I recently received an email from someone who wanted to have an article published in English Teaching professional, which he described as a ‘leading trade magazine’. I was surprised, if not a little shocked, by this description, but it set me thinking about the ways in which English teaching is a profession rather than a trade, and about all those people who have contributed to its status as such.
In the same week that I got this email, I was sent details of International House’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Over this long period, the staff and trustees of IH have worked tirelessly to improve the level of teaching and training all over the world, maintaining the outstanding reputation secured by the founders, John and Brita Haycraft. I thought of all the people who have been through the doors of IH. Some are now well-known figures in the world of ELT; some are simply very good teachers.
In January, Penny Ur and Simon Greenall were both awarded an OBE for services to language teaching in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, and it is good to see people who have contributed so much to our profession receiving official recognition. Interestingly, Penny Ur wrote the main feature of Issue 2 of ETp, back in 1997. Her title? ‘The English teacher as professional’.
In Peter Levrai’s main feature in the March issue of ETp, you will meet a teacher called Bob: not a high-flyer – not even, at first, a teacher with a particular sense of vocation. Like many before him, Bob drifted into language teaching at the end of his university degree. But he liked what he found; he developed his skills and he made teaching his life. So let’s also raise a glass to the Bobs of our profession and to the many unsung heroes who have made, and continue to make, major contributions to the reputation of English language teaching: the army of teachers, trainers, materials writers – even editors – who see what they do as so much more than a trade.
It is at this time of year that those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to attend the IATEFL conference look forward to the cornucopia of interesting presentations that will be coming our way. This year we will be meeting in Liverpool – and who could ever forget that fabulous Macmillan party in The Cavern Club with the Beatles tribute band the last time the conference was held there?
The plenary speakers include David Crystal, always an entertaining and enlightening presenter, who will be using the songs of the Beatles to illustrate some interesting features of language. And Deniz Kurtoglu Eken’s plenary presentation on perceptions of effectiveness and teacher motivation looks as if it will be inspirational.
Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill will be doing a follow-up to last year’s talk and expounding further on the idea of demand-high teaching. They also have an article on this subject in this issue of ETp. In addition, Adrian Underhill will be teaming up with Alan Maley to expand on the notion of the ‘dark matter’ of teaching, an idea which they first explained in their article in ETp Issue 82.
Several talks that have caught my eye in the provisional programme are by people who are regular contributors to ETp. I will definitely try to attend those by Mark Hancock, Jeremy Harmer, Jonathan Marks, Luke Meddings and Burcu Aykol and Penny Ur. And having survived last year’s pecha kucha event, I feel drawn to fellow- speaker Willy Cardoso’s talk on a dynamic ELT curriculum. His pecha kucha presentation was extremely dynamic, so a session on dynamism should prove lively.
Sometimes it is not so much the speaker as the subject that captures my attention. I once dragged myself out of bed to attend a 7.30 am session at TESOL Denver entitled ‘Murder mystery in the ELT classroom’, and it turned out to be one of the liveliest and most fun sessions I have ever been to – complete with a ‘body’ at the back, suitably bludgeoned to death with a golf club. So I am drawn to ‘Cell phone scavenger hunt’ by Evelina Miscin. I have no idea what she is going to talk about, but could this be another gem?
Other titles that have captured my attention include ‘Does the word “synonym” have a synonym?’ – a good question. I might wander along to see if Leo Selivan has the answer. Then there’s ‘Are language teachers supposed to save the world?’ This is a question I have often wondered about as I read yet another preachy coursebook text on saving the rainforest or exhorting students to recycle their plastic cups. Why is this seen as the job of the language teacher, rather than, say, the geography teacher or the social science teacher? I have long tried to persuade someone to write an article for ETp saying either why this is the remit of the language teacher or why it is not, but I have never received a decent answer. Perhaps Mandana Arfa Kaboodvand is the person to ask.
Whether you are able to attend IATEFL Liverpool in person or online, as an increasing number of people do, I wish you a good conference. And if you have time, do please drop by the Pavilion Publishing stand to say hello.