My 11 posts … I should have written … which is actually 22
Adam Simpson – better known as @ayearinthelifeof started a challenge which has already had some pretty groovy responses (Marisa, Tyson, Dave, Tara, Sharon) from some of the great bloggers out there. The challenge is simple: choose 11 posts from the year 2011 and share them in a blog post with a quick description of why you have chosen them.
But wait. Sadly, I haven’t had eleven posts this year. Is that supposed to stop me? Well, no.
Here’s the top 11 blog posts I should/could have written – actually it’s 22. There is one personal and one professional for each.
Post 1. January 2011
Professional: From purple haze to gloomy gray
How the first three months of enthusiasm about teaching had evaporated by January. It was in January that I started feeling that banging my head against the wall was starting to make me feel dizzy. My students’ ears were also filled with loud banging noises, not the tranquil wisdom of learning. The days were short and the nights were not long enough to keep up with two jobs, one of which was teaching full-time, with 25 lessons a week and about 100 kids.
Personal: Home alone
Fida and Sophie went off to Oz, leaving me on my own (with a 14-year old nephew, but more about him later.) Ouch. Miserable, gray Hungary. Had to write MA thesis. Not happy. Not happy at all.
Post 2. February 2011
Professional: Every students is a small island of misery
February is the month when we give mid-term grades and stuff. This is when the teachers sit down in a conference to talk about ‘discipline and industriousness’ grades for each and every student. Yes, not kidding you. Students can’t be failed for these, but they can be given a score of 2 out of 5, which means that they are very, very bad. I find this an extraordinarily ridiculous thing, but what I find particularly annoying is that it gives teachers licence to publicly discuss the kids. Who comes from a broken family, for example, who has emotional problems, whose parents are getting divorced – stuff that you should really find out yourself, if the student wants you to know.
Personal: I never ever ever want to live with a 14 year-old boy ever again
In a vain attempt to teach him that learning can be fun and to guide him out of bad company, my sister’s 14-year-old son came to live with us for the academic year. It was a sobering experience. He was absolutely fine, I think, probably just another 14-year-old boy. (Was I wrong to judge him just because he wasn’t reading Samuel Coleridge, which is what I was doing when I was 14?) It was, in all likelihood, that I was not able to cope with the situation. I thought a bit of love and attention would do the trick. Well, no. I had my first encounter with cyberbullying (of which my nephew was the vicitm). Not a nice thing I tell you. But, I think I handled it well all the same.
Post 3. March 2011
Professional: Do I really? Really? Will I ever do this?
Yes, it’s the MA thesis again. I did enjoy some of this course but I still think that it could have been done a lot better. It had brilliant teachers, and the curriculum was OK (ish). There should have been a lot more effort invested into creating a learning community, though. Perhaps it’s my fault, but I would not be able to tell you the names of five people who took part in the course. I don’t think it was online as online should be done in the 21st century. Sorry.
Pesonal: 12 months back in Hungary – Get me out of here, please
Well, it would have been a great opportunity to face the ghosts and own up. Moving back to Hungary was not the wisest decision. Many of the things I disliked before I left just got a bit worse. The democratic deficit was through the roof. The atmosphere of the country and the prospects of Hungarians were bleak. With a populist, right-wing, elitist government driving the country into a bottomless pit, it’s just not the place anyone should at if they have half a chance of leaving. I know this sounds really unpatriotic, but there is just no way this is going in the right direction. (And this being done by the party I joined in 1989 – the first and last time for me to do so. Devastated.) Just came in as I was writing this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15982882
Post 4. April, 2011
Professional:NyESzE conference – BrightOnline – on not going to IATEFL-UK
Presenting at this conference is always an interesting experience. It’s organised by the the Association of Quality Language Schools. It’s for PLS-es and my talk, which came with the message: “Don’t come to conferences. You do yourself much more of a favour by staying at home, with a cuppa in your dressing gown and turning on the computer” was quite well received. The wonderful Mark Andrews came up with the idea of creating an event at the conference which involved the IATEFL Conference in Brighton. Which brings me to a lo-light of the year – not attending IATEFK-UK. Unfortunately, the committee took a bit too long in deciding to accept my proposal, by which time the principal at my secondary school would have been less than happy for me to go yet again. Not to mention, of course, that on my shining salary of 300GBP a month, there was no way I would have been able to finance the trip anyway.
Personal: We are pregnant!
Yes, this says it all. We could let the world know that we were expecting another baby. The terror, the happiness, the excitement of it all.
Post 5. May, 2011
Professional: Final bloody exams
Exams are for those who want to prove to others something they don’t know – OK, in a blog post I would probably elaborate on this a bit. But for the time being, enough said.
Also this month:
Miracles happen: Submitted my Dissertation
Personal: Wyn was here
Wyn -We had a visit from Fida’s best friend from Oz, a wonderful young man who can make my wife laugh even when she is feeling really low. His visit was such a blast for all of us, and we felt how important it is to have friends. You do become a bit anti-social when you have kids. It takes a lot of determination and discipline to keep alive the few meaningful relationships you make during your life. We have not been very good at this. Will work on it a bit more.
Post 6. June, 2011
Professional: Will I ever want to go back to public education?
Well, not really, sorry. By the end of June I felt completely squeezed out. My reserves of enthusiasm, passion and love had been completely exhausted by the time the students left on the last day. I taught 4 very different classes, I had 4 very different send-offs.
Personal: Nephew leaves
This would have deserved a celebratory/reflective post on what we did and did not achieve with my nephew staying with us for 10 months. Can anyone ever know what a 14-year-old is thinking? (in our case, not much at all.) It’s easier to teach them than raise them, I think.
Post 7. July, 2011
Professional: PeopleTeam Camp
A fantastic idea from the teacher I probably admire the most in Hungary (Tibor Prievara of tanarblog.hu fame). Instead of giving crappy English lessons to kids in a very popular summer camp, he thought,why don’t we turn it into a professional development opportunity for pre-service and novice English teachers? So that’s what we did, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
Personal: Hate being absent father
While I was having fun at the camp, it was a tough time for the family, as my pregnant wife had to look after Sophie without my help. One of the campers, tough, did provide the inspiration for our new daughter’s name: Jasmin.
Post 8. August, 2011
Professional: Back in Oxford
I still love this city a lot. I was there to prepare for a teacher training course in Palestine in September. I saw many old friends and the familiar smell and feel of the Potato Building. Nice. Great chat with Wendy and Debbie. Was very excited about the whole thing.
Personal: On not going to Sziget Festival
The best and greatest music festival in Central Europe with some great gigs, and awesome atmosphere. I was sorry to have missed it. I would have written about how I felt one day back in 1996, when I was on a train taking me to my first day of military service, I saw loads of young people in the same carriage as me get off to go to the festival. (Devastated, in case you were wondering.) Had I gone this year, I would have raved about the concerts I had seen there, etc.
Post 9. September, 2011
Professional: Palestine, here I come again
I spent two fantastic weeks with two wonderful trainers in and around Ramallah. I worked with and met some fantastic teachers. It really was learning more than teaching. Thank you, Palestine. A tough country (sic) with the most amazing people. I also revisited some eacher training crash courses and asked myself what their benefits were - how could their impact be maximised and why we are not doing it?
Personal: Two weeks without my girls
The pain of it all.
Also this month:
Hey, International Community, you actually have a chance to put something right – will you do so? Oh no. Palestine remains a war-torn non-state.
Post 10. October, 2011
Professional: IATEFL-H conference:
It was great fun to be on the organising committee. I made some great friends and learned a lot.
Also this month…
So, what’s next?
Job applications were flying off at dizzying speeds and frequency. It was nice to realise that there are many things I would be quite good at doing. Convincing others of that is always the tricky bit, though. Dear Institute of Applied Technologies, Dubai, UAE. – an automated message saying “Pre-selected out” is not the best way to reject someone who’s made the effort to apply to work for you. Kudos to the newly relaunched teaching centre at the British Council Hungary, though, for ‘pre-selecting’ me in. Nice one. Like it. I look forward to teaching there from January.
Yes. Our second wonderful daughter was born at 1:48 am on 26th October 2011 – a day I will never forget. I never believed when they told me that your love doubles with the second. I was scared to take anything away from Da Sophs. Well there was no need to worry. There has always been a Jas shaped blank space in my heart I had not known of before she was born. Now I feel complete. She’s the one I have been waiting for.
Post 11. November 2011
Professional: Online exam preparation – what have I learned? What would I do differently?
This was something I slowly – perhaps a bit too slowly – picked up. It has become my main employment, and I haven’t written about it yet.
Personal: Da Sophs (aka Sophichine) is two years old
She is every bit the miracle she has been since the day she was born. At the moment the journeys we make to daycare three times a week are the best bonding experience.
Well, these are 22 posts I should and could have written. I haven’t but at least I had a great time writing this list up.
It’s been a full and interesting year. Not one that I would particularly like to re-live, but one that has been full of life-changing moments. On balance it was a pretty good year but I am quite happy to leave it behind and get started with the next one.
Thanks Adam, for making me write it.
One of the many memorable moments: My PechaKucha at the 21st Annual Iatefl-H Conference I took some part in organising and moderating: 20 things I have learned from my 20-month-old.
- Hungary outlaws homeless people (bbc.co.uk)
- Iceland Recognises Palestine as Independent State (ibtimes.com)
- Unesco grants Palestine full membership – The Guardian (news.google.com)