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It’s all about synapses! We are all about synapses!

Its all about synapses We are all about synapses

What is Teacher Development to me? It’s the air that I breathe, exhilaration, edutainment, juggling, invention, connection, an exciting game of discovery and suspense! It is a treasure hunt, in the course of which I collect chunks of knowledge which unravel puzzles and riddles I constantly encounter on my personal journey and professional pursuits. From seminars, workshops and book exhibitions to webinars and online conferences, development courses, publications, journals and social networks, it’s all there at our service as long as we are willing to utilize them and reap their benefits both in the short and in the long term.

By Georgia Gyftonikolou, FLS owner

STAY CURIOUS & TAKE RISKS and when you do that, beautiful things, even miracles happen. Like making a 360o degree turn in one’s personal as well as professional life, seeing that these two are interconnected and reciprocal. On the one hand, there is our profession, which is actually unparalleled and so multifaceted since being a teacher of a foreign language requires you to take on a wide variety of roles such as that of a psychologist, an actor, a comedian, a parent, a facilitator, a guide or a coach, a researcher to name but a few, sometimes all in one. On the other hand, we have to keep a balance in our personal life, attend to our self-growth and well-being while preserving a full depository of mental strength in order to meet the needs mentioned.

Besides this, the demand for languages and the only recent frantic modern lifestyle –which “hopefully” we will get back to, perhaps even slightly reformed or totally transformed, who knows –makes  it imperative that we do all it takes to keep abreast of the latest trends in absolutely everything in order to meet expectations and stand up to reality. Taking this into consideration, how can we expect our students to do what we ask them to if we don’t set a tangible example of motivation, commitment and perseverance?

So, on my journey I acquire the gifts of knowledge that will allow me to set this example for myself and my students. And on my personal-professional quest I have crossed paths with some wonderful educators whose light has guided me along this uphill path and to whom I owe a huge part of my growth and empowerment and for that I feel so grateful. The teacher trainers whose talks I have attended are beacons of inspiration, ambassadors of light and hope.  They are always inquisitive and remarkably knowledgeable giving us access to so much information from all kinds of sources, which one person alone could not have reached as a unit, and introducing to us other scientists or visionaries who have shaped the course of human affairs in almost every realm, causing us to broaden our horizons. Through their devotion and passion they have urged me to dig deeper and see myself as a person and as a teacher in a new light, discover my potential, identify my weaknesses and overcome them – NOT all of them YET! They have equipped me with techniques and valuable advice and information and have raised awareness as to what lies underneath the surface when it comes to the student, molded me into being even more compassionate, considerate and attending to the students’ needs. And this, in turn, contributes to the students being treated more humanely, be less traumatized, it boosts their confidence and builds strong characters, therefore confident, motivated and self-reliant learners and human beings.

Another aspect of Teacher Development is all the knowledge that you gain along the way. It’s an investment. It’s the new kind of rich at the dawn of a new era. This is evident by the fact that there has been a shift underway on a global scale in recent years from materialistic things to mindfulness, raising awareness of critical issues afflicting humanity, kindness and solidarity comprising among other skills the core of the Global Citizenship Education Project by UNESCO. We have a long way to go before these skills are established but there is incremental progress in that direction.  With these in mind, we should all aim for upgrading ourselves to meet the challenges of this new era and we can only achieve that by learning. With knowledge acquisition we will be able to think critically and as a result be capable of thinking out of the box, be creative and cope with extraneous factors. Like the current emergency that has forced us to switch from the real classroom to the virtual one.

What is of utmost importance though is our almighty brain and its magical processes.

When we tax our brain with new information or challenging tasks we cause it to create new synapses so that it can process the new input, and Long-term potentiation through practice and repetition is how successful connections are reinforced. At the same time, the brain’s reward system detects the satisfaction of a successful outcome and, upstream, further reinforces the firing patterns that led to the accomplishment of the task. This is another huge benefit of being a “TEACHER ALWAYS A LEARNER” as with learning comes this feeling of contentment which is so uplifting and second to none. That clarity when you finally understand why something is the way it is, when you gain the know-how and this opens up new paths in the road to discovery and it is so enlightening. And each bit of information unlocks another and the more you find out, the more you realize how so very little you know! But this is the magic of it!

This story that Mahatma Gandhi- as narrated by his grandson Arun Gandhi- used to tell his grandchildren about peace, I believe illustrates the magic of teaching:

“There was an ancient Indian king who once became very curious about the meaning of peace. He invited all the intellectuals in his kingdom to come and explain the meaning of peace. However, none of them could really satisfy the king. One day, an intellectual from another town came on a visit, and advised the king to visit an old sage who lived outside his kingdom and was too old to come to the king. So the next day, the king went to the sage and asked him the meaning of peace. And the sage quietly went to the back of the house, came back with a grain of wheat and placed it on the king's palm and said, "Here is your answer." And of course, the king didn't know what a grain of wheat had to do with peace, and he didn't want to show his ignorance, so he quietly clutched that grain of wheat, went back to his palace, found a little gold box and placed that grain of wheat in the box, and every morning, he would open the box to look for an answer, and he couldn't find any answer. So when the intellectual dropped by, the king asked him to explain. He said, "You sent me to this sage, and he gave me this grain of wheat, and I don't know what a grain of wheat has to do with peace." And that's when the intellectual said, "It's very simple." He said, "As long as you keep this grain of wheat in this box, nothing is going to happen. It will eventually rot and perish, and that would be the end of the story. But if you allow this grain of wheat to interact with all the elements, if you plant it outside in the soil, it would sprout and grow, and very soon, you can have a whole field of wheat.”

Therefore, the onus is on us to keep learning, interacting and keep connected and keep an open mind in order for our practice to blossom.

With information from:

“What Processes Are Taking Place In Our Brains When We Learn New Things?”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/01/26/what-processes-are-taking-place-in-our-brains-when-we-learn-new-things/#4a09bf3151f9

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