Feeling lost and Being ‘proper’

It is Saturday morning and I had a one to one lesson already. I have a small pile of essays to mark and I want to make a PPT for my online business English class, I have agreed to a collab blog post but instead, I am  watching videos about makeup, listening to the best blind auditions on the Voice US. I am also looking at my planner and thinking how I will plan my next week,and by plan I mean decorate… with stickers.

I feel guilty. I have so many things to do and I am not doing them. I am also wondering about how ‘proper’ I am. I mean… I am a teacher. I have an MA, a Delta, I have spent time becoming a better qualified teacher and instead I am looking at stickers? I mean…. seriously?

I actually  often feel that I am not being ‘proper’, but then again, what is proper? What is ‘proper’ for a teacher? Should I be reading articles about how to improve my teaching? Should I be making new lessons, using my time more creatively and effectively? Should I be spending more time reading other teacher’s blog posts and try to find inspiration? I guess I should.

I then wonder about my interactions with my learners. Don’t get me wrong. I teach whatever is on the syllabus, but I do spend time talking about makeup or other random stuff with my learners and we actually have fun. But… I don’t think that’s professional or… have I created in my mind a sense of what I should be doing as a teacher? Am I trying to follow the invisible ‘bible’ to ‘teacher properness’? Are the things I am doing, taking away from my actual teaching, making me a bad teacher? Why do I feel guilty?

I was a workaholic and now I feel tired. Not ‘proper’.

chairs

Dunno guys. I feel lost.

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My #1stobservation

If you ask a teacher to recall one of their best teaching moments, I am 100% sure the majority of those asked will say, ” Observations!!”  Yeah… um… maybe not. So, I am going to write two posts, maybe even more (yeap, cause one is never enough) about this ‘hot’ topic. This post will focus on my first observation, my next posts will be about… (I ain’t gonna tell you. It’s a surprise!!). Oh! I am going to add a hash tag #1stobservation cause I would really like to read other teachers/bloggers’ stories as well, and cause blog challenges are fun, you learn!!

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2011

Let me start by saying that I got properly observed for the first time in 2011. I had already been teaching for about 13 years, but only then did I experience an observation. Actually no, scratch that. My first ‘observation/spying experience’ happened when I got my first teaching job at a private language  school in Athens. The owner of the language school stood behind the door and probably listened to what I said during the session. I know she was there cause I could see the top of her head from the door window, and she made a few comments regarding the lesson. So, that was my first ever kinda observation. Can’t really say much about that one, so let’s get down to business and go back to 2011. As I said earlier, the first proper observation happened when I got my first EAP job in the UK.

(FYI: in Greece teachers don’t observe other teachers, at least they didn’t back in the day when I first started teaching. Some teachers may get observed when they first start teaching in the public sector but not always).

My #1stobservation

When I first heard I was going to get observed, I panicked. I thought to myself, ” Oh! No! What if I mess up? What if my coordinator/observer doesn’t like my lesson?” As part of the observation process, I had to go into the office and share my thoughts about what I was planning to do. I got a few suggestions from my coordinator, and then went home to make my super duper lesson plan. I had objectives, lesson outcomes, anticipated problems, tasks analysed, the lots. I was set. I had designed the crème de la crème of lessons!!

The day in brief: It was a reading class I remember. I decided to seat my students in two horse shoes. The students were seated in such a way that they could actually see each other. I cut the text into two parts. I was going to do jigsaw reading. I thought that it would be a good idea to pre teach each group’s unknown vocabulary. I did. Then the students read their texts, group A and group B. I then moved students around, so they formed pairs one student from group A, one from group B. They now had to talk about the whole text. They did. I read the instructions for the exercises, once, twice, checked to see if they understood the instructions.They then did  the reading comprehension exercises. We then did whole class error correction and checked all the tasks. All in all, a good lesson. My students were engaged, on topic and there was a really good atmosphere. So, while I do want to toot my own horn and tell you all the great things about this session, I won’t. Nope. I will talk about weaknesses. So, now fellow reader/teacher can you spot the weaknesses in this lesson? What could I have done differently?

Drum roll

Problems

My instructions: I read them 3-4 times. I thought that by repeating everything they would, at some point, get it. I should have read the instructions, asked CCQs and done an example with them.

Pre-teaching vocabulary based on texts: I taught and checked group A’s vocabulary and then group B’s. While I was working with group A, group B was in Lala land and vice versa. I could have ignored the unknown vocabulary and not pre taught it, or asked them to use a black marker and delete all their unknown words, and only read the words they understood and then deduce meaning from that. I could have also given them dictionaries and asked them to look for words if they thought it was necessary.

My tasks: The jigsaw reading was done all wrong. I should have told them to read the texts, take notes. I should have then taken away the original texts, and then put them into pairs. Afterwards, I should have asked them to recreate the texts based on their notes.

My super duper lesson plan: was too super duper. I made a lesson plan that resembled the ones I did during my MA, the ones that were part of my dissertation. It was not at all practical. I flipped through pages and was panicking a lot!! I could have just used ticks and post it notes!!!

Checking tasks: I spent a lot of time checking errors and correcting tasks. I could have showed on the projector some of the answers, did a bit of peer correcting as well.

After the lesson I had a meeting with my coordinator. He gave me some very helpful suggestions. I learnt, took a deep breath and prepared the next lesson.

So, yeah. That was it. I survived my first observation and I learnt so much from it! If you do write a blog post about this and add the hash tag #1stobservation, please let me know!! If you want to leave a comment, feel free to do so.

Till next time…..

#Youngerteacherself

I watched a few  YouTubers’ #DearMe video tags the other day. This is YouTube’s way of celebrating international women’s day and the theme is “what advice would you give your younger you?” I then thought to myself, “Hmmm, I like this! BUT let’s make it a bit different, let’s give it an educational twist. What advice would I give my #youngerteacherself?” So, I decided to write a blog post about that. I also wanted to know what advice other teachers would give their younger selves which is why I am going to tag other educational bloggers at the end of the post and of course link their posts once they are published.

(Two days later and  6 teachers  have already posted their #youngerteacherself posts. Unbelievable!)

So, here goes.

Dear 20-something  Joanna,

I am sending you this letter from the future. I am you. I have been teaching for almost 18 years now, and I think you could use some advice from me, the oldie. I am not sure you will take it, cause well, you can be a bit stubborn from time to time, but I thought I’d give it a shot! I know you love lists and bullet points which is how I will give you my advice :). So, Joanna, here’s my advice.

At University:

  • Choose your major carefully. I know you love literature, but I think it will be better if you major in linguistics and minor in literature. You are an English teacher, you will need linguistics.  Literature, of course,  will make you think and dream, but you really need to go to all the linguistics classes you hate! You need to know more about sounds (phonetics and phonology), so instead of sleeping, wake up and go to class!
  • You have the opportunity to study abroad with Erasmus. Do it. You need to see what it’s like to study in the UK.
  • On a more personal note, these are your student years, instead of staying home and watching video cassettes (yeap, I am old), go out! Meet people. These are your most carefree years.

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Working as a new teacher

  • Interviews are important but no need to panic. If you don’t get one job, another one will come along. Just keep getting more qualified.
  • Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Do not work for peanuts and get health insurance!
  • What you do not know about the language now, you will study and learn later on. Don’t get overwhelmed. Do not go into class unprepared either. If you do not know how to answer a question, it’s OK. You can say, “I don’t know this. I will look it up and tell you guys later”.
  • If your instincts are telling you that you won’t like teaching in public schools, follow them. Do not spend 5 years doing something that makes you miserable.

Your qualifications: MA and Delta

  • Do your Delta first, then your M.Ed in Tesol. Learn how to teach first and then become a researcher.

 In the classroom

  • Learn as much as you can about your learners. They are your syllabus (Priscilla Osborne said this. You may not quite be aware of this now, but you will totally agree later on). Don’t stick to something because it is what you “planned’. Be flexible. Your students will guide you.
  • Be yourself. Be friendly. Yes, you are a teacher, but that doesn’t mean you should act like someone you are not. Be proper but not too ‘proper’.
  • Repeating the rubric 3 times does not help your learners. Neither does asking, “Do you understand?” Or  “Is that OK?” You need to find other ways to check your learners’ understanding of something.
  • Observations are a learning tool. No one is out to get you. You will benefit from them. Don’t panic, just do your thing. Any advice that is the product of an observation is welcome cause you develop.

Your secret professional dreams/ ambitions

  • The sky is your limit. If you want to achieve something professionally, go for it. Even if you fail, you know you tried. Having said that, Joanna do not open and run a language school business (especially as in 2008 recession will hit Greece). You are a teacher, stick to what you know best. Leave ‘business’ to business people.

Connections/technology

  • There is something called the internet and a computer. Learn how to use both, ASAP! Start blogging, you will probably like it : )
  • Connect with other teachers. Don’t be shy. They will be the ones who will offer you advice and help you. Go to conferences, attend anything that will help you develop professionally. Mingle with your teacher friends. They get you!

Coffeee

And just so you know, even if you make mistakes, it’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up. Be strong. Be yourself.

Love,

Joanna (39)

xox

Final thoughts

The list goes on and on. There are so many tips I would give me, the newbie teacher. Some of the things I mentioned did end up taking up a lot of my “professional time”.  Even though I did learn, I wish I had realized how wrong things were going and taken action earlier. Then again, I am who I am now cause of the mistakes I have made.

Now, let’s hear your advice to your #youngerteacherself.

Hana Ticha’s post can be found here

Marjorie Rosenberg’ post can be found here

Theodora Papapanagiotou’s artistic post can be found here

Christina Chorianopoulou’s post is here

Sylvia Guinan’s post can be found here

Sandy Millin’s post can be found here

Angelos Bollas’ post can be found here

Zhenya Polosatova’s post can be found here

Fiona’s post can be found here

Phil Wade’s guest post can be found here

Mike Griffin’s post can be found here

Sophia Kahn’s post can be found here

David Petrie’s post can be found here

Ageliki Asteri’s post can be found here

T. Veigga’s post can be found here

Clare Fielder’s post can be found here

Timothy Hampson’s post can be found here

Vedrana Vojković‘s post can be found here

Ljiljana Havran’s post can be found here

Brad Smith’s post can be found here

James Taylor’s post can be found here

Anthony Schmidt’s post can be found here

Helen Waldron’s post can be found here

Katherine Bilsborough’s post can be found here

Vicky Loras’ post can be found here

Vicky Papageorgiou’s post can be found here

Miguel A. Cortes’s post can be found here

Marc Jones’s post can be found here

Rachel’s post can be found here

Sonya’s post can be found here

I will be sharing everyone’s posts when they are published. If you feel inspired and want to write something, do it. Send me the link and I will add you to the list of bloggers who wrote posts! If you want to write a post but don’t have a blog, no worries, just let me know and I will host your post. You can leave the link to the post in the comments area or tweet me @joannacre

A few weeks later….

The #yougerteacherself blog challenge is going to be the inspiration for a conference talk by Naomi.  For more information press here

AND

#Keltchat (which is a twitter chat) will be holding a slowburn chat session which is inspired by the #youngerteacherself blog challenge. Join in and share your advice/tweets with other teachers from around the world (for more information about the #Keltchat press here)

Date: 28th of April

Time 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Place : Twitter

Till next time…..

Working from home

First let me make something clear. If you expect this article to be about the benefits of working from home, stop reading. This ain’t THAT type of post. Nope. I am going to tell you a true story, my story and you can help me draw a few conclusions about what stays and what needs to go/change.

Home….. schooling

I have been teaching online for 2 years now. That is my morning job, so it is only inevitable that I work from home. I was also running my own business and taught at my own language school but that shut down. As a result, I now teach as a freelance teacher and my students come to my home. Now let’s do the math.

Morning online teaching 9-2:30: 5,5 hours

Afternoon teaching at home 4-9: 5 hours

Does this look appealing? Are you jealous? Well, don’t be. What this actually means is that I am at home all day, working. When I am not working I am kinda working.

Kinda working activities: blogging, reading blog posts, social media-ing, preparing for lessons, material designing.

So, in my free time at home, once again,  I am in front of the computer. You want more? I work out as well. I have a stationary bike in my room so that’s where my gym is!! Yeap. I do not need to go to the supermarket cause someone else does. I do not need to go into town to pay bills cause someone else does.

So, what about weekends? Well, on the weekends, I go out a bit (nothing cray cray people. Just a meal or a drink).

Now, time to make a list:

Benefits of working from home 

  • It’s convenient
  • You save money

Disadvantages of working from home

  • Well, if you work all day like me, you will probably end up with vitamin D deficiency (that’s cause you never see the sun).
  • At some point you will become one with your chair.

The action plan-Things I am now changing

I want to work out more which is why I am cutting down on my kinda work related activities and am running to my bike a bit more. In the past, my excuse for not working out was the Delta, now it’s “I have stuff to write”. All this is not good. Something really needs to change.

I will be paying my own bills. I will try to stick more sessions closer together, manage my teaching time better, so that I have more free time, and thus, am forced to leave the house and pay stuff, do stuff.

I started painting lessons, so now I have a hobby. A hobby that requires I go somewhere to do it.

I want to go out during the week a bit more. I really need to start saying, “Yes!” to invites to go out after work.

 

Final thoughts

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining about my work life. I LOVE online teaching and I really like the fact that I work from home. I just don’t wanna end up like a person who misses out on everything cause I am at home and not outside! Marjorie talk about her life as a teacher and how she combines working from home and moving for work. I read Theodora’s blog a few hours ago and she talks about balance. I think I, too, need to find balance but I first need to figure out where I draw the line. The line between being Joanna the teacher, who works from home, and Joanna who lives at home.

Beach Kolumpari

This is my first post on Word Press. I hope you like it. Still trying to figure out how things work : ) like how to align, font size  and stuff…

Till next time………..