M is for Mark

“… teachers  really care about they are doing. ….. Teachers are trusted.”

” Quality in many different ways.”

“… what is important is being open and flexible. ”

“… learning through progressive inquiry..”


Thank you Mark for your time to talk about education in Finland, education management, and this global program for change!


You can follow Mark @macurcher or find out more about  21st Century Educators


Stories are Meant to be Told

Mind Mirrors started off as a small project, giving voice to agents of change, regardless of field or study. With professional commitments stretching me out, this space has been through a silence phase. However, it is Spring and so another entry is coming to open up reflections and possible discussions.

As an educator, I have worked in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Packing, unpacking, adapting, re-adapting is an essential part of my life. Over the years, I have met many other professionals, who like me, whether growing up in different environments or working in foreign countries, have shared many of their wonderful stories with me.

My next visitor is an example of how one learns, adapts, re-adapts to changes – both in landscapes and educational management. With a vision to share and stories to tell, Mark Curcher is an exceptional case of talent, inspiration and vision.

Currently, Mark is the Director for 21st Century Educators – A Passion for Learning , an educational program offered by TAMK, in Finland.

As an educator and educational leader, Mark also has much to share as someone who has travelled the world in pursuit of the best practices for educational change.

Let me offer you a taster:

What if by Mark Curcher

From lands of sand and sun, Mark now lives in a land of trees and never ending Summer days. Join us here as we find out more about what it takes to be a successful expat, global educator and educational innovator.

Because, after all, stories are meant to be told.

THE STAVES WINTER TREES from Karni and Saul on Vimeo.



Towards the Future

I carry the past, present, future, with me.

There is no present without past, no future without breathing the present. With every step, every breathe, every sunrise, I face the future.

And find myself on the blade where all pasts, presents and futures intertwine. In silence.

For there is no need to disturb the order of the universe when all moves forward in harmony.

Tony Gurr is  a professional who faces the future, bearing in mind past and present. Tony is a seasoned teacher, trainer, consultant, writer, keynote speaker – and as he himself, defines it, a  LEARNer.

qualified teacher with a wide range of experiences in ELT, EAP, ESP and business / workforce training, he is also a trained Instructional Skills Facilitator (both ISW and FSW). He has worked with a wide range of disciplines and academics on improving classroom learning and teaching in the UK, Middle East, the US, Australia and Turkey.

Tony is also an experienced educational managertrained coach, and leadership mentor and has supported the learning and growth of a wide range of teacher leaders, supervisors and educational planning teams. He has worked on a series of major learning and teaching transformation initiatives, managed innovative curriculum and assessment renewal projects, and led a range of quality and institutional effectiveness programmes in Dubai and across the Gulf. He has also collaborated with a number of innovative US colleges and Australian educational providers on a wide range of workforce development programmes and capacity-building partnerships.

He draws on his wide range of practical, ‘hands-on’ experience in schools, colleges and higher education institutions and is most often described as a ‘thinking doer’ who really loves learning,  change and  improvement – and helping others ‘do more’ with what they know. He is currently based in Ankara and heads up Momentum Learning Solutions – as its lead consultant and CLO (Chief Learning Officer).

Tony is married (to a Turkish national) and has one daughter (currently at university in London). He is an avid blogger and his blog – allthingslearning – is popular with educators, trainers, curriculum and assessment specialists and educational managers (as well as his mother-in-law).

Join us here as Tony candidly reflects on training teachers today, issues which arise in teacher training and gives us a peek review of his forth-coming book.

Ice to Fire

Long, long time ago there was a world of white. A world of burning ice,  each drifting snowflake holding the promise of a story, the scent of adventure, the delicate delight of perfection. My world was simple, predictable; each season showing off its royal colours and social motions. Hockey in winter, baseball in summer. Spicy pumpkin pies in autumn, bright, head-turning tulips in spring.

 Long, long times ago.

Storylines are not always simple to explain to others. Where does one begin? And why not go further back, reaching out  in time, digging into roots, roots of myths and mysteries,  roots of fire and ice,  criss-crossing the lines of passage and transformation?

My world has been molded by ice and fire. From Northern winter landscapes, criss-crossing Southern savanas and Eastern seas, a world speckled with stories and passages of rite.

So, where does one begin?

And what difference will it all make?

The flame no longer burns me. The flame no longer eludes me.

For I have become all that I have seen and been. Fire, ice, sand and sea. All are me. A criss-cross balance of seascapes, seasons of change, fragile frontiers of blended worlds.

My next guest share similar stories to mine. My next guest comes from a land of  ice and stretching winter whites.

Join me here as James Buckingham reflects on changes in education and specific implications for the field of English Language Teaching.

James describes himself to most people as an Ed Tech Specialist and eclectic student with a voracious appetite for learning that’s well fed by the internet. Jim has post graduate degrees in both Education Technology and Adult Education. However his more important personal story has led him to being bashed and bruised in ice hockey, becoming an avid listener of classical music, relishing the challenges of understanding contemporary art, meditating before the birds and sun have arisen, and welcoming the various tastes from kitchens around the world. He continues to add to the list by choosing to travel down narrow dusty roads rather than paved ones.







The above Wordle was made with extracts from Why You Need to Use Storytelling for Learning

C is for Cherry

Although we may be living in the connected age, the act of connecting is filled with tenuous dilemmas and delicate setbacks. In the case of Cherry Mathew Philipose and our interview, we spent a whole morning trying and re-trying to connect. We did succeed, however because either the sound or image transmission failed us, I have decided to share a transcript of our talk. Should time and technology permit, later I will include a possible audio by Cherry.

Cherry Mathew Philopose, a young voice with much to share in the educational world, has travelled in a different direction than so many others. Coming from Kerala, Cherry has been teaching and training in Myanmar. What follows is his perspective of change and difference, moving westward in the beautiful Asian continent.

Ana Cristina :  What differences in education culture have you noticed between India and Myanmar?

Cherry Mathew Philipose : India and Myanmar share a common colonial history which in a way has laid the foundation for the education culture in both countries; however in the post-independent days Myanmar (then known as ‘Burma’) broke away from its colonial past quite consciously and banished English education (a grim reminder of the British) from its borders. Lately this policy has undergone revision and English is back in favour.

In India as well as in Myanmar getting education or being educated is considered important. In India education remains the prerogative of its many states whereas in Myanmar the Ministry of Education oversees the education – basic as well as higher education.

The school year in Myanmar annually begins in June and continues till March – something similar to the school calendar in many Indian states including my home state: Kerala, in the south-west of India. However the entire school education system in Myanmar lasts for eleven years with a public matriculation exam as its culminating point. In India, on the other hand, it’s ten years of school education. Then after a public matriculation exam students move on to study two years of higher secondary or pre-collegiate programme with fewer specialised subjects of students’ choice.

Then another major difference is the school uniforms – in Myanmar students as well as their teachers in the basic education stream wear white top and green bottom whereas in India there is neither such common uniform for the schools in the country nor any demand on the teachers to wear any uniform.

The matriculation exam in Myanmar is of great significance especially because the final marks decide the stream the students can pursue later – generally hi-scorers find it easy to get into technical streams (medicine, engineering, maritime related courses) and others find their places in arts and science universities. In India students desiring technical education have to sit for further entrance examinations and there are plenty of examinations to choose from!

The higher education system is also quite different. In Myanmar university teachers are transferred every three years, a practice that is not so widespread in India.

Then there is the uniform for the university teachers which they have to wear on Mondays and Fridays.

The starting point for undergraduate and post-graduate courses is also quite different – the former begins in December every year and the latter in June. In India both these courses begin at the same time – somewhere after June every year.

Then there is this graduation ceremony which is a big event in Myanmar. It is like passing a milestone in one’s personal life and most often people get into a  job soon after their under graduation degree. Apart from professional courses, in India students study further before taking up a job.

In both education cultures teachers hold a very important part in a person’s life; in Myanmar it is many times more and the student gestures to show how much they care and appreciate the work teachers do,  can at times be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Ana Cristina : What are some of the challenges you need to deal with working in the field of education in Myanmar?

Cherry Mathew Philipose : Working in the field of education can be challenging anywhere in the world and Myanmar is not an exception. The foremost challenge anybody might feel is the pace with which things happen over here. Because of the top-down model of governance all papers have to go to the top and come down the same way before anything could happen and sometimes this can take very long time.

Then there is the problem of getting the information – people tend to  withhold it for various reasons and one can find out about a minister’s visit or high delegation visit on a particular morning without any clue of what the agenda is going to be and nobody to help him/her out.

Apart from the administrative challenges at times classrooms can also be quite demanding. Across south East Asia students want the teachers to do all the talk and are ready to do things the teachers would ask them to do rather than taking the initiative and controlling their learning. This is strongly felt when you are an expatriate teacher. However, this does not mean that the students are not intelligent or they do not want to participate in the learning process; instead they are just products of the educational system they grew up with and giving time and being patient can really bring some changes in their attitude and behaviour and I’m saying this out of personal experience. Nothing rewards one more than to see a reluctant learner evolving into an active learner over the period of the course and there are many instances of it happening.

After all teaching is all about transforming and the humane face of it cannot be unplugged from it.

Ana Cristina : What are some of the positive aspects you have experienced and kept with you during this experience?

Cherry Mathew Philopose : Well there are many and it is hard to pick on some (but I’ll try to or else the list would go on and on).

First and foremost there is the people factor – be it your colleagues or students, they are quite warm and friendly and once that knowing-each-other phase is over and they find you ‘safe’ and ‘non-threatening’ then they take you as their own and do all that they could to make you feel at home. The help can come at the most unexpected moments from the least unexpected quarters and none of it is done with any expectation of any reciprocal action which is quite amazing.

Then there is the material factor – how people live without things like good transport or telecommunication or IT facilities (which many who live in the better parts of the world take for granted) and still feel happy and content with what they have got rather than worry about what they don’t.

It has been a ‘rewarding’ learning experience for me in all its senses because looking back I can literally feel how this land and its people have touched my soul and shaped me the way I am at this point in time.

Ana Cristina : How do you see the teaching practices of ELT changing over the next couple of years?

Cherry Mathew Philipose : Well there are lot of changes happening all around the ELT world. First and foremost there is a great sense of community feeling among the people in ELT that is dissolving all distance and space. Teachers are reaping the benefits of it through social media like Twitter, Facebook and Web 2.0 technologies. English language teachers are discovering their voices and making themselves known to the world and there are unique and varied voices heard out there.

Textbook writers, methodologists, publishers, testers, educationists are all coming together more often (as opposed to  the practice of them appearing in conferences or seminars). This is leading to better understanding and collaboration.

Also,  there is this renewed call to view English as something for ‘life’ rather than for ‘exams’. As a result teachers are thinking hard to help English language learners to enjoy using English.

Then, with technology becoming available and affordable to more and more people, teachers are seriously redefining their roles and are thinking what they add to the new paradigm thereby fighting all chances of being a redundant presence.

Lastly, the impact of the rapid changes that are happening around us will be fully felt only with time; but, to know and understand these changes in our field as well as the world at large and keeping up with them is in deed the need of the hour.

Thank you Cherry for your time and sharing your insights!

M is for Matthew

“… language is always hard. ”

” … you have to have a very open mind and take things in stride.”

“You almost have to separate yourself…”

“..real teachers (…) who want to teach.”

Thank you Matt for your time and contribution! Best of luck for your MA studies and future career in education!

Eastern Promise

East, West, North, South. Where does one begin the journey?

Foreign lights beckon me, spices delight me. Rapid rivers entice me, sandy beaches with lazy coconut trees will always seduce me. So where does one begin?

More significantly, how does one make sense of all the directions, all the journeys, all the fading maps and postcards?

Maps. My body is a map of lands I love –  fields I have cycled in,  jungles I have crawled through, rivers I have drafted on, mountains I have looked down from.

The travel is easy. The lights are bright.  Recapturing the journey is more complex. Maps and destinies entwine, fiction blends with memory.

And so I stop and review a map. Just a random map of destiny. What is this thing, this map of destiny? A direction. A desire. Destiny is a mirage one impulsively runs towards, skipping, sliding, gliding.

Destiny awaits, whether one wishes it or not, regardless if prepared or with another preferred destination.  

Come. Come sit by me.

Let us sit by the water for the day is still young. Let us sit and through the weaving of our words, re-shape our destinies, hoping that glimmers of sense shine through all we have been through. Through the maps, the torn postcards, the lost stamps.

What changes does destiny bring us? What voices do the young now have? What will their destinies be?

My next guest is a young teacher from Canada who now lives in Korea.

Matthew Michael is an EFL teacher in Seoul, South Korea. He is currently working towards his Master of Education in Leading and Managing Educational Organisations.  Matt has been teaching for 9 years. He taught in Japan 4 years and has been teaching in Korea for the past 5 years.

He and his wife hope to continue in the field of EFL, but are still trying to determine what role they will play in their future goals.

Home is now Korea. As a Canadian-born professional, this transition has been challenging. Deciding to live permanently in another culture is a life-altering experience and requires particular coping skills that a visitor or expat may not require.

Matt enjoys gaming and curates a successful site on Scoop.it, Everything Gaming. He also loves travelling and watching sports.