Conference Report: BESIG 2009

Last week, the annual Teachers of Business English conference was held in Poznan, Poland. I made the trek all the way there to have a look at what’s been going on in my field of teaching English to adult learners.

Poznan is a gorgeous city and having arrived early in the morning, I got the chance to have a wander around the city and even bought myself some lovely Polish amber.

On Friday evening, there was an official reception and the opportunity to meet up with folks I’ve mostly only spoken to virtually on Twitter, Facebook and in the various yahoo!groups.

Some of my friends from ELTAS were also there so I wasn’t completely alone: Daphne Klimmek and Krystyna Key, Kenny Christian, the English Profi, and Shelly Terrell as well as Laura Hudson, busy manning the impressive Macmillan stand.

Watching Shelly Terrell and Carl Dowse compare i-phone apps probably sums up the running themes throughout this technology driven conference … oh we geeks do love our gadgets… and ha, ha! it turns out that Heike Philp and I have the same wee little blue Acer netbooks… remember that misguided poem I wrote dedicated to this no.1 love-in-my-life LOL… well, I’ll have you know he’s still the very best thing I ever bought.


It was a lovely treat to meet Barry Tomalin and Petra a.k.a @TEFLPet in person – she’s just as sweet and pretty as she is on Twitter and Barry is wonderful and warmhearted.

The Plenary


Saturday’s event kicked off early with a presentation from Vicki Hollet and it was, undoubtedly, the highlight of my journey to Poznan to meet Vicki in real life.

I’ll let you in on a secret… the first time Vicki wrote on my blog I thought one of my colleagues was playing a trick on me! However, bit by bit over these months, I’ve gotten a chance to know her better - through her blog and on various social networking sites so finally hearing her live and finding out how generous and nice she is as a person - not just as a leading author and trainer - was, well, fab!

Vicki’s plenary was called Relationships Matter and she put forth an argument about the way we teach ‘relationship’ language in Business English.

In this world of cultural differences where what we say to each other counts, she talked to us about things like how we give directives (orders, suggestions, requests) saying it’s not just about the form we use or who is saying what, but how things are actually said. She introduced us to the concept of whimperatives – the questions we ask when we’re pretending the other person has a choice.

Would you mind opening the window as opposed to Can you open the window; Would it be possible to use your phone instead of May I use your phone / Do you mind if I use your phone? When these instructions are given by a boss or a superior, we know precisely it’s an order no matter how softly or carefully given.

Oh, those are for my son’s classmates in response to My, those biscuits do look awfully delicious, helps save the face of both parties and allows the greedy one to be gracious with a How lucky.

Our students often ask what is a more formal way of saying something or how to be more polite yet it’s really not as simple as that - it depends so much on the context and culture – and this is often ambiguous. What do you think?

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Ambiguity, Vicki also explained, in our communication with each other can often make a person more likeable and despite the fact that we teachers tend to think that directness and clarity is a better route in communication, and teach this, it often causes our students to come across as being impolite, stern, bossy! Tentativeness is what makes people more approachable, more likable and what causes others to contribute more, therefore making a team more effective and it’s necessary for this sort of language in contextual frameworks to appear in our teaching texts.

I’ve been thinking about her points all week and it’s already been creeping into my lessons!

This week I had to explain the difference, the subtlety in, rather than the grammatical differences of I’ve already done that, I’ve done that already and I did it already discussing potential implied tones.Tough one huh?



Workshops


After Vicki’s plenary and a couple of cups of coffee and some yummy Polish biscuits I headed off to attend my first workshop. This was with Anisoara Pop from Romania who presented a case study based on her work with university students.

Anisoara wanted to find a way to narrow the gap between what students need, her schools’ requirements and to engage her students in captivating, memorable lessons. She did a thorough study on the functional language they require, became a webhead: looking for flexible asynchronous tools and thinking about things like motivating less proficient users, creating a safe environment for her learners and on how best to maximize writing and speaking skills.

She created a wiki, which is now public, where she’s able to give students instructions on things like how many articles to write, netiquette issues, copyright and also asked them to create their own blogs, 10% of whom still post!



Using Voxopop, a voice based message board, her students were also able to discuss real issues with people all over the world and linked up with another university in Spain.

By the way, the next free training session to become a webhead starts December 4th.



After this session, I trundled on over to see Heike Philp and Holly Longstroth talking about the use of 2nd Life in Business English and their Avalon project.

avalon business lesson by graham stanley
This was a pretty interesting session. I’ve visited 2nd Life a couple of times but to be honest, haven’t really explored it as an educational tool - the truth is my current students aren’t much into it - still it was very interesting to find out more what goes on there and I’m hoping to attend Language Lab’s session on the same subject in Harrogate next year.



After lunch it was time for Cleve Miller and the opportunity to learn about English 360. Cleve and I have had a pretty long-standing joke… I thought his avatar looked a bit like Seth Godin back in the early Twitter days… but actually, in RL, he doesn’t!

However he is as innovative and brave and as dynamic a presenter.

To be honest, bogged down with my blended learning platform plus our supportive wiki recording emergent language - where I’ve got my students becoming co-creators of all the materials we need in true dogmesque2.0 fashion… (huge fun, an engaging learning environment but a lot of work) …after seeing what English 360’s got on offer I must confess this just might have been a much simpler option!

Cleve’s thang lies in the creation of playlists and his concept is, I’m convinced, the future of coursebooks – I love the idea of a book being broke up into parts where I’d have a say (based on my students’ interests) in what is done and when.

English 360 is an online space where TEFL teachers are able to do just that and create, share with others, discuss ideas and learn from each other. It’s an active, user-generated content platform combining your own work plus, this is the wow factor, previously published materials from Cambridge University Press - all of which can be integrated and even branded as per each teachers’ /language institute wishes!

To find out more visit the English 360 website or read the interview with Cleve Miller on Jeremy Day’s Specific English.


World of Work Panel
Then it was time to head off for the World-of-Work forum with Evan Frendo, Matt Firth, Carl Dowse, James Schofield. Due to personal reasons, Eric Baber was beamed in live from the UK.

Matt spoke to us about the impact technology has on the development of courses and their curriculum… it was a bit odd watching him do this presentation, constantly seated in front of his Mac… I kept wondering if he was filming himself as part of a webinar.

Evan chatted about how the use of technology is principally age-driven and related some of restrictive problems from the corporate perspective (not being able to access youtube or other sites) and glitches (what Thornbury calls faffing about).

And then the most shocking thing I ever did see… occurred in this room.

Well, passions were high – any discussion discussing the use of technology in the classroom is bound to raise the blood pressure…

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James threw a book on the floor, stomped on it… I mean he jumped up and down on it, really, then picked it up again, waved the tome in hands and said: See, good as new, I can still teach with it. Books are permanent.

Then he turned round towards the innocently seated Carl and asked if he could have his i-phone. Good lord, I thought I’d faint. So shocked was I, that I’m not even sure if I can tell you what the rest of the session was about.


No, not really.

Carl gave us the point of view of teachers, showing us a wide range of twitter quotes he’d collected and then James, the book stomper (who is actually a very talented author - my students love his readers… surprisingly(!) they can actually use technology and read books too…;-)), gave us the author’s perspective and brought up issues like how money is going to be made in this age of free (digital books do sell) but also more importantly how to let students know what they’re doing incorrectly.

An issue I have had issues with on my Ning – 35 blog posts in one go can sometimes mean a lot of correcting: I’m trying to teach them awareness and an ability to find their own errors.

Here’s a short video from the World-of-Work forum in July explaining a bit about what they’re doing, there’ll be a virtual conference next year.



The next day

I found myself, accidentally, in one of those, oh-dear-what-was-I-thinking sessions so I won’t bother to add notes on that one… whoops… I simply left as fast as I could then met up with a publisher about a project I may well be working on soon.It was a good meeting…a very good meeting….more later.

Finally, I headed off to the last session: the closing panel which was great but again, technology related, a discussion on the future of learning.

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Petra Pointer supplied us the teachers’ perspective – she works at a very well-endowed university in Germany and is a tech enthusiast herself but mainly has found out that her students don’t like using technology for technology’s sake.

Fair point, but I do remember not liking writing essays for the sake of writing essays nor memorizing random dates for the sake of memorizing dates… so not much has changed really ;-), learners want to learn stuff that’s useful and practical and all teachers should pay attention to that, innit?


Ian McMaster, Business Spotlight editor, went next updating us on the commercial point of view: that the learners are the deciders - businesses will provide whatever it is they are actually purchasing and so far, to date, at BS only about 10% are downloading their audio tracks. He also pretty much told us that we shouldn’t simply follow the latest bandwagon - while the industry does need its “visionaries” - somewhere between those that see the future and those that are the end-purchasers, the publishers will adapt and stay afloat…I hope he’s right.




Cleve restated his position on crowd-sourcing and collaborative content: the future’s in personalized materials. I feel in my bones he’s right. Shiv Rajendran, of the Language Lab, described the situation rather sensibly: learners want to learn in the way they want to learn – whatever topic, whenever – adhoc lessons on their own terms.

Eric interrupted from the Skype beam (he was very much in the room with us, I tell ya) with a Henry Ford quote “If I’d have asked the customer what he wanted, he would have said a faster horse” which made us all laugh -Pete Sharma then made an equally witty retort, something to do with apples and oranges but unfortunately I didn’t type it up… so I can’t tell you exactly what he said!

Bryon Russell believes there will always be a call for Publishers, for Editors: his point being that teacher generated materials can sometimes be unprofessional in appearance. And he’s right in part but in part, c'mon, the last time you made a game which wasn’t all cool-bananas, it worked didn’t it? Target language practiced?

Perhaps learning and teaching isn’t really about perfection and shiny covers.

Vicki chipped in with the fact that although we’re all using the internet and it’s great for supplementing our lessons, our students mainly want to speak: they want to talk , to commune-icate and often, pretty much… about themselves.

As this is my no. 1 mantra, the theme if you like of my blog, it was good to hear it from someone I respect so highly - it truly amazes me how many publishers and teachers miss out on taking advantage of the narcissism (not sure that's the right word) driving language acquisition.

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Then the discussion raged: teachers asking about the time to learn all these tools, are we losing focus, what’s the pedagogy behind the use of technology – and I thought to myself was it like this when we switched from chalk to whiteboards? Why do we keep blaming the tools, why would the pedagogy all of a sudden go out the window - because we’re sexing-up the lessons? Odd. Na ja, I expect that discussion isn't going to go away soon.

And then but, where’s the money, is there any money, are teachers going to be paid more? Yes, I piped up rather too directly (did I learn nothing from Vicki’s plenary) there is…

So many students don’t want to learn with technology - they’re tired of looking at computers after a hard day’s work – they said. Haven’t noticed this myself and again thought, did we complain about using textbooks and notebooks and pens when students were spending all day dictating letters to their secretaries?

One member of the audience added that she serves up her Business English classes at the kitchen table with lovely cups of tea as they go through projects and proposals and powerpoint slides and noddingly, understandingly, we celebrated the diversity which exists in all of our approaches, the variety of subcultures present within each of our different classrooms’ contexts and the BESIG conference came to its end.

See you next year!
Best, Karenne

To reuse any of the photographs in this posting for your own teaching associations' articles, websites or blog postings, visit the set on Flickr where they are creative commons licensed.

Karenne's EduBlogs Nominations for 2009


We've been asked by Edublogs to submit nominations for the 2009, Edublogs Awards

and mine are... drum roll....



Best of the Blogs


Best individual blogs

Best new blogs

Best group blogs


Best class blogs


Best Blog Posts


Most influential blog posts

Student support


Best student blogs

Best student blogs (written by global students for other global students)

Teacher Support

Best resource sharing blogs & websites

Best educational tech support blogs

Best corporate education blogs

Micro-blogging

Best individual tweeters

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion


Best use of specific tools

Best educational use of audio

Best educational use of video / visual blogs/websites

Best educational wikis


Best educational use of a social networking service

Best educational use of a virtual world



Lifetime educators


Lifetime achievement & bloggers

Best,
Karenne

Lindsay Clandfield on Katy Wright

I used to wonder why authors thanked their editors in the acknowledgments of their books. It wasn’t until I worked with Katy Wright that I really understood.

I first met Katy Wright at an IATEFL conference in Liverpool in 2004. It was my first BIG conference, I was an eager new author all set to meet my new commissioning editor and publisher at Macmillan. I remember being so nervous but excited at the same time. I was moving into a world about which I knew quite little and was in awe a bit at the whole thing. Katy Wright did not disappoint at all.

For the next year or so Katy helped the manuscript which was to become my first major book (Straightforward Elementary) take shape. She was a tireless professional. It takes a special kind of character to be a good editor, as you are often having to walk a fine line between encouraging an author when his/her work is good and pushing him/her when the work is not up to scratch. Katy was patient, and always listened to ideas and suggestions but always had a crystal clear idea of what the project needed.

Like the majority of editors, Katy started her ELT career as a teacher.

Fresh out of university (she studied history of art at Cambridge) she went to get her teaching certificate. Philip Kerr, lead author on Straightforward, was her trainer on her CELTA course at International House London. He told me that she was probably one of the sharpest, best teachers he had ever seen during his many years as a teacher trainer.

After finishing her certificate, Katy joined the British Council and started her career at the British Council in Israel. She spent three years in Tel Aviv and Nazareth, teaching general English and later on doing teacher training. This was the early nineties, and there were many English teachers from Russia who had arrived in Israel since the collapse of communism and needed training in communicative language teaching. Katy told me it was a great life experience, but after nearly four years it was time to move on.

Katy returned to the UK and did a higher diploma in TEFL at Manchester university. Shortly after finishing she moved into the world of educational publishing, which had been an interest to her since university days. Her first job was as a desk editor at Heinemann, working on manuscripts and learning the ropes. There she worked under Jill Florent, a “brilliant publisher and mentor” in Katy’s words. The first book Katy edited was Star, a First Certificate book by Luke Prodromou. I asked Luke how his experience was with Katy back at this time.

I first knew of Katy when her father appeared at the BC Thessaloniki in the late 70s early 80s. She was just a little girl. Then she 'reappeared' as my editor on Star, when the FC book was nearly complete and I was just starting the lower levels. I think it was her first project as an editor. She was young and full of energy and bright ideas. The difference between the FCE book and the other two volumes, the ones she edited is palpable. FCE is a baggy boring monster - basically it was not edited and overwrote like mad.

Her approach was tough, constructive and creative. When she didn't like something she provided alternative ideas or material. She was both critical and encouraging.

For me it was a learning experience in writing for teenagers and taking things form the readers' point of view. She helped me to keep the end reader in mind and produced a much fresher and appealing course. She had a good eye for design and visually had very good taste.

Interestingly, the FCE book was not a great seller - the books she edited, however, did much better and I am still in a position to appreciate and feel grateful for her support. She was a pleasure to work with and though young she was confident and professional. It made the sometimes painful experience of editorial feedback much easier to take and benefit from.

After two years Katy started moving up in the world of publishing. Her first promotion was to be commissioning editor for primary education in Greece. This allowed her to really focus on a market and get to know it. Greece is a very intense and competitive market, especially in the world of primary and secondary school, making it a very interesting place to work with in terms of English language teaching, and Katy was very satisfied with her work at that point.

But her real aim had always been adult education, and the opportunity presented itself when a job came up in the adult education group of Macmillan (who had taken over Heinemann by that point) with the late David Riley, a legend in the world of publishing. Katy began work on videos for the flagship course Inside Out before getting to commission her first own course – Straightforward. This was in 2003.

The world of publishing is constantly changing, and people are often moving about. So it was sad (for me and the other authors) but not a surprise to know that Katy was continuing her rise in the profession from commissioning editor to publisher.

She was offered a job with Pearson Longman as senior publisher for the adult group and the methodology titles in 2005. Since then Katy has been behind the launch of the new adult course Language Leader, as well as the award-winning How to Methodology series.

Katy and her partner Paul had their first child Amelie in 2007 and became parents for a second time earlier this 2009 with the arrival of Daniel. Much of the information for this piece I gathered from a Skype conversation with Katy at her home in London, as she is currently on maternity leave.

As this is a piece for She in ELT, I asked her if having children had made it difficult for her to find the right work-life balance. “Not really, no,” Katy told me. Although she was currently on maternity leave she felt that Pearson Longman had been amazing when it came to allowing her flexibility with work. “I cut down to four days a week after coming back from my maternity leave with Amelie. And of those four days, they let me work from home for two. Which really helps.”

So, is the world of ELT publishing male-dominated like many other businesses? Katy laughed when I asked this. “It’s like a nunnery!” she exclaimed, before quickly adding, “In the best possible way.” Katy told me that in ELT publishing, like in so many other sectors of language teaching, it is a female dominated area. Many of the very high up positions remain in the hands of men, but the glass ceiling in still pretty high. “I know several senior publishers and figures in the industry, all women.” And, based on her own experience, Katy believes that it is a good industry for women.

I thought a lot about how to begin this piece, because there is another thing about Katy that is interesting.

She is the daughter of another important ELT figure, Andrew Wright (author of Five Minute Activities and other books for teachers). It’s tempting to start to write about a daughter or son of someone known by insinuating that it’s all down to genetics, or contacts. However, in my view, Katy is a talented professional who is respected and appreciated in the field completely down to her own merit and personal achievements. She is one of the great “She in ELT” women in her own right, and I wish her all the best for the future.


Lindsay Clandfield is an award-winning methodology author, textbook writer, teacher and teacher trainer. A regular contributor to OneStopEnglish, he writes a monthly column for the Guardian Weekly and his great blog SixThings covers a wide range of topical ELT issues.


More in the She-in-ELT series

Wanna be a fly on the wall?


COMPETITION ANNOUNCEMENT:

BRITISH COUNCIL IATEFL CONFERENCE ROVING REPORTERS 2010

The IATEFL Online Project is a British Council / IATEFL partnership established to provide online conference coverage of the Annual IATEFL Conference.

Now in its fourth year, IATEFL Online returns in 2010 for the Annual IATEFL Conference, April 7- 10, in Harrogate, UK.

IATEFL Online will showcase the best of the conference providing interactive web coverage for remote participants around the globe with live video, interviews with presenters, dedicated forums, photo galleries and much, much more - so that ELT professionals can abreast with the conference even if they're not able attend in person.

IATEFL Online are currently looking for two Roving Reporters (RRs) to report on the major debates, news and 'coffee bar gossip' at IATEFL Harrogate as it happens.

Using laptops to produce quick-fire reports, mini-interviews and live personal impressions during each day, published on the Harrogate Online website, the RRs will communicate the excitement of the IATEFL conference and key points of the debates happening in Harrogate.

The two Roving Reporters will be ELT practicioners who have not had the chance to attend the IATEFL conference yet and who have dreamt of attending but would find it impossible, or almost impossibe, to fund themselves to do so.

The selected RRs will have their full conference fee, flights and connecting travel, hotel accommodation, meals and subsistence paid for (arranged by the British Council in London).

In order to apply to become one of 2010's Roving Reporters, complete the Writing Challenge below and send it IATEFLHarrogate2010 Reporters@ britishcouncil. org or by Fax: + 44 (0) 207 389 4464. .

COMPETITION INSTRUCTIONS - COMPETITION INSTRUCTIONS:

Imagine that you have been commissioned by your Teachers' Association or local teachers' group to write a report or article of an EL teacher development event - a report that will be uploaded to the TA or group website to be read by teachers worldwide.

  • Give your article an engaging title.
  • Base your report on a real event you've attended as a participant, trainer or organiser, preferably during 2008-2009.
  • This can be a meeting, seminar, workshop, debate, conference, webinar or similar. The teachers can be from the private or state sector; and can be from any level - primary, secondary, vocational, higher education, etc.
  • Produce a piece of writing that is both interesting as well as informative.
  • Imagine that your article will be read by those who attended as well as many other teachers who didn't get the chance to attend this time. You need to capture the 'flavour' of the event (what was it like to be there? who was there?*) as well as the key activities and discussions. Also reflect on the event in your article (was it successful? was it special? why?). (*Feel free to use fictitious names if you wish to protect your colleagues' privacy.)
  • WORD COUNT: The maximum word count is 500 words.

Remember that you are not writing an academic or bureaucratic report.

  • Your article should be informative, interesting, clearly structured and not too formal. It must be your work.
  • IATEFL Online want to hear your 'voice', and sense how well you can reach out to other teachers through your words.
  • Your readership covers the full range of EL teachers, from the nervously newly qualified to the 'old hands'.
  • Keep technical terms and abbreviations to a minimum so that your piece is as accessible and easy to read as possible.
Applications from previous competition entrants are welcomed but you must submit a new piece of writing.


Please write your name, job title and institution, email address, snail mail address plus any fax and telephone numbers at the end. Confirm that you would be available to be in the UK from 6-13 April 2010 inclusive, and to attend the entire conference, including the Pre-Conference Day (7 April).


WHERE TO SEND YOUR ARTICLE:

Send your article, plus your CV, by email or fax to:
Penny Trigg and Julian Wing, British Council; Graham Hall, IATEFL

IATEFLHarrogate2010 Reporters@ britishcouncil. org or Fax: + 44 (0) 207 389 4464.


DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES - DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES:

The deadline for receipt of entries is end Friday 11 December 2009 (UK time).

Entries received after this deadline will not be considered. We will not be able to return or comment on any of the entries. (Please note that British Council members of staff are not eligible to take part in this competition. )

The two winners chosen to be 2010's Roving Reporters will be notified by late January.


NB: The two Reporters will need to arrive in Harrogate on 6 April; and will depart from the UK on 13 April. Laptops will be supplied for the duration of the conference.

And by the way, those sending complete entries will receive a DVD containing resources for EL teachers.

Good luck!!


Useful links

Reasons I don't like most textbooks (6)



They're too expensive.


Best,
Karenne

More reasons I don't like most textbooks?
(scroll past this one).


p.s. I'm going to do a Ken Wilson on you: there is a post... coming up quite soon, breaking down the real costs in the average production of the average course book and explaining how it all works... but in the meantime, d'ya think books are worth the price we pay for them?
Why / why not?

How much do they cost in your country?
How is this price determined? Do you or your school ever not buy books due to their cost?

An Unsung Hero in ELT: Sean Banville

Something really upset me a few days ago and I haven't been able to shake it off.

I tweeted my congratulations to Sean Banville on his Pecha Kucha (PK) presentation in the recent Virtual Round Table and then received a DM asking me why, that didn't I realize that Sean's PK was basically a self-promo.

Shocked at the audacity of this, I retorted with an example of someone else in the field of ELT - someone who like Sean I do not know personally, but who in my opinion, presents with an endless stream of "me, me, me."

This launched a defense of that person initially distracting me from the original DM telling me off.

The more I thought about it though, the more it annoyed me and despite the fact that these few weeks I am a busy hamster spinning in a cage of gridlocked deadlines, I'm taking five to write up this rant.

How many other people in the field of ELT work on a website, nay, 5 websites - consistently and constantly producing free materials for students and teachers for five years?

Not me, and I do my part ;-).

How many are there out there who contribute to this level without convenient connnections through their international institutions or paid publishing contracts? How many produce endless authentic lesson plans simply out of a love a sharing?

Not touring the conference circuit, without a sales and marketing staff, without a publisher to pave the way and get his work out there - and earning.. well, the money he makes from all this boils down to a handful of appreciative teachers who occasionally donate and click on his google ads.

That is to say, virtually nothing.

That someone who I respect highly could think the presentation of his websites shameless pisses me off: Sean is one our unsung heroes and for me, a true VIP.

Visit his sites and let me know what you think:


Best,
Karenne

Marisa Constantinides on How to Become an ELT Teacher Educator

Oh, To be a Teacher Trainer!

In the relatively recent past, Cambridge ESOL redefined their policies regarding the hiring of Course Tutors for CELTA, DELTA and other Cambridge Teaching Awards courses stating an absolute minimum qualification:

Today, it is almost impossible to be approved as a tutor on any of these courses if one does not have a Cambridge DELTA Diploma.

Although not necessary to have attended a trainer training course or to have a Masters in TEFL/TESOL or Applied Linguistics in order to be employed in one of these courses, Cambridge ESOL requires prospective CELTA and DELTA tutors to go through an extensive induction period, supervised by an Authorised Teaching Awards Centre involving:

  • putting together a portfolio of trainer training tasks, documents and materials
  • observing/following one or more courses at an accredited centre
  • being observed by one's supervisor (usually to Course Tutor)
  • being assessed for their portfolio work and trainer skills by a specially appointed external Cambridge Assessor.
I consider this is a very positive development, although it does create issues for very experienced (and often highly sought after!) teacher educators who find themselves interested in becoming approved CELTA and DELTA approved tutors at this particular juncture.

Still, although the system may have its drawbacks for a small number of exceptions, as a rule it forms a very good code of practice for the profession. And I believe that Cambridge ESOL are, in a way, attempting to declare the profession's coming of age.

A HISTORY OF THE PAST – TEACHER TRAINER OR TEACHER EDUCATOR?

I have been a teacher trainer for many years, more years, in fact than I have been a teacher educator. My career as a teacher trainer began when I was literally pulled out of the classroom by a highly perceptive Academic Director who saw some potential in me and who threw me into teacher training head first!

By that time, I had already attended a Certificate level course, obtained my Diploma in TEFLA (then known as the RSA DTEFLA, equivalent of today’s Cambridge DELTA) and had five years' classroom teaching experience with both young learners and adults.

But other than that, I had no other training on how to train TEFL teachers; later, I gained more experience when certain British publishers offered me the opportunity to do freelance teacher training for them. Through this training, I got my second major lucky break – I was offered a job as an in-house teacher trainer for a major language school in Athens (now also a major publisher as well) and started training the staff at that school through pre-sessional/start of the year courses and through continuous development workshops and seminars throughout the year.

I learnt an enormous amount through this job, a lot of it about teacher training and a lot about the administration of introducing innovation and change into a language institution.

After I had been a teacher trainer for some time, I felt I needed more background and that was the time I decided to follow an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, a course I completed at the University of Reading and which I still use to its fullest!

On that M.A., I followed a Teacher Education option, which was really the first formal training I received on syllabus design for teacher education courses, different coding systems and ways of giving feedback, analysing classroom discourse, teacher assessment schemes, and many more relevant topics.

It is at that point that I realised the difference between a teacher trainer and a teacher educator, a term which if not introduced by H.G.Widdowson, was certainly inspired by an important article published in ELTJ in 1984 , in which he says that “teachers need to be trained in practical techniques, but must also be educated to see those techniques as exemplars of certain theoretical principles..” otherwise they cannot derive expertise from experience, and later calls for teachers who “are not consumers of research, but researchers in their own right. It is this, I think, that makes teaching a professional activity, and which should, therefore, provide incentive to those who claim membership of the profession.”

My career as a teacher educator – in Widdowson’s sense then, changed and became more charged with a focus on teacher education for reasons to do with a new perception of what training and educating classroom teachers involves since I completed my MA studies.

My personal training style evolved many times over throughout the years up to now, mainly through focussed observation of experienced tutors/presenters at conferences and workshops.

Personal favourites include Rod Bolitho, Tony Wright and Ken Wilson but watching my colleagues has also given me inspiration - current CELTA co-tutor Olha Madylus is one of the most inspiring and motivating teacher educators I have ever seen; as are Tony Whooley and George Vassilakis, great CELTA & DELTA co-tutors, to name only a few.

CURRENT PRACTICES & CHOICES

These days there are numerous Trainer Training courses available to anyone interested in teacher education. To name a few, Marjon's (The University College of St Mark & St John in Plymouth) runs a very good one; Warwick University has an MA in TEFL, specializing in teacher education.

To anyone who asks today what they should do in order to go into the field of teacher education, I always suggest following one of these courses.

You can, of course, learn on the job, but it's the same as teaching.

You do acquire some skills through practice or by being mentored by good teacher educators, but the shortcut to faster development is by following a good course and it is well worth the effort and cost.

Without one, you may eventually get to your destination but it will take you a much longer time to achieve what you can learn in a much shorter time.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A TEACHER TRAINER/EDUCATOR?

The Council of Europe stipulates that those involved in the training of professionals should have received a minimum of 400 hours of training themselves, which is a good point to think about, not just regarding teacher educators.

Apart from evidence of extensive training (ideally including a DELTA and an M.A. in TEFL or Applied Linguistics), here are some of the qualities I look for in anyone who wants to work as a teacher trainer/educator at my training institution.

I look for educators who...
  • have extensive and varied classroom teaching experience
  • are experienced and highly skilled in lesson & materials design
  • are familiar with a wide range of materials available, published in print form and online
  • have extensive experience of training and supporting adult learners
  • have experience of having been observed by others themselves
  • are able to deliver lessons using a wide range of presentation/teaching modes
  • are highly polished classroom practitioners/master teachers themselves
  • are confident and supportive individuals
  • have an interest in their own ongoing professional development/ new technologies do not frighten them and they are keen to develop and learn
  • have thorough understanding of the theoretical assumptions underpinning classroom techniques/ lessons/ materials/lesson shapes, etc.
  • are highly proficient in the language of instruction (English) with outstanding language awareness
  • have observed other teachers extensively and seen different ways of giving feedback to trainee teachers
  • are mature, balanced, objective and have a reflective approach to teaching and teacher education
  • are in full control of their teaching style and classroom persona
  • are keen learners and sharers and are generous about sharing what they know with other colleagues
I could add many more qualities I look for, such as a bright and sunny disposition, a good sense of humour, tolerance and patience, sensitivity, efficiency, passion for teaching – a great ingredient!!! - professionalism, promptness, punctuality, flexibility, empathy....the list could go on and on.

But what I want to stress is that my ideal candidate will have both the high polish of a good teacher trainer as well as the depth of understanding of a good teacher educator.


CAN EVERY GOOD TEACHER BECOME A TEACHER TRAINER/EDUCATOR?

Many of you may have noticed that many of the qualities mentioned in the previous section are also highly desirable qualities in a teacher!

So, can a good teacher become a good teacher trainer/educator?

This is a key question, and I am afraid that my own personal response is “No, I do not think so”. Not all very good, or even outstanding classroom teachers are suitable for a career in teacher training.

There is one major (in my own view always) attribute which is absolutely necessary, the ability to analyse the teaching process and classroom practices for the benefit of one's trainees.

Without this very special ability, while it may not be difficult to pick up a published or unpublished set of training materials and deliver sessions to a group of trainees, it can be very difficult to support the same trainees in lesson preparation, suggest alternatives, advise them or tailor one's instruction to suit different needs, different teaching and learning contexts as well as the developing/emerging needs of one's own trainees!

To my trainees who ask me how it is possible to develop into a good teacher educator, I say the same things. This is not just the next logical step in every TEFL teacher’s career and it cannot be done well by everyone but there is no doubt that there is, indeed, a great need for more people in this profession!

Teacher training/education is a serious business requiring specialist knowledge, a passion for teaching and helping people, personal commitment, the classroom polish of a master teacher and a willingness to learn and share the learning with others.

It should be serious but also greatly motivating and great fun – when appropriate.

So to balance out my very serious post, I've included a couple of photographs from training sessions which were wonderfully inspiring and great fun for trainees and their tutor! Do you have any questions?


About the Author
Marisa Constantinides is the DOS of CELT Athens, a teacher education centre in Athens which offers TEFL, Cambridge CELTA and DELTA courses to teachers from all over the world.





You can reach her via:

Reasons I don't like most textbooks (5)

balloons
Take a deep breath.

Go on, blow out hard.

I'm bringing a unicorn into the balloon factory.

Although many of you will have read the following before, some agreeing and some not, many of you haven't.

Many of you intuitively know what I'm about to say is so true, so spot on - you've felt it for years but haven't put a finger on what it was that was bothering you so.

And for all of those who've thought about this and totally disagree, I ask of you to do one thing:



Before responding, answer not as a language teacher, not as an educator of other language teachers, not as a linguist or someone doing a masters in Second Language Acquisition writing up essays based on other people's theories... I ask of you not to respond as a materials writer, not as an editor or publisher.

I ask you to respond as

A Language Learner.



What's wrong with most textbooks that teach languages?

    Ever gone on a lovely vacation to a hot country and thought to yourself, as you desperately ravaged the pharmacy shelves for that product you need RIGHT now and wondered to yourself if, in a feeble attempt to describe your present debilitating condition to the pharmacist who is looking down at you in bemusement, that really before you open your mouth you'd better use the present perfect or would a present perfect continuous be more suitable in this case - oh lord, how to explain what you've taken the last time you were struck: the past simple or past perfect or now, wait - will you add one of those demonstratives, is the verb reflexive??? Heck, how do you conjugate it? You need the bathroom.

    Ever thought as you negotiated your taxes with a tough looking bureaucrat that perhaps you should have used a mixed conditional instead of that 3rd?

    Ever whispered one of those slippery modals to a lover then pondered, as you lay back in discontent, whether or not your sentence adequately communicated permission, suggestion, past ability, the potentiality of possibility... worth trying again?


No?

Really, no? Me neither.



Why do we teach language like it's math?


What's wrong with most textbooks?

The grammar based syllabus.

Best,
Karenne

More reasons I really don't like most coursebooks:
 

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