Yesterday, I delivered a session as part of the TD (Teacher Development) SIG (Special Interest Group)’s Web Carnival. I was one of four speakers and the opening speaker for the event, both of which scenarios were new to me! My session, as you can see, was called Time is of the Essence (the reason for which will become clear in due course…)
This is the outline of the session I delivered. ‘Backwards time-travel’ may sound a little ambitious but in metaphorical terms it actually worked really well. I made sure to tell the attendees that their active participation would be required, and they delivered 110%! Before starting on our journey back in time, we established the definition of “turning point”:
Then it was time to kick off!
This is me now. An amazing likeness, don’t you agree? I’m currently working at Sheffield Uni, teaching on a General English evening course as well as delivering a workshop for my colleagues every so often. Alongside this, I am working on some materials with Onestopenglish/Macmillan, will be doing a couple of workshops for the M.A. in ELT multimedia and independent learning module at Leeds Beckett uni. Finally, I have got a book chapter coming out in a forthcoming IATEFL LT SIG book and recently had an article published in a peer review journal for the first time.
At this point, it was the attendees’ turn to tell me about where they are now, and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener! Such a diverse crowd all doing really exciting things! And this continued throughout the session as at each development point on MY map, I asked them to share theirs. I think I overused the word “awesome” in response, because their responses really were!
Anyway, I suppose you could say I am “Freelance”, ish. I suppose it all sounds pretty cool. *But*, I am just a normal human bean. Mmm beans. So how did I reach this point? And what about this magic turning point?
International House, Palermo. (IHPA)
Most recently prior to Sheffield Uni, IHPA. It was a good place to develop. I did a couple of certificates (IHCYLT, IHTIT) , delivered some workshops (at work, online for IH World Organisation, online for IH Teachers online conference), was allowed to attend/speak at IATEFL each year, did a LOT of teaching. And, of course, I worked on my own little projects. You see, when I arrived at IHPA I had recently become an LA geek. Nothing to do with Los Angeles, everything to do with learner autonomy and all things related, especially metacognition and motivation. I did some classroom based research on it, trying to use all the theory I had absorbed and put it into practice with students. Thus, the following were born:
I collected feedback at the end of each term to find out what the students made of it all as a whole and it was positive by and large, making it all worthwhile.
All this would feed into my book chapter for LT SIG. So was this my turning point? But wait…what about the materials stuff? And the journal article? So, what came before IHPA?
My M.A. ELT/Delta!
An amazing, grueling, challenging, rewarding, exhilarating year. In the Delta portion, probably the key thing I learnt was how to reflect effectively and constructively on my practice. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff a lot of which you can see on this blog! In the M.A. portion, you would think I learnt a bunch of theory. Well, yes. But I learnt a load of practical stuff too, through the assessment. I did a research project in the research module (with the assessment being the presentation and write up of the research), created materials for the materials development material, wrote a journal article (criteria styled on the ELTJ) for the methodology in context module, and made a website for the multimedia and independent learning module. The assessment was able to be linked with the materials development, so the website linked to the materials I made for that assessment. As it happens, I used the skills developed in building that website using WordPress to completely overhaul my blog, and also developed my voice (hence now I never shut up, where before I didn’t think I had anything to say!)
So I was basically able to develop the skills that would enable me to pursue a variety of opportunities. But that isn’t all… for my dissertation project, I wrote some task-based learning materials (which I talked about at IATEFL the year before last – that long already!) which on a whim I submitted for the ELTon Macmillan new talent in writing award. Then I got shortlisted, which in itself amazed me. Then I won! Hence the earlier-mentioned materials writing…I am editing those materials to make them suitable for publication on Onestopenglish, and we are about half way there. Will miss it when it’s over!
So that MUST be the turning point, right? Well, I would absolutely say it was. If you ask me what the turning point was, that would come to mind. But…let’s go back a bit further…
Why did I do that M.A. at that university?
I went to IATEFL in 2012, my first ever IATEFL! Oh the excitement… And you know how you get a goody bag at the beginning? Who doesn’t love a good goody bag?! So, the first night back at the hotel room, I’m going through my goody bag and find a leaflet for this M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met. So, 2012. Lizzie, at nearly 29 years old is feeling very old and under-qualified! I got into this ELT malarkey late, 26 and a bit years old. (Is/was it late? Lizzie thought so at the time…) Lizzie had to make up time…(hence the session title!) Lizzie had also just been rejected from a PGCE primary programme at Warwick University (thank the good Lord!) and was all “now what?” and so my guardian angel sent me the leaflet. After IATEFL finished, I applied, got accepted and the rest was, as they say… history!
So THAT MUST HAVE BEEN THE TURNING POINT!!!! Again, absolutely yes. Except… ooops back up a bit… How did I come to attend IATEFL 2012?
Cactus to conference scholarship! I remain indebted to them. But….how? Where was I? How did it happen?
I worked in a couple of private language schools in Indonesia after graduating from my CELTA, as one does. I was feeling quite isolated so was on the internet a lot. I found a forum called I think Dave’s ESL forum or something (does anyone remember this? some of my attendees did and apparently it is still going!) and started a post on there. I can’t even remember about what, maybe about how to develop or something. Anyway, one of the respondents pointed me towards Twitter. And ELTchat. (Or did I find ELTchat after I found Twitter? I can’t really remember!) Anyway, the important thing is, I got on Twitter. Did ELTchats, summarized them (The dark beginnings of my blogging!) AND…one day…saw a link to IATEFL scholarships. Didn’t really know much about IATEFL other than it’s an ELT conference, but it seemed to be a big deal, so I applied for several and won the Cactus one, much to my amazement.
So was THAT the turning point? Getting on Twitter? Again, there is a valid argument for it!
But… why was I bothering with looking for ways to develop, in my isolation? I could done other things than looking for ELT forums etc!!
We had better rewind some more…
My CELTA course!!!
The beginning of everything… But in particular the professional development session towards the end of the course, where we were made aware that you could make a career out of ELT and shown some possibilities, through our tutors’ stories and suggestions of what we could do to develop in future. (For example, that there exists this thing called the Delta that you can do after you have some more experience!) Honestly, I don’t actually remember many of the details of that session, but the important thing is it awakened in me a desire to develop and make a career out of ELT, it gave me that sense of possibility. And perhaps the awakening of that desire and sense of possibility was the biggest turning point of all?
But all the other turning points were just as important for me! How to choose only one…! As the attendees mapped backwards through their careers to date, sharing their stories as we went along, it was clear that they had plenty of turning points too…
I concluded the session with a bit of take-away…
…warning the attendees that it might be a bit of a cheesy takeaway (but if from this drive thru it would be vegan cheese ;-) )
Well, everything that has happened to me so far stems from this, so…
Most of the attendees mentioned that discovering the online teaching world as key in their development. Of course, for me, if I hadn’t discovered Twitter, I wouldn’t have seen the Tweet advertising IATEFL scholarships, so wouldn’t have made it to Glasgow 2012, wouldn’t have found that leaflet…etc!
Because they are Good Things. And if I hadn’t…well you know the story already! Be warned: they are addictive!
If I had acted according to my confidence in my ability to succeed, then a lot of what I have done I wouldn’t have dared to embark on in the first place! (I never in a million years thought I would win an ELTon, for example!) We (attendees and I) agreed that people often fail because they don’t try in the first place. And often that not trying in the first place stems from thinking “I’m not good enough, that’s for people who are better than I am”. But if there is one thing I have learnt, it’s that you only get “good enough” by jumping in in the first place.
Turning points may not advertise themselves to you as such. It’s often only looking backwards that we realise that such or such an event or situation was a turning point for us. Hence the importance of saying yes! (Even if saying yes all the time can make you awfully busy! ;-) Seriously, who knew the start of 2016 would be so jam-packed!!)
What you learn needs to be part and parcel of your professional life, weaving it’s way through, not something separate, on the side. For example, if I hadn’t tried to put the theories that struck me on the M.A. into action, my projects wouldn’t have happened and thus neither would my LT SIG book chapter. Not only that, but learner autonomy/metacognition/motivation etc wouldn’t have become part of my teaching, which would have been a shame from the students’ point of view!
Life is short. Be where you want to be. If you aren’t, then keep udging towards where you want to be. Right now, I am very happy. I am where I want to be and I can highly recommend it! :)
Thanks to the TD Sig for this opportunity and to all the attendees for making it such a fun, interactive session to deliver.