The exciting business of teaching

It’s been a year! A complete year with all of its 365 days. Check the date of the previous post if you don’t believe me!

I wouldn’t be lying if I said that dusting off this tiny ‘teaching’ corner didn’t seem very likely during that long absence. Fortunately I took no drastic measures like closing down this page altogether. My ‘teaching’ low was simply so void of energy and initiative that even such terminal move was a mountain for a little mole. So yes, sometimes best action is  no action at all!

But life-force is slowly seeping back into the teacher blogger in me. Maybe it’s thanks to iTDi that asked me to write a post on their blog. Maybe it’s other courageous teachers out there who keep blogging no matter what. But maybe it’s thanks to Anna and her willingness to start a spontaneous mini project to make our students interact with each-other, a kind of flash communication between Japan and Switzerland.

Working with Anna and her students gave me lots of positive energy, it motivated and inspired me, but mostly it made me realize once again how exciting, yes, EXCITING teaching can be.

As mentioned above it was as spontaneous as a project can be. There I was sitting at my desk late at night chewing on the pen hoping a lesson idea would miraculously appear. Yes, once again late at night, just before the next day’s lesson! I really believed the term procrastinator doesn’t apply to me. Well, it’s time I faced the facts, right.

Anyhow, I knew I wanted to revise questions with my students. I had some handouts ready, but this something that adds sparkle to the lessons was missing.A truly miserable situation to be in. And then, bang! It was there. The generous teaching muse took pity on me and dropped a brilliant idea onto the keyboard. I sent a message to Anna, who, miraculously replied instantly. I write miraculously because, she’s in Japan and I’m in Switzerland, so if I receive a reply to my message sent late at night from the middle of the Alps, it can only mean one thing – Anna in Japan is skipping her night sleep!

Anna agreed on the spot and the next day my students got truly excited about the mini project we were about to have.

After a short introduction and necessary background information, my students got down to writing questions they would love to ask from teenagers in Japan. As lots of my students are very keen on that country and its culture, the questions as well as their imagination flourished.

Anna did the same with her students.

Then the questions got exchanged and the following lesson was writing answers to the inquiries. We also took class photos, so seeing the people who had written those questions made the whole activity even more real, fun and motivating.

Here are some of the questions the students asked:

What do you think is the strangest Swiss dish?

Which Swiss cheese smells the most?

What are your country’s traditional foods?

What do  you eat for breakfast?

Do Swiss people drink alcohol?

Is it true that all Japanese people like mangas?

When you celebrate with your family, what’s on the table?

Which Japanese tradition do you enjoy the most?


The mini-project finished with reading the answers to the questions our students had asked in the first place. Anna added a nice touch to this part of the project. Instead of simply handing out the answers, she cut up the questions and replies and made her students match those. An idea I would definitely use next time we embark on this cultural exchange.

All in all I have only positive reactions to this spontaneous exchange we set up. To begin with, I saw my classes come alive and vibrant with new kind of energy. The fact that we were interacting with real people, doing an activity that had real consequence, made the whole task brilliantly meaningful and thus highly motivating. I had an immense pleasure of seeing totally involved students writing with almost tangible pleasure. They truly wanted to tell the Japanese students about their life and country!

We’ve already promised with Anna to look out for new ways to co-operate next year and I sincerely hope it’ll come to pass!

What about you? Have you had the chance to make your students interact with students from other countries? What did you do?

Till next time (I hope it’ll be in less than a year!)


10 thoughts on “The exciting business of teaching

  1. Hi Sirja,

    Great to see you are back to blogging.
    I also did a virtual exchange with Rose Bard’s students in Brazil when I was teaching at a Middle School in S.Korea. It was one of the best things I did there and felt the exact same excitement among the students as you did. We did mostly video exchanges and the first time I showed the videos you couldn’t hear anything as the girls were just screaming with excitement!! I no longer teach teens but always recommend this to other teachers as it was so valuable and great to see the students using ‘real english’ to actually communicate!

    • Hi Gemma,
      and thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts! Exchanging videos would definitely take the whole interaction to another level! Excitement amongst our students is such a driving force, such motivator. And for a teacher there’s probably nothing as wonderful, as heartwarming and inspiring than to see the students enjoy the learning process.
      Have a brilliant weekend!

  2. Great you are back again sharing your experiences teaching.
    I can understand you spent a year not blogging, as I see myself there too. This teacher córner, as you call it, is great, but I am far from being that regular blogger I’d like to be!!

    • Sorry, I acciddntally posted an unfinshed comment…oops!
      Well, it’s nice to read what others are doing, it really makes me want to catch up too.
      And that classroom activity with a foreign school is something Id like to engage my class with… It sounds great!

      • Hi Anabel,
        and so glad to have your comment here!
        It’s so true what you say about getting inspiration while reading what other teachers are up to. I find this is pretty much true about anything we do in life. If you stay in your corner alone, excitement and motivation can quickly fade. There’s so much force and vitality out there, suffice to go and grab some 🙂

        Hope you’ll find time and willingness to blog soon, too!

  3. Great blog. I must go through your old posts.

    I love the idea of cutting up the questions and answers, too.

    Teaching can totally sap your energy sometimes, can’t it? I hope the next post isn’t next year.

  4. Hey Sirja,

    What can I say? It was very fun and great for my students, too! Thank you for thinking of me and my students, of all people in your network, and inviting us to join. Not only was it meaningful for the kids, but also gave some food for thought to me about the ways of doing culture exchanges. As I wrote in my recent post on iTDi (, it is not always clear to me how to best organize collaboration online. And this mini-project we have just had makes me think that such flash exchanges are the way to go!

    So I thank you for this.
    AND again, your writing is wionderful, sincere and inspiring. I hope you find a reason to blog soon 🙂

    Big hugs from Tokyo,

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