"Mind against Mind - Debates: The Ultimate Challenge for FL Learners"
Could you tell us a few things about your presentation and how it relates to this year’s Convention theme?
We have been conducting debates at our school for years and we find that once learners overcome their initial inhibitions they find participation in debates really exciting, inspiring and rewarding. Participants use “words as their weapons” to defend their position and to voice counter arguments, challenge and be challenged, persuade and rebut. Debating is a practical and invaluable life-skill because it relates directly to a multitude of real life situations. I will be providing a step-by-step guide to demonstrate how to conduct debates in the FL classroom.
Briefly tell us a few things about yourself as a professional.
I started teaching when teachers were left largely to their own devices, with limited teaching resources and practically non-existent technology. So teachers had to use their creativity and enthusiasm to make lessons more interesting and motivating. This made me feel the need to constantly keep active and up-to-date with innovative approaches avoiding stagnation, thus I welcomed every opportunity for professional development.
Is “keeping it practical” an important part of present day EFL classrooms? Why, do you think, this is?
Keeping things practical, is absolutely essential in day-to-day teaching, as I feel that ideas or methods may initially seem inspiring and generate enthusiasm but if not practical, they will not be easily applied, adopted or embraced by present-day busy teachers. Consequently, their worth or effectiveness may never be appreciated or demonstrated.
Are there problems when new practices are applied in the classrooms?
Yes, quite often when staff are not trained, ready or even willing to adopt new practices. This can also happen when new practices are more or less imposed on staff without involving teachers in the decision-making stage before introducing a new programme in a school. As not all new practices can be applied to all classrooms and are not suitable for all learners, teachers and situations, a lot of factors have to be taken into consideration with room for flexibility and adaptability being essential.
Has it become easier or more complicated to teach English these past decades?
It has definitely become more complicated, as the abundance of innovative methods, resources and technology available is overwhelming and we are really spoilt for choice. Another factor to consider is that learners get easily bored, and their interest has shifted from the printed book to the screen and social media, which take up a lot of their already limited time. This, combined with the Greek financial crisis, has created a growing demand for shorter courses and much quicker results, which in turn puts greater pressure on schools.
What is one piece of advice that has been a beacon for your teaching over the years?
Put the learner at the centre of your teaching and get to know your learners so you can make them feel special in your class. A teacher has to respect the multiple variations in the ways learners learn, and must remember that no one teaching method will work best for all learners at all times. What may be very successful with one group of learners may be less so with another, so allowance has to be made for adaptability, personalisation and differentiated instruction in order to cater for the variety of learning styles in our classes.
How important is CPD (Continuous Professional Development) in the teaching of languages?
CPD is an essential part of a teacher’s life, as one has to keep abreast of the times in order to avoid stagnation in a constantly developing field like ours.
We cannot possibly overlook the role technology plays in the life of teachers and learners, or the fact that the needs of our learners change.
Even though the basic principles of teaching remain, we need CPD to make us more effective teachers and make a teacher’s life more interesting, challenging and rewarding, which encourages objective self-assessment.
What do you find demotivating as far as teaching is concerned?
Preparing learners for different exams, especially fast-track preparation, focussing entirely on passing exams. Parents and learners are particularly interested in certification which is “fast, cheap and easy,” quite often at the expense of quality language learning.
What is one of the things you will not forget from past TG Conventions?
Over the years I have missed very few TESOL Greece Conventions and each and every one without exception has been an invaluable source of information, inspiration as well as a great opportunity to meet enthusiastic colleagues. Without any doubt TG Conventions have made a great impact on me as a professional.
I find it difficult to isolate only one thing, as I have so many fond memories, but the one that springs to mind first was a presentation on story-telling by plenary speaker Jan Blake. It was quite an experience to remember!
If you could one piece of advice to new Educators in the field of ELT, what would it be?
There is always room for improvement.
Do not resist change, so adapt to new situations, take advantage of new opportunities and adopt innovative ideas, be prepared to unlearn things and move from your comfort zone. Bear in mind that what will be etched in your learners’ minds will be the experiences they had with you and how they felt in your class. So, introduce variety in your lessons, encourage them, create powerful experiences for them to remember, and do it with enthusiasm and love.