Voices from the iTDi Community – Debbie

Debora Tebovich – Argentina

Debora (Debbie) Tebovich is a passionate teacher who teaches face-to face and one-to-one at home. Also she has begun teaching online because commuting in the city has become a great challenge. She lives and works in Buenos Aires. She is passionate about teaching teenagers and adults. She believes in the big power of learning together with learners, empowering each other and growing as human beings who are part of a huge community of people.  She is also an avid home-keeper and loves gardening. She would rather be gardening in her hometown, but her balcony makes her happy! She loves swimming and walking on sunny days yet, wouldn’t mind going out in the rain.

What are you passionate about, Debbie?

Teaching, learning, and writing are definitely my passions as well as being a mother and taking care of the home. What I love most about teaching is how much we can learn together with students and within communities of educators from all over the world. I can teach the same lesson twice and it’s never the same. My students are special and different which makes them unique, so we start the journey into a topic and they can lead me to something unexpected, which I grab quickly because it’s what they have discovered and it triggers motivation through curiosity. If we can’t do it right at that moment, I take notes and we return the following class. As I love to say, I might hold their hands to begin the journey but it’s them who become the guiding force in my classroom. Also, as they learn how much we connect with the world, they learn we are part of community, that we are people helping and learning together. That’s so amazing about teaching and learning, isn’t it?

How and why did you become a teacher? 

I can’t remember when, I guess I was still crawling. I opened a language school with a partner and it was a boom.  We had over 200 students the first year in a little town. But after some time, I discovered I enjoyed little classes that were more intimate, so with time also I started following my heart and I ended up teaching small groups.  Now more matured, freer to follow my own decisions and dreams, I teach at home one to one, or in very little groups. I cook something for my students and we share coffee while we learn. IF you’d like to hear me talk more about this question with perhaps some brutal honesty, please click here to listen if you’d like:

What are you most interested in right now?

Right now, I am interested in lesson planning and developing my own material. I started a project to involve my students in the decision of what we want to do in class, and what we can agree would be best for them to do in class. You can see some of that goal setting work with student here.

http://datenglish-portfolio.blogspot.com.ar/2012/07/setting-goals-with-students.html

Also, as I have learnt and believe so strongly in the power of a community of passionate teachers, I am working on a project to take other teachers’ material and, as far as possible, see if it can be enriched as I develop adapt it for my students. The idea is, if we are a community, why would we start creating from scratch if we can use material developed and shared by other members and make it richer by adding something new. In the same way, this material would get incredibly rich if other teachers do the same. Imagine how much we would have! Also, I am very concentrated on developing as a teacher. In fact the more I study and learn, the more I see I have to go on. I guess this is not new but I just feel it so strong inside.

What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher?

I do most of my professional development online. First because I can choose the area I am interested in and because I have met incredible teachers just willing to share and encourage us to try new things.

Now I am more careful about recording the  courses I take and I have made a grid where I collect info about my CPD, very simple but I know when I took a webinar, or course, who was the teacher, what I have learnt and the links to the new material.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a teacher at this moment?

One big challenge is managing time and resources. There’s so much going on, it’s time consuming and I usually spend long hours trying to keep updated. So, sometimes it’s really challenging to figure out what is the best course of action to take to make my classes better. My ultimate goal is to teach in a way in which students feel comfortable as they develop their self- esteem and find that learning can be fun, in a way that empowers them and myself as human beings — and I am beginning to see great results. My students are more open to agreeing and disagreeing, also the value the work we do together, teenagers have learnt they read to discover and learn something new and not just get a pass on a test. I think this is the most rewarding result.

Also I read lots of blogs by great teachers absolutely passionate about their work, but as technology becomes so important I see we tend to spend a lot of time discovering new tools and blogging about them. I love tech tools too, but I have come to the point that my commitment is to be close to what my students need and design the best plans and projects. This is what I see they need the most, a great idea, something great to discover. I tell them the most important thing is to have something great and interesting to share. Then, if I think a tool will make the work easier or more attractive somehow, I suggest using technology.

I have the feeling that technology is exciting but I am beginning to feel it is something similar to fast food.  Maybe it’s a cheap metaphor but I have discovered that there’s nothing like homemade food.

There’s nothing like going out on a sunny day to take a walk and bring our cameras along. Then we sit on a nearby park bench, and we talk about the photos we took, which usually takes us to some stories and if they allow me, I record them. We come back to the classroom and we exchange feedback about our walk.

We use technology when we watch a video clip or read something online, or do research. Sometimes we write together so we can use technology to make our own e-books, and this gives learners the feeling of having a broader audience, like “someone out there is reading my work”. We also work on writing trip journals using technology and I encourage them to record some work, only to see how they make progress.

What advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?

I would love to accompany a new teacher beginning on her or his journey. I had felt lonely many times, until I discovered the most incredible force: the power of communities. This has helped me to get the best from myself. However, there is a road to reach this point. I would say that getting a twitter account was the first thing I did and that you should do if you don’t have one. My first tweet was, “Can anybody tell me what Web 2.0 means, please?” It still makes me laugh, but little by little I found that somebody has answered every time I asked for help. It still surprises me.

Debbie, is there any blog or online link you’d like to recommend?

The blogs depend on the area of interest, and it takes some time to discover, who out there, is on a similar path. There are so many incredible bloggers on different areas, like reflecting upon teaching, technology applied to the classroom, lesson plans, or the BBC always providing great links. I think that one of the first teachers in Twitter who answered me was Lisa Dabbs, then Shelly Terrell. I still wonder how she manages to cope with so many things. Then there is Marisa Constantinides, Cecilia Lemos, Sandy Millin, Carla Arena, Scott Thornbury, Steven Herder, Barb Sakamoto, Nik Peachey, and my good friend Chuck Sandy, whom I can’t thank enough. You have given me the courage and trust I could not find anywhere. I never felt alone after I knew that there was a group of people you lead who rushes to answer and comment or at least “like” every challenge you share.

What’s your favorite quote about being a teacher, Debbie?

Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” applied both to everyday life and education. For me teaching is inseparable from who I am as a person.

Is there any question I didn’t ask that you’d like to answer? That is, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Yes, thank you! I started this journey two years ago, and I just never thought I would be writing this.  I know how my journey started,  but I can’t say exactly how or what I have done, or define all the twists and turns on my journey that have allowed me to reach this point. And I know, and need to remember that it is just the beginning.

 

Published by

Debora Tebovich

Débora Tebovich is a freelance EFL teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She teaches one-to-one and face-to-face and also online. She has been teaching English for over 20 years. She has worked with kids, teenagers, young learners and adults both at private language schools and also in-company. Absolutely passionate about teaching and learning, she is enthusiastic about using technology to create memorable learning moments. 

Above all, Débora strongly believes in the power of education to transform people's lives, and to help and encourage freedom of thought and develop bonds to make our world a better place for all of us and for future generations.

25 thoughts on “Voices from the iTDi Community – Debbie”

  1. Deborah,

    Your warmth and dedication is clear in every sentence of your post. I can only imagine the sense of safety and joy your students must feel during their classes with you.

    And I love your idea for keeping track of your professional development. I am going to start a grid today.

    Thanks again for sharing your story.

    Inspired,

    Kevin Stein

  2. Thanks Sandy, and Kevin. I feel such a privileged person to have a job which brings me a sense of accomplishment, though still there’s so much to do and I am so thankful to be sharing with such wonderful teachers.
    I thank you
    Debbie

  3. First, thank you for listing me among the people who influenced you, and I would also say that you inspire me! I always enjoy your posts, and the resources you share. I think I would really enjoy being your student!

    For example, I’ve often felt a bit sad that I attend a webinar or workshop, and then later I can’t remember who gave it, or where the recording is, or what file I downloaded the handout into. Your solution is elegant and simple, and I love it! Thank you for that!

    I admire you for following your own path. It must have been a bit scary to leave a successful school to teach small classes, but I can tell that the decision was absolutely the right one for you because you clearly love what you do.

    I feel lucky to know you online, and I look forward to meeting you in Buenos Aires one of these days 🙂

  4. You are an amazing person dear Debbie, I admire your passion for teaching, you know Nik Peachey and Chuck Sandy 🙂 and mentioned Gandhi too and it makes me feel as you are so familiar.
    Continue the great journey.
    Namita

  5. Debbie, reading your interview makes me feel a bit sentimental because I just remembered the time when I started teaching English and recognize in your passion and devotion my own feelings about teaching. I absolutely agree with you about teaching and who I am as a person being inextricably bound up with. The greatest joy is to love what you do in life and I dare to say that I feel this joy every single day

  6. I enjoyed every word in your post Debbie and I must say that we share things in common. I felt lonely many time and didn’t know what to do or how to overcome teaching difficulties. I’m also interested about developing my teaching materials and myself as a teacher as well. That’s why I’m in this community and learning from your experience. I loved the ideas you have about having that “human touch” Vicki Loras talked about in her presentation about the relationship between the teacher and his students. It’s true that being close to our students and giving them the chance to be involved in the learning process using untraditional ways and techniques can affect positively their motivation. They learn language while having fun and enjoying it. And I feel also the same about “teaching is inseparable from who I am as a person.” I totally agree. Thank you for sharing your experience and the tips you gave.

  7. I believe that, once the teacher is awakened in an individual, the person will find teachable moments in even the smallest thing. Even after death, the life of a teacher continues to touch the learner. I love your blog and even more, I love your spirit.

  8. Very much like the way I started. You sure have come a long way and now I know that there are so many wonderful people out there makes me feel so happy. You sure built a good friendship with students and that is cool. Your sense of profesionalism is apalling too. Congrats… Don’t know if I will make it for your class today… will try my best to… Have fun.

  9. Dear Debbie. I truly feel so little compared to what you have done and what you are still after. Although I have been teaching for, I guess, longer than you have , your expertise and experience goes far beyond mine. You were right in your decision to adopt one -to-one or small group teaching. It’s more flexible and manageable. I work in a state school and we are obliged to teach in mixed-ability classes of 25 plus students. Hard work, I can tell you.
    Also, having lived most of my life in a small provincial town, only recently did we have the chance to get in contact with inspirational tutors and also with colleagues sharing thoughts, worries, ideas etc. It has been an amazing new experience, a wide open window to the world.

  10. Dear Debbie I’m so glad I read your post! It is so inspiring! Besides now that I’ve learned some more things about you, I can realise why you love and use the word “empathy” so much. Now I realise how easily you stand by any teacher who might need your advice.
    I am really happy I’ve known you!
    God bless you

  11. This is a great inspiring sotry Debbie.I like the way you talk about your teaching dreams and about your learners which you consider like family.This is exactly the human touch that we should all have when dealing with students and people in general.Keep on going like that you have already accomplished so much.

    Thanks for sharing and caring!!

  12. Thank you Debbie for such a significant post. You are really a multi-tasking person. What really caught my attention was your involvement in two projects about “goal-setting work” with your students as well as material development based on what is shared among teachers. This is really something that I’ll try with my students and fellow teachers.

  13. Thank you for such an interesting and inspiring post.
    I am just beginning to look at online tutoring as an expansion of my tutoring service of 18 years, and I am always so impressed with other teachers and their unique methods.
    You sound like an excellent teacher who inspires and motivates her students but also one who gains so much more back from those students as well.
    Sometimes people ask me, “How do you do it?” – particularly when dealing with teenagers (some of the ones I see are not willing students at first). I always say that I learn a lot from my students and feel privileged to work with them (not that some aren’t a big challenge from time to time).
    Your post gives me more motivation and ideas. Thank you.

  14. Dear Debora, reading your post makes me feel I’m reading my own ideas, thoughts. My teaching path is pretty similar to yours. Last year I took a part in EVO sessions, where I heard about you for the first time. I learned there a lot. From that time on, I became really a better teacher. ICT tools opened to me so many possibilities. It’s really a new world for educators. I like your post and your passion for teaching and I’m happy we can all communicate, share our ideas and learn together. Thank you for sharing all this with us.

  15. This is my first foray into teacher development, and couldn’t have found a better group to start my task. I finally found out what I wanted to be when I grew up…a teacher! It took many years to figure it out! I’m a fairly new teacher, but know that I can always be a better one. Thanks!

  16. Hi, Debbie!

    Thank you for sharing your experience as a teacher… I was around 13 when I decided I wanted to become a language teacher. In fact, I became a four language teacher, since I teach English, French, Spanish and Catalan (the last two being the ones I grew up with). I love being a teacher, and I love teaching teenagers; the truth is I love challenges, and I guess teens and really a challenge for us teachers. I also teach at Graduate School, but there I teach ICT for education.
    I agree when you say that time is one of the most challenging issues when beign a teacher…classes are never long enough to have students really master or work on whatever they need to.

    Thank you! And I am looking forward to watching the recording of this second session with you!

    Queralt

  17. I’ve two seen Debbie’s presentations in iTDi summer school MOOC and have just read this article. I really see a passionate teacher who is open to people, I should say, to the whole world, and creates an emotional bond with her students. “I sometimes cook for students and we share coffee while we learn”, “There’s nothing like going out on a sunny day to take a walk and bring our cameras along. Then we sit on a nearby park bench, and we talk about the photos we took, which usually takes us to some stories and if they allow me, I record them. We come back to the classroom and we exchange feedback about our walk.”- WOW! She is the teacher who cares. I know that students always feel whether the teacher is there with them or just there and they respond correspondingly.

  18. It’s such a relief to see that there are still passionate teachers like you! Unfortunately, I know a lot of teachers in Greece who teach the same lessons year after year and everything remains the same. . .As you have mentioned, online teacher development is a good chance to go one step further as a teacher. It’s something I have recently discovered and got excited about!

  19. Hello Debbie.

    It’s Amandeep Singh from India. I just read about you as a task in wiziq before watching your recording. I am really impressed reading about you. You are so mixed up with your students that your natural feelings come out of the words written here. Thanks once again. I hope your recording will be also great.

  20. Wow! What an inspiring message. I really enjoyed reading this blog. I also watched your presentation on “Why we need stories” as well as the one you did with Roseli Serra on “United by Images and Videos on the Learning Journey.” on ITDi. You are a very good presenter and I could listen to you for hours. You are a very passionate and caring teacher and that comes forth very clearly when you talk about your students and experiences. I would also like to teach smaller groups and one-on-one in the future. You really inspire me. I teaching you are absolutely amazing.

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