Saturday, 25 March 2017

11 April - World Parkinson's Awareness Day

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994. I was 16 years old then, right in the middle of my turbulent teens; a self-absorbed adolescent preoccupied with my own needs and wants. I cannot really say I wasn’t of any help – I provided immediate assistance whenever it was needed, but I don’t think that was enough to call me supportive. A classic teen, I don’t think I ever got into the trouble of trying to understand how my father felt when he was struggling to make his feet move faster or to control those shaky hands. 

He is long gone and the time for me has come to pay my long overdue debt. 

11 April is the birthday of Dr James Parkinson who was the first to describe the symptoms of the disease. Let’s all #UniteForParkinsons and do something with our students around that day, the World Parkinson’s Awareness Day. 

Without Her” is a one-act play written by our dear colleague, Despina Karamitsou, in which in a humorous way she presents the causes, symptoms and ways of dealing and living with PD. The play has been translated into several languages and I was more than happy to translate the play into Polish (Except for the original Greek version, there is also a Turkish version available so far). There is also a file with plenty of ideas to choose from if you decide to talk to your students about Parkinson’s. 

The recording of the performance is available in Greek with English subtitles.

I would like to thank Despina for giving me the opportunity to get involved. Her work has showed me that Parkinson’s disease does not have to be a curse if you don’t treat it as one.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


I have always tried to teach with a twist, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that there was a conference for people like me, a TWIST Conference organized annually in Warsaw. I got intrigued by the unusual concept of the event; as the conference organizers put it, TWIST is all about promoting “extraordinary 'ordinary' teachers who take the stage to share their success stories!”

Personally, I tried to contribute to the event with a session on the use of Silent Discussion, my personal teaching success :), a technique especially useful to tackle “difficult” topics in class.

Photo by Małgorzata Warmińska

Silent discussion is a collaborative learning strategy which helps students explore a topic in depth, but most importantly, it allows each student to work at their own pace and engages even the most intimidated students. It first takes form of written self-expression and exchange of ideas, and ultimately turns into a verbal discussion. The instructions need to be very clear: the participants are not allowed to talk for fifteen minutes and the only means of communication among them is a long stretch of big wrapping paper and markers. My session aimed to prove that silence can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. It can open up space for productivity, creativity and cooperation. When held in silence, discussions on even the most controversial topics resonate loud and make a deep impact.

Here is my follow-up article which appeared in the latest issue of The Teacher

Friday, 27 January 2017

ELT for Social Justice – Addressing the Issue of the Holocaust

The article ELT for Social Justice – Addressing the Issue of the Holocaust which I co-authored with Mark Andrews and Adam Janiszewski and was kindly published by the IATEFL Global Issues Special Interest Group is a fruit of international collaboration. The issue of the Holocaust viewed from various perspectives: our own, but also through the eyes of Mark's students in Hungary, Adam's in Poland and mine in Greece.

Happy reading.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Note to a Stranger

Isn't it fascinating how a single image can become a springboard for a class discussion, a lesson plan, or at least for an engaging activity?

The picture below was taken somewhere in Warsaw, Poland by a colleague and an inspiring educator, Milada Krajewska and shared by her on her Facebook page. I read the note in the picture and I couldn't resist :) The warm-up activity just "wrote itself". 

Don't tell your students what the lesson is going to be about. Let them discover it by themselves. 

First, ask them what kind of messages and notes they expect to see pinned up on traffic and signal lighting poles, or in other places in town: at bus stops, or electricity poles. Let them brainstorm ideas: 
advertisements, announcement, apartment rental ads, obituaries, lost pet notes, private classes announcements, concert posters, etc.

Show them the picture below. For the fun of it, you can ask them to read it. Can they recognize what language it is? Do they believe that this note belongs to any of the categories listed by them earlier? There is no contact number, there seems to be no address, no time indication, no image...

Tell them that the note says: "Whoever you are, I wish you well." Ask them to freewrite for five minutes about how reading this kind of note would make them feel.

Wish them a nice day before you dismiss the class.

Photo credits: Milada Krajewska

Talk to your students about the importance and benefits of treating others in a kind manner. It may be a life-changing lesson for them and for the world.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Margarita Calling Home

Earlier this year I had a great pleasure to be interviewed for "The Teacher" by Milada Krajewska. This interview was especially significant to me as it meant reaching out and connecting with colleagues back home, which I rarely have an opportunity to do. I am an English instructor of Polish origin based in Thessaloniki, Greece. I try to stay active at all times attending professional development events, so far only in the area of Southern and southern Central Europe. Hopefully, the interview for "The Teacher" is the first step into a new path. I have lived and worked in Greece for 15 years now, practically all of my teaching career. People in the Balkans often ask me about the ELT world in Poland and I have started feeling the urge to connect with colleagues back home. So, maybe that chat I had with Milada marks a new beginning of my cooperation with colleagues in Poland.
In the interview we talked about relatively anything: my decision to become a teacher, inspiring and motivating moments in my teaching life, passions within and outside ELT, professional development, but also about storytelling and incorporating social issues into language teaching, the two areas which are closest to my heart. 

You can read the interview here.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

About How Four Digits, a Punctuation Mark and Two Letters Can Turn Into a Lesson Plan on Social Injustice

The interest in creating ELT materials, most of them built around social issues, has led me to this course: Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. I am halfway through the course and I am learning a lot. The first homework task was the following: 

"Find a very short text or a collection of very short texts appropriate for your learners. Design some learning materials using the text(s) as the content. Think about these things:

  • Aims or objectives
  • Interaction
  • Skills or language focus
  • Support needed (useful phrases, a model, etc.)"
I always say that the best source of inspiration is what happens around us. If we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find stimulating material which we can use in our class.

An everyday situation was the source of the task which I created for the first assignment in which a text as short as four digits, a punctuation mark and two letters turned into a lesson plan on social injustice.

Lesson plan available here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day in the English Language Classroom

27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, has been designated by the UN as International Holocaust Memorial Day.

In view of International Holocaust Memorial Day I would like to invite my colleagues to use this lesson plan with their students this week and to return to me with their own reflections and the reflections of their students, but also with documentation of their students' work. Hopefully feedback collected comes from various countries which will provide an opportunity to compare holocaust awareness in those areas.

How much do we know about the holocaust? How is the holocaust relevant today?

I would like to thank Mark Andrews for inspiration.