TESOL Greece Plenary

TESOL Greece Plenary
The conference's theme was 'Human Rights in Education, Literature and Art', so when they first asked me to speak, I did wonder if they had the right person... still, my talk was entitled 'It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it...that's what gets results' and I focused on situations where we are in authority as a teacher, trainer or a manager and how we can give feedback in a positive, respectful manner. It seemed to be pretty well received and if you're interested (I warn you, it's an hour long), you can see the recording here.
TESOL Greece- Interview questions

1. What were your first thoughts when you saw the title of the 42nd TESOL Greece Annual International Convention, “Human Rights in Education, Literature and Art”?

In honesty, I was a bit flummoxed! It’s a great title, but I was initially wondering what on earth I was going to be able to contribute. I have to confess that I cannot speak with any authority to the ‘Literature and Art’ part, but I feel perhaps I have some experience with the connections between Human Rights and ESOL. I worked in a college of further education with adult migrants and asylum seekers for many years before moving to Warwick University and saw many instances where acquiring English language skills made an enormous difference to the lives of people from very disadvantaged backgrounds.

I hope that you don’t mind- I’ve split the next question into two…

2a. The title of your plenary is “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.. That’s what gets results’. Give us a hint of what’s in it before your plenary!

As I said before, when I first saw the title of the conference, I wondered what I could say about this, but I started to think about human rights in a ‘lower case’ way. I think that the right to live a fulfilled life and not be oppressed or exploited is not only about ‘others’ – people who we might see on the news or read about. As a teacher, a trainer or a manager, you are in a position of authority and so you have a responsibility to those you teach or train or manage. How you treat them and how this is manifest in the way that you talk to them is important, so I’m going to be looking at how you can become more aware of that.

2b. In your bio you mention that you like baking. What’s your teaching secret ingredient?

There’s no secret ingredient, I’m afraid, but I do like baking and I think that it’s a great analogy for teaching and training. You have a basic recipe, some things that really seem to work well, but it’s always your own creation and it’s fine to change it around for the people that you are baking for or teaching. Also, as with baking, as you get more experienced, it’s more likely that things will come out well, but it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, there are always going to be some days when your cake sinks in the middle or your lesson doesn’t go the way you planned it. In either case, no one dies, which is lucky, I always think….

3. Some of us still remember a praise or a reprimand in class when we were students. Additionally, many of us still treasure some kind and touching words from our teachers or students. Do we have awareness of the consequences of the words that come out of our mouth in our everyday life and in class as teachers? How much can words affect who we are and who we will become?

You are so right that we remember words! There’s that old saying about ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ and of course, this is rubbish. I can still vividly remember a rather sarcastic put down by my French teacher in a class over 40 years ago. I’m not suggesting that we are completely unaware of what we say, but I think that it can be quite an eye-opener to investigate this. The more you put your words under a microscope, the more you see, and I think that this can only be beneficial.

4. Every day we realise how important digital literacy is for the young and the old. When the first lockdown occurred, many of us shockingly realised that our students are not as tech-savvy as we thought they were. Also, many teachers had online lessons for the first time. Can you see any advantages or disadvantages that can emerge from online teaching?

This is such an enormous question! I’m a great proponent of online education- I’ve seen through my own website how powerful it can be and how it can provide a range of free information and courses, MOOCs, webinars etc which have leveled the playing field and made education available to a much wider audience than would previously have been able to access this. On the other hand, the past months have brought home to me (because I miss it!) how much I value being in a room with learners, without masks and social distancing, building relationships and learning together. My feeling is that even post Covid when there will inevitably (I think) be a greater dependence on online teaching, in synchronous and asynchronous modes, the face to face classroom experience will always be valued highly by learners and teachers alike.
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