In your hands

My life as a teacher of English and other curiosities

November 23, 2015
by annavarna
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TESOL France 2015 – Paris and the English Teachers

It is about 10 days since the horrible events in Paris, on November 13th. We have all been moved beyond words by what happened there. We don’t even want to start thinking what it must be like for the families who lost their people. Ans despite this, despite the pain, the tears, the unconfessed fear,  life goes on. Although we may have wanted her (life is feminine, obviously) to stop for a while, because this is too much to take, life goes on. She doesn’t care about us. Her aim is just to go on. Nothing stops life. Not even death. Life goes on whether we want it or not.

It was amid these thoughts and after the city where I live in was declared in a state of extreme alert that the annual English Language Teaching even of TESOL France would take place. Only one week after the terrorist attack and the death of 129 people. My parents were calling panicked from Greece, pleading me not to go. My husband, usually cool, was also concerned. I could hear it in the silence that followed my announcement that I would go.

But I felt I had to go. If for nothing else to show our support to the people of TESOL France who had worked so hard the whole year to prepare this event. On Saturday morning, when I arrived at the train station in Gare du Midi, Brussels was almost a deserted city. No metro, no tram, no information. People who had just woken up were wondering what is happening. And me trying to put all the different cables in my carry-on (mobile, laptop, tablet, internet cable just in case WI-FI failed us) and forgetting my toothbrush. C’est pas grave…

Nevertheless, what a pleasure to arrive to a conference once more! What a pleasure to see people you haven’t seen for some years and now they are different people: they had a kid in the meantime, or they lost someone dear, or they divorced but found a new partner. How I love that part of the hugs and the smiles, and the connections being re-connected. It’s the best part of all conferences. And meeting the Greeks, of course! Mind you, there are always Greeks in conferences. And they are probably the people who will drag you to the best food in the area, and make you go late to a couple of sessions, mais c’est pas grave, life is like that, you probably learn more by drinking a couple of wines with your colleagues than by following a presentation.

This time in about 31 hours, I managed to cram in everything: presentations of other people, a funny plenary, a lunch with amazing French food in a local restaurant where everybody else was French, discussions with participants, learning about new mobile applications (Socrative and Kahoot – thanks Iria for the crash course), attending a presentation that could change radically the way we think about questions in our classes (check out @studiomentals on twitter and his site) , gave my own presentation with very positive feedback, saw Les Galleries Lafayette for the first time and saw the amazing exhibition about prostitution in Paris at the Orsay Museum. 31 hours well spent!

So below you can find the updated link to my presentation to include some of the things I added. Further down a sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth about the teachers learners remember which resonates what we were saying during the presentation. It was great meeting you all people – looking forward to connecting with you online and offline!

Sylvia Duckworth: Find all her wonderful sketchnotes here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/15664662@N02/22978180771/in/photostream/

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May 14, 2015
by annavarna
3 Comments

No brains will be harmed in the process

I don’t remember exactly when I started reading about neuroscience and learning. I don’t even remember which was my first book. But I remember that when I came here in Brussels I wanted urgently to understand, remember, revisit my readings on language acquisition. I brought with me the books of Lightbown and Spada (How languages are learned) and reread part of the Ellis book (Second language acquisition). I still found them interesting after all these years but a bit too technical. I needed something more practical. I read again the book on motivation by Dornyei. And then I did what was my first mooc online (but then it wasn’t called a mooc J  and it wasn’t so massive) and I got interested in critical thinking and thinking in general so from there it was a short step to brain sciences and cognitive sciences.

ellis
howlanguagesarelearned

By then, neuroscience was becoming ubiquitous. You could see articles about it in the New York Times, covers in The National Geographic, advertisements, TV series and the whole nine yards. More and more books came out, specializing in neuroscience in schools, in the class, in language learning. TED has a whole series of videos making reference to it. All the conferences I have attended the last two years have had talks about it. It’s like a craze, it’s the flavor of the month. And still, I think there is so much to learn that I never tire of it.

 

So, this year I took my personal big step and started thinking about creating a talk out of the things I had understood about neuroscience and how it can be related to language teaching. In October I gave a short online talk about it for the Larissa English Teachers’s association and in December I proposed a fuller version for the BELTA day (Belgian English Language Teachers’ Association) and I was accepted. I gave this talk on April 25th and there was a lot of interest about it. The people who attended were asking pertinent questions and they seemed to be genuinely interested and entertained by it J. I hope that I gave them some insights into our brains and as I had promised I didn’t do any harm!

I promised I would put online the prezi and that the discussion would continue here. As I said on that day, I do not purport to be a neuroscientist and I may have made mistakes. By all means, tell me so and I’ll try to correct them. I know that the Prezi itself without the notes is not self explanatory but it can give you some good resources to search further. And if you want to hear all the details about it, well, come to see me in another conference!

Special thanks to James, Mieke, Helen, John, Jurgen, Joris, the tireless BELTA team, of which I am a proud member.

brain hat

sketchnote christina

(the sketchnote of my talk, courtesy of Christina Rebuffet Broadus – thanks Christina, it’s amazing)

October 25, 2014
by annavarna
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Poetry in class observations

I currently work in a large public organisation with one of the biggest language learning sectors of the world. To give you an idea let me just tell you that we organise language courses for about 12.000 people yearly and we offer as well 3.000 eLearning licenses. We subcontract a small army of 180 teachers and we teach 28 different languages.

One of my tasks in this dream job for any language lover, is to follow the work of these teachers and make suggestions on the methodology used in the classroom. That poses the challenge that I often have to follow classes that teach a language I do not know. This is what I would like to write about today.

Class observation on its own is a very sensitive issue in teaching. I have experienced it from both sides and I would like to share my views. I know that many colleagues feel strongly about it, I have seen very negative reactions toward the observer and I think it is a great pity.

First of all, I hope that you will all agree that when an external observer sees a piece of our work they can have a more objective opinion about it. It could be a dish of pasta, or the cleaning of a room or a short story we have written, it could be whatever. When we are involved in making our judgement is blurred – we are nothing but emotional creatures, don’t forget that. I also personally have great issues when someone “criticizes” my work and if I have cleaned the house for 5 hours, you’d better not tell me that I have missed a spot on the umpteenth bookshelf! I wouldn’t be the Anna you know J. On the other hand I must admit that, I have indeed missed a spot. This is what the other person is telling me, they are not passing a judgement on me, they do not love me less because of it and most of all they do not say that I am a bad house cleaner because of the missed spot.

With time I have grown to see teaching in similar terms and every time I have had someone observe a class or teach a class with me, I have learned great things! I have had nasty experiences of observation too. In one of my first jobs, my boss used to monitor what we were saying via a loudspeaker installation and later she would comment on our pronunciation! Let’s say that this was a negative example of “observation”. But during the best examples of this practise I didn’t feel threatened at all, quite the contrary. Many of my fellow teachers back in Greece where quick to come with the argument: “I don’t want to be observed, why doesn’t the advisor give us a model lesson demonstration instead”. “Who is this person that is going to observe me? Do they think they are better than me?” I think that these are defensive arguments. The person feels threatened and reacts in a “fight or flight” way. That’s why the way the observer is going to proceed with the observation is of great importance.

This is what I have learned these two years I’ve been here and I have been visiting classes: go into the classroom with acceptance and respect for your colleague. Explain beforehand why you are visiting their class and what you want to achieve by this. And afterwards share what you have observed as honestly as you can. This last part may be the most difficult. It’s not easy to say to people that something has gone wrong or that something needs improvement. Going into a classroom with an open mind means that you leave behind your assumptions about what is right and what is wrong. Different personalities have different way of teaching and although we can agree there are some standards that cannot be negotiated, there is also a lot of margin for creativity and differentiation.

mistapes

Anatol Knotek,, a visual poet from Austria. Check his blog:

Time is also important. I remember the time I visited one French class as an observer and the first 15 minutes I was shocked by the attitude of the teacher. “What is this arrogant style I was thinking? Why does everyone seem so frozen in his class? Why does he correct mistakes as if the world has ended?” I could hardly hold myself but I persisted. The teacher relaxed. I could see him changing in front of my eyes. The class was relaxing with him as well. It was like a dance, a mirroring exercise. After half an hour more or less, I could see the real dynamics of the team. The leader had his own particular style, very different from mine, but still very effective and I must say very interesting. What I perceived as coldness in the beginning was only his nervousness because of the presence of an intruder. Because this is what an observer does: they “intrude” a system, a sensitive system and what they observe is never the “real” thing. They are bound therefore to disrupt unintentionally this system.

So these are my formal observations from classroom observations. I’d like to give you some informal ones too. A few days ago I went to a poetry reading organised by EUNIC (European network of institutions of culture) with 5 poets from different countries. We heard poems in three of the languages I speak and two more in unknown languages for me: Turkish and Esthonian. I was so moved by both of them! For the Turkish I also had the translation so you could say that it was the content that did this to me. But for the Esthonian I had no idea what she was talking about. I only knew that the title of the poem was Love. And still I could feel the emotions of this strong woman in my bones.

This is how I often feel when I observe a teacher whose language I don’t speak: I observe the teaching itself, the core pedagogy without being distracted by the content. I can see the movements of the teacher, I can observe the web of interactions that is being developed, I can see in real time what I have been reading about: teachers usually address people who are on their right side much more that the ones on their left. I can see if the teacher is tired, hungry or full of energy. I can see if the teacher feels passionate about his job, if they savour the words of their language. I can see if there is a balance of skills practised, if people cooperate, if they trust their leader. And let me tell you: sometimes it is pure poetry what those teachers are doing!

My friends are telling me: “But you know Anna, you have no idea what the teacher is saying to the students in Danish. Maybe she is talking nonsense and she has asked the students to not tell on her and participate by speaking nonsense too”. It is very possible, my friends, but if nothing else it makes a great language lesson!

 

(Extra: In #eltchat the topic was discussed extensively and this what teachers around the world think about it)

What is best practice for observing teachers – #ELTchat summary

(Extra 2: The poem from the English-Turkish poet Alev Adil: Baggage )

November 24, 2012
by annavarna
2 Comments

Critical Thinking and How to Dance it (the making of… )

Last April I started following an online course on Critical Thinking with the University of Oregon and professor Sherie Henderson as our basic moderator. The course opened up a whole new world for me, the world of Critical Thinking and involved a lot of thinking as you can imagine. At times I really struggled to follow it, mostly because it coincided with my relocation to Brussels, with the first month of changing everything: job, city, country. But I survived and learned a lot.

At about that time I was also trying to come up with an idea for a proposal for the 31st TESOL France Colloquium which takes place every year in Paris in mid-November. I had been accepted as a speaker there the previous year as well but hadn’t been able to go due to personal reasons. This year, with Paris being just an hour and a half away I was determined to make it.

So, before long, I put the two together and proposed a talk about how to promote Critical Thinking in the classroom. Little did I know that it would take me months of thinking, tens of books and hundreds of articles and many many hours of tinkering with Prezi to prepare for this presentation. It was the third one in an international Conference and I must say it was the one that tired me most, mostly because it was a vast topic and I was feeling inadequate to handle it. But I dived into it, anyway, like I usually do 🙂 Here is the result:

What I wanted to say was that: We, educators, have the duty to train our students to think more critically, to become good thinkers, to seek reasons and become reflective. It is OUR mission to do so, whether we teach English, Maths or Physical Education. It is not easy but it CAN be done. I hope that with my talk and prezi I have helped a bit to show you where to look for ideas and inspiration.

I would like to take this opportunity, to thank the fantastic team of TESOL France, Bethany Cagnol most of all, but also all the other educators who were there and with their ideas and enthusiasm keep the fire of education alive. Thank you James Taylor, Mieke Kenis, Ellen de Peter, Jurgen, Tyson Seburn, Vicky Loras, Sue Lyon Jones, Elizabeth Ann, Heike Philp, Eva Buyuksimkeysan, Julie Raikou, Vladka Chalyova, Chuck Sandy, Tom Farrell, Chia Suan Chong, Brad Patterson, Fiona Mauchline, Divya Brochier, Jeffrey D0onan, Dimitris Primalis, Nick Michelioudakis, Elinda Gjondendaj and all the others!

P.S. Don’t forget tomorrow morning to attend the brand NEW BELTA’s inauguration webinar! Click here for info http://www.beltabelgium.com/p/events.html

 

 

November 10, 2012
by annavarna
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Critical Thinking and How to dance it in Paris

It’s Saturday morning here in Brussels, it’s rainy as always and a woman is sitting on her couch with a cup of coffee (the second one) and various books and magazines open around her and tens of windows open in her task bar.

This is how I feel right now

Wouldn’t it be better if she stood up grabbed her raincoat and walked to Place Flagey to taste organic breads and confitures and then enjoy a glass of champagne and a plate of moules?

No, no, this woman is determined not to lose focus this Saturday, it’s her last Saturday before she has to take the train to Paris. Oh, la la, Paris…..

I’m diverting again. So, next Saturday, I will be in Paris to participate in the 31st Annual Colloquium of TESOL France. I have to finish my presentation tomorrow at the latest but this is much harder than I expected. Mostly because there are so many good ideas and I have to trim and trim.

But in any case, right now I was reading a beautiful hymn to grammar, yes, grammar that part of Language Instruction that seems to be the scapegoat for all problems in classrooms since the beginning of time. I’ll just quote an extract from this defense because to me it’s like poetry: ” The inner theme of grammar is simplicity, even unity. This is the subtext of the rules: Let all in the sentence be one, let it be clear and agree that the center of the sentence be seen. The works of the sentence must move in harmony, like the wheels of a clock. The subject and the verb must be in agreement, the pronoun and its antecedent must be in agreement, the tenses of the verb in the sentence must be in agreement with each other. Everything being in order, the sentence can depict a truth” (Michael Clay Thompson, The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Vol XIII, No2, Winter 2002, pp 60-66).

Doesn’t it remind you of John Lennon?

Next Sunday at 10.00 in room B316 at Telecom Paris Tech, we will ponder on ruminations like this and  we will discuss and maybe debate how to best teach grammar and vocabulary to our students and at the same time promote Critical Thinking.

I can’t wait to meet all of you new friends and see again some ones from the past!

Now, I’m feeling better

 

 

February 10, 2012
by annavarna
2 Comments

Lemons and lemonade

I’ve been trying to write this post for a few months now. I tried to write it in September when we went to school and there were no books to give to our students. I tried to write it again when teacher underwent another cut in their already meager salary. I tried to write it again when the teachers’ unions resisted the integration of Roma students in our schools. But today I read this article by photographer David Du Chemin and all the pieces fell to place. I have been following David for a while now and I love the way he writes because his posts are not exclusively about photogrpahy, they transcend in all fields of life and they are meaningful to everyone.

So in this post (which I hope some of you will read carefully) he talks about photographers but we could very well replace this in some paragraphs with teachers or lawyers or whatever profession you may like. David writes:

 …Things are changing. Is it easy? No. Is it fair? Does it matter? EVERYTHING is changing. It always has. It always will. If you are in business for yourself as a photographer, your job, as the CEO of You Inc., is to meet those changes head on, to navigate the rough waters and do it in a way you love, while not sinking the ship. No one promised you safe passage. No one owes you a waveless voyage. …f you are floundering, it’s not because you don’t have a better camera or the same 85/1.2L lens that that other, more successful, photographer on the other side of town, or the other side of the internet. It’s because you aren’t being as creative as you thought you were or you aren’t hustling…”

 Do you get it? If things aren’t going well in your teaching situation, if your kids aren’t interested, aren’t learning, are bored, are raucous and so on and so forth, it’s not the fault of books, or the lack of equipment. It’s because we aren’t creative enough. OK, the situation is dire, and it’s not our fault, and it’s unfair. So now what? Are we going to spend the rest of our working time whining and bithcing about the indifferent ministry and the good-for-nothing people who make the decisions? Are we going to waste the time of another school year by doing nothing?

 David has expressed it better than me I think: “…Yes, things are changing. They always have. But you can either make the change or react to it. Either way you need to be creative. You can do two things with your time on this earth – play the cards you’re dealt with all the energy and conviction you can, or whine and moan about how lousy your cards are. But whining and moaning never once changed the cards in anyone’s hand. Yes, Detroit was decimated by the economy, and it was left in literal ruins. But it’s making a come back. Not because it sat there feeling sorry for itself (ok, some did, but they aren’t the ones making the comeback), but because they got creative. They stood up, dusted off the seat of their jeans and looked the situation square in the eye and said, “OK. Now what?” It’s hard work. It’ll take time. And if you don’t love that work, give up now.”

 So, to get back to our situation in my poor little country: the (new) third grade book is colourless, badly drawn, the listening material you have to download yourself etc etc. So why don’t you organize a competition for the best coloured book at the end of the year? We have already started but you may want to join us! 

September 15, 2011
by annavarna
2 Comments

Web-based education in Europe and the USA by Lindsey Wright

This is a guest blog post. Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

We are both looking forward to your comments and reactions!

 

Online education holds the promise to enable people to pursue higher learning no matter where they are geographically. While overall access to education has improved due to online college courses, there are still major infrastructural issues that prevent web-based learning from becoming fully integrated across the entire world. Additionally, investment in web-based education in certain countries remains relatively weak. There is an unfortunately stark contrast in the prevalence of this form of education in the United States compared to Europe. These issues show major differences in how each region views and invests in education.

The benefits of online education are quite clear to some education advocates. The non-profit Sloan Foundation argues that web-based education has almost become a necessity for students who must balance family and professional lives and to be globally competitive in the job market. In 2010 alone, over 5.6 million American college students were enrolled in at least one online class at both conventional universities and for-profit schools.

The American Society for Training and Development, a non-profit workplace training association, contends this new wave of online education, or E-Learning 2.0, is a reaction against the limiting demands of traditional undergraduate life and the stale classroom environment of most universities. Typically students have to invest more or less all their time and considerable money in college, centering their schedules entirely around school. This can drive away students who need jobs to pay for school or are taking care of family members. Meanwhile, conventional classroom environments based on semester-long schedules within a top-down hierarchy and fixed class curriculum seem increasingly unappealing to many.

With increased globalization, market competition has become a matter of innovation at lightning speed. Accordingly, students in a country like the United States want instant data, flexible critical thinking exercises, and a bottom-up or democratic approach to learning. In a sense, the more students capitalize on E-Learning 2.0, the more competitively the student population is prepared for careers in the global world.

This begs the question of investment. If e-learning and online education are great educational investments, then the necessary infrastructure to support them must be put in place first. Access to broadband technologies, incentives for schools to offer online education, and the assumption students are sufficiently technologically adept to participate in e-learning are some of the largest obstacles to widespread web-based education.

According to the World Bank, the US only slightly edges out the European Union in broadband subscriptions. As of 2009, 27.8 percent of the US population has broadband subscriptions. In the 27 nations of the European Union, the figure is 24.6 percent. However, there is a major different in the quality of those connections. The average US broadband speed is 3.9 mbps, while in the EU the range is between 20 to 30 mbps.

Besides actual infrastructure, there’s also the issue of who provides online education. Although Europe’s broadband infrastructure is solid, it isn’t much used for web-based education. Glenn Russell, Professor of Education at Monash University, says European schools don’t invest much in online programs. Although many European online schools exist to help those too economically disadvantaged to enter a conventional college, the number of these virtual schools is relatively low compared to the United States.

Additionally, a major difficulty for these schools is that they cater to their specific region’s language, and are accordingly more or less unable to be transnational. In the United States, students in California or Hawaii are able to take online classes in New England or Florida thanks to minimal cultural and linguistic difference across the country. Moreover, the US’ many for-profit schools can move capital more quickly in order to invest in online programs exclusively for their student bodies.

However, even if the US has more private web-based schools, there are also problems with public online education. A 2010 US News report showed that almost 50 percent of all conventional colleges that offered online education saw their budgets decrease. This may be because tuition is usually lower and room and board costs non-existent when students enroll online.

Additionally, many professors aren’t happy with the idea of online education. Believing that face-to-face discussion and debate in a classroom are more worthwhile, many professors don’t invest in developing online curricula.

Finally, the kinds of institutions providing education online have been the target of major criticism in the US. Detractors argue for-profit online schools don’t measure up to the skills and job prospects traditional institutions provide. Questions regarding the legitimacy of these schools’ business practices and academic quality continue to fuel prejudice (legitimate or not) against web-based schooling and those who’ve earned degrees online.

Comparing online education in Europe and the United States isn’t quite apples and oranges, but it may be Red Delicious vs. Granny Smith. Both continents have different levels of investment in broadband infrastructure, the essential resource for all students to access online education. However, both regions also differ in how web-based schooling is available. While the courses of development will surely be different in the EU and US, online learning will certainly see increased investment in the coming years, even if it continues to be regarded as second-rate on both sides of the pond

July 6, 2011
by annavarna
3 Comments

My favourite videos this year

Thanks to Mike Harrison for inspiration to share some of the videos I used this year with my classes. I teach young learners from grade 3 to grade 6. I used these videos with different classes for different purposes.

1. Drawing Inspiration

I used this video with grade six to revise the narrative use of Present Simple. But it was also an excellent opportunity to discuss about inspiration to teach the word predictable, to elicit possible endings. What I liked most was that they went home and showed it to their parents as well and they would come to class discussing various options. “My mum says the artist was the kid with the ball”, one boy said and I thought it was a good activity if they went home to discuss it like this…

2. Early Flight Attempts

Grade 6 again. There was a Unit in our coursebook about Flying. It is a very interesting unit about the inventors behind flying, about the mechanics of flying. The only problem with this unit is that there is so much material you bring in. It is used to teach Past Simple and Pat Continuous, to teach how to write biographies, how to talk and write about paintings, plus a huge vocabulary bank most of which is virtually unknown to 12-year-old Greek students. The labelling the plane parts exercise is infamously disliked by most teachers. I like it though because I see it as an opportunity. So among all these things I thought it was a good idea to show students this short video about early attempts to fly. Apart from helping revise simple past verbs (run, jump, fly, move, etc) I saw it as an opportunity to show the importance of failing!

3. We are what we do (intro)

Grade 5. This is a video I have used the last two years with considerable success. It was used for Unit 5, Ready For Action which is a unit about environmental sensitivity, about pollution and what children can do to change the world.

4. Animal Sounds

Grade 3 and 4. This is by far my favourite video this year. It was an instant hit and was used for many purposes. In one activity students had to write the names of the animals (20 in all), in another to recognise the letters, in a third one to say the sounds (video played soundless). All in all it was very popular and for days if not for weeks they would sing it in the corridors. And it was one of the videos they always asked to be replayed!

So these were some of the videos I used this year in my classes. What about you?

June 16, 2011
by annavarna
13 Comments

What’s your language personality?

Good morning people! This blog was a bit dormant lately but now is school is out there are no more excuses for me not to write. And the problem is not that we have run out of ideas. Quite the contrary, the ideas keep coming at all times. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to find the time, the motivation or the inspiration to put them down. Let’s see if I can correct that now!

Today I am going to write about a topic that I have been thinking for some time now, probably for years. I am non native speaker of English. I learnt English in Greece and I have lived in an English speaking country for a short summer in 1998. (Manchester, I miss you). I have had a number or teachers from different countries, from the USA, from Canada, my personal favourite, a petite, super energetic Ms Tina from Australia, a couple of teachers from the UK. That is to say I have had a number of influences as far as accents are concerned. Many years ago, when I was a young, insecure teacher I was a bit self-conscious of my own accent. But now I have been emancipated and I feel confident about it. Well, you know, reading can do this to people…

What concerns me lately is not how I speak but what I say. Let me explain. All of us believe we have interesting personalities and naturally want to show these when we speak another language. It is actually a recurring problem when you teach adults: the fact that they have all these ideas they want to share and all they can say are a few elementary phrases. It’s pure frustration. And my question is this: IS there a time when our native language personalities come out when we speak a foreign language? I have been learning English for 31 years and sometimes I feel I am not as fluent as I would like. Words don’t come easy, especially the informal words, the idioms, the slang of the language, the jokes. Maybe because living where I live (in the middle of a valley, with minimum interaction with native speakers) my communication with foreign people are mostly written.

But I don’t think it is  personal matter only. I observed a huge difference in a teacher I know recently. She is a very experienced teacher, a well-read person, someone who keeps reading and developing. She is also a very lively person, with a sense of humour, someone you enjoy being with. She is a teacher trainer and usually she gives her presentations in English. For some reason she gave one of her latest presentations in Greek and it was like watching a metamorphosis going on. In Greek she was a much deeper person, with many layers, referring to common experiences and memories. I’m not sure if I can even begin to relay the experience but suddenly I realized that her English, no matter how fluent and grammatically correct was a bit sterile. And I immediately felt the same for myself.

As I’m writing this I realize that there are many implications for our teaching. How do you teach these elements of the language? I am also pretty sure that if I lived in an English speaking country for some time, these elements would come more naturally to me. But how do I simulate this situation in class? Is it really possible?  I would be more than delighted to read your opinions about this! Tell me also, do you feel the same when you speak a foreign language? And are there differences between languages? For me I can safely say that my “Spanish speaking” personality is closer to my “English speaking” personality.

Looking forward to your contributions!

February 18, 2011
by annavarna
3 Comments

Silver bullets and ELT

A friend called me anxious yesterday morning asking me if I could give some classes to her brother who urgently needs to learn to speak English, because he has some clients from abroad (he is a business man).  I declined, but promised to ask around. But then she tells me: “We ‘ve heard about this miraculous new method by which you can be fluent in English in three or four months”.

I was kind of baffled then and said I would get back to her, because the bell had just rang. I was saved by the bell, someone could say. So I spent the rest of the day, wondering about this “new, miraculous method” that promises to teach you English in a couple of months. Wow, I must have been doing something wrong all my teaching life then.

And what use is all this connection with people if they don’t let you know about such things? I mean I am involved in so many educational networks and nobody mentioned a thing. Are you keeping it all to yourselves people? So that you can become millionaires?

Late at night I started reading Diane Ravitch’s book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” and I was lucky enough to find my answer on page 3: “I have consistently warned that, in education, there are no shortcuts, no utopias, and no silver bullets. For certain there are no magic feathers that enable elephants to fly”. I was thankful for this quotation, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night.

But in case you have heard about this “New, Easy Way to Speak English in a couple of months with the minimum effort” please let me know!

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