Winning the battle against low self-esteem (A guest post by Katherine Bilsborough)

Katherine Bilsborough has worked in ELT for 30 years. These days she lives in the mountains of northern Spain where she divides her time between writing and gardening. She very kindly agreed to write this guest blog post for me to share with you all. Enjoy it! 

Winning the battle against low self-esteem

Last year I wrote a couple of journal articles and gave a BELTA webinar on the topic of self-esteem. I looked at the psychology underpinning low self-esteem and in particular, its causes and consequences. I then suggested some practical ideas for increasing self-esteem, focusing on the ELT teacher. My reasoning was that if we can find strategies to increase low self-esteem in ourselves, we’ll be equipped to help our colleagues and our students too; first by recognising the signs and then by responding in a number of ways.

My interest in self-esteem emerged from my own professional insecurities and, in particular, from conversations I had with colleagues. They found it hard to believe that behind my apparent confidence and self-assurance lay a wobbling, self-conscious doubter who felt like a fraud and was constantly questioning her ability as a teacher and her right to be standing at the front of a classroom. I might have doubted my skills as a teacher but I was, apparently, an excellent actor. I’ve come a fair way since those days but I still have spells of insecurity and vulnerability. The difference is that now I’m armed with strategies to deal with them and it helps to know that I’m not alone. Even the most experienced, ‘big name’ professionals go through wobbly patches.

For this post, I’ve researched the subject further and come up with a more comprehensive list of practical ideas to help improve self-esteem. Items on the list are sometimes specific to ELT teachers but simple tweaks can make them relevant for students too.

Recognising low self-esteem

It is perfectly normal for everyone to feel down about themselves at times and even the most self-assured people suffer from a lack of confidence from time to time. But when the feelings persist it can be an indication that you need to sit up and do something about it. Some of the most common signs of low self-esteem are:

  • Being overly critical of yourself.
  • Ignoring your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Focusing on your weaknesses.
  • Comparing yourself with other people.
  • Being unable to accept compliments when they are given.
  • Having a negative outlook on life.
  • Worrying about not doing well or not being liked.
  • Exaggerating the things you perceive as negative.

 It isn’t always easy to identify the causes of self-esteem. Things like constantly being overlooked for promotion or being bullied are clear-cut. But sometimes motives are less obvious. The good news is that self-esteem levels aren’t fixed and there are plenty of things you can try to address the problem.

Twenty tried and tested recommendations

1          Practise positive self-talk in order to build your confidence.

2         Keep a ‘positive calendar’ in which you write down three things each day that went well in class because of your efforts or actions.

3         Know your subject matter as well as you can by studying it further. CPD is an excellent way of increasing self-esteem.

4         Invest time and effort into the things you can change and try to ignore the things you can’t change.

5         Increase your understanding of the theories that underpin teaching and learning. This will make you a more confident teacher.

6         Do regular exercise. Being fit and active relieves stress and helps you feel good about yourself.

7         Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day. This doesn’t have to be something big. It can be something as simple as meeting a friend for a coffee or listening to your favourite music.

8         Make sure you are surrounded by people who are supportive, in the real world and in cyberspace.

9         Distance yourself from people who are critical. If this is difficult, try telling them how you feel and politely ask them to think before they criticise you in future.

10       Stop comparing yourself to others. We all have a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses. Everybody is good at something.

11       Don’t be too hard on yourself when you get something wrong. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

12       Get to know your students. The better you know them, the more effective your teaching (and their learning) will be.

13       Celebrate every achievement, however small.

14       Know your work context well. Make sure you know where resources are kept and how the latest technology works. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

15       Talk to a colleague (or colleagues) about problems or worries you might have with your classes. Most of the time a problem shared really is a problem halved and two heads really are better than one.

16       Take pride in your ideas and your opinions and don’t be afraid to voice them. But don’t be afraid to change your ideas too. Willingness to change is a strength, not a weakness.

17       Don’t aim for perfection, it’s unachieveable so disappointment is inevitable.

18       Have realistic expectations in the classroom. For example, if you teach in a monolingual context, don’t expect all of your students to speak English all of the time. It isn’t going to happen.

19       Try to keep a positive attitude towards teaching. Joining social media groups of ELT teachers or creating a PLN will help with this.

Above all …

20       don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Sometimes self-esteem can become severe and lead to depression. If this happens, you should speak to a doctor or a psychologist. Don’t forget that everybody is human and a cry for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s common sense.

All change!

Having spent 6 months (April – September) teaching EAP to approx. B2-level students preparing for entry into Sheffield University, and the last year teaching high fee-paying exclusively reasonably high-level adult learners (the youngest of whom were student age) a mixture of General English and EAP, I am now working in an EAL (English as an additional language) setting at a secondary school. My students are in their young to mid-teens with a very low level of English. They are refugees. The set-up in the school I am at is that they spend 12 weeks in an EAL unit, during which time they need to acquire enough English to join mainstream classes. If they don’t acquire sufficient language they have to repeat the programme. They are Arabic-speaking, Romanian-speaking  (have now added Arabic and Romanian to my list of languages I am studying!) and Slovakian-speaking. This may change, as new students can enter the unit at any time. The level of English within the group is very, very mixed. The level of home-language numeracy and literacy is also very, very mixed. I started on Monday, which was brilliant, and then the school got an OFSTED alert for this week so I’ve had to stay away since then. Of course next week is half term so I will start again the following (w/c 31st October). Am really impatient for it to roll around!

So, from thinking about how to teach synthesis of sources and paraphrasing and the like, I am now thinking about the list of topics we (my co-teacher and I) will be looking at next time I’m in, which includes things like The Gruffalo, Halloween and measuring length/time. My co-teacher is keen for me to come up with imaginative, practical, fun activities to do with these topics, to make them more memorable. This feels like it is just up my street! Unfortunately it is not a paid gig, I am volunteering. However, I think I will get a lot of out of it as an experience/opportunity to learn and hopefully can make a positive difference to these kids’ learning and school life. Interestingly, this is the kind of thing I was interested in doing before I did my M.A. ELT and Delta. In fact, for my Delta Module 3 I wanted to focus on EAL but it didn’t work out (crossed specialisms and lack of access to a group of learners for doing needs analysis etc). I guess this is one of the things I love about ELT – there is a lot of scope for variety, when you think about it. It covers such a multitude of contexts and focuses.

No doubt there will be multiple blog posts related to my new work, so watch this space! And meanwhile, if you have any fantastic Gruffalo and Halloween-related ideas, please do comment with them. Also, if you can recommend any YL-focused blogs/resources that would be grand too! Thank you! :) 

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 2

Hello World of Blogging! I’m back! And the first thing that popped into my mind while writing the title is: “How long ago does April seem? That was before summer, now summer is over and Autumn is clamouring for the driver’s seat with Winter in the wings watching carefully for its chance to stage a takeover bid. It’s been a quiet time on my blog since the end of May, since which time the only noise of any description has been an “I will be back, honest…” type of a post. As I briefly explained in that post, summer school hit! (It was hard work but a great learning experience too. More on that later.) Then, after it ended, I had a much-needed two-week holiday in Sicily with my horse. I am pleased to report that I did a lot of NOTHING – somewhat of a rarity for me!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: my language learning. I am proud (in the circumstances!) to say that I did keep up my languaging over the summer. I managed a little bit most days until the 20th August, when I did a 30 mile run and consequently had no time for languaging, breaking my “Memrise Streak”.


Once it was broken, and knowing it would be broken again when I went on holiday (if I am on holiday in Italy I am going to focus on Italian as vs. spread my focus among 7 languages!), I decided to concentrate on getting through the remaining two weeks of summer school, have my holiday and then get back to it in earnest. That said, I continued to dabble, just not every day religiously as I had been doing.

This (to remind me as much as you!) was the contract:


In my first update, I had managed to more-or-less stick to the receptive skills practice aims (thank you, YouTube!) but hadn’t used Memrise, just a bit of Quizlet. I’d also given up on graded readers as clunky (e-readers) or an expensive habit (sourcing them in paperback/cd format) and therefore annoying/untenable.

Has anything changed since then? Well, two main things (which considered in combination might seem rather ironic…):

  • Time became even tighter than usual (you try combining summer school, training for a 30 mile run, maintaining a burgeoning greenhouse and garden full of stuff etc….)
  • I took up two more languages (blame Memrise)…!

I suppose I ought to add “I started using Memrise to that list… At the height of my Memrise-ing, it looked like this:

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So, as you can see, the extra languages I took up were Bahasa Indonesia (I should have learnt it while I was there, still have friends who live there who I could talk to in it!) and then Mandarin (given that the majority of the students at the Sheffield Uni summer school are Chinese, this seemed like a good idea!). So that brought me to a 7-language mission: Italian and French (not on Memrise), German, Spanish, Polish, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin. I like Memrise – it appeals to my competitive-with-myself nature. (I am more interested in keeping up my “streak” than the “leader board” that is another Memrise feature!) It really pushed me to do some each day, when I was tired and actually really couldn’t be bothered! As mentioned earlier though, it can also backfire into lack of motivation to ‘just do it’ if the streak is broken and I know it will be at best intermittent in time to come.

More languages, less time. The basic result was that as far as Polish was concerned, I wound up mostly just doing my bit of Memrise each day. And I watched less German and Spanish than I had been. (Don’t tell my students I just started a sentence with “And” – spent the summer hammering it out of them… :-p ) However, it was nice to be actively learning vocabulary and trying to produce it rather than just watching/listening/reading. Obviously the ideal would be a balance of both, which is what I will be going for next! Indeed, it is time to update my contract in the light of the last few months’ developments on the linguistic front.

One thing I have found particularly challenging as far as Polish Memrise is concerned is spelling. For example:


I can now spell this one correctly! And this one:


What I have found is that ideally I want more repetition of recognition of the vocabulary, both reading and listening, or being given the English and having to select the correct Polish, before having to produce it, which seems to happen too soon for me. So that I can see it and hear it more before having to butcher the spelling. However, I am now used to the process of just gaily making a bunch of mistakes, having a pop, and getting closer each time and then eventually “getting” it. Rather than getting wound up about the mistakes and frustrated at the lack of further recognition opportunities. Then, an interesting (to me) problem I had was learning the go by plane, go by train type vocabulary, as it was a mixture of trying to remember the by plane/by train etc bit and then the ‘go by’ equivalent, of which there are 5 (I think) different ones/which one goes with which means of transport, then throwing trying to remember the spelling on top of that! It was hard!!! I think it would have been easier to learn the e.g. jechać ones then the złapać ones etc. rather than having one of these and one of those and a few random extras all thrown in together for my brain to attempt to sort out. Had I had more time, I’d have made my own little reference guide to help my brain along… They are coming together now though, I did a review this morning after a couple weeks break (my holiday) and some have settled nicely.

So that brings us to…

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract v3.September 2016

I solemnly do declare that I will (attempt to) do the following each week:

  • My Memrise practice – daily in small quantities
  • Read/listen to/watch Italian/French/German/Spanish/Polish (Not going to happen with Mandarin or Bahasa for the time being… that will be version 5 or 6 maybe…)
  • Try and look at some grammar-related material for German/Spanish/Polish. (At the moment, as far as Spanish is concerned I just rely on Italian/French grammar and assume it will work the same way! There again, often Italian words will come out instead of Spanish and then I wonder why Memrise marks me wrong! Like when I put ‘Sono contenta’ instead of ‘Estoy contenta’…) This could be a good opportunity for use of coloured pens and notebook (as mentioned in previous update post!)
  • Seek out production opportunities (e.g. sending an email to my German friends, exchanging a few words with my Indonesian friends, trying out my Polish on my Polish brother-in-law etc. etc.)
  • Keep writing my journal in Italian but try to bring in a few sentences from German/French/Spanish and even a smattering of my very, very basic Polish.

Signed: Lizzie Pinard

Fairly basic really! Let’s see how I do in the next month…

How is your language learning going? Any more suggestions for me? (The useful ones on my last post are the reason I got on to Memrise! )


Summer School

That, in two words, is why this blog has been so quiet… We are just coming to the end of Week 5 out of 10.

My language learning update is well overdue – but rest assured, the absence of it is not due to my having given up on the languages, but rather because I don’t have time to do it AND blog about it!😉

There are loads of things I want to blog about but the precious non-work hours that I have are split between sleeping, eating, cycling/running, gardening and language learning, pretty much. Oh and cuddling Flora hamster. Normal service will probably resume sometime in September – most likely AFTER I have my post-summer school holiday!

I hope you are all having fantastic summers, wherever and whatever you may be doing with them. (Do comment and tell me, it would be lovely to hear!)

60 seconds...starting now! Image taken from, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

Can I have some more hours in the day, please?!🙂  Image taken from, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

British Council Webinar Series: Exploring Continuing Professional Development

The British Council TeachingEnglish (TEBC) Webinar series can be found on the TEBC website. This is the link to Paul’s webinar that took place on the 19th May 2016. This is a summary of that webinar.

TEBC summarises the webinar thus:

“He [Paul] talked about the British Council’s CPD framework for teachers and different factors that can influence successful continuing professional development. This webinar explored some of the ways we can focus on our continuing professional development (CPD). We looked specifically at the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers, the self-evaluation tool and resources on TeachingEnglish for professional development.”

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This is the quote that Paul Braddock starts us off with, one that is apparently much-used if you look on Google. However, it’s not as universally accepted as Paul thought before he read around it. The quote has been changed in the following way:

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According to Paul, Husbands (2013) argues that what makes the most different to pupils is teaching. All teachers can be better but it’s teaching that improves and develops. Focusing on teaching focuses on more on the need to work continuously to improve the quality of teaching across schools. This is where CPD becomes essential. Especially as teaching changes and the skills needed change over time. What was a good teacher ten years ago might not be a good teacher now. Teaching needs to be develop.

Paul moves on to look at the 7 things that influence positive professional development, based on a report by Walter and Briggs (2012). What 7 things make professional development a positive thing for you?

Professional Development that makes the most difference to teachers is:

  • concrete and classroom-based (looking at what teachers do in the classroom e.g. action research)
  • brings in expertise from outside the school (Potentially expensive but expense can be kept down by use of webinars, online conferences, social media e.g. blogs)
  • involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake (includes using tools to help you identify your areas for CPD and this is where frameworks come in)
  • enables them to work collaboratively with peers (physically within a context or with an online community of practice – requires time and space!)
  • provides opportunities for mentoring or coaching (again, offline or online includes being a mentor or a coach as well not just being mentored/coached)
  • is sustained over time (an action research cycle with the teacher him/herself as the focus)
  • is supported by school leadership (so the school recognises it’s important despite budget cuts etc.)

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In other words, investment in CPD is useful and worth money.

At this point, Paul introduces the British Council CPD framework:

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It is divided into 12 different aspects of professional practice:

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It is also colour coded by stages of development (Awareness, Understanding, Engagement, Integration). The BC was trying to address the misconception that CPD is linear. This is to be a tool that would more accurately reflect this. It is supposed to empower teachers by providing a framework for them to engage with CPD. Also to be used by groups of teachers for collaboration and cooperation. For more information about each professional practice see the document linked to above. He says it is designed to be flexible and teachers can change/adapt it to better fit their context. The process that you would go through is self-evaluation. The BC are currently developing a self-evaluation tool to help teachers decide which professional practice to focus on. At the integration level, this is where you’d then look at mentoring or coaching.

Next, Paul draws attention to the BC TeachingEnglish website. Within the Teacher Development tab, there is a section for Continuing Professional Development.

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Here, you can find resources linked to each of the professional practices in the CPD framework – articles, blog posts, webinar recordings etc. (Fab! Look forward to exploring this!) The idea is, once you identify areas for your own development, you can use this site as a starting point for research, to support you in your journey. Click on the picture above to visit the page. This is an example of access to outside expertise!

TEBC also already offer out-of-the-box full courses such as Primary Essentials, TKT Essentials, Learning Technologies etc. These run for about 12 weeks, moderated or self-access. They are now thinking about how they can provide training that addresses aspects of the framework more closely. So, they have started to modularise the training, so by next April there will be the option of modules packaged into courses or individual modules you can follow (a module running for about 3hrs of study). This is so that you can bring in some training once you have identified which aspects within the framework that you want to develop.

From the 5th to 9th October, there will be an online conference run by TEBC too. (5th October is World Teacher Day!)

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This CPD-focused conference is being launched to coincide with World Teachers Day.  A date for our diaries! The picture above links to the link shown, for more information. This conference is free and aimed at teachers as well as teacher trainers. It will run from approx. 11 to approx. 4 UK time.

Paul also encourages us to investigate the following names in relation to CPD.

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I’ll stick my neck out here and add Sandy Millin to the list! Her blog has a lot of useful content for developing teachers and also exemplifies reflection/reflective practice.

Here are the links provided by Paul finally:

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NB: You can access the teacher educator framework from the English Agenda website, which is a sister website to TEBC.

It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into producing all these resources to help teachers develop – the frameworks, the accompanying resource curation on the TEBC website, the modularisation of the training courses that is to come. I certainly look forward to trying out a module without having to commit to a whole course.  The abundance of resources available online for teachers looking to develop never ceases to amaze me and this is no exception. Thank you to the British Council and TEBC for doing their part in enabling this – by no means a small part.

Between discussions in the Teacher Education circle at work and watching IATEFL talk recordings such as the one by Kirsten Holt (courtesy of Macmillan) and the one by Shirley Norton/Karen Chambers (also made possible by the British Council!), I have been doing a lot of thinking about these teaching frameworks including the British Council one, so watching this webinar was the next logical step. I’m currently working on a few ideas of my own as to how teachers can use the British Council framework to develop, which should hopefully complement what’s already out there, so watch this space! 

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 1

Well, it’s been a month (approximately!) since I undertook the following:

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Now it’s time for the confessions, I mean, update. 

Actually, it hasn’t gone too badly:

I can confidently and honestly say that I have read and/or listened to something in Italian, French, German, Polish and Spanish most days in the last month!!

  • Italian: I am reading Mangia, Prega, Ama which is a translation of Eat Pray Love. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.58.42This mostly happens in my lunch break at work. I have also watched the film of it along with a few others. In other Italian news, my diary writing continues to take place very nearly every day. Watching/reading in Italian is like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers and a cosy dressing gown: nice and relaxing!





  • French: I am still plowing through Au Bonheur des Dames. Slowly. I think I will feel quite the sense of achievement when I finally finish! I am enjoying it, but being the lazy sod I am, it often gets neglected in favour of something easier (see next sentence)..! In addition to that, I occasionally dip into a series of books I have on my Kindle, which are much easier and more relaxing – seems particularly to happen when I have an early dinner in the garden!Have done two and a bit in the last month, I think. In terms of listening, am working my way through an audiobook and I have also just found a series on YouTube to watch in 45 minute episodes.
  • German: I have been listening to an audiobook in German, am now on the second time through as a way to try and pick out more than I did the first time round. I’m also still reading (very slowly) a series of e-books I’ve downloaded. Finally, I have been doing a fair bit of watching too – a couple of films and newly started a series on YouTube. My German was getting very neglected prior to this last month. I’d read a bit every once in a while and that was it. It’s nice to be getting back into it, understanding more and being able to produce!
  • Spanish: I “did” two A1 graded readers. The reading was easy, the activities weren’t. Not content-wise but the electronic design… I tried one on the Black Cat App and found it rather clunky. In any case, that was the only A1 book they had on there. I think it is in its early days… I also downloaded one via Ibooks and the main problem with that one was that the “submit” button often tended to be located in the same place that the iPad interprets as turn backwards one page. So instead of the answers being submitted, the book moved back a page. Then you go forwards again and of course all the answers have been deleted. Most frustrating! So I abandoned graded readers and moved on to a translation of Twilight 1 (Crepúscolo). Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.47.26I also found an audio recording of it on YouTube, having failed to source it as an audiobook anywhere else! (Just an amateur version.) I have also dabbled in some Spanish Winnie the Pooh and have just started a new tv series (dubbed), again both via YouTube. No “learning activities” but I am enjoying it all! And Spanish is beginning to feel more familiar and less badly tuned.
  • Polish: I am continuing my way through Harry Potter 1. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.44.41It took me a while to relocate (re-download from an online account where I had previously bought it) the e-book so initially I was just listening to the audio recording. I say listening, it was more just letting it wash over me and enjoying the sounds and rhythm. Around the 6th May  (so a couple of weeks-ish in), my brain finally accepted Polish as a language rather than a random collection of sounds and letters with periodic spaces between them. To get to that point, I needed to use my Polish for Dummies book + notes I had made on pronunciation last year for some review, in combination with listening and reading along (once I got the e-book sorted) to Harry Potter. Since that point, I have started using Quizlet and am now up to 16 words/chunks on it! Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 14.43.22I haven’t, however, touched Memrise or my First 1000 words book. (To be honest I had forgotten that part of the contract – my brain was mostly focused on the reading/listening elements!) In YouTube world, like Spanish, I have also dabbled in some Winnie the Pooh… Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.48.46 The main thing for me with Polish has been to relax and not worry about not understanding the majority of it when I listen to and read Harry Potter. Sometimes I work out what is being said, which is gratifying, sometimes the audio skips and I have to find where it’s gone, but I can do that now (which I struggled with in the beginning!) – it’s all about the minor victories!

Overall, across all these languages, I haven’t done much in the way of actual studying though! A tiny amount of Polish via Quizlet and Polish for Dummies, as explained above, and a tiny fraction of the activities in the two A1 graded readers I did in Spanish. Frankly, life is too short to work my way through endless course books. Since I don’t have any particular hurry and am learning/maintaining the languages for pleasure, I am jolly well going to do it in a pleasurable way.

Things I have noticed:

  • Multilingual DVDs are a great invention. For example, there was one film where I started in Spanish and then flicked the audio to German mid-way through. Not only that, but it means one DVD can serve your learning purposes for several languages if you, like me, have the propensity to re-watch stuff you like more than once! We take it for granted but it hasn’t really been THAT long since video tapes went out of fashion! Score for technology.
  • YouTube is amazing! Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.56.27 I haven’t used it an awful lot for languaging before, mostly because since I became interested in it, I’ve mostly been in places where Internet is limited i.e. you get a certain per month quota so streaming endless content on YouTube wasn’t an option. Now, however, with a fast and unlimited broadband connection, YouTube is one of my main go-to’s.  That said, I’ve yet to find a ‘language learning video’ that I like. You know, the ones that are a video of someone teaching a piece of grammar or some vocabulary in your target language. If anyone knows any good Polish ones, though, please comment with a link!
  • My brain can quite happily cope with 5 languages in rotation! I can switch from watching something else in Italian, to watching something in Spanish then German, then French, then listening/reading in Polish. I think it has “channels” – I just have to flick the switch between them. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.52.49Some of the channels function rather better than others! So, my Italian channel, as far as reading/listening is concerned, is similar to my English channel in terms of comfort/understanding levels. My French channel isn’t far behind. My German channel was a lot more sub-functional initially but is getting easier all the time, the more I use it. That said, there is a definite difference in my understanding of Italian and French, and that of German. My Polish channel barely exists, but a channel has been made – “under construction”! Ditto the Spanish channel, except it borrows understanding from the Italian and French channels…
  • Like one of my students in my upper intermediate course last term commented, I may not have met all my goals but I’ve certainly done a lot more than I would have if I hadn’t set them. So, I may not have met my contract but I’m pleased with what I have done!
  • Every little DOES help: Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.54.42YouTube clips of 8-10 minutes. Reading a few pages chapter while I’m eating my lunch etc. It’s all input! So I stand by what I’ve kept telling students over the years: doesn’t matter if it’s “only” ten minutes, way better ten minutes than nothing!


  • With Polish I have needed the support of listening and reading at the same time. I think that now I could just about manage to read without listening – my brain has an idea of how it sounds now! The next step will be reading and comparing with a version in English or Italian, to help build up my vocabulary (well, it worked with Italian!).
  • My German is coming back slowly but surely. Woohoo! After a month of consistent listening and reading, I can say stuff again. Not heaps, but much more than I could a month ago!
  • The amount of languaging I do depends on the weather. When it is a bit rubbish and I am stuck indoors, I do a lot. When it is sunny and I can be in the garden pottering about, I do very little! See my “life is too short” excuse above. For me, being outside wins every time. I do try to multitask though, for example when I am out running I talk to myself (in my head) in different languages, to exercise them at the same time as my body!
  • Resource management can get confusing. Partly because I do some YouTube watching on my computer and some on my iPad, so it’s difficult to remember where I’m up to. But also because Harry Potter chapters are quite long by audio, ditto Crepúscolo, and I rarely listen to a whole one in one go, but my iPad appears incapable of remembering my place in the audio recording. Yet, if I have an *audiobook* on my iPad (not sure why my audiobook of Harry Potter has decided to be in the music app rather than Ibooks where all my other audiobooks live) and my computer, and I listen partially in both places, it keeps track and puts me in the right place regardless of device. So, it seems to be a problem only with the ‘music’ app. (If you have any suggestions for fixing this, please let me know!)
  • I really enjoy languaging. (But I suppose I already knew that!)

What next?

Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, when I feel sufficiently confident, start doing a little bit of side-by-side comparison of Harry Potter Polish and Italian/English/French versions (not all, just one of those will do!). I also want to email some German friends of mine in German (been a while since I did that!) Other than that, keep doing what I have been doing and see what else I feel like! I’d also quite like to use my notebook more… It’s one I bought but didn’t use for my M.A. and has been gathering dust since. It’s perfect because it has 4 sections, so that’s one for each language except Italian, which already has its own notebook from the few lessons I’ve had. So far, I’ve used it for Polish only! image1Need to work out what I want to use it for with the other languages. I suppose mostly I have just been enjoying input and haven’t needed a notebook for that… I also want use the lovely pack of coloured pens I treated myself to more – so far, again, just for Polish! (You can’t see it in the pic above but believe me, there has been purple, orange, pink, green…🙂

Let me know if you have any suggestions for anything I could be doing with my languages by commenting on this post! Will be happy to hear from you.

#ELTChat Summary 18/05/2016 CPD for teachers, using social media

ELTChat is a weekly Twitter-based discussion that takes place on Wednesdays at 7pm U.K. time under the hashtag #ELTChat. You can read more about it here and find a list of summaries of past discussions here.

The topic up for discussion on 18/05/2016 was CPD for teachers, using social media. I nabbed the summary writing duties (for the first time in ages, it seems!) as entering the online community in early 2011 was one of the turning points of my career.

In order to make this summary as user-friendly as possible, I am going to organise it by general comments and then by tool (titles are clickable links that take you to the site) and finish off with some thoughts of my own. So, feel free to read about them all or skip to the ones you are less familiar/more interested in. Order is random rather than some kind of ranking!


  • I think any social media is good for CDP depending on who/what you follow (@nahirco)
  • It really is about who you follow. Makes such a big difference. (@Hada_ELT)
  • Can anybody follow you (like Twitter)? Or do you have to accept them (like Facebook)? (@sandymillin – asking about Google+ but always a relevant consideration when newly using some kind of Social Media!)
  • Social Media is a great way to do CPD as most people already use it… just haven’t necessarily thought of using it for that purpose (@thebestticher)
  • One of the big questions – what to choose among this cornucopia of info (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s the five minutes a day thing for me, much like learning a language. Daily habits easier (@sandymillin)
  • I try to make Twitter and Facebook lists of interesting ELT/Phon profiles and keep up with them once a week. Feedly helps me keep track of blogs. (@pronbites)
  • Curation principle the same in all these tools – look and feel is different of course – which is great (@Marisa_C)
  • The ability to read and type quickly both help too😉  And now, lots of experience of what is worth sharing/saving/reading (@sandymillin)
  • My CPD saw a major shift when I linked it to social media. It got me into the ‘global classroom’ -sorry cliche but true (@Hada_ELT)
  • I tend to take what comes in on my timeline – but LOOK for stuff when preparing sessions for Delta or talks (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s often easier to be surprised when you don’t mind what you find (@SueAnnan)
  • Wanted to share a few links from my blog with guides to online CPD, then realised too many! Mostly here:  (@sandymillin)
  • It’s also nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ without driving everyone I know insane😉 (@thebestticher)
  • I presented this topic on the #vrtwebcon and shared the post on the #ltsig blog  (@Marisa_C)
  • And we are mostly able to share info now beCAUSE of social media (@Marisa_C)
  • Sharing recent @iatefl_ltsig blog post on Social Media Symposium #vrtwebcon   – summaries, slides, recordings (@Marisa_C)
  • I switch(ed) all of the automatic things off on my social media accounts. Think I should choose when/where to post (@sandymillin)

1. Twitter (obviously!)

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  • Twitter is home to #ELTChat (see above for more information).
  • I think with Twitter you assume people want professional connections, some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • Source of ELT info (blogs, events, books, freebies..) and of course new technology. Endless source of inspiration  (@Hada_ELT)
  • The assistance is super fast on twitter whenever you need an ear (@SueAnnan)
  • And the learning – there is ALWAYS a great takeaway for me whenever I log in but I DO follow good people (@Marisa_C)
  • #ELTChat kick-started my professional development online and changed my life. (@sandymillin)
  • I tend to come across things on twitter when I’m being intentional about CPD (@thebestticher)
  • I wrote this post about Twitter for CPD  (@LizziePinard)
  • The hub is Twitter in general for my CPD (@Marisa_C)
  • I find that work on #eltchat has improved my ability to say a lot in just a few words #eltchat have been able to describe lesson pln in 140 (@Marisa_C)
  • Twitter is my CPD (@fionaljp)
  • I love the random #ELT discussions I sometimes get into on Twitter – they end up being really informative. Great motivation (@Hada_ELT)
  • I find Twitter more serious than Facebook and Facebook can be more contentious (@SueAnna)

(Though it wasn’t discussed, don’t forget other hashtag discussions such as #ELTChinwag [alternate Monday evenings at 8.30pm UK time] and #TEChat [Friday lunchtime UK time], as well as hashtags that are always in use like the #IATEFL one and the #mawsig one.)

2. Facebook

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  • Lots on Facebook now I’m friends with @sandymillin (@TeresaBerstwick – and I second it!)
  • I use Facebook a lot, am friends with lots of teachers who share interesting things so CPD kind of comes into it! (@Thebestticher)
  • FB has changed a lot in the last couple of years or rather WE have changed it (@Marisa_C)
  • My FB contains teachers that don’t use Twitter much. It means contact there too (@SueAnnan)
  • I only have one account (not separate) because I can’t be bothered with two, so I do try to think about who I add (@sandymillin)
  • Facebook is the things I ‘stumble upon’ so to speak (@thebestticher)
  • I find that stuff is often duplicated on Facebook and Twitter. Depends which I opened first (@SueAnnan)
  • Which is actually good I think as I sometimes miss stuff on one that I catch on the other (@Hada_ELT)
  • There’s a way you can link the accounts I think so it posts automatically to Twitter but not sure if it then posts EVERYTHING you put on Facebook (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • 5 years of building up a network of people on Facebook means I tend to ask questions there – amazing discussions often result (@sandymillin)
  • Definitely more cosy on Facebook. Slower and a bit less ‘open’ (does that make sense?) (@Hada_ELT)
  • Some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • It’s also possible to have a couple of profiles on Fb – one professional and one personal (@Hada_ELT)

3. LinkedIn

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  • I have to say that I can’t stand LinkedIn. I find it incredibly unwieldy and not user friendly at all. (@sandymillin)
  • I use it to connect my school – I find other kinds of connections- discussion groups mostly unwieldy though agree (@Marisa_C) (More information provided subsequently to this Tweet but extending on it: people looking for me or my school for all services we provide – so yes more as a course provider/consultant)
  • I only use LinkedIn now to keep my CV up to date. I used to use the groups but not now (@MarjorieRosenbe)

4. Pinterest

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  • Tried Pinterest but couldn’t get into it. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • For me, Pinterest looks pretty, but I don’t find it very useful for CPD. Good for crafts etc (@sandymillin)
  • I use pinterest a l ot when I prepare talks or seminars while doing background research/ ideas or reading (@Marisa_C)
  • I love Pinterest for new ideas and activities and the constant reminder to try new things (@thebestticher)
  • I have a pinterest account, but I get bored with it (@SueAnnan)
  • I love pinterest – let’s follow one another – i use it a LOT! (@Marisa_C)

5. Diigo

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(Just in case you weren’t aware, Diigo is basically a social bookmarking tool, which enables you to curate bookmarks in way that they are available for anyone to see.)

  • I bookmark every useful link I find using diigo. After 5.5 years, I have over 4500 bookmarks, but can find them again quickly🙂 (@sandymillin)
  • All of my bookmarks are publicly available too, and other people can access/search them:  Very easy to use (@sandymillin)
  • I add 3-4 links a day.That’s why I like diigo over something like Evernote – free + easy to share with other people🙂 (@sandymillin)
  • You should be able to download a file of all your bookmarks from delicious. I try to backup diigo in case (@sandymillin)
  • Here’s my guide to diigo (@sandymillin)

6. GooglePlus

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  • It’s just another platform which has other possibilities of sharing -since it’s Google, it’s easier wth all shared docs I guess (@Hada_ELT)
  • Anyone can follow you and you can create circles or join circles. There’s also a totally private area. (@Hada_ELT)
  • So I guess that’s why it’s so good for MOOCs/ITDI – you don’t have to friend people (@sandymillin)
  • You get sent a link whihc gives you access to a ‘closed’ area where material is shared and convos take place (@Hada_ELT)
  • Google+ just doesn’t do it the same for me for some reason. Whatever I sign up too, Twitter and Fb still have the best connections (@Hada_ELT)
  • Have seen it used to great effect during a course – for example – or EVO MOOCs, very versatile (@Marisa_C)
  • Joined a MOOC in Google+ community and it worked really well as a platform for a course. (@fionaljp)
  • Oh yes, you remind me that I do use it and it’s great for the @iTDipro  courses (@Hada_ELT)

7. Feedly

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(From the horse’s mouth (an American horse judging by the spelling of organise!): A single place to organize, read, and share all the content that matters to you — and your team.)

  • For me, it’s about using a reader and having a routine. Feedly collects everything for me… (@sandymillin)
  • With feedly you cannot share  your feeds the way you could with google reader (@Marisa_C)
  • Feedly is a blog reader, whereas delicious is a bookmarker (@sandymillin)
  • I use feedly. Migrated to it after GoogleReader closed. 1 slightly annoying thing is you only have 30 days to read (@sandymillin)

8. Blogs/Blogging

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  • I find blogging helps me reflect on CPD. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Agreed – committing to a ‘new things I’ve tried’ post at the end of each month forces me to keep developing! (@thebesttticher)
  • (@sandymillin promised us a blog post about blogging, based on a recent talk she made at the Innovate ELT  conference this year – well worth reading! – and has duly delivered. Enjoy!)

Passing mention was also made to Delicious (social bookmarking), Scoop.It (curating) and Pearltrees (From their website: “Pearltrees is a place to organize all your interests. It lets you organize, explore and share everything you like”).

Other online development options

We touched on this very briefly at the end!

  • We haven’t said much about webinars and recordings for online CPD. So many available! (@sandymillin)
  • Lots of @iatefl talks available to watch too, and you can read @LizziePinard‘s summaries of many of them:  (@sandymillin)
  • Macmillan recorded all their sessions too (@LizziePinard)
  • Webinars are great, the conversations in the chat box are social interaction and reflection. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Are there too many webinars these days? attendances seem to be low and people watch the recordings instead (@SueAnnan)
  • Guess they’re like blogs. You’ll find what you’re interested in, and ignore the rest. Depends what you’re looking for (@sandymillin)
  • I love webinars! There’s such a luxury. Chilling in my study, in the comfort of my home, I learn, for free! (@Hada_ELT)
  • the #Iatefl series us attracting good numbers, not sure about others (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Basically, as far as I can make out from that little lot, it’s mostly a case of personal preference. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” kinda thing. Twitter and Facebook seem to be the main ways of connecting with people, though Google Circles also put forward as useful in a course context. LinkedIn didn’t seem to have many fans, but Kirsten Holt swears by it for networking! There are lots of different content curation tools, some purely for bookmarks (Diigo, Delicious) and other for general content (Feedly, Pinterest, Pearltrees, Scoopit). Online webinars are another means of online development, as is blogging. There isn’t time to use all of it, so find what works for you and do it! Then, if using tools that involve following or friending people, think carefully about who you follow/friend as this impacts the content you are shown in your timelines. One thing I think is interesting, and which has just occurred to me while writing this summary, is that no one mentioned Edmodo! Yet, Edmodo is supposed to be an educational platform where teachers can connect with teachers and share stuff. (That said, I’ve only used it with students, which is its other, and perhaps main, purpose)

For me, my Twitter account is a professional account while my Facebook account is a personal account. That said, Facebook gives me some CPD too, through the people I’m friends with (e.g. Sandy Millin who shares lots of blog posts), the groups I am a member of (such as the IATEFL group) and the pages I “like” (like the TeachingEnglish page). I only “friend” people I actually know so sorry to all the people who have attempted to add me that I haven’t accepted – if it’s any consolation, all you are missing out on is photos of my garden/vegetable patch, my horse and the like! I also have a LinkedIn account but haven’t got to grips with it fully. I recently joined a load of groups but haven’t had time to follow up yet. Pinterest I use for vegan recipes, but when I say “use” – I have an account, it periodically emails me stuff that might be of interest (read: vegan recipes) which I occasionally click on. So, not exactly an active user! I used  to use Diigo but forgot about it, feel like I should resurrect it at some point… Finally, of course, there is my blog. There is always my blog. :)