Images and Ceri Jones – A PLN Interview

I was super happy to find out we could do more than one PLN interview for Brad Patterson’s PLN Challenge (read more about here). The first person I thought of was Ceri Jones, one of my very favorite people on twitter – and off it as well, as we met in Brighton in April. Ceri was the one who hosted my first ever blog post ( The Day Nothing Became Everything) and has been a great, supportive friend all along.

Her blog is filled with ideas for lessons and reflections on her teaching… If you don’t know it, check it out: Close Up

For the interview, we started skyping, but then the connection went bad and we had to finish it mostly through chatting 😦

So here’s Ceri’s interview!

After Ken's session at IATEFL... finally!

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Smiley, approachable and committed.

Smiley didn’t really surprise me… Having met Ceri in person I know she is always smiling. And she has that warm, welcoming smile that just makes you want to smile too. She said she had never noticed it herself but that her students constantly mentioned that to her. I asked her whether she thought being smiley overlapped being approachable, and she agreed.

Students aren’t scared of talking to teachers and asking questions when they look friendly and open.

When it came to committed there was actually a but of “committment”. She thought as committed was a kind of compromise to cover serious, about their learning, committed to them, to doing my best as a teacher I guess, strict and demanding – expecting them to do their best. I couldn’t do anything but agree. Don’t you???

3) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Mostly fruit…black cherries , which are in season here, apricots and figs – I love figs.

I wasn’t surprised…Ceri is an extremely committed mother and a very balanced – in touch with herself person – and fruit are delicious healthy food. I have to admit I was a bit jealous of the black cherries… We don’t really get them around here. I blame it on the darn tropical weather ;-P

4) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

“When I was a little girl I wanted to be a farmer’s wife…. And after a little chatting she said “Now I think I’d be the farmer myself – again…I’m not surprised! Recently when she came across an article which talked about people “fighting” over little patches of land on the streets of Spain she said she’d love to have some to plant some herbs and vegetables…. 🙂

Image by CatPiper on Flickr - CC

5) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

It happened in Ceri’s first year…and her account of it resonated very close to me. I am one of those people who are glad there are teaches with different teaching styles and preferences… Her experience was with a class of 8 year olds – one lad had chronic behaviour problems – a real attention seeker – literally climbing the curtains and bringing bookshelves down on top of himself – She didn’t really know what to do with him – tried the ignore him, don’t rise to his game ploy – Many of us have been through that experience, I know I have and it’s nothing Id like to relive..

But what called my attention was that Ceri said: “I think I failed him really but at least he didn’t disrupt the rest of the class too much”…That comment took me back to one of my recent posts “Why do We Take it so Personally?“. Why do we always think it’s our fault, that we failed???

After that experience Ceri refused to teach anyone under 12 :-)!  Luckily her school made no objections and let her specialize in teens and adults – better for us! After she mentioned that, I asked her whether she thought motherhood had changed that a bit – because I know it has sure changed it for me! – to which Ceri replied:

” I think it might do better by those kids if I tried now –
a lot more confidence as a teacher, more knowledge of their development etc as a mum”.

Then she proceeded to tell me about an experience she had last year, substituting a teacher for a class of 3-year-olds… She felt there was nothing much she could do except babysit babysitting “no teaching – the lesson plan was total double Dutch” I relate to that, as I have no talent for teaching Young Learners…

6) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

Aravind Adiga – Between the Assassinations – great book, but she read it months ago. She hasn’t been to the movies in years… Can I suggest someone send her a movie coupon???

                                                        7) Being an author and a teacher is…

Great … incredibly stimulating… the two feed into each other … but juggling is exhausting too sometimes“. Then we talked about whether being in the classroom changed things, and she thinks it wouldn’t be the same for her, because being in the classroom makes it easier to know and understand students’ responses and reactions to the activities, to the lesson. And that being in the classroom made it easier to keep up with changes in teaching as well as constantly question and develop what she does.

I then asked if being an author would be the same for her if she weren’t in the classroom, and she told me ““I used to think that too – but I don’t think it’s always true – some authors who aren’t in the classroom are still incredibly aware of all the factors and write amazing material – spot on – others, despite being in classroom might not get is as “right” – depends so much on the individual writer. But passion – interest in learning – effective learning – and supporting teachers thru their materials – I think that always shows” . Hooray for passionate authors like Ceri!

These days writing is taking more of her time than teaching, but Ceri thinks a 50/50 ratio would be nice, and that they were very different skills – but she really enjoys both. Ceri has great ideas for activities – I know that not only from her blog, but because at my school we use one of her books (Inside Out) with our Advanced groups and not only the book is great but I especially like the resource book, filled with great ideas.

7) What’s your favorite place in the world?

“A beach not far from here – called Bolonia – looks out over Africa – big windy, sandy beach, superb winter sunsets”

She still had the sand and salt in her hair from being there that same afternoon – definitely a beach person! And she once saw a woman swimming with her llama there (!??!).

8) My pet peeve is…

“People who complain all the time. I love and appreciate a good rant now and then, but it’s the moaners I can’t stand”

Her answer fits both professional and personal life perfectly and I totally agree with her on it. If people just had a more positive outlook on things their lives would probably start working better. Positive thinking attracts positive energy and good things in my opinion.And the other way around is true too.

After that last question came the twist of this interview (one of my favorite things about these interviews is that each has a different twist, a different thing each interviewer does). Since Ceri loves images – especially close-ups – I decided to show her some pictures that I got from her, from #eltpics and have her tell me the first thing, word, memory that came to mind… And then I did a little video with the images and her replies…

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Thanks for the interview Ceri! xx

Vladmira, the Peaceful Ruler – A Guest post by Ania Musielak

My new guest author for the blog is a fantastic teacher I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person during the last IATEFL annual Conference in Brighton. I started interacting with Ania through Ken Wilson’s blog, when we were both guest bloggers around the same time (thank you Ken!!!). Our interaction only increased through twitter and the blogosphere, and I’ve learned much from her. She’s a very passionate teacher, with a knack for using drama in the classroom – something I’ve always been a bit skeptical about using and that I’ve been learning new ways to do it in an effective way.

We were talking about Brad Patterson’s PLN Blog Challenge and she said she wanted to take part in it, but she didn’t have a blog to post on. What??? just my luck, because it gave me a fabulous new guest blogger and the chance of knowing another teacher/friend I admire a little better – not to mention giving the rest of the PLN following this challenge the opportunity to know a bit more about our IATEFL roving reporter. Here’s Ania’s post:

The idea of ELT  INTERVIEWS is simple – you choose one member of your PLN and ask 5 standard questions so that we can learn something more about our favourite people on twitter:)

Vladka the Ruler

Vladka  comes from Michalovce, a beautiful little town by Zemplinska Sirava dam – the biggest dam in Slovakia. She is an English teacher and works in a State Language School in Kosice, where she teaches general business English to adults and teenagers. She has an MA in Teaching English Language and Literature and Ecology from Presov University in Slovakia and a certificate in Teaching Business English from English Language Centre in Brighton. Vladka is full of surprises and prepares a lot of extra activities and materials for her students. They never know what to expect:) She is also obsessed with colours and crayons (her favourite ones are “tickle me pink” and “spring green” ).  Her students are really lucky to have such an enthusiastic and devoted teacher and we can learn about Vladka’s teaching adventures thanks to her blog which she started last year in March.

I have known Vladka for some time – we met in Paris TESOL conference last year – and I have to say – her kindness and friendliness enchanted me. We had a lot of fun in Brighton at IATEFL so I decided to make her „the victim“ of my quick fire questions:)

First I wanted to learn something more about Vladka’s unusual name (Brad’s etymology bug got to me;)) and I came across some information that says her name means A Great, Peaceful Ruler“.  Wow, that is some powerful stuff:) So what did the Ruler herself had to say? Here are Vladimira’s answers:

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Vladka hesitated a bit but finally decided on patient, creative and unpredictable because „they never know if I bring a ball, board game to the classroom or ask them to sing nursery rhymes”. (And bear in mind the fact that Vladka teaches adults:))

Well I would like to add something to that picture  – I asked some of our PLN members to describe Vladka (with one word only but some of us decided to use more – us teachers, always wanting to elaborate;)) And now a challenge for you – can you guess who said what?

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

This is what Vladka had to say:
„Well, I am not a very good cook and I don’t eat meat when I can choose so now there are broccoli, cheese – two kinds, cherry and apricot jam, apple juice, yoghurt (I don’t like yoghurt in fact) and nothing cooked because I am going to cook tonight after teaching.”

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
Here the biggest surprise – Vladka would love to be an archeologist, zoologist or a mythologist.  Wow, that’s quite a range! I think I would have guessed a zoologist but the other two – never!

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or what has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

Here Vladka wanted to concentrate on the most challenging thing when it comes to teaching:

“It certainly is motivation. If you motivate your students, inspire them, then it’s something amazing and it gets back to you.  I love it when I am on my way back home after the whole day of teaching (last lesson usually finish at 7:30pm) and I feel energized and encouraged. And then I sing in my car. But to be honest, I sometimes have problems with young children! I just don’t know what to do with them (so please, feel free to give me any advice on how to deal with them :P).”

To be honest I can’t imagine Vladimira having problems with teaching children – she’s so lively, approachable and always full of ideas! And besides – teaching adults is just like teaching (really big) kids:).

And finally the last question:

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

And here again I learned something new and unexpected

“Hm, last book? I usually read two or three at the same time. I fell in love with Sookie Stackhouse novels and I love everything supernatural or ethereal. I also enjoyed Angelology and now I am reading Smart Swarm. And I am a huge movie fan! Last time I saw Woody Allen’s movie You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger…and I wish I had time to watch again Inception > fantastic movie! The movie I have seen too many times is probably The Matrix. I watched it with friends again and again during one night on astronomy course trip when the night sky was cloudy and we couldn’t watch the meteorites.  You can try to count how many times it’s possible to see this film in one night”.

I was curious so I asked Vladka how many times she actually saw it:  “Hmm, how many times? Together I must have seen the movie like 20 times, but on that night maybe 4-5 times?? The last time I just woke up in the middle LOL!”

I’m ashamed to admit but… I fell asleep in the cinema when watching The Matrix for the first and only time;) Well, the film was shown at night and I was really tired…Vladka I hope you can forgive me;)

 There’s one more thing that I learned about Vladka – she is VERY sporty, she loves Latin dances and swimming and  … she represented Slovakia in a lot of running competitions for about 5 years!

She used to run long distance – 1500 to 5 km. Now she still runs for pleasure.

Vladka, Weronika and me in Brighton – Slavic Power Girls 😉

Anna Musielak is a Polish teacher and teacher trainer holding a Ph.D. from Silesian University. She has worked at the military unit, at college, teaching British Literature and Culture and as methodology director in a private language school. She has also published articles on literature, culture and language teaching. At the moment she is working on workshops and teaching English to young learners and adults. She is interested in using drama, music and literature in ELT. You can find her on twitter and get to know (and learn more from her!): @AnnaMusielak

Talking Dogme – an interview with Fiona Mauchline for #breltchat

An attempt at using Tagxedo... It should be in the shape of an apple... Need to practice more, eh?

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t taken part in it yet, a group of fantastic ELT teachers from different parts of the world got together to promote a chat on twitter – look for the #eltchat hashtag – to discuss ELT related issues, every Wednesday (at 12pm and 9pm GMT). I take part as often as I can – even though this semester my teaching schedule is getting in the way of my participating. It’s a fantastic initiative – English teachers from all over the world sharing practices, difficulties, activities, beliefs and ideas… You can learn more about #eltchat on their website. In it you can also find the transcripts of all chats and the summaries for each of them, written by different teachers each week. A really great resource and opportunity for Professional Development – as well as greater interaction with the PLN.

Well, many Brazilian teachers take part in #eltchat, but we felt we could do something along the same lines that would bring the benefits of #eltchat to Brazilian teachers – especially those who works on public schools, for they usually have less oportunities of PD. So a group of us decided to face the challenge (Valéria França/@vbenevolofranca, Bruno Andrade/@BrunoELT, Henrick Oprea/@hoprea , Raquel Oliveira / @Raquel_EFL and me / @CeciELT) and we started the #breltchat, which happens every other Wednesday, at 9:30pm – Brazil time), in Portuguese so that all Brazilian teachers can fully participate. Check out our blog here.

On our last #breltchat we discussed Dogme and how we could possibly apply dogme / unplugged lessons into our realities in Brazil. We were super lucky to have some fabulous special guests take part in that chat, people who really know Dogme – including one of the writers of “Teaching Unplugged” – the first book about Dogme, Luke Meddings / @lukemeddings. Our other special guests were Willy Cardoso / @willycard, Fiona Mauchline / @fionamau and Shelly Terrell / @shellterrell. The chat was really great, lots of ideas, myths being taken down, practical ideas… insightful tweets flying around. And as a follow up to that chat we did some interviews with the special guests and with Scott Thornbury (father of Dogme and co-author of Teaching Unplugged). I was fortunate enough to interview Fiona Mauchline who kindly took some time off her Sunday to talk to me about Dogme and how it applies to the Brazilian education system. Fiona’s sound came out a bit low (I blame it on Wetoku), but turn your computer’s volume up because it’s worth it!

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Let me know your thoughts!!! I always love to hear them!