Here are the credits and links to the photos I have used via Creative Commons for my Pecha Kucha presentation at IATEFL Manchester 2015.
Here are the credits and links to the photos I have used via Creative Commons for my Pecha Kucha presentation at IATEFL Manchester 2015.
Prof. Barduhn, who gave a talk about expatriate teachers, once said, ‘If English were a drug, expatriate teachers would be the dealers…’ In her talk entitled Language Dealing, she starts by looking into the definition of ‘the drug’. Are dealers necessarily drug takers themselves? Drugs can serve to imprison but are drugs necessarily bad? Could they not be medicine, which could serve as an anti-exploitation tool?
In Hawkins (1974) ‘I-thou’it’ triangle as spreaders of this drug, Prof Barduhn states that ‘I’ refers to the expatriate teacher, the ‘thou’ the students and other expat teachers, and explaining the ‘it’ as the fishing rod in the metaphor ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.
Quoting Johnston (1999) talking about the Expatriate Teacher as Postmodern Paladin, these teachers are fighters of a noble cause, not unlike the errant of the medieval knights. He suggest that ELT as a whole is a marginal occupation, expanding on the idea of postmodernity.
The original Paladins crossed the seas for adventures with spiritual (self-realisation) and earthly (material gain and acquisition of a good reputation) goals.
The knight errant are those who choose to work outside their own country and the wish to educate, to share knowledge, expertise and skils. It’s also characterised by the ‘restless traveller’, wandering the earth and never settling.
The knights knew what they believed in and why they were venturing forward, and knew that eventually they would go home.
So why do ELT teachers keep going to other countries and new ones too?
Are we cultural marginals and do we have an identity group?
Differentially perceptual groups and identity group, Prof Barduhn talks about perceptual groups as how others see you versus the identities given to you, before explaining cultural marginality and highlighting the fact that ELT teachers are often the non-dominant community in a dominant community.
The definition of an encapsulated marginal is one where there is no revognised reference group, conscious of self, troubled by ambiguity and never ‘at home’. The definition of a constructive marginal is one of a marginal reference group, conscious of choice, intrigued by complexity and never not ‘at home’.
Stated by respondent teachers in her research as reasons and motivation for going to live in each country, ‘travel’ , ‘love of teaching’ and ‘career advancement’ occurred frequently, but professional development was highlighted as one of the more common answers.
This challenges the theory that most ELT teachers living overseas are of the back packer variety.
Family was stated at the number one reason why people move back to their own country.
When examining the changes in attitude amongst the teachers living overseas, it was clear that most became most tolerant and understanding of their country of origin (and its culture), got involved in more teaching fields e.g. ESP, saw themselves as ambassadors for their own country, thought of the new culture as gradually becoming part of them, and saw their job as important (‘We teach future leaders, We make English more attainable for the masses’) and are happy living abroad.
But as Chinese becomes more in the globalising world, would those involved in teaching of Mandarin have the same attitudes and motivation? Are they also on medieval knights’ errants?
Going through her results, here are some findings regarding Chinese expat teachers:
‘I’m more critical of my country but love it more’
‘I have no power to change methodologies’, ‘I’ve become more student-centred, teacher as a guide instead of dictator, to guide learners to see the fun in Chinese and understand the similarities between English and Chinese.’
Growing towards an acceptance of Western values like tolerance, quality orientation, etc.
‘As long as China’s economy keeps growing, it’ll become important as a world language’
Very few non-native Chinese teach Chinese in the UK.
Expat teachers are the only way people can access Chinese culture.
Expat teachers might not have an influence on trends in teacher training but conversely teacher training trends would have an influence on expat teachers.
Belonging to teaching associations and getting conference updates were a common path towards professional development.
So what is the drug?
Could the phenomenon of expat teachers be considered a historical and cultural movement?
TESOl culture is seen to equate ‘diversity’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘respect’.
Could these also stand for Chinese language teaching culture?
So what are we dealing?
The answer might not be the same for everyone but teacher training needs to delve further in social and economic theory so that we are doing it with more awareness.
In a talk entitled ‘Transforming Trends – a journey into the work of BYOT’, Shelly starts talking about the importance of allowing teachers and students to bring in their own tools so as to overcome the economic obstacles that might be faced by the school and the students.
Taking an audience poll, it was clear to everyone that the majority of us type, take and edit pictures, take videos, download apps, post things on the web, all using either their mobile devices or their computers/laptops and are familiar with using our own tools and devices.
Through a video, she exemplifies how she uses technology and mobile devices (smart phones, ipads, etc) to create stories, conduct a show and tell, make app commercials, and publish the students’ work.
‘Mobile Monday’ signifies a special day of the week that the students can bring in their own devices and use them in class. But beforehand, it is important to teach the students digital citizenship and learn about how they should act online. If students do not pass their digital citizenship, they do not get ‘Mobile Monday’.
At this point, Shelly gets the audience to take out their own devices and choose a picture to show and talk about in pairs/groups. With such activities, students get to know each other better and all this can lower the possibility of cyber bullying.
As an example of an individual activity, Shelly gets the students to start a Flickr account on which they would post a picture under themes like ‘In a Restaurant’ or ‘This is Art’. Students then add tags or a paragraph of a comment to their pictures.
In a version of ‘I Spy’ ,we then took super-closeup photos of objects around us and in a mingle activity, we walked around the room asking people to guess what shapes our objects were and what the photos were were of. Bruno Andrade showed me his photo of a glowing blue cylindrical shaped object, which turned out to be a close-up picture of his pen. In class, we could use the app ‘I Know Quiz’ to put up the photos students have taken.
In another group activity, Shelly uses Twiddla.com to pull up an online whiteboard to brainstorm to lists problems and solutions that teenagers face. In groups, students then picked one of the problems and create an imaginary app to solve the problem. They then go on to create a video advertisement for the app they have created.
You can also get students to download a particular app at home ahead of time and bring it to class with them. Ideas Sketch for mind mapping, Google drive and Evernote for sharing information amongst the class, and Twiddla for recordable whiteboard.
Shelly ends the talk with an inspirational quote by Jean Piaget saying,
‘The principal goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.’
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
SIGs, teacher forums
Collaborative research, action research
Developmental observations and feedback, peer observations
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.
An introduction to Willy and his blog was followed by Willy taking us through the two types of lessons he has come across – the book lesson and the conversation lesson. He questions the falseness of the accuracy-fluency dichotomy that has been created, and might be even considered offensive due to the complexity of language and language learning.
Beginning his criticism of a ‘grammar mac nugget’ approach to a grammar syllabus, research has shown that language learning is non-linear and not unidirectional. When talking about curriculum, we tend focus on syllabus and scope of the content, but it is perhaps also important to look at the different views of language, including theories on comply systems and sociocultural theories.
Curriculum is often seen as a noun, and the focus thus on the product. Perhaps we could see it as a verb and a process.
‘While every course ends, the consequences of study are ongoing as they are social and subjective as well as intellectual’ (Pnar, 2011)
‘Educational institutions and the manner in which they are organised and controlled are integrally related to the ways in which specific people get access to economic and cultural resources and power’ (Apple, 2004)
But many coursebooks do not see the curriculum as an ongoing process. Here is perhaps an example of a global coursebook that exemplifies how language learning is often viewed.
They often claim:
‘The perfect balance of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation , and skills to get your students speaking English with confidence’ (New English File Intermediate)
How have the coursebooks found this supposed balance? And how have they made it ‘perfect’?
At other buzzword used in coursebooks to promote their curriculum is the word ‘motivating’ and ‘confidence’.
But does the things that motivate one student necessarily be the sAme that motivates another?
Does a confine Japanese English speaker display the same behaviour as a confident Brazilian English speaker?
Using an example text from a coursebook using the context of family but in fact focusing on a particular language point, sacrificing in-depth discussions on culture in favour of minute language point. The texts we bring to our classroom are a reflection of a reality, and are inevitably value-laden. Yet, many books choose to use language activities that generated unreal sentences and discussions e.g. Find someone who is meeting their brother/sister this weekend. Find someone who isn’t going on a family holiday this year.
Real life conversations flow from topic to topic, with one generating talk of another.
Real life conversations deal with taboo topics and global issues – things that sorts coursebooks do not deal with.
The teacher and coursebook often define and transmit the concept, the students then study and reproduce the desired concept. But we could consider a framework where teachers and students create concepts together, exploring the origin and nature of knowledge. But the curse of the negotiated syllabus is that students come up with topics that are the same as ones in the coursebooks, as that is what they are used to.
Instead, Willy suggests asking complex questions and allowing students to discuss them, allowing for the space for Open Space Technology. As a result, students start to create their own questions and formulate complex opinions.
‘In general, the way we structure the curriculum – the experiences that are included and the relationships that are or can be established among them – will shape the kinds of knowledge-in-action that students ddeavelop. At the beginning, their understanding of the conversational domain may be partial and incomplete, but it will grow as the conversation continues.’ (Arthur Applebee’s, 1996)
Willy ends his talk about trying to see language and language use/learning simplified into the four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and systems (lexis, grammar, phonology, discourse), but as a complex system to be explored.
Luke Prodromou has Aretha Franklin’s Respect playing as the audience filters in.
He then asks what each of letters mean.
R for respect and rapport.
E is for esteem and evaluate (positive evaluation).
S is for self, special.
P for principles and practice, patience.
E is for empathy and emotion -feeling that you deserve the respect.
C is for competence and building the feeling in the learner that they can do it.
T is for technique and how the teacher does things in the classroom.
Prodromou then goes on to read excerpts from Robert Frost’s the Road Not Taken before starting to examine the turning points in our professional lives – our self-esteem moments.
After sharing with our partners moments that changed our lives, moments that made us feel good, and emphasises the fact that one of the things that make us (and our students feel good) is when our names are remembered.
What is self-esteem?
A basic definition is a high regard for oneself, a good opinion of oneself.
But more appropriately, self-esteem is
A feeling that you are as important as other people and that you deserve respect and to be treated well.
Self-esteem can be seen on the levels of competence and worthiness.
On the level of worthiness, he gives the example of Hamlet, one who had issues with self-esteem and beliefs that he is not worthy. ‘I could accuse me of such things that it were better that my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious…what should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?’
In contrast, ‘Yet today, many years later, for my living I sweep the streets or clean out the toilets of the fat hotels. why? Because I constantly failed my exams’ – Brian Patten shows a low self-esteem to do with competence.
The audience then watches a scene from Kes directed by Ken Loach where Kespar tells the story about his hawk, and we identify self-esteem moments in the lesson.
With personal examples, Prodroumou talks about how he used cards to nominate students so they don’t feel intimidated by the forest of hands (of their other classmates) going up and about how he paired the best student with the difficult student (the flower and the bud).
Group work and collaborative production of tasks and written work could make less confident students feel included and proud of the being part of the end product.
Emphasising that labelling (students) is more suitable for jam jars, Prodroumou encourages us not to judge students but to offer them opportunities to participate and to learn.
Isil Boy’s session starts with her asking the basic question – what is Mobile Learning? We can learn anywhere anytime…even in the toilet!
Showing us a slide of early men using slates to carve on, Isil asks us what the difference is between a slate and an iPad. Aside from the price (laughter from audience), connectivism is what makes a difference.
She goes on to highlight the illusion of mobile learning: e.g. Using tablets only in the classroom. Are schools using tablets because other schools are using it, or is it to truly enable mobile learning? Are iPads merely a substitute for a paper dictionary? Are we using tablets for the sake of using them?
The apps as classified by the SAMR model (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) could transform education. But remember that the tablets are not transforming education, you are.
Does this mean that we teachers become the performers and the magicians with the help of technology? Or should we be handing over to students and letting them perform the magic instead?
How then can we integrate mLearning into teaching?
Dropping hardware into a classroom and dipping teachers into training does not work.
So, if you have a principal who says to you ‘I’ve bought the tablets! What should we do now?’, what would you do?
5 Tips for integrating tablets into your classroom
1. Define our objectives
2. Provide on-going training
3. Teach kids how to stay safe online
4. Establish a protocol for parents
5. Set some rules to switch tablets off
Isil then moves on to asking the audience what their dream app might be.
Do we know how to search for apps?
There are search engines for apps e.g. Quixey and App Crawl which we can use.
As a framework for teaching with apps, one can categorise apps into Searching, Bookmarking, Organising, Creating, and Sharing.
An example of an app that helps with Organising is U-Pad lite that helps the user to complete and sign forms.
Educreations help turn your iPad into a recordable whiteboard with voice recording.
Isil also recommends Edmodo for Organising information and sharing them with students.
Storykit is another free app that allows us to add text, voice and create digital stories with our students.
But why are we using these apps? According to the affective context model, if we can learn things whenever we need it, it becomes more effective. With the help of mLearning, we can learn anytime and anywhere we want. We don’t need to convince students to use the iPads and push the information on them. We are instead pulling the information that they have found out from them.
The conclusion Isil the draws is that schools should develop a technology plan, create a policy for tablet use, and have primary control over the downloading and syncing of apps. Teachers should be involved in the decision-making process and students should be allowed to keep the tablets and take them home, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having tablets in the classroom.
Isil ends the presentation to the packed room with a useful link to her blog isilboy.com.
Jim’s talk started by looking at a quick definition of demand high teaching.
Demand High is a meme, an idea that gets passed from person to person. It is not a new methodology. The question asked is ‘Am I engaging the full human learning potential of the students in my class?’
Modern language teaching seems not to push students to achieve and focuses more on being fun and entertaining.
Starting with the following questions:
The evolving manifesto of Demand High
It is okay to ‘teach’.
The word ‘teach’ seems to have got a bad rep over the last few years and learning is expected to emerge. There is value in explicit teaching, which is not equivalent to the teaching ‘yapping’ in front of the classroom.
We need to focus on where the learning is
You have permission to be active interventionist teacher
Learn the classroom management techniques that make a difference
Work at everyone’s pace – not just the fastest few
Risk working hands-on with language
Don’t expect the book to do the teaching for you.
Expect more – Demand High
One way of being more ‘demand high’ is by looking at one common stage in many lessons:
When students have done an exercise (individually and in pairs) and the teacher leads a feedback stage to check answers.
What are some things that one could do to extend this stage to last 60 minutes.
Here, Jim suggests
After lots of fun practicing some of these practical techniques with the audience, Jim emphasizes that the presentation stage of a lesson might not really be the most important part, but it is in fact that practice stage that allows students to really internalize the new language.
Communicative and fluency activities are fine and good but we should also not forget structured grammatical practice.
Fixing mistakes does not lead to insight and awareness. It merely puts paper on a crack. It should not just about collecting the right answers, but we need to start looking further.
David Crystal officially opens IATEFL Liverpool by first warning us not to trust Wikipedia, which has knighted him for a few days and stated that he has had different numbers of children and wives. He moves on to tell us about he went to school in Liverpool and proudly tells us to listen out to the Liverpudlian influences in his accent.
Introducing us to some popular songs and then focusing our attention on a well-known song by Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Live and Let Die’, and the much-discussed lyrics ‘But if this ever changing world in which we live in’.
The tune needs two prepositions for it to work and when music calls, grammar blends.
Lexical blends like ‘brunch‘ become part of our everyday language quickly but syntactic blends do not get into our language as easily.
It is however important to note that blends are very common in speech
Here are some examples:
I don’t know to which hotel I’m going to.
For which party will you be voting for in the March 9th Election?
Mentors are for business people, mentors can help you and be your role models, couples to which we look up to.
From which country does a Lexus come from?
Syntactic blends arise when people are unsure of which to use and so they use both.
It raises because of the clash and choice that could come from formal and informal usage.
In the prescriptive tradition that dominated schools, teachers tend to try and eliminate the informal forms and therefore enforcing rules such as ‘Never end a sentence with a preposition’. Yet, Shakespeare uses end-place prepositions all the time. But the rule appealed to classically-inclined pedants. Winston Churchill even had rules ‘up with which he would not put‘.
So those who try to follow the rules taught to us and place the preposition at the beginning… but the natural pattern of the language takes over and the preposition is put after the verb where it feels most natural, forgetting that they’ve used a preposition already.
The further away the two prepositions, the more likely this is to happen.
e.g. For which of the five candidates in the forthcoming by-election will the people of Eastleigh be voting for?
But double prepositions aren’t the only Syntactic Blend that happens.
Here, Professor Crystal introduces another Beatles song with the lyrics
‘He won’t do nothing right just in sitting down and look so good‘ (as opposed to ‘looking so good’)
‘I been told when a boy kiss a girl‘ (as opposed to ‘a boy kisses a girl’)
When we leave music behind and listen to spoken English, such blends all the time.
We start sentences, change our minds and end sentences differently from how we intended when we started.
We usually do not notice this though, as we are paying attention to what is being said rather than how it is being said.
Prof. Crystal uses his own lectures as examples of the non-grammatical statements in spoken English:
‘Within how long did it take for an American English start to grow?‘
which is a blend of ‘Within what period of time did it take for an American English to start to grow?‘
‘How long did it take for an American English to start to grow?‘
Here’s an example embedded in a dialogue:
‘Well, we don’t speak it?’
‘Why don’t we speak it?’
‘Well, cos I was never taught it.’
‘Well, why weren’t I taught it?’
As a result of the constant use of the pronoun ‘we’ at the beginning, the last statement is a blend of ‘Well why weren’t we/you taught it?’ and ‘Why wasn’t I taught it?‘
These blends of course appear a lot less in written material due to gatekeeping by editors and publishers. Thus, a lot of what is considered ‘standard English’ corresponds to what is published. Yet, with the advent of the internet, these gatekeepers might not be there and most people do not revise and re-read what they write in emails and blogs (especially if they’re blogging simultaneously during a conference plenary).
Here, Prof David Crystal uses examples from the most popular blogs in the UK with blended constructions.
Comprehension is governed by the distribution of weight in a sentence. English is governed by end weight, and speakers tend to put the most important information at the end, after the main verb, rather than in the beginning. Most sentences use a single pronoun and verb followed by a concentration of content after the verb. One can of course use long adverbials at the beginning of the sentence, but this makes comprehension more difficult and the sentence is more difficult to process…therefore naturally, in spoken English, this does not happen as often.
Note these two sentences:
It was nice of John and Mary to visit us the other day.
For John and Mary to visit us the other day was nice.
We tend to get irritated with the second sentence, thinking ‘Where’s the verb? Get on with it!”
Here, Prof. Crystal uses a random ELT coursebook to make a point.
In a chapter on relative clauses, long noun phrases are featured:
e.g. Salesman who sell books at your door are a nuisance. The books they sell are often expensive’
A lot of information needs to be processed before getting to the verb, while trying to learn a new piece of English grammar.
This could make it more difficult for students and perhaps coursebooks should use relative clauses with shorter subjects when introducing the grammar point, and leave such long noun phrases for more advanced levels.
e.g I don’t like salesmen who sells books at the door.
It’s often expensive to buy the books they sell.
In ELT, we come across blends often in students’ writing.
e.g. ‘Does it not worry you that the man to whom you will marry might be cruel to you?‘
It is important to realise that errors such as these blends are signs of growth and not be condemned.
Teachers should try to understand the origin and source of the blend. To condemn them as mistakes would result in students not daring to try out new constructions in the future.
Blends tend to occur more often when the speaker/writer is under pressure and has to complete the sentence quickly, and the grammar finds it harder to keep pace with the thought e.g. football commentaries, family rows, etc.
Blends are nothing to feel guilty. In writing, we try to eliminate them for being labelled as careless and sloppy by readers who have more time to examine our sentences.
Here, Prof. Crystal clarifies that he is not advocating that we teach blends, but more that we not condemn blends in speech when we are likely to use them ourselves.
Ending his plenary with a piece of titbit about his days as a saxophone player, he muses that Paul MacCartney may have earned much more than him, Paul MacCartney never quite had the honour of ending up as the patron of IATEFL.
This series is inspired by a conversation between Mike Hogan and myself about examining the controversies in ELT. We wanted to consider the different positions taken by different members of the industry. However, to do so, we’d need a debate, a disagreement of sorts. And it became apparent that we either tend to agree with members of our PLN (flying creatures of the same feathers and all that), or would keep an open mind and be fairly polite and supportive of one another (that is why we tweet and blog). Seeing that, the only way to get a real debate going was to actively play Devil’s Advocate (DA).
The following debate took place as an Instant-Messaging Chat on Skype. The statements of here are of the DA and in no way represent my beliefs about teaching. This is merely a tool to spark a dialogue between you, the reader, and all those involved in this project. You can find previous installments of DA here.
To celebrate our eleventh installment of DA, we have Bethany Cagnol.
Bethany Cagnol is a freelance business English and ESP trainer based in Paris, France. She is the president of TESOL France, treasurer of IATEFL BESIG and on the conference committee of IATEFL. She speaks at ELT conferences and recently published “Nursing 1” with Ros Wright (Pearson). She owns two companies in France that provide language training, project management and consulting. She enjoys advising trainers on how they can develop their own freelance status and/or business and often blogs about it .
Chia: It’s so great to have you here on Devil’s Advocate, Beth!
Bethany: Thanks for the invitation, Chia. I’ve been looking forward to this all week!
Chia: It’s an honour to have the president of TESOL France, treasurer of BESIG, and IATEFL conference committee member here on the hot seat!
Bethany: The seat’s lukewarm at the moment. I’m sure that’s about to change.
Chia: Sorry I couldn’t have made the seat warmer for you. I know you’re used to being wined and dined and jetted around the world by these big TEFL organisations that you volunteer for.
Bethany: [ducks for cover] Gosh, you really start off with a good jab, don’t ya?
Being sponsored by the three above-mentioned organizations is a huge perk, yes. I’m very lucky that TESOL France, BESIG and IATEFL have contributed to my attending various events around Europe. The world? No.
But we at TESOL France have a very strict rule about sponsoring Executive Committee members for events. Excom members have to serve on the committee for a year before we sponsor them.
Chia: Sorry, could we define ‘Excom’ before we continue?
Bethany: Excom – Executive Committee
The M is not to be confused with N. 😉
Chia: OOOH! Doh! I thought Excom meant ex-committee member…!
And I was wondering why you were sponsoring people who no longer work for you…Hahaha
So why do people volunteer to be on the Executive committees? It must be all the free lunches you’re getting? Or do you do it because it makes you feel all warm inside?
Bethany: To be honest, yes and no. When I started out with TESOL France I didn’t know travelling to conferences was an option for Excom members. I joined because I wanted to work with Ros Wright. One of my colleagues told me: “If there’s anyone in ELT you should work with, it’s Ros Wright.” That was one of the reasons I joined the TESOL France Excom.
It was only when TESOL France started to grow that sponsoring attendees to IATEFL and other TESOLs in Europe became part of our norm.
And yes, volunteering for these organizations definitely makes me feel all warm and fuzzy but I’m sure we’ll get to that in a minute.
Chia: I had no idea that TESOL France Excom members get sponsored to go to IATEFL and other TESOL conferences in Europe. Wow, it’s even cushier than I thought! That’s on top of getting free trips to places where committee meetings are held, and of course, you get to attend the very conference that you help organise for free as well, don’t you? Is that why most people volunteer to become committee members?
Bethany: We sponsor Excom members to attend conferences because we want them to work for us. For example, TESOL France asks them to scout out good speakers for our events.
Attending conferences also gives them a taste of what a well-run international event is like. And of course it contributes to their professional growth and development. When they come back from the conferences they are so jazzed and motivated (as a teacher and as a volunteer) that they want to help us organize the same high-quality events here in France.
Chia: You mentioned growth and development. That is certainly one of the real reasons why people ‘volunteer’ to be Excom members, isn’t it? Not only do they get to attend conferences and have free trips all around Europe, but they get free business training and get to hone and develop their event organisation and team management skills, not to mention develop a useful network of contacts.
Bethany: Well, before TESOL France, right as I was finishing my MA, I thought about doing an MBA. But I couldn’t possibly pay for one. An MBA costs a fortune. But I still wanted the skills that are (usually) developed during an MBA: I wanted to learn leadership skills, basic business skills, financial skills, project management skills, marketing skills, etc. I got all that and more from being on the committees of TESOL France, BESIG and IATEFL.
And while I developed those skills, and contributed my time, ideas, and experience to the organizations, I met some amazing, incredible teachers. I made some very dear friends like Ros Wright, Debbie West, Eric Halvorsen, Gillian Evans, Laurence Whiteside, Jane Ryder and Christina Rebuffet-Broadus who all work tirelessly towards TESOL France’s cause.
And I met you, Chia! 😉 (wink)
Chia: (takes off DA hat) Aw, thanks. I’m glad I met you too…(puts DA hat back on) But I didn’t need to join an Excom to get to meet you though.
So now, the truth has finally surfaced. People volunteer not because they are being altruistic. They volunteer because they are cheap and want to save the money they would have spent on an MBA, get free business training from being on these committees, and meet the right people. Ah hah!
Bethany: I joined TESOL France because I wanted to develop skills and I wanted to know what it was like to work with other teachers. Teaching in France can be very isolating, you know. Others join for many different reasons.
Volunteering for a teachers’ organization can also help expose you to the latest trends of ELT. One good example is offering to be on the conference proposals committee. While you may have to read a ton of abstracts, it can give you an idea of what the latest ELT trends are.
Chia: But you can meet other teachers and learn about the latest trends in ELT from networking online and attending conferences. You don’t need to organise one for that and can save yourself many hours and still profit from the kind of networking you’re talking about…
But of course, being one of the organisers puts you in a certain limelight. You’re on show, you make contacts (very good for networking and getting work, getting into publishing, writing journals, and so on.)
…which brings us back to hidden agendas of these so-called altruistic volunteers again.
Bethany: I don’t disagree with you when you say that some may volunteer to fulfill their own professional agendas. Volunteers should ALWAYS gain something from the experience. I’m a firm believer in it. They should gain experience, knowledge AND recognition. But they also have to prove they are willing to carry their own weight on the team.
Chia: Could you explain what you mean by ‘prove that they are willing to carry their own weight on the team’?
Bethany: Stellar volunteers are those, who in my opinion, *consistently* demonstrate their dedication to the association’s activities and mission. They readily take on tasks, come up with ways to improve the organization and reliably carry out their responsibilities.
And if they can’t fulfill a task they have the integrity to inform the rest of the team that they need to step down or be given a different role.
Chia: I accept the fact that some volunteers do work hard and do a good job, but ultimately, would you agree with me that volunteers do it for selfish reasons and the kudos we give to what they contribute is overrated?
Many of these ‘stellar’ volunteers are only working hard and trying to do a good job because they want to move up the ladder and rub shoulders with the TEFL elite, and doing this by volunteering in an organisation like IATEFL is a lot easier than moving up the ladder in a school, for example. All one needs is to show willing to offer their services and hard work for free.
Bethany: It is true that some volunteer for that reason alone. But luckily, they are the minority, in my opinion. Based on what I’ve witnessed in three different teacher organizations of varying sizes, they are the minority.
And yes, volunteering makes us feel good. And as I stated above, it should.
But contributing to the world of ELT has grown larger these past few years thanks to Web 2.0. Blogging, Tweeting, conversing about latest issues and trends online is also a form of volunteerism.
Heck, you volunteer your time to DA, don’t you?
Chia: I’m afraid I can’t agree with that. People who blog and tweet are not volunteering. They might be spending time volunteering information and sharing it with others, but they are blogging and tweeting about what they want to blog and tweet about. They are not volunteering to do tasks for an organisation that have been decided for them. And most importantly, bloggers and tweeters don’t get the kudos for being ‘charitable’ like Excom members do. So let’s not go off tangent here…
Nice try, though!
Bethany: But before you rope this pony back into the pen, let’s take Shelly Terrell for example. She volunteers hundreds of hours setting up online conferences, doing free, weekly webinars, writing articles, mentoring people. She’s a good example of how volunteers can reach out from afar.
You claim, “They are not volunteering to do tasks for an organisation that have been decided for them.” – Sorry, I don’t agree. Many volunteers of teachers’ organizations take on tasks they want to carry out because they are confident they can.
Chia: First of all, Shelly Terrell gets paid for her webinars and the talks she gives, and yes, Shelly does quite a bit of volunteering as well. She’s investing her own time to build her brand, and she does it very well. And it’s on the strength of this brand that she gets invitations to speak all over the world.
Didn’t you mention something similar at a recent conference in Paris, Beth? About the importance of investing your time to build your brand?
Bethany: Shelly, definitely, is a good example of someone who develops her ELT brand* – and volunteering for an organization does help one promote that. Again, I don’t disagree.
But take The Reform Symposium, for instance. She volunteered her time to help organize this amazing online conference. She invested an enormous amount of time so that hundreds of teachers around the world could get together and gain hours and hours of free professional development.
*For more on developing your ELT Brand, see the article in the next issue of the BESIG Business Issues (Cagnol & Hogan 2012).
Chia: Ah, so you’ve volunteered to do this DA with me so that you can promote your article in the next Business Issues! It all becomes clear! Did you and Mike Hogan use your connections to BESIG (You as the Treasurer and Mike as the BESIG Online Team member) to get your article into the journal? How convenient! See, there’s no such thing as pure altruism. 😉
Bethany: Now now. In our article, we do suggest ways teachers can develop their ELT brand, but this isn’t the topic of this DA.
Anyway, we didn’t “use our connections”. Anyone is welcome to submit an article to be published in BESIG’s Business Issues. Julia Waldner would love to hear from you!
But again, if you want to bring writing back into this debate, earlier, you conveniently tried to duck from the fact that your doing the DA is not a form of volunteerism. I think it is. It helps you develop skills and it gives back to the ELT community.
Chia: Nice backhand, Beth. Doing the DA simply satisfies my confrontational personality for a good ol’ verbal punchup. It might make me better at constructing arguments when I finally make it into that university debate team. So see? I’m not doing DA because I have any kind of purely altruistic bone in me either. Just like those TESOL association volunteers! We all have an agenda!
Bethany: But don’t you get enormous satisfaction in the fact that you are helping hundreds of teachers out there? By the looks of all the comments, everyone seems to get a great deal out of your conversations with other DA “victims”. That’s gotta feel pretty darn good, doesn’t it? It’s because of you, your readers think twice before going at an ESP course without a coursebook. It’s because of you, your readers think twice before giving just any language test to their students. I could go on….
Chia: But that’s exactly it. Social psychologists and philosophers like Ayn Rand suggests that pure altruism does not exist.
We operate on a basis of ethical egoism, i.e. we do what is in our own self-interest. And so if the self-interest is to boost one’s ego and feel good about oneself, then that is certainly an agenda too…
But we’re getting off the main point, that being my blogging is not volunteering, in the traditional sense of the word. Being in the Excom is volunteering…and with a much larger (and some might say, darker) hidden agenda.
It’s no longer just about feeling good and boosting one’s ego. It’s about wanting to be in the limelight, gaining a TEFL celebrity status, building an influential network and being recognised as an experienced, well-respected teacher at the top of his/her industry, even though in actual fact, for all we know, the Excom member could be a terrible teacher.
Bethany: Ok dearie, I’ll address the jabs one by one. 😉
You said, “Social psychologists and philosophers like Ayn Rand suggests that pure altruism does not exist.” – Ok. I see their point. But this is an old argument going back thousands of years.
No one should volunteer for an organization if they end up being miserable. Not too long ago I met someone who was a former member of another teachers’ organization. She said, “I worked so hard for the association, but was never thanked. I was incredibly unhappy”. So it was from that day I decided that those who dedicate their time to these organizations deserve to be thanked and recognized *publically*.
You then said, “It’s no longer just about feeling good and boosting one’s ego. It’s about wanting to be in the limelight, gaining a TEFL celebrity status… ” – I don’t entirely agree. Granted, the Internet (Twitter & Facebook) has helped make the recognition of these volunteers a lot easier. Teachers, who we, as an association, praise for their hard work, can and do become “TEFL celebrities”. But as I said earlier, wanting to be in the limelight, for the majority, isn’t the goal here. It’s the byproduct.
And finally, you said,”….for all we know, the Excom member could be a terrible teacher.” That may well be. But that’s the beauty of being on the Excom. It can help you become a better teacher, learner, leader, organizer, employee, boss, etc.
Chia: Being in the limelight isn’t a goal for the majority? (And earlier, you said that using Excom status to climb up the TEFL ladder isn’t what you witnessed to be a goal of the majority).
The key here is that those with such a goal or secret agenda are of course going to keep it secret and play their cards close to their chest. They will say all the right things about volunteering so that they can develop, give back to the community, form wonderful friendships, but in reality, their intentions are much darker. So of course, you wouldn’t be able to witness it just by talking or working with them.
Bethany: You seem to want to categorize “setting personal goals” or “having a professional agenda” as something that is terrible. It isn’t really. I’m going to bring my mother into this because she taught me to always think through my decisions and to analyze what I could gain from every experience no matter what.
As professionals, we should always think through what we can *give* and *take* from every situation. But my mother also taught me to trust people. I trust they are volunteering for the right reasons – to give back to the community but also to develop into a better person.
Chia: That all sounds warm and fuzzy in this context – setting personal goals, having a professional agenda.
Let me ask you, Beth, if someone in your PLN hangs out with you, acts like they are genuinely your friend and seem really interested in you as a person, but later, you find out that they are actually only doing so because you are the president of TESOL France, because you have great connections, and you can help them to fulfill their ‘personal goals’, would you forgive such a ‘professional agenda’?
Isn’t that what volunteering for TEFL organisations under the pre-text of doing something good for the community really is?
Beth: Thanks for calling my mom “warm and fuzzy”. I agree 100%. I’ll tell her you said that.
Well….as I’ve developed with the PLN, I find it’s now my responsibility to help bring others into the fold.
One good example is the TESOL France Executive Committee. The newer members get introduced to the PLN who come to our conferences, they are invited to give talks, they are welcomed at the dinner tables, etc. So, in a way, I choose to help introduce my fellow Excom members to the PLN and show them the benefits of not only volunteering for TESOL France, BESIG and/or IATEFL but also the benefits of making friends who can help them down the road.
Chia: But it’s all in the intentions, you see.
To use my metaphorical analogy earlier, if someone befriends you because their intentions had been genuine and they really like you as a person and want to be your friend, if you do introduce them to your network of professional contacts and help their career along the way, that’s one thing.
But if someone befriends you with the intentions of exploiting your status and network from the very start, that’s a totally different agenda.
Bethany: And again, I have to go back to what my mother taught me. I will trust them. That’s just who I am.
I know some may throw the “naive” card at me, but I really prefer to go through life trusting people.
My mother taught me it’s better to trust people. But she also helped me develop a pretty good BS detector. 🙂
Chia: You are lucky to have such a great mother. Bet she didn’t teach you those things with any secret agendas… 😉
Bethany: Her agenda was wanting me to develop my own definition of success and to know how to achieve that. Thanks to TESOL France, BESIG, and IATEFL, I do feel successful and very happy as a volunteer and as a professional.
Chia: And by nurturing your PLN and the new volunteers in return, you are developing your followers…a leader needs followers. In helping others, you are creating a following, which in itself will grow and give you (i.e. the volunteer in the higher position) even greater status and more limelight. Clever!
Bethany: Now now. Nah…on Star Trek, maybe. To all my followers: resistance is futile!
Chia: Mwahahaha! I’ve got Bethany Cagnol to finally admit her secret agenda!!!
Bethany: Yup! That’s what it’s been this whole time. 😉
Chia: Beth, you have managed to come out of this DA looking like a kind, trusting and positive optimist that you clearly are! And the DA now just looks like a cynical old grump…
Bethany: Well…I can fix that. We do have a position for you on the TESOL France Executive Committee if you want. 😉
Chia: One, this Devil’s Advocate doesn’t live in France. Two, the DA doesn’t want clingers trying to befriend her with secret agendas…she’ll end up trusting them and then feeling betrayed in the end. And three, I am afraid the TESOL France President’s positivity might actually cause the DA to lose her edge and actually become a better person.
Bethany: But the friendships you’ll make will last a lifetime (hint hint nudge nudge)
Chia: I’ve got you, Beth…what other friendships would I need?
Bethany: Let’s look at it this way. If I hadn’t volunteered for TESOL France, I wouldn’t have gotten up the nerve to give a small workshop for the membership.
If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to apply for the phenomenal conferences hosted by IATEFL Poland, TESOL Spain, and IATEFL and TESOL International.
If I hadn’t gone to those amazing events I wouldn’t have taken on the organization of the TESOL France conferences. I wouldn’t have developed a sheer hunger for professional development and volunteerism.
If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have made the incredible friends I’ve met along the way…
And if I hadn’t done any of this I wouldn’t have met you Chia.
Ok….I’m actually tearing up now. (sniff).
Chia: Great 3rd conditional personalised lesson you’ve got there, Beth!
Well, I’m certainly glad that you did the conferences you did and that I fell in love with the person I fell for because both of those two things have resulted in the wonderful friendship I have with you today! (Warm and fuzzy feeling…like being wrapped in the fur of a woolly mammoth)
Bethany: Cue cheesy music Chia!
Chia: Cue picture of Woolly mammoth (There, Phil, I’ve said it twice!)
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy ‘conference-organising’ schedule to be on DA today Beth…you’ve been a star…
Bethany: Thanks Chia. You’ve really made me think long and hard about all this and this has been an incredible experience.
Chia: I’m glad you enjoyed it. Now, how about introducing me to some of your influential Excom friends? 😉
Bethany: Oh honey….I can’t wait for you to meet them. They will love you! Can’t wait until your Plenary in November at the TESOL France Conference!
(how do ya like my shameless plug of your plenary 😉
Chia: Sigh, secret agendas and shameless plugs…
Bethany: Sigh 😉
Epilogue (by Bethany Cagnol): Bethany’s views are her own and do not represent any organization she is associated with. Chia was only playing DA, and of course believes in the many positive reasons Bethany has given for volunteering. Bethany may have appeared to have been completely and utterly ass-whooped by Chia during this DA session, but rest assured they are still friends who are not adverse to the occasional rowdy debate over a glass of read wine (Bordeaux, preferably) or under Chia’s comfy duvet at 2am.