More than a month of distance ‘education’ in times of a pandemic

imagesThe pandemic has caused quite a lot of turmoil in every walk of life. Things that have been taken for granted were mercilessly taken away without any definite prospect of a soon comeback. It’s up to each individual how they choose to respond to this anxiety-provoking time. Some have accepted the pillow challenge, others have started reconsidering their whole lives. And everyone has the right to (re)act the way they find most suitable for themselves (provided it doesn’t do any harm to anyone).

What has always interested me is the process of (language) education. I’ve always been vocal about the importance of education in a person’s life. It’s the education one gets, both formally and informally, that shapes one’s personality and contributes to the development of critical thinking (HOTs). So what’s happening at present? What kind of (re)actions are happening in teachers and students now that they have got into a new dimension?

I would like to share my feelings and experiences. To begin with, I’ve always emphasized the importance of socialization in the (language) education process. Basically, pre-school starts the process of socialization, which must be developed in schools as well as colleges. Learners should be prepared to build complex relationships and work in teams to solve problems in life as well as their future work environments. Thus, teaching should cease to be viewed as the act of knowledge transmission, where the learners are expected to learn something without necessarily making connections to the real-life situations. It should become mindful and purposeful. Moreover, learners should be helped develop their emotional intelligence as this skill is the one defining humans, in general. I think once these become priorities in education, learners will find the education process motivating and purposeful.

So how is it possible to make the education process motivating an engaging in time of the Covid-19 pandemic? The traditional classroom vanished into thin air one day, leaving teachers and students alike in the dark. I will not speak about the lack of digital skills in both students and teachers. (The fact that almost all of them have Facebook or Instagram accounts does not make them digitally literate!) I will not mention the issues some might have related to the internet connection or the necessary equipment. (Moldova is still the poorest country in Europe!)

What I’d really like to focus on is whether or not offline education can be equaled to online education. I have always doubted it. I can say that it can never do it, as such a process can be called many names, yet I don’t think one of them would actually be ‘education’. Do you think that ‘hiding’ behind screens contributes to the development of soft skills as well as emotional intelligence? I’m afraid it doesn’t. I will only be happy to be proved wrong.

I would like to specify once again: I’m not against integrating technology into the process of education. The key word here is ‘integrating’, it is not replacing. Technology can’t replace education. It can replace, for example, a knowledge transmission channel, but never the person. (I wonder if in one hundred years’ time it will still be the case. I don’t know why people so desperately look for intelligence replacement, why such a necessity for artificial intelligence… Isn’t it obvious that the moment one finds a substitute to the brain work, the brain stops developing, it stops creating complex constructs needed for critical thinking?)

Yet, Covid-19 happened and the people stayed home… and teachers and students had to do something about it. And they did. Something. They’re still doing it. Yet, I don’t think there’s much excitement on both sides. I cannot say that I hate what I’m doing right now like the author in the article I Love Teaching, But I Hate Whatever This Is. Yet, it resonated with the feelings I’m experiencing at present. Just like the author of the article, ‘I’ve never resented going to work because teaching has always felt like home to me’. I might have complained about various situations I’d come across (sometimes totally unrelated to teaching), yet, I’ve never been sorry for having taken up teaching as a career. I can’t say that online teaching feels like home. It feels more like a temporary shelter one has to take on one’s way home to protect oneself from danger. Thus, the idea that this is not something definite is quite soothing. It actually gives the energy one needs to go on and do one’s best under the existing conditions.

It is true that on the internet one can find quite a lot of useful information concerning how to make online teaching engaging and motivational. I can say it’s always been there, actually. There have always been so many online tools one can use in the process of education. Yet, they were considered only when the teacher thought appropriate to integrate them in a lesson/course.

The current context is different. The teacher has no choice now. The teacher must rely exclusively on technology to do his/her job, and to make his/her learners feel like home nonetheless. There are useful tips shared online. These are good tips one should definitely consider while designing the online education process. Yet, one should similarly be prepared that they will not create the same results as offline education does. (Again and again, education is more than just a teacher transmitting knowledge to a group of passively engaged learners! If education were that, then online learning would be a huge success! Moreover, teachers might not even be needed at all!)

My virtual classrooms usually look like this. I rely on videoconferencing as the substitute for synchronous learning, and on google classroom as the substitute for asynchronous learning. To my mind, this can be the optimal solution to the present situation. It helps create the illusion of (inter)contentedness. Yet, an illusion is just an illusion. Александра Матрусова debunked some of the myths related to online education, starting with the myth that it is extremely easy to change from offline to online learning, and ending up with the myth that teachers are just reluctant to embrace the change. The passage I particularly liked in the article (it immediately resonated with me, as I always emphasize this point) is that the human brain develops more actively when people are interacting/communicating face-to-face (i.e. socializing). Unfortunately, by simply sitting in front of the computer, one’s brain cannot make neural connections necessary for the elaboration of complex constructs the way it does in face-to-face contexts. It doesn’t mean that the brain doesn’t develop at all. Yet, as our intellection (мышление) is primarily social, it can’t be developed outside a social context. Virtual classrooms can create only the semblance of an educational context. Maybe this semblance contributes to what has been labeled as ‘Zoom fatigue‘.

My fatigue is also due to the fact that I don’t get feedback. I can’t see the learners’ faces (if they all turn on their cameras we might end up with delays or connection disruptions). In addition, they might not even want to have their cameras on, a wish that needs to be acknowledged and respected. There are delays when it comes to answers they give to questions (and the delays are more than 1.2 seconds). One more remark, they might even disconnect, claiming later on that the connection was very poor just not to get involved in an activity. Learners are learners. Then, it’s practically impossible to make them work in pairs or groups. Don’t tell me about creating shared Google docs or something of the kind. I’ve done that. I’m talking from experience. That’s why I said ‘practically impossible’. It’s again the semblance of pair-work or group-work. And it works best if done not during the class.

The point is that distance learning cannot replace face-to-face education. How is it possible to develop one’s social skills when the only place for interaction is the computer screen? Yet, I do realize that technology has become part of our lives, and it won’t go anywhere. Hence, we have to look for viable solutions of integrating technology into the education process so that it helps develop our learners’ 21st century skills. If, however, we choose to rely on technology exclusively, this is rather impossible to attain.

Things will get back to normal, a new normal, a different one, as every experience shapes our way of being, thinking, and (re)acting. I think, we’re changing, we’re growing. Change, no matter how painful it is initially, is something that contributes to our growth and development provided we embrace the change and THINK critically.

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Învățământul în vremea pandemiei

Totuși viața bate filmul, iar criza cauzată de pandemia Covid-19 nu face decât să demonstreze acest lucru. Brusc realizezi că ceea ce ție nu ți se putea întâmpla (China totuși e la ceva distanța), e mult mai aproape decât credeai. OMS de ceva timp tot bătea clopotele. Spuneau ei că în caz de pandemie, umanitatea nu este pregătită. Au fost proroci, dar nu cred că e vorba de o previziune, ci mai degrabă de o concluzie logică în urma analizelor pe care le fac. Și iată-ne aproape de necunosut, unde încă nimeni nu realizează că lumea nu va mai fi așa cum a fost până la pandemie. Aceasta nu înseamnă că va fi mai rău sau mai bine, va fi foarte diferit. Or orice schimbare presupune o ieșire în afara zonei de confort, o ieșire foarte dificilă, care provoacă stări de anxietate și panică. Lumea deja vorbește despre recesiune, în State oamenii se înarmează, în Italia sistemul medical este în colaps, în Moldova…

Mă preocupă sistemul de învățământ, în mod special, deoarece sunt ferm convinsă că prosperitatea unei națiuni depinde nemijlocit de sistemul de educație pe care îl are. Postarea dată nu are scopul de a critica sistemul educațional. Acum nu este timpul potrivit. Acum e timpul unde toți cei implicați în sistem ar trebui să vină cu soluții concrete pentru a facilita procesul de instruire la distanța.

Eu din totdeauna am spus despre importanța socializării în procesul educativ. Tehnologiile informaționale pentru mine sunt o resursă la care apelez doar la stricta necesitate, deoarece sunt ferm convinsă că procesul educativ are loc prin interacțiune, comunicare, cooperare. În situația actuală nu avem posibilitatea de a interacționa face-to-face cu discipolii noștri. Dar procesul trebuie să continue, după cum zicea marele Mercury Show must go on.

Păi bine, asistăm la un show. Toți încearcă cum pot, haotic să mimeze procesul de învățământ la distanță. O serie consideră că procesul dat nu este nimic altceva decât expedierea temelor pentru acasă prin email. Nici Asimov și nici Bradbury nu și-au putut imagina așa ceva. Totuși, ei au arătat ce se va întâmpla dacă profesorii nu vor folosi cu cap tehnologiile informaționale în procesul de învățământ. Riscăm să ne trezim într-o bună zi într-o societate care nu mai poate comunica, coopera, o societate care nu mai vede rostul de a investi timp și efort în relații, sentimente, etc.

Haideți să privim pandemia ca o oportunitate, care ne-ar permite nouă, celor din sistemul de educație, să căutăm soluții viabile care ar contribui la facilitarea procesului de învățământ al elevilor noștri, soluții, care ne-ar permite să implimentăm, pe cât e posibil, principiile expuse de Vygotsky, Montessori și mulți alți oameni iluștri, care au centrat educația pe elev, i.e. atât pe necesitățile lui ca membru al unei comunități socio-culturale, cât și pe cele personale.

Voi vorbi despre câteva instrumente pe care le-am folosit și care, zic eu, ajută la procesul prerii la distanță.

Wordpress-for-dummies

Primul pe care l-am folosit a fost blogul personal. Am creat cont pe wordpress și am început să postez informația de care credeam eu că studenții mei ar putea beneficia. Am încercat să o fac într-un mod interactiv. Postam lucrările lor unde ei trebuiau să comenteze (peer-review), postam informație care le-ar fi de folos. După am creat pagini unde ei ar putea întotdeauna găsi explicații gramaticale, reguli de fonetică a limbii negleze, insărcinări create pentru lectura individuală sau cele pentru scriere. Trebuie să recunosc, la început, experiența nu a fost atât de pozitivă pe cât mă așteptam eu. În timp, totși am văzut că a avut sens să creez blogul meu și că studenții chiar apelează la el când au nevoie. Deci, l-aș recomanda cu încredere. Puteți crea blog si pe blogger (eu m-am împăcat mai bine cu wordpress, dar blogger tot e super).

Skype_transparente

Totuși la capitolul interacțiune blogul încă lasă de dorit. Studenții/elevii simt nevoia de a interacționa cu profesorul. Nu este de mirare, deoarece procesul educațional, mai presus de toate, presupune crearea raportului cu elevii (building rapport). Fiind la distanță, dar simțind nevoia studenților de a interacționa cu profesorul, am apelat la Skype. A fost o modalitate simplă, dar foarte eficientă, care a înlesnit interacțiunea profesor-elev, elev-elev. Cred că și acum, mulți ar putea apela la Skype pentru a interacționa cu elevii și a le oferi poate niște consultații. Personal, la moment nu folosesc Skype-ul, prefer Zoom sau Cisco Webex. Totuși, am ținut să îl includ aici deoarece este o aplicație foarte bine cunoscută de multă lume la noi.

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Un alt instrument, care ar putea fi foarte util, este YouTube. Profesorul ar putea crea propriul canal YouTube, pentru a oferi suportul necesar în procesul educațional. Există o sumedenie de posibilități de a înregistra conținutul pe care am dori să-l sugerăm elevilor noștri. În dependență de vârstă și de abilitățile cognitive dezvoltate (care știm noi diferă de la o vârstă la altă, vezi Piaget), putem crea videouri scurte, care i-ar motiva pe elevi să învețe (putem lucra cu elementarul WindowsMovieMaker sau cu Powtoon). Totodată, YouTube oferă posibilitatea de a face un live cu elevii/studenții noștri. Nu e posibil de făcut screen share (partajarea ecranului), prin urmare va fi doar interacțiune, unde elevii vor putea lăsa comentarii.

facebook-new-brandingFacebook este rețeaua de socializare care de asemenea poate fi folosită în scopuri educaționale. Putem crea un grup pentru studenții noștri în care am discuta momente de țin de procesul educațional. Putem partaja conținut, distribui informație, putem face chiar și un live, ce ne-ar permite să oferim mai multe explicații, pe de o parte, și să vedem care este starea de spirit a studenților/elevilor noștri, pe de alta. E posibil de făcut chiar și partajarea ecranului, doar că profesorul nu va putea fi văzut. Există o soluție, va fi necesar de descărcat Yawcam webcam software. In momentul când dorim să partajăm ecranul (unde spre exemplu avem o prezentare pregătită) vom porni și Yawcam.

Facebook este rețeaua de socializare care de asemenea poate fi folosită în scopuri educaționale. Putem crea un grup pentru studenții noștri în care am discuta momente de țin de procesul educațional. Putem partaja conținut, distribui informație, putem face chiar și un live, ce ne-ar permite să oferim mai multe explicații, pe de o parte, și să vedem care este starea de spirit a studenților/elevilor noștri, pe de alta. E posibil de făcut chiar și partajarea ecranului, doar că profesorul nu va putea fi văzut. Există o soluție, va fi necesar de descărcat Yawcam webcam software. In momentul când dorim să partajăm ecranul (unde spre exemplu avem o prezentare pregătită) vom porni și Yawcam.

zoom

O modalitate și mai bună de promovare a orelor la distanță o oferă Zoom. Ne putem crea un cont pe Zoom, descărca aplicația și promova ora online. Este extrem de simplu de partajat ecranul, studneții vor putea urmări conținutul și vedea profesorul. Profesorul, la rândul lui, va putea observa elevii. Mai mult, Zoom oferă mai multe instrumente pe care le-am putea folosi pe parcursul întrevederii. Spre exemplu, putem folosi tabla interactivă, unde putem însera text, desena, deci practic am avea o tablă similară cu cea din clasă. Lecția poate fi înregistrată și salvată, pentru ca mai apoi, elevii să poată reveni dacă simt nevoia să o facă. Unica inconveniență, întâlnirea este limitată în timp pentru cei care își crează cont gratis: 40 de minute. O lecție durează 45 de minute, diferența nu ar fi mare.

CiscoWebExEnhancements

Pentru cei care au nevoie de mai mult timp, e.g. pentru lecțiile cu studenții, unde ora este de 90 de minute, putem apela la Cisco Webex. Este adevărat ca în mod normal Cisco Webex oferă platforma contra unui preț, dar ei au luat o decizie foarte binevnită, și anume, pe timp de criză să ofere posibilitatea de a accesa serviciile lor gratis. Este aceeși modalitate de lucru ca și la Zoom. Putem promova ora în aceeași modalitate, doar că tabla interactivă creată separat nu este. În schimb, în momentul când partajam ecranul apare posibilitatea de a face diferite adnotări. În stânga apare bara care ne permite să adăugăm text, să evidențiem ceva, etc. Este un instrument pe care eu personal îl prefer. Lecția o putem înregistra și după descărca pe Google Drive și să o partajăm cu elevii/studenții noștri.

google_drive_logo

Dacă am menționat Gogle Drive, trebuie să spun că poate fi folosit nu doar pentru partajarea cărților, înregistrărilor, dar și pentru crearea documentelor în comun. Mai mult, studenții pot lucra la un proect comun pe Google Drive. Aceasta este posibil grație Google Docs. Elevii/studenții p
google-docs-nuovo-correttore-grammaticale-840x430
ot crea documente, prezentări online. Ei pot licra atât individual, cât și în grup. Profesorul poate monitoriza, facilita procesul, poate interveni ori de câte ori e necesar. Mai mult, cu ajutorul a Google Forms, am putea crea teste online pentru a evalua procesul didactic.

google-classroom-cover

Dacă tot vorbim de instrumentele oferite de Google, trebuie să menționez și Google classroom. Este o modalitate extrem de simplă de a organiza lucrul elevului/studentului, mai mult oferă și posibilitatea de a evalua produsul final. În momentul când creem o temă, putem crea și grila de evaluare. Astfel, studentul/elevul va ști exact cum va fi evaluat produsul său. Google classroom este o platformă în exclusivitate dedicată procesului educativ. Eu consider că este cea mai bună modlitate de a vedea produsul elevilor/studenților noștri. Orice vrem să partajăm cu discipolii noștri va fi pe Google Drive.

Acestea sunt doar câteva din instrumente pe care un profesor le poate utiliza pentru a facilita procesul învățării la distanța. Sunt niște modalități accesibile și care nu sunt atât de complicate. E mai complicată schimbarea de care vorbeam la început. Acum noi nu avem altă ieșire decât să facem din TIC prietenul nostru. Eu cred că trebuie să ne împrietenim pe viață. După cum am mai spus, lumea nu va mai fi la fel după pandemie.

Țin să menționez că acestea sunt instrumentele pe care eu le consider extrem de folositoare. V-aș îndemna să vă creați propria listă, care ar facilita procesul vostru de predare la distanță, ținând cont de necesitățile elevilor/studenților.

Mai există încă ceva, nu toate instrumentele, să zicem, au priză la elevi/studenți. Unii preferă întâlnirile online, alții preferă lucrul individual. Dar dacă stăm să ne gândim mai bine, același lucru se întâmplă și atunci când promovăm orele face-to-face. De aceea și se vorbește și despre individualizare și despre diferențiere a procesului de învățământ. TIC ar putea oferi această posibilitate, de aceea și prefer să lucrez cu mai multe instrumente online. Astfel, pot să ajung la mai mulți elevi/studenți. Cel puțin eu așa sper 🙂

Este un proces care durează, rezultatele vor putea fi văzute în timp. Ar fi bine să nu renunțăm. Blogging-ul mi-a arătat doar peste 5 ani că a meritat să mă aventurez 🙂 Engelzii spun “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Păi dorință să fie, în rest totul se poate realiza. Ah da! Și sănătate! Aveți grijă de voi și de cei dragi! Take care ❤

The-New-Google-Hangouts-MeetUPT: Astăzi mi s-a prezentat un alt instrument, care poate fi folosit pentru a promova orele online, cu posibilitatea de a partaje ecranul. Este vorba de Google Handouts Meet. Puteți să îl descoperiți. Pare a lucra la fel cum o face Zoom sau Cisco Webex. Deci, chiar avem de unde alege 😉 Un mic detaliu, srviciul e contra-plată dacă se accesează de pe contul personal de gmail. Dacă de pe emailul personal din cadrul instituției, atunci e gratis.

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Generation Equality or the Story of a Bow

So there’s a new hashtag out-there, #GenerationEquality, conveying an inspiring message to all the girls around the globe that both women and men have equal rights and opportunities. We do need empowering messages to keep realizing women’s rights worldwide, to fight for equity and justice, to live in a better world.  Patriarchy, alike matriarchy, does harm to all, as a prosperous society is the one where both women and men participate in all spheres of life, where both women and men are equally valued, where both women and men work together to solve problems. Such a society bans gender discrimination and considers exclusively people’s competences.

I know that shattering sociocultural norms is quite challenging, yet not impossible. I believe that each of us can do their best with what they have in the place they are at present to make a difference, to stop gender discrimination. Everything starts with … EDUCATION. So what we should strive for is changing the discriminatory beliefs  and values, which do nothing but hamper the progress of a functional society. The role of educators is crucial as they are the ones modeling and shaping the learners’ personalities.

I would like to live in a society that would not impose both girls and boys alike to feel and behave in certain ways based exclusively on the gender they have. I would like to live in a society that will not tell what job is appropriate for a girl and what job is appropriate for a boy. I would like to live in a society that will encourage both girls and boys alike to believe in the beauty of their dreams and encourage them to work hard to realize them.

I often touch upon the issue of gender discrimination in the classroom. Being a language educator is more than just teaching language as a system. That is why I carefully select the content I’d like to focus on during a lesson. March offers the great possibility to focus on the realization of women’s rights. So why not prepare tasks meant to develop not only the four basic skills in English but also the learners’ 4 Cs.

To my surprise, I still find learners reluctant to accept that gender discrimination does harm to both women and men alike. Moreover, there is the belief deeply embedded in the learners’ minds that girls and boys should feel and behave differently. So boys are forbidden to cry, whereas girls are the whimsical creatures who could be allowed to be weak. Discrimination starts from early childhood when kids are told that boys don’t cry, and girls… come on… what do you want from them, they’re just girls. Then we tell girls and boys to behave in different ways, to feel in different ways, to want different things from life. And as the story goes, boys are taught to be fighters, and girls are taught to be sensitive. Why can’t boys be sensitive, too? Why can’t girls be fighters, too? What’s wrong with that?

I wanted to see if the 21st student thinks differently. So I’ve asked 44 students to do a bit of coloring (something they actually loved doing). Given two markers, one pink and the other blue, I asked them to color 2 bows and glue them in the place they found fit for a boy and a girl. I also asked them to write on the girl’s dress and the boy’s T-shirt what they are going to become in the future.

It should be noted that out of 44 students 7 were males, whereas 37 were females. I’ve got beautifully colored bows (and not only), and interesting results. Thus, the girl’s bows were mostly colored in pink, i.e. 31 bows were pink, 9 were a combination of  pink and blue, and 4 bows were blue. The most appropriate place for a bow a girl has is her head. Most of the students glued the bow on the girls head (29 students). Thus, we can see that learners still think of pink as a girlish color, whereas blue is associated with boys. A trifle maybe, but it still says something about the misconceptions we have regarding what color one should wear or the place of a bow on a person. It shows the traditional beliefs a certain sociocultural community shares.

When it comes to the dreams boys and girls have for their future, we can again witness the embedded traditional beliefs that girls and boys have different roles. Only 5 students out of 44 spoke about equal opportunities for both of them, one even wrote ‘I can be whatever I want to be in the future’, another ‘No difference’, another ‘Successful people’, another ‘Everything he/she wants’, and the fifth ‘Human being’.

However, the other 39 students assigned different roles for these two kids in the future. Most, 21 students believed that the girl will become a teacher in the future, whereas only 5 thought that teaching is a proper job for the boy in the future. An interesting point of view which is proven by the situation we have at present. Most of educators are women. Moreover, men might even be shamed for dreaming of becoming teachers. I’d like to draw the attention to the gender of the people who educate these boys and girls. Women. So how come kids grow up having these misconceptions embedded in their minds?

Interesting, isn’t it?

Just as interesting as the fact that this boy will be a sportsman (12 students), whereas only one student thought that the girl can become a fitness instructor. What does this say? Shall men be strong and girls weak?

Interesting, isn’t it?

Just like the fact that this girls will be an actor (11 students), yet the boy got only 4 votes. He should not despair though, as only he can dream of becoming a pilot. It looks like girls can’t be pilots. The other results can be seen in the video. Yet, it’s obvious that students use the stereotypical images of what is fit for a girl and what is fit for a boy according to the traditional views of the society they live in.

However, it was interesting to note that when it comes to parenting and partnership in marriage the results where quite close. Thus, 14 students thought that the girl will be a good mother, whereas 11 students thought that the boy will make a good father; 8 students said that the girl will be a good wife, and 7 – that the boy will be a good husband. I would say this is something. A small step for a person, but maybe one giant leap for our society. We do want to see a society where both women and men are involved in the education of their children, and where both are partners having a functional relationship.

What can I say? There’s still a lot to do. There’s still a lot to fight for. There’s still a lot to create. We do want our girls and boys to have equal rights and opportunities in life. We want them to be happy. So why not educate them the value of equity and non-discrimination? Gender has nothing to do with the competences one has to do a job very well.

 

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Some things are simply there, not necessarily to be understood.

Has it ever happened to you to fret over something you can’t understand? I have a quality (or is it a drawback?): I need to know. Being an extremely curious person, who will never lose the opportunity to learn something, I just need to know, I need to understand. The funny thing is that I don’t look for favorable outcomes (I might hope though, but this is a different story), I just need to understand.

I’ve faced a situation lately when I was deprived of this vital need of mine, and I have to admit it’s quite an endeavor. I have never thought that such a deprivation can do so much harm to one well-being. 🙂

So I have to understand something vital: not everything that happens in one’s life is to be understood. Maybe, eventually, it will make sense, but one has to develop the skill of ignoring this lack of understanding at present.

How to do it? That is the question! Do what you love to do most! Develop yourself! Grow and shine! Stay curious and learn how to outdo yourself. This is a sure way to help. And there’s one thing that helps me personally – a good pleasant walk when you’re all to yourself and make plans, and dream. Big. 🙂

One more thing, there’s nothing wrong if you don’t understand something. As long as you stay true to yourself and do good, you head to the right place. Just give time the time it needs to prove this to you 😉

Wishing everybody a great, inspiring semester!

Rise and shine!

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On emotional intelligence… or better to say: lack of emotional intelligence

There is a lot of talk related to emotional intelligence and its importance in a person’s life nowadays. Sometimes I wonder why the need to talk about it has arisen lately. Does it mean that people in the past were not able to control or express their emotions? Does it mean that people in the past were deprived of the ability to engage in meaningful and tactful interactions? Does it mean that people in the past lacked empathy?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Moreover, I do think that people were better at building meaningful and functional relationships based on respect and awareness of the other’s needs in every walk of life. Somehow, it is at present that people struggle to be empathetic. They seem to be afraid to open up, preferring to stay closed in their shells made of anxiety, fears, and insecurities. So, instead of facing the demons inside people would tame them, nurture them, and pretend they are not there, … they are just being cool.

When did it start? I think… not that long ago. I think it is related to the World Wide Web. [By the way, have you ever paid attention to its abbreviation, i.e. WWW? Doesn’t it ring you a bell? There was WWI, and WWII, and now there’s WWW. Just a bit of food for thought 🙂 ]

So, where was I? Surprisingly, the tool that was supposed to bring us together has actually turned against us. People would so easily engage in an online communication, yet, they would prefer to avoid face-to-face interactions. Why?

The answer, I think, is obvious. People do not want to engage in anything meaningful that would involve sharing and responding to somebody else’s emotions. What one can witness is total lack of care and engagement in socializing. And this is rather tragic as this is what makes us humans, this is part of who we are. Giving up on all this means we are doomed to complete isolation leading to serious mental health issues. It is not at random that there are so many cases of depression nowadays, or that the Romanian psychologist, Marius Teodor Zamfir, has coined the term ‘virtual autism’ for the disturbing condition of young children spending too much time in front of electronic devices, and there is Andrei Kurpatov, the Russian psychiatrist, who has devoted his work on drawing people’s attention to the dangers of WWW on the human brain.

Present people have turned into massive information consumers, but how much is it actually processed, truly understood, and meant to form important connections in their brains. How much would stir them? How willing are they to empathize? Truly empathize? … I don’t mean simply liking or sharing something on their walls.

Liking or sharing on one’s wall… Have you paid attention to the semantics? Facebook from the very beginning warned us that we’re going to post something on walls… walls that might isolate more than bring people together. Actually, it is even quite impossible to come together when you’re hiding behind a screen. But don’t forget about the demons within you whom you try so hard to keep intact. Why? Because it’s easy. No effort is needed to understand, relate, and care. So no energy will be spent to engage and get involved. Maybe, that’s fine for you, you might think. Just don’t forget, you’re depriving yourself of feeling fulfilled and having a meaningful life. Researchers have proven that interacting and building meaningful relationships is what truly matters in people’s lives.

I think I do understand why people are afraid to show their vulnerability (being empathetic is above all being vulnerable!). It’s the fear that others might hurt them that keeps them closed and constantly anxious. But your vulnerability is the key to a better life. Just don’t let the bad experiences get sealed in your brain, don’t let anxiety, fears, and insecurities control your lives. Risk it, know that things might not turn as you would like to, but in the long run, there’s the reward of leading a meaningful life. Don’t be afraid to get hurt by others, be afraid of hurting yourself by staying ‘cool’ and unempathetic.

I have recently read an article about skills that are difficult to develop. I think there was a list of 10 skills (sorry I’m bad at numbers), but the author mentioned ’empathy’ as one of them. Indeed, empathy is an ability, which means that it can be developed. So what you should probably do is, first, realize its tremendous importance in your own life, and, second, work hard to develop the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. I think this is the premise for a better society / country / world, we all dream to have. Just staying behind our screens and pretending that we care when we don’t won’t change anything!

I’m a language educator. I do love the name of my discipline, i.e. language education. I keep telling my students that we don’t merely teach grammar rules and vocabulary. Our job is far more complex as we are there to scaffold the character formation of young people and help them build meaningful relationships. Learning happens within a concrete social context. All the actors involved in it matter. Hence, everybody’s needs and feelings matter. If we want to succeed, we should develop the ability to relate, respond, and care. We, as educators, should help our learners understand this. I do believe that this will contribute to their academic progress as well. Moreover, it will increase their motivation (there’s so much to write about it as well!).

If you don’t believe me when I’m saying about the importance of socialization (indeed, who am I?), I would advise reading Vygotsky or Montessori and see what these brilliant minds said on education and on the importance of socialization.

At the end, I’d like to say just this: be your true self – the one who cares, the one who relates, the one who is not afraid to be themselves 😉

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I wish I could … cry

The funny thing is that I badly need it and I can’t. I dream of bursting into tears and let the grief get out of my sickened body. Yet, I can’t. Tears won’t come, they’ll stop somewhere close to my throat and block everything. My brain will become numb, whereas my heart will start aching, and then, all of a sudden, I’m short of breath and I can’t breathe. So tears are vital to our survival. They are the natural resource God has endowed us with to extinguish the burning heart from pain. Why is it so difficult to simply burst into tears? Why is it so difficult to allow yourself to grieve? Why…

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Pain

I’ll write about pain. One day. Not today.

If there’s anything to write about it. I only know nobody should experience it. But then, there are people who think otherwise and then they’ll do their best to make sure you experience it. And they’ll enjoy the show and have a good laugh at your pain. Maybe they will even measure how much pain you are capable of experiencing. They’ll want it to be big enough to cover up their own complexes and insecurities. And then they will make sure you don’t forget what they did as tyrants like to tatoo their signature under your skin. So nobody sees it, nobody understands you, but you feel it. You yourself won’t understand how come you’ve ended up feeling that much pain. But then pain is not to stay. So don’t nurture it. Let your blood run through your veins, at first foolishly, and then tenderly, cradling your spirit to the the rhythm of life within your heart. Your blood has the power to erase the tatoo. Your blood is your Phoenix. Your blood is your life. Also let time do its job. Don’t rush. Healing takes time. Trust yourself, trust the running blood in your veins, trust your life. You ARE enough! You ARE a whole-hearted person who just needs time to heal. You will survive!

I’ll write about pain. One day. Not today.

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