years become supplementary to breathing. And as most things matter when they are shared, I have said one or two yes’s to writing outside my silent notebooks and my vibrant classrooms.

What tomorrow holds

  • Two projects that I’ve been working on, almost sleeping and waking on actually, are soon to materialise. It means hard work, travelling and some wonderful people stand at my doorstep. More on that in the near future 🙂
  • Gaming has always been part of my life and a solid building block in the connection with my learners. I suppose coding was only natural to come along too. As a hands-on learner, and quite a hands-on teacher to be honest, my understanding of things is shaped by action. And as I thrive while jumping in deep waters, the idea of building a website from scratch stuck to my head and then my hands followed. Learning as I go along the idea and soon to publish, it seems I made just the right choice.
  • Conventions are coming up and I’m really looking forward to them, hopefully present at them and get the chance to see friends and make some new as well.

 

In making the choice to see and share the positive things I’m blessed with, I’ll have only one last look at something from the year that ended; someone I loved dearly, and lost abruptly in September, had given me a piece of advice some years back. Another dearly loved someone reminded it to me just this morning. In praise of all things simple, here goes: ‘Always look Up.’ And that’s my single New Year’s resolution, with all the thousands of small and big goals it carries.

 

#One

How much can we take? How far can we go, before we decide we have reached our limits? Before we say ‘there is no point in anything’? Being a stubborn optimist becomes harder as days greet me. Like today. Waking up to the horror of news, walking troubled steps and standing numb outside a classroom. It took me four breaths to open that door. I didn’t want the routine of the lesson, creative as they might be, nor the break from it, in light of the attacks in Paris. But I opened the door and walked in.

Two different groups came and left. A decidedly no-coursebooks day. And I now stand determined on three new ‘wants’:

  1. I want an eleven-year-old’s clarity of thought.

20151114_205712

2. I want a fifteen-year-old’s passion and vision.

I am me

 

3. I want to keep opening that door, for as long as I stand.

A glimpse in today’s lessons at my local community school, a place I love for its vibes, its teachings and its lack of formality. There are no contracts signed, only common thoughts and goals. It is a place where #One is special, both as a word and a notion. My feeling, though, is that it would have been the same in any other classroom, in any other learning environment.

We can go far; further than we can grasp at any given moment. People, ideals, fear and despair are all #One. So is Faith. And Hope.

Educators are blessed in experience.

voltaire.jpg

 

Tiptoes in the System #TimeParadox

”Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

Human Clock - Original artwork by HandMade Theatre

Human Clock – Original artwork by HandMade Theatre

This will be a short post, as time is limited. Freelancers become in this time paradox. There is time for everything and no time altogether.

How many things can we fit into each day? Working, teaching and learning. Listening, noticing and creating. Walking, commuting and waiting. Breathing, eating and drinking. Wondering whether we’ve done all we had to do. Making someone happy. Making someone mad. Thinking and reminiscing. Living. Evolving.

Our only constant is perpetual motion, and this ongoing back-and-forth gives us an edge over the paradox: we can make life happen. Perhaps not a great life, but a life up to our standards. We can do it alone. We can invite others to join us. Some may join uninvited (and I love them most).

Let more grains fall on the chessboard. Wait for the proper-sized pebble to ripple the lake. It will happen, because those things just do. Use time and do it all.

(and Complexity will be hitting this blog soon)

Self Q&A #LateReflection

There are a couple of things I’m sometimes seriously, almost physically, afraid of; feeling inadequate, not delivering what’s been requested, not achieving That goal, not knowing how to deal with That particular behavior…the perfectionist keeps screaming in my head. I have had a big share of that over this summer and though I got reminders (mainly external) that I just need to go easy on myself from time to time, it was the finality of loss that woke me to another truth: life happens now. I won’t discuss fairness, as that depends on the systems we survive in – yes, fair should be one and only for all, but it isn’t. Tough.
I won’t discuss grief either, since we all have different ways of dealing with it and learning from it. And each of them is perfectly correct and fine.

My mind works in questions, so the inevitable sequence of ‘what happened? – are you ok with it? – how can you use it?” just sprang out. I would really like to say that I know the reason why things happen and save myself and everyone the trouble, but I don’t know. And that got me thinking; am I supposed to know? Probably not. Or not yet. In my mind, we are here to do three things: discover, create and share. We can do all three simultaneously, too. That is my current short term plan.

As September was coming to its end, a new set of boxes formed in my mind (I’ve stopped numbering those, completely pointless after years of thinking). Actually, they were more like drawers this time.

What happened? You’ve lost someone dear to you. Not unexpectedly, yet loss is always a hand that dives into your chest and clenches your breath. Then releases and clenches again every time you are reminded of the moment and the connection.

Are you ok with it? Ultimately, yes. Everyone, everywhere loses someone or something daily. No matter how sorrowful each minute feels, it is hard to dismiss that you are still here. Instead of standing in grief, move forward in light.

How can you use it? The idea of hiding. Do you really believe it possible? Whether fortunate or unfortunate, superbly telltale eyes and persistent jittery fingers don’t leave you many options. You know this, you’ve been here before. Not to mention how it throws right out your efforts to build trust.
We can’t be happy all the time, but we still think, work and produce. And when your goal is to impart a bit of knowledge, is there anything better than sharing this truth? Is there anyone better other than your partners in learning to share it with?

Accept and share. It looked like this:

 

Drawing on a recent comment on this blog, I remain stubbornly positive. Here’s to you, my dear learners.