In the future when all’s well

I wrote this last week, on LinkedIn. I thought it might be worth sharing here.

Many of us in the ELT world are now preparing to switch to online teaching due to COVID-19, trying to maintain client satisfaction and continued learning for our students. This makes sense and will be easier for some than others. However, the idea that things will simply go back to normal in a few weeks or even a month may be misguided.

I am willing to bet that this will be the beginning of a dramatic shift in ELT. I have often wondered about how long the brick and mortar mode of delivering English teaching would last for. Now, I believe that we are about to see a huge sea change in the industry and within 5 years time, I predict the more established of the larger flagship schools will fall by the wayside, with many other schools, unfortunately, failing to survive what we are currently experiencing.

As with all large scale disruptions, a period of reflection and investigation will begin. My advice, for what it is worth, is to look at how to create a lot more flexibility in the delivery of classes. Invest in the right technology, future-proof yourselves with the right training. The physical schools that we know now are drawing their last breath and there will be a large gap for freelancers and well-organised Co-operatives to exploit.

TEFL Workers of the World, UNITE! … or ATL, UCU or IWW

TEFL Guild

Workplace concerns and workplace representation still represents a major source of disquiet for TEFL teachers.

One of the main problems in presenting a united front for teachers is that we are so disparate. There is no single forum that represents TEFL teachers’ interests nor a common bond which unites us. The transnational nature of the industry is also a major barrier to organising.

However, there is increasingly a consensus that teachers need representation, and that this would benefit the TEFL industry as a whole. So, how do we organise?

… but which one? In an industry which tends not to be unionised, there are a number of choices for teachers. I know…

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How is everyone fine with this?

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

Recently I was discussing job ads for EFL jobs in South Korea with a friend (who also happens to be a former advisee and hopefully will be a future co-author).  After he’d  read a sampling of ads from a popular “ESL” jobs website he was struck by how few job ads professed any desire for teachers with experience, qualifications, or personal characteristics or anything except a heartbeat and an ability to acquire the appropriate visa. “How is everyone fine with this?” he wondered.

He said he couldn’t get his head around how these language schools seemed not to care at all about experience or anything related to the job itself. The idea of language schools in Korea (and indeed around the world) just looking for a young (White?) face with “the right” accent is nothing new but I thought his question was poignant.

He went on, “How can these school…

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Stand up and be counted – by Adam Beale

TEFL Equity Advocates

I recently started to apply to other academies here in Madrid. Several had been recommended by friends and colleagues and so I decided to send off my CV. I had an interview at one for a senior position, but no luck. I persevered and tried for another of the schools on my recommended list. Within a couple of hours of emailing them I received this response;

Hi there Adam,

Thanks for your email and interest in our schools. We are now holding interviews for the coming academic year 2016/17 between now and early September. Please get back to us and let us know which dates and times are good for you to attend an interview here in Madrid.

Our minimum requirements are that applicants be native speakers, hold a European passport (or have working papers for Spain),  have a degree, the CELTA (or equivalent diploma) and a minimum…

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From the other side of the firewall…

Thinking Change

by Will Cardoso and Divya Madhavan

About two years ago, we finished the respective Master’s degrees we were doing – Will at Bath, Divya at Exeter. While we both enjoyed the relief of no longer having the research and writing deadlines, we also experienced the same rug-being-pulled-from-under-our-feet sensation of almost instantly losing our our journal access while being handed the diplomas with distinctions. Losing the logins that give one access to an intellectual community can make it quite hard to fully celebrate graduating from such a community. In the fields like education and philosophy, we graduate wanting to read more, not less.

The firewall has two sides; the fee-paying students and faculty members who have access, and the former ones (and the ones who never gained access in in the first place) who don’t. The wall paints a particularly poignant image in the case of teachers, like us, because most…

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Big think – Advanced level discussion idea

big think

Here is a quick lesson idea that I tried out earlier today and went down very well with my C1/C2 class of lawyers.

I try to listen to a variety of podcasts when I have the time and one that has provided me with food for thought recently has been the Big think/Think again podcast which you can find here. Alternatively, you can listen here;

Other ways to listen:

The premise is quite straightforward. In every episode a guest (professors, artists, actors, poets, writers and leaders in a wide range of fields) is interviewed and asked to react to several audio excerpts picked at random by the podcast producers. The topics are excellent for generating debates and pushing you to think a little bit more outside of the box.

Here is what I did with my class;

  1. I chose 4 or 5 different episodes which contained a question or statement I thought would get my student’s attention and ultimately produce an in-depth discussion.
  • Monogamy is ridiculous” Episode 2 Henry Rollins(Artist) – Monogamy/sexual opportunism (audio starts at 3m 28s) Warning: Contains explicit language
  • Is attention an endangered species?” Episode 12 George Takei (Actor+Activist) – Ego/Focus/Xenophobia (audio starts at 1m 40s)
  • Is stress good for you” Episode 8 Maria Konnikova (Author) Mindset/Creativity/Suburban B-Boyz (audio starts at 1m 17s)
  • Is it better to be happy or interesting?” Episode 15 Salman Rushdie (Novelist) – Happiness/Monsters (audio starts at 2m 43s)

2. In the classroom I presented the statement to the class and asked them to discuss whether or not they agreed or what they thought about the statement/question. We discussed it as an open group and immediately they were interested. At this point I realised that in another class it would be a good opportunity to practice turn-taking and language for agreeing/disagreeing.

3. Once everyone had spoken and the arguments and discussion died down, I played the audio of the person who proposed the statement/question and why they took this particular stance.

4. Once the audio had finished I asked the class to react to what they heard. Did it confirm what they had already said? Was it completely different to what they thought it would be? Did they agree/disagree with this persons argument? etc. Again, there was a lot more talking and discussion.

5. As an extension and further listening, you could also play the audio of the how the guest reacted to the audio and further talk about whether the students agree with the response or not.

This is a simple activity which produced a large amount of discussion and opportunities for slightly lower Advanced levels to practice there speaking and listening skills. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any audio scripts for the episodes but the audio doesn’t tend to last any longer than 2 – 3 minutes.

Enjoy the lesson and let me know how it goes.

A letter from God to man

God to man pic

Here is a quick writing lesson idea which I recently put together. I received some really good feedback from my students about it so I thought it was only fair to share it with you.

The lesson was originally designed for my ILEC (International Legal English Cert) students and the task rubric takes the form of part 1 of the writing exam. The recommended level for this material is Strong upper-intermediate (B2+) and above.

The text for the lesson is a set of lyrics by Scroobius Pip from the UK hip hop duo Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. A link to the YouTube video can be found here.

The main theme of the lesson is God, religion and what you would say to him if you had the chance. Clearly, this is a difficult subject for some students, so think carefully about whether it can be used in your classroom.

The lead in is entirely up to you. I simply began by asking who believed in God and who didn’t. I then announced that God had written a letter to mankind and that I had a copy. The reason I had a copy was because the people in the room had been tasked with the job of replying to him.

I then distributed a copy of the task rubric to each student;

God has recently contacted the people of Earth and he is not happy with us.

There has been much debate as to who should reply and how to answer. The world’s leaders have elected you to respond, therefore creating a buffer zone between them and any potential blame for the onset of Armageddon if it all goes wrong.

Choose your words carefully.

Read the letter carefully, on which you have made some notes. Then using all the information in your notes, write a letter to God on behalf of the entire population of the Earth.

Good luck.

Write a letter of between 150180words in an appropriate style. Do not write a postal address.

Once the students had read the rubric and were clear on what they had to do, I showed them the letter and the notes that had been made. Click here to open the word document. A copy of the rubric is on the second page.

We dealt with any unknown vocabulary and then talked about how the students might respond. I mentioned that they might want to think about their own relationship with God and how this might affect their response, as well as the register they think would be most appropriate.

The students really enjoyed the process and their finished letters were funny, touching and cleverly done. They commented on how difficult it was to begin the letter and how they had to think a lot more about the style they wanted to use, compared to that of the normal coursebook tasks. Overall, it was a successful departure from the standard course material and a fun writing exercise.

Please feel free to edit the word document as you see fit. The comments I made were appropriate to the class and the time, but you may feel the need to change them.

Please comment on the lesson if you used it and let me know how it went. Enjoy!