Teacher empowerment was the theme of this weekend’s Innovate 2016, my second ever conference. It was a hotbed of ELT activism, the perfect foil to the big-hitter IH BCN, and I left, yes, feeling really empowered. The best evidence of this being the massive to-do list I made, in fact so massive I may follow this up with a second post…
1. Write a blog post or three √
2. Encourage gender equality in ELT by nominating the many excellent female educators/trainers/managers I know, eminently capable and deserving of plenary slots, to Nicola Prentis’ database of female speakers and in turn help more conferences to get a spot on the fair list. I loved Nicola’s *closing plenary on the subject, and the sheer quality of female speakers should be more than enough motivation for everyone in attendance. Join me and nominate!
3. Join the debate and stop being complicit in discriminating against NNESTs (Non-native English speaker teachers). The reasons seem fairly obvious, but just in case you or your students need persuading read Helen Strong’s article or take a look TEFL Equity Advocate’s slideshow. One indignant letter from an Angry Young Polish Man to IH Lisbon changed their hiring policy, so! If you’re still in doubt ELFpron is a great resource and source of info I’d already come across as a result of my DELTA, and I found the quote from Laura Patsko’s plenary (below) apt, and extremely pretty besides.
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !
– Edwin Markham
4. Try to ‘lead’ more consciously in my work life. Having worked as an account coordinator for a language school, I decided a while back that ELT management wasn’t for me. I usually skip workshops concerning this sphere but Duncan Foord’s Leadership for Teachers forced me to reassess this complacent attitude a bit. Switching ‘leader’ for ‘teacher’ in this cheesy meme shows that (good) leaders and teachers aren’t that different. Contrasting ‘leader’ with ‘manager’ did leave managers sounding like boring jobsworths but I think the point he was trying to make is that a synthesis of leadership qualities with our role benefits us, our students, and colleagues at whatever level, and this idea became immediately salient in the (fiery) end-of-conference discussion group on ’empowerment’ I joined, meditating on what we can do ourselves about the inequity we face in this industry. Not sure we came up with any answers but it was good to let it out! More personally, I think sometimes leading myself is what I need to work on still… Oh, and I love the Delta book series so need to get a hold of his book on Teacher Development which he drew on for the seminar.
5. Learn how to correctly pronounce…
I absolutely LOVED being a total beginner in Ceri Jones‘ fanTASTic Welsh 101. The “out-of-learner-body” experience of observing your own language learning to reboot your teaching practice simply can’t be underestimated. It took me back to a recent full-time Spanish course and provided that final piece of the jigsaw (the total beginner piece) which would have completed my mega-learner-teacher-mind-map of thoughts and feelings scribbled down back then. I think it should be industry standard for every language teacher to, er, learn a language on the regular (Further proof of point 3.)
6. Try to avoid the pitfalls of categorising learners (and teachers for that matter (see point3)). There was a strong nod to humanism in Ben Goldstein’s seminar Learner Categories: What are they for? The human tendency to categorise and label is innate but artificial, often unhelpful and sometimes even a bit sinister, and perhaps optimal teaching, ELT publishing and exams make uneasy bedfellows, not lost on me at a conference. As an aside, you know what, despite being a relatively experienced teacher who’s sat through endless placement tests and is also an IELTS examiner, I STILL have trouble ‘placing’ students. Their use of language is as complex as any human being is. I have issues with reductionism.
7.Get my arse in gear and get round to exploiting the Lesson Study Action Research I completed last year. A chance meeting has this affect on you sometimes (thanks Julie!)
8. Be more time-efficient. If 3 plenaries, and various workshops, can be squeezed into 30 minute slots and not leave me feeling short changed, I can stop using the excuse there’s not enough time and look at ways to pare down my lesson delivery. And my blogposts.
9. Stop singing Public Enemy’s Fight the Power! it’s been stuck in my head all week.
Cheers to ELTjam, OxfordTEFL and InnovateELT, and to all the great speakers I saw for a great conference
*Edit: I removed the word ‘feisty’ to describe Nicola Prentis’ plenary in point 2. Reading it back I realised how gendered this adjective actually is (I would never describe a guy as feisty, would you?). I can’t put my finger on it. It has a generally positive connotation yet sounds unintentionally belittling to me, which goes against the entire theme of the plenary and more broadly gender equality. Any thoughts?