26.12.13

11 Random facts, Questions, Answers and ELT Bloggers:Reply to Eva Buyksimkeyan

11 Random facts, Questions, Answers and ELT Bloggers

This is my very first  blog challenge and a dear colleague who I first met in Paris, Eva Buyuksimkesyan, tagged me for a very personal  blog challenge. Having served for many years as an officer for a teachers' association meant avoiding talking about myself so I have kind of forgotten what it is like... but  I’ll try to do my best.

 The task includes:
Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers.
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me
1. I’m a single parent raising two daughters
2. I grew up in a neighborhood with Greek refugees from Izmir and Asia Minor. Even though they had lost their homes and all their belongings, they managed to build their life from scratch. Their forward thinking has always been an inspiration.
3. As a child, I spent unique summers on Aegina, an island off the Athenian coast, playing with my friends on the beach and in the fields all day long.
Aegina, the island of my summers


4. I love chocolate and coffee.
5. My favorite books are the "Animal Farm" by George Orwell and " Christ recrucified" by Nikos Kazantzakis. They both show the bright and dark sides of human nature in a unique way each.
6. I love reading history books and watching documentaries.
7. My cooking skills leave a lot to be desired especially when it comes to dishes like "Moussaka" or "Pastitsio".
8. I adore discovering off the beaten track places when travelling in Greece and abroad.
9. I am often described as cosmopolitan and open to different cultures.
10. If I didn't live in Athens, I'd like to live on a Greek island.
11. Enjoying discussions with friends during a meal on a sunny day with a view of the Acropolis or the sea is bliss that no money can ever buy.
12. (Bending the rule but I think I need to add it) I consider myself a front line teacher. Dealing with issues arising in class helps you being a pragmatist and dreamer at the same time!

My answers to Eva's questions:

1. Do you remember the first class you entered as a teacher?
 A class of elementary level kids at the language school I had learned English. Having a male teacher - they usually have female teachers- must have been a challenge to them but soon they dropped their initial inhibitions and we all  had fun learning.

2. What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
Facebook because it combines picture, text, video and audio. It started as a pretty superficial social medium hosting gossip, fights and games but over the years it has evolved into a useful tool to create PLNs, share ideas and news and get in touch with people from all over the world.

3. How do you think blogging helps your teaching?
Working at a school that is at the forefront of educational practices, requires constant updating, sharing experience and learning from the experience of others . Writing blogposts allows me to reflect on practices and methodology I have applied. Reading blogposts allows me to broaden horizons by reading what front line teachers and innovators from all over the world are currently working on.

4. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee for ever!!! <3

5. Who is your favorite singer, band, musician?
Hard to pick only one. My favorite composers are Hadjidakis and Theodorakis. My favorite singer is Andrea Bocelli. 

6. Do you attend conferences? Why? / why not?
I attend conferences cause apart from the presentations, they allow for interaction with participants. I often find myself learning far more interesting stuff from chatting with other colleagues than listening to ELT "stars". It also helps me realize that educators face more or less the same problems everywhere and that there is no "ideal class". At least  not in planet Earth :)

7. Who were the most helpful tweeters or bloggers for you when you started blogging or tweeting?
Vicky Loras, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and Roseli Serra have been supportive and acted as role models. Posts are a different genre and it took me a while to adjust my writing.

8. What will be the first goal in your New Year’s resolutions list this year?
Focusing more on quality rather than quantity at work and spending more time with my daughters.

9. Where would you like to travel in 2014?
I know for sure I'm going to Harrogate this year but I would also like to go to Crete - a sun drenched Greek island in the south- and the dream of a lifetime, Brazil!

10. How long does it take to write a blog post for you and how often do you update your blog?
Once I realize what I need to express - usualy an experience or discuss a specific issue - it usually  takes me a few days and then after a week or so I edit it and if I am happy I upload it. Very often, I ask feedback from colleagues I esteem before posting it. In 2013, it's been a blogpost a month but it will be more frequent in the foreseeable future.

11. What is your favorite food?
Mediterranean food, especially in the summer.

Most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged more than once, but I would like to tag two exceptional colleagues whose posts are always a pleasure to read and most helpful in my daily teaching.
Christina Martidou
and
Chryssanthe Sotiriou


Here are my 11 questions:
1.       1.  How long have you been blogging?
2. What made you start blogging?
3. What advice would you give a new blogger?
4. How do you spend your free time?
5. If you were not involved in ELT, what would you do?
6. Do you speak any other foreign languages?
7. What is the ideal class for you?
8. What is the biggest challenge for educators at the moment?
9. What do you imagine yourself doing in ten years time?
10. Who is your favorite author?
11. Is learning technology a fad or a trend that will play a key role in education  in  the years to come?

Thanks you Eva for tagging me and including me in the game!
Looking forward to reading your next blogpost :)

21.12.13

Boosting PBL with the aid of technology



Boosting PBL with the aid of technology
 
Project Based Learning (em)powered by technology!



Feeling your Project Based Learning approach is stuck in stagnant waters? Making use of learning technology can give a boost to the projects assigned in class and motivate learners.

Why use technology?
No matter how much most of us dread technology and despite the horror stories we often hear, technology can:

 1.Motivate learners
Technology is part and parcel of their daily routine and the majority of them feel confident using it. If you know that you are good at technology, you are more likely to try something new with technology rather than by using books.

2. Facilitate search (webquests)
Given the recent economic crisis, access to hard copies of reference material is becoming more and more difficult. Such material is available, free-of-charge on the Internet and gives students the opportunity to survey, select relevant material in an ocean of data and based on  that, at a later stage prioritize, evaluate and synthesize.

3. Facilitate communication and collaboration
Whether using synchronous (Skype, Lync meetings) or  asynchronous (mail, replies to blogs) means of communication on learning platforms or even social media such as Edmodo and Twitter, technology encourages communication between different communities and countries and promotes collaboration among learners from different backgrounds and cultures.

4. Enhance creativity
The outcome can be extremely impressive with web 2.0 tools such as wordclouds. Even less artistic students can be motivated to give it a try and then provide a blurb or a passage to accompany it.

5. Facilitate exciting presentations
Public speaking can be challenging even for the most experienced teacher – let alone a learner. Yet, powerful tools like PowerPoint, keynote, Prezi – among others - stimulate learners’ interest and creativity. At primary school, they always start with adding impressive photos or videos but it is a good opportunity for the teacher to explain the process of creating a presentation. It is a real life skill that they will have to resort to quite often as adults.

6. Simulate real life working environments
Communication and collaboration using technology are an indispensable part of many jobs and employers take it for granted that these skills have been acquired and developed by the employee before they pursue a career.

Most of the above are
21st Century Skills that most of us have been struggling  to integrate into our syllabus…

Tools to use
There are new tools and applications released practically every day. It is very difficult to keep track of all of them and you don’t have to use the latest one, the most expensive or  trendy app. Your goal is to help your students do some basic research and produce and at the same time ensure they feel creative and confident they can deal with the task they are assigned.  Below you can find some programmes and web 2.0 tools that I have used with my students for their projects. Most of them are free or the cost is affordable by any school. Some of them allow the user to write text, record and add video. It all depends on what you want your students to focus on: written, oral production or combine both.

Text: Ms Word, OneNote, lino.it
Word clouds: tugxedo, wordle
Audio: Vocaroo
Video: movie maker, animoto, mailvu
Animation /Cartoons: dvolver, British Council for kids website (
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/make-your-own/comic-strip-maker)

Click below to watch an animated video made by 3rd graders
A project by 3rd graders using a web 2.0 tool 



Problems you may encounter
1. Compatibility
Files sometimes cannot be read by users of a different operating system or files saved in older software versions look weird in the latest ones.

2. Learner's age
Pupils may not have email accounts –required by some web 2.0 tools - or parental consent to use the Internet

3. Not everybody is a digital native
Kids are usually adept at technology but it is not safe to assume that they are all computer whiz kids. Some basic instructions or training is necessary to ensure  that  everybody can follow.

4. Digital citizenship issues arising
Students may mistake learning technology for another internet or video game. There can be cases of malpractice, bullying or simply students being distracted by games or irrelevant videos and photos. Setting clear rules from the beginning of the year will reduce these problems to the minimum. (See tips and hints below)

5. Ads displayed on free web 2.0 tools
The ads displayed on the screen maybe offensive or in some cases promote sexism. Check before introducing it in class and at the start of the year raise awareness about the potential dangers arising from clicking indiscriminately on whatever attracts our attention.

Tips and hints
1. Narrow down the number of tools or software you intend to use
It takes time and sometimes effort to make the most of each tool. Don’t hesitate to give yourself and your students the opportunity to explore its full potential. The outcome is usually rewarding beyond expectations.

2. Set clear rules from day 1!
Learners need to have a clear framework from early on and you need to ensure that their learning and working environment is safe without any threats that may inhibit learning. An example of such a contract between learners and teachers can be read on this blog http://differentefl.blogspot.gr/2012/10/classroom-rules-for-11-classes.html

3. Encourage good academic habits like mentioning sources

4. Discourage learners from copy-paste practices by raising awareness and asking the class to assess each project in terms of originality.

5. Encourage pairwork and groupwork. Learners are highly likely to benefit from peer teaching

Technology can bring back to life project work and encourage students who have kept their distance from more traditional learning approaches, to be actively involved, combining fun and learning!

Dimitris Primalis




                                                                                                       



            




8.11.13

Speaking English in class

Speaking English in class
Doctor, help... My students won't speak English in class, no matter what...

Having the feeling that your learners use excessively L1 in class and they will not produce the desired L2 output? Don't worry - it can happen to every teacher- but you need to act a.s.a.p.

Here are some practical tips:

1.
Would you rather talk about English or speak English?
This discussion, especially with beginner  and pre-intermediate classes, is usually done in L1 but helps them realize the reason they attend this class. The dilemma  is action ( speaking the language) or theory ( talking about the language). The vast majority will go for the first option.


2. "Is this an English class?"
Raise students' awareness by asking "Is this an English or a Greek/French/Chinese class?"  " What language do we speak in an English class?" even if the answer is "Chinese" - obviously in a humorous mood- they know the answer and they respond in L2 quite soon.

3.
“Excuse me? I prefer coffee to tea...”
Reply in English to your students and pretend you don't understand them when they use L1. Especially when it comes to simple words and phrases. Humour can help whenever possible. My favourite responses are "No, thank you! I prefer coffee" when they ask me "
τι" ( "what" in Greek sounds like "tea") and  "I go by bus"  when they say "εντάξει" (“alright” in Greek sounds like "an taxi"). At first, they are startled, then they laugh and finally, they reply in English.

4.
Set phrases to deal with everyday class reality.
"Equip" them with a set of phrases to deal with simple things they need in class e.g. "Excuse me! Can I go out, please?"

5.
Explain when and why you use L1
Once you establish that L2 is the language used in class, students will reprimand you if you use L1. Explain before speaking in L1 that you are going to use it to save time explaining a grammar structure or any other reason you think is necessary.

6.
Class rules  
A golden opportunity to set the rules is at the beginning of the academic year. Discuss in class and write the rules on a poster that everybody can see. "I speak English in class" is a sine qua non!!!

7.
Take pride in speaking L2
Praise the class for speaking English. It builds their confidence and motivates them to keep up the effort.


A true story
Ages ago, as a new teacher, I was given an extremely weak intermediate class that the language school owner described as "hopeless". Their level was very low and they would not speak English at all. Even though my appearance is typically Greek, I somehow managed to persuade them that I am a native speaker and do not speak a word of Greek. For more than 5 months, it worked well and even the ones who would not speak English at all in September, they gradually managed to convey their intended message in L2 despite accuracy problems. Then, a couple of students heard me speak Greek on a public phone … Surprisingly - perhaps because it was part of the class ritual- they kept using English when they addressed me.

Speaking is, by nature, a skill that cannot be developed overnight. It takes consistent work and lots of humour to divert the tendency to use L1 in class but it is worth every bit of the energy spent.

Good luck with your plans to help your learners speak English!
Dimitris Primalis

11.9.13

Learning Technologies in Class

Learning Technologies in Class
Dimitris Primalis interviewed by Nik Peachey at the 2013 IATEFL conference in Liverpool.


video

21.7.13

Interactive Whiteboards: A valuable aid or an anachronistic tool in modern disguise?


Interactive Whiteboards: A valuable aid or an anachronistic tool in modern disguise?


This was originally posted on the BELTA blog on June 22, 2013

Having attended a most interesting  IATEFL debate between Gavin Dudeney and Pete Sharma, I would like to seize the opportunity to share my experience of using Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) on a daily basis since 2008.  I work at a private school in Athens which had Interactive whiteboards installed in 2008 and a year later introduced and integrated into the syllabus the 1:1 model (1 computer to 1 student).  Being a primary school EFL teacher, I will focus on my personal experience. Even though it concerns a comparatively small scale (4 classes: 3-6 graders, a total of approximately 70 students per year), I hope you will find it useful. You are more than welcome to contribute with comments and recommendations.

First encounter:  Shock and awe!

Having an expensive gadget on my classroom wall gave me the creeps at the very beginning for two reasons: 1. It is an investment but at the same time primary school pupils are notoriously awkward and tend to damage anything fragile -would they be responsible enough? 2. The expectations of the learners to use it start from day one: the more you postpone using it, the more impatient they grow. Soon a third concern appeared. Would I have to stick to the board throughout the lesson instead of mingling in class?

At the very beginning, I felt like the gentleman in the video:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jIZvHkqTOV4

Part of the furniture or a robot performing automated, repetitive tasks. Was that my role in a learning technology equipped class? Obviously not!

As time passed-by I realized that my students felt more comfortable with it than I did. Born and raised at a time when gadgets are status symbols, kids show an amazing flexibility and dexterity when it comes to technology. In a relatively short period of time most of my 9-10 year old students offered to help me and gave me practical tips that saved time and effort in class.  It was then that we -the teachers at school-noticed the obvious. Why not give our students the opportunity to deal with technology in a synergy that could bring benefits for both sides?
 Appointing assistants (computer whiz kids who adore anything that involves technology) brought to surface the advantages of this "alliance". "The teachers can help us learn English, we can help them with technology to make the lesson more interesting".

Looking back, I could summarize my experience in the following:

Motivation

I have been teaching for 20 years and it was the first time that I saw pupils shouting so loudly and competing who will come to the board to write, draw or match. IWBs seem to be stronger than the classic inhibition that every student has - including myself when I was a boy - when it comes to writing on the board in front of the whole class.

The kinesthetic aspect

For many years our lessons were audio-visually strong but when it came to the kinesthetic part, they either required too much preparation (realia) or we were simply carried away by the exercises that had to be done in the book. Let me add that because EFL books have always been more expensive than others, parents often complain that the book is not used and they are practically money down the drain. Consequently, teachers often felt compelled to do all or most parts of the book. The IWB offers an alternative in the classroom for children who are not fast writers, have learning difficulties or are simply sick and tired of the book. I have seen children who loathed writing asking me to come to the IWB, so that they can write the date or the answer. In some cases, when the special pen for the IWB was not available, they simply loved writing using their fingers and using different font or special effects. In real life classes, there are mixed-ability kids and have different learning styles that need to be catered for, even in streams.

Building team spirit (we are a class - we are a team)

Teaching young learners often involves building team spirit and instilling the notion that " we are a team, we learn together". Even though the IWB is not regarded as a team building tool, it works as one to encourage them to work together as a class on an exercise.

Focus

Because of all the above, IWBs can help the teacher present and practise new language or do remedial work more easily. I cannot base it on research but I have the impression that the attention span of my students is longer when I use the IWB than the whiteboard. I have seen children who couldn't care less about an ordinary lesson insisting on actively participating so that they can be given the chance to use the IWB. This may be because they feel more comfortable with technology or they feel something "big" and "exciting" is happening in class and they want to be part of it. By saying this, let me clarify that IWBs are not magic wands that will automatically solve all your problems in class. In my experience though, it can help you "capture" your students' attention and motivate them to participate when you most need it.

Do IWBs perpetuate a teacher-centered model?

IWBs are often accused of promoting a teacher centered lesson depriving students of time to work in pairs or groups as they would do with 1:1. Is that a real life dilemma though? How many lessons rely exclusively on one kind of interaction? A real life lesson usually includes a variety of forms of interaction. Practice, presentation, task ( based learning), project ( based learning), plenary, pairwork or groupwork are all tools in the hands of the educator. The school I work for has seen a complete transformation in terms of methodology and has adopted project based learning. Pair work and groupwork are there on a daily basis and are an integral part of our lesson. Yet, pupils adore the moment when we play a quiz - using the interactive coursebook on the IWB - or younger ones doing a drag and drop exercise as a plenary and not in pairs or small groups.

The cost

Prices for software and hardware range but I am sure that the cost is significant for small schools of foreign languages. I know many such schools which felt compelled to buy it because their competitor a block away has one. However, they often let it gather dust or use it once a year in a way that reminds ancient ceremonies rather than integrating them into their daily practice. My advice is: if you intend to use it on daily basis, buy it. If not, invest on something you will exploit more.

Some argue that instead of spending money on IWBs, the school should buy tablet pcs (netbooks or laptops) for their students (1:1). Yet in Greece, the price of an IWB ( excluding your laptop) does not exceed that of 2 or 3 netbooks which means the dilemma IWB or tablets for all my students is not valid. Supposing though such a question is posed, I would say that it is the students' age and needs that set the priorities and play a role in the decision. There are no magic recipes, it all has to do with the syllabus design and model one wants to follow.

Tips and hints

Once you decide to install IWBs, do not remove the whiteboards from the class. Keep them side by side with IWBs. In the event of a technical problem or power failure, you can always resort to the classic whiteboards.
Ensure that software and hardware arrive the same day and that your teachers have undergone training. Once having them installed, kids will be so enthusiastic that it will be difficult to postpone using it.
As mentioned above, appoint students as assistants. It motivates them, it makes them feel they were assigned a position with some responsibility and it saves the teacher time at the beginning of the lesson.
With some IWBs you can't use an ordinary marker. Let students know how to use it properly without damaging it. The most sensitive parts are usually the pins at the end of the plugs. Train students to use it and respect the equipment.
Remember that you are assessed for your English teaching skills and not your technical ones. Should something go wrong, keep calm and ask for help from the ICT department. My favourite punchline is "Has anybody got Harry Potter's phone number?" It always makes my pupils laugh and dispels any fears. Most of the times, - unsurprisingly perhaps - students know more about it and can deal with the problem on the spot or can even give you tips on how to use it more efficiently.
Do not overuse it. Integrate it in your syllabus and define aims will be achieved with it and which parts of the lesson you will use it for.

Conclusion

I hope I have helped those who want to know more about IWBs in class with an account of my experience. To my mind, IWBs, laptops or any other device can be the most valuable tool or the worst time waster. They are merely the means to achieve the goal and not the goal itself . The educator has been and still is at the very center of the educational process in the sense that they -like generals- deploy their resources and equipment in the best possible way to overcome difficulties and achieve learning. Flexibility, creativity, variety and exploiting feedback are the keys to the successful use of technology in class.



7.6.13

Leading a Teachers' Association in times of crisis

To Bessy, Sevi,  Vicky, Tri, Eftichis, Sophia, Vangelis,   and all those who made a dream come true

There is a small country in a corner of this world which has been hit by the crisis.  Unemployment rates have reached record highs - in the vicinity of 30%, the economy has been devastated by ruthless austerity policies imposed by moneylenders and its people saw their salaries decreasing practically overnight by 22-40%!!!  This has been combined with merciless taxation. Highly qualified staff is underpaid or has not been paid for months,  working hours have increased while braindrain has reached epidemic levels. On top of that, the country has consistently been ‘raped’ by the international media over the past three years:  the inhabitants have been  labelled as lazy despite OECD surveys indicating they work longer hours than most of their European counterparts;
Shamefully,  its long culture and history have been ridiculed; monuments which are icons of  democracy, freedom, equality and pedagogy have often been "defaced" in the most vulgar way on magazine covers and newspaper front pages.

How would you feel if you had to take over as the chairperson of the local English teachers' association (T.A.) under these circumstances? This is an account of my voyage to "Ithaca" as the chairperson of TESOL Greece and I hope that some of the tips I am giving below may help other teacher associations in crisis.

Background
The news broke unexpectedly in September when the chairperson had to move abroad for professional reasons in the midst of her tenure. According to the bylaws, the vice chair takes over.  I don't believe in omens but when I assessed the situation it didn't seem very hopeful. The members had suffered a severe blow (income wise), the chair had already moved abroad and two members of the board of directors were soon to follow; the cost of travelling from the countryside to the capital -where most events are held- was prohibiting. The board - seriously understaffed - had to organize and host 8 events and an international convention in a professional field where sponsors are an endangered species. Even worse, Harry Potter was not around to lend us his magic wand...

On a less humorous and more realistic  note, the dilemma posed for a TA in such conditions is : either downsize  by cutting down on events/services and wait until the crisis is over or offer more for  less money in order to increase membership.

The former stance seemed closer to the Troika policies which devastated the Greek economy. The latter seemed to be what the members and potential members needed most in a crisis: An association on their side, to support, motivate  and give them courage to go on with their mission, to educate children under adverse conditions.
The choice seemed obvious and clear from the very beginning. "The only way is up! We embrace the community investing in our members!"
But how can this be achieved?

Having had no previous experience as a chairman, I found the following 12 points helpful in my attempt to keep the association alive:

1. Listen
Most members have brilliant ideas but do not forward them to the board  because they do not know the procedure and feel their contribution is unimportant .  On the contrary, very often a suggestion by a member -slightly modified to the association's reality- can be life saving.

2. Choosing close associates
Make sure that you choose people you can trust and  communicate well with as your closest associates. Mutual understanding can save time and lead to a smooth handling of projects and issues that may arise. I was lucky to have a vice chair, a treasurer and Newsletter editor who spoke their minds openly and shared the same vision. This helped TG organize many events and run projects that were initially considered overambitious for their size and membership.

3 Get to know thy membership
The potential of a TA  should not be limited to the board. Getting a clear picture of the members’ profiles  and  professional achievements can help you recruit the right people to run events or projects . Despite what was believed, I soon realized that TESOL Greece has experienced, highly qualified members who excel both in Greece and abroad. Most of them are willing to share their expertise in various fields either in the form of articles or presentations.

4. Reshuffle and recruit
Voluntary organizations do not have the luxury to hire experts in certain fields. Redelegate duties or support overworked teams with experienced volunteers. Usually past members of the board have the experience and are willing to help if necessary. From my experience at the 2004 Olympics and over the years in TESOL, always recruit more volunteers than you need. The reason is simple. It is only human not to be able to make it either due to a minor flu or a family issue that may arise at the very last minute. The spare volunteer can and will make up for the absentee.

Recruit people with a vision. They are highly likely to work autonomously and develop a project without  stagnating or unnecessary panicking.  They are usually people who will overcome difficulties and give a boost to the project using their creativity, imagination, hard work and expertise. TESOL Greece was fortunate to have such people. Here are two recent examples: The blogmaster managed to boost the blog to 20,000 views within 4 months attracting a readership from all four corners of this world and the webmaster managed to build a brand new website within two months. Both worked on a voluntary basis and in essence acted as de facto project managers.

5. Delegate and involve
Even if a day had 48 hours and you had 6 hands, it is highly unlikely that one person can do everything. In this case you will soon end up worn out and behind schedule. Your help will be necessary sooner or later but make sure that you delegate duties and involve as many members of the board and the TA as you can. This is not a one man show but your role resembles that of an orchestra conductor. Fine tuning takes more time than doing the job by yourself but pays off in the long run when you are surrounded by a team who are confident and  supportive of each other. This was actually one of the comments I heard at the recent TESOL Greece convention that made me happy.

6. Communicate with your members
Very often a lot of hard work and effort is put into organizing and creating but  if you don't communicate it to members and potential members, they are highly unlikely to find out. Mass mail, facebook group, twitter, newsletter or any other medium that can convey the information accurately and in time will do.  What may seem unimportant to you, may count for some of your members. Informing them on a regular basis (without excess) strengthens the bond of the community and prevents feelings of exclusion or allegations that you and the board act secretly forming clans(heard that too...) Bethany Cagnol of TESOL France has acted as a source of inspiration with her brilliant way of communicating through the social media and promoting her association's events.

7. Think forward and innovate

A new era requires new ways of communicating and facilitating continuous professional development.  Consider introducing webinars; Live streaming for members who cannot attend because of the distance or a busy schedule but will still find a slot to attend the presentation. Encourage communication and exchange of opinions on teaching matters through a TA blog. TG's TESOL saw an unprecedented popularity within months which indicates the need of the community to (re)visit certain EFL areas.

8. Cater for their needs

Academia enlightens teachers but when it comes to dealing with everyday issues, practical workshops are much appreciated. Working longer hours means that teachers have less time to prepare, less time to devote to "charging batteries" and very often burn themselves out. At certain events, speakers were asked to give workshops with hands on activities and material. Most of our members felt thankful and reported that they felt inspired to go to the class the next morning.


9. Give credit
Don't be afraid to give credit to good ideas and hard work. As a chairperson, you are already overexposed to the media. Acknowledging others simply shows that you can work in a team and people are more likely to be involved if they feel their voluntary work is recognized and appreciated.

10. Seize every opportunity to network and establish alliances
Due to the economic strife, most TAs have realized that strengthening bonds, exchanging experience, speakers, articles and displaying solidarity are essential to the survival of the field. During my tenure, I found out that TAs have more in common than previously thought.  I attended a TA conference in Ankara in December 2012 where a number of delegates expressed their concerns and presented the problems they face which bore striking similarities.

Even though you cannot expect financial aid, smaller gestures can make a difference. For example, TESOL international covered the flight expenses of a plenary speaker at our international convention which allowed us to be more flexible with other minor financial issues. IATEFL gave us permission to adopt their guidelines which saved time and effort and allowed us to use our human resources in other positions. Finally, contacting directly other presidents about minor issues that usually  arise, prevents misunderstandings, promotes collaboration and facilitates effective problem solving.

11. Reach out to the ELT community
You and your TA are not alone in a shark infested sea. In a crisis, everybody is hit including the ELT industry. Sponsors are rare but if you approach them in a win-win mood making allowances and taking their concerns into consideration, you will be surprised by their positive response! Such an approach brought us an unexpectedly high number of exhibitors and created a feeling of solidarity and unity in the EFL field.

12. United we stand
Solidarity and team work are the most precious features of an association.  Team spirit can overcome any logistics, financial difficulty and can make or break an event. It is worth devoting time, energy and activities to help members build bonds. During the international convention, the tight budget was outweighed by the voluntary spirit of the members who identified with the association and did their best to help delegates.

Fighting against the odds may not be a lost battle after all…
TESOL Greece saw a 15% rise in its membership and managed to strengthen bonds within the community in the darkest hour.

Looking back, I can now tell that it was no rose garden and there was no red carpet treatment. If you are the chairperson,  there will be times when sleep will be your most sought after dream; there will be times when people will not share your perspective;  they may tell you are "too little or unsuitable for the position"; your proposals maybe be questioned just for the sake of doing so.... There will be suggestions to invite speakers with a 4 or 5 digit honorarium. You may even be asked to offer free membership to members who simply stated a different opinion (at a time when the TA's budget is tighter than ever). Most of these requests are usually forwarded in good spirit but eventually you are the one who has a clear, overall  picture of the landscape and has to make a decision. Saying "NO" can be difficult but on the other hand you are not a politician and there is no point for demagogy.  Most well intentioned members will understand if you explain the situation at the general meeting or in a message on the social media.


No matter how stressful it may have been, I am grateful. Seeing it from a distance, it is also a unique challenge to discover yourself! You soon realize that you have more stamina you thought you had. Your time management skills are tested to their limits but are also developed day by day. Synthesizing ideas and having to communicate with people from all walks of life are unique experiences that you don't have in your daily teaching routine. You learn how to deal with minor and major crises without shouting and screaming but remaining cool and using your critical ability to the maximum - much appreciated in my role as a father.  Synergy with colleagues who specialize in different areas of ELT can teach you a great deal and help you see the situation from a completely different perspective.

In an economic crisis, teachers are the first ones to suffer loss of income, receive pressure and tension both inside and outside the classroom, deal with one of themost vulnerable groups of the population: children and teenagers. They absorb the aftershocks of poverty, unemployment and they have to be a source of stability and "routine" (necessary to make children feel secure) in an environment that changes rapidly around them with the consequences often being dramatic. In such a context, teachers sometimesfeel their work is denigrated; their morale and self- esteem often plunge and they are susceptible to depression and burn out.  A TA should be there to support  and remind them that they are not alone in this battle!

 There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a community recognizing hard work and making plans and dreams for the next academic year being creative instead of pitying themselves. There is something unique in being trusted the fate of a teachers' association: You support those who support, empower and inspire a young generation that will build tomorrow's world.

28.4.13

Netbooks in class: Science Fiction or every day Practice?
Cryssanthe Sotiriou-Dimitris Primalis
2012 IATEFL Conference - Glasgow
Click here to view the powerpoint presentation

23.4.13

Literature strikes back!
Teaching literature with technology
IATEFL Conference 10th April 2013
Dimitris Primalis - Chryssanthe Sotiriou
Learning Technologies SIG 

Click here to view the powerpoint presentation