GOODBYE ECIJA

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With the Academy Directors

Friday night saw me bidding  a sad farewell to the last group of my lovely students who have been a part of my life since last September. I have to admit I shed a little tear (and so did some of them). My walk home, after handing in the keys to my boss, was filled with mixed feelings. I knew this was the last time that I would be treading the familiar route, one that I had walked four times a day, in all kinds of weather. As I walked I said a mental goodbye to the places I regularly walked past. Sometimes in the freezing cold, other times with sweat pouring down my face.

One of the things I am really going to miss about being there is the lovely long break in the middle of the day for siesta.  My break was usually 3 or 4 hours, depending on the timetable and whilst it was a bit strange at first, and I never used this as a siesta time, I soon developed the habit  of using these times to work on other projects or simply relax with a good book.

I arrived struggling to speak Spanish, and even more, the accent of Andalucia but now I surprise myself with how much I actually understand and am able to communicate. I think I surprised some of my colleagues and students too. Whilst I am by no means fluent I can get by very well. You can read about my early adventures in the Spain tab of my blog, but my most memorable occasion is the gas bottle episode.

I became accustomed to the fact that all the shops close for lunch and on Sundays, including many of those in Seville and Cordoba too. I learnt to organise myself around their opening hours and Sunday was truly a day or rest and recreation.

Whilst I still registered that the church bells peal out every hour, every day of the week, even through the night. I got used to it and it became a familiar part of daily life in a little Spanish town.

I loved sitting in the Salon (the main square that is more correctly named Plaza Espana) especially in the recent months when the daylight lasted until about 10 o’clock, and at the other little bars having a tapa and watching whole families or varying generations all eating together, the children and dogs all playing sociably. I didn’t enjoy the dog poo that I need to keep a sharp eye out for!

It’s been a great learning experience. Learning about the rich culture, both ancient and modern, learning about the people and the local customs. All in all it’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about life in a small Spanish town away from all the commercialism and tourist hubble-bubble of the larger cities.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Thank you Educalia Ecija and all the fabulous people I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with during my time there.

Michelle

 

Appreciating the English language

As a reader and a writer from way back, I’ve always enjoyed the richness of the largeEnglish language. Words paints a vivid picture for the reader and the text just seems to effortlessly flow when the author hits upon the right combination. In contrast the wrong choices of structure and vocabulary, cause even the most interesting material to become cumbersome.

Whilst I’ve always appreciated the wide selection of vocabulary available, I’ve never really given it a great deal of through until recently. To be more precise, it’s been my move into the world of teaching English to speakers of other languages that has caused me to pause and think on the vagaries, complexities and challenges that English provides.

You might like to check out this blog which is updated each Saturday with the word of the day. It comes with a short story using that particular word. It often introduces me to new vocabulary and the stories are interesting reads.

As I grow older I appreciate how very fortunate I am to have grown up as a native English speaker, but more so to have met people from so many different countries who also speak English as their first language albeit, with varying accents and expressions.  It’s this wide international experience, coupled with my formal training that has helped me become a more effective teacher. There are so many different ways to say the same thing that it’s no wonder people studying English get confused!

Michelle

Why the change of lifestyle……an answer to the question so many are asking

As a child I lived all over the world and called several different counties home. My father worked for the United Nations and this somewhat nomadic lifestyle was the life I was born into, so of course, I did not realise that our lifestyle was so different. As I grew older and stared work in London I would work few months to save enough money and head off somewhere on my travels.

One of my trips took me to Australia and I met my husband. Family life and commitments meant my wanderlust had to be curbed. Four years ago I found myself single again with my children almost all grown up – Sasha was about to finish school and head to university – the a little voice that lurked deep in the back of my head started saying that now was the time I could start thinking about make my dream of travelling and living abroad come true.

The only problem is that I would need money to live overseas for any length of time or I would need some kind of income stream. This presented a dilemma as it reduced where I could go with my current skills to just English speaking countries. I pondered how I could possible work in countries where my knowledge of the local language was not exactly top quality or in many cases non-existent.

After some research and analysis I decided that I could use a skill that I already possessed and knew was in high demand – English. I was always good at this subject at school and for many years have been editing and writing for others so why not develop my English further by learning to teach?

My Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) studies had to happen in conjunction with working full time and this meant when the schedule was really full my studies when on hold for bit. Luckily I found English classes a very refreshing break from my day-to-day work because the students were all so keen and eager to learn. They looked to their future with the view that learning English was a way to secure their future life.

My TESOL studies open up a whole new world. I was forced to exercise my brain in a totally different way and exposed to so many new concepts around the acquisition of a second language. Through my training I met an amazing array of individuals, all with incredible stories to tell, of their journey to settle in Australia. I also met teachers with interesting stories of where they had been and the things they had experienced.

One of the positives of being a TESOL teacher is that none of the students know my history. I am just their English teacher. They know nothing about my awards, my breast cancer journey or my business successes and therefore there are no expectations other than for me to help them learn English. It is really nice to be able to live in anonymity without people expecting me to live up to a reputation.

The other reason for this change is I’ve always told my clients they can achieve whatever they set their minds to and sometime I think they are sceptical. But I am walking the walk as well as having talked the talk.

I am demonstrating that, despite the fact I am no longer a spring chicken, I am perfectly capable of moving across the world and finding a job in a country that does not use English as its main language.

I’m paid a good wage in a country where unemployment figures are 24.5%, have a very comfortable apartment and am enjoying this new way of life whilst also, thanks to the business hours I keep, am able to keep a little toe in the business world by continuing to mentor, provide strategic advice and write.

I’m also sticking to my philosophy of choosing to only work with people who I have a mutual respect for. I’m working at an English Academy where the policy is to keep the fees as low as possible as the boss believes that education should be available to everyone and she offers many additional extra’s that other places would charge for and this is really valuable to those who have no jobs and so little money.

How long will I stay? Who know! Let’s see which way the wind blows.

Hasta luego
Michelle

WHAT MY CURRENT JOB IS

Several of you have been emailing and asking exactly what I am doing. Well after being CEO at Lifeline Top End I am now teaching English as a second language. This is not a complete surprise for those who know me. It’s been something I’ve been working on for about 3 years now which has included doing Cert IV, private clients in Darwin as well as working as a volunteer with asylum seekers and refugees (yes, while I had my regular job). I have 2 conversation classes, 1 business English class, one class of teenagers who come in twice a week, a class of advanced English students once a week and a class of uni students once a week, and the rest are two different levels of English all preparing to do the Trinity College exams that come in twice a week for sessions of 2 hours each. My class has several Manuel’s and lots of Maria’s but thankfully they all have their own nicknames so it makes life easier – and no the Manuel’s are not like the one in Fawlty Towers!

I have formal Spanish lessons starting Thursday and thus far have manage to get by with rusty memory of school days lessons and Italian words hoping I get a hit! So far no great disasters apart from the extra bread rolls I mentioned last update. Have managed photocopying, domestic tasks (with lots of hand gestures to help along the comprehension) and shopping. Today I tackled the social security which was the biggest challenge as all the paperwork was in Spanish that I had to fill in but you have to go to Social Security here to get a number that goes on your work contract. Next I have to go to Seville to the police and get a Spanish ID card but that cannot happen till I get my Social Security number, then when I have the ID card I need to go back to Social Security again for them to note it down. Yes, it’s a bit of to-ing an fro-ing but everyone is extremely pleasant to deal with and it’s the system so I just go with the flow – take a number, go have a coffee across the road, come back and check what number they are up to, go to the supermarket, come back again and check the numbers – you get the idea.

On the whole life in Spain is very pleasant. Work days are most civilized with a start of 10am every day except Thursday when it is 9. Long siesta break from 12 till 4 (just about everything shuts) then a few more hours work in the evening. It’s totally different to Australian work practices and I know it could drive some folks nuts but it’s working for me. Sunday is also a day when everything is shut so you have to get organised and do your grocery shopping in advance – none of the 7 day a week trading nonsense/convenience depending on which way you choose to look at it!

The only thing that is a little hard to get used to is the fact that the church bells ring through the night – yep, every hour! I must admit I must be getting accustomed to the sound as now I only hear them about twice a night. Give me another week and I reckon I might be able to sleep through them all night 🙂

Why did I decide to make this change of career is another question several of you asked. Promise I will answer that one in my next blog.

Michelle

The Time Flies…….

Time is flying since I finished my contract with Lifeline Top End a couple of week ago. Nice little send off from the Board which also gave me a chance to say goodbye to some of key people who have been so supportive and I know I will continue to be in touch with no matter where life leads.

Farewell from Lifeline Top End
Farewell – Card and Flowers – Lifeline Top End

It has since been a whirlwind round of organising my affairs in Australia to run smoothly (I hope!) while I am gone. Plumber to fix leaking taps, glazier to replace a couple of cracked window panes, suspending Medibank Private payments for period I am away (did you know you can suspend for up to 4 years?), organize banking, insurances, rates, taxes etc – all boring necessities!.

On the fun side has been last moment dragon boat sweep training, meeting up to farewell old friends – mad rush to fit everyone in but I’m making a good job of having breakfast, lunch and dinner with different people! Might resemble a barrel before I even get started on all the vino, cheese and pastries in Europe.

Final English class last Monday for my fantastic students at Melaleuca Refugee Centre – sad to say farewell to these amazing people and my fellow tutors who all give so generously of their time.

Looking at range of TESOL jobs on offer in Europe – not yet decided how long I plan to stay – my assessor has spent a year working in Milan so she was full of helpful tips and hints too. There have been couple of interesting offers in Australia but not enough to tempt me to sign on the dotted line and pledge a return date.

Three days to go and I’ll be on my way. Stay in touch with my adventures through this blog.

Michelle