On 18 / 19 January, I attended the English UK Academic conference, held at Prospero House, Borough, London. I gave two talks, one of which was more of a workshop. I was fairly apprehensive in the week leading up to it and not been particularly well. I had been experiencing daily anxiety and had just turned down work with my current employer, Norfolk County Council, because of this.
Also speaking at the conference, amongst others, were Chris Farrell, who presented on ‘burnout’, Ruth Hughes talking about positive psychology and the wellbeing on international students, Julie Moore, Vic and Silvana Richardson, James Hilton, and Anne Margaret Smith. The closing plenary came courtesy of Countdown’s lexicographer, Susie Dent, who I previously bumped into in an elevator at the ELTons 2017.
On Friday, the audience was mostly ELT managers. Like LONDOSA and Malta last year, I wanted to explicitly look at mental health in the workplace and questions drawn from my survey, the results of which I published in April last year, focusing on raising awareness and what can be done to support staff, especially the teachers. Specific focus was on ‘factors which cause stress’, ‘signs of burnout’ and recognising mental health conditions from a list of possible symptoms. I also encouraged a discussion around the question of whether it was ever right to disclose a mental health condition to an employer up front or at interview. Often the answer to this is either no or it depends. I was pleased delegate, Jameela – see her tweet below – spoke up for challenging the stigma and encouraging a ‘normalisation’ of this by saying ‘yes’. The session was well received and a number of delegates spoke to me afterwards about it. As one delegate later commented by email:
“[the] session reinforced a feeling for me that I, as a manager, am pitifully unaware of the range of mental health issues that can affect my staff, and certainly do not possess the skills to be dealing with them in a way that benefits anyone – teacher, manager, school or student. However, it is an area that I am getting more and more insight into these days as a few of my staff have shared with me issues that they themselves have been dealing with, successfully I am pleased to say. (I’ve done little more than offer a sympathetic ear and some private time to talk).”
I will be returning to this topic in Liverpool on 3 April when I will be giving a workshop aimed at employers within ELT.
On Saturday, the audience was mostly teachers and the focus was more on individual wellbeing. Again, drawing on questions from my survey, I invited participants to share their own tactics and good practices for staying well. I purposefully started this session with this critical take on ‘wellbeing talk’ by Paul Walsh, before looking at definitions, theories of wellbeing taken from positive psychology and tips. Again, a number of delegates shared their own experiences and chatted to me afterwards about their own particular context. My inspiration and basis for this talk was Sarah Mercer’s recent webinar for Macmillan Education ELT and I was interviewed by them about this afterwards. Interview to follow soon. I’ll add the link when it’s live. In the meantime, there is this promo about their Language Hub launch. See if you can spot me.
Conference organiser Tom Weatherley said on LinkedIn:
“Wowzers, what a couple of days at the Academic Conference! It was great fun, and initial feedback is excellent. Thanks to everyone involved with excellent sessions across the board, including (apologies to those missed out) Josh Round Anita Wynne Anne Margaret Smith Philip Longwell Chris Farrell Silvana Richardson Vic Richardson Gavin Dudeney Nicola Lutz Ruth Hughes James Hilton Yvert de Souza and many, many more. eukconference (photos by David Rose photography)”