ELT events and the gender balance of speakers (Tessa Woodward)

Been to an ELT event lately? Lots of women teachers there? Quite a few women presenting workshops too? Great! How about the plenary speakers? One woman and four men, you say. Hmmm. That’s a pity!

Why is gender balance at ELT events so important?

Well, let’s go back to basics. Many teachers of EFL/TESOL are women. It is only fair then that there be many women senior academic staff, owners and principals of language schools, and presenters and plenary speakers at ELT events.

Women have talents and ideas aplenty so, if we are not hearing their voices during plenary talks at conferences, we are all missing out on varied, interesting ideas. Presenting work at a conference is a great spur to creativity and thinking in the presenter, as well as to career movement, publication in conference proceedings, promotion etc. If women don’t get or don’t take these chances, they miss out.

Some men who find themselves the only gender represented in a list of plenary speakers or on a speaker panel and then talking to large numbers of women participants, find this an odd experience. ‘Why am I up here on the podium and the women down there in the audience?’

There are plenty of women participants at ELT events. If they are not represented in the balance of speakers in front of them, this may feel demeaning to them and lower their self-confidence.

If there is only one woman on a speaker panel, it becomes easier for her voice to be ignored, or for her to be talked over amongst the, understandable, male camaraderie. More women on the panel? The dynamic changes and the women there may feel more comfortable too.

The more women accept invitations to give workshops and talks, the more practice they get, and the better they will get at it. You have to do workshops and talks to get better at doing them.

Why are ELT event speaker lists sometimes so stuffed full of men?

Some events are evenly balanced. Others, sadly, are not. Why not? I feel there is a bit of a vicious circle going on. If it is usual to see lots of men presenters at events, this imbalance will start to feel ‘normal’. As a result, having more than one woman speaker may, strangely enough, start to feel ‘abnormal.’ Even a ratio of five men to two women speaking can lead people to say, ‘There were loads of women speakers!’

If the same gender and the same ‘names’ come up all the time as speakers, these oft-mentioned people are seen as more important than others. It gets harder for organizers, women or men, to remember other speakers’ names. So, the pool of those up for invitation gets smaller and shallower.

But below is a picture of a very possible and more virtuous circle for plenary and in fact any speakers!

Plenary speakers virtuous circle

What is being done about this?

In 2013, I set up The Fair List, UK. This is an annual award that celebrates excellence of gender balance in plenary speakers, presenters and speaker panels at ELT events, in the UK. The group supporting the award believes that good gender balance at UK ELT events will ensure wide coverage of relevant topics and a more balanced perspective on the issues affecting both women and men in their professional lives. It will also help to reflect the composition of the UK profession.

From the start The Fair List, UK has had tremendous support from individuals and organisations. One instance of this is that IATEFL, in its desire to celebrate diversity, has offered us a place at conference to hold our awards ceremony. Incidentally, IATEFL has been on The Fair List itself for main conference plenary speakers, for its web conferences and webinars and a large number of IATEFL SIGs have been on it as well!

The Fair List, UK and its mentoring scheme

As well as our annual awards, we have a great web site full of resources at www.thefairlist.org

We have also started a mentoring scheme. We now have a team of talented volunteer mentors waiting to give support to women who are preparing to run workshops, do presentations or become plenary/keynote or panel speakers at UK ELT events, and who would appreciate a bit of support. You can find out more on our Mentoring pages 

So, if you have a conference presentation coming up, need help with a webinar or are worried about giving a TD session, get in touch with me and, once we have discussed your aims, we can try to fix you up with a mentor.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tessa Woodward (Founder of The Fair List)

Email: info@thefairlist.org

Bio

Tessa Woodward

I recently retired as a teacher, teacher trainer and Professional Development Co-ordinator at Hilderstone College, Broadstairs, UK. I edit The Teacher Trainer journal for Pilgrims, Canterbury, UK. I am a Past President and International Ambassador of IATEFL and founded the IATEFL Special Interest Group for Teacher Trainers (now the SIG T Ed/TT).

I have written books and articles for teachers and trainers. The latest one, with Seth Lindstromberg, is Something to Say, (2014, Helbling Languages).

I’m in the middle of another one about teacher development over time. It might see the light of day in 2018 if I and my co-authors are fortunate!

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

Helping to ensure a safe and positive community (Jon Burton)

One of the greatest strengths of IATEFL has always been its nature as ‘a big family’ with members supporting each other, sharing ideas and discussing the topics of the day. But how do we support and protect this in the 21st century?

Clearly a major development of recent years has been the growth of online communication and collaboration. This has brought with it huge benefits to an international association such as IATEFL, and has made possible the webinars, online meetings, online conference, email interactions and social media platforms that many of us take for granted these days.

On the other hand, just as we recognise the dangers and pitfalls for our students, we must be aware of online threats such as viruses, spamming and identity fraud, as well as abuse and bullying that can raise their ugly heads in this new world. There is also the never-ending battle of trying to keep our inboxes from getting out of control!

So how is IATEFL working to reduce and eliminate these dangers? Well, in terms of internet security and protecting your personal data, we have recently upgraded all areas of our website to the same ‘secure socket’ encryption that the members’ area has used for quite some time. In addition we make sure our website is backed up on a daily basis and that our payment processing is fully compliant with security standards.

We’ve had a long hard look at the ‘inbox issue’ and developed some simple advice in our document IATEFL and emails which we hope you will find useful, not only for your emails with the IATEFL community, but perhaps also to help take back control of your inbox in general.

IATEFL’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are growing fast in their popularity with nearly 10,000 followers of our Facebook page, over 15,000 members of our closed IATEFL discussion group and over 13,000 followers on Twitter. Such exciting growth and interest, from members and non-members alike, means we must be very careful to continue to offer users what they want: a vibrant global EFL community, a safe and respectful place to share ideas and opinions, and platforms free from self-promotion and unrestricted advertising. We hope that members feel our recently developed social media policy will help to ensure this continues to be the case long into the future, helping to ensure your online safety, and a positive community spirit, in the digital age. Information on all of IATEFL’s guidelines can be found at www.iatefl.org/about-iatefl/key-documents

There is no doubt that the internet is a wonderful tool to help us achieve our aim of ‘linking, developing and supporting ELT professionals worldwide’ and we invite you, if you haven’t already done so, to join our online community, join in the debate, and join in the fun!

Bio

Jon Burton

I started teaching English during breaks from university in the early nineties  and have been involved in English language teaching ever since. My journey has taken me from teaching in Spain, France and the UK to teacher training, materials writing, testing, marketing, quality inspections, academic management, and then senior management as principal of a language school and then a further education college. In 2016 I was delighted to be selected as the new Chief Executive of IATEFL and to join the fantastic team here at Head Office. Since then I have been busy getting to know many of the wonderful volunteers and members who have made, and continue to make, this association such an exciting, relevant, international and innovative community of ELT professionals.

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Behind the scenes at IATEFL, IATEFL | Tagged | Leave a comment

The IATEFL Presidency and Vice Presidency (Marjorie Rosenberg)

Now that I am a Past President of IATEFL and finishing my term as a Trustee as Vice President, it seemed like a good time for a blogpost on how all this works.

IATEFL Board of Trustees 2015

IATEFL Board of Trustees 2015

There are eight members on the Board of Trustees and our job is the governance of IATEFL. We work together with Head Office in a number of ways. For example, they prepare the budgets which we go through and approve, they prepare other documents for us to give feedback on and have also set up training sessions for the Trustees on social media and governance in the last few years. The Trustees have three meetings a year in November, February and June and one of standing items on our agenda includes reviewing our public benefit which is defining what we do to meet our charitable aims. These include the running of IATEFL Projects, small grants given to Teacher Associations for teacher training; the WMS, or Wider Membership Scheme, which offers memberships to those who belong to our Associates in particular countries; and the WMIS, or Wider Membership Individual Scheme, which allows us to grant free memberships to teachers who do not have a Teacher Association in their countries. Other parts of our charitable mission include our free online events such as webinars and the web conference. We are also very grateful to the British Council for livestreaming our annual conference giving the chance to thousands of educators around the world to watch selected talks and interviews from the comfort of their homes or work places.

The way the system works is that a call for the VP/P position is sent out from Head Office to all members. Any member can be nominated and write a personal statement and short resume in order to stand for the VP/P position. They are encouraged to get in touch with the current president for a chat in order to gain some knowledge of what the position entails.

Marjorie Rosenberg taking over the IATEFL presidency from Carol Read 2015

Marjorie Rosenberg taking over the IATEFL presidency from Carol Read in 2015

Once a member has been elected by the membership and then ratified at the AGM at conference, they become Vice President and Chair of the Publications Committee for their first two years as a Trustee (in the first year they are the Vice President and in the second year they hold the role of President). The Publications Committee is responsible for the IATEFL eBulletin and works with the editor of Voices to give input, answers questions from the SIG newsletter editors, and if necessary works on issues such as publishing policies and guidelines for the association. The Pubs Com Chair can also lead on special publishing initiatives and projects. In this year, the VP attends all the Trustee meetings and shadows the current President, who is Chair of the Conference Committee. This committee works closely with Head Office to organise the annual conference, the volunteers being responsible for specific aspects such as the evening programme, ‘How to … sessions’ and help with Signature Events. The Chair of the Conference Committee also suggests the plenary speakers for the upcoming conference and the final list is approved by the Board of Trustees.

The gavel of the IATEFL President

The gavel of the IATEFL President

At the AGM the next year (year 2), the VP becomes the President and the current President returns to the position of VP but remains Chair of the Conference Committee. The new President, currently Margit Szesztay, continues to chair the Publications Committee as mentioned earlier and takes on the job of chairing the Trustee and Advisory Council meetings as well as the AGM. The President also keeps the other Trustees up-to-date on activities and initiatives within the organisation through the President’s report. This is submitted for the three Trustee meetings held throughout the year along with the other reports written by Trustees who chair Executive Committees. The ‘new’ VP (or outgoing president) is still a Trustee in year 2 and is there to support the new President. Several months before the outgoing President’s term is up, a call for a new VP/P goes out to members and the cycle begins again.

Each president generally takes on particular projects to work on, although this is not something that has been fixed by IATEFL. In my case, I took over the ‘History of IATEFL’ which Carol Read had begun during her presidency. I was also on a committee of Trustees to recruit a new Chief Executive when Glenda Smart decided to leave for new challenges after serving the association as its Chief Executive for fourteen years. We had a number of applications and were very lucky to be able to offer the post to Jon Burton who began in August 2016. In addition, I have worked on a handbook for the IATEFL Executive Committees (Conference Committee, Publications Committee, Electronics Committee, Membership and Marketing Committee, Finance Committee and Associates Committee) and have begun the work on a handbook for the other IATEFL Committees (Proposals, Scholarships and Conference Selections). These guidelines are based on the SIG Handbook and when they are complete they will be available for all members to provide transparency at this level of the organization. Throughout our four years as VP and P, many other issues and projects arise which we take part in depending on our own strengths, interests and time. One very special event for me was being able (by video) to accept the TESOL President’s Award 2016 on behalf of IATEFL for our work in developing, linking and supporting teachers around the world, as well as getting the chance to attend the TESOL Summit on the Future of the ELT Profession in February 2017 through the kind sponsorship of the British Council.

The job itself is fulfilling and personally enriching. I am sure I speak for all past and current presidents when I say that we all learn a great deal from leading the association and taking on various projects and missions. Speaking for myself, I feel that I have grown professionally since taking on the job and have learned certain management and leadership skills which I would not have been able to learn as a classroom teacher. For me, however, the most important part of the job has been the people I have had the chance to meet and to work with. It is truly a privilege and an honour to work within the community of professionals that makes up IATEFL.

Bio

Marjorie Rosenberg

In 1981, I moved from New York City to Graz, Austria and have been teaching English to adults and university students since then. Several years after arriving in Austria I expanded into teacher training, conference presentations and writing along with getting involved with my local teacher association as well as with IATEFL. In 2003 I became Chair of TEA, Teachers of English in Austria, and in 2008 joined the IATEFL BESIG committee as an Events Coordinator, becoming SIG Coordinator in 2009. This job continued until 2015 when I became IATEFL Acting Vice President and soon after IATEFL President. My writing has included several books on learning styles as well as a wide range of materials for business English. At the moment my teaching load has decreased but my writing and travel have increased so I am as busy as ever which helps me to continue on the path of being a life-long learner. I have very happy that I have had the chance to work with so many teachers and learners throughout my career and will continue to do so as long as I can.

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Behind the scenes at IATEFL | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

From Checklist to Reality Check: The Never-ending Nature of Professional Development (Wiktoria Parysek)

Last year, after completing the input portion of my CertIBET with Helen Strong (IATEFL BESIG’s Events Coordinator) I made an action plan for my future as an English instructor. If you’re a CELTA graduate or have completed any kind of additional ESL qualifications, this is probably a practice you’re quite familiar with.

While for some, the short- and long-term goals may be simply throwaway ideas to end the course on, for me they are a chance to reflect and look ahead: something I don’t often have time to do, especially as a freelance English trainer. The luxury of sitting down to think about what I truly wanted out of my career was wonderful. My short-term goals included the following:

I became a card-carrying member of IATEFL (and BESIG and MAWSIG) at last year’s BESIG conference in Munich. Check. I realized that my local teachers association, ELTABB, already subscribes to the teaching journal I wanted to sign up for – English Teaching Professional. Check. At this next point I will humbly admit defeat. My blog is just as empty as it was at the end of last year. However, while browsing other blogs for inspiration (in this case Chia Suan Chong’s ETp blog), I learned about the fairly new ELT Ireland conference in Dublin. I did some research and discovered that their call for papers deadline for their annual conference was just 9 days away. After a frantic email to my CertIBET trainer and a gentle nudge from her to go for it, I submitted my proposal to talk about using podcasts in the classroom. A few short weeks later, my talk was accepted and—suddenly—check: the last point in my action plan was well under way.

Cue the panic. OK, at first there were celebrations, of course, and the excitement of looking for a hotel and booking my flights (maybe not so exciting for seasoned travelers). But then it actually hit me: I have to stand up in front of a room full of teachers (but what if no-one comes?!) and talk for 45 minutes (what if people leave half-way through?!) about a topic they expect me to be some kind of expert on (they’ll see right through me!). Major impostor syndrome kicks in. What do I do to deal with it? I procrastinate.

I put it off and the weeks fly by. Suddenly, conference weekend is barreling towards me and it’s time to get to work. I take what I’ve been teaching my business English students about presentations and finally put it into practice. In the weeks (OK, days) leading up to the conference, I work furiously, using every spare minute to make notes on the presentation, move slides around, check the timing.

Conference weekend arrives and I’m off to Dublin. I arrive at the hotel and force myself to power through, finish the presentation, AND do a run-through before I allow myself to see any of the city. Let me tell you: that’s pretty good motivation when you’re in Dublin for about 48 hours and, believe it or not, the sun is out. My nerves, even when speaking to my hotel room door, are through the roof. But I get through the presentation, the timing is fine, and it’s finally time for a walk through the city, followed by fish and chips and an ice-cold cider.

The rest of the conference was a blur. The organization by IATEFL Associate ELT Ireland was flawless, the hosts and local attendees lived up to the Irish stereotype and welcomed me with open arms and warm hearts, and—believe it or not—people did actually attend my talk! They even tweeted pics and gave me some great feedback afterwards. One participant and I chatted about transferring some of the things I talked about to task-based learning environments and I was flattered to hear from some that it was their favorite talk of the conference. Great! Job done! Or so I thought.

I went back to my original goal: “encourage more knowledge transfer among my colleagues.” Check? Not quite. This goal is ongoing, just like any type of learning. Rather than seeing this as a destination, a gold star to be won, I am starting to see it as an underlying motivation. The things we learn as teachers should not be kept secret; they should be shared with others through our local teaching organizations, local and international conferences, and online communities.

I had expected to leave Dublin thinking “Phew! Glad that’s done.” But instead I left thinking “Great! What’s next?”

Bio

Vicky Parysek

Vicky has been teaching English since 2013. She is the Head of the Competence Centre for Teaching English at the University of Applied Sciences, Wildau in Germany. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, a CELTA, and a CertIBET. Vicky’s professional interests include task-based learning and learner engagement. Her personal interests include cooking and playing rugby (much to her mother’s dismay). She tweets @vickyparysek.

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Individual members | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

GISIG and me. And you! (Gergő Fekete)

G I S I G. 5 letters, 12 committee members, 162 members, and a lot of enthusiastic followers. Even though our Global Issues SIG is considered small among IATEFL’s SIGs, we are very proud of what we represent and what we do. Which is what …? – you may ask.

GISIG provides a forum among ELT practitioners to stimulate awareness and understanding of global issues. It is for teachers who see themselves as educators in addition to teaching the language and who are keen to bring real-world issues into the classroom, instil a sense of social responsibility, and develop critical thinking skills.

I still remember reading these lines on the GISIG website 2 years ago when Margit Szesztay, former GISIG coordinator and my beloved methodology teacher at ELTE University in Budapest, familiarised our group with the SIG in one of our sessions. One of the first things I came across was the eLesson Inspirations section, which includes lessons built around short videos to make students think and explore real-world issues while also learning English. I tried many of the activities with my students myself, such as the one designed for ‘The Social Experiment’, a video about high school students trying to give up their virtual identities for a week, and my other favourite: ‘One-minute meditation’. Did you know that you can make a meaningful change to your state of mind in a fraction of a second?

Global Issues SIG website

Our eLesson Inspirations page. To get started, go directly to the eLesson Inspirations archive page

So, I got really excited, so much so that actually I decided to design my own eLesson unit on bullying. Then, after writing a workshop summary and a very short review of Ricardo Sampedro and Susan Hillyard’s Global Issues, Margit asked me if I wanted to join the SIG as Social Media Coordinator. And why would I have missed this great opportunity? There is so much I can learn about, share, try out, and reflect on. To give you a taste, let’s have a closer look at what exactly we offer.

  • Going back to the eLesson units… have you got a catchy short video in mind that deals with a global issue, is thought-provoking, and you think would work well in your lesson? Do let us know and send us your ideas following these guidelines. We look forward to posting your eLesson on our website.
  • We would also like to support teachers in difficult circumstances, e.g. teachers with no resources or with very large classes in refugee camps. Read 3 short articles about teaching in refugee camps in our June 2016 Newsletter.
  • Every year, we organise a month-long online event called the Issues Month. The idea behind the Issues Month is to share lessons and strategies that raise awareness in your classes and your schools about content that matters. Do browse our archives on the previous Issues Months centring on Gender issues (2016), War and Peace (2015), Home and Shelter (2014), and Food issues (2013). Stay tuned for our next Issues Month in October 2017!
  • Our Calendar of Special Days is also there for teachers all year round. In each month, we feature at least one special day that helps you deal with an issue of global significance as well as a language point. If you wish to attend our IATEFL Pre-Conference Event in 2018, let me invite you to take part in our competition and submit a lesson plan about a special day to add to our website collection. Deadline: August 31, 2017.

As a beginner teacher, looking at the list above, I felt very lucky, as I got an amazing number of ready-to-use ideas that helped me a lot while doing my teaching practice. Now, at the end of my M.A. programme, I even had the chance to present my global issues related thesis on the film ‘Girl Rising’ at the APPI Conference in Lisbon under the auspices of GISIG with 3 wonderful colleagues: Linda Ruas, Stella Smyth, and Margarita Kosior. This, along with all the points mentioned in Clare Maas’ 4 Cs of IATEFL membership blog post, helped me become even more certain that the English language teaching profession and community is one of a kind: it’s supportive, positive, inclusive, and welcoming.

GISIG at APPI in Lisbon

GISIG at APPI in Lisbon

Well, as my word count limit is slowly but surely coming to an end, it’s time I put the question: is it clear WHY global issues? Should you need some more information, please have a look out our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Oh, and read the book of one of our Joint Coordinators, Linda Ruas, that asks the exact same question and is now hot off the press.

“Why Global Issues?” by Linda Ruas

“Why Global Issues?” by Linda Ruas

Looking forward to attending my first annual IATEFL conference, I hope to see you in Brighton in 2018.

Bio

Gergő Fekete

Gergő Fekete is a teacher of English and German in Budapest, Hungary, and also the Social Media Coordinator of IATEFL’s Global Issues SIG. After studying in the U.S. and Germany and completing an M.A. in Hungary, he is now excited about throwing himself into full-time teaching in Budapest and making the best use of his recently completed CELTA to teach in other countries, too.

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 ready. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Special Interest Groups (SIGs) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Me, myself, and I…ATEFL (James Egerton)

Teachers’ associations. 5 years ago. Say what you see: dull, pointless, port, tweed.

The ‘hindsight revisionist’ in me would love to say that I was just setting off on my teaching career at this point, but the raw reality is that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my French and Spanish degree, and heading to Spain to teach seemed like an excellent year-long stopgap while I worked it out. So from that point, how did I get into IATEFL and why do I recommend it today?

Well fast forward to August 2015 and the final day of the six-week Delta Module 2 course at International House London. There was a crossroads about a year earlier: commit to teaching or find something you can commit to. Module 2 was my last of the three modules, and we were given a short talk about what you could do to make the most of the Delta qualification. It was the most fruitful hour of the entire 6 weeks, and I followed most of the pointers: blog like Sandy Millin (I’m not being an editor’s pet; Sandy was the example given), enter academic management, join IATEFL.

Finding out about the 2016 conference when I joined, I signed up immediately. Again, the ‘hindsight revisionist’ says that it was because I was brimming with enthusiasm at the professional development opportunities. Alas! It was because my best friend now lives in Birmingham, so I could spend the week at his house then skip the Saturday sessions to travel up to Liverpool to watch a football match with him. This isn’t just anecdotal; the point is that I was never fully committed to the conference, and without putting much in, I didn’t receive much back either. It was far from a waste of time, though. It was the first time I fully appreciated that I was part of a global community of English teachers, and that people like Scott Thornbury and Jeremy Harmer are not just names on books and bibliographies, but walk and talk too (among many other activities, I’m sure). But I certainly didn’t make the most of it. I didn’t have specific objectives to get out of the four days. I didn’t plan the presentations I would attend, but rather wandered around to see where there were seats. I didn’t enjoy the extra-curricular activities, instead I hopped back on the train to Solihull as soon as possible to spend the evenings with Aaron. I didn’t really network, as I was too overwhelmed with information and really not feeling chatty. I was lost! I sat next to well-known coursebook writer Herbert Puchta in one presentation, for instance, but not knowing who he was at that time, I asked him “What do you do?” when we were making small talk. His face was a picture. He probably didn’t get asked that very often during the conference.

So back I went to Albacete, Spain, went through my notes from the conference, and realised that there was little I could implement in my lessons or in teacher training sessions with the other seven teachers. I’d been to too many research-based talks out of my sphere or teacher trainer talks about CELTA which was out of reach at that point. I grumbled to myself, bitter towards the conference when really it was all down to me, and questioned the point of joining for another year. But the IATEFL magazine Voices kept arriving in my emails every other month, and I kept clicking (not flicking) through it, finding great ideas, putting them into practice. After blogging for several months, I wondered if I could ever get an article published in Voices, so I found the editor’s contact details and sent her an email. After several edits and several months in the queue, I had an article published in the November-December 2016 issue on my favourite topic: feedback and mindset. Every teacher has a unique perspective, so I’d recommend that everyone sit down to write about something they really believe in. Voices editor Alison Schwetlick does an incredible job of pushing you to mould and remould the first draft into something worthy of column inches too, if getting something into print is a motivation like it was for me.

So that’s the extent of my 1 year 8 months as an IATEFL member so far. It’s been useful, sure, but I feel that I really haven’t scratched the surface of the membership benefits yet. Much like I’ve been seeing since joining the International House fold last September, it’s a vast network of teachers who can motivate and teach each other: a genuine rocket boost! As with anything, the more you put in, the more you get out, so I’m set on putting a lot more into the organisation from now on. It starts here on this blog, which I hope to make a regular contribution to. Next is getting involved and active in a SIG, whether it be through webinars, papers or communicating with like-minded professionals. And of course I’ll have to right the wrongs of the 2016 conference. Although I wasn’t able to attend Glasgow this year, I won’t miss 2018, armed with objectives and a plan and hopefully presenting too. So five years later on, I’d throw back the following as a ‘say what you see’ on IATEFL: opportunities, ideas, sharing, development.

Bio

James Egerton

James is a Delta-qualified teacher and rookie teacher trainer currently working at International House Riga-Satva in Latvia. His extra pedagogical activities include working as a writing and speaking examiner, and integrating basic psychological principles into TEFL to help learners and teachers. He blogs on his reflections of learning and teaching English at www.jamesegerton.wordpress.com.

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 ready. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Individual members | Tagged , | 2 Comments

How IATEFL scholarships work (Maureen McGarvey)

It’s that time of year again! April 2018 may seem a long way off, but applications for scholarships for the 2018 annual IATEFL Conference in Brighton have been open for a couple of weeks. The closing date for applications is 4.00 pm UK time on Tuesday, July 18th – so you still have time to apply.

The very first scholarship ever awarded by IATEFL was the Ray Tongue scholarship, which was first awarded in 1991. This scholarship was set up in memory of Ray Tongue, who spent a large part of his life in Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This award is one which restricts application to those from those particular countries. In 1996, the First-time Speaker Scholarship was added, later re-named the Gill Strurtridge First-time Speaker Scholarship, in honour of Gill Sturtridge, a prolific author of ELT resource books. This is the award won by Katy Muench, who shared her scholarship winner’s journey with us in this series of blog entries. Subsequently, scholarships were established in the name of Bill Lee and Gillian Porter Ladousse.

In 2004, the Learning Technologies Special Interest Group became the first SIG to offer a travel grant to conference, and the tradition of SIGS offering scholarships was born. Since then, institutions, publishers, private individuals and IATEFL itself have added to the list of scholarships you can now apply for. The range and scope of available awards means that whatever your area of interest, there is bound to be a scholarship you can apply for!

Applications are read by panels of readers, sometimes from the sponsor, sometimes readers with knowledge in the specialist field. Reading your applications is an exciting, inspiring and wonderful experience for the reading panels. We learn so much from your applications, which open a window for us onto your teaching and training contexts and challenges. Once the winners are decided, the Scholarship Committee will contact you to let you know the good news. This will happen between Monday 28th August and Thursday 7th September 2017, so be sure to check your emails during that period. If you win, you need to confirm acceptance as soon as possible. Head Office and the Scholarship Committee will then get in touch with you to talk you through the next steps, and are always here to support you between your confirmation of acceptance and your arrival in Brighton. We can help you with visa applications and with accommodation, and we have a Scholarship Winners’ Gathering on the first evening of conference. This means you can meet the other winners and the sponsors, and share your conference experience with them over the coming days.

Glasgow 2017 scholarship winners (including Katy)

Glasgow 2017 scholarship winners

Applying for a scholarship may seem like a big step, but as they say, ‘you have to be in it, to win it’! So please have a look at the scholarship page on the website and apply. We look forward to reading your applications, and to seeing our winners in Brighton in 2018.

Bio

Maureen McGarvey

Maureen has worked in ELT for longer than she cares to remember, and has taught in the UK, Spain and Hungary as well as on short training contracts in other locations. She has been a committee member on the Leadership and Management Special Interest Group for IATEFL, and is Co-ordinator for the IATEFL Scholarship Committee (formerly the Scholarship Working Party), responsible for managing the IATEFL scholarship scheme. Maureen currently line manages academic staff in IH London and also manages a team of online tutors working remotely in a variety of locations. She is a frequent conference speaker on topics related to academic management and online training. She lives in North London with her daughter and their dog. She has a guilty addiction to reality TV programmes. Her email is Maureen (dot) mcgarvey (at) ihlondon (dot) com.

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Behind the scenes at IATEFL, IATEFL, Scholarship winners | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why me? (David Crystal)

A question I’m often asked is how I became patron of IATEFL. The short answer is that Catherine Walter, who had the presidential role in 1993, asked me. And I asked her: Why me? For I am in no way a teacher, in the sense that most of the IATEFL membership understands that word. Although I have spent a fair amount of time observing classroom practice around the world, and done a great deal of teacher-training, I have never done the difficult hands-on job, day by day, myself. Frankly, I don’t think I would ever have had the energy. Or the multi-faceted expertise.

And that, I think, is why IATEFL approached me: to add another facet to that expertise. My special field, within linguistics, has always been the English language – its structure and uses, its past, present and future, its varied usage among individuals and societies. It’s a full-time job studying it and writing about it, let alone teaching it. And I suspect that what was in mind was the thought that a linguist’s perspective could add a dimension to the teaching task that would be appreciated by those who never had a systematic introduction to English or who felt that their knowledge needed updating, especially in the light of such major developments as the growth of English as a global language and the emergence of electronic communication. It was also the case that some of my books were being quite widely read around the ELT world, and it is just human nature that people like to have as a patron somebody they may have actually heard of.

That is how it has worked out, anyway. As I look back over the plenary sessions I have given over the past twenty or so years, the emphasis has always been on the facts: what is actually happening to this thing that IATEFLers have to teach? And what is the best way of presenting the research findings of linguists who work on English so that they become understandable and useful in the context of language teaching? This is all part of the field of applied linguistics, which is where I most like to be working. Everyone wants to be useful, and it is in the various domains of applied linguistics that I’ve always found it most possible to see ways of ‘making a difference’.

But how do you know you’ve been successful (or not)? Only if people tell you. The one thing authors need to keep themselves on track is feedback. And this is where IATEFL, for me, has been of greatest value. Whether it is at the annual conference, or at one of the local branches in various parts of the world, or (most recently) in online webinars, the organization presents innumerable opportunities to discuss the way linguistic theories, methods, and findings relate to teaching practice – opportunities to talk informally to the people who do the job – and opportunities to discover how far my own writing and thinking about language has helped – or not. The introduction of ‘Meet the Patron’ sessions at the annual conference, a couple of years ago, was another way of fostering interaction. I think it’s an important function of the patron’s role, especially as attendance has grown.

It’s the acknowledged intimacy of IATEFL meetings that provides so many positive outcomes. People often talk about the IATEFL ‘family’, and it certainly seems like that – for actually I meet up with IATEFL colleagues from around the world far more often than I do some of my relatives! And the family metaphor has a second application: it suggests friendship and fun. My role as patron hasn’t been an entirely academic experience. Thanks to a background in literature and drama, it proved possible for me to add a social dimension to conferences, ably abetted by my wife, Hilary, and often by our actor son, Ben. Evening events have ranged from serious play readings to light-hearted linguistic extravaganzas, with Shakespeare playing an increasingly prominent part in recent years. They have provided us – and I hope the audiences – with some of our most enjoyable and memorable moments.

When I started as patron, Hilary and I would turn up at the annual conference for a day, perhaps two, then leave to get on with the million other things that have to be done, like writing the next book. But gradually, as we got to know everyone, we stayed for longer – and today, we find ourselves staying for virtually the whole time, with the Associates dinner, the SIG meetings, the invariably fascinating array of plenaries, and a plethora of evening events providing the motivation. I don’t usually go to individual sessions, because – as I said above – ELT is not my professional world, so I wouldn’t get much out of a brilliant presentation on how to teach the present perfect to reluctant teenagers in wherever. I like just to hang around, to be nobbled, to be available to answer questions about the language or (if I don’t know the answer) to point people in the direction of someone or somewhere else – an important feature of professionalism is to know what you do not know (the ‘known unknowns’, as US secretary of state Donald Rumsfeld once said). And I almost always come away with a new set of research challenges, arising from questions about some aspect of the English language that I’d not thought about before. To illuminate and to be illuminated. That is why I like being patron of IATEFL.

Bio

David Crystal

David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He read English at University College London, worked for a year on the Survey of English Usage under Randolph Quirk, then taught at the universities of Bangor and Reading, where he became professor of linguistic science. He is now honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University. He lives online at www.davidcrystal.com, where there is a complete listing of his publications.

David will be holding an English language weekend in the Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales on 19th-20th August 2017, which you may be interested in attending. You can find out more information on his blog.

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Behind the scenes at IATEFL, IATEFL | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Q & A from Anthony Gaughan’s webinar on 40 things to do with a text

On 6th May 2017, Anthony Gaughan presented the following IATEFL webinar:

40 things to do with a text

In this session I will share 40 quick and dirty things to do with texts in our classes.  Many of these ideas will be low – or no-preparation, will work with a range of texts and levels, encourage learner co-construction of lesson content, and will provide opportunities for work on reading, speaking, writing, lexical and grammatical development.   We are all hard-working teachers and I promise you that if you give your time to come to this webinar, you will leave with a month’s worth of activities.  Add your own ideas, and maybe we can hit 50 things, or even 100!

Thank you to the 200+ people who attended, and those who asked questions and offered suggestions. If you would like to watch the recording, you need to be a member of IATEFL (find out how to join), but even if you’re not a member, you can read Anthony’s answers to some of the questions below, as well as extra suggestions from the webinar participants.

What was it like to give a webinar?

This wasn’t the first time that I have taken part in a webinar as a presenter; I chaired an interactive panel discussion on teacher identity for the IATEFL/TESOL Joint Web Conference recently, and have also been “beamed-in” to present at events like the Innovate ELT conference in 2016. So basically I should have known what I was doing. This just makes the fact that I managed to delete my presentation slides – not once, but twice within a minute – all the more, how shall I say? – memorable…

But apart from such minor technical issues, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my thoughts on how to exploit texts in class. I was also genuinely blown away by the number of people who spent their Saturday attending, and was inspired by the amount of participation and conversation between everyone in the room.

Unanswered questions from the webinar

Q: What did I mean when I suggested “expanding a text”?

A text is a partial thing. It is partial in the sense that it is biased in some sense, and it is partial in that it is a selection of content – no text contains absolutely everything that could possibly be said on any given topic. The writer’s job involves deciding what content to include and what content to leave out. Often, these decisions are driven by what the writer assumes the reader will already know. Writers assume shared knowledge with their readership – but second-language readers often lack this information.

As this is the case, we can ask our students to expand any given text by adding information that the original writer left out. This might be small lexical details, such as the age, job and other identifying information for a person mentioned in the text (which works on noun phrase modification, relative clauses etc.), whole sentences or paragraphs of germane information (such as a more thorough description of a place or document mentioned in the text for the benefit of someone lacking the background knowledge assumed by the writer.)

Q: Which of the activities presented would work well with large (70+) classes of elementary learners?

This is a tricky question to answer without knowing a bit more about what technological resources there are available. However, here are some of the ideas I think could work, with some notes on how they could be made to work. Your mileage, as they say, may vary:

Answer or create comprehension questions

Both of these can also be conducted in the students’ first language, as long as the reading or listening text is in the target language. One set of questions and one text can be shared effectively by up to 7 students as the texts will be short and so the print can be large, which means 10 handouts for 70 students.

Role-play

These can be planned, scripted, rehearsed and performed by groups working together, so the teacher has fewer points to monitor than 70 individuals. If circumstances allow, the students could video record themselves performing their role-plays to make post-task feedback on language easier and more time-effective for the teacher.

Convert information into a diagram/visual

This is good because it does not require much productive language from the students but proves their comprehension. Visuals are also quick and easy to monitor (students could just hold them up for the teacher to view from the front.)

Read it aloud

With proper support, as described in the webinar, helping learners to plan to read a short text aloud can be very confidence-building. Again, if students can record themselves, this makes giving feedback easier.

Summarise/Translate it

If the teacher shares the learners’ L1, then asking students to read a short passage in the target language and then summarise it in their L1 is a straightforward comprehension check.

A note on Tagxedo

As part of my webinar, I suggested using Tagxedo to create a word cloud. However, it is unfortunately no longer viable in most browsers because support for Silverlight (a program on which Tagxedo is based) is being abandoned (including by Microsoft, the creator of Silverlight, themselves!)

This means that Tagxedo does not have much of a future – at least as a browser-based option. The developer is working on creating iOS and Android app versions, and has stuck the browser version on the back-burner.

I am slightly embarrassed to say that I only noticed this was the case myself a few days after the webinar when I got a new computer!  I can still use Tagxedo on my old MacBook because it is still running an older version of Firefox (48.0.2 – as I write this, the current version is 52.0.x) but not on my new Thinkpad, which is running up-to-date software.

There are, however, ways around the problem.  Depending on how determined you are to get access, you could install an older version of your web browser – these are generally still available but you are discouraged from installing them because they pose a security risk.  For example, you could download Firefox 48.0.2 from https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/48.0.2/ and install from the zip file matching your OS.  This should work with Silverlight after you install this, and then Tagxedo should work for you.

Alternatively, a few people in the chat suggested using www.wordclouds.com, which has many similar functions. You could also try other options from this list of word cloud generators.

A word of thanks in closing

Once again, can I please thank everyone – over 200 of you – who attended, and also if you view this webinar online. It was a pleasure and a privilege.

Bio

Anthony Gaughan is a freelance teacher-trainer based in Germany.  He is a Cambridge English-approved Assessor as well as Tutor for the CELTA award and is also a Delta Module 2 tutor; he also works as an online tutor for the Trinity College London Licentiate Diploma in TESOL. He is a state-qualified secondary school teacher in the UK, is an approved Speaking Examiner for Cambridge English exams, and has worked in English Language Teaching for over twenty years in the UK, Germany and Poland. He is a former coordinator for the Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TDSIG) within the international ELT professional association IATEFL, and he writes about minimalist approaches to teaching and teacher training at http://teachertrainingunplugged.com

Anthony Gaughan

Thank you to Anthony for agreeing to write for the IATEFL blog. You can also read a slightly different version of Anthony’s full list on his blog.

If you’d like to write a blog post or present a webinar for us, please contact blog (at) iatefl (dot) org.

You can find out more about upcoming webinars on the IATEFL website. If you are an IATEFL member, you can access the recordings and slides from all of our webinars in the members’ area. If you’re not, you can join here.

Posted in Webinars | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My 4 Cs of IATEFL membership (Clare Maas)

Conferences

I attended my first IATEFL conference in 2008. I was in awe and overwhelmed at the same time. I tried to attend as many sessions as I possibly could, which kind of back-fired and meant I went back to my hotel on the third day at lunch time exhausted with a headache! Since then I’ve learned how to make the most of these big annual conferences, for example by setting clear aims for myself before I go, and using down time to reflect on what I’ve heard through posts on my blog. I now find that I come away from the annual conference energised and inspired, and full of new input and ideas to apply in my own teaching. The conferences have brought me into contact with lots of collagues working all around the world, and broadened my perspective on good EFL teaching practice. My enthusiasm has helped me to convince colleagues to attend, and this year I even took along a group of MEd students to join in the fun, too!

Contacts

I’ve made some good friends through IATEFL events and groups (e.g. on Facebook). Sometimes we only see each other ‘live’ for an intensive week at the annual conference, but keeping in touch throughout the year means the exchange of input and ideas is not restricted to this one week a year. I’ve also made contact with a number of colleagues in all different areas of ELT, including research, materials writing, etc. who I know I can always turn to with questions or collaboration on any projects I’m working on.

Community

Within IATEFL, I feel integrated, welcomed, and appreciated in the ELT family; my belonging, as a valuable member of this professional community has been confirmed by the warm, inclusive & supportive atmosphere of the whole organisation and at the events. I like the fact that IATEFL reduces the perceived hierarchy between ‘big names’ and ‘normal teachers’ and values everyone’s contributions and membership.  Teaching can often be a rather lonely job, but membership of IATEFL definitely counteracts this!

Continued Professional Development

I’d never really thought about CPD before joining IATEFL. But the events, publications, Special Interest Groups, facebook groups, discussion lists, etc, are all generally inexpensive and accessible forms of CPD which have given me a boost along the way. I only started my own blog because of the excitement around blogging among IATEFL members, and I never would have thought about writing for ETP or MET, or even ELTJ, had I not been encouraged to do so by discussions among members. It’s great working to be the best teacher I can be, surrounded by a whole community of like-minded colleagues!

Bio

Clare Maas

Clare is a lecturer in EFL and EAP at Trier University (Germany). She holds post-graduate qualifications from the University of Wales and Trinity College London. Before moving into tertiary education, she taught English at German grammar schools, and English for Specific Purposes at several language academies in the UK and Germany. Her professional interests include EAP materials development and CPD for teachers. She blogs at www.ClaresELTCompendium.wordpress.com and on the team-authored blog www.eltresearchbites.com .

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. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

Posted in Individual members | Tagged , | Leave a comment