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“Hot Spot” Interview — Report From Greece

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I recently began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.

Today, Elinda Gjondedaj from Greece has agreed to answer a few questions:

Can you tell us what led you to becoming an English teacher and where do you teach?

I remember my self from a very young age dreaming to become a teacher as I love kids and love to be around them. When I started to learn English I realized that the English language was just another love. As a matter of fact, I combined my love for kids and English. So, I had my Certificate of Proficiency in English and currently I am on the 4th year of studies in the faculty of English Language and Literature of University of Athens.

I teach in a private institution to young children (age: 8-12) who have their first steps in English language. I also have private lessons (1:1 lessons) to various levels. I am also making a research on how the new technologies can be engaged in the English classroom and I am making some workshops in the University of Athens to colleagues on this topic.

I read a lot about economic problems in Greece and lots of protests. Can you give us an overview of what has caused those problems and what is happening now?

Greece is facing many serious problems at the time being. The country’s debts are so high that the government is obliged to cut down many public expenditures from the salaries, educational domain, the health domain etc and to increase the taxes. As a consequence, the living conditions are becoming unbearable with lower wages and higher taxes and prices. Not to mention the unemployment rates that go higher and higher. As we say here in Greece, every family nowadays has its unemployed member.

What caused these problems? It’s difficult to say. Many people say that these problems have been accumulated in the last 35 years from the time that dictatorship changed to democracy. Of course, I am not supporting that democracy has brought the problems. The people who governed might have made wrong decisions. As it is reported, in this period of time, a large amount of money was used in inexplicable ways and the country was receiving loans from abroad.

Another reason that may caused the the current ‘maze’ is the common European currency, the Euro. From 2001 Greece shares a common unit with Europe. The problem is that the exchange from the previous unit,drachma, to euro was made in an unequal way. For example bare in mind that 500 DR = 1.5 E. If something previously cost 500 DR now it costs 2E or even more. So there is an unequal exchange against the consumers.

The Greeks were not aware of the economical situation and debts until recently that we joined the International Monetary Fund and suddenly money were cut down from their salaries and people started to lose their jobs. People are currently really disappointed with the political parties and the politicians. They are considered to be guilty for the economical situation as they were hiding for years the economical deficit from the population. Today, Greeks are protesting outside the parliament every day asking for better living conditions. What is commendable in these protests is that the protesters are not members of political parties,they protest in peace without violent episodes and they are common people who ask for what is deprived from them.

How have these economic issues affected you and your students?

I believe that the impact of this economical crisis is mainly psychological. I can see many depressed people. The younger children do not understand the situation due to their youth but the teenagers seem to be very skeptical. I feel that they are deprived of their dreams and youth. We force them (teachers and parents) to learn more, to engage with more activities in order to get a decent job. For instance, a 17 year old student should have a Certificate of Proficiency in English and in another foreign language and should be ready to take the exams to enter the university. But in spite of this huge effort of having excellent qualifications, the labor market is narrowing down and these kids face great difficulties in finding a job. As a matter of fact, I can see 16-17 year old students really unmotivated to chase their dreams, to be creative.

As far I am concerned, I am afraid of the future. I believe that at this chronological moment, many people fear of unemployment. Nevertheless, I am not losing hope and I always try to show to my close people and students that they should value other things in life than money.

What do you predict will happen in Greece over the next few years?

I cannot make a prediction. The things are so unstable here and the debts are huge. However, I wish the best for my country.

Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

I don’t think so. Thank you Larry for your questions. I am very honored.

Thanks, Elinda!

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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