An inspiring educator: Sylvia Guinan

Interview with Sylvia Guinan

Please welcome my special guest, Sylvia Guinan, in today's teacher interview. Sylvia is an online teacher, teacher-trainer, materials designer, and blogger. She has kindly agreed to share her thoughts and experiences with us today.

1) What inspires you as a teacher?

The freedom to create, experiment, and empower students to do the same on their own learning paths. This is much more practical than it sounds. The establishment would have us believe that creativity wastes classroom time, but the opposite is true. The truth is that lack of motivation wastes time. It's wastes years, in fact, lots of money, and even lives. I say use any course book and achieve its objectives even faster by transforming dead content into lively communication. The book can be a guide, blueprint or roadmap, but the map is not the territory.

2) How is technology  transforming the essence of what we do?

We could say that technology has given us more educational toys to play with. But that would be a shallow interpretation and barely cover the tip of the iceberg. Today's web 2.0/web3.0 technology has really ushered in social and cultural revolutions that we must lead with responsibility, intelligence and integrity. In practical terms, we are now more cognizant of how social and collaborative learning can transform education and how personalisation is much easier to implement than ever before.

3) How do you stay motivated as an online teacher?

I have discovered my own channels of influence. What I mean is that I like to read, blog, and engage the wider world of teachers out there who inspire me to grow as a teacher and a human being.

4) What's the biggest challenge you face as an online professional?

The thing about working online and embracing technology is that a whole new Pandora's box of possibility opens up. Time management and choosing what to focus on have been the greatest challenges I've had to face. When you find yourself loving every aspect of the business from writing, to creating multi-media projects, to leading teacher-training initiatives and social networking, there comes a point where you have to make very tough choices, and say no to things you want to do.

5) How does one make those choices?
We all need principles to guide us and we must be in touch with our teaching values. We must also have long-term plans. I find that the principle of simplicity and having  purpose as a professional helps to keep me focused and make streamlined decisions.

In the past I've had to choose between teaching students or training teachers, blogging for myself or blogging for others, accepting opportunities or turning them down. I've learnt how to prioritise the fundamental aspects of my work. I always carve out community time for myself. In fact I've never worked in isolation. I'm always actively involved in teacher networks, movements and organisations. I do this because I want my work to be meaningful in the larger scheme of things. I feel called and compelled to share skills and ideas, so that others can do the same.

Sometimes when I'm highly inspired I will move mountains to do what I ''think'' is impossible. The recent conferences I attended in Dublin (Click to watch Sylvia's talk in Dublin) and Athens were "impossibilities" for me at the time, but in the end they turned out to be win-win solutions, both for myself and for my children.
There really is magic beyond the comfort zone.

Sylvia's interview at the latest TESOL Greece convention

6) Apart from teaching, do you think that your work is making a difference to others in others in less direct ways?

I think that my work has shown how women all over the world can be empowered to work from home even if they are full-time mothers.
A very popular topic in the blogosphere, on social networks, and in the ranks and files of teacher organisations all over the world has been that of the gender gap and ''where are the women in ELT"?

Actually, I describe this in personal detail in my TESOL Athens Convention review, which, I believe, will be published in the newsletter today.

I began sharpening my axe for the online world when my twins were still babies. I'll never forget how much I learnt from the blogs and insights of other teachers around the world in those early years. I think that my gratitude for that has become an integral part of how I operate to this day.

7) What's your final word of advice to teachers everywhere who wish to keep their inspiration alive or even motivate themselves to keep going?

The reality of giving, sharing and connecting with others creates powerful states of being that can't be weathered by the ups-and-downs of life. Sometimes, when the worst things happen, it can be your work that keeps you going. This is only true if you allow your work to be creative and meaningful, of course. No matter how restricting your personal work situation may be, make sure to find an outlet, any outlet, no matter how small, for creativity and connecting with others.

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