Interviewing Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis
Plenary Speaker for the 34th Annual International Convention?It is with great joy that I have interviewed Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis for the TESOL Greece blog. She is one of the plenary speakers at this year's 34th TESOL Greece Annual Convention. She will be giving a joint presentation along with Thomai Alexiou. For more details on her talk, click here.?
Vicky: Dr. Mattheoudakis, it is a great honour for me to interview you for our TESOL Greece blog, as I was one of your students at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, a number of years ago. Thank you so much for this!
Dr. Mattheoudakis: It?s both an honour and a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address the readers of the TESOL Greece blog. I?m also excited because I can see an old student of mine being actively and professionally involved in TESOL Greece.
Vicky: Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your work in tertiary education, which comprises the greatest part of your career so far?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: I started teaching at the university while I was still a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, at the Aristotle University. That was the beginning; very challenging but also highly inspiring, educational and exciting! Later on, three years after completing my Ph.D., I applied for a Lectureship and I was appointed Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the School of English, Aristotle University (2001).?
Since then, I?ve been working at the same university department.
Teaching is only a very small part of the university work. We teach 6 to 9 hours a week and this usually makes people wonder what we do the rest of the time. Of course teaching itself requires a lot of preparation, especially if this involves teaching postgraduate students. Updating our knowledge continuously is absolutely necessary. We need to be informed about recently published articles and books in our area of interest and this is an endless task. Updating is not necessary only for teaching purposes but also for research. Researching, networking and cooperating with colleagues in Greece and abroad, presenting our work at international conferences and publishing articles are other very important aspects of our profession. Understanding and experimenting with new ideas and theoretical models, implementing them, analyzing them, disseminating results, drawing conclusions, all these are highly important because they enable us to develop, promote and disseminate knowledge in the area of our expertise; and this is what is expected from academics.?
At the same time, we are committed to our students ? undergraduate and postgraduate ones ? and a lot of our time, when we are at the university, is spent with them. We need to supervise their theses, diplomas and dissertations, to suggest bibliography, alternative points of view, etc. They also come to us in order to seek advice and help with their work and studies.
Finally, there is ? unfortunately ? a huge amount of administrative work that we are all involved in and this is, I think, the only negative aspect of our university work.
Vicky: How did you decide to become involved in education?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: I don?t think that I ever made the conscious decision to become a teacher. I started teaching just after I graduated from the department, which, I think, is what most graduates of our department usually do. When I started teaching (for two years at a foreign language school-frontisterio), I thought ? and I still think ? ?I was really bad at it; I felt children couldn?t learn because of me and I concluded that I was probably unfit for the job. It was after I did my M.A. in England and when I found myself in a private high school teaching English to teenagers that I realized how much I could enjoy it. Such changes may have been due to increased maturity and qualifications, on my part, or perhaps to the different teaching context.? Even today I?m not really sure what triggered the change. ?Only a few years later I started teaching at the university and that experience ? different from high school teaching, but also very similar in many respects ? significantly influenced my decision to pursue a career at the university.
Vicky: Can you share one or some of the highlights in your teaching career so far?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: That?s a hard question to answer. ?Highlights, for me, should include cases of students whose knowledge, experiences or ways of thinking have been significantly influenced or changed because of my teaching. Unfortunately, the student audiences we teach are quite large and we don?t have the opportunity to see whether this in fact happens (at least during their student life). However, I do receive postcards and letters (yes, yes, letters; not emails) from practicing teachers who were once my students and who are now teaching English at high schools in various parts of Greece. These letters and cards are brought to me by their students who are now university students at our department. Sometimes I can remember their names; sometimes I can?t. The content of the letters is very brief but always very moving. A highlight for me, come to think of it, is when somebody can remember me and my teaching and feel that this has brought a change in the way they teach, in the way they see education, in the way they perceive themselves as teachers.?
Vicky: Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: ?To be honest, I enjoy all aspects of my work. It is the administrative component that I?ve never liked; the rest of it ? teaching, researching, interacting with colleagues and students, presenting at conferences, writing and publishing ? is actually the reason why I?m doing this job. I?ve never complained about being overworked and I?ve never thought that I should be doing something else.?
Vicky: Let us move on to the conference. Could you give us a little insight into the talk you will give at TESOL Greece?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: ?I found the title of this year?s Conference particularly enticing and inspiring. Our talk (I will be giving the talk with Dr Alexiou) will revolve mainly around the concept of innovation and its importance in education, especially for a teacher who is working in Greece now. We are going to make reference to innovative projects that have recently been introduced and implemented in Greece in the field of foreign language education, such as the PEAP project, the materials produced within the PEAP project, the Model Experimental Primary School in Evosmos, Thessaloniki, the ELT projects that are being carried out there etc. Our aim is to show to practicing teachers that innovations in the Greek educational system are not a choice anymore; they are a necessity. What teachers need to do, though, is to be informed and continuously updated so as to be able to choose, adapt and adopt according to their students? needs.
Vicky: What gave you the inspiration for this topic?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: Our work at the university, our experience with language teaching and English language teachers in Greece, our involvement in the PEAP project and in the Model Experimental Primary School, which is supervised by the School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. We?re both (Dr Alexiou and I) actively involved in carrying out innovative teaching projects at this school and this experience has provided us with valuable knowledge which we would like to share with you.
Vicky: You are one of the designers and compilers of the Greek International Corpus of Learner English (GRICLE, University of Louvain, Belgium). Could you tell us about this project?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: GRICLE is a learner corpus which has been compiled by Dr Anna Maria Hatzitheodorou and me. GRICLE is part of the International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE) compiled by the University of Louvain, Belgium. Other learner corpora which form part of the ICLE are the Spanish learner corpus (SPICLE), the French learner corpus (FRICLE), etc. They have all been compiled following exactly the same specifications. In particular, they consist of argumentative essays written by 4th year university students of an English university department. All students are native speakers of a language other than English and learn English as a foreign language in their home country. Their essays have been written on particular topics given to us by the University of Leuvain and have a certain length, specified by the compilers of the ICLE. Of course, like all corpora nowadays, GRICLE is an electronic corpus.
What?s the use of such a corpus? It enables us to examine errors that Greek learners ? at this advanced level of language proficiency ? make and compare them with those made by learners of different mother tongues who are at a similar level of English language proficiency. In this way, we may understand and interpret the nature of errors: whether they are L1-induced or whether they are universally made and, therefore, non-language specific. This is a very simple and brief way of explaining one of the several uses of learner corpora nowadays.?
Vicky: What are you looking forward to at the conference in Athens?
Dr. Mattheoudakis: I?m looking forward to seeing people I know and meeting people I don?t know. I?m looking forward to hearing new things and to the exchange of both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. I?m sure it will be an exciting event.?Vicky: Thank you very much for this interview! I look forward to seeing you again in March.
Dr. Mattheoudakis: Thank you for inviting me to give this interview. I really enjoyed it and I?m looking forward to seeing you in Athens.
Vicky Loras, Roving reporter for TESOL Greece?