Hybrid Teaching

Heat

My alarm goes off and I quickly turn over in the king size bed I’m sleeping on to reach the bedside table with my cell phone on it. It’s still dark – 5am to be exact. I got 30min to get ready before my first business English lesson begins…

The thermostat reads 75 degrees(F), because it’s hot here, but I have been longing for heat, I welcome it. I head to the kitchen in the dark, but I know the way, as it is a spacious house. Once in the kitchen I go through the routine of preparing my steaming hot espresso with the Bialetti coffeemaker I have brought with me on this trip – a must. I place it on the industrial size gas stovetop, a common sight in homes here, and within minutes it’s whistling at me. I take it to one of the empty bedrooms with my mug and butter, a glass of water and lemon and take a comfortable seat while I connect to zoom with my iPad. I get dressed in the dark and rinse my face…It’s showtime!

The thing is, I am not in the classroom, I am in Miami, Florida USA, an ocean away from my headquarters otherwise known as home. I am in the heat, it’s absolutely wonderful.

Beach

If you had told me I’d ever teach a single lesson online I would have shrugged and waved it off. If you had told me that I would teach a class someday online while half way across the world I would have laughed – come on, stop smoking that stuff man!

What a transformation!

A reality now!

We’ve come a loooong way since this pandemic nearly freaked us all out to death but in the aftermath of the frenzy and madness and a new normal was established and though I can admit that I am late to the party a bit there’s no doubt this NEW-ness is here to stay!

No objections from this guy 🙂

Five hours after finishing up my morning, and all my lessons I am on Miami beach overlooking the Atlantic, only here when I enter the sea I am not shivering but refreshed and warm. It’s a straight up miracle as far as I am concerned. But one I have embraced so fully I can’t help but smile, even giggle. The beach is sandy and the sea is turquoise and the sun is beating down on me while I watch my kids dance by the breaking waves, getting their toes wet. I sit and dry off and take in the scene so that I can remember the details because I am on the beach in the heat but not in Krakow, and actually haven’t cancelled my lessons.

No way!

Dragonflies

I am running. The heat surrounds me, and I am warming up real quick. The lessons of the day finished in the late morning today. But it’s cloudy and rain is expected in this tropical place. As I move through the neighborhood I get waves and greetings from my suburban neighbors and continue on. The best way to explore is by running around and today is no different. I realize that even with the high temperatures my legs and lungs feel fine on this day. I’m cruising. I got energy and some of my breakfast still as fuel. The dragonflies zip by me from time to time here and I flinch – it’s not typical of my usual surroundings. My time here is almost done, wow it really flew by like those dragonflies!

A feeling remains in me though, something about this hybrid working thing seems to be just right. Maybe I am not present in the classroom but my students don’t seem to have noticed my absence. If anything, it served as a topic to springboard a conversation from. And so it was, that after two weeks of Miami thrills and chills and teachings, family in toe, I realized this job, this time we live in, it’s remarkable – even for a teacher of English as a second language.

Next destination in the works….. 🙂

MENspedition

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

It refers to a guy’s weekend my friends and I go on, a couple times a year. It’s an adventure, a journey. When you’re in search of something new though, we don’t call it either of those, but an expedition instead. That means, you’re off to new places, undiscovered, where nobody potentially has been before.

Some call it a ‘reset’ or a ‘getaway’. Both and all mean different things to different people at different times…..in their lives.

There aren’t many unexplored places left in the physical world, but there is plenty to explore within ourselves and no matter what age, maturity, or professional we may be, there’s always something that we can learn or discover, even surprising ourselves in the process.

Cooperation

It’s needed for most things isn’t it? And an expedition is no different. Everyone can reach further and accomplish more within a team. By combining our strengths and weaknesses we become a stronger unit. On each of these trips we go on, it’s important that everyone contributes and that we support each other. For me, that cooperation translates into a much better experience because I know that it’s not all on my head. We can rely on one another. In my work with language and fluency I think the essence lies in cooperation because you need a partner who is willing to work with you and ultimately listen and speak with you. If you’re the learner you need a guide and motivator at times. if you’re the teacher you may humbled or discover a gap in your knowledge even. Cooperation leads to new possibilities.

Discovery

An expedition leads to discovery, if not what you set out to discover than something about yourself. As in any endeavor, this belief that there is something always to be learned and found out is exhilarating but also revealing. On this particular trip, that discovery was being grateful.

  • Am I still breathing?
  • Am I healthy and safe?
  • Am I lucky to be alive during such treacherous times for many others?

Indeed, the answer is YES to all and many more questions. Being grateful is just that, aware of the inevitability of it all ending at any moment. So continue discovering, and exploring and practice being grateful and I think, our spirit will rejoice at that. What else is needed?

Well, maybe a cold beer would help, and some hot weather. Don’t forget, I live in Poland after all 🙂

Enjoyed this post? You can stay updated with all the latest ones by signing up to the monthly Freshen Up newsletter or check out other posts in the teaching blog.

Replay – Can I get another chance?

Many of us wish we could get a do-over! That we could replay that night, that performance, that date, that trip, that relationship.

When our youth passes us, we wish we could have it back, once more or….forever.

If we fail, or lose, we ask for another chance to make it right, to do it better, to fix it, to win.

A moment doesn’t define us, many, hundreds if not thousands do. Which means we have the opportunity to correct, realign, adjust, adapt and re-engage. Then we can see what’s what.

We can daydream all we like but in the end we only get one shot. And isn’t that the beauty of life?

Would we want to replay our childhood or High School or our 20’s? Which part is ideal to replay? My guess is there isn’t a perfect time. There’s drama, there’re obstacles and heartache all along the way. It’s a grind, but one worth fighting for, worth making sense of, and worth living right now, right here in the REAL.

With that said, maybe we should stop replaying that past in our heads, wishing for a replay. Because the present, is the best moment we’re probably going to get, to make something happen, whatever it may be.

Without real resistance in our efforts how is anything achieved? We must move and face it, and that’s when we feel true, the real awaits and when resistance comes. And it will, we will be there, ready to face it.

Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the monthly Freshen Up Newsletter so you don’t miss the next one. Or check out some more at the teaching blog.

What I know for sure

I got this post idea after listening to a review of Oprah Winfrey’s book with the same title. It seems that this simple sentence carries a lot of weight and can even help us as a guide for our future selves. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’ve never thought about this and that alone is crazy. But if you sit and actually think about it what will you come up with? What are you, me or anyone for that matter, sure of? It can literally be anything. It’s quite exciting to just challenge yourself with this question..

What do I know

I know that unless you try you never know for yourself

I know that learning a language, even your native one, is constant over a long period of your life.

I know that almost anything, if not everything worthwhile, requires a leap of faith and dedication.

I know that making mistakes when learning a language helps you improve and become a better communicator (trial and error).

I know that exercise, of any kind, feels good, mentally and physically.

I know that friendship and having social interactions with people is incredibly rewarding and valuable in our life.

The more we communicate and practice the language we use, with those around us, that practice, is irreplaceable.

I know that hard work isn’t enough, that patience and endurance are also needed to succeed.

I know that knowledge really is power.

I know that energy is the source of everything around us and within us

I know that expanding your spoken vocabulary opens opportunities to work and meet with more people.

I know the richness of language can allow us to connect with others and even understand ourselves better.

I know that like anything, learning a language in a process that requires patience to see the fruits of your labor.

I know that language and how we express ourselves, is personal.

I know that great communication starts with listening closely.

I know that oratory skills are an invaluable skill to have in many jobs, if not all.

So what?

Nothing. Just ask yourself the question. It might provide an insight into what matters to you, what you care about and ultimately what to focus on. In this day and age we are constantly learning but what percentage of that are you absolutely sure about?

There’s only one way to find out.

Take a journey, a leap of faith. Usually we are all surprised and what we discover but it becomes a belief that can sustain us for a long time.

A question worth asking, not once, but many times. Each time is an opportunity.

What’s your value system?

A few years ago I wrote about value but from the perspective of teaching and culture. In that post I focused on how different cultures influence our value systems and I had that insight from having lived in a foreign country and comparing my students’ answers to my own. I had noticed that there was a gap in our thinking. However, it stands to reason that we can all define value differently depending on not just our culture but our status in society and probably age and gender as well. Those are the big ones anyway. So that begs the question – What’s yours?

Your personal value system

My intuition tells me that actually it’s more similar than we’d expect. The real difference is between people who actually think about it and write it down versus the majority who simply, don’t. I have been the later all my life and recently, have joined the former and thought I’d share it and see if we got a match! Nobody ever told me to think about it, I guess even if they had I wouldn’t know what to say or think.

What do I value? Can I honestly say that it’s concrete and won’t change ten years from now? Twenty? Thirty? All fair-game questions, so let’s get into it.

Discipline, endurance and focus

Those are my top 3 values at the moment. It was a journey to get here and discover them but now that I have tested them out for quite some time and compared them to other stuff I’m pretty settled on them. In my opinion they can be applied to anything we do, whether it is family, work or leisure activities. They can be applied to relationships in all three of those areas as well as my current predicament – parenting! Did I miss anything? Oh right, passion.

Passion is overrated

I read that somewhere and thought, what? Come on, I’ve been told my whole life to have passion and now I’m reading that it’s crap! What the hell? But with a little reflection it might make sense. I mean can you have passion for something without trying and working at it and improving? Maybe but it can’t be much or maybe we mislabel it as passion when really it’s one of the three above. The three I have settled on can be called different things – determination, drive, motivation, concentration, empathy, sympathy, and of course passion.

So what?

What’s the point of the value system? It’s a guide, a template if you will. For yourself. We all need a structure to stay on our path of what we want from our life. How are we going to get there without some parameters? It will be very difficult. Discipline I’ve realized is paramount. It allows for you to stay accountable for what you are set on accomplishing. Want to be fit? What about that promotion? How about that donut? Is something annoying you? Development? Relationships? Friends? Got a good day-routine?

You get the idea. All of those, discipline covers it, you need to keep steady and stay focused on the prize. But, it’s not enough. Because it takes time, like anything and everything. If any of us want to accomplish something meaningful we need to respect time and commit to it long-term. When this happened for me, it was an epiphany and eye-opener that confirmed what I had heard and read but never felt. The journey doesn’t have a goal, you just stay disciplined and commit and you see the results come without knowing when.

Focus

This one is well known, but potentially the most daunting. Everyone and everything is vying for our attention and in today’s smartphone-dominated world our attention is a commodity and we are the victims. All I know is, everything requires deep concentration, a focus that is uninterrupted and constant and that is becoming increasingly rare these days. I mean people can’t even sit and enjoy what is right in front of their faces because it’s glued to a screen so if we can’t get that under control than well, we are doomed, just like this planet.

So what’s your value system?

It’s not rocket science, just think about what you get value from, is it a habit? a behavior? a character trait? or maybe it’s time-related, relationship-related. Pick those values, write them down and stick to them. Don’t flinch.

If you enjoyed this post you can get more by checking the teaching blog or for the latest posts submit your email for the monthly Freshen Up Newsletter.

My attention

is precious and I have a certain amount of it per day. There are certain things that require my attention and there are others who pay for it.

Then there are those choices I make on what or who to allocate my attention to. Of course my family and my work get the lion’s share of it but in between there is whole lot more then can go around and that is the critical aspect.

Attention being hijacked

I like to say that my attention and people’s in general is getting hijacked because well, it is isn’t?

I mean, the internet is at our fingertips and information can be delivered right to you though watching, reading or listening. Whichever you choose there is something for you and I, regardless of your interests, hobbies, work and relationships. That’s the age we live in. The tricky part is trying to filter out what it’s worth your attention and what is trying to steal it from you for money.

The reason it is so devious in many regards is because your attention is being hijacked when you don’t realize it. This is the part that worries me. When I’m watching a movie, I’ll check or do something in brief intervals on my mobile phone. When I walk my dog I’ll listen to a podcast and whenever there is a moment where I’m idle – traffic, line at the supermarket – BOOM I get hijacked!. I recall a post I wrote titled ‘The hardest task’ and though it was about learning and my students, the words apply here.

Is this good for me?

Absolutely not.

Do I have an itch to scratch to learn more and grow?

Absolutely!

Where is the line?

That might be one of the most pertinent questions in 2022 for me. How to separate and keep that healthy balance so that I don’t feel like every second of every day I need a constant experience/stimulus. I read somewhere that willpower runs out if you use it too much and I know I’ve got a whole lot of it. But that doesn’t matter because it runs out. So, the answer lies I suppose in learning to use it only in the critical times and keep it in reserve so you’re never on empty when it’s really needed.

In other words….

Meditation

I’m testing it out. And so far the results are mediocre if not poor. I just can’t believe how out of control my mind is with thoughts. I find it incredibly difficult to keep it at bay and just focus on the breath. It’s remarkable how my mind just can’t take a breather from thinking. That’s been the revelation so far for me but I know I got a lot of work left to do. The one thing I can say so far is that the first step in anything I do is just about getting started and sticking to it. So that for me is a win.

Enjoyed this post? You can find more by checking out the teaching blog or don’t miss a new one by signing up for the monthly Freshen Up newsletter.

What is progress?

When you’re learning a language and you don’t have a teacher or tutor and you’re attempting this solo, how do you know if you’re making any progress?

Well, I’ve been asking myself that question for the past 12 months and change, and still don’t have an answer. You can do all the exercises in the book and retest yourself with index cards from morning till night but how do you know, really?

I’ve always questioned and been skeptical of the progress I’ve made after making this commitment to learn. But I know what it comes down to…

What’s your criteria dude?

That’s right, it’s all about your OWN criteria. You’ve got it, and so do I. It’s what we use for many of the decisions we make in life and they are influenced by many factors, but can you name them? It’s easy for me:

  • Speak better, communicate what you’d like to say and be understood while doing so. Do it with the most common subjects.
  • Understand what is being said to me and keep up with the speed that a Polish native speaks at, respond appropriately.

That’s it, damn it. So….Where am I at?

Like I said, I haven’t been sure since the beginning but…..TODAY was my Polish conversation practice lesson and somehow, by some damn miracle I managed to speak for my whole 30min without scrambling like an imbecile looking for words and it was on cyber privacy and security! BONKERS! Literally unreal that I managed it. But there you have it, a sign that maybe all this effort hasn’t been for nothing. I evoked the power of a proverb I taught and posted about a while back when the pandemic first started ‘When the going gets tough the tough get going‘. And this was just one of those instances. And I’m glad it came to be that way, a sign that I haven’t forgotten my own lessons to my clients 🙂

What does this mean?

Keep going, and going and going. Never be satisfied, never accept mediocrity.

Roger that, I’m off!

Enjoyed this post? You can stay updated with the latest ones by signing up for my monthly Freshen Up Newsletter, or just check out the teaching blog.

Who is responsible?

Our actions always have consequences.

We are free, and we have freedom, but when we exercise that freedom there are consequences.

Who will bear the responsibility of those consequences?

The answer is obvious but elusive. Probably because most of us would like to pretend that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with. It’s so easy to kick the can down the road isn’t it?

But the answer is staring you in the face. It’s you. And that means that whatever decisions we make we should take the brunt of what comes.

Who is responsible for your learning?

Time to get to work – I got 13km to run twice this week, 2 stints of 82 pull-ups, 2 stints of 160 pushups, learn some Polish, raise some kids, cook some meals, teach some folks, meditate and make plans while avoiding getting dead. And still….there’s lots to learn

Now let’s walk the dog.

If you enjoyed this blog post you can sign up for monthly updates with the Freshen Up Friday newsletter.

Menu