Monthly Archives: January 2012

What does it feel like to be..American?

No, I”m not going to answer this question in the post. Basically, because I have no practical idea)

The reason a title like this has arisen I will explain, though.

I’m entrusted with writing another unit for a Country Studies course, “Culture in the USA”. This is going to be a little brochure, just like the previous ones I did on Education, Science and Technology. These materials are published at Physics Faculty and are used with students of Physics exclusively. This is the way university publishing works here, teachers supplement  official courses with self-written extra material – grammar, lexis, topics for discussion, loads of ESP stuff like works on Optics, Astrophysics, Thermodynamics, etc. There are textbooks in the library which provide full courses of English for students of Physics..but they were written in the 60s..unbelievable!..Am I the only one who thinks that science well MIGHT have made a little jump forward since then?..Sure not. But it’s hard work to get a course SO specific written, and published here (I hope I”ll be among the ones who will get it done though!))


 Anyway, the problem we’re facing does not only concern ESP courses. First-year students study General English and the official book (recommended and present in the library) features the Clarks and Stepanov, a Russian scientist visiting the UK, and his “adventures” (he’s lectured on the history of the country, on the sights of London, on customs and traditions and the way the British consume their meals and garden their gardens). I have to admit, it’s almost the most boring book I”ve ever seen (the top one is the notorious BONK book). Luckily, the head of the chair is a great woman who understands that we can’t help our students meet the requirements of the world they’re going to live and work in using these Soviet time textbooks. So four teachers of the chair including me are writing and putting into a test a Country Studies course to use as a supplement for Int+ students. Hopefully, it could become a decent book one day (“decent” means hard cover, colour printing does not seem to function at our faculty, so not many chances to insert pictures IN the book, I”m preparing a separate Picture File).

That was all an intro, as you might’ve guessed=)) Sorry, I think I do get carried away in the prefaces to my posts)))

OK, in a nutshell now: there’s a certain structure I have to follow, it’s rather fixed but I”m allowed to try out different novelties, which will anyway will be looked through and edited. What I”ve thought of introducing in this Culture unit is real experiences of real people..I have to shape the idea into some more or less clear form which will look good in the format already existent..but i’d love to give it a try.

And I will need YOU (if you don’t mind)=)) your views, your stories, your authenticity! This is so simple and yet could be so exciting for our students!

If you feel interested here’s the first task I”ve got for you. Regardless of where you’re currently living, if you consider yourself American, can you please in a couple of sentences write

What does it feel like to be American to you? What does it mean to be American? 

I can’t wait to read some’ll be quoted in the beta-version of my brochure properly, and you can link to your blog or website if that looks appropriate!

Thanks a lot in advance, I hope my idea will get going, well if it doesn’t..I will think of something else 😉


What’s my story?..

Now’s finally the time to keep a promise! Here’s my post for Vicky Loras’ blog challenge.

The question posed goes: “What’s Your Story?” How have I become the teacher I am, the personality I think I am? Well, it does look to me like a pretty tough question to tackle. Many things have been happening shaping my teaching style and affecting my personality. But I will just give you the brief account of 2011, or rather its first 6 months. Because to me they seem to have been just what has constituted my professional outlooks as I might observe them now. The changing and transforming me.


The end of 2010. Professionally – I teach first and second year students of Physics. Give Business in-company classes. Most of my time (16 academic hours a week) I spend tutoring a 10-year-old boy, coming to his place 4 times a help him do his school homework (English and German). We study in a smoke-filled room, always dark because the windows are always curtained up thick, not even a single ray of light ever coming in. Grumbling parents, swearing in the presense of the child, calling his teachers at school really bad/rude names.The most depressing atmosphere I”ve ever experienced. The enormous amount of psychological pressure I find hard to bear yet can’t escape. Emotionally by the end of the year i feel as exhausted as one can get, deep in depression, disappointed in myself, feeling underestimated, unvalued.

On the 30th of December in the Hague where I spend my Christmas holidays I get a stupid injury and have a surgery done in the hospital.

When I get back home on the 12th of January I fall ill with a flu and remain on a sick leave for a whole month. In this time, my grandad dies. I find a substitution teacher for the above-mentioned kid and feel the burden off my chest (yet very guilty about leaving the child in the middle of the school year) – the sky seems to be clearing!..

February, 14th – next day after my birthday I fall ill and stay on a sick leave for another two weeks. OK. I know what’s wrong, and the doctors tell me – I’ve been working too hard. Prescription – cut down teaching hours, more walk, healthy food, good emotions, a glass of red wine every evening=) Looks like something I would gladly stick to!

March 26th. On the way to a countryhouse get into a car accident. The other car drove and crashed right into the passenger seat where I was sitting. I’m unconcious for a couple of minutes, then can’t remember for about 30 minutes where I am, what season it is, where I was going, what happened, etc. The only thing I remembered clearly though was that I was with my boyfriend.=)

(right now that I”m writing this I get very nervous, palms are sweating, sort of getting the temperature even, it is all still very vivid)

2 weeks in a hospital with brain concussion and “a state of moderate severity”. I”m only lucky to be as little and thin as I am, because otherwise the door could have broken my legs. 2 weeks at home.

At this point I have to say it looks like the end of scary happenings I had in 2011 – and it is!

The misfortunes I’ve been going through in a certain evil succession have helped me in many ways.


I have remembered to take care of myself.


I have practically realized the wisdom of the saying “a sound mind in a sound body”


I have picked up healthy habits, like jogging, balanced diet, morning cold showers, slow pace!


I have turned to myself ready to listen to my own needs and react accordingly.


Long periods of staying home allowed me to plunge into a new professional life! It’s not a new wave, it is literally a brand new start! I can’t possibly ennumerate ALL of the ways I”ve been changing..I’ve created a webpage for my chair at university; I’ve become part of international teacher community; I”ve been invited to become an iTDi Associate; I have designed and got published two brochures for a Country Studies course at my university; I’ve travelled to Paris and attended my first ever ELT conference and presented a poster there; I’ve met sooo many amazing teachers!!! I”ve done my first ever presentation (though a 3-min online one) at TeachMeet Int’l. I”ve given an interview to Larry Ferlazzo which he published on his blog. I”ve started to participate in webinars. I’ve implemented a lot of web 2.0 tools in my classes. I’ve learnt what Dogme is (and was happy to notice I”ve been doing these things without naming them as such). I”ve started to blog. I’ve started #ELTworkspaces project. I’ve become more sociable and learnt to take pleasure in these contacts (for a very long while I was for some reason locked in my own shell..feeling it was not my nature but unable to find the right motivation to get me out). I’ve found inexhaustible sources of inspiration and creativity!!!…I”m not sure that covers all, really..but it sort of gives an impression..of the scale of my transformation=)


I have realized that I matter.


Happy Not the End!=) 


Vicky Loras – thanks for waiting for my contribution for several months!