This post is a very late response to a blog challenge that was doing the rounds last year (well, OK, a couple of weeks ago). Apologies to Hana and Sandy who both “tagged” me just before the Christmas break, and just after I’d gone into self-imposed internet exile.
So, there are five steps to the challenge – and here are the first three:
1 Acknowledge the nominating blogger/s.
Thank you very much to both of you for including me in a not-too-good blogging year!
2 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
As it’s January 2 here are 11 random facts about 2013.
1 I like first times and 2013 had quite a few.
2 We got our first family dog. We’re all ridiculously soppy about her.
3 I learnt to body surf properly for the first time (I know, but hey, it’s never too late, right?)
4 I climbed my first rock face and had my first “bouldering” experience.
5 I went back to Italy for the first time after fifteen years. It was a huge linguistic challenge as I hadn’t spoken Italian since I was last there in the 90s. It snowed and the train rides were beautiful.
6 I visited Peru for the first time. Loved the ceviche!
7 I learnt an important (and I pretty obvious) lesson. Make the most of work trips. If I get another chance to visit Peru I’ll make sure I tack on enough days to see Machu Pichu!
8 I tutored on my first Trinity TESOL diploma courses, both online and face-to-face.
9 I presented at the first Image Conference in Barcelona. A great event. Thanks Kieran et al.
10 I went up in the London Eye for the first (and probably only) time – expensive but the views at sunset are worth it.
11 After almost 16 years in Spain I cooked my first paella (well Anna did really and I was chef’s assistant- thank you Anna!)
3 Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
These are the questions Hana asked me:
1. If you could change one thing about education in your country, what would it be?
The testing culture – and the over-emphasis on rote learning – at least in formal assessment. Along with the “worksheet” culture and mountains of mindless homework that (sometimes? often?) goes with it. To quote my youngest on her frustration with her Spanish homework: This exercise is stupid, it just tells you what to do, it doesn’t ask you to think (verbatim)
2. Have you ever thought of quitting your job as an educator? Why?
No, because my job/s have changed and morphed over the years and that’s been more than enough to keep me challenged and engaged.
3. What’s your earliest memory as an educator?
My first 30 mins in teaching practice. I was asked to “look after” a class of 30 4-year-olds while their teacher attended a meeting. It was their third week of school, for many in a language they didn’t yet speak. I was told I had to speak to them in Welsh only. It was thirty minutes of high energy chaos!
4. Is education valued where you live? If not, what is the main reason?
Yes, it’s valued in so much as it’s seen as necessary in the incredibly difficult job situation at the moment. But there’s also a lot of pessimism, education is by no means enough. It’s a tough time for everyone, but especially for our little corner of south west Spain.
5. How do you think we could help to make teaching a more prestigious job?
Big question! On an individual basis by doing the very best we can in our own immediate context, by supporting and encouraging and when and where possible inspiring others to do the same – but to change the social-political culture of a country or region? No answer there, sorry.
6. Apart from burning-out, what’s the biggest danger for a teacher?
Possibly loss of self-esteem, the tendency to use the “just” tag: I’m just a teacher. And maybe sometimes isolation or loneliness. If you don’t work in a positive, happy staffroom, teaching can be a lonely job.
7. Did anyone try to put you off teaching in the past?
Yes, me! When I was in school it was absolutely the last thing I wanted to be! I hate to admit this but I did my PGCE so that I could get another grant-funded year at university. I enjoyed the training, but didn’t feel like a teacher until my first TEFL job in Italy the year after I finished.
8. Why do you think teaching can bring so much satisfaction but also frustration?
Because it’s a people job, because it can give you the chance to help people, to make a difference. And because sometimes the reality of the job – paperwork, tests, ministry programmes etc etc – can get in the way.
9. What makes you happy?
Spending time with people, doing things together, learning or doing something new. Above all with family and friends.
10. When did you last laugh out loud?
About half an hour ago, playing with the dog (everyone else is asleep!)
11. If your child/best friend wanted to become a teacher, what piece of advice would you give him or her?
Practical advice, I guess, if I could. Where to find out more, how to go about doing it the way they want to. I wouldn’t persuade or dissuade but discuss options I guess.
And these are Sandy’s questions:
1. What advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
I’ve answered this one above ;)
2. Are you a tidy person or a clean person, or both, or neither?
I have to work at organizing papers. I’m much better at organizing computer files! I clear my desk every day (mainly because it doubles up as the kitchen table!) and I like to keep my work area clear and tidy, but at the end of each working shift in front of the computer it all gets shoved into an incredibly untidy cupboard! My teaching materials are more or less the same. I try and make sure that anything that needs to be shared with anyone else (lesson notes, register etc) is clearly-marked and tidy, but stuff that’s for my eyes only is usually a mess!
3. How often do you go to the cinema?
Nowhere near as often as I’d like to. When I was living in Madrid, and before having kids, two or three times a week. There’s a great cinema culture there with films from all over the world, especially the Spanish-speaking world. I miss it a lot. Now I get by with boxed sets of TV series (usually a couple of years behind everyone else! Just starting Breaking Bad now).
4. Do you have a favourite word (in any language)?
Maybe Italian exclamations like, Magari! Mannaggia! and Boh!
5. What’s your favourite meal? Can you cook it?
I love Thai soups, vegetable curries, homemade pasta sauces. I can cook passable imitations ;)
6. What’s the phrase you constantly hear yourself saying?
Does that make sense?
7. What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
Printing greetings on balloons.
8. What’s your favourite method of procrastination?
Ah, so many! Writing blog posts, maybe? ;)
9. Do you like classical music?
Yes, but I know nothing about it.
10. I don’t know much about poetry. Is there a particular poem you think I should read?
I’m really, really bad at choosing one example of anything! I bought this anthology - The Rattle Bag - when I was teaching literature and it’s a great way in – I’ve been back to it again and again for poetry to use in class.
11. And, a little bit of advertising. :) What’s your favourite eltpic? (You don’t have to justify it!)
I’ve completed the first three steps, but then I’m afraid I’m now going to break the chain. Thank you Lesley for a great example of how to do that with style!
Here are the two steps I’m not completing:
4 List 11 bloggers.
5 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.
I’m afraid I’ve always been hopeless at these chain things and I’m responding so late most of my blogging friends have already taken up the challenge. I must admit that the idea of drawing up a list of 11 people to tag is daunting and I really don’t want to pass that task on to anyone else.
By way of apology, here are eleven responses that have popped up over the last few weeks, including those by Hana, Sandy and Lesley.