IATEFL Plenary – Deniz Kurtolu Eken

Greeted by PowerPoint slides featuring moving animation of dancing flowers and rainy islands, The audience were treated to other novelties like a strategically placed umbrella right next to the podium and a pair of pink-petal led shaped sunglasses worn by Dr Eken herself as she started her talk with the metaphoric title ‘The ELT Weather Forecast: Perceptions on Effectiveness and Teacher Motivation’.

Dr Eken then goes on to invite someone who’s having a birthday (Beyza), someone who got married in March (okay, that was us), and someone who is going to have a baby onto the stage and gave us all presents. (Great motivation to listen to the rent of the talk now!)

Quoting Humphreys (1996) on the power of the emotions that infuse the people, and not thoughts alone, Dr Eken emphasises that rainy wealthy could be seen as a welcomed blessing by the farmer but an unwelcomed disaster by holidaymakers.

After introducing us to her research framework and detailing the breakdown of her research respondents, Deniz shared some of the metaphors her respondents gave for their roles.
Here are some examples:
A plate spinner, a glorified secretary, a turtle in a race against the hare, a caged bird, one who’s trying to pluck an apple from a very high tree and never being able to, a kangaroo (which can never jump backwards, only forwards), slaves with no faces, an unused anchor on a lifeboat that is floating aimlessly in a vast ocean of ideas and theories, etc.

Moving on to perceptions of effectiveness,it was interesting to note that people felt that those in their context were doing better across the board than those at an average national level.

Rated lowest in terms of effectiveness in both ‘context’ and ‘country’ categories were ‘Academic Management’ and ‘Teacher Motivation’. Among seen as effective managers are those who are highly qualified and adaptable who can manage talent and different types of personality and those chosen because of their qualifications and not tenure.

The feedback given to managers are as follows:
Be there in need so that they are loyal employees.
Treat teachers as professionals not as skilled workers in need of constant supervision
Trust teachers more and interfere less. realise that teaching is a creative act, the results of which are not always quantifiable.
Please don’t let technology become the be all and end all of ELT because it is not. Language is firstly communication, but using technology all the time is making the students passive and uncomfortable.
Help teachers to develop and grow personally and professionally.
Communicate more and better. Smiling does not harm; be responsive and constructive; your positive attitude matters to us.
Do some normal teaching yourselves and not just cherry-picked courses.

Commonly mentioned teacher training and development opportunities appreciated by teachers are as follows:
In-service training an staff development
TT courses eg Celta or Delta
Opportunities to attend conferences and seminars
Post-Delta/Post-MA opportunities
SIGs, teacher forums
Collaborative research, action research
Developmental observations and feedback, peer observations
Educational/teacher exchange
English language development opportunities
Hosting a conference or an academic event
Sample lessons from teacher trainers

Ending her talk with another metaphor by Dr Eken’s sister: she sees herself as a partly cloudy sky with the sun shining from behind, suggesting an optimism when looking at her personal and professional life.

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

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