Tag Archives: rambling

On the courage of losing sight of the shore (or lack of such)

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So I’ve moved to Japan, like I dreamed to, like I made it my Goal to, like I planned to. Yes dreams do come true once you stop thinking of them as of dreams. Now it’s time to find out how it feels to have made your dream come true, how to live that dream. That’s what they don’t prepare you for. How to remember why you aspired for this in the first place.

And if you can ever get close to regretting your choice of dream.

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Inspirational quotes tell us in powerful phrasing to be strong and aim high, yet they don’t mention how many tears there would be shed after you’ve made it. Because that’s where and when you’re most fragile. Having a goal you believe in and smashing everything on your way towards it (or taking each and every step with care and due precision) is like running your distance. As you cross that long-awaited finish line, you’re thrilled but out of breath and your heart aches. Well mine does.

It’s all good to have the courage to lose sight of the shore, yet in order to actually cross that ocean you need more than just that. You need all that courage to keep going all the way you have so bravely planned, plus a whole lot of other supplies.

 

*****

The following part of the post was typed at various times during my first days in Japan – in the street, on the metro, at my workplace (more about that in future posts).

 

***** First day things *****

As soon as I’m out in the street or even better on the subway, I start smiling involuntarily. That’s when I remember what I loved about this country in the first place and why I’ve come here at all.
Everything around me so far seems right and close to heart, like I got to know it and knew it to be. Streets, neat houses, pavements, cleanliness, small private businesses, trains with their warm seats that make you drowsy any time of day, people who I’m not afraid to address for help, shop windows, little details I pay attention to, like a bronze owl placed on top of a very ordinary tiled column at a metro station. The language that I want so much to learn as soon as possible so that I could belong to this place more. Because I want to.
It is now more home-like in my apartment thanks to the things I brought from home, but it’s cold and lonely.
***** First week frustrations *****
When the initial shock of being away and alone wore off a bit and with the day spent at school, for a couple of days life got down to almost normal. However, Friday brought me back to tears in a new way. Frustrations that came out were about me not being able to communicate in Japanese. For the first time out of all my time in Japan I felt an alien, clearly an outcast.
In a nutshell, I went to a bank to open an account but the lady refused to deal with me because I could not speak the language. She kept repeating the same thing over and over again and it just did not help – besides, I got stuck, paralyzed and couldn’t utter a word in Japanese, or English, or even Russian. My face must have looked dumb and eyes welled up with tears. When I was out in the fresh air and about 3 minutes passed, I knew it was all fair. I am a foreigner, they don’t have to speak English, I should have taken care of this communication issue myself as opening a bank account means you need to discuss important points and security. I felt low for the rest of the day and it even rubbed off on my English as I felt unconfident while talking with colleagues.
This unpleasant situation made me feel sorry for students who struggle understanding English in class if it’s the only language spoken by teacher. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it in my future posts, as soon as I get into an actual classroom and lessons begin.
*****
I would like to thank all those people who have wished me luck, supported me and keep doing so with their good words in public comments or private messages. I appreciate it ever so much. I would like to give a mostly useless but 100% sincere digital hug to the people who tell me they know it must be a hard time. It is.
Bottomline: a week and many tears past, I don’t regret my choice of dream yet.
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Thanks for reading.
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A very interesting post about blogs, bloggers and their blogging.

Now I’m feeling something. Something of a nerve to write a messy piece about many things at once.

 

Thing number one, about blogging habits.

In her recent post Zhenya Polosatova asked her readers the questions that brought about a storm of responses, both in the comments and as separate blog posts. It’s amazing just how easily *some* bloggers are drawn into analysing their blogging ways, how excited they get. Well to say “they” would be wrong since I’m normally the very first in that eager line. Here’s my short (see Thing number two) take on the topic.

Last year my blogging habits underwent quite an upheaval. I blogged in a cafe, on a beach, on the floor, in a train station, on a couch, on a bench in the park, on a tatami mat (at home at my desk being the habit). I blogged with people and alone (which is the habit). I blogged both in daytime and nighttime (the latter being the habit). I posted without liking my writing (… liking or disliking can’t be called “a habit” I reckon))). I blogged about teaching and about things far from it.

I really don’t know what else I can do. All in all, I’m more than pleased with how my blogging is developing and I feel desire and energy to proceed the way that will feel right. One new ritual I’m looking forward to establishing this year is going through my WP Reader once a week to balance my blog reading. Hope to see you there.

 

Thing number two, which tries to devalue part of Thing number one.

I can’t believe I’ve just written the above first thing! Because in fact it makes me sick to realize just how much I write about myself and my relationship with my writing. Seriously, look:

In this post I say I blog for my own pleasure but hope for shifts in the classroom. Then in no time I come up with a follow-up which is 800 more words about blogging and writing. Here I keep mentioning myself and my plans for writing in what some say are most powerful parts of a blog post – opening and closing paragraphs. If you need more proof of how obsessed I am with writing about (my) writing, don’t hesitate to look here, check this out and click this link.

First I wanted to make a difference. Then I turned into an ego-busting persona. Hedonism? I’m *possibly* done with it. At least with the part which whispers to me that it can be interesting to anyone to go on reading after my “I think that…” At the moment I think that I could think of writing something more exciting.

 

Thing number three, about us Russians.

I am, just like Vedrana Vojkovich here, continuously stunned as I check my blog stats and see that the overwhelming majority of my readers are from Russian Federation. Who are you?! I know a few and I am grateful to them for being ever supportive, plus last year several times my former students left a line or two and it felt great. Otherwise, I am unaware of names and faces of my ghost Russian readership. In any case, everybody is most welcome.

There is yet another, far more critical point to be covered in this part. Russian and Russian-speaking ELT bloggers. A little pre-story: a while ago, in my more energetic Twitter years, I created a public list EFLRussia which I updated with handles of Russian teachers of English who I happened to come across on Twitter (70 now). I haven’t done that for over a year and I’m sure there must be many new faces to be added (my confidence comes from seeing quite a lot of people tweeting at annual E-merging Forums). The situation with the blogs was different. I’m talking about blogs that Russian(-speaking) teachers of English would run in English, so they could be accessed by teachers from the world over. Fortunately, there are now interesting, thoughtful, different blogs that I irregularly follow and will now share the links to here:

iamlearningteaching by Ekaterina Makaryeva aka @springcait

The aforementioned Zhenya Polosatova aka @ZhenyaDnipro and her Wednesday Seminars

Elserga ELT by Elizabeth Bogdanova

ELT Diary by Alexandra Chistyakova aka @AlyaAlexandra

TeachingEnglishNotes by Svetlana Urisman

 

That’s about it. If you happen to know of any other blogs that fit the Russian category, please do share, even if that’ll shamelessly be your own)

One last bit, which is my sincere wish. I wish the following three people started to blog:

Fatima Baste, who has a blog in Russian and also writes about a million things in captions to her pictures on Instagram: languages, teaching, culture, trends, psychology, ideas. Thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining, and educational, so I’m quite certain Fatima should start a blog in English =)))

Masha Andrievich, whose Instagram gives a peek into fragments of her teaching at own school (right?) and her learning (DELTA?). I’d love to have a #livebloggingparty one day, when she starts her blog. =)

Ludmila Malakhova, who is a fantastic lady from Yekaterinburg that I had a real pleasure to meet twice at the Forum I mentioned earlier and who suppported me in a very indecisive time with just the right words.

 

Thing number four, untitled for lack of creativity.

In connection with the previous part, there’s a story back from March 2014. Ludmila reached me and asked to participate online in the teacher training she was doing on-site in Yekaterinburg. That was my first (and only) suchlike experience, and in Russian! For 15-20 minutes I talked to a group of teachers sitting several thousand km away from me, and I talked about Facebook and blogs for English teachers’ PD. It was, as you might understand, a brief and general introduction and of course I am not at all sure what impact it eventually had on the participants, practically, if any. However, it was remarkable to me that the teachers sounded mildly interested and asked me post-session questions, such as:

Which blogs do you follow?

How do you find these blogs in the first place?

There are so many, how do you keep up?

Which platform would you recommend to start own blog?

Should we blog in English or Russian?

All these questions. One might think it’s not a topic that could be conference session worthy: too simple, no activities-interactivities, limited feel of innovation. Yet I’m thinking of doing it. There are so many aspects of online ELT community that I’ve grown to take for granted that it’s easy to forget some of these things still may be new or interesting. Even if a plain session on ELT blogging the way I experience it will not lead to a massive influx of Russians into this particular blogosphere, I’ll personally have a fun time spreading the word about you and your blog… =) What do you think of this idea? It’s a shame the Forum AGAIN does not give a chance to talk/ learn about the things I’m interested in by adding Professional Development strand. (Can it possibly be Russian EFL teachers are NOT interested in PD and the Forum organisers go by some survey results?..)

 

Thing number five, Final Thing, or the Thing of Importance.

It’s been on my mind lately. Namely, from December 2nd.

What else can we, English teachers who are united by ELT blogging addiction, blog about?

I took immense pleasure in taking culture notes in my travels and then publishing this post, as well as other, exclusively personal posts that I had out during my time in Asia. I was thrilled to NOT have it in my mind to make any connections to teaching/ learning, because frankly, I don’t believe a teacher should always, at all times in all situations think about his/ her classes. And while I’m sure we/ you all have our interests that might or might not be reflected in the classes we/ you teach, I don’t really know much about them. I do imagine, though, that there are words to be put into long beautiful/ eloquent/ funny/ witty/ touching  etc sentences.

 

What would you blog about if not ELT? 

 

Thank you for reading and, of course, – happy blogging =)

 

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2 years of ethical hedonism of an #ELT blogger.

This is not a serious title, or it is only partly serious.

There’s still a little bit of December 13th left in some parts of the world (not here where I am, still in Moscow), so I propose a late night toast –  “To my blog!” (cultural note – Russian people are very fond of long, ornate toasts; but apparently my blog deserves only this three-word dedication at the moment), which is roughly two years old today.

Last year I had a present – this EXCEPTIONAL PRESENT FOR MY BLOG’S BIRTHDAY from Rose Bard, a teacher from Brazil, a friend and professional who has never failed to inspire me to be more thoughtful, dig deeper and find reasons.

This year I have a present again. It is a present wrapped into another present in fact.  Here it is.

#ELTworkplaces of @michaelegriffin. From Seoul with love, views, coffee and a cake.

Those of you who remember me in my good old Posterous days may recall a certain project I had going on – #ELTworkplaces. The idea behind it was unimaginative – sharing photos of the workplaces of English language teachers from around the world. Since I had to move the project to Tumblr, nothing has happened to it for about a year. But here it is, my blog birthday box of chocolates workplaces from Michael Griffin, a teacher based in South Korea, a friend, a certain club mate and in general a plentiful, ever-living source of optimism, inspiration for better writing and serious giggle. I am happy to share this present with you as I might not have done with chocolates. Using the opportunity, I’d like to thank Mike once again and invite teachers to take part in this unimportant but fun project. As I have learnt by two years of blogging that sharing makes a difference, even if it’s a very little one.

Getting back to the weird title of my post.

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy defines ethical hedonism as “the claim that all and only pleasure has positive importance and all and only pain or displeasure has negative importance… Ethical hedonism can be universalist, me-and-my-near-and-dear egocentric, or egoistically focused just on one’s own pleasure. It can also be a claim about value, morality, well-being, rationality, reasons or aesthetics. It can be a claim about grounds for action, belief, motivation or feeling; or a claim about ought, obligation, good and bad, or right and wrong.” 

It’s not the purpose of my post to go too philosophical about the school(s) of hedonism (which, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be able to do too deep right now). So I think I’m just going to tear pieces of the main idea out of overall context of the term and apply it to my blog and myself as a blogger.

In these two years I have seen it as a condition to write a post when I feel like writing a post and enjoying it. Many times I started typing, read through my draft and got unexcited. “The desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain” has truly been my blogging motto. I also write when I have something to say and when this something seems to me valuable enough to be shared in public. You might argue (and I actually argue myself!) that writing, especially good writing, may/should come through a pain. I agree, and I have written a couple of painful posts and articles (that does not mean I consider them good writing). Life is a paradox. Pain is an enjoyable ingredient of writing process, too. A very weird, non-traditional way to be satisfied.

Also, hedonism seems to be much about the I. Here it’s easy to apply it to my blog – look at my posts if you wish, and you’ll see that every single one comes from an “I” viewpoint. It’s a lot of ego, it’s very subjective, it’s very personal. This I-issue has been on my mind for quite a while as I am not at all sure how much professional value my blog brings to the ELT community. And since I *selfishly* want to make a difference, I care about the value. I’ll be working on it in my future blogging years and I would appreciate every comment of constructive criticism.

This blog is about my changing beliefs, the actions I take in my class and beyond and try to give reason to.

I’ve been exercising my non-judgemental approach for a little over a year and I find it very hard to do so, but it’s my ultimate goal. Trying out a distanced but not indifferent attitude to good&bad, right&wrong is pain but eventually must be gain, too.

Having skimmed through my posts of these two years I”ve noticed one striking thing, which I believe is a sign of a positive tendency and certain influence. My exclamation marks have calmed down significantly =)) As well as the unruly smiles. I’m growing up/old? and reserved. My posts reflect my offline personality more now than they used to. I take pleasure in that in a true hedonistic nature.

Thanks for reading this nonsense till the end. Thanks for reading my posts, leaving comments, caring to have a discussion or just support. There are things I have forgotten to say, but I have more time ahead until WordPress blocks my site for incomprehensible message.

I’m still contemplating thinking about thinking (c).

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Remembering JALT2013. Part 1, not too practical.

A week after the conference began I’m in a different place with a different view outside my window. It’s also a different me inside my room. She’s kinder but sadder than she used to be before she left for Japan. She’s more determined but oddly less happy in certain ways. She’s had the unique time that no other time can beat.

can’t repeat the past
but can try to catch the subsiding notes of excitement
capture the scenes and faces
shape thoughts and moments into broken sentences
and move on

And here’s a small part of what I’m taking with me

– I challenged myself a big deal and as a result proved I’m tougher than I’d imagined; comfort zone is elastic; you have no idea what you are really capable of;
– I learnt there are people who happen to be your kind of people and you don’t even need to take any time to realize that; it’s obvious, non-negotiable truth which you’ll know as soon as you get lucky to meet your own kind of people; it’s instant, deep and difficult to handle, so better step back and watch it happen;
– I saw selfless, helpful, grateful, sensitive people who fill the room with goodness so that even tough ones like me give in; made me become a little bit better myself, even if for a short while;
– I experienced insights; think, talk, write;
– I had a clear understanding of things; every minute spent in the workshop was a minute spent with awareness;
– I know how belonging feels and how much it means;
– I know now your way to live your life is not the only possible option and quite likely not the best one either; change is not just a word, it can actually happen; you make things happen, not the other way around;
– I didn’t judge, for a change, and it feels liberating;
– I know there’s bento with no rice.

I started with Jay Gatsby, I’d like to finish quoting somebody else:
“I didn’t like myself. Now I like myself a little bit.”
My point exactly.

See you in my next post, which I promise will be less bizarre, more relevant and interesting on the whole.

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