The 13 questions

Well, 2022 is coming to an end. It has been a good year but it’s also been unusual in many ways. And as I think it’s always useful to pause and reflect, I’ve decided to ask myself the following 13 questions, which I had come across on Melli O’Brien‘s FB page.

1.    What was the best decision you made? Not to quit blogging. I’ve learned that you don’t always have to irrecoverably say goodbye to things in your life. Just hit the metaphorical pause button and resume whenever you feel the need to. 

2.    How are you different from a year ago? I am different in many ways. At some point in 2022, my ego was shattered to pieces and I had to put them back together again. This, I believe, made me a bit stronger. 

3.    What have you learned from the hard times? Let go of things but don’t burn bridges completely. Instead, burn what’s useless in you and go on. 

4.    What did you enjoy the most this year? I enjoyed being in the classroom full-time again and travelling a bit. 

5.    What are you most proud of this year? I’m proud of my ability to trip over, fall and get up again without doing too much harm to myself or the people around me. 

6.    What did you learn about yourself? I learned that listening to friends who can be brutally honest can be very helpful but, on the other hand, appreciating those who quietly and compassionately support me through my struggles without interfering is equally valuable. 

7.    What energised you? What drained you? Travelling to places I had never been before and meeting new friends energized me a great deal. Having to handle the egoic conditioning of my mind and some of my destructive thoughts robbed me of a lot of my energy supplies. 

8.    What advice would you have given to your last-year self if you could go back and start the year again? Accept things as they are. Change what you can and let go of the rest. Sometimes things will look after themselves. Also, remember that not everybody feels the same way you do so listen and observe patiently and do not jump to conclusions – you’ll finally come to understand the other person’s point of view. 

9.    What matters most to you in the next year? My inner peace. 

10.  What are you going to continue doing? Shedding light on some of the most vulnerable and fragile aspects of my personality. 

11.  What do you want to change completely? The way I perceive reality. Fewer assumptions, and/or (unrealistic) expectations. I’d like to become more patient, too. 

12.  How do you intend to be different at the end of next year? I want to become someone who focuses on the present moment and makes the most out of it. I’d like to be someone who appreciates the little things they have and happily welcomes the ones that are about to come.  

13.  What is your highest intention for the next year? To stay calm in difficult situations. 

PS.: I believe that this can also be a very good classroom activity. I’m definitely going to try it out with my older students. 😉 


AI in the classroom?

If you happen to follow Philip Kerr’s blog, you will know that he has recently published this post called AI and Teacher Training where he talks about ChatGPT. In short, ChatGPT is a new AI chatbot that is trained using machine-learning algorithms and can understand open-ended queries. Not only does it comprehend orders, but it also understands the language – even Czech (my native language).

Well, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I, as an English teacher, find this tool truly fascinating. Not only can ChatGPT answer questions, but it can also write essays. This could come in handy in many situations in the classroom. For example, we can use the tool to train our students to give detailed answers when answering questions during exams. Also, ChatGPT could be used as a research tool for the students to find suitable material for their essays and presentations. And finally, it may be very useful for the teachers themselves if, for instance, they need another source to prepare for their lectures, conferences, webinars, etc.

What I also like about ChatGPT is that it remembers what the user said earlier in the conversation but most importantly, it is trained to decline inappropriate requests, so it should be relatively safe in the classroom.

Plus, it can definitely be fun to use. Alternatively, you can teach students how to diplomatically avoid answering odd questions, how to be polite when answering sensitive questions, etc. Here’s an example.

I’m not saying that this is something you can’t do with a simple Google search, but the fact that you can actually see the bot typing the answers in real time, so to speak, is fascinating indeed. Also, if you type How old am I into the Google search box, you’ll never get a genuine-like answer, such as the one from the bot. Well, I admit it may even appear scary to some, especially if you’re a fan of sci-fi movies related to the topic of AI. 🙂

One way or another, we should be careful and warn our students about ChatGPT’s limitations. Some argue that the biggest problem with ChatGPT is it often fails at accuracy. It sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers. Users have discovered that ChatGPT makes up historical and biographical data. Also, it can generate discriminatory results. So, we teachers need to constantly encourage our students to verify their search results. This, in fact, can be a useful skill to learn and practise anyway. Our students should be aware of the fact that these days, they should not trust anything they come across on the internet unless they check different sources and look at the information from various angles.

All in all, if nothing else, ChatGPT can be a great tool for students to practise asking good questions. I’m deliberately not saying ‘correct’ questions because the bot will provide answers to wrongly formed questions as well, which may not detrimental after all, especially if our aim is to focus on the content and some sort of ‘communication’ instead of grammatical accuracy.

Anyway, below are some of the questions I asked when I first played with ChatGPT and the answers I received. You can see for yourselves how useful or ‘accurate’ they are. 😉

What is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is a question that has puzzled people for centuries, and there are many different answers to this question depending on one’s beliefs, values, and personal experiences. Some people believe that the meaning of life is to seek happiness, fulfilment, or purpose, while others believe that the meaning of life is subjective and can vary from person to person. Others may believe that the meaning of life is to serve a higher power or to contribute to the greater good of society. Ultimately, the meaning of life is a deeply personal and philosophical question, and the answer will likely be different for everyone.

What is love?

Love is a complex mix of emotions, behaviours, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person. It can also include deep romantic or sexual attraction. Love can be experienced in many different forms, such as the love between family members, friends, and romantic partners. It can also be described as an action or a choice to care for and support another person. Some people believe that love is an important part of a happy and fulfilling life and that it is a fundamental human need. Others may view love as a mysterious or elusive concept. Ultimately, the meaning and experience of love can vary greatly from person to person.

Is there life after death?

The concept of life after death is a belief that has been held by many different cultures and belief systems throughout history. Some people believe that the soul or spirit lives on after the body dies, while others do not believe in an afterlife. There is no scientific evidence that proves or disproves the existence of an afterlife, and it is ultimately a matter of belief and faith. Beliefs about the afterlife can vary greatly from person to person and can be influenced by cultural, religious, and personal experiences. It is important to respect the beliefs of others and to recognize that people have the right to hold their own beliefs and opinions on this topic.