Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

2013 will go down in my personal history as a year of being preoccupied with an event from the past. At times this year, I could think of nothing else, and it threatened to overshadow any of the joys that 2013 actually managed to bring.  I am happy to say that the situation that has dominated since February 2009, is thankfully over for me and my family. I thank the legal team for all their tireless support and faith in us.  I thank the judge, who listened attentively, and then agreed to everything. I thank Karl for being my rock, I thank my sisters for always being there with me throughout the long process we have endured, and I thank everyone who has supported us along the way.

We can now look to the future, and hope that it will be a quiet and peaceful one, without high drama or worries!  Safe to say, this will be unlikely, given the very fabric of human nature.  Whatever happens, however, I am sure I will go forth with great optimism. Let's see what this new year will bring.

Highlights of 2013
In January & February, I attended and also had the opportunity to moderate on the EVO DigitalStorytelling for Kids. I enjoyed this experience very much indeed, and I learned a lot, thanks to the fabulous team of moderators and participants.

Attending Connecting Online 2013 e-conference in February, presenting at the 6th Virtual Round Table e-conference in May, and the Reform Symposium in October, all helped me to develop professionally.  It was wonderful to share so many interesting moments with educators from around the world.

I became a registered blogger for IATEFL Liverpool, but actually only managed to write 2 posts.  I was sorry I couldn't write more...

I worked on a collaborative book writing project with a group of international educators from Connecting Online 2012, and I wrote a chapter on Teaching Idioms Effectively.  I am now the proud owner of my own printed copy of Connecting Online for  Instruction and Learning, International Perspectives.

I celebrated my fifth year of blogging by writing this post, simply entitled Five.

Olive Picking Weekend
I enjoyed picking our olives in November, and I then created a Photopeach slideshow as an example for a weekend activity to show to my 'Blend It' online students at the time.

Janet's Weekend on PhotoPeach


Fave Blog Post of 2013
My favourite post of 2013 has got to be The Machine vs Janet, which I later changed to Janet vs the Machine.  It is a true story, and I was thrilled that my perseverance in this particular case, finally paid off.

The motto is: If something seems insurmountable to overcome, never, ever give up hope!!

Out of a negative situation, a positive one emerged, and to my delight this blog post was turned into a chapter for an ebook,called The Little Book of Blogs, compiled by Anne Fox from The Consultants-e.  The ebook contains a host of great chapters on all manners of topics, and you can download a free copy if you click on this post.   Enjoy!

Fluffy's Hectic Life
Fluffy's Blog - Fluffy is a constant source of joy and a bundle of fun.  He is very mild-mannered, and he tends to have a lot of adventures.  His presence can brighten up anybody's day! His portrait is now hanging in the local museum, as seen below.

An Indomitable Spirit 
 The person I most look up to in the whole world is my dear mum, who has overcome all the odds that were stacked against her one fateful day in February 2009.....

The image below, taken just a few weeks ago in Oxford, is full of optimism for the future.  Nobody can imagine the history of what lies behind her beautiful smile, the stuggles and frustrations of the past 5 years, the incredible will to live, the courage, fortitude and bravery.  To survive her catastrophic brain injury after months in hospital and rehabilitation, and to now lead a quiet, peaceful and simple lifestyle, is more than we had ever hoped for.  The anxious and terrifying vigils by her bedside, in the weeks following the cycle accident, not knowing if she was going to come out of her coma, not knowing if she was ever going to be strong enough to live a normal life ever again, is something hard to forget.

Now, however, it is time to finally move on, and look forward to a happy future, which is full of hope....

A Toast to 2014!
Finally, to sum up this reflective post, a huge cheers to all my blog readers, members of my PLN, friends, family and colleagues all over the world.  I hope 2014 will be a wonderful year for you all :-))

Post Scriptum
2014 has some exciting events in store, and I will be writing about them in the New Year.  Watch this space!

2014 is now!!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Five ......

......years ago I started blogging, and it was an event that changed my life in quite a dramatic way.  Janet's Abruzzo Edublog is now officially over five years old and I would like to say what a joy it has been to blog and to share my ideas, lessons, presentations, experiments on web 2.0 tools, and thoughts on life in general.  Writing has given me a new confidence and has made me very happy. This year, I have not had the time to devote myself to updating this blog as often as I would have liked to.  However, I have still somehow managed to create 2 teaching blogs, lasting the two-week period I taught each of the following classes:

Lake School April Lessons
Creative Teaching at the Lake

Just for fun and for some light relief, I also set up a new blog for our chickens!!  Yes, it is true, just for Freddy the cockerel and 6 chickens. Sadly, it has not been a good year for him and his companions, but things should be better in 2014.

The Abruzzo Chicken Chronicles

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog, thanks to all the members of my PLN both here and on Twitter, and thanks to everyone who inspires me to continue writing. This includes all my wonderful colleagues, students and classes I have taught the past five years since moving to Abruzzo.

I hope to do a fuller analysis of 2013 at the end of this year.  Watch this space :-)

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I've Been Tagged! A Blogging Challenge

I have been tagged (along with other bloggers) in a blogging meme by Kathy Fagan, from Free Range ELT Blog,  and also by Eva Simkesyan of A Journey in TEFL blog.  Thank you both so much!!  I have enjoyed reading the answers to your tagged posts.

Update on 23/12/13: My former student Cristina Silva has just tagged me, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to reply to her set of great questions :-)  Thanks so much, Cristina!!

Update on 28/12/13: Sharon Hartle from  English learning in our world blog has kindly tagged me, and I am delighted to give answers to her set of very interesting questions. Thanks very much, Sharon :-)

This is how the tag challenge works.

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger (s).
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Here are 11 random facts about me;
  1. I collect figurines of owls, don't ask me why, I just seem to have gathered about 20 of them now!
  2. I have travelled on the back of a motorbike around Europe
  3. I share exactly the same birthday with Princess Caroline of Hanover
  4. In my free time at university I used to be a bouncer for the Leicester University Entertainments Committee and got into lots of the gigs for free.
  5. As a student I topped up my grant by working as a barmaid in the Leicester University Students' Union Bar and was always invited to parties
  6. I have been to Canaima, in the Amazon Jungle in Venezuela
  7. My cat Fluffy has his own blog called The Hectic Life of a Fluffy Cat.
  8. I applied to be a British Airways flight attendant when I was younger, but was turned down because I was too short!
  9. I studied Russian for beginners at night school for a year, and learned the Cyrillic alphabet.
  10. I love the movie The Sound Of Music and have seen it countless times. I will never get tired of seeing it!
  11. I have sat in a Formula 1 Benetton car, and a Tornado Jet fighter plane.I have managed to locate 2 pictures taken of these impressive vehicles.....
Janet in an F1 Benetton racing car, formerly manufactured in Witney, Oxfordshire.  I had a friend who used to work in the design team.

I went to an airshow a while back, and I can't remember exactly how I managed to get a photo of me proudly sitting in one of these Tornado jet fighter planes!

Replies - 1

Here are the answers to Kathy's 11 questions:

1. What is one book, blog post, article, presentation, or research paper that really changed how you think about teaching?  How?
Implementing the Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis really inspired me to change the way I taught vocabulary.  It's a very practical book with lots of ideas, and I have used many of them with my learners in class.
2. Which season of the year do you like the best?  Why?
I love the summer because I can stay out later in the evening and get lots more done in the garden.
3. How many languages (other than English) can you use at high beginning or higher?  If any, what are they?
I speak Italian, Spanish, German, French and a little Greek (I have an 'O'Level in it) and a little Russian, but am very rusty.  I studied Czech for a year in East Germany and the lessons were taught in German. It was a very challenging experience!
4. The bartender says "What'll it be?"  What is it?
I usually have half a pint of medium dry cider in England. In Abruzzo, a glass of Prosecco is always nice.
5. What is the most recent musical performance you have attended?
I don't often go to the theatre, but I do remember going to see Miss Saigon in London a few years ago, and it was an incredible experience.
6. Which age group do you like teaching best: youngsters, teens, adults?
I enjoy teaching all age groups, but in particular I seem to have more of an affinity with adults.
7. Have you ever been the recipient of a surprise party or gift?  How did that go?
 Yes, I have.  Just a few days ago I attended the Lake School of English staff christmas party and I was given a beautiful Swatch watch as a gift.  This came as a lovely surprise, and the watch was very 'me'.
8. What's one time where you really had to think on your feet during a lesson?
 I was asked to discuss nihilism and Nietsche's philosophy during a 1-1 session, and luckily I had studied Nietsche in German classes so was able to just about get away with it!
9. Tell about a pet -- past, present or future.
I will always remember my pet cat Joey.  He was very mild-mannered and very friendly and cuddly.  He became my mascot when I first ventured into the world of technology and was very sad when he passed away naturally a few years ago. He had a very good life, and we had lots of fun together.

10. Have you ever been on TV?
 No, I'm afraid I haven't.
11. Hot sauce: yes or no?
 No, I don't really like spicy food at all.

Thank you Kathy, for your list of interesting questions :-)

Replies - 2
Here are my questions from Eva:

1. Do you remember the first class you entered as a teacher?
Yes, it was in Madrid in 1979, and it was with a group of adults.  I remember being quite scared at the time, as I had never taught before and was fresh from university.  I was armed with a text book, which I still have, and I simply had to do a few pages of it, so it was quite easy.  The class was delightful, and I think I had quite an easy introduction to teaching EFL!!

2. What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
I like Twitter as it is quick and easy to find information relating to EFL and educational technology.  It keeps me up to date with what is happening and I have made a lot of friends via this platform, including you, Eva :-)

3. How do you think blogging helps your teaching?
It helps me to reflect on what I do in class, and I find it is a great way to keep a record of some of my lessons and ideas.

4. Tea or Coffee?
Both! I find tea is very calming, and coffee wakes me up in the monrnings!

5. Who is your favorite singer, band, musician?
I like Enya, and my sister Adua sang Marble Halls at our wedding.

6. Do you attend conferences? Why? / why not?
I attend online conferences nowadays as they are a great way to develop professionally. I can attend from the comfort of my own home and interact with members of my PLN.  I learn so much, and also they are great fun!

7. Who were the most helpful tweeters or bloggers for you when you started blogging or tweeting?
Too many to mention here, but each and every one of them played a very important part in giving me the confidence to continue blogging.  For this, I will always be grateful.

8. What will be the first goal in your New Year’s resolutions list this year?
To update My Janet's Abruzzo Edublog more often!

9. Where would you like to travel in 2014?
I would love to explore more of Abruzzo by motorbike, and hopefully also go to Naples! 

10. How long does it take to write a blog post for you and how often do you update your blog?
In the past as long as I had a title in my mind, it didn't take me too long to write a post, maybe a couple of hours or less.  I used to write a post on a regular basis, at least 2-3 times a month.  Sadly this year, I have not updated my blog very often, due to family commitments, so I feel I have a lot to catch up with.

11. What is your favorite food?
I love homemade lasagne!
Thanks, Eva for your list of interesting questions :-)

Replies - 3
Here are my questions from Cristina:

1. What was the best moment in your life?
Definitely my wedding day in 1992.  An utterly magical day in my whole life.  The wedding dress was handmade by my mother, and  everything was perfect! My 2 sisters were my bridesmaids and their outfits were also handmade by my incredible mum.

2. Do you expect much of people?
I like to think positively about everybody I meet and I always trust that they will be kind and give of their best.
3. How many true friends do you have?
I have a few very close friends whom I have known since university days.  Time and distance is no barrier to our lasting friendship. My sisters happen to be my two best lifelong friends.
4. What do you do when you need to have YOUR moment?
I go outside and have a walk around the olive trees and do some gardening.  This brings me peace.

5. What is the film of your life?
What an intriguing question! I am not sure how to answer this one, as each life is unique. I guess it would focus on my time in East Germany in 1982-3, as that was an incredible moment in history.

6. When was the last time you slept 10h? 
I can't remember exactly, but maybe it was the last time I was in England, and I didn't have to get up early to go to work.

7. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I look out of the bedroom window to see what the weather is like. Recently I was surprised to see so much snow had fallen overnight and this is the view that I saw that morning.

8. Which historical character would you like to meet if you had that chance?
Queen Victoria of England.  I saw The Young Victoria last night on telly and was fascinated by her life.

9. An embarrassing moment in your life was…
..... when I was carried away in a bin by the headmaster of my primary school for being a bit naughty!! 

10. When did you last burst out laughing and couldn’t stop?
Viewing the comedy 'Airplane!'.  It always has me in stitches!
11. City or countryside?
Both!  I used to be a city girl, and still am, but living deep in the Abruzzo countryside, I have got used to country life and I enjoy the peace and quiet. In 2009 I wrote a post called Back to the Chalkface, and used it as an example for the FCE exam Part II Speaking practice. I used 2 of my pictures for the compare and contrast topic.
Thanks, Cristina, for your inspiring questions!

Replies - 4
Here are my questions from Sharon:

1) Have you ever wanted to have another name?I was given 3 names at birth and I quite like my first name Laura, and really love my second, Lidiana. My young niece is named Lidiana and this has made me very happy.

2) What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you when travelling?
I was berated by a group of nuns in a train when travelling on my own on a journey to Genova from Paris.  The whole train was packed full of soldiers but luckily I shared a compartment with this particular group of Italian nuns.  They were absolutely scandalised that my parents had allowed me to travel on my own on such a long journey!!  I was 19 at the time and in those days maybe young girls didn't travel on their own without a chaperone, so my parents were considered to be quite liberal.

3) If you could change one thing about your house, what would it be?
I would love to have a roof over part of the house!  The previous owner took the tiles with him before we got the key, so it was a shock when we discovered they had gone. One day, hopefully we will be able to restore this room / annexe and it won't look so 'open' to all the elements.

4) What is your ideal holiday?
Lying on a beach, doing a bit of sightseeing and eating out all the time!!

5) what is your favourite moment of the day?
Definitley breakfast time!  My hubby K always does the breakfast, and for this I am very grateful.  I am definitely not really a morning person.

6) Where do you listen to music?
I don't actually listen to much music, but when I do I am usually in the kitchen and I like listening to Italian songs on the radio.

7) What is your favourite classroom activity?
I like doing introductions and icebreaker activities and the one I use a lot is still the perennially popular Find someone who.....  I read the pre-course questionnaires and then compile statements to include each member of the class and myself.  It always works very well, and is often a lot of fun.

 8) What would the five things be that you’d take with you to a desert island?
My notebook, a pen to write my thoughts with, a torch, matches and a good book.

9) Are you a lark or an owl?
I am definitely an owl as opposed to a lark, but nowadays I don't really stay up as late as I used to.

10) What is one adventure that you’re planning for 2014?
A weekend trip to San Marino by motorbike with hubby to meet up with the Aprilia Caponord motorbike club for their annual meeting.  If the trip comes off, it would be really exciting to travel there by motorbike from Abruzzo. I have never been to San Marino before, so it would be great to explore a new place.

11) What is the one thing you know you shouldn’t do, but… you do it anyway?
I know I shouldn't really eat chocolate, but I simply can't resist the tempatation if any is offered to me. Sharon, I think we have this in common, lol :-)

Thanks so much, Sharon, for your thought-provoking questions!

Here are my 11 questions for anyone who wishes to take part in this challenge:

  1. What has been one of your priceless 'aha' moments as a teacher?
  2. Which educator has inspired you to be the best teacher you can be?
  3. Are you an early bird or night owl?
  4. Which do you prefer, Facebook or Twitter, and why?
  5. Whch adjectives would you use to describe yourself using the letters of your first name?
  6.  Do you collect anything in particular?  If so, what is it and how long have you been collecting it?
  7. Which place in the world would you most like to visit, and why?
  8. What is the most treasured possession you have received from one of your former students?
  9. Do you like teaching exam classes?  
  10. What do you most enjoy about blogging?
  11. What's your favourite song?
My choice of participants would include...

I look forward to reading your replies, if you choose to do the challenge, which is optional, so no pressure:-)  I do appreciate it's a busy time of the year now, and you may have already been tagged, or you simply may not have the time, so no worries, I completely understand.

Anybody else who would like to participate, please feel free to answer my questions on your blog.  I would love to find out more about you!

The random facts, questions and answers of the bloggers I tagged.

With many thanks to the following fellow bloggers who have replied on their blogs :-))

Anne Hodgson

Arjana Blazic