Empty Page and You

“Sometimes empty page presents most possibilities”

Paterson (a movie)

Sometimes empty page presents most possibilities but you have to be brave to start writing on it.

You may need to change the venue where you write. Go out to a café or library. Sometimes the change of the chair you usually sit in may be enough. Change the view you see form where you are sitting. Face the window you normally have at your back. Change the keyboard. Perhaps the one you are using is not pleasant or comfortable to type on.

Perhaps you should start writing by hand and only after a while switch to typing. But, do something to start writing on your empty page. If you only think without putting your ideas on paper or screen, the ideas will disappear, vanish in your memory. They will not conceive the new ones. Ideas have the wonderful quality of gemmating.

Only when you start developing a new idea in writing or in any other area, the new ideas will start to pop up. Only because you are growing as an author or creator. You gain experience, you become an expert, you are brave to experiment, whatever you do starts to inspire you to do even more.

When you publish your texts, people start to interact with it and you. These interactions become inspirational as well. Be brave to face them. If you publish for professionals, the interactions will probably be of high standard and eye-opening. Talking to people is very often the most beneficial for your development.

You only have to start. You may start with an empty page.

How to Anonymize Students

At the end of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union came into force. More or less around that time I was informed by the authorities of my university that now my students cannot use their names and surnames or even their student numbers when they do tests online in e.g. my testing software pustulka.edu.pl.

Some teachers consider it as a nuisance and are afraid to start doing that because they say it takes time and is messy. Dear teachers, don’t be so easily discouraged.

Below I would like to show a few possible ways of anonymizing students for tests.

  1. You can generate students’ IDs online as there are numerous websites generating nicks, logins, e.g. http://www.name-generator.org/. After generating them, distribute them among your students, tell them to remember them and use each time they enroll at the test.
  2. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves. You can tell them that you want these to be e.g. adjectives beginning with a specific letter. In this way you will distinguish between your groups quickly by letters. You may wish students to add a year in which they began their studies to the word or some other numbers indicating the group number or the year of studies, anything that will let you quickly identify which group the person belongs to, e.g. assymetric2019 or asleep1/2018. There are websites which can help you and your students generate adjectives beginning with a specific letter, e.g. http://adjectivesstarting.com/with-a/
  3. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves but according to a special pattern: two first letters of their surname + two first letters of their name + year in which they began their studies = e.g. lual2018 (for Aleksandra Łuczak). This solution is practical as the students’ ids will be grouped alphabetically in the same, or almost the same, order the surnames.

My suggestion is to generate or create the IDs once and use the same ones throughout the course. You will quickly learn them by heart and some of them can really become nice nicks of you students.

Why I go walking…

I go walking or trekking when I am short of new ideas for my writing. I go to the forest to clear my mind.

I remember when two years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for research when trekking in the Bieszczady. Professor Jarosław Krajka had invited me to write a chapter for a book edited by him and professor Magdalena Sowa – an opportunity that you do not reject. First, I had to submit an abstract and for the abstract I needed an interesting topic and a research proposal which would motivate me to design it, conduct it and then write about it.

I went trekking to the Wetlińska Mountain Pasture in late December when the sun sets around 3.30pm, the day is short and the trails are empty. The silence around and perhaps only the sound of wind let me concentrate on my moves first, the feeling of the ground under my boots, slow steps to avoid getting tired too quickly, the view of blue sky above the tops of the trees…

And then the idea came to contact my former students and ask them how their English skills were tested during their first job interviews. I was interested to know whether I was teaching them the right skills to help them succeed in getting their entry jobs.

I did as I thought and collected over 20 interviews and managed to write a chapter “Increasing Law Students’ Employability Skills in the English for Legal Purposes (ELP) Classroom” published in: Magdalena Sowa, Jarosław Krajka (eds.), Innovations in Languages for Specific Purposes – Present Challenges and Future Promises (pp. 131-147). Frankurt am Main: Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b10915

Later that year I presented the paper on “What Shall We Teach in the Legal English Classroom? The Students’ Perspective” at a conference “Specialized Languages in Teaching and Translation: Theory and Practice organized by Institute of Applied Linguistics at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań in November 2017.

Today I am sharing the slides from that conference here.

Yesterday I went to the forest again and came back with a new idea for a presentation that I am going to submit soon.

To be continued…

How I inspire my students

I believe that teachers inspire their students when they are enthusiastic about their work.

When I started teaching legal English 15 years ago, I was a fresher, although I had been teaching for another 15 years so far. I had to learn this complex variety of English myself and now I manage to prepare my students to sit (successfully) advanced level of legal English exams. 15 years ago I showed bravery and thanks to this I developed professionally.

Now I help my students develop linguistically and help them prepare enter their professional careers.

My recent greatest achievement was creating software for language testing. Initially the software was aimed at teachers and speeding up their work by saving the time teachers spend on grading tests. However, apart from the testing component, the apps has also a collection of public exercises which I create pro bono.

Public exercises are available for free to anyone who has a link. Students can use these exercises to revise and expand their knowledge of business and legal English.

Since last summer I have been running a OEAD (one exercise a day) project in which I create one public exercise a day (or almost every day). In this way, I encourage students to learn every day. The collection of public exercises comprises now about 160 exercises and is still growing.

This project teaches me systematic work with which I am trying to infect my students. It develops our media competence and proves that sharing is caring.

It shows the power of collaboration and how great value it constitutes. Collaboration – because the software was created in cooperation with my husband, an IT developer. Collaboration – also because other teachers can use my exercises for their purposes.

My students like the apps very much. My survey showed that over 90% of them had positive attitude to it. They appreciate innovations in the classroom and are aware that they get free high quality specialist content which is really scarce online.

Come and check out on your own: pustulka.edu.pl