Journals and Magazines – PD in Focus 5

Snapshot of Icha Sarwono's article for ETAS Journal, Switzerland
Snapshot of Icha Sarwono’s article for ETAS Journal, Switzerland

Another very important aspect of professional development is reading and writing for educational journals and magazines. Almost every teaching association in various countries around the world has one, be it a paper journal or online or even an online newsletter, which is shorter. Some associations offer the journals included in the membership fee, which can be very helpful – however there are also magazines that do not belong to associations but are related to language teaching, like Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional, to name a couple.

Reading:

  • Why is it so important to read them? Well first of all, to learn from them. So many colleagues share loads of teaching ideas in their articles, which we can adopt and adapt in our own classes. They can keep you feeling inspired and motivated for the next class!
  • It can also make us think critically, because we cannot possibly agree with everything written. We can choose what fits our classes and our methodology and  use it accordingly.
  • Some articles focus on research or other theoretical issues and can help teachers enrich their knowledge, or even help them with their studies, as many educators continue their studies.

Writing:

  • Share your ideas with other educators! Write for journals and magazines – it helps you to also practise your writing skills. A lot of educators reading your articles might then contact you to give you feedback on your writing, for instance how much it helped them, or any kind of feedback, which is also welcome. Then you can see what you can continue writing about, what you can improve and so on. Just try doing it!

Observe and Be Observed – PD in Focus 4

(Image taken from www.storyline-scotland.com)
(Image taken from http://www.storyline-scotland.com)

What comes to your mind when you hear the word observation? Does it make you nervous, think really carefully about your lesson plan, or even worse, think this might be the end of your teaching career? We have all thought those thoughts and even experienced teachers say it makes them feel nervous. I used to get very stressed over them, but after starting to think of them as a constructive experience that can benefit both sides, the observer and the observed, it has become much better.

It can also be your choice.

If you want to be observed and my advice is to do it with your own initiative from time to time, choose a colleague that you can trust. Trust as in someone who can be honest with you and sit with you afterwards to go into what went well and what didn’t. When I do this, it is great because I can see where I need to work on and what I can keep doing well. Additionally, the person observing can get ideas for their own lessons, or see something you do and adopt it. For instance, a colleague of mine who came into a class to observe me said that he liked the constant feedback I give my students during the lesson. He found it helpful for the students because at that moment they were motivated and if they made a mistake they said for example, Ah ok, if I want to say that…I have to use that tense then?

If you are going to be observed but cannot choose the person who will be the observer, then keep seeing it as a constructive experience. The person who is there (your Director of Studies, someone from the Ministry of Education) might come up with negative comments, which can be hard for the person observed to get over. If you feel that the negative feedback is something you could really fix in your teaching, then use it to your own and your students’ benefit. If the feedback is negative because the person is a negative personality as well (and it happens quite often), then see it as a learning experience again – things that you will never do when you observe someone!

That last point is also one to keep in mind – ask your colleagues whether you can observe them. It is something I enjoy doing as I can see different teaching styles and get ideas for my own teaching. I love the feedback sessions afterwards too.

Observations need not be stressful or make educators feel bad about their teaching. We are all in this together and why not help each other? It can have great results both for us and for our students as well.

Note: Remember to ask your school for permission to observe or get someone to observe you, as in many schools unfortunately it is not practised. The same goes if you choose to go into another school, even if you know the teacher already – speak to the principal or Director of Studies before you go in and explain your plans.

Observation should be a  learning experience, either way – a bridge between observer and observed.

Mentoring – PD in Focus 3

(Image taken from www.juangreatleap.com)
(Image taken from http://www.juangreatleap.com)

In Greek mythology, Mentor (Greek: Μέντωρ, Méntōr; gen.: Μέντορος)[1] was the son of Alcimus or Anchialus or Heracles and Asopis. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus’ foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus’ palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War (Retrieved from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentor).

The role of mentors is so important, regardless of the profession one is in. Especially for us educators, having a mentor and mentoring other teachers can evolve into an amazing and creative relationship.

It is as simple as talking to someone about their worries, concerns, interests and guiding them into new paths. New kinds of teaching, new studies even. Be open and help out someone who needs it!

A new colleague: All of us remember how we felt when we first started teaching. We either felt scared of trying anything new out, or nervous before we started teaching a new level or student or class. Letting them know what you would do in those cases can feel reassuring, Perhaps they feel disappointed after a bad teaching moment – you can help them reflect on it and move on. With someone there to guide them, things are easier and can be solved.

A colleague with a problem. Again, as with new teachers a colleague might come up to you with a problem they have. A mentoring moment! Help them first of all understand that whatever it is, it has a solution. That if they have done something that didn’t work, it is not the end of the world (a lot of us tend to be self-flagellating) – they can reflect on it, see what they can do the next time it happens and not dwell on it too much. It can drain them of any motivation they have – this is another good aspect of having a mentor: getting all the motivation you need.

A fellow educator in need of new ideas. Either new or experienced, all of us have been in need of new ideas. We feel at some point that we have completely dried up and cannot come up with anything new. That is another form of mentoring! We can help that colleague get out of that predicament. Some new ideas and guidance and they’re good to go!

After their lessons, have feedback sessions with them, for you both to reflect on – set up discussion groups and/or feedback sessions, as I described in my previous post, PD in Focus 2.

Discussion Groups and Feedback Sessions – PD in Focus 2

You can have meetings over coffee (photo by Chiew Pang, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/)
You can have meetings over coffee (photo by
Chiew Pang, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/)

Teaching can be a lonely profession. You teach, come back home, mark, prepare – but you need and would like to get together with colleagues or teacher friends to reflect with. What do you do? A good idea is to set up a discussion group. Get colleagues from work or friends of yours who are teachers and set up a group. I even do this with only one friend of mine.  Of course, a larger group might be better, as you hear and share more opinions and experiences.

Get together with other teachers from work or friends. Find people you enjoy communicating with and encourage others to join you as well. Choose an environment that inspires you – the home of a colleague, a quaint and quiet cafe, an especially designated room in a library (we have one like that here at the library, where you don’t even have to whisper!).

Choose a topic. It can be a common topic, or each one of you can have a different one to talk about – a class that you are having issues with, a colleague that has dried up and needs more ideas, new lesson plans you have used and would like to share. A topic I recently discussed with a wonderful friend who is also a great educator was culture in the classroom – how we can encourage students to respect each others’ culture and create an environment that celebrates diversity (as we were both having some issues with instances of racist remarks in our classes).

Discuss and find ways to implement what you have learned. Give suggestions to each other on how you plan to apply everything you have taken in the sessions – and come back again another day to reflect on how it went. It feels much better to do things when you know you have company – it is interesting to see how different approaches work.

Take notes / Make a newsletter! I know this needs time, but it is always useful to take notes in these sessions, which everyone can keep and revisit. It can even be in the form of a newsletter! You can make free newsletters you can send as regularly as you like to the whole group at http://tinyletter.com/, for an easy, colourful format or interactive ones at http://www.smilebox.com/newsletter-designs.html

Do you get together with other educators in discussion groups? If you have any different ideas or experiences, share them here with us.

Conferences, Workshops and Swapshops – PD in Focus 1

(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France
(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France

After last Sunday’s webinar for BELTA Belgium, I have decided to start a series of posts, each one focusing on every point raised in my presentation, both for novice teachers and experienced ones. As I mentioned in the webinar, a good teacher is a constant learner – so regardless of the years one has been teaching, Professional Development should always have a pivotal role.

Let’s start with the first point – which is also one of my favourites: conferences, workshops and swapshops, the latter being a new kind of event and one that I find very interesting.

  • First of all, it helps tremendously to know which events we will attend and where. As we are all educators and work hard to earn our income, it is crucial to plan our events based on our budget. There are so many things going on, either at our own local level or internationally. An easy and practical way to find out where various conferences are going on is to look at Tyson Seburn‘s amazing ELT Calendar on his blog.

Second, it also helps to be a member of an association as we can get a lot of perks, such as free attendance to events, or at a discount (even the magazine or newsletter, electronic or paper). It is impossible to be members of all the associations we would like to, but nowadays most of them are affordable and allow us to register for multiple ones.

Now, on to the whywhy should we attend all these events? Don’t we already have enough to do, besides teaching, marking, preparing?

  • These events serve as a boost, a nice charge-up of our skills, ideas and motivation! A lot of educators including myself feel fully charged after a conference or workshop. You are just ready and looking forward to using the ideas you got in our own classroom, changing your methods, experimenting to see how the students will respond. Sometimes it might be the case that these ideas don’t work, but at least you have tried something different.
  • Suggest ideas! A lot of sessions, or workshops, are highly interactive – the speakers include the audience as well.So that way you can come forward and mention an idea you have used in your own classroom, or how you would use the idea you just heard from the speaker. Instant feedback. (I just love these sessions where everyone can take part!)
  • Conferences are not only the sessions themselves. Breaks are amazing opportunities to meet new people or come together with people you already know and talk with them, share your own experiences and compare your contexts, share ideas you got if you have attended different sessions. Networking, as it is called. Some of the best discussions I remember having have been during lunch or coffee breaks.
  • You can listen to great speakers from all around the world. How great is that? : )
  • Present! It might seem intimidating (and I am definitely far from being an experienced speaker) but it is a great experience. It is a great opportunity to share your ideas with others and do something new.

Swapshops: They are a relatively new kind of event. What happens there is that everyone can present an idea of their own – a lesson plan, idea, technique that they see has worked for their classrooms and would like to exchange with the other teachers. Usually it is a timed presentation 7-8 minutes, or more. It is so interesting! I love how everyone participates and the enthusiasm is contagious! You can leave a swapshop with a lot of ideas.

Any other reasons you consider conferences and events as a great way of developing professionally? Feel free to add a comment.

Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.
Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.

From Zug to Belgium – A BELTA Webinar

BELTA Belgium
BELTA Belgium

Today was the day of the first webinar for BELTA Belgium, a great new association for English teachers in Belgium and everywhere, in fact! BELTA was founded by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis, Ellen de Preter, Guido van Landeghem and Jurgen Basstanie. You can read more about the foundation of BELTA and also watch the launch event here.

I was asked to do the first webinar for BELTA, which I accepted with great joy and honour. The topic was Professional Development for Now and the Future: A Guide to 2013 and you can watch the slideshow below:

I have also created a PDF file with the most useful links.

BELTA Presentation – Useful Notes

Here is the link with the recording of the webinar, which will also be published on the BELTA blog, Facebook and Twitter.

A huge thank you to BELTA and everyone who was there (including my parents!), in the Adobe Connect room and to my sister, Eugenia, who was there in the same room as I was, cheering us all on (and also helped me find a title to this blog post)!

A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)
A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)