The first workshop of CI-ATEFL (Cote d’Ivoire Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) (Marcos Ngoran)

CI-ATEFL is the Cote d’Ivoire Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. Cote d’Ivoire is in the west of Africa:

Cote d'Ivoire in Africa

Image from Wikimedia Commons shared under a CC 3.0 licence

The association won the 2016 IATEFL Projects grant to train 40 teachers of English in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for English learning and teaching, and to set up the Cote d’Ivoire Digital Learning Community (CI-DLC).

The goal of CI-DLC is to initiate training on how to use ICT to design and search for resources; it aims to establish a strong blended community to support teachers countrywide, and create an online library for teachers and students.

The first training session took place in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on December 8th, 2016 at IPNETP, the Institut Pédagogique National de l’Enseignement Technique et Professionnel (National Teacher Education Institute for Technical and Vocational Schools). It is the only institute in charge of training vocational and technical school teachers, which is in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. 40 teachers from the technical and vocational training sector, along with those from General Education (from private and public schools) took part in the workshop. In addition, 7 educational authorities were present, namely Mr Zakaria Berté, Director General of IPNETP; Mr Oi Kakou Kakou, Director of the Continued Professional Development School; Mrs Diallo Sita Kanga, Head of the Centre for English Resources; Mr Bernard Kakou Brakoua, ESP Inspector General and 3 other Inspectors.

Dignitaries at the CI-DLC training

From left to right: Mr Reymond Kahdio , adviser; Mrs Lydie Kouadio, Inspector; Mrs Sita Kanga, Director of the English for Specific Purposes Resource Center; Mr Marcos K. N’goran, President of CI-ATEFL; and two other Advisers

The event had two main parts: the official ceremony and the workshop.

The official ceremony

Mr Berte opened the ceremony by welcoming everybody to his institution. His speech was followed by that of Koffi Marcos N’Goran, President of CI-ATEFL. He thanked IATEFL for funding the workshop, Mr Berte for the support of his institution, and the inspectors and participants for their invaluable contribution to the success of the event. He terminated his speech by introducing CI-ATEFL, which was created in 2013 to help connect and develop English Language Teachers in Cote d’Ivoire, and fill a gap between teachers of English in Cote d’Ivoire and the international ELT community. He continued by presenting the project of setting up CI-DLC as a tool to support teachers of English, and encouraging them to get involved to aid their development and that of English teaching and learning in Cote d’Ivoire.

The official ceremony was closed by Gary Motteram, from Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, UK. Through a Skype conversation, he congratulated CI-ATEFL and wished the workshop to be successful, and the project sustainable.

The workshop

The aim of the workshop was to train participants to act efficiently in the project. It was split into two sessions.

Session one

Aubin Adi, the facilitator, started by introducing the Digital Learning Community by providing answers to the following questions:

  • What is a community?
  • What is a community of practice?
  • Why is it fundamental to Cote d’Ivoire teachers of English to form a community?

This presentation provided the participants with the background information to help understand the relevance of the project and the benefits for teachers, students and the system of education.

The workshop did not emphasize using Microsoft Office even though support was given to some participants as difficulties occurred. In addition, participants were provided with the fundamentals of the internet and the world wide web.

They included how to:

  • use a browser and search engines,
  • create membership on collaboration websites (Microsoft and Google Cloud), etc.
  • use social media,
  • transfer files from/to a local device like a computer, tablet or smartphone,
  • handle multimedia files (images, audio, video).

As a case study, participants were asked to use web resources (video, text, pictures, and sounds), and prepare a short lesson.

CI-DLC participants during training working at their computers

CI-DLC participants during training

Session two

This took place after lunch. Participants were shown how to get started with CI-DLC. This session lasted about 2 hours.

In this workshop, Aubin explained the tasks of the participants in CI-DLC, as well as the knowledge and necessary information they need to play an effective role in CI-DLC. The session integrated all the previous abilities.

Participants were also taught how to:

  • practice using CI-DLC Community Platforms,
  • implement CI-DLC procedures,
  • handle files on CI-DLC community platforms,
  • apply collaboration tips and best practices.

As a case study, participants were asked to share their prepared lessons in the previous session to CI-DLC with their groups. Group members provided feedback, integrated the feedback into their work and shared their work on the CI-DLC community site and Facebook group.

End of the workshop

The workshop ended with the sharing of useful information and an insight into IATEFL.

The President of CI-ATEFL, Koffi Marcos N’Goran presented IATEFL to the participants (20 of them were members already). He finished his presentation by giving out brochures about the Association. Questions which followed were about the registration fee, scholarships, and the IATEFL annual conference and how to be involved in the international online events.

Adi, the facilitator, advised the participants who have not yet joined the community to register. He also asked them to apply the acquired knowledge to their teaching situation, and to provide feedback by the end of December 18th, 2016.

CI-DLC participants after training - standing on steps arranged in a group

CI-DLC participants after training

The second part of the project

The second part of the project was another success: it took place on April 28th, 2017, at IPNETP, with the institutional support of the Minister of Technical and Vocational training and the Director General of IPNET. The event was again split into two parts: the official ceremony and the workshop.

This time, the workshop was an opportunity to share experiences of the use of the knowledge they acquired during the first training in their different schools. These included their successes and challenges. The follow-up session was an opportunity for the facilitator to address confusing points related to the first training. In addition, he introduced new tips on how to use ICT to share material online, prepare lessons, teach, and use the new WhatsApp group. He closed the session by encouraging each participant to keep up the good work, cascade their knowledge to their colleagues once back to their schools, and continue online interaction. Moreover, another appointment was made for the 2017-2018 academic year with the hope of finding financial support…. Fingers crossed.


Koffi Marcos N'Goran

Koffi Marcos N’Goran graduated from the English Department of Abidjan University with a BA. Then, he obtained the Postgraduate diploma in teaching English as a foreign language, with honors, from the Institut Pédagogique National de l’Enseignement Technique et Professionnel (National Teacher Education Institute for Technical and Vocational schools – IPNEPT).  He taught English for specific purposes to a diverse public including teenagers, adults, and professionals for about 16 years.

He won a fully-paid Frank Bell Scholarship to participate in the annual IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) Conference in Glasgow in 2012. Marcos was awarded a Conference Grant from the British Council in Senegal, and this time he took part in the annual IATEFL Conference in Liverpool (April 2013) where he also presented a paper at the ESP [English for Specific Purposes] SIG’s (Special Interest Group’s) Pre-Conference Event (PCE). In 2014, He took part in IATEFL conference in Harrogate, UK where he presented the experience of Cote d’Ivoire in the use of technology for English learning. In 2015 and 2016, he participated in the Hornby School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Marcos has become more internationally involved in ELT and ESP since 2011, and has embarked on a project to sustain an ESP Resource Centre for local ELT and ESP teacher across various educational sectors. The IATEFL HO granted Marcos a free three-year membership in 2012 in the hope that he becomes a catalyst for setting up a teachers’ association in Cote D’Ivoire – a task which he completed with his Ivorian colleagues in 2013. CI-ATEFL (Cote d’Ivoire Association of Teachers of English a Foreign Language), the new teachers association, an affiliate of IATEFL, is now formally registered in Cote D’Ivoire.

Marcos served from 2014 to 2016 as the head of internship department at the Ministry Employment, Technical and Vocation Training. Currently, though he is the Studies Officer of the Minister of Employment and Social Protection, he is still engaged in teachers’ development projects; the ongoing one is related to a country wide English Teacher professional development with the support of an English Language Fellow, a US Department of States Program.

You can e-mail him at CI-ATEFL has a facebook page if you’d like to find out more.

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?

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Q & A from Laura Patsko’s webinar on teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca

On 9th September 2017, Laura Patsko presented the following IATEFL webinar:

Teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)

What do learners of English need to sound like? Who do they speak to? Who needs to understand them? Who do they need to understand? In 2017, the answer to all these questions is probably not “native English speakers”. Linguists estimate that non-native speakers of English now outnumber its native speakers by at least 3 to 1 (Crystal, 2008), and approximately 80% of interaction in English worldwide takes place with no native speakers present (Beneke, 1991). What does this mean for our classrooms? This webinar will consider new pronunciation priorities and challenges for learners and teachers of English, including practical tips and activities.

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 Laura’s answers to some of the questions below. Over to Laura…

Thanks to all those who were able to attend my webinar on 9 Sept 2017. There were so many great questions and not enough time to respond to them all! So in this post, I’ll address some more. People often asked questions on the same general themes, so my responses are grouped accordingly. I’ve also included links to further resources so you can continue exploring ELF and pronunciation.

First of all…


Bachir Sahed: Do we teach our students to be EFL or ELF speakers?

It depends on their needs. One argument is that teachers should determine whether their students are really learning English in order to use it as a ‘foreigner’, i.e. living in a country where most other people use English as their first language, or to use it as a lingua franca, i.e. interacting in English with people from many different first-language backgrounds. They should then teach the students appropriately according to the different priorities of these two different use cases. Another argument is to recognise that we rarely fully understand the future needs of our students (and they themselves might not know!), in which case we should trust in statistics and assume that most people learning English today will need ELF, so that should be our focus.

My own feeling is somewhere in between. I think the most effective users of any language are those who appreciate that language is inherently diverse, flexible and changeable, and who have enough awareness of themselves and others to modify and moderate their use of language to suit different contexts and audiences. In practice, this means that our students today will need a sophisticated sense of what is likely to be most widely understood by the people who they are likely to interact with, but they will also need to be prepared to be surprised and to adapt to new contexts and interlocutors, which they will certainly encounter one day.

Apapan Ruengkul: Do you think that teaching pronunciation for ELF and EIL is the same?

Generally, yes. As research continues and our understanding of language phenomena develops, different scholars propose different terminology. What was once called ‘EIL’ [English as an International Language] is now generally called ‘ELF’ [English as a Lingua Franca], but even the term ‘ELF’ is now being discussed and sometimes replaced by other terms in more recent research. You can learn more about these developments in a free online course developed by the British Council and the University of Southampton’s Centre for Global Englishes.

This is closely related to…

What learners need/want

Arnab Podder (India): In my context (India), I have many students asking me “How do I master X accent”? What should be an appropriate way to deal with it?

We need to understand our students’ reasons for wanting to acquire a certain accent. Do they understand the implications of different accents? Do they (mistakenly) equate a specific accent with perfect international intelligibility? Do they actually want to speak with a certain accent, or do they really want the prestige associated with that accent? Do they simply like how a particular accent sounds because they’ve heard it in films? And so on. We need to have an ongoing discussion with learners about why they want what they want. To my mind, this is what distinguishes English teaching from English education. Of course, once our learners are able to make a considered, informed choice, then it’s our job to help them – by providing guidance, support and resources. Just as we would do for any other aspect of their English learning!

Some of you also asked about…

The content/focus of pronunciation instruction (especially for ELF)

Paul Seligson: Given the large number of cognates between English and Romance languages, where placing the stress in the ‘right’ place will effectively ‘gift’ you an English word, why is word stress not considered important in ELF?

It’s not that word stress isn’t considered important, just that from existing research word stress still appears to be a ‘grey area’ which needs further investigation. My own view is that knowledge of word stress will be useful for producing and understanding nuclear stress*, which is widely agreed as important for intelligibility. But this is a different justification for teaching word stress than the one you suggest. There may well be many cognates between English and Romance languages, but of course Romance languages are not relevant to all ELF research, or indeed all English users.

One thing that most pronunciation researchers agree on, and particularly those focusing on ELF, is that a learner’s L1 is one of the most helpful indicators for identifying priorities for pronunciation work and guiding the learner to producing particular pronunciation features. So if you’re teaching someone whose L1 is a Romance language and you are aware of cognates with only slightly different pronunciation, I’d certainly agree that it would be useful to draw their attention to this. But I couldn’t realistically give the same advice to all teachers and learners of all different L1s.

*Claudia Camenzind: What is nuclear stress?

I’ve written an introduction, with links to classroom activities, to this topic here.

Gonzalo Eduardo Espinosa: Would you suggest working on suprasegmentals first and then segments? Or both at the same time?

This is a difficult question to answer. Different learners have different needs and priorities, so I would probably give different advice to different people! My own preference is usually to start with segments and build them up into increasingly larger structures (syllables, then polysyllabic words, then phrases, etc.). But even more important than this is to simply include pronunciation with any new language structures that we teach. So if we’re teaching vocabulary in one lesson, we should also teach how the words are pronounced (i.e. sounds and syllables). If we’re teaching functional phrases in another lesson, we should also teach where the nuclear stress would likely fall in these phrases (i.e. a suprasegmental feature). And so on.

An interesting topic which I didn’t cover in the webinar was…

The role of ELF and pronunciation in assessment

JJ Polk: How does intelligibility of ELF play into standardized exams today?

James Easton: What steps are being taken to question the way English pronunciation is currently assessed by oral examiners for Trinity College London, Cambridge and IELTS etc?

To the best of my knowledge, the way pronunciation is assessed by standardised test examiners isn’t an immediate concern to the test providers. Pronunciation is perceived by so many in the ELT industry as esoteric and low-priority. Moreover, assessment of speaking in standardised tests tends to have a three-way tension between the need for consistent benchmarking, the need to be seen as respecting the diversity of English(es) worldwide and the need for assessors to be able to apply their discretion when exercising their specialist expertise and assessing someone’s oral intelligibility. These factors together give assessors a lot of individual power but little guidance in how to exercise it.

For example, the need for consistent benchmarking tends to lead to a (perceived or assumed) need to specify a standard norm to mark against, yet no exam boards seem to want to make an explicit choice of which accent assessors should use as a norm (for example, Received Pronunciation), presumably to avoid unpopularity among all the millions of speakers who don’t themselves know or use that variety. This leads to many exam descriptors that are unhelpfully vague or presumptuous, for example:

[pronunciation] is easy to understand throughout; L1 accent has minimal effect on intelligibility
– publicly available descriptor for IELTS band 8

Easy to understand by whom? The examiner? An imagined interlocutor? In what context? Why assume that an L1 accent will have an effect on intelligibility?

[candidate can] Produce individual sounds so as to be fully understood by the examiner, with only a rare sound that deviates from an internationally intelligible model
– publicly available descriptor for Trinity GESE band 12

At least here, a specific listener-judge is identified. But what counts as an ‘internationally intelligible model’? There is no widely agreed such thing. Such descriptors attempt to show awareness of international English without actually providing anything of practical use. It’s an exercise in ‘box ticking’. The best available evidence-based set of pronunciation features that enhance internationally intelligibility is arguably the Lingua Franca Core (LFC), but this is not a model per se. And in my experience, it’s unlikely that these examiners are trained to know the contents of the LFC. What’s more, a listener’s expectations and experience have a significant bearing on whether a speaker’s pronunciation is intelligible. Yet in an assessment situation, only the speaker (the person being assessed) will suffer the consequences of this mismatch in listener expectations and speaker performance.

Ultimately, the best judge of whether someone’s pronunciation is internationally intelligible is someone who is interacting with that person in an ‘international’ context. In other words, an individual examiner with little knowledge of ELF research and implications, who is forced to make a judgment in a few minutes based on an interaction between the test candidate and only one other speaker (listener), is probably not the best assessor – but it’s the best solution we’ve got at present given the logistical practicalities of assessing thousands of test takers worldwide year-round. Certainly, human markers are still much better than machines for comprehending speech and assessing speaking skills. Going forward, I would advise that test descriptors are revised to focus on intelligibility over acceptability, and then ensure that assessors are better trained in how this is actually likely to sound in practice.

There was a programme on BBC Radio 4 several years ago in which they touched on this subject, if you’d like to hear what someone from an examining body has to say.

Now, coming back to the classroom, some people had questions about…

Minimal pairs vs. context

Kemal Bereksi: the minimal pair ‘had’ : ‘hat’ could be confusing in isolation, but will hardly ever be confused in context. Don’t you think so?

Dong An: Would minimal pairs only be useful if the two words are of the same type? They wouldn’t confuse an adjective with a verb, would they?

There are really two issues here: one is about the way words in context might (or might not) confuse us, and the other is about the purpose of minimal pairs.

First of all, pronunciation does not operate in isolation. If a speaker deviates from norms and/or listener expectations in lexis or grammar, this can be compounded by pronunciation factors. So yes, in theory, many minimal pairs would be easily distinguished by the lexico-grammatical context. But in practice, when we listen to someone speak, what we’re actually doing is very rapidly decoding the sounds they produce, matching these strings of sounds to words in our mental lexicon, then matching these strings or words to grammatical patterns, so that we can understand the whole discourse. If that first step – decoding – doesn’t happen easily, each subsequent step can be slowed or stopped. Meanwhile, the speaker continues speaking and the listener is left behind. It’s no longer a question of identifying whether a word is an adjective or a verb, because there was already an issue in the first place with recognising the sounds. Certainly, listeners do use contextual clues to understand what they hear, and this can often resolve potential breakdowns in understanding. But even proficient listeners and speakers can occasionally misunderstand each other, so it’s helpful for learners to raise their awareness of meaningful contrasts through minimal pair work in class, so that they are better equipped to self-monitor during future interactions.

And secondly, even this explanation still neglects the fact that minimal pairs are probably more useful as a teaching technique for pronunciation than as an example of confusion risks. Using minimal pairs in class is just a way of illustrating contrasts that otherwise would be completely abstract for learners. Thus, the ‘hat’/‘had’ example is just an illustration of one particular phonetic contrast that is important for international intelligibility.

And finally, a number of you asked if I could recommend…

Other resources

Christina Cacha: Can you recommend a good book that provides pronunciation activities?

I feel obliged to promote my own co-blog, which is full of activities for pronunciation and listening for ELF! The website is After that, my favourite activity book is Mark Hancock’s Pronunciation Games (CUP, 1995) and my favourite book about pronunciation and ELF specifically is Robin Walker’s Teaching the Pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca (OUP, 2010).

Jani Pandiri: Is there any material available where speakers of different countries use the same text?

Yes, there is a website called the Speech Accent Archive:


Thanks again for contributing to the ever-fascinating discussion of pronunciation for ELF.

I hope to see you at the next webinar!



Laura Patsko

Formerly an English teacher and teacher trainer, Laura Patsko now works as Senior ELT Research Manager for Cambridge University Press. She holds a BA in Linguistics and an MA in ELT & Applied Linguistics, and is particularly interested in the use of English as an international lingua franca, teaching pronunciation and investigating the practical applications of linguistic research. She blogs at and, and tweets as @lauraahaha.

Thank you to Laura for agreeing to write for the IATEFL 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.

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Behind the scenes at the IATEFL blog (Sandy Millin)

Now that the IATEFL blog has been running for a year, I thought it was high time to share a post about what happens behind the scenes.

Why does the blog exist?

The aim of the IATEFL blog is to showcase the diversity of our association, covering a range of topics which we think might interest our members. The IATEFL blog is designed to showcase the range of people involved in the association, and to help you find out more about what goes on behind the scenes. It is also our aim is to show the breadth of our profession – you will find information about associates in Africa and South America, teachers in Asia and Europe, SIGs covering business English, young learners and teenagers, global issues, and much more. Every post has links to something practical you might be able to use in your teaching and to further your knowledge of the TEFL profession.

How do we choose which posts are published?

The most important deciding factor is that everybody who writes on the IATEFL blog has to be a member of the association. If they’re eligible, then we work together to decide what might be particularly useful or interesting to our readers. After that, it’s first come, first served: as soon as a post is ready to be published, it goes into the next available slot. Posts are scheduled for every other Saturday, so the next post after this will be published on Saturday 11th November. The only exceptions are…

I’d like to write for the blog. How do I get involved?

Great! We’re always looking for new contributors and we’d love to hear from you. Just email 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 have a few guidelines to adhere to:

  • Posts should generally be no more than 1,000 words.
  • They should include a headshot and a short bio (see mine at the end of the post for an example).
  • Do not include images in the text. Instead, send the images separately, labelled e.g. Image 1, Image 2, Image 3. Indicate in the text where you would like them to be placed by writing [Image 1 here] [Image 2 here] in the correct place. If you would like captions for the images, include them in the text. Posts with images tend to be shared more, so if you have any relevant ones you’d like to include, please do, along with the source so that we can credit them appropriately.
  • Most importantly, each post should include an idea or link to a resource which readers can take away and use. Examples are the selected papers from the 41st FAAPI conference, or Julie Moore talking about HLT mag.

What if I don’t know what to write?

We are happy to help you come up with ideas for your post if you’re not entirely sure what to write about. You can also look at other posts on the blog for inspiration, or use some of the questions below to help you. They are designed to serve as prompts: there is no obligation to answer any of them, but they may help if you are suffering from writer’s block.

Individual members

  • Tell us a bit about you and your career.
  • What inspired you to join IATEFL initially?
  • (If you want to tell us!) How long have you been a member? How has the organisation changed over that time?
  • How would you summarise your experience of IATEFL in less than 100 words?
  • Are you a(n active) member of a SIG? What made you choose it? What do you get out of it?
  • Do you work with any other teaching associations or organisations? What makes IATEFL different?
  • Can you share one activity, tip or resource that you’ve learnt about thanks to IATEFL? Why did you choose it?
  • Do you have any interesting stories to tell related to IATEFL? For example, from an event you’ve attended, a person you’ve met, or an idea you’ve used in the classroom.
  • Why would you recommend joining IATEFL?


  • What should readers know about your country? Are there any stereotypes you want to break for us? 🙂
  • What is English teaching/training like for your members? Do you have a typical member? e.g. types of school/institution, class sizes, resources/support available
  • What are the biggest challenges for English teachers in your country?/What are the biggest/most common areas of discussion?
  • What kind of things does your organisation do? e.g. projects you are involved in, past and upcoming events, publishing resources, examples of ways you support members…
  • What have you got out of being a member of IATEFL (as an individual or as an organisation)?
  • Can you share one activity, tip or resource that you’ve learnt about thanks to being part of IATEFL? Why did you choose it? and/or Do you have an activity or resource connected to your country which readers could use?
  • Do you have any interesting stories to tell related to being a member of your organisation? For example, from an event you’ve attended, a person you’ve met, or an idea you’ve used in the classroom.
  • What plans does your organisation have for the future? Is there anything readers could get involved in?
  • How can people find out more? e.g. website, newsletter, social media, people to contact…

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

  • How would you summarise your SIG in less than 100 words?
  • What kind of things does your SIG do? e.g. past and upcoming online and offline events, publishing resources, examples of PCE themes…
  • What made you choose this SIG? What have you got out of being a member?
  • Can you share one activity, tip or resource that you’ve learnt about thanks to your SIG? Why did you choose it?
  • Do you have any interesting stories to tell related to your SIG? For example, from a SIG event you’ve attended, a person you’ve met, or an idea you’ve used in the classroom.
  • Why would you recommend your SIG?
  • How can people find out more? e.g. website, newsletter, social media, people to contact…

Conference stories

  • Which conference are your writing about? It doesn’t have to be the main IATEFL conference – it could also be an Associate or SIG conference.
  • Why did you choose to go to the conference?
  • Can you summarise the main theme(s) in less than 200 words?
  • Did you present? If so, what about?
  • Do you have any interesting stories from the conference?
  • What ideas, resources or activities did you find most interesting or useful at the conference?
  • When is the next similar conference happening?

Scholarship winners

  • Which scholarship did you win?
  • Why did you decide to apply for it?
  • What were the requirements of the scholarship?
  • How did it help you?
  • What did you gain from winning a scholarship?
  • Can you share one resource or idea you picked up as a result of winning your scholarship, or tips for future scholarship applicants?

Behind the scenes at IATEFL

  • What does your job entail?/What does your committee do?
  • How did you get involved in IATEFL?
  • How has your role developed?
  • What are the upsides and downsides of your position?
  • How would you summarise your experience of IATEFL in less than 100 words?
  • What do you think blog readers would be particularly surprised to know about your position?

I have another idea…

Great! Please tell us about it. We’d love to know what you’d like to read about, and to hear your ideas for other categories we can include on the blog. The only restrictions are that you’re an IATEFL member, and that our readers would benefit from your post. Other than that, the floor is yours!

What happens next?

Once you have submitted your text, we will upload it to the blog and edit it to match the style of other posts in the same category. We’ll send you a link to a draft version of the post, including any questions we may have about the content, or letting you know if there’s anything missing. As soon as these areas have all been resolved, we line the post up to published, letting you know the date it will go live. As soon as it’s on the blog, we’ll let you know so that you can share it with anyone you think might be interested. It’s as easy as that! So what are you waiting for? Email blog (at) iatefl (dot) org to get involved.


Sandy Millin

Sandy Millin is a member of the IATEFL Membership and Marketing Committee (MMCom) and the curator of the IATEFL blog. When she’s not editing posts here, you can find her writing on her own blog, tweeting as @sandymillin, or writing ebooks. Her latest ebook is ELT Playbook 1. The rest of the time, she works as the Director of Studies at International House Bydgoszcz in Poland, and as a jobbing CELTA trainer in the summer.

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?

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IATEFL: Dream and Reality (Syke Annamma Kumaran)

I heard the acronym IATEFL for the first time only in 2010 at the age of 32, which was 8 years after finishing my M.A. in English. I was attending the 41st annual international conference of ELTAI (English Language Teachers Association of India). Suddenly the desire to attend the IATEFL conference conquered me. My mind was longing to visit the UK, its Highlands …the Thames …the Bard’s Stratford upon Avon … and so on.

Syke in front of Shakespeare's HouseThe ELTAI conference was really my gateway to the ELT world. At the conference I saw Steven Herder over a Skype call, addressed to all conference attendees.

Then I, a high school teacher in a village in Kerala, India began to speak with many many teachers from all over the world, including with Steven Herder. I hosted the first webinar series in the state for the school students and teachers. Steven Herder, Chuck Sandy , Barbara Sakamoto, Scott Thornbury and others talked about the formation of the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). Steven invited me to test their ELT products and that process resulted in making me a mentor for iTDi . Then with him and other iTDi members I did a number of webinars / Skype sessions as speaker/host/attendee . My students were really blessed to speak with great English teachers from around the world.

In 2014 when I attended the TEC conference, I was not in a position to control my thirst to attend the IATEFL conference. I met George Pickering there and he warned me of the chances of failure while applying for a UK visa. I took the decision to apply independently for the visa to attend the IATEFL Manchester conference 2015 because of the thought that if I failed, I could have kept it a secret. But unexpectedly I got the visa and then Dr. Elango, General Secretary of ELTAI, assigned a duty to me… to represent ELTAI at the Associates Day.

Syke with Scott Thornbury and George Pickering

At the Associates’ Day in Manchester Central, Carol Read invited me to speak about ELTAI projects in India. I was thrilled to speak in front of David Crystal, a living legend of English. The conference really opened a new world to me ….a world of English language teachers, professors, publishers and curriculum designers. I could see many of my facebook and twitter friends in person.

When I met the Ray Tongue scholarship winner there, the seed of winning a scholarship began to grow in my mind. My friend in India, Aneesh Koirambatta, watered that seed. When I reached home after the conference, I began to prepare to apply for the Ray Tongue scholarship for the 50th annual IATEFL conference in Birmingham. When I uploaded my application, I didn’t think I had any chance of winning it. But again, as a SHOCK, the letter from Eryl Griffiths came informing me that I won the scholarship. When my school authority knew this, they conducted a big ceremony to congratulate me. And you won’t believe, more than thirty-five functions were being held in my district to receive me!!! I was the first person in my state (Kerala) to win an IATEFL scholarship!!

Syke with his scholarship certificate

During the conference, I could visit Stratford-upon-Avon with my friends. Alison Schwetlick, the editor of Voices could see the writer and photographer in me and she asked me to apply for the position of conference reporter for the next three conferences. So I was lucky to get selected as the official reporter of the 2017 Glasgow conference and I had a splendid conference there. From a faraway dream, IATEFL is now my second home, an inspiration for my friends in India and around the world…

See you in Brighton !!

With scholarship winners from Pakistan and Nepal


Syke A.K.

Syke A.K. is a writer, presenter and teacher trainer, currently a TEA fellow of U.S. Department of State at Claremont Graduate University, past winner of the IATEFL Ray Tongue Scholarship and Mentor for the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). He has been teaching English for over 15 years in schools and colleges in India.

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?

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FAAPI’s CPD objectives fulfilled once again (Federación Argentina de Asociaciones de Profesores de Inglés)

Logo FAAPIFederación Argentina de Asociaciones de Profesores de Inglés (FAAPI) is a group of twenty-two teacher associations in Argentina.

Map of associations 2017

Map of associations 2017

FAAPI’s conference is the most important ELT academic event in the country and is organised by a different sister association every year.

#FAAPI Conferences Collage

In September 2016 the conference was held in the city of San Juan (located in San Juan Province), organised by the teacher association in this province.

Photos from the FAAPI Conference 2016

The theme of the 2016 conference was “ELT as a Multidisciplinary Endeavour: Growing through collaboration”. Among other central themes was the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, with presentations that honoured his work and its potential for the L2 class. Another central theme was the Argentine Independence Bicentennial, which invited the reflection on the importance of the mother tongue in the teaching and learning of foreign languages.

These topics were addressed in the different presentations: plenaries, semi-plenaries, workshops, special sessions, different strands, panels, a play with children’s voices, and a theatre play by the professional company The Performers.

The plenaries and semi-plenaries were delivered by top-notch speakers from Argentina, Latin America and around the world:

  • Argentina: Dr Darío Banegas, Dr Mario López Barrios, Jennifer Verschoor, Dr Claudia Ferradas, Susan Hillyard and Susana Liruso.
  • The UK: Dr Silvana Richardson, Sue Kay, Dave Allan, and Dr Luke Prodromou.
  • Spain: Dr Laura Alba Juez and Dr Luis Villacaña.
  • Brazil: Lucy Crichton
  • Uruguay: Gerardo Valazza
  • Mexico: Jair Felix
  • Palestine: Aziz Abu Sarah

Their presence contributed to the high academic level of the conference, which the attendees valued as very positive. It is also worth mentioning that numerous teachers and researchers from our country and neighbouring countries participated in the concurrent sessions along the three days of the conference, offering 50 papers and 25 workshops.

An Academic Committee with a federal composition selected some of the papers presented for publication. The chosen papers were compiled and edited by Dr Darío Luis Banegas, Dr Mario López-Barrios, Dr Melina Porto and María Alejandra Soto. This publication is available free of charge on FAAPI’s website.

The event took place in different venues in the city of San Juan, offered free of charge by the Provincial Government and the National University of San Juan.  This conference was attended by a great number of colleagues, which stands as proof of the success achieved by all the previous annual FAAPI conferences. Concurrently with the academic activities, an exhibition of specialized material for the teaching of English as a foreign language for different age groups and linguistic levels was held in an adjacent hall. This exhibition allowed the main publishing companies, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and similar companies connected with the teaching and learning of English in our country to show and share their products with the eager participants.

Moreover, one of the sponsoring companies offered an open theatre play to the participants of the conference and community from San Juan in general. The free-of-charge initiative was enthusiastically welcomed by the public.

In addition to the National Ministry of Education and Sports, the event was endorsed by the following state-run and private institutions and organizations:

  • Provincial Ministry of Education (San Juan)
  • National University of San Juan
  • Philosophy, Humanities and Arts School (UNSJ)
  • Catholic University of Cuyo (Argentina)
  • Ministry of Tourism and Culture of San Juan
  • Provincial Legislature (San Juan)
  • British Council

Due to its immediate reach, this event in the city of San Juan had a highly positive impact on the educational aspects of ELT. It also promoted tourism and the economy of the province,. During the Conference as well as before and after it, around 700 participants contributed to the economic development of the Province (hotels, restaurants, tours to different sights in the province, purchase of world-famous wines and fine olive oils, etc.)

However, FAAPI is more than its annual conference, since it offers monthly webinars by well-known colleagues, on-line courses on Academic Writing, and the Daniel Fernandez Scholarship in honour of our colleague, who died an untimely death but left his imprint on Argentine ELT.  Also, twice a year FAAPI publishes the Argentinian Journal of Applied Linguistics (AJAL). For the current issue, please visit the AJAL website.

AJAL and DFS photos

FAAPI’s Executive Committee is grateful for having been granted the Hornby Scholarship in 2016. That grant allowed the Federation to launch an online platform and carry out one of its most valuable projects, an online seminar called “Writing to be heard in FAAPI Conferences”, led by renowned experts in the field Raquel Lothringer and Dr María Susana Ibáñez.  The course is being repeated at the moment, with even more participants than last year, both from Argentina and from foreign countries.

Academic Writing ad

With the above mentioned grant, FAAPI also hired a web conference environment to carry out webinars. In 2016 Mariel Amez and Alicia Artusi shared two very interesting webinars, both related to the use of ICT in TEFL. FAAPI’s Executive Committee is planning to continue offering these successful webinars in 2017.

To sum up, in a number of ways FAAPI fosters teachers’ continuous professional development and thus fulfils three of its founding objectives:

  1. A) To encourage the professional growth of English teachers and to strive for constant improvement and updating of ELT curriculums, programmes and methods.
  2. B) To strengthen links among English teachers and Argentine and foreign educational and cultural institutions which aim at the dissemination of the English language and the enhancement of its teaching.
  3. C) To foster friendship and solidarity among the Associations it brings together.

Contact details

Should you wish to reach the FAAPI Executive Committee, please contact us at:

You might also be interested in joining us at our 2017 conference in Posadas.

FAAPI Conf 2017 Coming soon

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

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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

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)



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!

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

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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

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!


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.

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

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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.


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.

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

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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?”


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?

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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.


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.

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