Taking time out?

I’ve been quiet on here for a longish while. Today this came up on Timehop and I thought I’d give writing a try.*

It hasn’t been writer’s block, though. It’s been a new job. Around 3 months ago I started working full time in an office job, entirely unconnected to ELT. There we go; I’ve said it. I’ve tweeted the occasional (fairly) oblique reference to the new job since then, and updated my Linkedin profile, but haven’t spoken about it in detail, except to my family and some friends.

It isn’t a secret, obviously, but it *has* been a change. Primarily because of the lack of ties to English teaching – something I’ve been doing my whole working life. Or since 1997. The job is in the education sector, so it’s not as if I’ve moved on to a completely unfamiliar field, but it’s not what I’ve sort of built my professional identity around.

It’s a great job: there’s a lot to learn, it’s rewarding in many ways… what’s not to like? On so many levels it made complete sense to go for it, particularly as things have been less than ideal recently at the institution I’ve been working for over the past nine years.

Since I began teaching I’ve met countless teachers who eventually quit ELT for jobs that promised greater stability and security. When I say ‘quit ELT’ I mean quit working for private language schools – teachers working in the state sector seem to make this change less often. For a very long time I thought I was going to be one of those teachers – I wrote about this for the #YoungerTeacherSelf challenge. But then, especially over the last couple of years while I lived in Belgium, I became used to the idea of always being in ELT in some way. I suspect this feeling was encouraged by the fact that in a new country my teacher identity allowed me to hang on to something familiar. Also probably by the comforting, if possibly misguided, belief that I’ve “achieved” something in this field – feel free to interpret achievement as you like – and that it would require too much effort to start something new at this point.

I guess this is why I keep telling myself that I’m just trying this job on for size – it’s a temporary contract anyway. If it doesn’t work out, I can always come back to ELT.

If you had the choice of leaving teaching after a long time in the profession, what would you do? And if you decided to stay, what do you think would be the deciding factor?

* In the interest of addressing petty concerns accuracy “today” was August 18.

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Some thoughts on how I use Twitter

There was an #ELTchat last week about how to use Twitter in class. I was hoping for a different topic, so I didn’t stick around, but a tweet (I forget who by) about how teachers seem to be on Facebook more than on Twitter caught my eye. I think that was the gist of it, anyway.

So I thought I’d do a quick post on what I use both of them for, but primarily Twitter. When I say ‘quick post’, we’ll see how that goes. I might get it out before Christmas. 😛 I’ve actually been meaning to do a post like this ever since David Harbinson’s here, and, well, it’s been two years since then.

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fjomeroa: Twitter (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter. You might not say so just by looking at my tweet count, at least compared to people who have 50K+ tweets, but I do a lot more reading of what others have shared than sharing my own thoughts. Then, of course, a considerable chunk of time is spent on debating whether I should respond to a tweet, composing a message and finally deleting it. Or possibly sending it, which is less frequent.

My bio says, “ELT, elearning, highered, teacher training, translation. Partial to the island of Vis since the pre-tourist era”.  I settled on that when I started using Twitter regularly, which was about two years after I signed up. Management used to be in there as well, as a nod to the language school I technically still own. I’m most likely to follow (back) people with similar interests, and if they’re not spelled out in the bio, I’m probably not going to take the trouble to dig deeper, e.g., try to figure out their tweet to retweet ratio, or see how many people we follow in common.

In addition to accounts that can loosely be grouped as work-related, I follow some that are Croatian. Croatian teachers (primary, secondary, private language schools) are generally not on Twitter, or if they are, they have token accounts. They’ll have 30 tweets and they last tweeted six months ago. I suspect they’re mostly on Facebook. So the people I follow are either in higher ed, journalists, or in(to) politics or history. There’s also the occasional ex-student. I enjoy reading what they have to say, even though I probably won’t rt/comment on anything overtly political. My politics are my business. And also I’m too chicken to give trolls an incentive to come after me.

I also follow some Belgian accounts, mostly newspapers/magazines. These are in French, and serve the dual purpose of letting me keep up with the language as well as the news in Brussels and the rest of the country. Although, to be honest, if the accounts are in French, the news is not likely to be about Flanders. I don’t usually rt or comment on these. I suppose it would be excellent language practice, but I would need to be a lot braver to do it.

One of the things I really like about Twitter is the random character of what shows up in my timeline when I log on. Obviously, things were even more random when they didn’t have the “While you were away” feature, but even so, if you follow around 1,000 people, there’s always something unexpected. Even if a lot of them don’t tweet regularly. I don’t have a rule for what I rt/comment on; it has to be something I find interesting and/or relevant, plus I generally need to think of at least one person who follows me who will also find it interesting and/or relevant. I sometimes draw their attention to it by cc’ing them in on the tweet.

Because of this (liking the random factor), I don’t have any lists. I’m sure lists are really effective if you want to make sure you don’t miss updates from accounts you find more important/interesting than others, or to categorize those you follow, but I think that I would then tend to check some lists more than others and everything would be more organized. Although, who knows – I might like it that way too.

Occasionally I check hashtags, and I have these columns set up in my Tweetdeck: #ELTchat, #ELTpics, #corpusMOOC (which I half-did once and keep meaning to retake) and #EDENchat. Having done #ELTchat, which is sort of chaotic in a good way, I tried #EDENchat, but they’re way too organized with Q1 and A1, etc. There are a couple of other hashtags I could set up columns for, and probably will at some point if they keep coming up in my timeline often enough.

Some things I don’t like about Twitter are… well, there aren’t many, really. I don’t like it when people only plug their stuff, and especially when they don’t even do it manually. Like, I don’t have time to waste on Twitter, but you will have time to read about whatever it is I do. I’m not discounting the possibility I feel that way because I was never smart enough to schedule constant social media updates when I was trying to promote my school. I also don’t like annoying engagement updates. “32 awesome people followed me last week. Do you want to feel awesome? Get Social Media Engagement App.” I use Social Media Engagement App too. I don’t shout about it. Here I am discounting the possibility I feel that way because I wasn’t followed by 32 awesome people last week.

I was also going to say how I use Facebook and why I prefer Twitter, but as there is actually a chance of posting this today if I stop now, I guess I might save that for another post. I would be interested to hear what you use Twitter for, what you like or don’t like about it. If you have an account but don’t really use it, why is that?

30 questions (about 2015)

I remember when chain emails with questions like these were making the rounds in, like, 2001. They were an excellent way of procrastinating then, too. My favorite question was (no idea why) – if you looked under your bed right now, what would you find? A whole lotta dust, in case you were wondering. 😛

I came across this set of questions in posts by Rachel Daw and Sandy Millin (see the original post in which Anna Loseva explains how she came up with the questions here), and thought I’d give them a go, sticking to work-related stuff for the most part.

It’ll make more sense if you pretend this was posted in 2015, obviously.

  1. The best moment of the year.

When I’m pushed to make a decision, I keep thinking, surely there’s something you’ve forgotten. So this most likely wasn’t THE best moment, but it was a proud and happy one nevertheless: a student of mine was the only one from Zagreb University to be awarded a grant to spend a semester at York University in Canada. I like to think the reference I wrote helped at least a bit.

  1. What inspired me the most this year?

The way my assistant mods contributed to our online course. I did a post on that here.

  1. The major news of this year.

The AMORES project is officially over!! (If you can find two consecutive exclamation marks anywhere else on this blog, I’ll eat my pom-pom beanie. Apparently the hat of the year, if you’ll excuse the digression.) So, yes, two years of pretty hard work have come to an end and if you would like to help our stats by taking two minutes to download a copy of the methodology here, that would be lovely, thank you very much. It’s a bit of a drag that you have to register, but we will not abuse your data and spam you – promise. For people who like pics, we have loads over on Flickr.

  1. Anthem of the year.

I’m at the stage where something could be playing over and over for a whole year and I can’t be bothered to check what it’s called or who sings it. I think the next stage is when I start saying, “They just don’t know how to make music anymore”, and those under 20 start giving me pitying looks.

  1. The most important people in my life.

Have very little to do with ELT.

  1. What was most difficult for me to do this year?

One thing was probably deciding whether to go to the TESOL France Colloquium in Paris, held a week after November 13. I was supposed to give a talk, so I felt bad about cancelling. In the end I went and was glad I did.

  1. What color was this year?

All the colors in the Fotor for Android effects range.

  1. Which event of the year would I choose to remember forever?

The BELTA Day weekend. Apart from the professional value, I really enjoyed the dinners on Friday and Saturday with the speakers and the board. And helping prepare the venue was stressful but fun. I think there is a pic of me somewhere sweeping the floor. With a broom. Those who know me well will appreciate the momentousness of the occasion.

  1. Which word did I use most often?

Probably AMORES. Or maybe please. As in, “Please remember to check the deadline for unit X”. One of the perks of online teaching.

  1. My most ridiculous purchase of the year.

That would be ridiculous as in disproportionately expensive? Okay, I paid way too much for the train tickets to Paris (see #6), considering I could’ve booked months in advance and paid a fraction of the price.

  1. I shouldn’t have experimented with …

Taking on a second project that required a serious time commitment while the first one wasn’t over.

  1. This year was wonderful because

The year was good. If it were a student it would get a C. Parts would get an A or a B.

  1. Which inner problem did I solve successfully?

Pass.

  1. Who did I hug at night?

And pass.

  1. Whose wedding did I have fun at?

Luckily, no weddings this year. I find them incredibly tedious, and while I’m happy if the person who’s getting married is happy, I would rather just see the pics. Oh, yeah, a friend from high school got married this year – lovely pics on Facebook!

  1. What was my average salary this year?

Amazingly, pretty much the same as it was for the last three years of running my own school. Which just means it’s a good thing I’m not doing that anymore.

  1. Did I have a conversation that turned everything upside down in my head?

Nope. I can feel I’m going to be flippant, so just nope.

  1. What new project did I start in 2015?

See #11. It was an interesting project, too – materials writing. I had to pull out.

  1. If I could become a superhero for just one day, what would I do?

Revolutionize the Croatian audiobook market. Make people realize you don’t have to be visually impaired to enjoy audiobooks. I’d love to be able to listen to the occasional recording by a Croatian author.

  1. What am I dreaming about now?

I have this idea of living back home at some point, and home being a good place to live. I’m not very demanding about this: a good place to live is a place where both of us have decent jobs, and don’t have to worry about being laid off or the business failing.

  1. What do I consider to be my most important achievement?

Probably doing a good enough job on AMORES to know that I could work in a non-teaching role full-time.

  1. This year until this moment in one sentence.

Oh, I’m crap at this sort of thing. Knowing your weaknesses is a good thing, right? Pass.

  1. The latest message I’ve sent.

Knowing there’s no way I’d answer all these questions in one go and post them, I saved this one for last. It’s not very specific, is it? Do they mean text message? Viber? Twitter? Okay, the last one was yesterday on Twitter, and I said something like, “Thanks very much for the blog post, please send it to X and myself”.

  1. A quote that is most suitable for my year.

Too #22, sorry. But I will recommend two books. They could be read at any time; their only connection to 2015 is that I read them this year (when I say read, I mean got them on Audible). “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss, and “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery”, by Henry Marsh.

  1. Did I achieve everything I’d planned for this year?

I guess I should’ve kept a list of the things I’d planned, only I’m not a fan of planning. There was this MOOC I started once (not this year) where they said we should “enjoy the serendipity of the random encounter”, which I liked the sound of. There were a couple of things that went to plan – one was sending in a speaker proposal for TESOL France. I think I also commented more on other people’s blogs, and I’m glad I did – I got a lot out of that, actually (that’s material for a whole other post).

  1. How many new friends did I make this year?

Ha, is that Facebook friends?! Seriously, I have a problem with this term. You saw me once – or never saw me at all – and now we’re friends? I’ve been told this is a ridiculous way to feel and, yes, friends is probably simpler and visually tidier than “People I know on Facebook” or something.

  1. Who did I help this year?

My students, the AMORES project team, the BELTA board. These I know about.

  1. Where did I travel?

I mostly went back and forth between Belgium and Croatia. There were a couple of days I spent in the UK attending an AMORES workshop (Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham), and, of course, the trip to Paris for the TESOL France Colloquium.

Bonding activity at Emma Bridgewater during the UK workshop.
Bonding activity at Emma Bridgewater during the UK workshop.
  1. Which projects am I putting off till next year?

See #25. There’s nothing in particular. Okay, one thing comes to mind. Despite my audiobook obsession, I’ve continued to buy paperbacks. So I was thinking I should take a break from audiobooks and go back to reading, at least to get through the books that have piled up over last year.

  1. What do I want to achieve next year?

Possibly write something that’ll make it into a publication with a wider readership. We’ll see.