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April 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

Human Stories

Dr Carol Griffiths has been a teacher, manager and teacher trainer of ELT for many years. She has taught in many places around the world, including New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, China, North Korea, Turkey and UK. She is currently working at Girne American University in North Cyprus. She has also presented at numerous conferences and published widely, including her books Lessons from Good Language Learners, Developing Teacher Autonomy through Action Research, The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning and Individual Differences in Successful Language Learning . Individual differences, teacher education and support, English as a medium of instruction, English as a lingua franca, action research, and using literature to teach language are her major areas of research interest. Email:,



The stories included here were written by a class of Asian students studying summer school at a university in the UK and hoping to gain acceptance into the course of their choice. Although the course focused on their academic needs, one weekend I asked them to write a human story (e.g. about themselves, their friends, their families) if they wanted to do so. The following stories are a few of the ones they wrote. All of these students gave written permission for their stories to be published. For the sake of privacy, I include only their given names.


Her - Ataru

When I was in the first year of my university, I met her. She is at a different university, and one year older than me; however, we were members of a film festival which invites films that are taken by students from all over the world. My first impression of her was that she is very easy-going.

Later we met again. I heard she went to study abroad by taking a year off her university. I was very interested to do it, but I thought I could not go to study abroad as an exchange student of my university. I worried because I thought there are risks, for example lateness to graduate is a disadvantage when I try to get a job or it gives a negative impression.

Then I thought I needed to talk to her and ask her for advice. She explained very clearly the merits and demerits and what she felt through her experience. This advice totally influenced me. I thought: “I am absurd, why did I worry about such a tiny problem”.

What is more, she has influenced me about LGBT: she is a bisexual. At first, when I heard it, I was surprised. I did not judge her but I was surprised. Up to that time I had never imagined that people who are LGBT are around me. I had been interested in their problems and wanted to support them. However, I had never met these people, so I felt it was a problem out of my world. She said she hesitates to tell people about it. Probably, most people who are LGBT feel as she felt. She expanded my world about quite a few things. I want to be like her, to be kind and helpful, and to make friends’ lives better. 


My father - Hyeokchan

My father was born into a Korean farming family in 1946, the following year after Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule (1945). He lived in Jangdan county which is the territory of North Korea, and we can see the area in the ‘Unification Observatory’ that is one of the Korean attractions near Panmunjom where the summit talks between South and North Korean leaders were held on 27th of April, 2018.

He took refuge in Munsan, south of his hometown in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. He had a big family - his father and mother, 4 brothers and 3 sisters. Most Korean people were absolutely poor at that time due to the widespread devastation caused by the war. He was in the same situation. So he started to work hard when he was young to support his family with diligence, sincerity and responsibility. 

I have several good childhood memories with him. He had run a construction company for a long time. He was really busy with his work and often used to go on many business trips everywhere in my country. So when I was young, I did not see him often. But whenever he stayed and took a rest at home, he tried to play with my brother and me. 
He was skilled at making stuff. One day in the evening at dinner in winter when I was 6 years old, I told him that I wanted to ride a sled in my neighborhood. The next day, he brought some wood and wire and made two sleds for his two boys. And he likes climbing mountains. When I was 20 years old, he, my brother and I went to Jiri mountain for three days. It is about 1,000m high and the third biggest mountain in my country. It has wonderful and magnificent scenery but rugged terrain. I had a hard time climbing up, but it was excellent experience.  
My father is my teacher and strong supporter. After I became a father of a boy, I understood his life and what he told me better than before I got married. I hope that he will stay healthy and stay with my family for a long time.


My grandfather and the pigeons - Chihiro

I admire my grandfather. He is my grandfather on my father’s side. I live together with my family and grandparents. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather.  His personality is generous, tender, kind, active, humorous, and funny. Additionally, he has huge knowledge about everything and he loves animals. 

When he was a young, he had lots of birds in his home. One day when he was 60 years old, a pigeon which was injured lay on our balcony. He and his wife found it and they took it to the animal hospital, and he took care of it. Gradually, he developed deep affection for it and he remembered his childhood memories about birds. That’s why he decided to keep the pigeon in our home. The pigeon got better. A few weeks later, he bought two pigeons in the bird shop because he thought it needs a friend. Suddenly, there was a big pigeon house in our balcony. As time went by, the pigeons were increasing because they had babies, and I realized there were more than 100 pigeons in the pigeon house. He was retired from his job, and he could use his whole time for his hobby. He could make lots of friends who love pigeons like himself. He started to join pigeon races and he got good praise. He is really active and powerful.

I have been influenced by my grandfather.  I also became an animal lover. When I was an elementary school student, he gave me a squirrel as my birthday present because I really wanted to have it. I had lots of animals in my home: it was like a small pet shop.  I used to have a squirrel, a hamster, a guinea pig, tropical fish, beetles, birds, and two dogs. Thanks to him I was able to love animals. I have lots of special memories with my lovely pets. My dream was to be a zoo keeper. My childhood was surrounded by lots of animals. 

My grandfather has huge power of activity. He is enjoying his life at the maximum. I admire my grandfather, and I want to be like him.


My friend - Mizuho

One day, when I was 11 years old, a girl said to me: “Are you Mizuho?”

The girl’s name is Megumi, and she became my best friend in my life. We have been friends for many years. She and I were at the same kindergarten and we have been friends from then. We went to the cram school together to do the junior high school examination, and we entered the same junior high school and high school.

We both belonged to the tennis club for six years. She is really kind to everyone and very active. She took me to many places. I tried to do everything under her influence. She changed me. She likes western music and history, and I like them too.

She had wanted to go studying abroad since she was a high school student. I wanted to go too, but I had never gone to other countries and had not been alone, so I was scared. And then she and I entered the same university. When she decided to go studying abroad, she said to me “Let’s do our best together”. When I heard the words from her I wanted to do my best from the bottom of my heart for the first time. I decided to go to England, so that I could spend wonderful days and have a good experience.

She is in Canada now, and goes to the university of British Columbia. We are in a different place, but we often call and talk to each other, for example, about our life and our friends. If she hadn’t called out to me at that time, I would not be here now. I want to say thanks a lot to her. Since she is doing her best, she inspires me to do my best too. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again when we are back in Japan.


My Grand Mother - Yui

When I was 11 years old, I met my grandmother for the first time. She was on bad terms with my father and she lived far away from our house. When I first met her, I was very confused and nervous, because I thought that I had only one grandmother who is my mother’s mother.  Even now, I cannot forget that I was not able to talk to her about anything.

She had already had a serious illness, but I did not know it. The reason is that, she looked always cheerful and happy, and she never lost her smiles in front of us. Therefore, I did not think she was sick and she would not live for a long time.

My grandmother was an affectionate and compassionate person. When I participated in a piano contest, I could not get a good prize. I did not show that video to her, but it was shown to her by my mother. My grandmother considerably praised me. In addition, she always told me “You are my princess”. Now that I think about it, she had watched over me.

However, I was awfully selfish and rebellious at the time. I wanted to play with my friend or go driving somewhere with my parents, but it was not possible, because we were going to her hospital every weekend. Then, it was an obstacle for me, so I thought I didn’t want to go to her.

One day, I was taken to her hospital by my parents like always. Also, she was fine today as usual. However, I was in an extremely bad mood because I was getting angry with my mother. She told me: “You are my princess” as usual, but that was frustrating for me at the time.  I told my mother that I do not want to go to her hospital and I do not like her.

Two days later, she passed away peacefully, she was 71 years old.  When I heard it, I could not go to her. I have not sorted out my feelings yet. I went to the funeral service to see her for the last time. I thought she died because I said that I do not like her.  I have permanently blamed myself. 

I have regretted it for a long time. I apologised to her again and again. However, I cannot get rid of the word at the time and I think I cannot forget it until I die.  If I am able to meet her again, I want to apologise to her. If I had not said those words, she would have still lived.


Please check the Creating a Motivating Environment course at Pilgrims website.

Tagged  Voices 
  • Human Stories
    Carol Griffiths, New Zealand

  • Remote Teaching, a Brave New World, and an Amber Restorative
    Terence McLean, Canada

  • Teachers Don’t Only Teach! Reflections on Teaching a SEN Student
    Mohammad Hosam Alnahas, Qatar