We’re all Doctors Strange here :)

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littlebitofthyme.com

 

Sometimes you get inspired by the weirdest things and in my case I blame it on the newest film by Marvel Studios – Doctor Strange. The film inspiration is nothing new in my life (remember Kung Fu Panda?), however after watching the film I came across a short article by a paramedic and all I could do was nod – and since it’s my blog, I feel like sharing my reflections with you – or rather noting them down so that I won’t forget them in the future.

People become teachers to share their knowledge. During our courses we’re being told that teaching is vital in the society, that it’s not a mere job, it’s a vocation. It’s partly true, I can’t deny it – but in this way every job is a vocation and we aren’t special flowers here. This not a job, but a vocation phrase is now more and more often used by those teachers who want to emphasise their superiority, by those parents who expect schools to deal with their children’s behaviour, by governments who apparently believe that vocation is so powerful teachers don’t need to be well paid (greetings from Poland!).

To be honest, this approach is one of the reasons I don’t work with the state educational system – I really and truly believe teaching is just a job. I love it, yes, I try to develop my teaching and DoSing skills, but when I get back home (and do some teaching-connected work, well, it does come with the job, doesn’t it) I’m not a teacher anymore, I’m a personnel of two cats, a whodunit reader, an RPG player – and it’s a gaming comparison that springs to my mind.

When we play games, we’re the heroes of the stories – just like in our life (only our life rarely includes dungeons or dragons), but in real life, when we do our teaching job, we’re not really heroes, we’re actually background to someone else’s life. Before we start teaching we’re told we’re the most important factor in the classroom, but we are not. Our classes, books, materials and ourselves are simply background to someone’s development. And it’s this particular student, and their (in my case linguistic) knowledge, and personal growth – that is the most important aspect.

I deeply believe that the most important role of a teacher is that of a facilitator, and once I realised that, I’ve become more open to my students’ actual needs, more likely to be more than a teacher – a partner on our way to get their knowledge. Not the most important person in the process, because this role belongs solely to the student.

I really do love teaching, and frankly, I enjoy being in the centre of attention that goes with teaching – but slowly I’m trying to put my students in the limelight, to let them shine and, to put it in a pretty RPG way: to become a quest-giver, encouraging students to take their own education as a quest.

And yes, this quest-giving is a job, because when the students have collected their party and went on the adventure, we’re still there, waiting for the next would-be adventurers to show them the way, equip them with weapons and bid them farewell, never taking part in the proper quest.

Instead of being told empty phrases about vocation, we need our own Ancient One to tell us this simple truth: It’s not all about you.

Teacher inspiration: Kung Fu Panda

Ever thought an animated film could be a source of inspiration? Last weekend, I went to see Manowar in Warsaw and it took me 10 hours by coach — fortunately it was a very comfortable one, so I could watch films, listen to music and chill. So, I decided to watch Kung Fu Panda. Again. Mostly because: a) it’s a good film, b) dubbing is really nice c) music is awesome. But this time, instead of enjoying the movie, something else caught my eye and that was enough for a change of a whole perspective.

We know the main character is Po the Panda, who loves kung fu and ends up as a Dragon Warrior in a classic tale of “from zero to hero”. But try to look at one of the supporting characters, Master Shifu, Po’s unwilling teacher. He’s a real, proper teacher, having his good and bad moments, moments of hype and days (years) of feeling hopeless.

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I have corrected your tests… (pinterest.com)

Usually in action films like this one (remember Karate Kid?) a hero meets the teacher ready to take an apprentice and bestow his knowledge upon him. This is not the case. Master Shifu is a deeply disillusioned teacher whose favourite student turned into an evil monster (still badass, though) and he’s not been able to put his trust in any student since. He’s doing his duty all right, being an awesome kung fu master, but he’s not putting his soul into teaching, and he doesn’t really see his pupils as real persons (which actually results in high-spirited Tigress being jealous and yearning for Shifu’s approval).

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Kicking your student’s ass is not acceptable. Unfortunately 😉 (fanpop.com)

It is Po, a hopeless panda who changes Shifu’s attitude and, as he quotes “brings him peace”. At first though, they have a very ill relationship, mostly due to Shifu’s efforts to train Po the way he trained other students and there is a difference between a monkey and a huge panda, after all, isn’t it? It is his old friend and mentor, Master Oogway, who asks him to believe in his new student’s potential. Shifu is reluctant at first, but he accidentally realizes that with teaching methods adjusted to an unusual student the whole educational process may actually make sense.

And, obviously, it does.

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You amuse me with your efforts (twitter.com)

This film reminded me of one of most curious aspects of my job — I am always happy with ambitious and proficient students, I like them and enjoy the classes. But it’s those neglected and lazy ones who may bloom and surprise you, those you’ll be remembering with pride, those who will remember you. There are those students, once in a while, practically made for you to teach and if you’ve ever had this powerful yet inexplicable relationship, you know what I mean when I say: you’re a teacher only because of those few special students. I’ve met less than ten of them, girls and boys. I still keep in touch with most of them and I hope to meet many more such hidden jewels.

However, usually we just do our job, mastering our students’ skills and making sure they properly pronounce “beach”. Our days may vary but sooner or later we find our job tedious and meaningless. We run out of ideas, our students don’t feel like learning, and it’s probably a foggy, rainy day to add to our misery. So, whenever we feel down we may just watch Kung Fu Panda, think of Master Shifu and, well, if he achieved his inner peace maybe so can we?

Oh, and in the film he’s a red panda. Now, red pandas are awesome: they’re really cute and somewhat neurotic.

Pretty much like teachers 🙂

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“Didn’t be”? Seriously, years of studying English and you go with “didn’t be”? (z7.invisionfree.com)

 

Scrap winter projects

One of my hobbies is scrapbooking, cardmaking etc. I really enjoy making lovely cards while watching TV programmes, usually about murders and crimes to save the balance… Well, since my students might yet grow up to be criminal masterminds, I, as the Evil Empress of the World (in the making) feel obliged to show them a way of putting their undoubtedly creative minds to use without doing anything illegal.

Hence, the scrap projects.

My adventure with scrapbooking started when I lived in Dublin, fair city. I kept collecting bits and bobs – postcards, coasters, tickets, you know, all the typical touristy stuff I’m sure you have aplenty at homes as well. I felt like making something to keep all the stuff together neatly organised, so here came my first project — a handmade book about the time I spent in Dublin. It’s a perfect way to keep only good memories, by the way!

Surprisingly, I’ve happened to use my projects in the classroom — it’s quite attractive for the students to see some actual real-life materials along with the “been there, done that” stories as an addition to the book material and better than checking things on their own on the Internet. So from students’ perspective this sole reason is enough for you, as a teacher, to collect some souvenirs from the countries you’ve been to.

Apart from a valuable classroom material, scrapbooks can also be an inspiration for the students — especially the younger ones — during classes and that’s the idea I want to share today.

For example, you can ask your students to make a holiday-based scrapbook during their summer holidays so that they hopefully won’t forget English — it’s quite a lot of work, but you may organise a contest with some nice prizes. If you don’t know whether you are going to teach the same group after a break, you can make a mini-project about their dream holidays or school trip in the classroom.

You could also use this technique to make brainstorming vocabulary games or as a way to get students’ ideas together. You can, for example, present the works in the classroom as posters. Organising your vocabulary using scrapbooking ideas is useful for all types of learners: visual learners can see the connections, auditory learners focus on the brainstorming activity, reading/writing learners have everything noted down and the most difficult group to teach English, kinesthetic learners, can finally learn something by actually making something.

Enjoy!

 

And what if you DON’T feel Christmas spirit?

(This post is not about Christmas cheer. If you’re looking for Christmassy stuff, just go somewhere else. But if you’ve had enough, even if you’re not a teacher, feel free to stay)

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Christmas carols galore, Christmas commercials and decorations, Santa Claus, elves, presents (oh, wait, those are actually cool), so much food you already have a New Year resolution ready, and, oh, not again – Christmas lessons… sounds familiar?

Fed up with the Christmas stuff? There, there, let me pat you on your back. Stop sobbing, hush. As the Evil Mistress in the making I’ve got something to help you recover – a nice list of not-so-christmassy-Christmas songs. If you feel like it, share them with your students, but I’d rather use them as a nice background music for all the teachery stuff you have to do during Christmas anyway.

Christmas at Ground Zero by Weird Al Yankovic is the first song that springs to my mind – no wonder with Fallout 4 everywhere, but still, the song is pretty cool and if I were forced to bring some Christmas cheer to the classroom that would be my choice. Lots of vocabulary to explain, you can discuss survival skills, evacuation pattern etc. Or you can just listen to the song imagining a nuke blowing up all the tests you have to correct.

Don’t Shoot Me Santa by the Killers is an ultimate teacher song – ever felt like dancing around your students with a proper axe in your hand? It’s a great song to get you in the mood! It’s Christmas time after all, make yourself a present by creating a war dance on the graves of your misbehaving students.

I don’t like Bob Dylan singing, all right? He’s a great songwriter, but he should leave singing to others. But there’s this song, Must Be Santa with just a perfect video to remind me why Christmas parties (especially the ones with teachers!) are not the best idea ever. Cheers, Bob.

If you’re interested in what exactly I am listening to during Christmas since avoiding carols sounds rather difficult, here’s the answer: The H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society! Fellow cthultists have been recording some good stuff, including two albums full of Solstice cheer fear. Take The Carol of the Old Ones, now, isn’t that cute? Just don’t get too hopeful, when the stars are right Cthulhu will devour us all anyway, cthultists or no cthultists.

Let’s leave R’lyeh and move to the UK which can also add some pepper to the Christmas punch. The one and only Eric Idle performs a song which I know by heart. It’s called, simply, Fuck Christmas. Guess what it’s about, huh. My husband’s favourite one, when I hear his cynical voice drawling the chorus I know it’s time to turn the radio off in case of Wham’s Last Christmas (ugh).

If your mood is too foul to be appeased by mere Eric Idle, there’s something most people would perceive as an overkill, namely: South Park. You can start with Kyle being A Lonely Jew on Christmas, but if you don’t know South Park well enough, be careful, it may lead you down straight to The Most Offensive Song Ever – feel warned, whoever you are! Especially if you’re my student – do not, I repeat, do not check The Most Offensive Song Ever! It’s really not worth it…

Now, if you’re tired with profanities and swearwords – I know I would be – you may enjoy good old Freddie and his Winter’s Tale, one of the best winter-themed songs… and it’s not relating to Christmas! And if you’re not tired of swearwords just start correcting tests listening to Driving Home for Christmas (I mean, seriously, how long has he been driving?).

Anyway, Christmas Was Better in the 80s, sing the Futureheads and aren’t they right? All I had to do was a) not to disturb in the kitchen b) be grateful for the presents. And I wanted to grow up, really! Why did I even bother? Oh, wait, my main responsibilities are still keeping away from the kitchen and enjoying presents…

To prove there are some things truly beautiful about Christmas, I want to remind how important musical interpretations are, you can listen to a casual Christmas carol in a version that will smite you. For example, you can enjoy listening to Sir Christopher Lee’s metal carols (they’re absolutely cute), AC/DC can also be pretty festive, not to mention the Darkness (Christmas Time is a really nice song – cheap and cheesy, yeah, but still!).

Here I want to share an old Ukrainian carol in my best-loved interpretation.

Enjoy your Christmas!