Learning from Speakers. Part 3

To continue a conversation about attending a conference (or another ELT event*) started here and here

First, I’d like to share some questions I am thinking about. It would be great to hear your responses (in the comments here, on your own blogs, in other Social Media channels, or in private messages)

My main question: How great does a colleague need to be for you to learn from him/her at an ELT event?

Some thoughts and examples

  1. a first-time presenter (we all have once been in that role, and that’s a topic for a different post, or a blog challenge?)
  2. well-known star, or Big Name (no comment)
  3. a colleague whose name you have never heard about (outside of your organization/country, etc.)
  4. a colleague working in a completely different context (e.g. in a specialized school, a teacher of a different language or even subject, etc.)
  5. a colleague you have been working with for years
  6. your ‘critical friend’ and/or reflective peer
  7. [add your own idea] ________________

How does it feel to attend a session given by someone who …

  • is very new to the profession?
  • has been working with you/for you for a long time?
  • used to work with you/for you?
  • [add your own idea] ________________

Dnipro National University is 100 this year** http://www.dnu.dp.ua/en/history_of_the_university

What about my answers to the questions above? Well, I should confess I often make my choice based on the topic/theme of my curiosity, and then keep my mind open. Having been in the industry for years, I know that oftentimes a new idea can find me anywhere, and I can learn from every presentation or session I attend. Also, I can’t ‘plan’ that a great idea ‘must’ be found in this or that session. A piece of paper and curiosity are usually my ‘must have’ ingredients for learning on an event.

Examples of my learning from the Teacher Sharing Day Speakers (Dnipro earlier this month):

Session 1 was led by an experienced presenter working in a different context than me (preparing high school students to take the Ukrainian national test of English). Apart from being reminded about the importance of taking the actual test by the teacher and sharing the experience with the students, and from a couple of great activities for test-preparation lessons, I learned a new term from Psychology: eustress.

Session 2 was conducted by my dear friend and colleague, and even though I had been aware of the content of the session (Fostering Second Language Acquisition) and even took part in some pre-session conversations about structuring it, etc., I enjoyed its content a lot and learned/was reminded about the importance of ‘building in’ the SLA opportunity into the regular lessons day by day, and more importantly, encouraging students to be curious about new language and continue exploring it outside the classroom. Exploring, not ‘learning’ (the latter can happen in the classroom with full motivation to take part and search for the answers to some questions). Besides, that you can learn a lot from your students (including useful sites and resources)

Session 3 focused on the ‘target audience’ of school owners and directors mostly and was therefore, different in its format, content and purpose. A big reminder I took from the session was a definition of a Brand as ‘what other people think about us‘. By ‘others’ in this case we meant customers and employees (team). As a freelancer, I like reading about personal branding and reflect on my own strategies, etc.

Session 4 was the most ‘ELT’ presentation in its content than the others, and helped the audience focus on (Jazz) Chants. In spite of having taught lots of lessons with the help of this technique, and even though I thought I ‘knew’ everything (well, mostly) on the topic, I was surprised to discover that I have never focused on ‘word level’ chanting with beginner students. Hm… Doesn’t it prove that ELT/EFL/ESL is in fact ‘endless’ (‘bottomless’, as we say in my L1s) and there is so much to learn no matter how many years you have been in class? Or… especially if you have been teaching for a long time?

Besides, I learned/was reminded about/took note of from the presenting manner of each speaker and their public speaking skills and techniques:

  • how important some of [pre-planned] humor could be for a serious session (e.g. a joke on a slide, or a funny picture);
  • mingling is possible even if the room is full of chairs (just be brave to ask everyone to stand up, and plan to enjoy 3-5 minutes of working noise!)
  • spending time for scaffolding a difficult or new activity can be useful (even though it is a session for teachers, not a lesson for students): understanding what to do is not about understanding the language of our instructions;
  • balancing prepared and spontaneous bits in the speech is helpful (sometimes English may ‘let you down’ under stress and the language gets more simple);
  • [related to the above]: using simple English in a presentation is not a bad thing at all!
  • asking about the volume of one’s voice and deciding on the use of mike based on the answer (and remembering to ask the audience at the far rows to give feedback on that during the session).

Finally, all the speakers confirmed these beliefs of mine:

  1. Present on the topic you genuinely like or are really interested in (as this inspires the audience)
  2. Present in your own style/manner (as there are no ‘right’ way to do it!)

To finish this post, I am sharing a quote which prompted this post (from a comment by my reader). It is an idea I am fully supporting:

An additional thought about conferences. It takes humbleness of mind to learn from others, especially those with less experience.’

Thank you for reading!

* by ‘ELT event’ I mean any professional development activity you might attend (from a conference to a weekend training session, a webinar, an online course, etc.)

** These chairs were installed to celebrate 100th anniversary of the University. Each chair has a note on it with a name of a famous person who had been a student of the University. For example, one chair carries the name of Oles Honchar (1918-1995), a famous Ukrainian writer (the university is named after him).

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