New horizons, challenges and professional development

I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks! And guess what? I didn’t do any work. At ALL! It was bliss. Days and days of spending time with my gorgeous horse – isn’t she lovely?!

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Now, however, it may be the weekend (by the time this blog post is finished, nearly the end of it!) but the holiday is distinctly over and I am hard at work in preparation mode:

On Monday I will be starting full-time work in the University of Sheffield International College‘s English department, which is staffed by the University’s ELTC (English Language Teaching Centre) where I have been working (on a summer school and then on part-time evening classes) since last June. I actually did two weeks’ worth of cover work at USIC last term, so the set-up isn’t brand new to me, which is nice! Not only do I know the building a little (including how best to get there on my bike – no small bonus given that I am directionally challenged!), and how the teaching works, but also a fair number of my colleagues I know from summer schools and from doing the cover work. The type of teaching (EAP skills-based) is also familiar from summer schools. The result? I can look forward to the challenges without worrying too much about the ‘being new overload’ that usually goes with starting a new job!

Since September, while working at the ELTC part-time, I have been milking the ELTC teacher development programme for all I’m worth – attending scholarship circles and workshops, delivering workshops and so on. Now, I’m also getting excited about the developmental opportunities that lie in the challenges I will face in my new job.

For example:

  • apparently getting students to do their independent learning work is an issue. This self-study works on the basis that for every hour of class time, students need to do an hour in their own time. In this time, they have to complete various tasks which relate to the work done in class. They often need to have done certain tasks before a class in order to gain the most benefit from it. Being the learner autonomy geek that I am, this automatically looks like just the kind of challenge that is right up my street! We’ve been sent a journal article on Flipped Learning/Team-Based Learning which suggests a seven-step procedure to prepare learners for this kind of approach, so I plan to adapt that and then, in addition, apply my own principles for enabling the kind of independence the approach requires.
  • WAS, or the Writing Advisory Service, is a one-to-one service offered by the ELTC which gives students the opportunity to bring a sample of writing to show to a tutor and receive guidance on how to improve it – in terms of structure, organisation, vocabulary, referencing etc – as well as signposting to useful resources that they can use to continue this improvement beyond the end of the appointment. It is not a proof-reading service. A small number of these WAS appointments will be included in my timetabled hours. I have completed an online induction for this, which involved watching a sample annotated session, with annotations focused on what the tutor was doing throughout the session, and then a second longer sample, with no annotations, with accompanying questions to answer. While time-consuming, it was very useful to watch these samples as I feel I now have a much better idea of how to negotiate a WAS appointment as a tutor! The challenge here is to implement what I have learnt from the induction hours! This one-to-one writing coaching is something that I haven’t done before but I do have some experience helping students with academic writing from my two summer schools, so that should help. Equally, doing these WAS appointments and getting better at them will hopefully help me come summer school time.
  • EAP! On the plus side, I have two summers of EAP under my belt now (and of course the two weeks of cover work I did at USIC last term) so I’m not starting from scratch by any means. Nevertheless, I’ve also just had two terms of General English courses so I need to get back into the swing of EAP. A change is as good as a rest, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to this form of teaching again.
  • Dare I say it, work-life balance… I’ve enjoyed having one of those for the last 10 months, since starting at Sheffield University with the summer school and continuing from there, and I hope this will continue to be the case. I plan to keep up my ultra-running training (am currently preparing for a 30 mile event in August!), get out on my bike as much as I can, try and play my clarinet from time to time (!), keep the garden in hand and – who knows – do some language study (Italian, French, German, Polish) once in a while too…? Not to mention some relaxation occasionally! At least the days are now getting longer and brighter, always helps. Hurrah for Spring! 🙂
  • IATEFL – I’m speaking at IATEFL again this year, on the topic of learner autonomy and academic listening, and look forward to all the learning that will take place there too. I think my attention will mainly be divided between EAP-focused sessions, teacher training-focused sessions and materials development-focused sessions.

Exciting times ahead – watch this space!

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