From the Teacher’s Family II

It is impossible to talk about teaching without talking about context. In the same way, it is impossible to talk about working as a teacher without talking about how the job impacts the people around us. In the second instalment of the ‘From the Teacher’s Family’ issue, Maria Bossa, Theodora Papapanagiotou, and Roseli Serra interview the people closest to them to find out just how do the joys and challenges of being a teacher touch our families. We would like to thank them and their family members for helping all of us to better understand how being a teacher shapes our lives outside of the classroom.


From the Teacher’s Family, For the Teaching Community

Being a teacher doesn’t stop when we walk out of our classrooms or out of our schools. Teachers, perhaps more than any other profession, are always working. We meet our students on train platforms, at the supermarket, or simply walking down the street. Even when we are not meeting our students unexpectedly, we often think about them and our classes on our days off (when we have them). We view almost every experience as something we can potentially bring back with us to our classroom. So it is no surprise that being a teacher shapes and changes our families as well. In the last iTDi issue, we began to explore just what having a teacher as a daughter, a father, a sister, a partner, or a mother means to the people closest to us. At iTDi we were honoured to see this conversation move off our own blog and become part of the wider dialogue about context and challenges faced by teachers across the ELT world. We are grateful for the chance to read these family interview focused posts and to learn more about the rich lives of the teachers in our communities and the families that support them:

Sandy Millin, Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher  ‘Why do I Let my daughter travel abroad for her job’

Anne Hendler, Livinglearning  ‘Far, Far Away: An Interview’

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Teaching Village  ‘From This Teacher’s Daughter’ 

Kevin Stein, The Other Things Matter  ‘From This Teacher’s Family’

We hope that other teachers will take the time to sit down and talk with their families to find out and share with us how being a teacher is about so much more than just working with students. We look forward to adding more posts to the above list. Because stories ‘From the Teacher’s Family’ are a gift for the teaching community. They are a gift of understanding and, at the same time, a celebration of the joys and challenges that make us all teachers.

Mother and Daughter, Two Teachers

by Maria BossaMaria Bossa

My dear friend and colleague Ayat Tawel recently posted an interview with her sister on the iTDi blog. She invited me to take part in the conversation, so I used the chance to interview my mother as she also worked as a teacher here in Argentina. She taught French for almost 15 years, but she has now been retired for 10 years. As we talked, we spent a lot of time discussing education as it is one topic we share and it is something she is still in love with. Her name is Maria Hedit but we call her “Nuno”. She is 70 years old and I am 43.

Maria_Bossa_and_MotherMaria: In what aspects do you think Education has changed from when you were a teacher to today?

Nuno: Before, when I was a teacher, there were different subjects being taught, subjects with a more technical orientation or more practical one. For example, French is not taught any longer as it has been replaced by English due to globalisation. As you know, our educational system has changed as our government has taken and/or added subjects due to political necessities and not because of any real educational needs. Argentina’s system used to be one of the best in Latin America for many years. Now it was become one of the least respected. Many people think that “the past is better than the present” and in the case of education in Argentina, I truly agree with that statement.

 Maria: Would you go back to classes? Would you want to teach again?

Nuno: No!! Not at all! I never liked teaching; I did it because it was compulsory for me as we (the family) needed the money.

(Note: My mom became a teacher when both my brother and I were at University. My father had lost his job and she decided to help him. My brother and I didn’t suffer a lot her absence at home as we were grown-ups. I felt proud of being her daughter as she taught in a School of Art.)

Maria: Both you and me are teachers… what things do we have in common? How are we different from each other?

Nuno: There are no differences at all! We are like two peas in a pod. We are both responsible, always in and on time, we don’t like to be mediocre, we are always eager to learn new things. Again, there are no differences… “Like mother, like daughter”.

Maria: Has there been any moment that you have felt proud of my achievements as a teacher?

Nuno: Yes, always. You have never stopped learning; you are always trying to be and become a better teacher. You are always studying, attending courses. And all that effort has been recognized by the school principals who check on you, who grade you every year. In public schools like the ones you teach at, it is necessary that your superiors observe what you do, not because you will get an increase on your salary but because they can know exactly what you are doing in case parents complain. Observations ensure that you can have support from your principals because they know what you are doing.

Maria: What other job/profession do you think I could have taken if I hadn’t been a teacher?

Nuno: Since I can remember, you always wanted to be a teacher. When you were a child, you always imagined you were a teacher; you taught to plants, trees, imaginary people. I think you were born to be a teacher. Do you remember when we went on holidays and you took a “portfolio” (Note: here in Argentina, a portfolio is like a school bag) with books inside and taught to everybody? However, I can suggest one thing you could have become, a singer. You also like singing. I still remember when you sang inside the house and imagined you were a pop start! Your microphone was a yellow pen!

Maria: Having a daughter who is a teacher, what things would you change or improve in today’s Education system?

Nuno: It is difficult to reply this question because the world has changed and education has changed with it. What I do believe is that “values” have been left aside and teachers find it hard to teach without them. Another thing I can see is that teachers are always multitasking… you have to be and have different roles apart from being a teacher. But parents don’t respect you as a teacher! They quarrel with you without any problem! Values are not taken into account! I think that we have to go back in time.

I enjoyed interviewing my mother and hearing her replies to my questions. She has always trusted my decision to become a teacher. I can also truly understand my mother’s frustration with some of the changes that have happened in the education system. Though we have a National Ministry of Education, each province has its own Ministry with its own autonomy so, depending on the province in which you work, the system can be very different. In addition, our private schools are only private because students pay a fee. But in reality, teachers are paid with money from the government. “Private” private schools are very rare. Currently I teach 27 hours a week split between a primary and a secondary school. I have almost 350 students but like the rest of the teachers in my province, I don’t have a fixed classroom and have to be on the move constantly as it is the students who have a classroom for their own each year. In my secondary school, there are only 20 classrooms for 1100 students. Still, even with all of the difficulties that come with being a teacher in Argentina, I guess that my mother would have never ever let me choose any other profession.

English, Cooking and other stuff…

Theodora Papapanagiotouby Theodora Papapanagiotou

I recently interviewed my teenage son to find out what he thought about me being a teacher. I was really curious what his answers would be. At first he was really hesitant. Being a teenager, he doesnt like being seen with his mum a lot. And he does not want to be exposed to the public.especially in a teachers site. If it were a site about breakdance prodigies, he would gladly do it, I am sure.   Like most teenagers, he is afraid that his friends will characterize him as strange if he does something outside of their ordinary world. If I were a public school teacher he would never have agreed to this interview! Cool kids are NEVER to be seen with teachers. But after a lot of pleases, he finally gave in. I used the interview questions provided by iTDi and here i what was said:

Theodora: What are three good things about having a mother who is a teacher?

The fact that I never needed somebody to teach me foreign languages and that I had contact with English and German from a very young age. I could understand English even in kindergarten, when my friends couldn’t even write their own name!! It’s also nice that you help me with ancient Greek as well and that you can understand grammar! It’s also kind of cool that your students like you, although I cannot understand why, since you can be really annoying as a mother!

(Note: Yes I can be VERY annoying, I know, believe me!)

Theodora: Were there ever moments in your life when you wished I wasn’t a teacher?

Yes, especially when you insist on me doing my homework and have good grades!!!

(Note: Dont ALL parents do that?)

Theodora: Was there ever a moment when you were very proud of something I did as a teacher? Please tell me about it.

The fact that you communicate with people around the world and people come to see you when you talk in webinars and conferences is kinda nice, although I don’t understand why they find it so interesting.

(Note: I have to say that I am so proud when he offers to hold my script when I am rehearsing for a presentation and he also gives me feedback if it is good or not)

Theodora: Do you think me being a teacher has made life more complicated for you?

Yes, because you are not like other mums. You spend a lot of time teaching and preparing and sometimes you don’t have so much time for me. Also you do not spend a lot of time cooking. In fact, your cooking is terrible because you prefer to spend your time working or studying or doing something else.

(Note: I know and I am sorry, but I do not have a talent for cooking. I dont think that it has to do with my job though. I always try to make sure you are fed. And I do wake up at six every morning to prepare a meal, even if it tastes awful. starting to feel guilty now.)

Theodora: Do you think I am well suited to be a teacher?

Yes, because it’s in your personality. You were born to teach.

(Note: (feeling proud) Thank you dear <3)

Theodora: What other jobs do you think I could have done or should have done?

You could work at an office, because you are very organised.

(Note: You think? Because I feel like I’m live in my own chaotic environment!)

Theodora: Why do you think I became a teacher?

You became a teacher because you love English!

(Note: That’s true…)

Theodora: Why do you think I am a teacher now?

What kind of a question is that? You are a teacher because you like what you do.

(Note:… probably…)

Theodora: How would our lives change if I stopped being a teacher tomorrow?

Well, you would definitely do something else… on no condition would you stay at home, it’s not in your nature! I don’t think anything would change, you would still work hundreds of hours!

(Note: true again…)

Theodora: Do you have a message you would like to give to teachers around the world?

I hope the rest of you can cook!!!

(Note: I hope so too!!!)

Theodora: Do you have a message you would like to give to family members of teachers around the world?

You guys have to be patient, teachers are strange…

What it is like to be a teacher in Greece largely depends on where you work. If you are in the public sector, you have a steady job with steady pay and holidays every summer. I’m not trying to say that teachers in the public sector do less work that those of us working in the private sector, but they don’t need to do more than us. In my case, I work three jobs to get salary on par with theirs. This of course means that I have to make certain sacrifices and most of them are around my use of time. Most mothers over here in Greece give up on their careers to spend more time with their family. This is what is expected. In this area I am very different from many mothers around me and I usually don’t fit in. It’s really natural for my son to see his friends’ mums and “compare” me to them. I’m not saying that what I have chosen is right and that they are wrong. I just am who I am. I am a private sector English language teacher with a teenage son. And now you know a little bit more of what my teenage son thinks… and I also hope that you found out more about me as a mum (and not just as a teacher).

Never ‘Only’ an English Teacher

RoseliSerra-267x300by Roseli Serra

Family is what matters most to me in my life. It is and it has ever been like this. This is my heritage, passed to me from my parents and grandparents, who taught me strong family values, mainly about love, caring and being there whenever it’s necessary.

This semester I haven’t been as involved in social media and online learning and teaching because I was totally involved in my daughter’s wedding plans. Now, as my daughter is travelling after her wedding, I could only interview my husband and son.

I was very surprised and moved by their answers. To tell you the truth, I felt relieved too. When I gave up my career as a psychologist to become ‘only a teacher’, I was embracing a difficult career in a country where teachers are not as respected as they should be, are underpaid, have to study a lot and do extra work with no extra pay. And year after year, other benefits such as assistance with conferences, health insurance, and everything else has diminished or totally disappeared from public and private schools as well as language institutions.

Having said that, I am here to publicly say I am a blessed person. I‘m sure I would never have been able to do what I do, and have done for years, if not for the total support of my family. My husband not only supported my studies when I decided to become a teacher, he has encouraged me to go to conferences, to present, to write, to take risks and try the new. And he was a great dad when I had to live abroad for several months when our children were just kids. He took care of our children and made them understand that my absence was necessary to give them a better future.

As for my children, there are many stories I could tell that have to do with my job. They were very understanding and dealt with my long studying hours, lesson plan preparation, test correction and grading students’ papers at home. Thank you for supporting me emotionally. I have had awful moments as a teacher and as an educator, when I cried, when I could no longer believe it’s worth being a teacher. And then there was the time when I lost the job I loved and could not believe I would be able to recover from it. Thank you for being there, for supporting me, for showing me I have value, for teaching me and mainly for reminding me I’m not ‘only’ an English teacher .

And thank you Ayat for challenging me to interview my family and join my voice to the conversation. I feel honoured.

Interview with my son, Davi, a 25 year old political scientist:

Roseli: What are three good things about having a mother who is a teacher?

  1. She can remind me of a word that I do not recall
  2. She’s a great advisor not only for me but for my friends too.
  3. She made me like to learn English and then I learned other languages too and I think I like writing because of her.

Roseli: Was there ever a moment when you were very proud of something I did as a teacher?

I brag about it all the time.

Roseli: How do you think me being a teacher has made life more complicated for you?

I don’t. ON the contrary it has facilitated my life in many aspects!

Roseli: Do you think I am well suited to be a teacher?

Of course I do! Thousands of students cannot be wrong.

Roseli: What other jobs do you think I could have done or should have done aside from teaching?

Anything that has to do with being good with people. You help everyone and want to save the world sometimes.

Roseli: Why do you think I became a teacher?

Because you like to see others learning and because you like     studying and learning too. I’m like you, aren’t I?

Roseli: Why do you think I continue to be a teacher now?

Because, despite everything, you still like what you do. But I remember there were times when you were happier as a teacher, right? I feel you have been so disappointed lately… It makes me sad.

Roseli: Do you have any message for teachers around the world who might read this post?

Take every student into consideration. A good teacher can change a life. A bad teacher too.

Roseli: Do you have any message for other family members of teachers around the world?

Be thankful.



Interview with my husband, Franklin, a doctor (ophthalmologist) . We first met 37 years ago and have been married for 31 years.

Roseli: What are three good things about having a wife who is a teacher?

  1. She is also a learner. She says that “learning is an endless pro” I wonder if all teachers think the same way.
  2. She’s helped me with my medical stuff. I’m a doctor and I’m terrible at languages as well as at computers. She’s really good at both!
  3. Mainly because she loves what she does and does it very well!

Roseli: Were there ever a moments in your life when you wished I wasnt a teacher?

Because the fact you’re a teacher has never had a negative side for me. On the contrary, it has helped me , my daughter and my son . A lot, by the way.

Roseli: Was there ever a moment when you were very proud of something I did as a teacher?

Many times. But mainly when I realised you are internationally recognised as an educator presenting in international conferences, writing materials with famous authors for international and respected publishers. And also when you your blog received an award after only four months of blogging and…many many times throughout all these years.

Roseli: How do you think me being a teacher has made life more complicated for you?

I don’t see any! How could I? I’m a doctor!

Roseli: Do you think I am well suited to be a teacher?

I do because you demonstrate excitement and happiness when you are simply preparing a lesson. It makes me happy because, like me, you love what you do. If you are happy, I’m happy.

Roseli: Why do you think I became a teacher?

Because you were not happy being only a psychologist in a closed office or hospital. I remember you feeling very sad because you wanted to help people learn and when I saw you teaching private lessons at our first house, your eyes shined like stars.

Roseli: Why do you think I continue to be a teacher now?

Because of your natural skills as a teacher and as an educator. But I also think you feel tired and lately, often, you are not happy because you want to fix things you cannot. In addition, you are really underpaid. Teachers are underpaid in our country and not valued as they shoud be. What a shame!

Roseli: Do you have any message for other family members of teachers around the world?

Be proud of them. Be patient with them. Support them always. They carry the world upon their shoulders. Never forget it!