Our graduates Corina Florakis, French & Italian (PGDE)

PGDE Modern Languages student Corina Florakis

Tell us a little bit about your background…
I was born in Turin, the birthplace of hot chocolate. At the age of 12 I moved to Aosta, a very small town in the north of Italy, surrounded by the Alps. It is a very small area, but you are surrounded by nature and the mountains are amazing both in summer and in winter.

I went to Trieste (at the opposite side of Italy) for University because I wanted to study languages in a particular university so that I could become a translator and interpreter and I got my bachelor’s degree in Applied Interlinguistic Communication in English, Russian and French. However, for my master’s degree I changed university because I wanted to become a teacher and I needed specific credits that the previous university could not give me, so I went on studying Modern Foreign Languages and Literature.

During my bachelors degree I went to Hull for my Erasmus year and I had the chance to visit Edinburgh… I just fell in love! So, I already knew that after my masters I would move to Scotland to work as a teacher there. However, when I moved, it was already too late to enrol on the teacher training program, so I worked for a year. I did several jobs, I worked as a translator, an admin assistant and I was giving private tuition as well.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
When I was in Italy studying, I was working as a private language tutor and I really loved it, so I wanted to make it my full-time job. Then, there are several other reasons… I loved being in high school, partly because my class was a really fun bunch of people (in Italy you don’t change classmates according to the subject, so your classmates in S1 will be the same for the whole high school years till S5… and partly because my teachers were good. So, I wanted to be one of those good teachers. I’d like my students to finish high school thinking they had a good time, with lots of nice memories… and feeling positive about what they’d experienced. Oh yes, I would also love them to have learnt some Italian and French of course!

Also, learning languages for me has always been so interesting, I have been fascinated by how languages work and develop, so, I wanted to do something that I enjoy and that allowed me to be surrounded by languages. I like thinking I am passing this passion on to my students… I hope they can see it.

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were at school?
Yes, she was my philosophy teacher. I am not sure whether she was my favourite because I loved philosophy, or I loved philosophy because she was my favourite teacher. I think these things go hand by hand. It is difficult to love a subject when you don’t like the teacher and vice versa. I had philosophy in my 3rd year in high school and because we were a very lively class (let’s say “lively” instead of “a challenging, chatty class”) there were other teachers saying “wait till you meet Miss C in third year and you’ll stop all this nonsense!” so other teachers were “using” her to intimidate us… so the first day when she came in the classroom we were frozen, we did not even dare to breathe too loudly! She was great, she was strict but fair. She was always organised and her lessons extremely well prepared. She had all her personal notes colour coded (I had a quick glance at her notebook), all photocopies perfectly piled up. She was teaching philosophy as if she was telling a story and I remember being fascinated by all the philosophers. One day I was thinking “oh but this guy is right!” and then the following day we were learning about a different philosopher who was saying exactly the opposite and I agreed with them too. I wanted to do well in philosophy because I liked the subject but also because I liked her. By doing well, I wanted to show her that I appreciated her.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying the PGDE at Strathclyde?

That’s a difficult question for me. Everyone who is undertaking this course already has a degree so they should know what a University course implies. I’ll probably lack in originality, but I would say you need to be organised. I lived in Edinburgh and I was commuting every day, so organisation was key for me.

I would also suggest not to compare themselves with other students. Every person is different, every person has a different learning style. I always say that “learning is an art”, there a people who might need 3 minutes to learn something and others need 3 hours, but this does not mean that they are better. We also do things differently, but just because a person is commended for what s/he has done it does not mean that what you did was not right. So, listen and observe, if you like what a person has done, use it and adapt it according to your style, but don’t underestimate yourself. If you’re there it is because the tutors at the interview saw a potentially great teacher.

What did you learn during your placements?
I have learnt an awful lot of things…I have learnt what teaching involves but now, after two years in teaching, I can say that also placements are not the “real world” anyway. So, if during a placement you feel teaching is not for you, give yourself a second chance. If you are having a terrible experience, wait before giving up, because the following placement might be completely different!  

Where are you working now?
Now, I am working as an Italian and French teacher in Holyrood Roman Catholic High School in Edinburgh.

What is the best part of your job?
When students run towards you to say good morning even if they don’t have your subject in the timetable for that day or for that part of the day.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I am still at the beginning of my career as a teacher so for the time being, I am focusing on becoming better and better and on improving myself. However, there are some aspects of pupil support that have caught my interest so… who knows maybe in the future I could look into that…”chi vivrà vedrà” we say in Italian.

Any final points, or words of wisdom?
When there are challenging students (and there WILL be!), try to see something of you in them.

And remember, we are all bad in someone’s story. So even if a student makes a negative comment about you or about how you dealt with a situation, it does not mean you were wrong.