Mar 02

SPREAD YOUR ENTHUSIASM – “Teachers Can Do It!” by Zeynep Cihan

This is the story of three lovely English teachers and entrepreneurs in Istanbul, Turkey. If you like to meet them, they will be at ISTEK ELT 2013 Exhibition Area waiting for you at their wonderful stand:)

As ESL teachers who have been working at many different language schools and private schools, my partners Gizem Altunyuva Korkmaz, Ipek Cihan and I ( Zeynep Cihan) wanted to open our own language school. The reason that we decided to do so, was not being satisfied with the current ESL education system at many private language schools. As teachers who are a part of the system, we observed that neither students, nor teachers were happy and satisfied. However, language schools were pleased, because they could make money out of it. Unfortunately, education has been led on commercial basis, that we wanted to change everything about it! Sure, it was difficult to change the mentality, but we believed that if we could give a good start, it might inspire people, and make a difference at the end.

Using the opportunity of being experienced teachers in ESL field, we identified every missing point in ELT system at language schools and what students really need, and shaped the vision of Queen English Language School’s education system. We created a new brand, a new vision to teach English according to students’ needs, and built a cozy butique school atmosphere to make them feel comfortable. We are aware of our students busy lifestyles, that’s why our school is all designed according to their needs ; when they come, they can have their coffee or tea at our terrace, and watch the islands view, enjoy their lessons with our effective teaching system and feel satisfied and happy during and after their course.

No one could believe the before and after of our school. The first time when we had our place, there was nothing in it. An open office without floors, nothing… We drew the project of it, chose and customized the furniture according to ‘’Queen’s place’’ like a palace, and decorated. We were with the constructers everyday during the construction, learnt a lot about it! Found our web designer, graphic designer, created our brand and logo, chose books one by one for each level and program, created our curriculum; in short, we did every step head to toe by ourselves. Thanks to our families and friends support, we never lost our courage, belief and strength.

So far, it looks like we have achieved what we dreamt of; at least the first few steps… Recently, we opened our new school Queen TESOL Centre, where we offer the first and original TESOL Certificate in Turkey. As ESL teachers and founders of a language school, where education takes the first place, it has always been our dream to train English teachers who are eager to improve themselves, deliver modern classes, be aware of what is going on in ESL field around the World, and make themselves ‘’international ESL teachers’’.

Due to our affiliation with King George International Business College, we offer TESOL to ESL teachers, with a Canadian Certification. This means teachers get their TESOL Certificate as if they studied in Canada , which gives them the privilege to hold a diploma from an English speaking country. Besides, we offer International Education Consultancy and English Experience Programs to our ESL students.

The happiness of our students and their being reference for us are the things that feed us, make us more enthusiastic, and willing to do more. We started a journey and we have a lot of destinations, hope we will do it altogether with our students and teachers and staff. Last but not least, we also would like to thank Burcu Akyol, who believes in us and supports everybody in ELT field. We are the teachers who create generations, so why not change the mistakes?


Zeynep Cihan
ESL Teacher & Founder
Queen English Language School & Queen TESOL Centre








Feb 24

Going To IATEFL For The First Time? Here Is Some Advice For You From My PLN

Having been the source of inspiration of ISTEK ELT, IATEFL Conference is the most important ELT event of the year for me. This year, I am very happy to be presenting with Luke Meddings and looking forward to meeting the ELT professionals and friends from all around the world.

I have been invited to do a ‘how to get the most from conferences’ session at the British Council Pre-IATEFL Event that will take place on 9th March in Ankara. While preparing for my talk, I wanted to ask my PLN as well and posted this question on Facebook:

What advice would you give to a teacher who is going to the IATEFL conference for the first time?

I was amazed to see the great answers and wanted to share some of them here on my blog.

Begum Kut Be calm. Concentrate on your session, make friends and learn as much as you can:)

Beyza Yilmaz Be ready for the unexpected. Have a back up plan. Stay calm.

Vicky Saumell Allow yourself to miss a few sessions and stay outside chatting and networking with colleagues from around the world!

Adam Simpson Have fun. Don’t go to every single session. Go to the social events. Get on twitter. Take pics and post them here.

Mürüvvet Tutkun Çelik Exhibition hall is also a place to discover and keep up the date.

Laura Woodward Enjoy it!

Beyza Yilmaz Keep in mind that you can follow Twitter and Facebook updates about the other sessions and watch some of the recordings later. Enjoy the conference.

Eva Büyüksimkesyan The app is great. Pre-plan and enjoy the sessions, networking and evening events.

James Taylor Go at your own pace. Maybe you’ll want to run and around and see as much as possible (I did!) or you’ll want to take your time. And go out in the evenings, that’s the best bit!

Sandy Millin I’d second Adam’s advice about Twitter – getting on there before you go means you have a ready-made group of people to speak to when you arrive – it made it a lot less overwhelming for my first time last year. Or she(?) could speak to people on the IATEFL Facebook group.

Julie Raikou Seconding Sandy Millin, connect earlier thro’ Twitter and Facebook so you get to share your interests & can have follow-up discussions F2F.

Sarah M Howell Bring comfortable shoes!

Nata Jo Practice, practice, practice in front of the mirror if need be.

Make use of the speakers’ quiet room. Ask IATEFL volunteers where it might be. Have somebody who loves you a lot but is professional enough observe you while practicing and ask them to come up with a list what you might be doing wrong( even gestures, posture, tone of voice , pauses, non verbal content etc). Do NOT put your handouts and flash memory in your check in luggage.

Ela Wassell I would recommend reading Sandy Millin‘s #ELTchat summary:
It’s all there! It helped me a lot!

Esra Aydin If it’s the first time you’ll be in Liverpool, you should visit the Beatles Museum It’s really amazing..and enjoy the conference.

Cecilia Lemos Don’t be afraid to interact and meet new people. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network and broaden your PLN.

Carla Arena Join the Facebook groups for IATEFL and start interacting before getting there.

Walker D Tanner Don’t fall asleep where your boss can see you. Kidding I find it useful to go to workshops for all skills instead of just the skills you most enjoy teaching.

Carol Read Lots of good ideas already mentioned – all really useful and great to hear. Be open to the experience and remember i) that the formal sessions are only one part of the conference, you don’t need to go to all of them, and ii) other people are likely to be feeling the same as you and will welcome a friendly chat and exchange any time. Above all, enjoy!

Eric Baber As Carol says, all the main points have been said already. My main suggestions would be: 1) accept that you won’t be able to see/do everything, and be selective – don’t tire yourself out on day 1, and leave energy for the evening events! 2) Select a mix of sessions to attend. Don’t *just* go to see all the big names, but choose a selection of big names and no-names, and topics you know you’re already interested in know something about and some totally left-field ones (to you at least) – something you’ve never given much thought to but sounds interesting. 3) Try to plan one or two days in advance, but be prepared to change your choices. If for example on day 1 you attend a session on something you didn’t know much about but found fascinating, you might want to attend another session on the same topic on day 2 in preference to another one you’d already chosen. 4) Try to take opportunities to chat with other delegates about what sessions they’ve been to and make a note of anything you might want to re-visit later on – e.g. watch a recorded session online afterwards if it comes highly recommended. 5) Attend the plenaries – it’s great being in one big room with all the other delegates, and are chosen to give a broad spectrum of ideas. And yes I know they’re first thing in the morning, but still I think those would be my main tips!

Bruno Andrade Never miss a plenary session! Although they are very early, they’re invaluable sessions! And do talk to people during breaks and lunches! It’s another powerful PD opportunty!

Willy C. Cardoso or – following up Bruno Andrade‘s advice – watch the plenaries online from your hotel room if you’re not an early bird.

Thank you Begüm, Beyza, Vicky, Adam, Mürüvvet, Laura, Eva, James, Sandy, Julie, Sarah, Nata, Ela, Esra, Cecilia, Carla, Walker, Carol, Eric, Bruno and Willy for your contribution:)

Jan 29

Twitter Followers Are Not Avatars, They Are Real People

This morning, I noticed that a Turkish columnist who started following me and who I followed back unfollowed me (tongue twister of the day:) Then I went to friendorfollow and saw that a couple of Turkish professors did the same. First they follow people, then people follow them back and then they unfollow people.

Is this a kind of a strategy???

If you are a public figure, I can understand that you prefer a one-way communication style (or whatever it is called) and people who are interested in what you say happily follow you without expecting to be followed back.

But I think this “follow-get followed-unfollow” strategy is so ugly.

What might be the reasons of this so-called strategy? What kind of psychology lies behind it?

Any ideas?

Jan 14

10 Tips To Look Professional Online

I decided to write this post after getting frustrated with a couple of Facebook status updates during the snow holiday in Istanbul. Those messages looked very unprofessional, and I thought it was a shame because those teachers also had their students (maybe students’ parents) and some administrators as Facebook friends. Taking this as a starting point, I listed some other issues that I think are problems in terms of looking professional online. I want to emphasize that I am not an ‘online image management’ expert and these are just my personal opinions.

1. Use your real name and use the same name across all online networks.

If you are using online social networks for professional purposes, I think using a nickname on networks is no different to using a nickname in your school or classroom. Although these are online networks and the people in your network are usually people you do not meet face-to-face, they are still ‘real’ people and you are there with your ‘real’ identity. I do not think it is a sincere approach to use a nickname so people cannot see who you really are.

However, using a different profile name does not necessarily mean that you are hiding your real identity. I think it is perfectly ok to choose a different name if:

  • you have a long name
  • your name has been been taken by a person with the same name
  • you prefer to choose a profile name that is related to your profession
  • you represent a school, association or a company

…and you can still add your real name to your profile so that people know who they are talking to.

Besides, I believe educators should use the same name across all online networks: as with using a nickname, it is like using different names in different places in your real life.

 2. If you want to be followed by educators on Twitter, tell people who you are.

When someone starts following me, first I read their biodata then have a quick look at their tweets. I sometimes don’t have time to read the tweets and if there is no information about the new follower, I choose not to follow back. If you want to build a PLN, you need to take some time and tell people who you are in 160 characters or less. If you do not know what to write, you can read other people’s biodatas for inspiration.

3. Do you really need to protect your tweets?

I don’t see the point of having a private account on Twitter if you are there to share. It might be ok if you are sharing very personal information, pictures and so on – but if your reason for being there is to share ideas, resources and links, why are you protecting your tweets and who are you protecting them from? To tell the truth, I usually don’t follow back if a new follower’s account is protected.

4. Use a real and positive-looking picture of yourself as your profile picture.

This is a personal preference, I must admit. Since I think there is no difference between my online-self and the ‘me in real life’, I prefer to use a picture that is ‘me’.

5. If you have a silly email address, get another one.

Once I had an interview with a teacher whose email address was something like, and this ‘sweet’ email address had a very negative affect on my impression of her. I cannot imagine her giving this email address to her students at high school.

Email is one of the ways people can contact you online and if you are an educator, I don’t think you should use a silly email address like the one above.

6. Carefully re-read blog entries, status updates or tweets for grammar and spelling before you post them.

Some recent Facebook updates I read made me include this in my list. Of course we make mistakes, and we cannot get everything we write proofread. But if we are English teachers, we must be more careful than other people – especially if we have our students and their parents in our networks…

7. Don’t give the impression that you are a teacher who hates going to school.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read some messages during the snow holiday in Istanbul. I don’t know anyone (including myself) who doesn’t feel happy when there is an unexpected break like this. But I think we, as teachers, need to keep some feelings to ourselves if we have students and their parents in our networks. Keep it to yourself if:

  • you don’t want to go to school because you’re tired
  • you don’t want to mark the exams
  • a class gives you a headache
  • you do not like a colleague or an administrator
  • you cannot manage a student and you have negative feelings for him/her
  • you are not happy about your working conditions, etc.

8. Be aware that unprofessional looking photos or videos might ruin your career.

Be careful about the photos and videos you share on online social networks. If someone tags a questionable photo of you on Facebook, you can remove the tag yourself. If you can’t remove the tag, you can ask your friend nicely to do it for you.

9. Don’t send direct messages to people in your Facebook or Twitter network unless you have something to say.

Sometimes I receive direct messages like ‘hi!’, ‘how are you?’. As you can imagine, the answer could be ‘hi, I’m ok, you?’, but why would I want to have a conversation like this? I have people in my network that I don’t know in person and I prefer to interact and share ideas with them publicly. Of course it is ok to send a direct message if there is something to say. But, personally, I don’t like people sending private messages just to ask how I am or to promote their blog posts or products.

10. Don’t add people to Facebook groups, or send game requests, without asking them.

This is as annoying and meaningless as direct messages. Remember that people might not be interested in the Groups you have created or the games that you are playing. You can recommend Groups, games, apps and so on via status updates and your friends can decide whether to join or not.

As I mentioned at the beginning, these are my personal opinions and I don’t think there are any certain rules for standard professional behavior online.

What do you think?

Jan 08

ELT In Turkey From My Eyes

Becoming a teacher was one of the best decisions of my life. Since I found myself in a global staff room where I have contact with wonderful teachers from all around the world, I’ve been feeling more lucky and privileged. I think blogging and Twitter are very important turning points in my professional life. Both blogging and Twitter made me a strong believer in the incredible power of sharing knowledge. Sharing ideas, resources and experiences with colleagues from different countries also increased my curiosity about different cultures and education systems.

I’ve been thinking about how English is taught in different countries. It is very clear that learning English is considered very important all around the world and education system authorities and governments are trying their best for their young population to start learning English at early ages and learn it well. Different systems are implemented in different countries. I read and heard about the systems of a few countries and I am really interested in learning more.

 I invite teachers who read this entry to share their reflections about ELT in their countries at K-12 level. I think it will be a very useful series of blog posts for all of us.

Some questions that might help us:

  • When do children start learning English in different countries? How many hours of English do they have in a week?
  • Are they taught English through other subjects? If yes, does this system work well?
  • Are teachers encouraged to use specific methods in their lessons?
  • Is there a national curriculum? Are schools free to create their own syllabi?
  • How is technology used? Are there any policies regarding use of technology?
  • What are the strongest and weakest sides of the system?, etc.


Let me tell you about the system in Turkey. (I am writing this in the light of my experiences as a teacher who has worked in four different private schools in Istanbul. So, what I have experienced for twelve years cannot fully represent the whole system in Turkey.) In terms of English programs, there is a considerable difference between state schools and private schools. In private schools, children start learning English at the age of 4 (might be even 2 or 3 in some schools). In primary school, there is, on average, 7-8 hours of English in a week (this might go up to 12 hours in some schools). Although the value and importance of an interdisciplinary approach is always emphasized, I haven’t experienced a school system where teachers of all subject areas work collaboratively and plan their lessons together (except one of the schools I worked that implement Primary Years Program (PYP), and I must admit that it was not an easy thing to do because there were quite a lot of ‘experienced’ teachers who were having difficult times internalizing the concept of ‘working collaboratively’.)

There is a national curriculum but it is designed for state schools and the English program starts in Grade 4 in state schools (with fewer hours than private schools). Therefore private schools implement their own programs (in line with the Ministry’s principles). Teachers are expected to use modern methods like communicative method but, I believe, there is a strong tendency to use mechanical approches and it is often paid lip service to ‘using communicative method’. This has several reasons and I don’t think this is a Turkey-specific problem. Regarding technology use, I can say there are more teachers who are reluctant to use Edtech tools than teachers who embrace technology and use the available tools effectively. Unfortunately, it becomes a complete waste of lesson hours if teachers adopt a mechanical approach and do not benefit from technology.

I think the solutions to the terrible “no-tech+mechanical approach to teaching” combination are:

  • a better pre-service teacher education system
  • school principals = visionary leaders
  • regular, frequent & effective in-service training systems
  • successful performance management systems
  • better work conditions (fewer lesson hours, better salaries, good quality equipment & hardware)
  • clear school policies about every aspect of teaching & learning process
  • consequently, a system that takes demotivated and passionless people out of the profession who might be happy and productive in another career.

Well, yes, I was telling you about the system in Turkey but I guess I went deeper and started dreaming. :)

The closer we get to this vision, the more effective our education system can be, and this brings success to the ELT programs as well.

Yes, this is briefly “ELT in Turkey” from my eyes.*

I am looking forward to hearing your reflections which I would like to publish as a guest blog series called “ELT in My Country”.

I will get in touch with you if you drop me a line using the contact form.

Thank you!

* As I mentioned above, these are my personal opinions and limited to my experiences and observations and do not fully represent the big picture in Turkey. The big picture is more complex and I want to write about it as well after some more reading & thinking. :)

Dec 28

My (Manageable) New Year’s Resolutions

Well… I had a look at my previous resolutions blog posts and since I still do not speak Spanish, I decided to make more manageable resolutions for the new year:)

1. Read more

Reading for PD – My only problem is when I read a serious book (e.g. theory, research, etc.), my long term memory fails and I forget most of the things I read (even if I find them interesting). When I go back to the notes I took while reading, they are like someone else’s notes to me:) It might be because of having so many different things to do but this year I’m going to work on this and try to get better at remembering what I read.

My lineup of books-to-read for PD-

The Power of Reading: Insights from the Researchby Stephen Krashen 
Fundamentals of Language Education
by Stephen Krashen
Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker
Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms by Jack C. Richards
The Language Teaching Matrixby Jack C. Richards
Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn
Out Of Our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Reading for fun – When I start reading good books, they take me deep inside and I don’t want to do anything else and read all in one breath. So I can only read them in summer.

My lineup of books-to-read for fun-

Tanri Tebdili Kiyafet Gezer (Les Dieux Voyagent Toujours Incognito) by Laurent Gounelle
Semspare by Elif Safak
Yedinci Gun by Ihsan Oktay Anar
South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

Looks manageable, huh?:)

2. Exercise more

I don’t have another option after signing a five-year contract with the gym, do I? :)

3. Blog more

I wish there was an app that transforms the ideas in my mind into blog posts. Do you think Shelly Terrell might recommend an app for this?:) Whether or not there is an app for it, I am determined to blog more in 2013.

I wish you a very happy new year!

Dec 28

ISTEK ELT 2013 Website is Now Online!


Oct 31

Who is Leaving Lasting Footprints in EdTech?

Since I started using online social networks, I’ve met many inspiring educators who use technology in their classes and make a real impact on their students’ learning experiences.

I also know that there are some teachers who do great things in their classrooms, but cannot find time to share their experiences with other teachers on blogs or online social networks.

So I’m inviting you to let me know who you think is leaving lasting footprints in Edtech. If you know a teacher who integrates technology into ELT in a meaningful way, please share his/her name with me for a new series I am planning to start on my blog. If you don’t want to leave a comment here, you can get in touch with me direct by filling out the contact form.

By the way, this teacher might just be you:)

Oct 23

ISTEK ELT 2013 Call for Proposals is Now Open!

I am very happy to announce that the 3rd ISTEK International ELT Conference is going to take place in 26-28 April 2013 at Yeditepe University in Istanbul.

The conference website will be online in December, but the call for proposals is open at .

The deadline for speaker proposals is 1 February 2013.

I hope to meet all my PLN at the conference:)

Apr 28

Paper Laptop vs. Paper Boat

When my 7-year-old son made this paper laptop, I remembered my childhood and the paper boats which were my childhood’s most creative pieces of art:) Posting this without further comment. Generations and creativity…:)

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