Devil’s Advocate vs Bethany Cagnol on Volunteering for Teaching Associations

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.

When you think ‘TEFL conferences’, is this what comes to mind?
Photo by Chia Suan Chong

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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.  😉

Is the Sheriff also the Ex-Con?
Photo by @dfogarty at http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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.

Teachers getting jazzed up by Fish at the closing of IATEFL Glasgow 2012
Photo by Mike Hogan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/irishmikeh

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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!

Yes indeed! Not only is it cheaper than an MBA, you get to meet Rakesh Bhanot too! Now, how swell is that?

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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.

Er…girls…when I said ‘carry your own weight’, I didn’t quite mean ‘carry yourself in weight’…
Photo by @VictoriaB52, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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!

A cheeky girl decides to go on a tangential angle
Photo by @sandymillin, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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).

Cagnol and Hogan (2012) speaking at the BESIG Paris Summer Symposium
Photo by Chia Suan Chong

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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….

As this bird’s ego gets bigger…
Photo by @cgoodey, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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.

…and they keep coming!
Photo by @sandymillin, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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.

And when the ladies stood under the lime tree under the street lamps, the men would stop…
Photo by @acliltoclimb, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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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?

Volunteering at IATEFL conferences is warm and fuzzy
Photo of IATEFL Brighton 2011 by Mike Hogan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/irishmikeh

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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.

How many times do I have to tell you that I’m not a cash cow?
Photo by @mk_elt, http://www.flickr.com/eltpics

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.  😉

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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.

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The BESIG Paris Summer Symposium 2012

The BESIG Paris Summer Symposium (in association with TESOL France) might have only been a day long, but it was certainly one of the best conferences I had ever attended.

It was well-organised. – From the moment the speakers’ proposals were accepted to the day of the conference, key information was disseminated in good time, queries were answered before they were even asked, and the speakers were even sent photos of the rooms that they would be presenting in.

It was well-programmed. – Like many conference goers, I had become used to attending conferences where inevitably there would be talks that might make one feel like the opportunity cost was little high, to put it diplomatically. This conference had no such talks. Every single session I went to either gave me useful ideas to implement in my teaching or brought up certain issues that made me think. And from what I heard, the sessions that I was unable to attend due as they clashed with the sessions I went to were just as good (Eric Halvorsen, Vicky Loras, Michelle Hunter, Adrian Pilbeam, Nick Robinson, Ian McMaster & Deborah Capras: Sorry I couldn’t come to your sessions, but I have been hearing so many positive things about your sessions!) So kudos to the selection committee and to the presenters for that.

It was well-attended.– There were about 160 delegates at the conference venue attending the talks, but there were also some 70 delegates that had congregated in Argentina, Serbia, and Croatia, watching some of the talks simulcasted live into their conference rooms. On top of that, there were those who were watching the talks live from the comfort of their own homes through the Adobe Connect rooms. This meant that talks like mine which had the privilege of being simulcasted were able to engage not just the live audience in the room but also the audience in Argentina, Serbia, Croatis, and those online, involving them in the workshops and the discussions.

However, by well-attended, I’m not simply talking about the large numbers in the audience. I’m also talking about the ‘quality’ of the conference delegates. The BESIG Summer Symposium was attended by some of the most influential people in the TEFL industry, from the iconic Business English book writers and speakers like Evan Frendo, Pete Sharma, Marjorie Rosenberg, to the intercultural experts like Barry Tomalin and Adrian Pilbeam, to the online celebrities like Brad Patterson and Vicky Loras and the new generation of TEFL movers and shakers like Nick Robinson, Mike Hogan, and Bethany Cagnol (conference organizer and speaker).

Kudos to the BESIG committee…
– photo by Mike Hogan
…and the folks of TESOL France!
– photo by Mike Hogan

For me, this conference was also about finally getting to meet up with some of the Twitter PLNers and Twitteratti in person (Christina @RebuffetBroadus, Eric @ESHalvorsen, Sue @SueAnnan, Vicky Loras @vickyloras, Brad Patterson @Brad5Patterson, Mieke @mkofab, and Carolyn @kerrcarolyn) and they are as marvellous if not more than their online presence!

The BESIG and Twitter PLN combined!

On the 16th June, the day of the conference, I walked from the hotel to Télécom ParisTech, where the conference was held. After an efficient registration process by the friendly TESOL France volunteers and committee members, and some early morning coffee with members of the PLN, I then headed to my first session, Barry Tomalin’s Teaching International Culture in Business – The Framework Approach ©.

Adding his own take to a mix of the dimensions and frameworks of Hofstede, Trompenaars and Richard Lewis, Barry creates the RADAR profile that helps us to learn about ourselves, before comparing our styles to others. Following some effective explanations and relevant examples, Barry had the audience first measure their expectations of business relationships by reflecting upon the following dimensions:

1. Are you more quality driven or cost/finance driven?

2. Are you more risk embracing or risk averse?

3. Do you prefer close contact or distance?

4. Are you more relationship driven or task driven?

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We then measured our communication styles through the following:

1. Do you tend to be direct or indirect?

2. Do you often state your objectives before the reason or the background to a task before the objectives?

3. Do you tend to be formal or informal?

4. Are you more likely to be emotional or neutral?

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Our organisational styles were measured according to the following:

1. Do you prioritise efficiency or effectiveness more?

2. Are you more time tight or time loose?

3. Do you tend to prefer top down or delegation?

4. Do you prefer individual decisions or team decisions?

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Using framework provided by Barry, we marked out our answers to the above questions and then mapped it against the perceived styles of someone we work with, and considered the areas in which most gap was seen. Giving us the useful tip ‘Change 20% of your behaviour to get 80% of a change in the attitude towards you!’, Barry ended the session by encouraging us to think of a problem that we might have with another culture by going through the procedure he had taught us:

  • Identify your style;
  • Compare your style;
  • Empathise;
  • Manage your skills;
  • Reflect.

Judging from impressive attendance and the high levels of engagement, this session was certainly a resounding success. After a 15-minute coffee break, I managed to get a seat next to Christina Rebuffet-Broadus in one of the simulcasted talks, Pete SharmaApp-tivities for Business English’. Pete began by alerting us to several basic questions that we should ask ourselves about apps. Are they for the right platform? (Apple iPhone? Android? etc) Are they ELT apps or authentic apps? Do we need to pay for them? Is the app free-standing or does it need an internet connection to work?

Photo by Mike Hogan

He then went on to give us plenty of useful and exciting suggestions for teachers who own smart phones and iPads and would like to exploit their use more in the classroom. Here are some of them:

  • For listening practice, TED or BBC iPlayer.
  • For reading practice, newspaper apps can come in handy.
  • For pronunciation and familiarizing one with the IPE chart is Macmillan Sounds. The paid version comes with multiple activities for students.
  • Presentation tools like Brainshark or Prezi can be useful for the Business English Classroom
  • Prezi Viewer can help students to organise complex subjects like ‘culture’, ‘online learning’ or ‘the environment’.
  • Camera apps like Acrossair for geo-tagging, or Android apps like Google Goggles can provide information of one’s surroundings.
  • Screenchomp can turn our iPads into IWBs (Interactive White Boards)
  • Mindmapping software like Simple Mind can help our business clients with their tasks.
  • Fun and games like the British Council apps can motivate our learners.
  • Flashcode Reader reads QR codes. Using a QR code writer, a teacher can make treasure hunt clues, web quests, or simply send a students to an IELTS practice website.
  • Flashcard apps are widely available and can be used for vocab review

Pete’s book App-tivities is now in the labs of The Round, so we can go to www.theround/labs for a free sneak preview! Next up was Mike Hogan and Bethany Cagnol’s ‘Managing Your Brand as a Trainer’, where the freelancers and school owners in the audience were made to seriously think about their business plans and how much they invested in themselves and their brand. Asking the key question, ‘When people hear your name, what do they say? What does your brand say about you?’, Mike and Beth takes the audience through the different aspects of managing one’s brand, from professionalizing oneself by thinking about our niche markets and how we appear to our clients, to considering our online presence when a client or employer ‘Googles’ our name, to taking part in our clients’ conferences and courses/workshops, and even specialized training, so as to understand the environment our clients operate in.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Reflection clearly has a huge part to play when examining our brand. Amongst many other useful tips, the audience left the talk with the following questions resonating in their heads:

  • Are we able to present and negotiate our services with our clients?
  • Are we adapting to the changes in the market?
  • Are we investing in ways to boost the quality of what we offer?
  • Are we getting referred by our clients? If not, why not?

My talk was scheduled for the slot straight after lunch, so a few of us went to the nearby sandwich shop and I bought myself a ‘Skipper Sandwich’ with a chopped-up beef patty and fries between two chunks of bread, just to ensure that I would be as sleepy as my audience during my presentation.

Photo by Mike Hogan

As I often feel uncomfortable summarizing my own talks and presentations, let’s just simply say that my ‘Myths and Controversies in BE Teaching’ was largely based on the discussions that were had on the Devil’s Advocate interview here on chiasuanchong.com (see I’m trying to manage my brand! Mike and Beth would be so proud!). Polls were conducted both with the ‘studio audience’ and those watching from Argentina, Serbia and Croatia, and those at home, and we were able to get some very interesting discussions going. Thanks for participating, everyone!

The video of the talk will be up on besig.org soon! Another talk that was also simulcasted was Evan Frendo’s ‘Using Corpora in Materials Development’. Introducing the Hong Kong Corpus of Spoken English and the Enronsent Corpus for written corporate communication, Evan encourages us to get Wordsmith Tools, a concordancing tool that will enable us to analyse the corpora data using word lists and frequency lists. Keyword lists can also be another useful tool for ESP teachers as it helps us to find words that are significantly more frequent in a corpus when compared to another corpus. Demonstrating some possible uses of the corpora, Evan shows us the common collocates used when discussing a CNC machine, something guaranteed to be quite foreign to the lay person, highlighting the usefulness of a corpora to help us teachers become more familiar with the language our students’ need.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

But using the corpora is not just for ESP teachers. The answer to the question “What is the difference between ‘going forward’ and ‘looking forward’?” can be found by simply looking up examples of use in the corpus data, therefore avoiding precarious situations that might arise from teachers guessing the use of certain lexis by using their instinct. Evan then ends his talk with an optimistic ‘Isn’t this what we do as Business English teachers? We analyse the language, and then we teach it.’ If only all BE teachers were this conscientious, Evan… Just before the closing plenary, Divya Brochier and Brad Patterson provided the audience with an interesting and useful way of encouraging speaking in the classroom with their presentation ‘Using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Boost Conversation Classes’.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Illustrating the fact that some students are simply not very motivated to talk through a hilarious roleplay with Brad and Rakesh Bhanot playing bored business students (Bravo for that French accent! It was so real I almost forgot that you both weren’t French!), Divya and Brad that goes on to show us how the use of the Six Thinking Hats could solve this problem.

The White Hat: Unbiased fact

The Green Hat: Creativity and Growth

The Red Hat: Emotions

The Black Hat: Problems. The Devil’s Advocate.

The Yellow Hat: Optimism and solutions.

The Blue Hat: Organisation

So the next time your student says something to the tune of ‘I don’t know’ when you ask them to comment on Global Warming or some topic in a reading text, try move around the six hats instead: What are the facts? (White) How do you feel about it? (Red) What are some of the problems with this? (Black) What are some of the advantages/benefits? (Yellow) How can we move forward from here? (Green) How would you summarise what’s been said? (Blue)

The fantastic conference then came to an end with David Crystal’s closing plenary ‘Language and the Internet’. David sets the tongue-in-cheek tone of the plenary by asking if we were addicted to the Internet and whether we check our emails when we wake up at night to go to the toilet? Surveying the audience with the questions, ‘How many of you here blog?’, ‘How many of you here tweet?’, and ‘How many of you here are tweeting right now?’ (I had my hand up to all three questions), David jokes about the fact that there now exists Twitter Scores that indicate how many people are tweeting in your talk. Clearly, the more people who tweet, the more important you must be!

How many of you tweet?
– photo by Mike Hogan

What was known as Computer Mediated Communication in the 1990s no longer seems to be an appropriate term as the distinction between phones and computers blur. We now talk about Electronic Digital Communication. In fact, the mobilization of the internet means that by 2020, 80% of access to the internet will be through mobile phones.

While adults criticize text messaging and text speak as the way young people are harming our language through abbreviations, David Crystal debunks this myth, stating that text messages are NOT full of abbreviations as only 10% of texts are abbreviated, and we are now seeing abbreviations die away in text-messaging perhaps due to the fact that the novelty has worn out. (One Twitterer tweeted as a response to this, saying that this could be due to the dominance of predictive texts…but I’m not sure if this applies to smartphone users).

Interestingly, using ‘U’ for ‘you’ and ‘c’ for ‘see’ have been around for at least two centuries, and the very parents that criticize today’s teenagers for abbreviating were probably just as guilty doing the same with acronyms like ‘SWALK’ (Sealed with a loving kiss) at the back of envelopes. More interestingly, the earlier one gets their mobile phone, the better a speller one turns out to be. Text messaging is upping our literacy and not harming it.

Photo by Mike Hogan

Defining the difference between electronic communication and the spoken language, David Crystal highlights that electronic communication features successive feedback as opposed to simultaneous feedback. But we can be rest assured that there has not been many changes to the lexicogrammar of our language even with the advance of the internet. Perhaps the most noticeable change is in orthography, i.e. spelling and punctuation, but even so, this is a marginal feature.

Moving on to Twitter, David shows how the move from asking ‘What are you doing now?’ to ‘What’s happening?’ has made tweets less introverted and less about ‘I’ and more about ‘they’. Twitter is now used for business and for reporting on the things that are happening around us.

Ending his talk with a bit on blogging, David entertains the audience with a little skit on ‘blue bottles’, demonstrating how the internet and blogging has led to the start of many romantic relationships between the online users who share a common interest. The one and a half hours flew by with David Crystal telling anecdote after anecdote that the audience could engage with and relate to, and making his points loud and clear, all without the help of any slides or notes. It was certainly an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable presentation, and a great way to end the BESIG Summer Symposium.

Here’s a fascinating interview David Crystal himself by the BESIG Online Team.

The Presentation Award winners
– photo by Mike Hogan

All that is left is to congratulate the winners of the BESIG first-time presenters’ Award Vicky Loras, Eric Halvorsen, and Luke Thompson and Andy Johnson, and it’s off to the nearest restaurant for some escargots and frog legs!

(For more photos of the BESIG Paris Summer Symposium by Mike Hogan, go here)