Tuesday, December 29, 2009

R&R - recap and resolutions

2009 has been a wonderful year for me because:
  • travelled a lot and visited Amsterdam, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Singapore, Budapest, Denmark and Rome. Still dreaming of India, Japan, Portugal, New Zealand...
  • I started DELTA and read one million books about teaching and learning (more or less ;)
  • My blog was born in October!
  • Thanks to Videojug, I began experimenting with Indian cuisine and can now make delicious Chicken Tikka Masala 
  • I spoke at two ELT conferences - in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and Budapest, Hungary and met some fantastic people there
  • After months of struggle I finally got a credit card and became a proud member of IATEFL
  • I finally bought ‘How to teach English with technology’ and started getting prepared for future debates with Gavin Dudeney
  • Last but not least, I spent way too much on new shoes. Has it become a dangerous addiction?

My New Year's Resolutions and wishes for 2010 are below, disguised in a Wordle cloud.

Hope they will all come true and wish the same to you :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

20 Xmas Cartoons

There might be a teaching point in most of the cartoons but...

Because it's Christmas just scroll down and enjoy! :)

Warning - adult content ;)

Which one is your favourite?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nostalgically about Christmas

I fell in love with Turkey the first time I visited it in summer 2006. 

A year later, I was doing my CELTA in Istanbul and got my first job there. Although I had a chance to work in Shanghai and Madrid something was dragging me to Anatolia.

Living the life of an expat is a very enriching experience. You make new friends, get to know different cultures and opinions, learn the mother tongue of the locals.

Having lived in Istanbul for over two years now I’ve done it all. Yet there is something I miss here most – Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong. Turkish people know about Christmas. You can see Xmas decorations in shops while you stroll along the malls looking for presents to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’. You even start praising Americans for building Starbucks. The majority of Turks I know decorate Christmas trees, called here ‘the New Year’s Trees’ and give each other presents on December 31st.

Still the most important thing is generally missing – the Christmas spirit. Those of you who are Christians or were raised in a Christian country should get my point. The feeling of anxiety, the desire to be kind to people, the shopping frenzy and the overeating I disliked before are all absent. The worst thing is that it is a regular working day for a great majority of people.

I don’t blame Turks for that. In the end, Christmas is not part of their culture. It reminds of my own attitude to Halloween – a tradition absent from Polish culture. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot start getting excited about it.

A South African colleague of mine has been living in Istanbul for over 14 years with a Turkish husband and two daughters. One of them is 13, the other - 11 years old. Believe it or not, these two girls still think Santa is real J Although all the kids in their school have been telling them that it is parents who actually buy the presents, Aybüke and Kardelen refuse to accept. Surprising?

My friend Yolanda is a wise lady. ‘Your friends don’t get presents from Santa because they don’t believe in him. Santa comes to you because you wait for him’, she always says. In a country where Christmas spirit is rare, the one you can find melts even the coldest hearts.

Merry Christmas everyone J

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bringing out the beast by Lindsay Clandfield

Dear Readers,
It is my honour to invite you to read my first guest post written by Lindsay Clandfield.

Bringing out the beast

I’ve been a part of the ELT blogosphere and twitterverse for only a year now, so perhaps I’m not making a new point here, but I wonder if this medium doesn’t make us act in occasionally extreme ways. Okay, well maybe extreme is an extreme word but I’ve come across some pretty intense blogposts and comments (both on my blog and on others) that are, at times, rather aggressive and contain thinly veiled character attacks. What’s stranger is that sometimes they are from people who, face to face, are nowhere near like that. I’ve also felt myself get the urge to rant about something too (and no doubt I have, both on my blog and elsewhere).

One argument for this because people experience more disinhibition on the Internet, and feel free of adverse consequences of their words. You could say that the internet brings out the beast in some of us.

But this is only one side of the story. There is another characteristic of this social media which is precisely the opposite: that of extreme affection. On twitter, blogs and other social media I see lots of verbal stroking, encouragement, “you’re the best!” type stuff as well. Sometimes it looks like a veritable love-fest. And yes, before you ask, I’ve also caught myself getting carried away with what one colleague cynically called the “happy-clappy” spirit of it all.

Has anyone else noticed this or is it my imagination? Is there an explanation for it? Is it a man-thing or woman-thing? Does all this web 2.0 stuff give us all bipolar tendencies?

This is a little post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, and it never managed to fit into my six things format I set for myself on my other blog. So I’m glad that Anita invited me here to do a blog post for her. 

Lindsay Clandfield is a teacher, teacher trainer and author. He is also a fan of lists and a godfather of L_missbossy's ELT playground. Lindsay's blog Six Things is, in my humble opinion, one of the best in the blogosphere. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Do I have an accent?

A few weeks ago, a very funny thing happened to me. It was late in the evening and I was coming back home by dolmuş (shared taxi) with a friend of mine. Suddenly a girl looked back saying ‘Are you Polish?’. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘How do you know that?’. ‘You speak with a Polish accent. I worked with Poles in the UK, that’s why I can tell’.

The look on my face was probably priceless as in the MasterCard commercial.

You see, for a non NEST, that’s like a slap on the face

Not that I care. Honestly. Those of you, who have actually talked to me, may voice their opinion if desired.

The dolmuş incident made me think about accents a great deal.

Is having a native speaker-like accent really that important?

Like many non NESTs I was brought up on the Grammar Translation method and I’m a living proof that it works, regardless of the bad press it has received. If you ask me about the accents of my former teachers, however, I have to say I do not recall, as they did not really speak any English during classes.

Actually, I started speaking English and paying attention to pronunciation at university when we started a phonetics class. The aim was to make us speak with an RP accent and I can still remember the ridiculous dialogues from ‘How now, brown cow’ by Mimi Ponsonby. Apparently I was very prone to drilling as, surprisingly, my score at the end of the course was pretty high.

Anyhow, one of best English teachers I had before entering the university spoke with a very heavy Polish accent. Yet she managed to prepare me (at that time a high school student from the middle of nowhere) for the English Philology entry exam well enough to pass it without major problems.

Did her accent bother us? Sure.
Was she a successful teacher? Absolutely!

How do you feel about that? Both NESTs and non NESTs are welcome to share ideas!

P.S. Having spent hours thinking and analyzing, I know why that girl in the dolmuş thought I was Polish. But I guess I am going to keep it a secret ;) 

Friday, December 4, 2009

On Being a Newbie Blogger

There are two types of newbie bloggers – those who are already pretty famous in the real world and those who are not. Like myself.

The newbie blogger type one does not need to worry about whether his or her blog will become successful i.e. whether people will make an effort and visit it leaving comments. Usually a few tweets is enough to direct all his/her friends and colleagues to the website.

Bloggers type two have a much a harder job to do. Entering the blogosphere is like entering a party in full swing where everyone knows each other and no one wants to talk to you. Probably because they are busy talking to the people they already know or because they think you are insignificant so why bother.

So what does a newbie blogger type two naturally do?

a)      leaves comments on VIP bloggers’ sites
b)      asks them for a guest blog piece

I have been a part of the blogsphere for a bit more than two months and I have to admit that it has been the most fruitful period in my professional development.

I follow blogs that I find genuinely interesting and useful. It’s not important to me how famous their authors are. What really counts is whether you can see someone’s personality through what he or she writes. Believe it or not but it is not that easy to find.

Leaving comments on blogs is another issue. So many comments I have read on VIP’s blogs seem empty. ‘It’s a great post!’ or ‘I agree with what you’ve written’ are so incredibly boring especially when written as an answer to a post that is, hmm, nothing special. To me, leaving a comment makes sense if you actually mean what you write and when by stating something you want to express yourself. As a result, although there are so many wonderful blogs I follow, I do not leave comments there because I have simply nothing to add.

Seeing comments appearing on your own blog is something every blogger wishes for. In a newbie type two’s case it is obviously not that easy. Some great stuff is being written every day by the less well known and too bad it’s not being read or discussed. How to direct people’s interest to your blog then? No idea. Maybe the solution is meeting the VIPs in person?


asking them  for a guest blog piece which I mentioned before. It has not crossed my mind yet and I do not think I will ever dare to do so. Some VIPs consider it cheeky or simply rude.

Anyway I have quite a lot of ideas of my own J I guess time will show whether the road I have taken is going to be the right one.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Schools in Poland and Turkey - comparison

Teaching abroad is an amazing experience.

No matter how hard you try though, it seems impossible to stop comparing countries you have worked in.

After Poland, Turkey is the second country I chose to teach in. Here is a list of similarities and differences between teaching in both countries.

- Students attend primary schools (6 years), middle schools (3 years) and high schools (3-4 years)

- One lesson unit is 45 minutes

- Most schools are public, there are not many private ones

- Public schools are generally seen as offering better education than private ones

-Teachers seem to be given more freedom; they stay at school only when they have classes

-There are many course books to choose from and it is the teacher’s decision which book to use regardless of the school type

-Substitutions are generally paid for

-Most schools are co-educational

- Students attend  primary schools (8 years) and high schools (4 years)

- One lesson unit is 40 minutes

- There are a lot of private schools, especially in Istanbul

- Public schools are often considered as ‘worse’ e.g. there are too many students in a class (80!)

- Teachers are made to stay at school the whole day e.g. from 9 to 5 even if they have three classes that day

-Teachers in all public schools use the same books; in private schools, English teachers can choose the books they want  to use

-Substitutions (in private schools) are not paid for

-Most schools are co-educational

There are probably a lot more similarities and differences that I failed to mention J

If you are a teacher from a different country, please feel free to write a few words about how teaching in your place differs from the ones I have compared.

It will be great to hear from you J