Saturday, April 16, 2016

Interview with Burcu Akyol and Marek Kiczkowiak #iatefl2016

Following Silvana Richardson's plenary, a panel with Burcu Akyol (who I happened to meet last year in TESOL Athens), Marek Kiczkowiak, Christopher Graham and Josh Round about "nativespeakerness", discrimination and prejudice.
Nik Peachey interviewed the two, asking them how they feel about this issue and how it is in their part of the world.
Burcu shared her personal experiences in Turkey, saying that back in 2009, she applied with the same presentation bon in Turkey and IATEFL and in her home country she wasn't accepted because she was non-native, but in England, not only was she accepted, but she had a lot of people in the audience as well.
Not being accepted made her have a negative self perception, although she feels that she didn't deserve this.
She adds that the policy makers' attitudes in Turkey have to change and also they have to increase teacher education, not only methodology, but also language skills.
Nik added that when he was in Turkey he met excellent teachers and Burch continued to say that things are slowly changing to the better.
Marek mentioned his site TEFL equity advocates , saying that he too faced discrimination when he moved to Belgium and that he still can't find a job. The first year he was in Belgium, he presented along with his DELTA trainer in a conference in Belgium about this crucial issue and that's how the idea for the site was born. There you can find stories of teachers, books, resources, lesson plans and a lot of teachers who share the same problems and feelings.
He also mentions that he also does some research in academic journals and shares it which is difficult to find publicly.
Nik asked if it is actually the customers' expectation to find a native teacher, but both interviewees referred to  Silvana Richardson's plenary again and said that this is not exactly an issue.
Burcu stressed the need for balance and that different teachers have different strengths and weaknesses and in some cases they complement each other.
Nik mentioned that in his school 75% of the teachers is billingual and that the term "non-native" sounds negative.
Marek also said something about stereotypes, for example in Japan they actually separate the teachers to "conversation" teachers and "exam" teachers.
The whole situation can be very frustrating, because most teachers are highly qualified.
Nik mentioned that 80% of English teachers are NNESTs.
In the end Burcu said that she hopes for a change to the better with the power of social media.

PS. My personal thoughts:  So I guess this was this year's big issue and everybody is talking about equity. They should. It is really unfair actually to have studied 4 and 6 years and continue to study and lose a job by somebody who has only done 1 month of training and is native. I am not saying that there are no qualified NESTs, but there are A LOT who aren't. Food for thought for the employers. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Interview with Herbert Puchta: How teens learn #IATEFL2016

Reporting on my favourite Herbert Puchta's interview today, talking on how we should teach teenagers.
According to H.Puchta, teens should develop response-ability as well as responsibility in the classroom and he reflects on the two roles that the teacher has:

  • we have to develop the students' language
  • we also have to be educators and support students in developing themselves, their personality, their responsibility. we have to prepare them as citizens of tomorrow's world.
But how do we make teenagers talk?
Although current materials focus on personalization, we have to understand that sometimes the questions do not make sense, if they are for example: "Do you like bananas?".
We need to find ways to challenge teens, to develop their critical thinking.
Herbert Puchta explained that his research is based on neuro-biology and the development of the teenage brain.
In teenagers, there seems to not to be a connection between the limpic system of the brain, which is responsible for our emotions and the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for logical thinking.
As a result, teens are very emotional, they take risks more easily and they are not mature enough to foresee possible consequences of their behavior.
This can be dangerous with the temptations of the modern world.
So they have to develop their basic skills as well as go beyond superficiality,
Learning should be fun, but should not always be about entertainment. Teenagers have to face real issues in the real world. They have to learn values. Sometimes they look "cool", but they are very insecure. So they have to learn the difference between right and wrong.
Self-esteem is very important.
If their self-esteem is very high, they can be foolish, and it it is to low, they are very defensive, this can also lead to provocative behavior, they don't take teachers or other students seriously, sometimes it leads to bullying or some kind of aggressive behavior.
As teachers we have to help them to develop their own self, their self worth.
It is critical for teachers to take decisions of what they are going to teach, and this should bot only be about celebrities, but also about real world issues and problem solutions. 

Interview with Julie Pratten: Heart ELT #IATEFL2016

Julie Pratten is responsible for the creation of Heart ELT, which is basically a school created in a refugee camp in Iraq, helping refugee children learn English.
It started, when they tried to cover the basic needs of a school, trying to find space, teachers, paper and pens, so Julie tried to raise some money crowdfunding, asking in Facebook. The problem is that people are usually hesitant to give money, so Julie asked her PLN to help in a different way. She asked them to donate simple lesson plans for the creation of a photocopiable book with activities for all levels, young learners and teens, which will be sold to raise money for the refugee schools. The activities should be simple and sensitive for all cultures. The first book should be out by the end of April - beginning of May.
The children at the refugee camp don't have the chance to play, so when they go to school, they can hang out, draw, dance and sing.
The project aspires to have translations of teacher's notes in both Arabic and Kurdish and also create webinars for teachers who are going to teach there and later send teacher trainers to train local teachers and also mothers on how to teach the children.
I personally wish Julie and all the participants good luck in this wonderful project.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

IATEFL 2016 is on the air!

One more IATEFL conference is beginning and since I am not going to be there again, all I can do is follow the online events, live-streaming whenever I can, although it is not the same as being there in person.
Just watched Marjory Rosenberg's interview with the recent IATEFL news.

  • TELC Riders are on the move again coming to Birmingham on their bikes with lots of new adventures, gathering money for new projects!
  • IATEFL organises ongoing teacher training for teachers who will consequently train teachers in their own countries.
  • Creation of SIGs in many different associate countries and organising special interest days with trainings and seminars.
  • The 2nd IATEFL web-conference took place with a lot of participants all over the world and great success.
  • A joined web-conference with TESOL is planned for November. It is going to last 3 days with special themes each day.

  • This year's conference is being held in the historical city of Birmingham for the first time and participants will have the chance to explore the city a bit more. Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace is around the corner and due to Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, a lot of relevant events are planned. 
  • A variety of events like a Pecha Kucha, Ouiz events, awards and a lot more of surprises are in store in this year's conference.
  • This year, IATEFL has received the TESOL Presidency award as a result of the continuing support and development of teachers worldwide.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

TESOL Macedonia Thrace 23rd Convention: Bits and Pieces

March has ended and both TESOL Conventions in Greece left us with great memories...
This time I actually found the time to join the pre-convention dinner and meet (again) all these wonderful educators. It's so funny because we all know each other from our work and we do have an "internet" kind of connection / relation, so when we have the chance to get together, it's like we know each other for years, even if it's the first time we actually meet!

Some of the highlights:

Jamie Keddie with his stories kept our interest and gave us wonderful tips for our lessons.

Charles Goodger with his songs and wonderful workshop gave us lots of ideas on how to teach young children.
Penny Ur and her thoughts on teaching with or without coursebook. A real opportunity to meet her (I had the luck to take part on an iTDi course about course material and design earlier this year, so I just loved meeting her in person!)

Luke Prodromou and his team acting Shakespeare!
Talent night preparation with Margarita Kosior - although we didn't have the chance to dance that night!! Next time I guess...
Really unexpected appearances, I might add...

And us presenting... Thank you all for coming!!!
All in all it was a wonderful, colorful, exhausting experience that I would never change for the world!
Until we meet again!

Friday, March 25, 2016

37th TESOL Greece International Convention: Reflections

Another year, another wonderful convention! A chance to meet old and new friends, to learn something new.
This year the convention was somehow different - more interesting poster presentations, more "group" talks - colloquium, interactive plenary, street theatre techniques, CLIL and lots more!!

My highlights:

Saturday morning's colloquium about creativity in all sort of ways. With master guru teacher trainer Marisa Constandinides, the wonderful poet - educatorAlan Maley, the enthusiastic Carol Read, the exam expert George Vassilakis and our very own art "expert" Chryssa Papalazarou, talking about the C-Group (Creativity group), using poems, art, Bloom's taxonomy, covering students' different needs.
Jeremy Harmer's plenary talk: "Can students learn on their own?" talking about learner's autonomy, mentioning Sugata Mitra and his experiments, talking about his experiences in Cuba and about the strength and courage of learners. Very inspiring indeed!

Coming to our own talk - "We take exams personally" - we explored creative ways how to "prepare" students for exam, but not in the traditional way, always using a "book". Of course, we did have some "reactions"  that we are more focusing on communication and not on accuracy, but to tell you the truth, that was our intention. Language IS alive, we have to realize why we actually learn. Not to pass the exam, but to USE the language itself.
It is the first time in 3 years that I have not been to Theodore's workshop (due to my early flight back home)- was tehre in spirit, though!. He talked about critical thinking and promoting positive educational messages, used CLIL and from what I have heard, he did a wonderful job and I am really very proud of him!
Conventions are great for mingling, meeting new people, get new ideas and inspirations and have fun!!
Once again, thank you TESOL Greece for a wonderful convention.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

iTDi Course Material Design Course Reflection

I've been wanting to write about my experience in this wonderful iTDi course for so long, but I never seemed to find the time to do so.
First of all, I have to say that it has been an honour to accept a scholarship from iTDi and I would like to thank Chuck Sandy, Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto and everybody there at iTDi who is making it possible to have access to interesting courses and world renowned professors - we would never have the chance to do so otherwise!
This is not the first time I have been attending such a course - Scholarship or paid (I really believe that you get your money's worth and learn a lot!)
This time it was about Course Material Design, Selection and Use with Penny Ur, an author, professor and mentor to so many teachers and students.
In the first session we talked about course books and if they are important to our teaching and the question arose " Book or no book in the classroom?" "what are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
In the second session we have learned how to evaluate coursebooks and what features should the books have in order to suit our students' needs.
Third session was about adaptation of ideas - how to use book activities differently.
Fourth session focused on Speaking, Reading, Writing activities.
I have to say that although we did not talk about the use of technology so much, Penny Ur's huge experience of teaching showed us endless ways to have a interesting lesson!
Penny Ur will be in Thessaloniki for the TESOL Macedonia Thrace Convention in the end of March and I will be delighted to meet her in person.
I am looking forward to the next iTDi course!