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Does everything happen for a reason?
merve oflaz

by one of my students Tulya Elif B.

There are films that change your life. There are songs that give you a very strong heart beat and there are books that spiritualize you. There are also some days or events that change your whole life.

My story begins on a nice snowy day in Istanbul of the 1990s…

It was the day when I first entered the doors of the British Council at Istiklal Street in Beyoglu. I was a fifteen year old prep student with the strangest hair style ever. My mum who has supported me all the time took me there after my English teacher had advised me to become a member of the British Council Library. I can still remember the smell of the books, the cosy atmosphere and the friendly people working there. The hardcover books were really big and thick with many unknown words. I enjoyed walking through the library aisles looking through the reference books, atlases and novels. Unfortunately I was only able to read the leveled readers as an elementary level student. I was considering myself lucky if a reader was in a plastic bag because that meant the reader had a ‘cassette’ (a flat rectangular device that is used to record sound. (Hard to find one of these nowadays. Oopsie I think I became a little old:) ) These bags were soft and transparent with hard white handles. If the readers and cassettes were heavy, the handle could nearly cut my hand but I never thought of putting it in my rucksack. It was kind of a pride (but not a prejudice:) for me to carry them with a serious look in my eyes saying “I’m learning English.” My favourite section in the library was the great classical novels and poems. I didn’t understand a word in them but I was making a secret oath deep inside my heart to become a real reader of those books one day. I spent hours and days in that library. Looking through newspapers and magazines, choosing the books sitting on the stool by the shelves, reading and listening to cassettes by the bay window, the best liked seat of the library. That place was like the front seat at a theatre because you could watch the busy people walking along Istiklal Street and the little red and white tram ringing its bell.

Days chased days and I became a university student. I was studying English Language Teaching and drowning in homework and projects so once again the British Council Library had been my loyal assistant. Now the library had this huge catalogue, a machine looked like a mixture of a computer and an Atari. It was easier to search the books and materials through by using this thing. Besides I could understand and enjoy the books on any shelves. It was nice not to be limited with the leveled readers. There was also a video club (still no VCDs or DVDs) which was a bit expensive for me but we were allowed to watch them in the special area they provided in the library.

It was just after I had become an English teacher. I learnt that there were seminars about drama techniques and teaching young learners at the British Council. I did my best to attend these seminars given by Laura Woodward and Gulfem Aslan (They were both my heroines and idols, actually they still are) and tried to improve my teaching style.

All these live memories rushed into my mind and filled my heart with a bit of gratitude and a sip of nostalgia at the end of the 2nd International Conference on Language Education, Eclipsing Expectations at Sabancı University. As I was leaving with a bitter feeling and thinking “If only it hadn’t finished so quickly…” (but that’s another story to be mentioned in another blog post), I saw Raymond Kerr ( sitting there in the foyer outside the conference hall. I walked out saying bye to him but then I went back and shaking hands I thanked the British Council for providing me such a nice award after the Blogathon, the blog competition. As a silver award winner, getting a ticket to that conference was a real pleasure for me.  Then, I handed him my card and kindly invited him to my blog. I said “My real award is this blog I started. The Blogathon that brought a lot of teachers together gave me the real inspiration and courage.” He was surprised and asked again if I was serious or not. Then he offered me to share this experience with others through a blog post. “Why not?” I thought. And here I am.

Thank you British Council for changing my life sooo many times. The very first day I entered in that library made me walk in doors of time. Does everything happen for a reason? Yes, I believe that there was a reason that made me go there.


Here are some callouts appeared just above my head during the Blogathon:

  • Fantasies about my blogathon t-shirt: feeling a relationship emerged between the number 120 t-shirt and me.
  • The wonderful (!) word limit: Cookie for me !!! “What if I omit this word and add a comma? Mmm, is a comma considered as a word? Gosh! Why is this limited with 250 words but not between 250 or 300?”
  • Happy as a kid: The excitement I had whenever I see a comment in my inbox.
  • Me, the magician: Ordering the inbox with a bossy manner. “Inbox, Inbox! I order you to be bold.” (so I could see that I had mail.)
  • Super disturbing: The anger I felt if it was one of those spam or forwarded e-mails.
  • Sense the presence of the blogathon spirit all the time: Approaching every little situation in and outside the classroom as a potential blog post.
  • I admit: The anger and panic during the technical problem in the process of readers’ voting. (Luckily we were all officially evaluated by the professional team of the British Council.)
  • I am available: Making myself available even at lunch and break times to read posts and comment on them.
  • Feeling flattered: Cooperation and support of all fellow bloggers and other readers. Post and comments from famous bloggers.
  • A bump in the road: Facebook and Twitter. I did not have any chance to share my posts on social network because I deactivated my accounts for some reason then. (Fortunately, they are active right now.)
  • Trusting my instincts: The day I decided to start my own blog. Apparently it worked out:)

Never forget! Everything happens for a reason :)

This post was first published here.


Leave the dark out and let the light in!

While we were praying for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the nuclear emergency which threatens all of us popped up. As if all these were not enough, the countries started to attack each other. I sometimes wonder where this ‘hatred’ comes from. Why do people still fight? Why on earth are people killing each other? We are in 2011 (close to the Golden Age as some people mention). Aren’t we civilized yet?

I think the world needs us, the teachers today more than ever. We are the guides for the adults of the future and unfortunately we should do our best in this chaos while the world is going crazy.

I’m sure that you are aware of the difficulties of being a teacher. Teaching requires many qualifications such as being patient, understanding, creative, practical, tolerant and fair. You are a different kind of celebrity for them. No matter what you teach, you touch the lives of your students in a way. They track you with your behaviours, responses, approaches to them and even with your clothing and hair style.

Then why not taking this as an advantage! First of all, set a good example for your students. Then love them and let them feel that. Help them love people and lead them if they cannot do that.

We may not avert a catastrophe but we can change the future by bringing peace and love. It’s time to do something dear colleagues! Help our future by planting seeds of goodness. Leave the dark out and let the light in!

Hey teacher! Do you feel overloaded and exhausted? Here is a couple of tips to refresh yourselves: (Part 2)

5.       Professional development: Search for the seminars, workshops and conferences which will take place on holiday and try to attend them.

6.       Be with your family: Spend your time with your family. You have been so busy for the last couple of months. Why don’t you find some activities (such as cooking, doing puzzles or playing monopoly or taboo)? So all members of the family can join and enjoy.

7.       Reset your feelings: Does it sound nonsense? It’s definitely not! What you have to do is wiping out all the negative feelings especially the ones about the school, students, parents and maybe administrators:)

8.       Contact with friends: Call or e-mail your friends you couldn’t see or contact for the last couple of months. Meet them if possible. Chatting and gossiping can sometimes be as effective as a therapy.

9.       Don’t wake up late: It will be a short holiday, so don’t waste your time oversleeping. You will not die if you wake up early as if it is a school day. Seeing and experiencing the things you missed can be fun. What about a walk listening to the sound of the waves by the seaside on a week day morning?

10.   Feel ready: Be strong and motivated for the next term. Remember life is more beautiful when you enjoy it and it is not difficult to find things make you happy. Happiness is a journey not a destination.


Hey teacher! Do you feel overloaded and exhausted? Here is a couple of tips to refresh yourselves: (Part 1)

I’m teaching English for 13 years and I feel lucky feeling the spirit still in me. The biggest reason may be the passion I found in my job but there are more behind. Like emptying the trash in my mind and pulling positive energy into myself.

As teachers we suggest our students a long list of things to do on holiday and want them to be ready mentally and psychologically for the next term. What about you?  You have worked a lot and felt overloaded and exhausted. Don’t you think it’s time to do something for yourselves? Let’s see what we can do to refresh ourselves:

1.       Pre – spring cleaning: Organise your paper files and also digital files. Throw away all the papers and files that you don’t need any more (Prefer a recycle bin:) and archieve the ones that will be necessary for you later.

2.       Plan: Make a list of the things you enjoy doing. Don’t care even if they look silly such as a slimming programme or a face mask waiting for you. Make a plan about it and follow it.

3.       Read things you enjoy: Read your favourite magazines, the books which make you happy (no matter they are silly love stories or absurd fantasy novels) and of course blogs.

4.       Use your time: Try to use the time effectively. It doesn’t matter if your time is limited. The important thing is good quality. Sometimes half an hour can be more valuable than spending five hours with your loved ones.