Trainer Conversation with Lina Gordyshevskaya

In this Trainer Conversation post (see more about the series here) I am talking with Lina about her ELT beliefs and passions, and thoughts about becoming a teacher trainer (and not leaving the teaching role!). 

Z: Where are you based now?

L: I’m based in Oslo, Norway.

Z: What do you do in ELT?

L: I am a pronunciation coach and English teacher, and a prospective neurolanguage coach. I teach General English, Business English, and IELTS preparation.

IMG_20200521_183549

Z: What motivates you to join (ELT) teacher training?

L: Well, to be honest, I decided to become a teacher trainer back in 2016 when I was a CELTA trainee. I was looking at my tutors (Viacheslav Kushnir and Irina Grekova) and thinking ‘wow, that’s so cool! This’s gonna be me one day’.

Z: I had a similar reason, being inspired by Antonia Clare. So happy that she is still my role model (as a respected ELT author). From Rachel Tsateri’s post on her blog I learned that you have just completed a Cambridge Train the Trainer Course. What I know is that the course was run fully online by Anatolia training Institute.

L: Yes, that’s true. To be precise, it was back in January.

Z: I would like us to talk a little more about the course. What were your biggest ‘A-Has’ about TT?

L: Loop input and how elegant it is! I was mesmerized, honestly. It was also really interesting to learn more about different feedback styles and when to use which of them to make sure your trainee benefits from it. I mean I have experienced different feedback styles myself as a teacher-in-training but even if you practice first and then learn the theory, there’re still those a-ha moments, and it’s awesome. I was reading about all these different styles and thinking ‘oh wow, now I understand why my trainer gave me feedback this way and not any other way!’

[Zhenya’s note: you may enjoy reading Tessa Woodward’s article on Loop Input in ELT Journal, Volume 57, Issue 3, July 2003, Pages 301–304 https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/57.3.301]

Z: In what way did the course help you see your role/mission in TT? (if it did)

L: Before the course, I had a somewhat limited understanding of what TTs do, i.e. I only knew about being a tutor on a CELTA/TEFL course. However, the course showed me that there are many more ways in which you can contribute to other teachers’ CPD, e.g. by providing in-service training, giving webinars or simply observing your fellow teachers if they ask for it.

Z: As someone interested in reflective practice skills, I would like to see what you think about this aspect of the course: ‘there were plenty of opportunities to reflect in each unit’. In what way(s) did you and other participants have a chance to practice/develop reflection?

L: At the end of each unit, we had some questions to reflect on to summarize what we had learnt. We could do it in any format we liked, which was great. We also had to leave comments where we shared our insights and asked questions if we felt like it. Some of us chose to write reflective blogposts, some were tweeting about their experience, and some turned to good old journaling.

Z: Have you had a chance to apply some of the ideas after you completed the course?

L: Oh yes! Tim Hampson from the ELT Workshop was kind enough to give me a chance to deliver a very interactive online workshop on Foreign Language Anxiety. It was a wonderful experience! I enjoyed every single second of it. It took two hours to cover everything – can you imagine? As far as I know, the webinar received positive feedback from the participants, and I am very happy about it.

Z: Foreign Language Anxiety was a term I learned from you just a couple of months ago. If I am not mistaken, you got interested in this topic while teaching in Japan. Can you say a little more about it?

L: Sure. Actually, even though you might have never heard of it, you have definitely observed it at some point in your career. Basically, foreign language anxiety, or for short, FLA, is extreme fear and nervousness provoked by some tasks that the learner thinks are too difficult for them. Usually, these are speaking tasks – communicating in a foreign language is a rather stress-provoking activity, especially in those countries where people have fewer chances to practice outside the classroom, for example, Japan and Russia. My teaching career started in Japan where people tend to stress out about a lot of things, and social pressure to perform well is quite high. To be honest, I did notice that my students were nervous but had no idea how nervous they were until I introduced the dialogical feedback activity. Students had a chance to write about their impressions at the end of each lesson, and I was shocked by their responses, how bad they felt about their English skills and how anxious they were when they had to speak. So I started researching this topic and thinking of different ways I could use to help them cope with this anxiety.

Z: Is there a new training step planned?

L: Yes! There’s gonna be a live chat about teaching pronunciation with Teresa Bestwick from the TEFL Development Hub. There might be other things coming, too. [Zhenya’s note: the webinar took place on 8 April].

Z: What do you want to be doing as a teacher trainer in the longer-time future? Who are you planning/hoping to work with? Do you see yourself as a ‘full-time teacher trainer’, and why (not)?

L: Well, it would be nice to become a CELTA tutor and I am planning to work on it. However, my primary goal is to deliver online workshops for experienced teachers – this is the format I really enjoy. I would definitely not want to become a full-time teacher trainer because I love teaching students and see this as my main mission.

Z: Do you see yourself training 100% online in the future? Why, or why not?

L: To be honest, I don’t. I do love sharing my expertise with fellow teachers but I love sharing it with students more 😀 I want to be involved in teacher training more in the future, but teaching English will always remain my primary activity.

Z: A bonus question: what is one training activity you would recommend trying in an online training setting? It can be a synchronous one, or a task set for discussion/reflection, etc.

L: This is the activity I used at the end of my online workshop on FLA. Reflection is a very important part of any training session, and this activity will help you do it in a more structured way. You’ll need a Padlet account and board for this. Divide it into three sections, for example, one thing I learnt about today’s topic, one thing I want to use in my next lesson, and one question I have about today’s topic. Participants post their reflections under each category and can then compare and discuss them. As for the questions they have, you can either answer them on the spot or send a follow-up email.

Thank you for the chance to talk about teacher training with you, Lina, and good luck in exploring this professional activity more in the future. Hope we have another chance to talk about it.

Lina is a freelance pronunciation coach, English teacher, and blogger. She holds a Master’s degree, as well as Delta Modules 1 and 3, and a CELTA. Throughout her career, she has taught teenagers and adults of various levels at language schools, universities, and an international IT company. She regularly writes for her blog Side Notes on ELT and frequently delivers webinars and presentations at various conferences.

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Truly Engaging?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time now. Thinking about online training formats and choices, I came across my notes from 2019, and… they asked me to share them 🙂

In general, I am a believer and supporter of the idea that teaching needs to be learner- and learning-centered, and that the students (or teachers in the sessions) need to be engaged in what is going on in the classroom (by ‘classroom’ here I mean lesson space, discussion board, etc.)

At the same time, as a learner (audience, participant, conference attendee, etc.) I sometimes have different thoughts and reactions. Let me share two examples here.

2019

I went to see a show in the theater in Lviv Les Kurbas Theatre. It was my first time in this theatre. My assumptions and expectations from being a show spectator is that you are sitting and watching the show. I thought about it as a ‘passive’ activity (verbally and kinesthetically) which provokes thought process and mental engagement. Actually, that idea generation and thought process was my primary goal for that night. I was very excited to get there.

What felt very different, and completely unexpected for me was how actors engaged the audience into the show (by asking questions, sometimes ‘appointing’ someone to respond, sometimes repeating the same question multiple times, if the person in the audience was not ready with an answer.) Well, it was a comedy show, so the expectation was that your response would be witty, and, in the style of the show, provoking some laughter from the audience (and actors). I was in the second row, grateful for not being at the very front. 

Well, I must confess, this did not feel comfortable to me. Quite the opposite happened: instead of ‘just’ watching the show and letting my thoughts wander freely, I felt a bit of pressure and was checking if there was someone approaching me with a mike. I realized I was not making an eye contact with the actors. I was actually checking my watch and thinking about the break. I was not ‘in the momentum’ of the experience.

While wondering if it was just me feeling this way (and blamed myself for not having read more about the theater beforehand), I heard a woman’s loud comment that the actors were too close to the audience. She repeated this twice, which to me was a sign that I was not the only one not at ease.

Why was that happening? Maybe, I was older than the typical/expected watcher (the theater is aiming at young people, I guess). Maybe, it was not the right day/mood. Maybe, and most likely, being informed about the nature of the show would have helped me to what to expect.

2021

I was attending a teaching webinar. The speakers were new to me, and I was very curious about the topic. At the beginning I was asked to turn the camera off and to say hello. Then, the presenters showed the slides and started sharing their story/activity. From time to time (every 5-7 minutes), they paused slide sharing and asked us to turn the cameras on and respond, write in the chat, ask questions, etc. If someone’s camera was off (like mine), they referred to me by name and asked to turn it on. As a result, I could not make notes the way I wanted, and at this point can’t recall the exact ideas or activities from that session. I wish there was a chance to chat with the presenters (they were both amazing, had lots of cool ideas to share, and are clearly both wonderful teachers!)

Again, I must confess I was not comfortable. I take full responsibility for feeling that way: I think I was assuming that a ‘webinar’ is a less interactive genre, and that it is more about watching, typing in the chat, asking questions in the Q/A section. Maybe, it was based on my assumption that there are ‘Zoom meetings’ (where I had spent several hours on that day) and ‘Webinar rooms’, so when there is a webinar, it is a different format. Maybe, I am a less interactive person (and at this point the reader may be wondering how I got to be a teacher, right?) Or maybe I am still defining the ‘genres’ of the online interactive sessions: Webinar? Workshop? Discussion? (if you have good resources or links about these descriptions and differences, I would like to learn more!)

Thoughts, reflections, and questions

Getting back to the title of the post: does being ‘truly engaged’ always lead to being responsive in the process? Being on camera? Saying something? Do/Can my sessions offer choices for people not to start off a conversation immediately? What could some pros and cons of asking an open-ended question to the whole group? How can I inform my audience of ‘what’s coming’ to make them more comfortable and clear? And… how could feeling/being uncomfortable be useful, from time to time?

Thank you for reading!

P.S. Susan Cain’s books and TED talk were helpful to me to get more comfortable with the introverted part of my personality 🙂

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Social Media in/as My Ongoing PD

I’d like to share a link to the article I wrote for ETAS (English Teachers Association Switzerland) Magazine written in 2019. I must say it is interesting to re-read my pre-pandemic notes and reflect on ‘then’ and ‘now’. The following are still true: 

‘If you ask me what the most significant element of quality ELT professional development is (for teachers, trainers, writers), I would say it is meaningful reflective conversations about the process and result of teaching and learning’.

‘Social media has become an organic part of how I am learning about teaching, learning and living.’

‘My online learning and developing has brought several amazing projects into my working universe’. 

Please read the full article here .

Have you started using social media differently in the last year? What are your recent ‘A-Ha-s’ and insights?

 

Al Shaheed Park in Kuwait

Taken by Zhenya in Al Shaheed Park, Kuwait.

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Talking Shop

You are reading the shortest post I have ever written on this blog. 

Today, Wednesday, 24 February, at noon UTC (2 pm in Ukraine) I participate in the teacher meet up organized by Tim Hampson and Mike Griffin’s The ELT Workshop

If you are planning to attend, we will meet very soon today. If you have not registered but would like to join, here is the link to do that. By the way, if you register, you will receive their monthly updates with the upcoming webinars, news in the field, recommended resources and other exciting ideas. My favorite thing about the events organized by the team is the informal and fun feel, interactive format and the people who join. 

To spark your curiosity, let me share what we are going to talk about. Hopefully, it will look/sound vague and unclear enough to motivate you to join us! 🙂 

Update: It was fun! Thank you for this chance to hang out with cool ELT people, Mike and Tim, and for everyone who joined. 

Here is the link to the recording. First, it is a Workshop Game on the topic of ‘What would we like teachers/trainers/publishers/schools give up for Lent?’. My part begins at around 23′. 

These were the questions I had prepared, but I don’t think we needed them.

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Trainer Conversations: Introduction

I like to think that COVID-19 brought physical distancing to our world, but did not take our (ELT) social connectedness away. In the past weeks of lockdown I have been in touch with fellow teacher trainers/educators in different parts of the world. As you can imagine, these people are normally very busy running intensive courses for teachers, presenting at conferences, observing lessons, etc. The non-traveling months of spring (and summer?) 2020 ‘edited’ our plans, and one side effect of these changes was the time to talk and reflect about our beliefs and practices.

Having had some conversations with colleagues, I had an idea for a series of posts with a working title ‘Trainer Conversations‘. These conversations excite me, I feel I am learning from them, and perhaps it would be interesting for someone new in the training/education management role, or for someone who misses a chance to chat with other trainers.

The main motivator to actually get me started with these posts was/is the postponed course for teacher trainers in Ukraine. You can read more about the course here. The course was created in partnership with World Learning SIT (School for International Training) Graduate Institute and supported by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. The course was supposed to be my ‘central’ professional development project for 2019/20 school year, and I enjoyed preparing it with my colleague and fellow trainer Liliia. We worked hard for the project: prepared an outline, advertised the course, responded to candidates (115 applications for the 24 places), carried out rigorous selection process in collaboration with 2 more fellow trainers based abroad, had a group of 24 teachers who started preparing for the summer meeting, started planning our course session in detail having the audience needs in mind. Then on 12 March 2020 pandemic was declared, and… you know the story. The good news is that the course was not cancelled: it is scheduled to happen in the summer of 2021.

Photo by NastyaSensei on Pexels.com

I see these coming ‘Trainer Conversations’ as a chance to keep myself in ‘trainer mindset’ by speaking/being in touch with the cool people working with ELT teachers.

At first, I imagined these conversations as very structured interviews, with questions asked and answered. Then, when I started these chats, I realized I can’t bring a neat framework to all of them, as each trainer I talk with is very unique. Two posts are currently in the making, and they are already very different. 

I keep reaching out to fellow trainers who have a bit of time on their hands and a desire to talk about teacher training. [Note to readers: if you know someone you’d like to read about, please get in touch]

I start with the questions the answers to which I am (selfishly!) very interested in:

  • Why do you like teaching?
  • What are your (2-3) most important teaching beliefs? What shaped them?
  • How did you become a trainer?
  • What are your (2-3) most important (core) training beliefs? What shaped them?
  • What kind of courses or sessions for teachers do you usually run?
  • How do you keep your training skills up between the courses?
  • How do you manage the stress(es) of managing an intensive course? What helps you stay sane?
  • What question(s) about teacher training have you always wanted to ask other colleagues?
  • What questions about teaching or training have you always wanted to be asked about?

I really like thinking about these ideas, and as I said, really enjoy talking to my colleagues. I don’t know how long these series would be, and how regularly I will be able to post them, but I hope it will be an interesting experience. I might also write my answers to those questions, as one of the colleagues suggested.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

[Updated later in 2020/21] Please follow the links below to the specific posts:

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I Need a Team

When I think ‘team’ I imagine a group of people who are working together. There may be a formal leader in the group, and the group would have a long-term relationships working on various tasks and solving problems together. In my (ELT) reality such teams exist at a school or institution (a group of teachers) or at a training course (a group of trainers) or it can be a curriculum design (materials developing) group. As a freelance ELT-er, however, I don’t necessarily have such a team on a regular basis: we work together for several weeks, sometimes months, and then move on with our other project(s). I could be working in more than one team once month, and then completely ‘solo’ in the other two, etc. For a long time I really liked this temporary nature of the things I am working on (see this post about ‘Co-Creating’ written a couple of years ago). 

Perfact_My Doubt_Notes

I realized recently that I need a team of a different kind: a thinking team. It can be group of people with whom we meet from time to time to talk about the projects we are working on, or struggling with, or have an idea to launch but not sure if it is worth doing, or discuss other questions. 

I re-listened this TED Talk by Eduardo Briceno about getting better at the things people care about and one of the central ideas is having a safe low-stake Learning Zone (as opposed to ‘Performance Zone’) where professionals can make mistakes, experiment, try something out, brainstorm, etc. This can be definitely done on one’s own (as I think the examples in the talk describe) but to me, the pandemic year highlighted the need and importance of doing this in a community (of reflective practice). So what if…

… there is an ELT Job-Alike Group (or a duo, trio, etc.) where freelancing ELT-ers are ready to spend 40-60 minutes of their time with me on Zoom (for example) talking about a specific topic? 

… there is a topic and 3-4 questions about it (will share an example), and will be sharing our answers, listening to each other, asking critical questions, editing (e.g. slides), etc.

… there are people doing two or more of what I do (e.g., teaching training, trainer coaching, course design, curriculum development, presenting, grant managing, writing/editing, ideating, creating, experimenting…)

… we may choose to record our chat to think in more depth about the content, but not for sharing with the ‘wider audience’. I really want to emphasize the ‘Learning Zone’ not the ‘performing’ (so not a podcast or ‘live chat’ on social media).

What thoughts do you have? Does it sound like an idea you would like to think about? Drop a line in the comments here or on Twitter and who knows, we may talk about this on a Zoom call! [For example, I am preparing a session about Reflective Practice for other trainers and would love to ‘test drive’ it with friendly colleagues]. 

I would like to finish off with this and state the obvious: any community of like-minded colleagues is a chance to feel human within the jobs we are doing, to listen to each other and be heard, exchange and improve ideas, ask questions, feel fine about not knowing the answers or having doubts. 

Thank you for reading! 🙂

 

 

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