Thursday, 1 May 2014

Reflections on Spreading Literature into the world!

The school year is coming to its end. A bit more than a month left but despite the hustle and bustle of exam preparations, completing the syllabus and meeting the administration requirements, I can't help thinking of what we have accomplished since last October.

In one of my previous posts, I promised myself that I would strive to make the best of the school year and I would definitely have fun with my students. It all started with an idea I came up with last autumn. I thought of using our national literature in teaching English. The main goal is cultural exchange among students around the globe. Learners would evaluate, interpret translated work of their national poets and authors and express their opinions, thoughts and feelings about them. I had the fortune to share my idea with 
George Raptopoulos, a colleague with huge teaching experience, vast knowledge and great passion for literature. And I had the privilege of his collaboration. Our dream is to have our students, consequently, watch other English learners abroad presenting their national heritage in the target language through a video or any other web tools. We set off on our journey around Greek literature with our minds on encouraging and motivating our students to share their experience.

Three groups were formed of different English levels and age groups; from elementary to proficiency level and with primary school kids to young adults- university students. Three months lasted the project, with us keeping the role of the facilitators, stepping into the melee when the students came to an impasse.

And then posts of inviting speakers to submit abstracts at various conventions started popping up on social media network sites. Should we give it a go?

The first stop of our exhilarating, unique experience was in Athens, at TESOL Greece Convention in March. The whole event fascinated me and emotions overwhelmed me during the long weekend. I met fellow teachers for the first time, we attended inspiring, motivating talks and presentations and we felt most welcome by the board members and the supporting staff. I must admit it; my knees were weak before our presentation. We both felt that it was our obligation and duty to let our students shine through the project. The comments we received afterwards were the motivating force to continue.

Next stop TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Conference. We felt at home...literally. It took place in our hometown, Thessaloniki. Another surprise was waiting for me there. I was asked to cover the conference as a roving reporter together with my colleague Theodora Papapanagiotou. Video interviews with presenters, reports on their presentations along with our session as speakers. The board members created a very warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere for everybody. Among the plenary speakers there were a good friend, Vicky Loras and Kieran Donaghy, a teacher with ingenious lesson plans based on short films.

Latest stop, BETA-IATEFL Conference in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. First time abroad at a Conference, not only as attendees but as speakers as well. It was the opportunity we were waiting for, to share our experience with colleagues abroad and- if possible- to motivate them to try the same with their students. There were intriguing, motivational speakers and we have kept in mind several ideas that we want to put in practice or run a future project on.

It was not before long that Shelly SanchezTerell suggested we present at VRTWebCon. It was an honour and very uplifting at the same time! Webpresenters at one of the most well-known webconferences! It was time to go on line, reaching even more colleagues around the world!

One of the hardest moments was when we had to withdraw from Conference in Bratislava. Due to the economic crisis we could not pursue this dream. Hopefully, things will improve in the future and we will be able to join our fellow-teachers there next year.

All in all, the reflections of our participation in all these events cannot be summarised in a few lines. Personally, I made one of my goals real; to present our project and our students' effort in front of colleagues, I believe I improve myself as a speaker and confronted one of my biggest fears, to speak in public. I felt motivated with all the encouraging comments of our colleagues who keep me going. Of one thing I am sure from now on. If you set a goal and you believe in it, nothing is impossible. Pursue your dreams and never be afraid of dreaming big!

Here are the links of our presentation at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, follow-up comments of the students, the poems and the text they have worked on as well as you can watch the videos with the students presenting their outcome at the side bar. I would suggest you that you should not miss listening to one of our students who got inspired and turned both poems into songs!

Presentation and follow-up comments
Prezi Slides on Prezi
Song Soundcloud- As much as you can
Song 2 Soundcloud- The seagull,
Slideshare Poems and Texts of our project

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