“About me”: ways and means of introducing ourselves to the blogosphere

Have been blogging for three weeks now and have been thinking about how you introduce yourself to the blogosphere and whether it is any different from the way that you might introduce yourself in the staffroom of a new place that you start working in. Initiation into a community usually involves some sort of social get together with people where new colleagues can begin to understand you and see where you are coming from both literally and in the way in which you see yourself as a teacher and vice versa of course.

Without this, it is difficult to see how an atmosphere of collegiality can develop,  a pre-requisite for good co-operation and teamwork in general. collegialityMisunderstandings between colleagues usually happen because we don’t understand or try to understand what underlies other teachers’ motivations for doing what they are doing and I guess this is no different when you are online.

Over the last few weeks, in thinking how to organise the blog and what to focus on, I’ve spent some time looking at how people introduce themselves in the “About Me” section of the blog or whatever equivalent there might be on one’s home page. There you can often find personal  interests, people’s qualifications, the work people are involved in, what they are passionate about, the specific focus of the blog, if there is one, where they have worked and where they work now.

Some people use pictures and illustrations and some people also add their educational influences and approaches to education in general. Others don’t have anything at all there or very little or don’t create this page in the first place. Sometimes people introduce themselves as just “I” informally, others use their own name in a more official way.

One of the things that I really like in this growing online community is the way in which people retweet things, tweet-retweetgive people room to voice their opinions on their blogs and take the time to comment on other people’s work. Am still unsure about some of the etiquette of tweeting and blogging and am sure  I “make mistakes” with things but it’s a good learning curve to be on and to be on it with so many altogether decent people.  It’s also nice to see those who are more well-known in the ELT world, whether they are new to the blogosphere or not, giving encouragement to those people who are not.

One thing I have decided that I’d like to add to my “About me” bit is something about my own educational influences. I always enjoy reading what motivates people to do what they do and particulary like the way that Sara Hannam, Marisa Constantinides , love the pics Marisa, Barbara Sakamoto and Anne Hodgson introduce themsleves on their blogs.  Anne does it in German as well!.

On a more personal note, one thing I’ve realised more and more is how much my father influenced me and in some way I want to add a little bit of this to my “About Me” part of the blog.  This is also to say hallo to those in the blogosphere who I have already hooked up with in the last three weeks and an introduction to one of my major influences in becoming a teacher, my dear, kind father.

Me and Dad by the sea
Me and Dad by the sea

Dad worked as a teacher trainer too, but not in ELT. His first big break came at Wolverhampton Technical Teachers College which opened in 1964, a great time for experimentation in education in Britain.

The teacher training process involved regular visits, long distance travel up to North Wales and down to London to observe teachers and supervise student teaching placements. Teacher training staff all had teacher training qualifications. Wolverhampton, of all places, was chosen, due to its geographical central location, as the national centre for natural resources vocational education training in Britain.

So we are on the map for not only Slade, Robert Plant and pork scratchings and are not the fifth worst place in the world!  It was when we moved from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, for my sins, at the age of 7 that I became a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter!

Looking back it was great that Dad was involved so much in vocational training, in the British Council projects  I worked on later in Eastern and Central Europe, vocational schools were very much neglected as sadly, they still are today.

Dad became head of Curriculum Studies in that teacher training college and was responsible for general pedagogy. Amongst the students he taught were car mechanics, hairdressers, flower arrangers, and farmers. His role was to help them teach the technical subject they were so knowledgeable in, but had never taught to groups of learners before.

I recall him travelling round the country going to observe teachers and our house was full of books devoted to education including all those wonderful Penguin Education Special issues which came out in the 1960’s.

penguin educational specials

After I had worked as a language assistant in Bavaria at the age of 18 and at the University of Rostock in the German Democratic Republic after studying Eastern European Studies, Dad encouraged me to do a 1 year full-time TEFL course at Manchester University. Without his constant nagging, I’d never have done it, he was similarly helpful with getting me to go to Lancaster to do the MA in ELT and when, in 1996, he saw an advert for a job in Budapest with the British Council as British Studies methodology adviser in the Guardian, he sent me the cutting of the job advert.

I didn’t really understand how much he must have influenced me until I put together a speech that I wrote for his funeral nearly 12 years ago which captured the educational values that were at the core of his teaching.  These were some of things I read out in the chapel.

“In the early fifites, Mike taught shorthand and typing before deciding to go to Bolton College to train as a Secondary School teacher where the Director had this to say about him.
“ He has a pleasant and friendly manner; he is confident and at ease in all  situations and he has a ready wit and sense of humour. He has justifiably  been popular with his colleagues, who elected him President of the Students’ Union, an office which he has held with great distinction and wholehearted endeavour.
He speech is clear, his fluency is good and he expresses himself effectively. He is keen, thoughtful and has a freshness of outlook on educational problems.
He could be relied upon to stimulate discussions in tutorials and contribute sound ideas. He is undoubtedly fitted for responsibility in the work of a technical college where his sense of values and strong belief in the worthwhileness of technical education will be invaluable. He has outstanding qualities of  leadership and a firm sense of responsibility. His work in college has been consistently of a high standard; he writes well, in a free and lucid  style, and he has kept excellent notes of the lectures he has attended.
His practical teaching during two periods of practice in technical  colleges was regarded as excellent by his tutors and the university examiner. He received a distinction for his efforts; it was obvious that  he had a natural flair for teaching as well as having a high level of executive skill. His preparation was marked by thoroughness, his exposition was well ordered and lively, his illustrations apt, and his attention to the needs of his students showed that he was well aware of the need to treat them as individuals within a group.

Former colleagues had this to say about him:

Mr Farthing treating Billy Casper as an individual in the film "Kes" by Ken Loach (1967)
Mr Farthing treating Billy Casper as an individual in the film “Kes” by Ken Loach (1969)
“Mike was a great colleague, committed, and ever reliable with his quiet sense of humour who made life more tranquil for those around him. He was intellectually curious, a dedicated professional and always full of enthusiasm.”
At Harborne Hill Secondary Modern School he taught English, Games, History, Commerce and Commercial Arithmetic and spent the whole of 1958/9 with a third year remedial group, as it was called then!
I think that it was probably here that he developed his sense of justice  and the importance of treating everybody as individuals, always taking into account their personal circumstances. He always encouraged people in the real sense of giving them courage to try to achieve what they wanted to achieve.”
Not having enough money to go to university when he left school, it wasn’t until he was 30 that he got his chance. My mother’s father, who was a Labour Member of Parliament,  gave him the extra money he needed to support both of us, I was 3 at the time,
Auntie Nancy and Gran , me at 3 and Dad getting his MA degree! Birmingham University 1960
Dad getting his Masters degree in Education  at Birmingham University in 1964, I’m the little one!

and it was this that enabled him to study for a BA and an MA which led to him securing  a post as Lecturer in Education at Wolverhampton Technical Teachers College.”

He was always interested in my EFL work and recently I came across an old letter he sent to my sister when she was teaching English in India in an SOS children’s village after she left university. He ended the letter with this little question and answer technique.

Teaching tip from father to daughter: September 18th 1992. From Wolverhampton to Delhi
Teaching tip from father to daughter: September 18th 1992. From Wolverhampton to Delhi

If this is too small to read, click on the letter, or here it is typed out: ” Try and develop question and answer technique with your children. Try question – pause – name. In this way they all have to think.  If someone isn’t attending or is passive, use name – pause – question. Lots of love, Dad xxx”

Dad, me and Mum outside our Wolverhampton house
Dad, me and my sister Sally outside our Wolverhampton house

He came to see me in Budapest shortly before he died and always wanted to know why it was that the British Council only ever gave me one year or two year contracts and wanted to know what was going to happen to me in the future.  I wondered that too, and after 12 years with the BC I moved on to different things.

Father and son on the banks of the Danube
Father and son on the banks of the Danube

Thanks Dad for all your support, advice and encouragement. I hope your work lives on in the work that I do now and I’m sure that you would have got into the blogging community in some way or other long before I have!

8 thoughts on ““About me”: ways and means of introducing ourselves to the blogosphere

  1. You’ve done a great job on your ‘About’ page and I especially liked the two paragraphs you wrote about how your father was a big influence. Plus I really love how you grab attention immediately to check out your header to visualize where you work.

    The key with your About page is you’ve provided all necessary information for a new reader to understand your background while also giving them insight into who you are as a person.

    Best of luck with your blogging!

  2. I wish I could have met your father, Mark. He sounds like an amazing man.

    Thanks for the compliment about my “About me” page. It’s nice to know that it does its job 🙂

    I’ve really been enjoying your posts–so glad you decided to start blogging!

  3. Dear Mark,
    It’s very lovely reading your memories about your father. His is heartfelt advice; and his surprise at the lack of job security you were enjoying is very touching. Thank you for telling this story. – Will take your post as a springboard to write about my own dear dad.
    Thanks a lot for mentioning my “About” page. A video is yet another way of making things a little more personal. Hope to see you again soon out here on the not-so-anonymous web 🙂

  4. You’ve done a great job with your “about me” page and it is very clever to include the header picture into the description.

    I’ve been blogging for 1.5 years now but have yet to pay due attention to my “about me” page. The reason might be that back then, I used blogging as a personal reflection “tool” more than anything else.

    Like Barbara, I’ve also enjoyed reading your blog posts and am looking forward to more.

  5. I first met Mark’s dad in October 1960 when we both went up to Birmingham University to read for our degrees in Medieval and Modern History. Mike was then (I think) 30 and had been school teaching for a number of years. He was unusual in our year of 31 students (you may ask why 31 and not 30, but that’s for another time) in that he was a “mature” student and the rest of us were conventional student age. Such a “phenomenon” became much more common in later years.

    Mike was married to Enid and had this three year old son called Mark. I lived at home while at University but that was not true of our other friends in the year and Enid and Mike used to invite groups of us back to their home in Harborne for tea and there, of course, we would meet young Mark. Mike was a very great friend, loyal, always cheerful and stimulating to talk to and gather his reflections on what we were learning. We both did the same documentary study (The Vikings) and special subject (The Norman Conquest).

    I particularly remember our residential week at Attingham Park in Shropshire when Mike was teased by all the single girls in our year during his week away from home – but Enid was shown all the photos !
    Mike and I kept in touch for all the years after we graduated in 1963 and went our different ways as Mark has described for his father.

    I will skip to I suppose a dozen or so years later when Mike shared with me in one of his regular letters that Mark had gone to Bradford, and then to East Germany and how much Mark valued some aspects of the system of society there. Mike was quizzical I think, at first, but soon came to appreciate what Mark was saying which was typical of his open mind and progressive thinking. Then come the early 1990s and our own son, Rajendra, having studied Russian and Czech at Sheffield, went to teach English at the University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, and guess who he ran across working for the British Council but Mark ! We had a lot more to share then since our friendship had extended to the next generation.

    It is wonderful that Mark and Rajendra have inherited that friendship of 50 years and my wife and I were so touched when Mark came to see us on our boat when we were cruising the Danube and the boat had docked in Budapest. Mark had a wonderful Dad and I’m glad he has done him such justice as he has above – and I mourn a good friend.

  6. Dear Mark,

    Conferences are also good to meet people. I am happy to have “met” you through IATEFL 2011, even though I am not there physically.

    Your “about you” is really interesting as it give us readers an insight of the kind of person you are.

    I am a teacher of modern languages based now in Rio, after many years living in Oxford. I teach Portuguese and English to students of all ages, including adults.

    Anyway, nice to meet you!


  7. pleasure jana,

    and I think it’s good on a blog to let people know where you are coming from, at least that’s my style.

    Hope you enjoyed Oxford and enjoy the rest of Brighton 2011

    nice to meet you too

    all the best

  8. Many people would wish to have a father like you had. Unfotunatelly, many were not or are not so lucky. It is amazing you continue in what your dad had started and try to improve your work or attitude constantly. It is a dream of every father, isnt it?
    I am one of the luckiest people as my own father is very nice person and kind dad and had a great influence in my life either in personal or academical matters. I am not sure, though, if I was able to write such a touching tribute to him.

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