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Goodbye 2020

newsletter Dec 31, 2020

It feels like if it was only a couple of months ago that I wrote my last blog entry for 2019. Rereading it again I realise how much things have changed since then. Not only have my friends, family, mentors and students undergone work problems but also health issues and anxieties. Since March we’ve all had to readjust our working routines, reconsider our businesses or even reinvent ourselves completely. For my husband and I the new situation only speeded up the process we had started a couple of years ago: the transition from a physical language school to an online learning centre. And, it has been a bumpy ride so far, mainly because we’ve had to rewire our brains to a different mindset, which is not easy when you’ve been all your working life thinking that you had already found your ideal business model.

Teaching English in a physical academy had started limiting us in many different ways three years before the pandemic, which went hand in hand with my husband’s stroke. As a result, this produced increased exposure to Gothic literature on my behalf and to look back at my dream project: bring some light to what Gothic literature is to Spanish learners. This is how “Talking to the Author” was born. This part of the Gothic project aimed at bringing second language learning and literature closer together to speed up the learning process. Spanish students studying English as a second language are constantly bombarded with too many grammar exercises and poor ways of teaching the language by inexperienced, underqualified and demotivated teachers. That’s why this international project allowed my students to talk to real English speaking authors whose books were read during the course and that also happened to be teachers in their own countries. The project had all the elements students need when learning a second language: contextualised use of the language, active participation with writers, interesting topics and exposure to native speakers from different parts of the world. We worked on The Girl In The Fort (Gothic folklore) by the Irish writer Tracy Fahey and on When The World Ends (sci-fi) by the American writer John Forrest.

Although this was the first taste of the online experience for us and our students, we were still at the beginning of the journey. An organised and safe transition to the online was crucial and the course we were taking at the time didn’t contemplate that most of our physical students were not our online target market. When the pandemic hit us, this became more obvious. Most of our student’s profiles were not the right fit for online courses, no matter how interesting we made our product and how efficiently and quickly they could learn English. Student’s lack of motivation, empathy and curiosity for the language were all of a sudden exposed by the pandemic. One of the aspects I had learnt years ago during my degree was that motivation counts for the 90% of success in any learning. After years of experience teaching English, I realised how much of that was true. I had built my business on what had and hadn’t work for me when I was an English student. That’s what took me to create course materials that we revisited year after year based on our student’s needs. I also trained my teachers accordingly to those principles, but what I had not taken into account was how many students were in my school for the wrong reason: obligation, not motivation.

Finding the right new market was as scary as necessary but it wasn’t until October 2020 that we finally found the mentor that provided us with a course that really matched our profile and needs. Graham Cochrane has been a game changer for us, not only because he gives you the “kick in the pants” you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start implementing the foundations of your online business, but he is also a highly approachable person and caring human being. Even though he lives miles away from us, he always replies to emails and has weekly free material, as well as paid courses and memberships to help you with your very own personal journey. He makes you feel you could invite him for coffee anytime. You can imagine him being that friend that wouldn’t sugar coat your problems to make you feel better but he would actually get his hands dirty for you to help you out. During the last few months he has become a reliable source of inspiration and course creator role model.

Part of this learning process has been creating quality content for my Gothic blog, webpage, YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and my private Facebook group “Gothicise Me”, where some of you come from. These have brought new routines I had to fit in my already busy but not so economically productive teaching schedule, as part of the transition. The same goes for delivering the English language to my groups of kids and teenagers through courses such as “Fantasy Reading and Writing” or “Critical Thinking”. With my adult private students we are working on new ways of learning more effectively. Part of this process involves language awareness and creating a timetable that suits their profile and needs. After a few months they are now in charge of their own learning and in control of their language fears, which fills me with joy.

As you can see my plate is full but I still have one more project I am really excited about and I’m really looking forward to starting next year: “Teaching how to learn English through Gothic Literature”, which I will present in society on 10th January in the online educational project Romancing the Gothic hosted by Dr. Sam Hirst, who is also a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. After the positive experience with the “Talking to the Author” project and the increasing need for other ways of learning the language, we are creating a unique product that brings together language learning, literature and entertainment. The benefits of this cognitive blending are amazing, as research in neuroscience shows, which is why I am even more excited to be pioneering this new learning adventure.

This year, although very difficult in more than one way, has also opened many other doors. Just before the pandemic I got back one of my original academy students, Carol Garcia, who happens to have very similar interests to me when it comes down to entertainment and preferences for the unknown. Thanks to her I was invited to participate regularly in the radio programme “Estudio Oculto” in Radio Penedés hosted by Gema Marcos. There we talk about the topic of the week through the eyes of Gothic Literature. Thanks to this programme I met some very interesting people like Sílvia Hernández, who has also become my guiding spiritual Oracle and from whom I am learning a lot about the world of the ghostly, one of my favourite topics within the Gothic. I also had the chance to be invited to an online Halloween event organised by Marieta Evans who, together with her husband, runs the “Royal Docks History Club” in London. At this point I have to thank writer David Castleton for recommending me to the programme where I had the chance to talk about the role of the ghost from a literary point of view.

As you can see my year has been pretty Gothic, and the truth is that when talking to writers, other teachers and horror fans, we all agree that this is also true for all of them. As a consequence, many believe that this is a great opportunity for all of those who are trying to set up their business around the Gothic. How this is even possible might be out of some people’s logic, but I can assure you that it even has a scientific base. Coltan Scrivner, a Phd student in the Department of Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago, has seen how the levels of anxiety in people exposed to horror during the pandemic has been lower than in those people not exposed to horror. This is what he calls “morbid curiosity” which is something that all human beings share to some extent or other. And because Gothic seems to be everywhere, not just as a tool for entertainment but because it can contribute to keep you mentally stable, I think it’s the best place we can all be for now.

Just to finish off I would like to ask you about your year. Have you felt identified with any of part of my story? And if so which part? How Gothic has your year been? What would you like to learn next year? What are your dreams and hopes for next year? Let me know by sending me an email to: [email protected]

P.S.

2021 comes with new YouTube sections, articles, free downloads, interviews, collaborations, free webinars, memberships and courses, just to mention some. But I will be giving you all the relevant information as I prepare everything. To make sure you don’t miss a thing I recommend you become part of my email list. You can do that by downloading either my free “Brief Introduction to Gothic Literature” or my free “Three short ghost stories script”.

I have recently opened a Ko-fi page where you can also contribute to the project and therefore help me out to produce more content you can enjoy and learn from. 

These are all the links where you can find me, follow me and share me with other people. I would really appreciate if you spread the word.

Happy New Year!

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