My Scholarship Story- Waiting Means More!

Sergio Durand
Winning and postponing
“Good things happen sometimes”, people say. They happen when you try, but they also happen when you have to wait. Let me explain this. I was extremely delighted when I learnt I had won the 2018 Latin America Scholarship to attend the Brighton conference. I had submitted my proposal thinking that it was really hard to win because of the kind of scholarship it was – it is open to every English teacher working in Latin America – but I also thought it was a good try. At the same time, it made me reflect on my teaching practice and its impact on learners. So when I realised I had won, it was pure happiness. I made all my arrangements, IATEFL Head Office was helpful and everything was running smoothly. So good things happen. And sometimes two good things can happen at the same time. During the last months of 2017 and the first of 2018 I went through a recruitment process to get a job in the Mexican National Educational System.
Believe it or not, two weeks before going to Brighton I learnt I was offered the job. It meant a lot to me in terms of opportunities and growth. The bad news, my first day at work should be the same day that the conference in Brighton started. I talked to a couple of people in the Ministry of Education in Mexico but it was bureaucratically impossible to get a permission to skip my first day at work. But good things happen when you try, so I called IATEFL Head Office and explained everything.They were amazing;they told me I could come the year after. “It means we are going to have two Latin American winners for Liverpool,” Maureen – head of the scholarship committee – told me.

Why it was good to wait

Mixed feelings. I was happy for getting an amazing job, frustrated for not going to Brighton and at the same time excited to go to Liverpool. Getting and keeping the scholarship had been hard work so I knew that I had to make the most of it after having so much trouble. So I decided to send a speaker proposal for Liverpool – I hadn’t had to send one to win the scholarship.
I was planning to send my proposal when my SIG – Global Issues – posted a call for speakers for their PCE in Liverpool. It meant getting another shot to get to speak at the conference so I decided to send a proposal as well. I sent two proposals to speak in Liverpool, getting only one spot would have been great. Fortunately enough, I got picked to speak at both, the PCE and the main conference, which is highly unusual. It was then, when I understood why I had to wait and that waiting sometimes means more. If I had been to Brighton, I wouldn’t have had the chance to speak at the conference. I realised that, even if just attending was a fantastic opportunity, getting the chance to have a voice in what is happening in ELT today was even better.
Liverpool 2019
Getting to the conference venue felt as if it was not my first conference as everybody was so friendly. The PCE was thought-provoking and warm at the same time, I felt that I belonged from the very beginning. The insights I got from the other speakers were incredibly helpful, everybody had something remarkable to say. The audience responded well to my talk and I got to chat to very interesting people about it. The mood was both serious and entertaining at the same time. It felt as if a group of friends were talking about serious issues, with a couple of jokes at some points. It definitely differed from the solemnity of other conferences I had attended.
After the PCE, I felt a lot more confident about my talk at the main conference. Again, the audience gave me good feedback and I met amazing people in the ELT community. Teachers and writers from very diverse countries approached me to discuss my talk,and I enjoyed talking about it during the breaks .
I also met colleagues with similar interests. We exchanged emails and have been in touch for future collaborations. I found IATEFL a great place to network and get to know like-minded people .
Conclusions
I definitely think that applying for scholarships is a good idea. It is astounding how this scheme helps passionate teachers from all over the world to attend a fantastic conference and live an unforgettable experience. If you win a scholarship, not only do you get up-to-date with the current trends in ELT, but you also become part of a vibrant community that inspires you to go back home and keep doing your best. I also believe that unsuccessful applicants should not give up . Good things do happen, sometimes and waiting for them means more.

Sergio Durand, 2018 IATEFL Latin America scholarship winner, holds an MA in Humanistic Studies and undergraduate degrees in English and French. He’s been a materials writer, teacher trainer, speaking examiner and exam trainer for more than 10 years. He teaches English at Escuela Normal Veracruzana and lectures English Literature at Universidad Veracruzana.

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If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Reserved Seats and Lonely Coffee Breaks

Mojca Belak

For most members connecting to like-minded professionals and being part of an English teaching community are the two main reasons to join IATEFL. All this is great, and works in a lot of cases. However, meeting new people doesn’t seem to be as easy as it sounds, and many experience problems at professional gatherings because they are lonely and don’t know how to make the first step, because they attend the conference with a colleague and friend and feel safe around them only, or because they are simply a bit clumsy when it comes to social contacts.

The nightmare scenario
It happened again during a conference I’ve been to earlier this year – the room took about thirty people, and five minutes before the start of the next workshop it was half full. I tried to sit on the nearest seat, but the teacher next to it said that she was keeping it for her colleague. Three empty seats in front of it had a cardigan, a jacket and a folder on them, clearly showing that they, too, were occupied. And so it went on and on, until somebody smiled and said, “All right, why don’t you sit here?”, and removed her bag from the seat right next to her. She wasn’t waiting for anybody, but just like an average passenger on a bus or train she wanted to have a bit more space while travelling to new horizons regarding teaching English pronunciation.

Coffee breaks

We are weird creatures, people, and even though teachers claim to like new faces, when it comes to unfamiliar environments, sticking to what is known still seems more reassuring. This is why coffee breaks can be a challenge too, particularly at smaller conferences organised by national teachers’ associations where a newcomer doesn’t know anybody, and all other participants seem to know each other. I remember a conference where I was standing on my own, a cup of coffee in my hand, for the whole break, unable to find a soul to talk to. My name on the badge was foreign all right, but not foreign in the right way to promise a chat with a native speaker of English, a quick refreshing practice in the language we teach. Sadly, it was still too foreign for the teachers of that country to use their mother tongue to talk to me. As a result, they kept their heads together and chatted in their lingo while I beamed smiles all around and drank my coffee alone.

My responsibility
But I can’t blame it all on colleagues who wanted to have a good natter in their mother tongue that I don’t share. The core of the problem was and has always been in me. When I attended my very first IATEFL conference as a young teacher with one-year experience, I didn’t see myself as some kind of a treasure, a source of information about some potentially exotic teaching situation for the predominantly British IATEFL membership who then attended it. I never thought anybody would be interested to hear about my experience. No, I was shy, and almost felt guilty because I was not a native speaker of English. I knew a few teachers from IH Hastings there, because it was through them that I learnt of IATEFL and became a member, but I was aware that I couldn’t cling to them all through the conference, so I was often on my own. Learning like a sponge during sessions, I didn’t want to admit even to myself how very lonely I felt otherwise.
I came back to more conferences and little by little I started getting to know my IATEFL flock, but it was only after I started volunteering that I waved goodbye to conference loneliness. It wasn’t IATEFL that was responsible for it, the change happened in me. I opened up, and could then approach others.
Shyness and low self-esteem may be the reasons why teachers attend conferences in pairs or groups – deep down they may be afraid of feeling lonely and rejected. Attending big conferences like ours, with 3,000 or more delegates from all around the world, could be rather daunting even though help is everywhere, for example in the form of How to sessions and various evening events. Smaller conferences held locally, on the other hand, should be easier to cope with and organisers and particularly delegates from the host country should not leave anybody feel lonely.

Old and new friends
It is true that one of the joys of attending conferences is the prospect of (again) seeing colleagues that may have become friends over the years, or who even met as students. Conferences may offer the only opportunity in the year to meet and catch up. Of course, this pleasant part of our gatherings needs to remain strong and grow, but maybe a little time could also be spent on new faces.
I try to meet at least five new people at every conference. I just start chatting to people who seem lonely during breaks or who sit on their own before the beginning of talks or workshops. “You seem a bit lost,” I said to a young colleague at the Staff Volunteers and Associates’ event in Liverpool earlier this year, and then learned a lot about the situation of English teachers in Iceland and his school. From then we went on and talked about Iceland’s film production, and then to Eyjafjallajökul, the volcano that stopped air traffic back in 2010 by erupting ash. I remember it because it happened right after our Harrogate conference and many delegates couldn’t fly home.
And it was precisely in Harrogate in 2010 that chatting to the colleague sitting next to me at the opening plenary brought me a friend I regularly meet at our conferences and who is not only a lovely person, but also a very good dancer. Without a conscious decision to meet new people, I would not have heard what it is like to teach blind children through story-telling, how it feels to be out of your country and continent for the first time in your life, or how frightening it can be to pass a few bushes on the way to the conference venue if you come from a country where bushes are full of snakes. If I hadn’t started a conversation with an unknown delegate, I would never even think about what it is like to live next door to your school and be constantly observed by your students even during your free time, and I would not have heard the same spring day in Britain described as very nice and warm and as cold and miserable just because the delegates came from Finland and Greece respectively.


Next time
Just like EFL teachers often tend to forget what it is like to learn English and only remember how frustrating it is to be limited to 500 words or less when we ourselves make first steps in another foreign language, regular conference-goers have forgotten what it is like not to meet old friends wherever there’s an ELT event. Similarly, first-time attendees often wrongly think they have little to share and only later learn that everybody is equally important in the tapestry we call IATEFL. And yes, it is true that when approached at a conference or a seminar, some people shy away, refuse to talk or politely move away, but more often than not they do engage in conversation that can lead to new and surprising discoveries.

Mojca Belak is Chair of IATEFL Membership and Marketing Committee and a longstanding IATEFL member.

She teaches English at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, and likes running, trees, the cliffs on the south coast of England and a small tourist resort called Whitstable.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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A few Reflections on Working with Traumatised Teachers

Christopher Graham

    In the ELT community, we’ve created a reasonably effective teacher training structure. The CELTA and Trinity certificates are good introductions and set people on the right track for their first years in the classroom, while the DELTA and Trinity Diploma develop this and provide the tools, techniques and confidence to move forwards. Those who, like me, partly or completely leave the classroom to become involved in teacher development, writing or consultancy gain another collection of skills sets. I used to think that after far too many years in ELT, there were not many challenges that I couldn’t somehow cope with. In my teacher development work, I’m used to people resisting: “I can’t have students working in groups; it’s too noisy; we can’t move the desks; I just need to teach them grammar; what about the exams?” I have answers to many of these concerns. My ideas don’t always work, but I hope I can help teachers think their way around the issues.
I was of course completely wrong in thinking that there were not many things I couldn’t cope with, and this came home to me with considerable force when I started working both in teachers’ home countries and elsewhere on projects with teachers from conflict and post-conflict zones, notably Iraq and Libya. I realise how totally unprepared I was to work with people who had experienced the most appalling traumas.
There are many anecdotes and stories that I could tell, but one that sticks in my mind was from a teacher from Anbar province in Iraq. He was clearly a very sensitive guy and came up to me in a coffee break with a copy of his coursebook. It was a standard western-style coursebook, I can’t remember which one it was. It doesn’t matter. He handed me the book and said, “Have a look at my coursebook”. I took it rather arrogantly, thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know this book” and handed it back to him. I can see his face now, he looked back at me with strong eye contact, though his eyes were somehow dead, somewhere else, “No, really look at it, please”. I looked at it again and noticed how thin it was; something was missing. He took the book back and his eyes locked on mine again as he said, “We have ISIS – I have to tear out all the pages with colour photographs, we had to send all the female students home and all my female colleagues had to leave”. I didn’t know what to say, a visceral moment, a kick in the stomach. It was only a book, but … you’re teachers, you get it. He subsequently went on to tell me other things that had happened to his community that I won’t share in this forum. This incident and several others I’ve experienced recently have made me research and think about working with traumatised teachers.
So let’s think a little about some of the behaviours that I’ve witnessed.
1) A short attention span and a tendency to find it hard to concentrate.
2) A desire to focus on content in a very detailed manner. For example, to worry about where stress falls on a particular word and constantly refer back to the issue.
3) What is best described as a lack of respect towards colleagues.

This is particularly a challenge in train-the-trainer courses where feedback skills are discussed. It’s not uncommon to see one teacher totally demolish a lesson that they’ve just observed from one of their colleagues. In short, aggression. This may be amplified by the undertones of sectarianism that are common in conflict zones.
Time for some definitions, and there are lots of definitions of trauma. This one particularly caught my eye because, while it may not be completely scientific and the English is a little bit ‘off’, it seems to tell it like it is:
‘An overwhelming, life-threatening, terrible and frightening experience which is way out from any other “ordinary” human experience.’ (Source: Refugee Trauma Help).
There is a significant body of research on traumatized children and students, but very little on traumatised teachers so my first port of call was MIND (a UK mental health charity) and this is their definition of post traumatic stress disorder:
‘Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as ‘shell shock’. But it’s not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD.’
Interestingly, the list of PTSD symptoms that MIND list is very similar to my list of behaviours above, with the addition of susceptibility to physical symptoms such as stomach pains or dizziness. Something I’ve seen very often.
So what techniques or approaches can I, a simple teacher educator and not a psychiatrist or psychologist, do in these circumstances? One option, of course, is nothing – just try to carry on regardless – but that goes against the grain of my approach to my work, which I hope is at least a little bit empathetic.
My suggestions:
Don’t be judgemental – take a breath and move on, even if you are shocked or wrong-footed by what you see or hear;
Respect personal time and space. If people are late, drift off topic or seem to lack focus, adjust and adapt your approach;
Create empathy. I do this by discussing my late father’s stories about the Second World war. War happens to us all at some time;
Look out for clues that issues may be pending, such as changes in mood, changes in performance or timekeeping or changes in energy levels and concentration spans.
Sparse advice perhaps, but these are challenging issues.
I’ll finish with this quote from Talib Al Darraji, an English supervisor in Iraq:
“The ongoing stress and anxiety distracted an enormous number of teachers and made them unable to cope with their daily life as teachers in addition to the fact that some schools were turned into military barracks by armed groups or by terrorists.”

This article is dedicated to those colleagues who have been lost or have lost.

Christopher Graham is Director – Academic and Training at Garnet Publishing but wrote this in a personal capacity. He has many years of experience as a teacher educator, author and consultant and has a special interest in working with teachers in and from fragile environments such as Libya, Iraq and Algeria. 

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If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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IATEFL and its environmental impact: how are we doing?

Jon Burton, IATEFL Chief Executive

   The impact that we make on the environment has become, rightly, an increasingly important topic of discussion for us all. Whilst we all clearly have a personal responsibility to make a difference in what some are calling this ‘climate emergency’, so do organisations. Here is IATEFL’s school report!

  Perhaps a good starting point when reviewing how IATEFL can have less of an impact on the environment is our own Head Office. From here we can move on to how we function as a year-round membership association of 4,000 members, and finally take a look at our big flagship event, the annual international conference. In doing this we can hopefully share ideas with other organisations in the same way that we ourselves should, and do, learn from others.

Head Office initiatives
  IATEFL has been addressing its environmental impact in a whole range of ways for many years. At Head Office this includes simple things such as using one communal printer/photocopier for the limited printing we do (rather than individual printers), and old computer equipment is donated to relevant charities. Recycling of paper, boxes, containers and food waste is also undertaken, with our shredded organisational paperwork ending up being used locally as beddings for animals. Our heating is set on timers to ensure it is not wasting energy overnight, at weekends, and in areas of the building and times of the year when heating is not required. Some of our staff members car share into work each day, and this follows through to our expenses policy for staff and volunteers which encourages the use of public transport whenever possible, rather than car usage, when travelling to IATEFL events and meetings. Week to week, and for our committee meetings held at Head Office, we use tea towels, Tupperware pots and plates, cups, glasses and cutlery to avoid disposable and throw-away alternatives. All of these small initiatives, we believe, add up to a larger combined impact.

Association-wide initiatives
   As an association we have significantly reduced the amount of paperwork, forms and letters we print and post to members, and have introduced digital versions of most of our publications for those who prefer that format. This also extends to the percentage of members who now join and renew online, without the need for the printing and sending of paper forms. The printing we still do is on forestry commission assured sustainable paper and using natural (as opposed to synthetic) inks.

  Two current initiatives we are actively investigating are the use of potato starch or sugar cane based wrappers for the postage of membership publications rather than plastic wrap or bonded paper envelopes, and also the use of biodegradable membership cards for those members wishing to continue to receive one. Members not requiring a card will soon be able to opt out and have all their membership information sent only by email. Both of these alternative products are quite new and we are currently testing whether they provide a reliable alternative.

The annual international conference
   Clearly one of the biggest opportunities for us to make a positive impact, but also one of the most challenging, is the annual international conference. Organising an event over five days, with over 3,000 participants, and with a large exhibition and careers fair brings both opportunities and challenges when it comes to our environmental impact. For us, just looking for opportunities to make a difference as they present themselves doesn’t work; environmental impacts need to be an integral consideration throughout each stage of the planning process and in all our dealings with the venue, with suppliers, with exhibitors and of course with our delegates. Here are some of the most significant ways we have been making the conference more environmentally responsible:

  • Recycle bins for delegate badges and programmes, as well as around the venue for all other waste
  • The use of recycled cardboard signage for delegate information where appropriate / possible
  • Reusable cups for delegates, replacing the previous reusable bottles so that they can be used for both hot and cold drinks
  • Water stations at the venue for delegates to refill their own cup or container
  • IATEFL pens made from recycled cardboard
  • Delegate badges without needing clear plastic badge holders
  • The introduction of a shorter ‘App Supplement’ programme, using far less paper, for those who prefer one
  • A PDF version of the conference programme, and a conference app, for those who would rather not have a programme
  • A book swap for delegates
  • Encouraging speakers to share their handouts and PowerPoints online, rather than printing out lots of copies in order to give to delegates
  • Encouraging exhibitors to think and be more environmentally aware, and sharing our environmental objectives with them
  • Having an ‘Eco Sponsor’ to champion delegate engagement on how, they too, can make a difference
  • Delegate bags made of cloth, rather than plastic, which can then be folded up and reused as shopping bags
  • Delegates can print an attendance certificate whilst at the conference, rather than us printing one for each delegate or sending them out afterwards by post

Venues too are making significant changes to how they function in order to be more sustainable. For instance the Liverpool ACC, venue of the 2019 conference, has its own Environmental Task Force dedicated to minimising the venue’s effects on the environment. This includes having a ‘zero to landfill’ status, being partially powered by five wind turbines, about 40% of the water used to flush toilets being rainwater collected on the roof, and high efficiency and motion controlled lighting throughout the venue. These initiatives have enabled the venue to be awarded the ISO14000 international environmental standard in recognition of the sustainability of its events. The venue for next year’s conference, Manchester Central, has also been awarded this standard.Having said all this, there is clearly still an awful lot to do, and there are also some areas which are far more challenging to address. For example,

  • some members continue to prefer or require printed publications, conference programmes and membership cards;
  • the conference continues to be (and to work best as) a face-to-face event which delegates travel to (although we now also have an annual web conference each year too);
  • conference programmes and delegate bags continue to be expected and appreciated by many delegates, and delegate badges are required for the management of the conference. These also provide important opportunities for sponsorship and advertising, which helps pay for the conference and to subsidise the delegate fee;
  • whilst many committee meetings happen online, IATEFL still has a small number of its meetings face-to-face in order to allow greater personal collaboration between key volunteers, and provide important networking opportunities;
  • not everything can become virtual and digital as some members struggle to have a reliable and cost-effective connection to the internet and adequate IT equipment;
  • the provision of online resources and services has its own impact on the environment with the demands of computers and web servers in terms of their power requirements, the natural resources they require, and the heat they generate;
  • there are not currently always ‘eco-friendly’ alternatives to everything we use, and where there are these can sometimes be simply too expensive to be a viable alternative currently.

IATEFL’s trustees have recently made the decision to add an environmental strand to the association’s current strategy in recognition of its significance, and in order to encourage us to continue to investigate, reflect upon, and seek new ways we can reduce our impact on our planet. This ensures such considerations stay at the heart of everything IATEFL does. Along with this is the importance of us continuing to examine and learn from how others are addressing such issues, as well as sharing our own initiatives with others. Finally, as IATEFL is a membership association of English language teaching professionals, we should also encourage members to share how they too are making a difference inside and outside the classroom.

In concluding, our school report should probably say that we are working hard, progressing well, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Such improvement will require commitment and a need to work together.

If you can think of something else we might do, please email your idea to: [email protected] with a subject of ‘Green Idea’. Whilst we won’t be able to respond to each person individually, every suggestion will be recorded and carefully reviewed. Thanks for your help!

Jon Burton, IATEFL Chief Executive

I have been working for IATEFL as Chief Executive for nearly three years, before which I had been a teacher, teacher trainer, quality auditor, director of studies, language school principal and finally the principal of a state further education college. I’ve been lucky enough to have lived and worked in Spain, France and the UK, and to have visited many others on various projects.

 

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Every student is different! Every day is different! That is what makes it fantastic…

Featured member interview with Emma Sarah Muse

Where do you currently work and what is your job role?
I currently work for Centro Servizi Interculturali, a private language school in Italy. I am a young, resourceful and energetic English teacher.

What specific area does your teaching focus on?
My teaching areas are Young Learners, Teens and Adults. I teach both General English and Business English, including in-company lessons and English Language Exams. Sometimes it can be in a public school with a class of 30, or groups of 5 or even an individual lesson. I meet new and interesting people every day. Every student is different. Every day is different. That is what makes it fantastic.

How long have you been working in English language teaching?
I have been working as an English teacher for nearly four years.

What challenges have you faced as a new teacher?
I have faced many challenges as a new teacher. I have had many challenges, such as engaging students in Speaking, helping students with ADHD and dyslexia, organizing the classroom, giving the students realistic materials to use outside the classroom and optimizing classroom time. Every so often, I stop and reflect about my teaching journey, I think about all the struggles and worries I have had and how I dealt with them thanks to all the support  I received.

How have you overcome these challenges?
The first thing I started to do was to search for help and support online. I started to watch webinars, read teaching magazines like Voices, look for books online, like ‘ELT Journal: Year of the young learner’, attend local conferences and training sessions, speak to experienced teachers, and take many teaching courses to be more prepared. I started looking for support from English language teaching professionals so I could really educate myself. I also wanted my students to leave my lessons feeling happy, interested and feeling as if they had accomplished something.

Have your expectations of being a teacher changed since becoming qualified and if so how?
My expectations have completely changed. I had never imagined it to feel so amazing. The satisfaction that you have in some way, big or small, helping students to achieve or overcome a problem is just awesome. The constant support, day after day, encouraging them to continue and to reach for that goal is fantastic. My students push me to develop my teaching methods. That is the feeling that makes me want to continue to grow as a teacher.

What professional development have you got coming up?
I currently have my TEYL & TEFL qualification and other certificates for different courses, but I would like to continue to push myself further. I would like to aim for higher qualifications in the future.

Why did you decide to join IATEFL?
I decided to become an IATEFL member because I was a new teacher and I needed support, understanding lesson planning, creating realistic and engaging active learning. All these things I have learnt with experience and support from IATEFL.

How has IATEFL help shape your career?
IATEFL has given me support in many different ways, from the community of professional ELT teachers and the materials. Confidence is also another important aspect. Now I can manage anything. As a new teacher, I would definitely recommend the webinars, the magazines and the books, as they are all extremely resourceful for any new teacher.

What does being an IATEFL member mean to you?
Being an IATEFL member, I have found a professional family. It means going back to previous webinars or rereading an article that you think may be useful in class. It means feeling relieved that there are other teachers with the same challenges as you. It means asking for help and receiving the best support. It means a great deal to me as I am still learning; knowing there are other new teachers like me with the same support system is fantastic. I am very grateful.

What would be your top three tips for a teacher starting their career?
My first tip would be to join IATEFL; it is a community of ELT teachers all over the world. Being a new teacher can be overwhelming, but with the right support group it is a lot easier.
Second, I would say to be interested. Keep yourself informed, attend local conferences and training sessions, be hungry for information and keep pushing yourself.
My last tip would be to keep calm. You are going to make mistakes, it will be hard but you are going to learn and, in the end, you will be an amazing teacher. It just takes a little bit of time, support and knowledge.

What are your future career goals and how do you think IATEFL can help in achieving this?
My future career goal in the future would be to open my very own English Language School. I am extremely grateful for all the support, advice, and kindness. Thanks to IATEFL, it is possible. Obviously, I am still a new teacher, I am still learning and I will continue to push myself and absorb all the knowledge and information I can to ensure that I am prepared.

Emma Sarah Muse has been teaching since 2016 in a private language school in Italy. She teaches in primary and secondary public schools. She has experience in TEYL. She also teaches Speaking Preparation Courses for students at a local secondary school. For the past 2 years, she has been teaching Business English in companies. She has also started to experience Teacher Training. In her free time, she continues her professional development.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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IATEFL Associates’ Day 2019: A True Example of Synergy

             Every year teacher associations from around the world get together to share experiences, discuss common interests and challenges, and collectively plan different initiatives to take back home and implement considering our varied contexts, as it is an established tradition at the annual IATEFL Conference. In this brief entry, I share my reflections as a FAAPI representative (Argentina) who participated in the IATEFL Associates’ Day in stunning Liverpool.
After a warm and inspiring welcome by IATEFL President Dr Harry Kuchah Kuchah, who particularly welcomed representatives from Cameroon, Ivory Coast and China, we all worked in groups to share experiences and projects around five topics: (1) how to attract new members, (2) sustaining membership numbers, (3) inter-institutional relations, (4) budget management, and (5) how to carry out actions which are inherent to the associations’ missions.

As a FAAPI representative, I worked with colleagues from China, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Ivory Coast.
As we worked in groups, I could sense a healthy and empowering sense of collegiality and grassroots forward-thinking. It was refreshing and enlightening to hear stories from so many different contexts and realities and yet make connections and find common threads and ways in which joint projects could be set up. The group work activity was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the value, benefits, and challenges of voluntary work for the common good and for the strengthening of the learning professional communities we help create. It was a moment of reflection on the need to incorporate new members and let other colleagues take on more leading roles.
The meeting included associates’ presentations through which we learnt about other teacher associations’ undertakings, plans, and policies. As I was sitting there listening to my colleagues talk about their associations so passionately, I thought about this meeting as a powerhouse.

The Associate’s Day housed so much energy, so many stories, and such enriching voices that I could not avoid thinking about how collaboration can lead to synergy, which in turn, can be translated into sustainable actions for knowledge democracy and flow across associations.

Darío Luis Banegas
[email protected]
FAAPI

Darío Luis Banegas is a teacher educator and curriculum developer with the Ministerio de Educación del Chubut (Argentina), an associate fellow with the University of Warwick, and an active member of FAAPI and APIZALS in Argentina. He is also co-editor of the ELT Research newsletter published by the IATEFL Research SIG.

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IATEFL 2019 :New Horizons & New Perspectives

Andreza Lago



  After nine years since my last IATEFL conference in Harrogate, I was glad to see that many changes have happened in the Conference. New SIGS have been set up, new scholarships have been offered and even online streaming sessions for the ones who could not attend the Conference have been made available.
This year was even more special to me as I was the LT123 Brazil State Sector scholarship winner and was able to give a presentation about my teaching practice in rural areas in the Amazon and share a little bit of what it is like to teach English to minorities.
To me,my presentation was the main area of focus at the conference just because it is a great accomplishment in a teacher’s professional life as I had the opportunity to listen and talk to other teachers from around the globe.Being able to share experiences and learn from successful stories are the greatest souvenirs teachers can take home and pass on to their teaching communities of practice.
As to the presentations in general, I can say that a lot has been said about diversity and inclusion, teacher empowerment and the importance of soft skills. Below are some highlights about the topics:

Teacher Empowerment
Since the very first plenary with Paula Rebolledo, we had the opportunity to see what teacher empowerment really is and that we, teachers, are the real ELT experts because we are the ones who struggle daily to teach our classes, to help students with learning problems, to conduct teacher research – although what we do may not be considered to be research by some experts – etc.
Paula also mentions, according to her research, that teachers’ empowerment is most circumscribed to their classrooms. But it should not be like that because empowerment encompasses many other aspects and it should not only involve the classrooms. Teacher empowerment should start with democratic decision-making about what to teach and how to do it. As a consequence, taking the risks of making those democratic decisions. Fighting for better working conditions and joining a Union or even creating one are other ways of empowerment. Last but not least, finding alternatives for teacher development such as engaging in teacher research is a way to allow teachers to look at their own way of teaching, to understand it and theorize about it as well as to inform the field about what goes on in real classrooms.

Diversity and Inclusion
Another topic that was highly mentioned was diversity and inclusion. Not only about learners with special needs but also gender and sexuality identities, seniors and other minority groups.
I can also say that I somehow touched the subject during my talk when I mentioned the indigenous groups I teach and the approach I use in the classroom.
Katherine Bilborough in the closing plenary mentioned that learners in general, but children in special, should be able to see themselves and the way their families are formed in the coursebooks. She emphasized that a lot more has to be done and that it has to be done quickly.
Another informative plenary speech about inclusive education was made by John Gray who mentioned that although teachers have an important role in LGBT inclusion in the classroom, in most countries according to UNESCO they lack adequate training and resources to help them understand and address sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and more specifically homophobic and transphobic violence. He also pointed out that a curriculum that allows proliferation of identification and LGBT representation is necessary.
As a way to address the issue, John suggests three inclusive education approaches that can be used by the teachers to raise awareness about LGBT erasure in the classroom; they are the counseling approach (focus on equality discourse and positive LGBT representation) controversies approach (discrimination against LGBT people aiming at developing awareness of rights and social justice), and discourse inquiry approach (engage with discourses of heteronormativity – framing questions and problem posing on every day heteronormativity).

Soft Skills
In the pre-conference day, I participated in the Business English and Teacher Educational and Training SIGs event and the topics were all related to Soft Skills.
As we all know, the demand for skills has changed over the years. Nowadays, we do not teach only grammar and vocabulary to our learners. The need to prepare them for the workplace and for life has emerged and dealing with soft skills, 21 century skills, also known as life skills has been made essential.
The soft skills that should be integrated in our classroom and that were mentioned in the PCE sessions were creative and critical thinking, learning to learn, communication, collaboration and social responsibilities. Those are the skills that will be needed to help learners to communicate better and to be prepared for the different future careers.

After all, being able to participate in such important event and be part of IATEFL is a great opportunity for teachers to engage in teacher development, to get to know different teaching contexts and get inspired by learning with peers from all over the world.

Andreza Lago (Pic © Syke A K )

Andreza Lago, This year’s LT123 Brazil State Sector Scholarship winner ,holds an MA in TEFL. She is a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. She has been in ELT for over 20 years. She is the author of “Tasks that work” and “Jogos Divertidos para a sua aula de inglês Vol 1 and Vol 2.

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Group Cohesiveness and Engagement in Mobile Learning Environments

Raquel Ribeiro dos Santos

                    A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a system for delivering learning materials to students via the web or apps. My main focus here includes student collaboration and communication by using their mobile phones. VLEs can support students’ learning during lessons and outside the classroom.

The vast majority of our students currently are from the Generation C. Words that define this generation are:
Computer > Cell
Connected > Communicating > Collaboration
Culture > Challenge > Customizing > Coolness factor
Creating > Content
Gen C is a term to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection and community.

The VLE apps can provide them with the opportunity of being themselves within an education context.

Why should teachers consider using the apps Edmodo and Google Classroom with students.?
Both apps, Edmodo and Google Classroom have similar principles that enable group work:
Sharing posts, commenting threads, replying, attaching media, scheduling activities, notification to the group members, profile photo customization , teacher control over all students’ actions by direct notification, full integration with Google Drive and the possibility of editing or erasing content.

Individual characteristics
Edmodo has the ‘like’ feature and allows students to send the direct messages to the teacher only.
Google Classroom brings more customization possibilities of themes and a unique time-saving feature called ‘reuse post’ where teacher can very easily track a past message or assignment and tailor that to be used with other groups.
The first thing to do to get started is to create a group in either app and share the class code with the group so the students can join in.

  • During my classes I share the following content and activities with my students:
  • Guidance for discussion
  • Sites for research
  • We first research and talk about the findings in small groups and then I encourage students to share key points and new words they have learned in the comments of the message (very useful warm up and a good way to keep late comers of absentees in the loop of what is happening)
  • Digital material such as PDFs or Photos (Group A, Group B prompts) I have totally gone green because I simply don’t print handouts anymore
  • Students can share their collaboration to class (e.g.: film posters for conversation) instead of teacher preparing time-consuming slides all the time
  • Board game for conversation
  • Infographics

I encourage the steady use of VLE, what I mean is that it must be made on a regular basis so that the students trust it and understand this is part of their course.
I teach my groups twice a week and that’s how often I post.
I also see a possibility to engage with students beyond the classroom themes, when there’s a pressing matter or to share some motivation or interesting piece of news so that they get informed about current affairs in English

Advantages that generate engagement

I have noticed that absentees (for whatever reason) understand they can follow and take part of the classes even when far away.
This approach enables teacher along with students to co-create an accurate register that can greatly help the group catch up and revise for tests. Also, students feel proud of their registered contribution.They can see the evolution of what they have learnt throughout the course, and this perception leads to a perceived sense of progress
As a teacher, this helps me keep track of each group in a very practical way, using different devices, especially via mobile phone.
I no longer carry students’ papers around, as they hand over their writing tasks using the app.
VLEs have enabled me to improve my organization as a teacher and therefore maximize the productivity of my working time.
I am closer to my students even when it’s not a class day (if I want to) and using a VLE preserves my personal data such as phone number and e-mail and it’s a professional but friendly environment.
The videos and infographics used in my talks can be accessed here by typing the code
goo.gl/xUqDDj in your browser.

[email protected]

‘Reference’
Thinkwithgoogle _ Meet Generation C: The YouTube generation
https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/meet-gen-c-youtube-generation-in-own-words/

Raquel Ribeiro 

 is passionate about the potential technology has to enhance the learning and to promote inclusion of blind and visually impaired students. She’s an EFL teacher and e-learning contributor at Cultura Inglesa Sao Paulo, Brazil.She’s a Google Innovator, EdTech blogger and lecturer and the current Manager of social media,IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG.

Follow her work at the Instagram account
Informed_Teachers_blog
 
 

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Creating an effective worksheet: the 2 golden rules of reflection


Adam John Simpson

There are so many things to consider when making our own materials for our classes. The physical appearance of our material is important, as are our instructions. What’s more, we should also think about the importance of context, as well as incorporating learner training into our worksheets. Nevertheless, when I reflect on the success of any materials I make, I can often boil down the process of making a great worksheet to the following two-stage reflection process. Using these guiding questions, I believe you will be able to create a worksheet that does more than simply fill time in class or merely consolidate whatever language point you’ve covered.

1. Start with a clearly stated objective and sticking to it

Ask yourself the question; ‘Do you know what the purpose of your material is?’ If you can accurately and concisely describe the objective that you would like your worksheet to help learners accomplish, you’ve already won half of the battle. This is your logical end point, so knowing this will help your material reach that goal.

For instance, you may want to create a reading worksheet that will help your learners to do one or more of the following:

  • Employ various strategies to establish background knowledge
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion
  • Employ strategies to deal with unfamiliar key vocabulary
  • Voice an opinion orally or in written form about a text

Having one or more valid objectives in mind will immediately enable you to focus on how each task on your worksheet is helping to achieve this end goal.

When you’ve made your material, reflect on the finished product by asking this question: ‘does this help learners meet the objective?’ If any task isn’t doing this, consider replacing it or removing it altogether. Remember: reflection is key! A good final step is to physically include the objective on your worksheet, making it clear enough for the learner to be able to understand the purpose of the tasks they’ll complete.

2. Go through the process of learning yourself

One of the best things you can do to reflect on whether or not the material is actually teaching the learner anything is to go through the experience for yourself. Once you’ve planned out your worksheet, or have it ready in draft form, work through it stage by stage and actively explain to yourself what you are being required to do.  

As you proceed, write down what it is you are expected to do at each stage, what prior knowledge is necessary to complete each task and how one activity leads on to one another. Describe how and why each aspect is important to the overall explanation of the language point.

For example, when preparing a worksheet on the present perfect tense, you may find yourself asking questions such as these:

  • Do I need to have prior knowledge of the third form of the verb (eaten, gone, etc.) to do this?
  • Am I focusing on the form or a specific function of the verb tense here?
  • Do my learners have equivalents to ‘for’ and ‘since’ in their mother tongue?

It’s surprising how often we can make too many assumptions about prior knowledge, or make huge leaps between individual tasks in terms of cognitive demand. Again, reflection is key!

Remember: your aim is to produce a sequence of questions and experiences that will aid learners to incrementally approach the main objective using the same chain of reasoning that you went through when designing the material. Such issues can easily be avoided if you work through your material and question the learning processes of your worksheet.

Summing up

Creating your own worksheets can be hard work, yet also very rewarding both for you and your learners. While there are many issues to consider if you want to end up with truly high quality teaching materials, following this two-point plan of reflection will see you right in most situations.

Adam John Simpson


Adam has been living and teaching in Turkey for more than fifteen years, all of that time spent in the tertiary education sector in universities in Istanbul. His interests include descriptive curriculum planning, developing flexibility in lesson design and the considered integration of technology in the language classroom. He is currently a member of the TDSIG committee. 

[email protected]

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Q&A on David Heathfield’s Webinar on Storytelling

Prepared by Mojca Belak
(Chair,Membership & Marketing Committee)

On 1 December 2018 David Heathfield presented a webinar on storytelling entitled “Bringing the world’s winter folk tales alive in your students’ imagination.”

In it David demonstrated how oral storytelling can bring students’ imaginations alive and get them deeply engaged in language learning. The session provided classroom content suggestions in active prediction, extensive person to person listening, physical and spoken drama activities, creative response and student retelling.

The recording is available to IATEFL members in the webinar section of the site. If you would like to watch the recording, you need to be a member of IATEFL (find out how to join).

Here are David’s answers to those questions that he didn’t manage to address during his webinar.

Q1.How can we involve large numbers of students in stories?

A1. The activities I demonstrated here work well in classes of all sizes. As long as students are physically close enough to the storytelling teacher to see her eyes and hear her voice, storytelling activities work well in large classes. I often do storytelling with 200 learners. If you are doing physical drama activities like the ones I demonstrated, it is important to be able to manage them all doing the activities at the same time. 35 students may be the maximum ideal number. You need to make enough space for students to perform in pairs.

Q2. Can you write the titles of the stories, please?

A2. The Winter Tales I told are:

The Snow Girl (Russia)

Aldar Kose tricks the Bai (Kazakhstan)

The Christmas Cherries (Britain)

I also mentioned:

The Fox and the Bear (Norway)

How the Bear lost its Tail (Japan)

The Three Golden Hairs (Romania)

The Winter Spirit and his Visitor (Native American)

The Mitten (Ukraine)

The Twelve Snow and Frost Children (Maori New Zealand)

Other Winter Tales I enjoy telling are:
The Twelve Months (Slovakia and more countries)

Mother Holle (Germany)

Zlateh the Goat (Yiddish/Poland)

Q3. How can I get the opportunity to share stories from Ghana?

A3. I love tales from Ghana. So many wonderful stories about Anansi come from Ashanti tradition and Anansi stories are now popular in the UK and more countries around the world. It’s so important to keep these oral stories alive by sharing them. Please do send me a recording of you or your students or someone you know telling me a favourite Ghanaian folk tale. You can also send a story to IATEFL Voices magazine and explain how you share the story in your teaching.

Q4. Folkstories always have a plot development. Do you do analysis of the plot development in class (setting, characters, climax, denouement, etc.) or do you simply invite students to appreciate the story (listening mode)? How can we teach storytelling within critical pedagogy approaches (multiliteracies, etc.)?

A4. Thank you for your questions. I tend to focus on storytelling skills, drama, creative response and exploring personal meanings in my General English and Academic English classes. Plot analysis is a fascinating area of study and I would certainly love to do this with students if I was teaching a literature module. The same goes for critical pedagogies. I think you begin to answer your own question in your useful comment from the General Chat.

Q5.Are your students second language learners, or are they enjoying your teaching in their L1?

A5. My students are learning English as a foreign language. The young woman you saw responding to The Snow Girl is doing an elementary course. Storytelling is effective across all levels. With Beginner students you can tell a simple story in their mother tongue using plenty of physical mime and gestures first and then tell it a second time in the target language using the same mime and gestures. It’s a wonderful way for them to be exposed to the target language and get a feel for the rhythms and cadences right from the start. Also I recommend mixed language storytelling with Beginners –see https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/story-telling-language-teachers-oldest-technique#mixed

Q6.How does a teacher develop her story telling skills?

A6. By doing storytelling regularly and noticing what works for you and for your students. My teacher resource book Storytelling With Our Students is designed precisely for this purpose. You can find out about the book and see the page featuring Aldar Kose tricks the Bai here  https://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/methodology/storytelling-with-our-students

There are links to pieces I have written on the Publication page of my website
https://davidheathfieldblog.wordpress.com/publications/

I also recommend books and articles written by Andrew Wright and Mario Rinvolucri. You can probably find other storytellers near where you live, get together and share your skills and experiences.

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