This is a reflection of my session at the IATEFL Conference in Liverpool and the context in which it took place. A recording of it is below with links to my slides below that, though most of them appear in the video. The slides include many of my personal bookmarks which I have collected over the last couple of years.
In the lead up to the conference I published this screencast recording from 5 December 2017, which shows how many shares of my survey request came from my original Facebook post on 1 December. It took off because of the sheer numbers of people who shared and re-shared it, either on their personal timeline or on a Facebook group. They probably shared it in other ways. It lead to the questionnaire, which had mostly open-ended questions, being completed by 501 different English language teaching professionals from around the world and I presented my findings in an extensive post to coincide with my talk in Brighton in April 2018.
My talk was more of a workshop this time around, with greater audience participation. I covered five questions from my original survey and dealt with the responses, whilst being conscious of time. In fact, I managed to keep my presentation within the 45 allotted minutes despite no session following directly afterwards. I have done similar workshops in London and Malta, as well as three webinars on the topic. This is the last time I will do this particular talk or workshop in this format, especially the ‘diagnose the 8 conditions’ activity, although I remain open to presenting at events, conferences and engaging in a discussion on this important topic.
My session was scheduled at the same time as the Tribute session, taking place on the same floor of the Jury’s Inn hotel in Liverpool. Not quite the ‘fringe’ but closer than the airplane-like room (or Gate) 23 at the ACC! Numbers suffered as a result, and I had about 35 people attend in person. But it’s quality, not quantity that matters, although I do want my research and my presentations to reach a wider audience. I made a reference to the people ELT and IATEFL had lost this year and played ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and ‘Handle with Care’ by Andy Burrows and Matt Haig before I started. In addition, I displayed a few key books. I also made a reference to being back in Liverpool for the first time since acute anxiety had prevented me from being able to leave my hotel room – the Ibis, across from Albert Dock – for a whole day during IATEFL 2013 and during which I suffered from generalised anxiety the whole week. I had been in a secure unit a few weeks beforehand. I was mentally in a lot healthier place this time and felt I got some closure on that experience.
I was delighted that Sarah Mercer could attend my session as she was my inspiration to do my research. I was equally delighted to find out that Liverpool plenary speaker, Hornby scholar and self-described ‘micro celebrity’ Paula Rebolledo Cortes attended, too. I made a reference to her conference opening plenary comment about teachers being ‘used and abused’, collaborative action and teachers’ working conditions, because I wanted to highlight this in my workshop. Unfortunately, I mispronounced her surname, but many do, apparently. She discussed the buzzword that is ’empowerment’ during her plenary, while I addressed the buzzword that is ‘wellbeing’ during mine.
I deliberately quoted Paul Walsh, as he was the person who originally interviewed me for Time to Talk day 2017. I have a lot of sympathy with the view that fostering responsibility of teachers to look after themselves is fine but what is actually needed is a greater discussion of conditions, pay, contracts and advocacy, which IATEFL, as an organisation, arguably falls short of. Hopefully that will change. New president ‘Harry’ KuchahNnam Kuchah, another Hornby Scholar, who I knew at the University of Warwick, defended IATEFL’s position in a series of exchanges on Twitter towards the end of the event with Paul, Neil McMillan and others. At least he is prepared to engage in conversation – in fact this was just before I bumped into him while I was charging my phone, before he walked on stage to close the conference. It was a week that addressed some important issues, challenged some already held beliefs. I think IATEFL has always tried to focus on teacher and quality learning, well at least since I have attended it. This conference also had a thematic thread on issues such as diversity and inclusion. Nonetheless, the conversation is still going on (mostly on Twitter) about whether the conference assures equity and representation of all identities.
Anyway, in respect of my talk in April 2018 and workshop this year, as far as I am aware I am the only person to have used the words ‘mental health’ explicitly stated in the title of a talk at IATEFL and I have done this twice now. I am not sure if I am at the level of ‘micro-celebrity’ yet or ‘TEFL famous’ as a good friend has remarked, and I am not sure that I even want to be, but hopefully I am doing my bit to raise awareness of both mental health and working conditions in ELT. I am grateful to Helen Chapman for supporting me ahead of this talk and for recording it.
Recording – please go full screen or watch on You Tube:
I neglected to include Paul Walsh’s article in my references, but it is included in the comprehensive collection of 60+ hyperlinks at the end of the slides.
With the slides fail at the end of my workshop, I forgot to ask the participants for their permission to be on film. Although shots of the audience are limited, I apologise here if anyone caught on camera would have preferred not to be. I did ask for shots during the Q&As to focus on me, not participants, and that is what was done. In the video editing process, I also superimposed the ‘8 conditions’ slides over the top of footage of the participants quite deliberately. I cut a lot of the discussion elements of the recording to trim it from 45 to around 36 minutes, which is the same length as the talk in Brighton recording.