Today’s guest blogger is Arjana Blazic from Croatia. I really enjoy her cheerful and positive blog-writing style. She’s made this blogpost very competitive and, like me, has offered food and drink to the winners, so she’s a woman after my own heart. 😛
Plus, although I love all the countries that I’ve visited in former Yugoslavia (and hoping my Serbian and Slovenian friends will understand), I have a very soft spot for Croatia. I think Arjana’s home town of Zagreb is a fascinating place and I’ve also been lucky enough to explore the Dalmatian coast in a series of author and training visits.
My name is Arjana Blazic and I’m an English and German teacher from Zagreb, Croatia. I have been teaching for 24 years and I love it, even more than I did on the first day. I’m an avid user of new technologies and one of my major goals is to teach my students how to take advantage of all the possibilities that technology-enhanced learning can offer. I’m committed to lifelong learning and I do it with great joy. I also have a passion for travel.
On Travelling and Teaching
While I have no idea when and where I got bitten by the travel bug, I certainly know the reason why I am a teacher. Teaching runs in my family. Thirteen of my family members are or used to be teachers. The first to take this path was my Aunt Teresa, who started her 40-year teaching career before World War II in a small village not far from Zagreb.
She used to say that in those days teachers were not only more respected than today, but also better paid, because her monthly salary could buy her a cow!
I’m not sure if I could afford to buy a cow a month with my teacher pay today, but what I’m sure of is that teaching and travelling don’t go together so well. We might have long holidays, but we can’t travel during the off-peak season when the prices are lower. That’s why I came up with three different scenarios on how to do what I like doing most, to teach and to travel:
1) Become a published author and get invited to conferences worldwide,
2) Marry an airline employee and fly (almost) free,
3) Organize international student exchanges and learn from your peers.
The only book that I’ve written so far was published in 2003 and has sold 1,000 copies. Unfortunately, I have never been invited to speak at a conference, as my book is actually just a basic guide to computers and the Internet.
The recipe for scenario #2 is really simple. All it takes is love, or at least it does so in my case. In fact, I met my airline employee long before he landed himself a job in the airline industry. No, he’s not a pilot; he’s in computing, which is a true win-win formula for a bitten-by-the-travel-bug technophile teacher like me.
The third scenario is the only one where you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity to learn about people, their countries, customs and traditions first hand, from a native’s perspective, not from a touristy, guidebook point of view.
The first step towards a successful exchange project is to find like-minded teachers who are eager to collaborate. Fund-raising should be your next step, followed by fund-raising and even more fund-raising. After that you can travel with 2 or 22 students of yours (depending on how successful your fund-raising was) to different parts of the world to learn about understanding, tolerance and respect.
My first exchange project, organized in 1998 with a school from Switzerland, was started purely by coincidence. Julia, a Swiss teacher who wanted to collaborate, knew someone who knew someone who had a friend whose friend’s friend worked at my school.
This has been the only exchange project that the two of us organized. We have also visited each other privately on several occasions, and we are still in touch, although not as often as we used to be, because she quit teaching and went sailing around the world!
It was during this visit to Switzerland that we learned how quickly and easily the differences between us can cause misunderstandings. We arrived in Buchs early in the morning after a long bus ride and went straight to the school. When the time finally came to go to the hosts’ homes, we were both starving and totally exhausted.
One of our students, when asked by the host mother if she wanted to have something to eat, declined her offer, even though she was hungry. You may call it a lie, but she did it because this is the way we’re taught, firstly because we don’t want to bother our host, and secondly, because we know that the host will make the offer again, and then we’ll readily accept it, as this is what we consider polite.
However, the Swiss mother didn’t ask again. To her, a No meant a No. Since then our students have been taught not to be hesitant to speak their mind and no one has ever gone to bed hungry.
Arjana blogs at http://traveloteacher.blogspot.com.