Monthly Archives: March 2013

Feat No 10: Maggie’s first bilingual school: The Loras English Academy

Today was Clifford Day at our English School. And Maggie was there, too. Just like she always has been these past eight years when she arrived and saved me from myself.

And that is why I love my job:

* Maggie would visit The Loras English Academy. Every day. How happy she was at “Mama’s school”, as she called it.

* And it belonged to her family. Her mom was working there. So were her aunts. Her grandparents brought her there every afternoon.

* The best part was that I also felt happy working in an environment that my child could visit and remained until I would leave. In the evening.

* We were not just together at the same place and at the same time, but I had arranged for Maggie to have short and fun English and Greek lessons there regularly while I was working. Just next door. Perfect. (Many global companies today, have childcare facilities within the companies themselves. The advantages are invaluable for everyone involved.)

* We had even created a playroom for our very young students when we renovated. Thanks to Maggie, many children and there parents became keen on learning English. They wanted to speak and understand English just like Maggie. Our daughter had accidentally become our walking and talking advertisement for these English Playgroups. As we had adopted the One person, One Language method concerning Maggie’s bilingualism, we had managed to draw attention by being among the minority of daily English-speakers in our former city, Ioannina.

The Loras English Academy Playroom

The Loras English Academy Playroom

* At the end of the day, we were both very tired but we always left the school happy and proud.

Too bad Nicholas missed out on all those incredible experiences. …Or did he?

Have no fear, The Loras English Network is here!

Together again at our school with Maggie... and slowly Nicholas will start attending, too

Together again at our school with Maggie… and slowly Nicholas will start attending, too

Advertisements

Feat No 9: The Loras English Academy…the ground-breaker ……and…the heart-breaker

At the age of 17 I had obtained the necessary certificate and license to teach English as a Foreign Language. So I started doing exactly that.

I was mature enough to realize the financial situation of my family and felt the responsibility and duty to help them. To support them. To bravely tell them and show them they can count on me. Completely.

“How many hours are there in a day, Eugenia? Well then, you must work as many as you can handle. As many as you dare.” I dared myself and that was that:

* Private lessons at students homes all over our former residence, Ioannina, in Greece.

* I did not have a car and the means of transportation were not reliable enough to keep a tight schedule in order. So I went to all on foot. Carrying kilos of books in bags in both hands. And sometimes extra equipment like posters and board games on my back. In all weather conditions.

* Teaching at two private English Language Institutes.

* Teaching English at a private Nursery/Kindergarten.

* Doing translations at the end of the teaching day, meaning from 10.00 pm till 2.00 or 3.00am.

* But on which computer? I did not have one. So I provided volunteer work as a secretary at my uncle’s legal office who also happened to be a politician. Very busy. And he had a computer. So I would use that and his printer in return for my services.

And this went on every day – literally – Monday through Sunday. And all day – literally – from 7.00 am to about 2.00 am.

…for better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward,
until death do us part. I was married to my profession.

I was so ambitious, so powerful, so energetic, so passionate with what I was doing and how it was growing that I just could not stop. And I did not.

And I was helping my family. And I was helping my future family. And then I thought of a ground-breaking idea at the age of 23.

“I love private lessons because of their size. They are so productive. But I love the practicality of the Language Schools I teach at as you have all your books, resources, files, printers there…readily available. So why don’t I create a Language School but for private lessons, from one to three people?”

I said that exact phrase to my then fiancĂ©, now husband, while having a rare coffee at one of the several, several though, coffee shops, Ioannina had and still has. Why rare? Because I never ever left a gap in my schedule. I would manage to fill it in with another student. But that day was one of the few that I hadn’t managed to do so. So while I was taking the second sip of that rare coffee, I released my idea loudly in the spring air and Thomas, believing in the potential, grabbed me by the hand and we immediately started searching for a small office. There went my coffee… Me and my big mouth… Me and my wild ideas… (Coffee Time for me had been transformed into something like a curse…while I was working even during the weekends, almost everybody else was enjoying their coffee…right in my face… While I was going back and forth, up and down, here and there. And I managed not to get distracted. At that age. In that lifestyle. I was working for Maggie and Nicholas and I hadn’t even met them. And I was even mocked for this gruesomely hard-working lifestyle. I was deaf and blind to it all).

In the heart of Ioannina, on a very popular and desired street, we found a 40 square-meter office. And I signed. While I was signing I started crying. Like a baby. In front of the owner of the office and the real estate agent. First time for a Scorpio like me to do that in public. “Why are you crying, what is wrong?” said one of the gentlemen. “She is happy and moved”, said Thomas. The truth? The first rent and the deposit was all the money I had in the world.

But I signed.

And innovated. The English Language School with a private tutoring concept did not exist in the books of the Ministries involved. So they made a combination of rules and that was our guideline. That was our innovation.

First year I was alone, pretending not to be sick, or tired. I couldn’t afford to be. Second year, Vicky had completed her studies and joined me. By the way, due to the same financial pressure, Vicky had managed to complete her studies in a record time. Making her own line of sacrifices. We divided the office into two smaller offices and followed the same successful recipe. Work. Hard work. No diversions. No regrets.

We were so busy at some point that new clients would not even come to ask if we had free time. This would become a problem if we had not acted fast. We had to find somebody, beyond our family union, that we could entrust with our clients. Our treasures.

And we signed for the next door office and found our first teacher. And then the next teachers and then the next offices.

And it boomed! Truly Boomed! I can still remember the beautiful rumbling sound our school was making while booming.

More and more students, more and more teachers, more and more ideas, more and more smiles. Boom!

Students were on waiting lists for the next school year. They all wanted to be a part of this. Parents and children. What a pleasure I took with planning the new school year schedule. No matter how stressful it was. For me it meant success.

Teachers were being interviewed; native speakers or Greek English teachers who had studied and lived abroad. Some came, some left, all of whom worked WITH us instead of FOR us. And that, for me, meant success, too. We were a team. A fun one and a professional one. And after all the coming and going we had reached a point where we had formed the perfect team. Lambrini, Helen and Lisa, Chrissie and Melanie, Alexandra and Rea, Jahnavi, Melina and Anastassia…oh, how I thank you all for being a part of my life, a part of my family’s life. Such a special part. Such a huge support.

And of course, the Loras Trio. With Christine, our younger sister starting off as secretary and moving on to teacher, making her own line of sacrifices, as our story goes, we were all head over heels in love with The Loras English Academy. Our lessons would come to an end in the evening and we just would not want to. None of us.

And then there is my family. My precious parents. What efforts they have put into all this cannot be written. What self-sacrificing participation they have made in all this story and history cannot be described. A true family business. My husband with all his support and financial knowledge. His younger sister, Carolina, for being our reliable secretary in times of need. And his elder sister, Sandy for hiring me at her own English Language School at the beginning of my career.

The methodology, the innovation, the teamwork, the sensational atmosphere, the safety and security, the sense of family and love towards everyone involved. It was all there.

So it was time for Maggie. And it was time for Eugenia to become a bit more human and allow time to herself to rest. To breathe. To eat while sitting down. Maggie came to the rescue when she was born.

And her new bilingual school was in the making. Feat No 10.

Next step was to renovate the facilities with even more self-sacrifice but even more passion. We were close to perfect. How smoothly we all worked. Our beautifully the lessons were conducted. Like an excellent choreography. And Maggie’s new bilingual school was ready. Awarded and admired. Loved and enjoyed. Renowned and highly recommended. Our name was our guarantee.

And all this in a handicapped country. Unfortunately, the country that has given so much to this world, is the country that could not contain us.

Our ground-breaking Academy was about to come a heart-breaking finale in Greece. Feat No 11.

The Loras English Academy

The Loras English Academy

Feat No 8: Once upon a time…there were treasures on shelves!

If you have a bookcase at home full of books, then you ultimately have a treasure!

If you place the children’s books on the lower shelves, then they have immediate treasures, too.

Just like they learn how to play with toys, that is how they can learn to read books.

Naturally!

I have been placing books in close access of my children since they were born.

Mags Nick reading

– But they cannot read, Eugenia. What were you thinking?

– They cannot speak when they are babies either, yet we give them toy telephones. They cannot play, catch or kick, yet we buy them soft colourful balls. In the same manner, I strongly felt that easy access to books – soft books initially, then board books and then gradually to paper books – can turn reading into something as natural as playing. And so far with Maggie the results are more than evident. And Nicholas is following. Moreover, having Maggie as his guide he too spends some time flipping through books, looking at pictures, some pages more intensely than others. His eyes see words that he cannot read but it all becomes a familiar sight to him. Just like with Maggie.

It might start off with a thirty-second glance, then become a three-minute action. Further on it becomes a twenty-minute activity and before you know it, books are as loved as toys.

We did exactly the same at our wonderful former English school in Ioannina, Greece; The Loras English Academy. Our vast bookcase was our main attraction and ultimate joy for teachers, parents and students.

Libraries LEA

(The Loras English Academy is a Feat of its own. Sooner or later I will have to write about it… I think I am better now; I am almost ready to do so.)

Some children seemed like they were picking out candies in a candy shop when choosing books. And some others were not as interested but at least once borrowed a book from us. A start must be made somehow.

“Wow, how many books you have!”, said a mother of two children who were our students. “Yes, we are very lucky to have so many and we try to expose the children to them as much as we can. I do the same at home with Maggie. Just place the books close to them and they will come to love them”, I went on enthusiastically as usual. “No, no, it depends on the child. It would be a waste of time and money if I did that with my children”.

And all of sudden… disappointment “fell kerplunk on Eugenia’s head”. And I so wanted to tell her, “Well if you have not tried it, why do you make guesses, to their disadvantage?” But I didn’t. So, I just decided to do my best through the books in our school and at some point, hopefully, the children themselves would ask their parents to also quench their thirst for books.

Encyclopedias – for children and adults, dictionaries – simple, specialized and picture-based, thesauruses, course books, grammar books, readers – fictional and factual, story books, audio and not…we have invested in. Slowly, progressively, we almost had it all.

The more we bought, the happier we got!

My absolute favourites, though, are audio story books. And we have noticed at home but throughout our career that they are the most popular with children. They are so educationally fun that I actually teach a five-year-old boy this year, who wants to go through the full two-hour session we have, sometimes, only with these storybooks.

Both my children are very fond of them too and we have the whole series of some at home. Readily available for them. Tapes, CDs and books. All at hand.

“Come on Nicholas! Let’s listen to storybooks!” says Maggie to her brother just as if doing another playful activity.

My Top 5 Super Recommendations (in order of personal and professional preference):

  1. Express Publishing – Audio Storytime Readers (Stages 1 – 3)
  2. Scholastic – Readers (several series)
  3. Scholastic – Audio Storybooks
  4. Random House – Step into Reading Series (Steps 1 – 5)
  5. Oxford – Start with English Readers (Grades 1 – 6)

And I cannot wait to do something like this again!

2013-03-03-2402

I just cannot wait!